The Inbox Algorithm: How to Land Your Email in the Priority Inbox

How to land your emails in the priority inbox

Did you know the average office worker receives 122 emails a day?

Who am I kidding, of course you know that…you’ll probably receive a couple in the few minutes it takes you to read this blog.

Unfortunately, we can’t slap a ‘No Junk Mail’ sticker on our email inbox so spam regulation, and priority mail algorithm filters, are the best defence against the daily dump of useless emails.

We all know and love spam folders, they’ve been protecting our precious inbox from all kinds of shady characters since the nineties, but you may not know about the new player – priority mail.

Priority Inbox, Focussed Inbox, ’emails I actually want to read’, whatever you want to call it, most major ESP’s are now offering algorithms that separate the best-of-the-best from…well, the rest.

So emails from colleagues, friends, bills and important notices will be delivered to your inbox, and the rest (mostly promotional emails) will land in the middle ground between spam and the golden inbox.

How Do the Algorithms Sort My Mail?

Basically, your incoming mail is sorted based on your own behaviour. So the emails that you regularly open and reply to, the senders that are in your contact list and the contacts you have marked as important will be prioritised.

Just as the mail you delete without opening, don’t ever click-through on, or drag into your ‘Promotional’ folder will be demoted. Think of it this way, you are in charge of training your algorithm. It will observe how you engage with emails and will respond and sort accordingly.

Russell Crowe from The Beautiful Mind

So, How Will it Affect Email Marketing? 

Almost every aspect of marketing now has an element of competition. You’re putting forward your best work in order to connect with the consumer, and so are hundreds of other brands in your industry.

Unlike other platforms, we do have a degree of choice when it comes to email marketing. We chose the brands we subscribe and ultimately those who deserve our attention.

However, as an example, I love to receive emails from Luxury Escapes when I’m planning a getaway but for the other 40 or so weeks of the year I’d rather not teased with beautiful beachside locations. I like the odd promotional email, but I also don’t want my important work emails buried within 50 emails every morning.

Just as with the Facebook newsfeed update or Google’s crackdown on pesky mobile pop-ups, algorithm changes are always made with the users best interest in mind. You can curse and throw a total tantrum every time a new algorithm comes out that makes you change your behaviour, but that’s not very productive.

Algorithms help the best brands succeed and will punish lazy or ‘spammy’ marketing. They’re designed to make processes more efficient, fluent and user-friendly. Let’s be honest, we could all use a little more of that in our life!

As long as you continue to deliver relevant and timely content to your subscribers, your email marketing efforts shouldn’t be affected by these updates. Plus, It’s much easier to stand out as the cream of the crop if your competitors spray and pray campaigns aren’t even in the same inbox as yours. BONUS!

How to Land Yourself in the Priority Inbox

Master Your Subject Line

Research by Return Path shows that in 2017 13% of marketing emails were deleted before they were opened.

Algorithms learn from the user’s actions, so if your unread emails are being binned during the Friday arvo inbox clear-out then you’re going to be demoted to the promotional folder, or worse, the spam folder.

Header harvesting spam

 

The very first step to landing your email in the priority mailbox is writing a compelling subject line. A subject line that is so eye-catching your recipient can’t resist opening it. How do you do this? Test, test, test!

Use A/B testing to understand what types of subject lines not only get the most opens, but really smash it with the click-throughs.

Keep Up to Date With Spam Guidelines

Even before the new priority inbox changes, keeping up-to-date and informed with ESP Spam Guidelines was remarkably important. You don’t need to be a Nigerian Prince emailing the beneficiaries of some distant relatives will to land yourself in the spam folder. Even smallest slip-ups can cause your email to be blacklisted, and crawling your way out of the depths of the spam folder isn’t an easy feat.

Personal Over Promotional 

The algorithms are looking to filter personal emails from the daily tsunami of ‘BUY NOW’ / ‘SALE SALE SALE’ / ‘HOT OFFER’ type of emails. If you don’t want to be grouped in with the typical promotional emails you need to do something they’re not doing…keeping it personal.

Everything from the first name merges tags, to geo-location targeting, to conditional content sections and beyond. These touches are easy to execute and give you the edge over the noise created by other brands.

Ask Your Subscribers a Favour

If you want to be 100% sure your emails always make their way into the priority inbox then all you need to do is ask.

If your subscribers add your email to their contact list, or even better, mark your email as ‘important’, the algorithm will work in your favour.

“Did our email get lost in the morning email tsunami? Uh oh! Add us to your contacts so you don’t miss a thing.” – Put this in your footer for safeguarding, easy-peasy!

Pretty pretty please


When you boil it down, landing your email in the priority inbox isn’t rocket science. It means sending relevant emails, with captivating content and to the right audience at the right time. If your emails aren’t sitting pretty in the priority inbox then cursing the algorithm gods isn’t going to solve the problem. Know how to create awesome emails and get to work!

Do you use the priority inbox feature? If so, have you found it helpful? And lastly, would you like to know more about the latest changes to spam regulations? If you’re interested, let me know!


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