Gmail Smart Labels: Bad News For Email Marketers?

April 25th, 2011 | By Adam Holden-Bache | 3 Comments

Is Gmail getting too smart for its own good or are we witnessing the latest innovations in email technology?

Email marketers need to be aware of the latest features that may impact where email messages are displayed in the recipient inbox, and understand how that may effect the results of their campaigns. Gmail’s latest innovation Smart Labels may look like a minor feature, but it could be the start of something big that significantly impacts the future of email marketing.

Smart Labels Explained:
Smart labels assist users by automatically organizing inbound email messages into three categories: Bulk, Notifications or Forums. Bulk messages are any kind of mass email messages. These are typically promotions, offers, newsletters and other emails you have opt-in to receive. Notifications are messages that come to you individually, like an alert from your bank or an email about an auction you’ve bid on. Forums are messages from any online message boards you may take part of.

Even if you activate Smart Labels you’ll still have your regular Gmail Inbox, but the Smart Labels filters will separate personal emails from the promotional mailings, and that will impact what messages users see in their main Inbox. Instead of everything appearing there, lots of  emails will go to the Bulk, Notifications or Forums folders.

Potential Impact:
Inbox filtering is now an automated feature in Gmail and will likely become an option in other email programs soon. This means that email marketers who are sending bulk messages to recipients using Smart Labels may have their messages end up in a special folder with other bulk email. As recipients deem this folder less important, bulk email messages may receive less attention.

What To Do About It:
Smart Labels could be problematic for email marketers. By having  messages appear out of the main inbox in a separate folder, it means they’ll likely get less opens, clicks and conversions.

To maintain a healthy relationship with  recipients, marketers will need to monitor Gmail users and see if their open rates and other metrics decline. They may also want to consider how to market to these users outside of email, and get their permission to contact them via other channels.  Marketers will also find that social media relationships will likely offer increased importance as contacts may be more engaged in those channels.

Gmail Smart Labels
Give it a Try:
If you want to see the full set of Labs features available for Gmail, go to your Settings and click on the Labs tab to enable or disable. Give it a try and see what you think!

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  • Anonymous

    Couldn’t they come up with a more derogatory and deceptive name other than ‘Bulk’? Bulk means spam. I’m finding that Gmail is totally indiscriminate. I have subscribers who consistently open and click on my newsletter but now Gmail has decided for them that it isn’t important. I hope people get tired of this and turn off all of the gmail product justification that does nothing.

  • Guest

    Jeff- I agree that “bulk” has a negative feel to it, but it is definitely not a spam folder. It’s simply emails that you sign up for that get sent to many people at once. So if you get any email newsletters, offers from retailers, etc., they’ll go in that folder. The idea is that all of those mass communications can be set aside so you can go through them at once, and keep your main inbox to the personal emails that are likely more important.

    Also note that Smart Labels is an optional setting- you must activate it for it to filter your email. So users who do nothing will keep seeing all their incoming emails stay in their inbox.

  • http://www.masstransmit.com/ Adam Q. Holden-Bache

    Jeff- I agree that “bulk” has a negative feel to it, but it is definitely not a spam folder. It’s simply emails that you sign up for that get sent to many people at once. So if you get any email newsletters, offers from retailers, etc., they’ll go in that folder. The idea is that all of those mass communications can be set aside so you can go through them at once, and keep your main inbox to the personal emails that are likely more important.

    Also note that Smart Labels is an optional setting- you must activate it for it to filter your email. So users who do nothing will keep seeing all their incoming emails stay in their inbox.


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