Are You Having Problems Delivering to Gmail? You’re Not Alone.

Posted by Bonnie Malone on

Gmail is often the toughest environment for senders to achieve consistent inbox placement. Why? Because Gmail is on the cutting edge of the industry, constantly striving to improve their filtering process to give their users the best possible experience.

Every mailbox provider has a proprietary set of criteria they use in their filtering algorithm. Those criteria typically include factors like sending history, volume, complaints, and spam traps. Gmail is different because they incorporate additional information into their process—data that comes directly from user behavior. We learned over a year ago that Gmail, and some other providers, are gleaning engagement data from the various inbox activities their users conduct as indicators of preference. Since then, we have seen the influence of engagement data from subscriber behaviors/preference grow. A year ago, engagement was something to be aware of, as it may impact your delivery rate. Today, engagement needs to be a critical part of your strategy in order to successfully—and consistently—make it to the Gmail inbox.

Fortunately, there are a number of steps marketers can take to improve Gmail delivery:

  • Sign up for Gmail’s Postmaster tools—After years of operating without this data, it’s been incredibly valuable to have insights directly from Gmail into reputation factors and key performance data. This dashboard is essential to understanding Gmail.
  • Incorporate Gmail’s Non-traditional Feedback Loop into your message header—Have an awareness of complaint trends at Gmail. It will help you understand where to focus when you make changes for improved results.
  • Implement DMARC as part of your authentication protocol—As John Rae-Grant, Product Manager at Google said, “We’re rapidly moving toward a world where all email is authenticated…If your domain doesn’t protect itself with DMARC, you will be increasingly likely to see your messages sent directly to a spam folder or even rejected.”
  • Actively monitor engagement metrics—Tracking opens and clicks is helpful, but there are additional metrics, including deleted without reading and complaint rates, that can provide meaningful insight into subscriber behaviors and preferences. In other words, you can glean learnings and apply changes to your strategy before Gmail does it for you.
  • Review your email program strategy—Ensure you have a solid approach for managing your customer lifecycle. Consider these tips to help you navigate your program review through key areas such as segmentation, frequency, dealing with inactives, and providing relevant content.

Gmail will continue to evolve their filtering algorithm. This isn’t going to be a one-and-done process, but something we’ll need to collectively monitor and tweak to optimize. Remember, Gmail’s goal is to provide the best experience to their end users. It’s not about your latest news or hottest offer—it’s about your subscribers. Staying abreast of their expectations, needs, and engagement with your brand—then adjusting your email strategy accordingly—is the key to success.

Overwhelmed? We’re here to help. Contact us to learn more about how Return Path Professional Services can work with you to optimize your email program and achieve better results with Gmail.


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About Bonnie Malone

Bonnie is passionate about excellent customer experience. With a background in marketing, merchandise buying, and retail management, she helps companies stay relevant amid the changing digital landscape. Bonnie leads the knowledge and consulting teams at Return Path, the global leader in email deliverability. She is an active Email Experience Council committee member, featured speaker for events, and writes monthly for the Return Path blog and TotalRetail.

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