Stop Worrying About the Email Promotions Tab – It’s Still the Inbox!


Google released the Promotions tab within Gmail in 2013, and ever since, there’ve been strong opinions on the value of landing in a contact’s promo tab versus their primary inbox. Many people – marketers and non-marketers alike – believe that landing in the promo tab is something that should be avoided. Whether it’s because they think their message is more important than the hundreds of other marketing messages people get every week or that their email campaigns will somehow be more effective if they land in the primary tab over the inbox, the promo tab skepticism is unending.

Here’s the truth of the matter: the promo tab IS the inbox!

It’s not spam and it’s not junk. It’s the perfect place for your marketing email to land because that’s where people are expecting it to land.

Context matters

Think about how annoying commercials have become since the advent of commercial-free streaming services.

You are watching a show you enjoy, and then, out of nowhere, you’re being sold new dog food, medication and a pickup truck.


Most people will happily pay a fee to not have to deal with unnecessary and annoying commercials interrupting their programming.

You should think about your promotional email and its presence in a contact’s primary tab like a commercial.

Your contact is sifting through important messages from family, friends, their child’s school, their bank, etc., and then, all of a sudden, you’re in the mix trying to sell them whatever it is you’re selling, all while cluttering their inbox.

Most people don’t want that.

What they do want is to read your emails when they are ready to do some shopping.

From the horse’s (Google’s) mouth

Please don’t take my word as Gospel on any of this!

Let’s hear it right from the mouth of Hank Leukart, a Google product manager:

“When people visit the Gmail Promo Tab, they’re signaling right then that they’re in a deal-finding and shopping mood. It’s quite valuable to brands to have an important deal or great product shown with rich images, in the right place (the Promo Tab), at that moment.”
—Hank Leukart, Product Manager, Google

As you know, effective marketing happens when you deliver the right message to the right person at the right time. The email promo tab ensures your message is in front of a customer when they’re in the shopping mood.

Landing in the promo tab, as Alison, a compliance and deliverability enablement principal at Braze, put it in a viral LinkedIn post:

“If your marketing email makes it to the Promo tab, pat yourself on the back. You successfully evaded spam filters and have proven to Gmail that your mail is valuable!”

You can take this moment to pat yourself on the back if you’d like.

Setting expectations is key

If you send marketing emails long enough, someone is going to ask you why their email is ending up in the promo tab. That someone could be a client if you’re sending emails on behalf of a business or an internal stakeholder at the company you work for.

What’s important is to set expectations out of the gate and have resources ready to explain to those who don’t spend their days nerding out about email deliverability that the promo tab is the inbox.

In fact, according to a March 2023 Litmus article outlining updates to the promo tab, there are some features being added that should excite you about emails going to the promo tab!

1. Product carousel

For ecommerce companies, products within your email can show up without the contact clicking into the email. Soon, open rates won’t be just about how good your subject line is –  the images you choose will have a huge impact as well!

2. Promo deal annotations

Are you offering a discount to contacts that will help drive conversions? Well, Google has you covered with the new promo deal annotation. Your discount will —  much like the product images —  be made available to contacts without opening the email. That’s a heck of a good cookie to dangle in front of someone in a shopping mood.


These updates further cement the prevailing idea that open rates mean very little with respect to an email’s value. Email-specific discount codes and UTMs will tell a far better story about the value of your email than an open ever will.

Deliverability best practices always win in the long run

All this is to say that when email marketers (and their clients) are following deliverability best practices, good things happen. You will land in the appropriate tab of your contacts’ inboxes, and they will read your content and purchase your products.

So, remember:

  • Never purchase a list
  • Always ask for consent
  • Send a welcome email
  • Verify and authenticate your domain
  • Make the unsubscribe button easy to find
  • Segment your audience
  • Keep a clean list
  • Add alt text to images

And so on.

Your email marketing strategy can’t lose if you follow those tenants and always lead with value!

Andrew Donovan

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