Short answer

How do I stop emails from going to Promotions in Gmail?

You can not stop email going to the Promotions tab in Gmail while maintaining regular practices of large-scale email marketing. That’s the inconvenient truth. To avoid the Promotions tab you will need to send emails in very small batches, at irregular times, with little to no HTML styling, very few links, and avoid using email templates.

All these measures go against good email marketing practices. My advice is that you embrace the Promotions tab. Instead of fighting it, leverage the tools Gmail gives you to own the promotional nature of your emails and outperform your competitors in this context.

Any marketer will consider it a win when their emails land in the subscriber’s Primary tab and avoid the Promotions tab. That’s because the average Gmail user is more likely to see and engage with an email that appears in their primary inbox.

Why do emails go to Gmail’s Promotions tab?

The reason emails are going into the Promotions tab is that Gmail applies algorithms that flag them as promotional based on things like a large number of emails sent (email blasts), sender IPs of known advertisers, aggressive sales offers in the subject line, a large number of links in the email body, heavy HTML email layouts, too many images, and user feedback. 

How to avoid the Gmail Promotions tab (and get your emails to the Primary tab instead)

You can take some measures which would help keep your emails off the promotions tab to the Primary Inbox. These include:

1) Avoid Spam characteristics

Gmail hates spam. Plain and simple. Whether you do it knowingly or unknowingly, if your email has spam characteristics, it will never reach the primary Inbox. In the best-case scenario, it could land in the promotions tab. However, the majority of the time, it ends up in the spam label.

Most spam emails are normally sent as bulk blasts hoping that a couple of the recipients will open them. Do not fall into that trap because there is a high chance it may never capture the reader’s attention. Additionally, restrict yourself to sending only to the subscribers that have opted in and welcome new subscribers as quickly as possible, lest they mark you as spam.

2) Send a welcome email that asks your recipients to add you as their contact

Asking your subscribers to whitelist you is one of the direct ways to prevent your email from ending up on the promotions tab. It is important to take this brave action because if you do not do anything, the email will still end up on the promotions tab.

Focus on the welcome email when someone signs up to your mailing list as the most appropriate time to ask for whitelisting. That way, any follow-up email that you send will go to the primary Inbox tab.

How to avoid Gmail Promotions tab with double opt in

3) Reduce the number of recipients

Keep your recipients as low as possible. The higher the number of people you are sending emails to at the same time, the more likely Gmail will classify it as Spam. And when you repeatedly send out such bulk emails as blasts, you could get blocked and prevented from using the service.

4) Gradually increase recipient amount and avoid email blasts

If you have a huge mail list that you would like to address at a go, do not get tempted to compose a single email and send it at once. On the contrary, start with a smaller number and increase over time.

For instance, if your mail list has 200 potential users, start with 25 the first time, then increase it to 30, 40, 50, and so on. Just make sure that these people are subscribers of your mailing list and not random emails harvested from the Internet. Doing so gives Gmail the perception that more people are liking your content and subscribing to it.

5) Send the email from a named account rather than a generic company email 

Avoid using generic company email addresses like

Your email address is very important and influences how Gmail interacts with your emails. For instance, how Gmail views email such as differs from how is handled.

Terms like “sales@,” “info@,” or “helpdesk@” are generic, and Gmail can determine that it is interacting with a business and not a person. The essence of your email campaign is to give it a human face.

avoid Gmail Promotions tab with using a personal email address

6) Avoid spelling mistakes

Are you aware that robots can send emails? And when we talk of robots, we mean the app-based ones mostly. One of the biggest downsides of emails sent by robots is that they contain spelling mistakes, which does not take Gmail a lot of effort to realize.

Take your time to read through the email after composing it. That adds the human element to it, minimizing the chances of Google thinking it was written by a robot.

avoid Gmail Promotions tab with no spelling mistakes

7) Avoid heavy use of HTML

Focus on sending emails without heavy HTML code to reduce the chances of it being sent to the Promotions tab or spam label. Whenever possible, use plain text emails as these have a higher chance of landing on the primary Inbox tab. 

These are emails that do not have any enhancements. The email specifically has plain text without extra colors, designs, or fonts. Furthermore, there are no links embedment in the plain text email.

As it sounds, plain text email may not be preferred by those running email campaigns. That’s because it lacks crucial features that could pull attention to your marketing content. However, even if you go about adding HTML code to add glamor to the email, you need to make sure that it is not too heavy.

While it may seem a high price to pay to avoid HTML in your newsletter design it may be a required step to evade the Promotions tab. 

For different automated emails in your email funnel, it could well be an overkill to use HTML for email layout. The only HTML in these situations should be your branded email signature, which does not cause your emails to be diverted to Promotions in 99% of cases.

This brings me to the next action you can take.

The email header and footer often generate automated phrases like “view in browser” and “Unsubscribe.” These phrases risk sending the email to the Promotions tab. It can be difficult to deal with this situation because, by law, marketers are required to include an unsubscribe link in the campaign.

You could navigate this issue by using an email signature instead of a footer. Doing so gives the email a personal touch while at the same time you remain compliant by adding the unsubscribe at the bottom of the signature.

9) Reduce images and graphics

Marketers have the tendency to fill images and graphics in promotional emails. It makes the email look good and straightforward to follow. However, the Gmail algorithm has learned that and would consider it when determining the tab where an email lands.

As you decide on the images and graphics to use in your email, do it in the way you would send an email to a friend or colleague. In most cases, such emails do not have a lot of images. If you add too many of them in your email, Gmail will mark it as marketing content and send it to the promotions tab.

That is not to say you should eradicate images from your emails. Just be mindful of how you do it.

Marketers love links because that is the whole essence of marketing. However, Google knows about this and will try to protect email users from too many promotional messages ending up in the primary Inbox tab.

Including too many links in your email will lead to it getting classified as promotional, hence ending up on the specified tab. Get into the practice of adding two to three links, keeping in mind that “Unsubscribe” also counts as a link.

If you compose your email properly, all that you will need to add is a single link – the call to action. Google may not like phrases such as “Buy Now” or “Click Here” compared to terms such as “Resources” or “Find Out More.”

No matter how many “Calls to Action” you add to your email, the reader will not do anything unless they are ready for the action. That’s one thing most email marketers do not realize. They assume that adding CTAs all over the content and creating them as a button will get more clicks.

The more buttons you add, the heavier the code, which changes how the Gmail algorithm classifies your email. Only create one CTA and keep it as visible plain text as opposed to a button. 

My recommendation is that unless you’re sending a 100% promotional email, do not use buttons in your email body. The only exception for this would be adding a CTA in your email signature. That is because the signature is perceived as a stand-alone section, beyond the email content.

12) Personalize your emails

How you greet your users at the start of the email matters. If the mailing list includes the names of recipients, you could engage a technical person to pull each person’s name in the email that they receive.

For instance, it feels more personal for an email that starts with the greetings “Dear Purity” rather than “Dear Reader.” Such an approach sends a salient message to the reader such that they pay attention. 

On the other hand, Gmail takes it that you know the recipient at a personal level since you have addressed them by their name. Thus, the marketing message will not go to the promotions tab.

How to take advantage of the promotions tab instead of fighting it

As much as you want to avoid the promotions tab, it may be pretty much unavoidable, and it’s actually not that bad. The promotions tab is not a marketing dead zone. Statistics indicate that 45% of Gmail users normally check the Promotions tab each day.

This is a considerable number of users, considering the massive usage of Gmail. The email service now has 1.5 billion active users globally, so you can still use your lemons to make lemonade.

1) Use the promotional context to use aggressive sales offers

The good thing about having your emails in the Promotions tab is that people will expect your mail to be, well… promotional. So if they’re looking at this tab you can assume they are hunting for offers. leverage this fact to offer sales, discounts, trials, events with clear and direct promotional subject lines. This may ironically improve your open rate.

2) Front-load your emails with your sales offer

Open your promotional emails with a unique sales proposition (USP) and a highly visible CTA to go along with it. Don’t beat around the bush. Instead, show people your wares and provide them with an attractive sales offer. Get straight to business and don’t waste their time with “on my mind” style content, and marketing fluff.

3) Make your promotional emails stand out with email markup

Gmails realize that all us marketers live off the Promotions tab, and they realize that promotions are not the same as Spam. The Gmail team knows that some people actively read promotional emails, so they gave us the tools to provide these people with high value in the context of advertisement emails. That’s where email markup annotations come in.

WIth Promotions annotations, you can make your sales offer supper apparent directly in the inbox. And because very few email marketers actually use email structured data that gives you the advantage of added visibility and clarity.