Working with Gmail Tabs

A few months ago, Gmail changed its online layout and introduced tabs, a new way to organize and sort your email. If you’re new to Gmail or are a longtime user who was comfortable with the way things were, change can be hard. Learn how tabs work, though, and we think you’ll find them to be a powerful tool for staying organized.

To make tabs work, Gmail automatically sorts your email into five categories:

  • Primary: Personal messages and anything not sorted into the other tabs
  • Promotional: Marketing emails, coupons, special offers, etc.
  • Social: Messages from social media, online dating, gaming, and media-sharing websites
  • Updates: Confirmations, statements, receipts, and bills
  • Forums: Messages from online discussion boards and mailing lists


You can also automatically categorize messages or decide that email from certain senders should go to a different tab than the one Gmail has chosen. And, you don’t have to use all the tabs. Primary, Promotional, and Social are on by default; you don’t have to activate Updates and Forums if you don’t want to. Anything that would have gone into those tabs is filed into your Primary tab.

Will you miss anything? Not if you pay attention. The number of new messages in each tab will show up next to the tab’s name. You can also mark messages you want to follow up on with a star, and you can ask Gmail to put all starred messages into your Primary folder for easy tracking.

Plus, you’ll find the same tabs on the Gmail app on your mobile device. The app will open in the Primary tab, but you can easily navigate to the other tabs within the app.

As a user, we see benefits because Gmail is reducing the clutter for you. No longer will messages from your mom and your aunt be in danger of being passed over because they’re mixed among the marketing and mailing list emails you receive. And, when you want to go through your promotional emails, they’re conveniently in one place so you can go there when you’re searching for a coupon or special deal. We also like that social media notifications get their own tab; if you’re like us, your inbox is full of updates and reminders from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and  more, and they can get in the way.

And, if you totally hate the tabbed system, you can shut it off and revert to one inbox for everything.

As a small business owner, you might be concerned that your message is going to get lost in the shuffle of a “Promotions” folder that some users might treat as a second SPAM folder. Gmail tabs have only been active since this spring, so there’s little data on how this new format is affecting open rates. Your messages might not be seen as quickly, but the upside is that the customers who are most likely to spend money are going to make it a point to visit the Promotions tab when they’re looking for a deal.

Some more things to consider:

  • Gmail is one of many email platforms out there, and while it’s popular, not everyone uses it. Plus, many Gmail users read their messages on their mobile devices’ native email apps or in software like Microsoft Outlook.
  • A Promotions tab means fewer legitimate promotional emails should get sent to SPAM and Junk folders.
  • The Promotions tab will force you to hone your message and get creative. Are your emails provoking a response from your users? Are your subject lines compelling and unique? Are you sending emails too often? One well-done message will do more for you than 10 off-target ones.
  • Use this as an opportunity to open a dialog with your customers. Explain how to use the new tab system on your blog, Facebook page, or in an email. Be direct: Tell them you’d like to be moved to their Primary folder so they don’t miss a message from you.

Do you have email questions? Call us today so we can help!

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