How to Get Your Church or Ministry Email Read in Gmail’s New Inbox Tabs

Written by Paul Steinbrueck

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Recently Gmail introduced a new tabbing system for its inbox which has caused a lot of communications and marketing people to freak out.

The Gmail inbox now contains 3 tabs – primary, social and promotions (see below). Gmail automatically sorts a user’s incoming mail into one of these tabs. The concern among communicators is that the email they send to subscribers will end up in the “promotions” tab and never seen.


Note we’re NOT talking about spammers here. Spam has already been diverted to a separate Spam folder for years.

We’re talking about the newsletters and other legitimate messages your church, school, ministry or business sends to its subscribers. Anything that may be preventing your members, parents, contributors and customers from receiving the updates they from you is a big deal.

So, let’s talk about how we can best deal with this…

Good for Users

While I’m a communicator – a sender of email to subscribers, I’m also a Gmail user. After getting over the initial shock of having tabs thrust upon me with no warning, I like them. One of the biggest challenges in life is to prioritize tasks and focus on the important things first. By sorting incoming email into tabs, Gmail is helping its users to prioritize by enabling them to see the more important “primary” messages without getting distracted by social media and promotions.

So what impact have the new tabs had?

Email Open Rates Down

MailChimp – one of the largest providers of email distribution services reported email open rates are down about 10% compared with before Gmail introduced tabs. That’s a pretty significant difference.

Gmail Tabs data

How to Get Your Email into the Primary Tab

Lots of email marketing gurus have been doing lots of experiments with tweaking the headers and content of their emails in an effort to find ways to get their email to show up in the “Primary” tab rather than the “Promotions” tab.

They haven’t been very successful.

The best way to get your email into the Primary tab is to have your subscribers put it there.  Here’s how…

Let your subscribers know through all forms of communication (email, social media, print, etc) that if they use Gmail, your newsletters and messages may be getting delivered into the “Promotions” tab. They should look for it there. If they a message from you there, they can drag it into the “Primary” tab. When they do that, Gmail will ask them if they want future messages placed into the Primary tab, and they should click Yes.


  • If you’re a Gmail user, what do you think of the new inbox tabs?  Annoying?  Helpful?
  • As a communicator, have you noticed open rates down recently, people telling you they’re not getting your newsletters, or your newsletters in people’s Promotions tab?
  • Have you taken any action yet to help your subscribers deal with Gmail tabs?

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    About the author

    Paul Steinbrueck

    Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck.


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