The Divided Gmail Inbox – What Does it Mean For Your Business?

by Steven Washer on July 30, 2013

Google has done it again! They got us all to use Gmail, then took away our ability to reach our customers with it!

Or did they? There’s been a lot of angst and noise about this lately. The truth is, this could actually turn out to be quite a good thing for you.

Watch the video below and if you have an an idea of how you’d like to approach this new playing field, please share your thoughts below.

{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeff Harrison July 30, 2013 at 9:12 am

Blue skies and tailwinds! Brilliant Steven


Steve July 30, 2013 at 4:04 pm

Thanks, Jeff, for clearly watching all the way to the end 🙂


Jean July 30, 2013 at 9:15 am

Hi Steven,
Thank you for this reframe of Google’s latest actions. What a lovely and mindful approach.


Steve July 30, 2013 at 4:06 pm

Thank you for the kind words, Jean!


Ian Brodie July 30, 2013 at 9:16 am

Hey Steve – you beat me to it with this post. I was going to do a very similar one.

All the emails I’ve been getting bleating on about “you must move me to your primary inbox” all come across to me as being very self centred. As if all that matters is the marketer’s email getting through. What should really matter is how this makes life better for the subscriber.

I’ve even seen it cast by a few as “evil google taking control away from you on how you manage your inbox – don’t let them, strike a blow for freedom by….moving my email to primary”. Transparent self interest.

We’ll see how this plays out. But if the tool is helpful to people, it’ll stick , no matter what marketers want.



Steve July 30, 2013 at 3:59 pm

Thanks, Ian. That was something I lightly touched on. A lot of people do like it, and as such we can trust the process to help us discover new and better ways to reach those who do want to hear from us.


Stellare July 30, 2013 at 9:25 am

Gmail isn’t my primary email address, yet I use it from time to time. To me the new arrangement was an improvement. When I subscribe -or give away my email for free content or webinars, I am already curious and/or interested. For me it is then practical to have all those subscription in one place. When I am in the mood – or have time for my subscription I will find them all together. Save me time, easy overview and the promoter do not risk that I overlook the subscription among all the other real business stuff. I heard the ‘scream’ about the crisis before I checked out for myself and found it useful. In my case it is a win-win.


Steve July 30, 2013 at 4:02 pm

“when I am in the mood”. That’s interesting. Many think of email as interruption marketing, and it still is. It’s just that now you will be interrupted when you feel like it!


Jenai Goss July 30, 2013 at 8:25 pm

Same here; and being in the right mood means I already plan to skim some websites or watch some videos that catch my eye. The old system meant a lot of emails that I would have otherwise been interested in never got opened, or I opened them but did nothing with them – the victims of bad timing.


Cheri Ruskus July 30, 2013 at 9:53 am

Thanks Steven! Well said! Funny I was just talking to a colleague yesterday about how I am going to start unsubscribing from any more marketers that fill my inbox with the Gmail the Sky is Falling emails! You hit the nail on the head and I have forwarded your email to my compadres at Constant Contact who agree with your analysis. As a trainer of email marketing the consistency piece is indeed the name of the game! Thanks again!


Steve July 30, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Thank you, Cheri! It’s really good to hear this perspective from someone who trains on email.


georgette July 30, 2013 at 10:21 am

Thank you Steve! Your videos are always the best of the best.


Steve July 30, 2013 at 4:05 pm

OK, now I’m blushing :))


Shama Kern July 30, 2013 at 10:27 am

Well Sherlock, you are the first who didn’t call for doomsday over the google “attack on internet marketers”. I have to agree with Ian above that pretty much all those freaked out emails I have been getting sounded pretty egotistical to me. Your approach sounds much more reasonable and by default, realistic. We won’t get all our subscribers rushing to their inbox and dragging our emails to their primary tab, and we won’t get google to reverse their policy, so we might as well learn to live with it. As far as I am concerned, I did not do any email dragging to my primary tab yet. People will figure out how to look for what they are interested in.


Steve July 30, 2013 at 4:03 pm

And now that you’re aware, I wonder if you will do some dragging and dropping over time, as you get used to the interface and the rhythm of emails during the day…


The Sourcerer July 30, 2013 at 10:36 am

Just use Mozilla Thunderbird and all is as usual . . pass it on to clients


Steve July 30, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Consider it done!


Chris Goegan July 30, 2013 at 11:49 am

Hey Steve – well done. Great video. Like Panda & Penguin this is good for those that truly truly provide good value and have their readers in mind. Sure it will cause some short term drops in open and click rates. What it will really do is let people know how much of a readership they really have, instead of how big they “think” their list is.

Thank you for the insight.



Steve July 30, 2013 at 3:51 pm

Thanks Chris. That’s a good point about being more aware of your true audience. And as an aside, I’m glad this found it’s way into your inbox 🙂


Robert Arnot July 30, 2013 at 1:29 pm

I also agree with you. I actually have more content density in my promotions tab and prefer it that way. Maybe the panic from some of the other “marketers” is triggered by them thinking that the promotions tab is like the spam folder. I did get to observe the “underlying energy” of some of the people I get material from and I like the way you handled it. Thank you for keeping the doorway to the future open.


Steve July 30, 2013 at 3:52 pm

Actually, Google’s intent may well be to let the Promotions tab act as a better spam folder, which will be all to the good over time.


Todd Rogers July 30, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Most people are worrying over NOTHING!

If you use an email client like Eudora, Outlook, Thunderbird or any other computer-side based email client, you receive all emails from all sources the way you always have!

The only real change here is if you only use the web based Gmail or the mobile app to access your email and in that case, most of the time, your mobile email app puts everything in the INBOX folder anyway.

SO, in reality, the only real change here is for those that use the website client to access their email, and even then, at least now you know where certain messages are going to show up so you don’t miss the content you permitted in the first place!


Steve July 30, 2013 at 3:55 pm

Perhaps. I have noticed that if I actually use the Gmail app on my iPhone, those 3 other folders are nicely hidden, but this may be the most we have to worry about. If so, we can easily deal with it.


Jenai Goss July 30, 2013 at 6:51 pm

I love the new gmail system! It is so much more organized. Also, I am -more- likely to click on promotional emails under the new system because I can actually see then. When they are mixed in with more important things, I just view them as unimportant and skip over them. Versus, when I go to the promotions tab (and I always click through all five), I can easily see all promotion offers and open the ones I find most interesting or haven’t checked out in a while. It is very true that I pay more attention to the emails I now open in the promotions inbox than I ever did when they were lost in the pile of my inbox.

I wrote one panicking marketer back, informing her that she stood a lot better chance competing against other promotional offers in the promotion inbox where I could mark her as interesting/important vs. others (gmail remembers what you find important/interesting and marks them with yellow tags or stars), vs. competing in my primary inbox against friends and invoices where her newsletter would be irrelevant and unimportant in comparison. Just because I would ‘see’ her email as one of a hundred would not guarantee I would open it or care. Under the new system, as soon as I click the promotions tab I see all the new promotions emails clearly, and ones I frequently read or have marked that I liked in the past are marked for easy prioritization.


Steve July 30, 2013 at 8:06 pm

Thanks so much for the heads-up, Jenai. It was very helpful to read how you’re adapting to and communicating about these ever-present changes…


Pamela July 30, 2013 at 7:46 pm

I know you are right, because I have received those emails and haven’t changed a thing. Mainly because I already have email parsing with something called unrollme. So, none of my subscriptions come to my inbox… But I do go and look for the people I want to read… Which is how I knew you had a new post… And I came to read it… Hmmm

Thanks for being head and shoulders above the rest.


Steve July 30, 2013 at 8:07 pm

Now there’s something I was wondering about. Thanks for sharing 🙂


Wiz Withers July 31, 2013 at 10:57 am

Thanks for your thoughts, Steve.

I admit I was surprised by the angst of so many people over this. Sure, I was surprised when I opened my inbox and saw the new tabs for the first time. But once I found that I could easily turn them off, I spent some time playing with them.

I’m still in the process or “training” my inbox, relocating certain mailings into another tab. But all in all, I’m liking the new change.

Thanks for taking the time to do this vid! How’s the airplane flying this summer?



Steve July 31, 2013 at 2:48 pm

Super fantastic! It’s my magic carpet 🙂


Bruce W July 31, 2013 at 11:51 am

I had most of these marketing e-mails filtered to auto-label and skip the inbox before the change and now find myself not bothering for new subscriptions, letting them go to the promotions tab. This actually means higher visibility for some marketers because I will schedule to check the Promotions tab more often than a general Reading tab, etc.

Also, for wise marketers that are using separate addresses for more time-sensitive (from a Reader’s perspective!) notices – a webinar, interview or other event in the next day or two or perhaps a Realtor’s new listing as opposed to a weekly or monthly newsletter – I can send the things from the address with more time-sensitive notices to my Primary tab and the others to Promotions rather than lumping everything in Promotions by default.


A July 31, 2013 at 10:57 pm

Gonna say it’s blue skies. I’m a gmail user and I immediately fell in love with their new tabs. Previously it was overwealming having all my emails in one box. Now it’s nice to have it all auto-organized with the tabs, and since we can reprogram those 3 tabs however we want, I never miss anything because always know where to look for it.


Kathleen August 5, 2013 at 11:58 am

Hi Steven,

I agree with Ian and Jean…you took a very positive approach to this subject and I respect and appreciate that. I’ve gotten way too many of those emails operating from fear rather than focusing on the value they provide to me.



Dr. Tom Taylor August 21, 2013 at 7:56 am

This was great, Steven, but I’ve used gmail since 1998 and I never saw tabs or knew about it until your video! I thought, “What’s up with this?” I discovered that I had to enable tabs in my settings. Frankly, I don’t like them, and I doubt that I’ll use them … but my customers may, so thanks for the heads-up and always positive approach to changes that make others wail and gnash their teeth.

Live Well!


Steven Washer August 21, 2013 at 8:10 am

Actually, you didn’t miss much, Tom! The change happened within the last month or so.


Dr. Tom Taylor August 21, 2013 at 4:26 pm

Yeah, I gathered that the change had happened some time ago. I thought it strange that my inbox never changed until I went into settings after seeing your video and found the options. Thanks for the reply. Always loo forward to your Brainy Video updates!



Nishaan Sandhu June 17, 2015 at 10:12 am

Great points! I appreciate the promotions folder as a user too. I love being able to “change channels” (and fine tune them as I go along)….and now see how this is, also an asset for clients! It’s a great way to prevent email overwhelm for all—and so true, those who want to read on will find them! Especially with the anticipation of regular posts. Love it! Insightful and very funny video, thanks!


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