• Gmail’s recent broad rollout of promotions tab bundles will reward good, engaging emails with more opportunities to solidify that engagement.
  • FeedBlitz is helping you make the most of that opportunity, out of the box, today, by making every email we send bundle-ready with a featured image.

Here’s how this gives you competitive advantage: The vast, vast majority of emails in the promotions tab are not bundle-ready, so with FeedBlitz your emails are suddenly way ahead of the competition.

Standing Out from the Promotions Tab Crowd

This matters because gmail owns the bulk of consumer emails right now, and so being able to stand out within gmail itself is a huge competitive advantage for mailers.

To help you do that, FeedBlitz will find the featured image from your blog, newsletter or email, and ensure that if your email appears in a gmail app’s promotions tab bundle, your featured image will appear. This makes your email stand out from the clutter, encouraging opens and downstream engagement.

Since a picture says a thousand words, here’s an example from a client:

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See how Lisa’s email stands out? That’s because (a) it’s been bundled on the gmail promotions tab, and (b) FeedBlitz built the email to be bundle-ready, so that an engaging image pops out.

That’s neat and easy – and, as of today, zero extra effort for FeedBlitz clients. If you send an email using FeedBlitz, it just works.

So what is a gmail promotions tab bundle anyway?

Depending on what gmail knows about the subscriber, it may group an email at the top of the promotions tab as part of a “bundle” – the recipient sees it highlighted as “Top Picks,” “Top Promotions” or similar text (the copy varies depending on what gmail thinks the email is about).

If an email ends up at the top of a bundle, it is typically followed by maybe one more bundled email, and then by a couple of google ads (aha!, says my inner cynic, way to emphasize those, Google).

Still, a bundled email appears at the top of the promotions tab even if other emails arrive after it, so it’s a way to maintain visibility and stickiness for your messaging.

Bundling, though, is neither guaranteed nor predictable — sometimes we’ve seen an email arrive and be positioned normally, then refreshing the promotions tab (by dragging down and releasing it) caused the email to be bundled. (I personally would like the app to behave consistently and do that without mystery manual intervention.)

There aren’t any guarantees that your email will be bundled, and it clearly varies based on the individual recipient. (Also be aware that the Inbox tab doesn’t bundle – it’s only the promotions tab, and only on gmail’s apps).

Nonetheless, this is an important development that gmail is rolling out, so I’m going to explore it a little further so you can work on taking advantage of it.

What are the benefits of gmail promotions tab bundles for email marketers?

Back in the day, the email marketing community was very worried about bulk email and newsletters being siphoned off by gmail to the promotions tab. The fear was that open rates would suffer, with consequent drops in open rates and revenues. That didn’t really happen, and the promotions tab is just a handy pre-built folder to find non-personal mailings.

When your email gets bundled, however, things get a LOT better for an email marketer.

  • Your email gets pinned to the top of the tab and becomes temporarily sticky.
  • You can stand out by having images and deals highlighted without the email being opened.

Both of these encourage opens and engagement, and these are good things. This is an interesting, engagement-based feature, and although the extra image and deal highlighting is currently limited to gmail’s apps (not, as far as I can tell, their web browser interfaces), it is an opportunity for every business, large or small, to strive to make their email marketing better.

Being bundled – and making the most of that when it happens – goes further, though. It helps establish a virtuous cycle: the more bundled an email gets, the more engagement it will garner, making it more likely that future emails will also be bundled. It’s an accelerant for good email marketing and organizations that do email well. To the winners, the breaks, as it were.

[There is a catch to the images that show with a bundled email, however, and that is that if a bundle shows your email’s bundle-ready image, that image is cropped and letter boxed – only the middle sliver is shown.]

This leads to two questions, one specific to FeedBlitz, and one a more general email marketing question:

  • How does my email get to be bundled in the promotions tab?
  • How does FeedBlitz help?

Let’s hop to it.

How does my email get to be bundled in the gmail promotions tab?

It’s a gmail-specific algorithm, and clearly their goal is to only bundle or highlight relevant emails that have a history of positive engagement. Bundling is also personalized, and the app’s bundling decision will vary by recipient. In other words, your email may be bundled for some readers, but not for others. Clearly the way to increase the likelihood of your email getting to the top of the bundling heap is to double down on engagement and best practices, so that not only is your reputation as a sender / brand excellent, but also your engagement with readers is consistently positive.

How?

  • Ensure your open rates are good by writing compelling subject lines and making the most of pre-header / preview text.
  • Create good mixed content (text, headlines and imagery) to encourage time within the email.
  • Have compelling and relevant calls to actions to click through from the email to relevant content, offer or other call to action, including secondary ones such as “join my patreon” as well as “20% off” (or whatever!).
  • Keep your list clean by removing non-engaged subscribers, which will help move your open rates up.
  • Have a featured-image near the top of the email that is at least 322 x 82 (even if it is rendered smaller on your email).

As of today, if your email contains a meaningful or explicitly featured image, FeedBlitz will do the work to ensure that if gmail bundles your email in an app, that featured image will be displayed with it.

It just works.

This is true for traditional newsletters, RSS-powered blog subscriptions, funnels and transactional emails we send for you. In other words, as a FeedBlitz client, you do exactly nothing more than what you’re doing right now, and it just works. Automatically! Our featured image algorithm is part of our service, and has been around for years, restructuring blog-based emails from “here’s a blog post in your email” to “here’s an interesting and dynamically restructured update from the blog” – this featured image detection algorithm is how we create post thumbnails or hero images on the fly.

For RSS powered mailings, that’s a good thing; the whole point of an RSS-driven email subscription service is to set and forget, after all. So RSS-powered campaigns are all going to be promotions tab bundle ready, and neither the campaign nor the mailing template needs to be changed.

For emails and newsletters that are built using our visual drag and drop editor, a.k.a. the Visual Mailing Editor (VME), the test email dialog now shows a preview of the featured image FeedBlitz found, and how it will (probably) appear if it’s bundled in the gmail app, like this:

If, however, there are other candidate featured images in the mailing, the dialog lets you cycle through them using the arrows, so you can pick the one you like best. The preview we show is a very good facsimile for what gmail shows, but it isn’t a guarantee – the developers at gmail like to mix things up and keep us email service providers (ESPs) on our toes.

When you’re building your email in the FeedBlitz VME, you can pick the image you want to highlight and set it to be featured as part of the image block’s properties, pre-empting the test email step.

There’s a certain amount of secret sauce here, but basically we look for large images that stand out. Basically, our featured image algorithm is emulating what a human eye would immediately be drawn to when your email is first opened, and promoting that image up into the gmail bundle.

You can influence our algorithm, for both traditional and RSS-powered mailings, by attaching a CSS class containing the word “featured” to the HTML image tag you want to emphasize (if you don’t know what that means, that’s OK, remember that the algorithm works automatically, and is very, very good at what it does without any human guidance).

Once FeedBlitz has found a set of candidate images that could be featured, it take the first one with the “featured” CSS class tag, or otherwise the first one it finds. (A postscript here: If the algorithm is not consistently finding the image you want it to, please drop a line to support for advice).