Your Email List, The Gmail Algorithm and Why Your Open Rates Are Dropping


Your Email List, The Gmail Algorithm and Why Your Open Rates Are Dropping

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Gmail Open Rates

If your Gmail open rates are dropping, it could be a misunderstanding between your email content and the Gmail Algorithm.  Gmail open rates are affected by the algorithm and once you understand what it wants, your open rates will improve.


How Gmail Treats Your Beloved Newsletter

Gmail is the largest email provider in the world, so knowing how to properly send your email newsletter or announcements to your subscribers with Gmail accounts is absolutely essential.

If you use Gmail, you’re probably familiar with the Promotions tab.  How often do you open and read those – or do you read only the emails that land in your Primary folder?


Gmail Open Rates and Gmail Tabs: Primary, Social & Promotions

Just like Google has done with its search results, it’s also filtering the spammy and sales-y stuff out of our primary inbox to show us – hopefully – only the things we want to see most.

Gmail looks at certain words and phrases and decides where to put your email.  This directly affects your Gmail open rate. If it reads like a sales piece or a promotion, it goes in the Promotions tab. Gmail users can disable these tabs and get all of their email in their Primary box, so that’s good. 

According to a study conducted by ReturnPath and three million Gmail users, the tabs actually improved deliver-ability, increased open rates, and decreased spam complaints. But, your email announcement or special event email may not be landing where you want it to.  And most users don’t bother to do anything on their end to change that.


How To Find Out Which Tab You’re Landing In


The best way to do this is to send your email to a test list.  This test list is a set of email addresses that you own from different email service providers like,, and of course Gmail.

You’ll manually check those email accounts noting where your test email landed and opening them to check for any layout issues. Your mailing list software (Mailchimp, Constant Contact, Drip, etc.) will show you which were received and which were opened.

If that sounds like a pain, there are tools available to help.  One such tool,, can do it for you.  Glock allows you to send test runs and tells you where your email ended up and why, with reputation scores and what you can do to improve your email content for better deliverability and open rates. You can test it out by sending your latest email newsletter or announcement to them right now from their home page.


What Else Can I Do?


  1. First, make sure you’re not blacklisted:
  2. Make sure you’re using a reputable email sending service and that you authenticate your sending domain with SPF and DKIM authentication.  Ask the person that handles your domain and DNS records (probably your web admin, developer or designer) about this.
  3. Ask your subscribers to Add your “From” email address to their Google Contacts. Emails from a subscriber’s Google Contacts always go to their Primary inbox. In your mailing list sign up confirmation page, and any time you capture a new lead, ask your subscribers to add your “From” email address to their Google Contacts.
  4. Encourage your subscribers to Move your emails to the Primary tab.  Subscribers can “teach” Gmail where to deliver your messages so your future emails will go to the tab the user prefers.
  5. Encourage replies.  Active engagement shows Gmail that they like interacting with you.
  6. Ask subscribers to “whitelist” you – if they find you in spam, they can flag you as “not spam”.  This not only helps that subscriber get your emails in the future, but teaches Gmail that your emails may be valuable to others as well.
  7. Maintain a healthy list by removing non-engagers – people who never open your emails – and removing unsubscribers immediately.
  8. Keep your emails short and sweet and add a link to your newsletter or product announcement online instead. Too many images and links signal “Promotion” to the Gmail algorithm.

About Author


I am a web developer and founder of Digital in Kansas City, Missouri. I built my first website 1999 and have been hooked ever since. My mission is to help small businesses thrive by using technology and social media effectively and efficiently.