Are Gmail tabs hurting email marketers? Let’s find out!

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Much ado is being made of Gmail’s new tabs and whether they are hurting marketers. Stop speculating and find out if they are hurting YOUR email marketing efforts. Here’s how.

Go into your marketing automation or email marketing system and start pulling reports on your Gmail subscribers. You’re looking for two statistics from each send:

  1. How many Gmail addresses did you send to that campaign?
  2. How many of those Gmail addresses opened the email?

It may take some slicing and dicing to get those two answers for each send, but any reasonably capable email marketing platform should be able to get you that data. Make sure to get both data sets, because your list composition changes over time. If you wanted to get super detailed, do a longitudinal study and only include Gmail addresses that were on your list before the change and their open rates only. (I didn’t for the following post)

Official Gmail Blog: A new inbox that puts you back in control

You’ll need to go back to about the beginning of April for your statistics, because the new tabs were announced and began rollout on May 29, 2013. From there, run averages for pre-tab and post-tab, as well as a 4 send moving average if you have enough data.

Here’s what my newsletter looks like, both in terms of individual weekly open rate and the 4 week moving average open rate. (I send weekly)

Microsoft Excel

As you can see, the moving average open rate before Gmail tabs was 5.97%. Today it’s at 8.62%.

Gmail open rates

The overall pre-tab open rate average was 6.07%. The overall post-tab open rate average is 8.44%.

I don’t know about other marketers, but where I come from, an average open rate that goes up by 39.11% from 6.07% pre-tabs to 8.44% after tabs is not the death of email marketing, nor are Gmail tabs even harming my email list. If anything, it’s helping, because splitting up the inbox into 5 pieces allows you to see more of what’s in your inbox, even if my newsletter initially ends up in the promotions category.

I strongly encourage you to run this analysis on your own email list. Don’t buy into the panic (as friend and fellow email marketer DJ Waldow says) that Gmail has destroyed your email marketing program until you’ve analyzed your own list and gotten the answer for yourself!

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5 responses to “Are Gmail tabs hurting email marketers? Let’s find out!”

  1. gsoskey Avatar

    Thanks for the awesome post, Chris! Just published my take on this whole debacle on the HubSpot blog this morning too — our customer data has shown more opens, but MailChimp’s has shown less. Love seeing your data as well. Guess the moral of the story is to test, test, test. Thanks again!

  2. Thanks for the link love, Mr. Penn. Great post. As always, it comes down to looking at your own list, what’s working for your subscribers. One thing I’d like to push back on a bit in this post is I think too much is being made about open rates. Opens are only part of the story. If my opens go down, but my click-to-open goes up … and/or my conversions (webinar registrations, eBook downloads, sales, etc) increase … I’m pretty darn happy.

    While opens *can* be a good proxy for the other metrics mentioned above, that’s not always the case.

    Love to hear your thoughts on this.

  3. Mike Hunter Avatar
    Mike Hunter

    I would not associate myself with DJ Waldow – he doesn’t know anything about email marketing – seperate yourself from him.

  4. I was a tabs beta tester Christopher, and I am still on the fence
    here. Since I send text only emails I have no open history to test
    against. 30% of my email is read on mobile so even now after 14 years, I
    still send text only.

    Glad to see at lease one person advocating testing and real data before screaming bloody murder.

  5. I love the new tabs. I keep and read more newsletters because they are in a separate tab and not cluttering up my inbox. Very brilliant Gmail. I think, over time, we’ll see a higher open percentage with Gmail because of the tabs.

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