Thoughts on Gmail and the inbox


Over the last few months more and more marketers are finding their primary delivery challenge is the Gmail inbox. I’ve been thinking about why Gmail might be such a challenge for marketers. Certainly I have gotten a lot of calls from people struggling to figure out how to get into the Gmail inbox. I’ve also seen aggressive domain based filtering from Gmail, where any mention of a particular domain results in mail going to the bulk folder.
It’s one of those things that’s a challenge, because in most of these cases there isn’t one cause for bulk foldering. Instead there’s a whole host of things that are individually very small but taken together convince Gmail that the mail doesn’t need to be in the inbox.
A pattern that I’m starting to see is that Gmail is taking a more holistic look at all the mail from a sender. If the mail is connected to an organization, all that mail is measured as part of their delivery decision making. This is hurting some ESPs and bulk senders. I’ve had multiple ESPs contact me in the last 6 months looking for help because all their customer emails are going to bulk folder.
Gmail’s filtering is extremely aggressive. From my perspective it always has been. I did get an invite for a Gmail account way back in the day. I moved a couple mailing lists over to that account to test it with some volume and discussion lists. I gave up not long after because no matter what I did I couldn’t get gmail to put all the mail from that list into the tag I had set up for it. Inevitably some mail from some certain people would end up in my spam folder.
Gmail has gotten better, now they will let you override their filters but give you a big warning that the message would have been delivered to spam otherwise.
What are mailers to do? Right now I don’t have a good answer. Sending mail people want is still good advice for individual senders. But I am not sure what can be done about this ESP wide filtering that I’m starting to see. It’s possible Gmail is monitoring all the mail from a particular sender or ESP and applying a “source network” score. Networks letting customers send mail Gmail doesn’t like (such as affiliate mail or payday mail, things they mentioned specifically at M3AAWG) are having all their customers affected.
I suspect this means that ESPs seeing problems across their customer base are going to have to work harder to police their customers and remove problematic mail streams completely. Hopefully, ESPs that can get on the Gmail FBL can identify the problem customers faster before those customers tank mail for all their senders.

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  • I have seen their filters hinge based on the domain in the Return-Path header. If that is a domain they don’t like then you are in trouble.

  • Its such a joy reading all these trends
    Im just a humble sysadmin/mail administrator for a few very small domains (~1-2 users), one small (~100 users) and a one large (~200k users)
    We dont send any kind of bulk mail (mostly). we only suffer spammers, compromising our accounts or directly reciving spam
    google might be doing bad things… but all this spam is not acceptable thing is blisful to me.
    Without counting the viagra kinda mails, 95-97% of the so called “marketing” email is pure spam… it doesnt matter how you disguised it.
    If the user doesnt want you in their inbox, you are spamming… end of discussion.

By laura

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