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Gmail Can be Tamed; Just Ask ProFlowers


By Ken Magill

Between Yahoo!, AOL and Gmail, Gmail is the most difficult ISP for bulk emailers to get their messages delivered into the inbox, according to marketing intelligence firm eDataSource.

“Google is the toughest one to get through if you aren’t following best practices,” said G.B. Heidarsson, senior vice president of sales and marketing for eDataSource.

However, one marketer apparently addressed Gmail’s persnickety spam-filtering rules and achieved results.

Last year, ProFlowers experienced a dip in its Gmail inbox placement rate as it increased mailing frequency around Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day and didn’t recover until November, according to eDataSource.

This year, ProFlowers apparently took into account Gmail’s use of sender reputation and user engagement in its spam filtering rules by using subject lines, such as: “Gmail Customer Notice: Open if you missed yesterday’s special discount!” and “Help Teach Gmail to Like ProFlowers. Give us a Star.”

The result: As the chart below this article shows, though the company experienced punishing Gmail inbox placement rates in February during its Valentine’s Day push, this year it recovered much faster than last year, according to eDataSource.

Also, according to Heidarsson, ProFlowers wasn’t the only mass emailer to experience inbox troubles at Gmail.

“In February, there was a major change at Google and everyone had trouble getting into the inbox,” he said.

But during the week of March 19th, ProFlowers’ Gmail inbox placement rate jumped from 35.9 percent to 71.8 percent, according to eDataSource. Two weeks later, the rate surpassed 85 percent, according to eDataSource. \

The following week—and every week thereafter—the rate has been above 95 percent, according to eDataSource.

ProFlowers started using subject lines targeted to Gmail users at the end of February and stopped in April, according to eDataSource. The results speak for themselves.

“Yes, Google is strict, but what this shows is of you run a responsible campaign you can get into the inbox,” said Heidarsson. “If you follow best practices and can withstand the intellectual test that Google is throwing at you, they reward you quickly and will let you in. The ROI of that is probably one of the lowest hanging fruits that anyone with deliverability problems has to pick.

“Once you get your reputation up, you’re in,” he said.

Heidarsson added that ProFlowers’ Gmail success is another argument for email list segmentation, something a lot of pundits recommend but relatively few marketers do.

“What they obviously did was break their list into segments and started [approaching] Gmail sub-segments with special offers,” he said. “They put Gmail in the subject line and all of a sudden their deliverability is over 85 percent.”

By comparison, FTD’s Gmail inbox placement rate from April 16 to May 16 was 11.96 percent, according to eDataSource.

During the same period, Cheryl’s cookies and gifts saw a 47.83 percent Gmail inbox placement rate and Hallmark Cards’ rate was 72.61 percent, according to eDataSource.

1-800-Flowers, Red Envelope, Yankee Candle and Telflora were each above 90 percent during the period, according to eDataSource.

And Popcorn Factory had a whopping 99.41 Gmail inbox placement rate from the middle of April to the Middle of May, according to eDataSource.

Source: eDataSource

Reporter’s note: I interviewed Heidarsson on Friday and decided to move with this story rather than go through ProFlowers’ PR hoops. I know: Lazy ass. I will reach out to them with a link to this piece, however, and do a follow-up piece if they consent to an interview.


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Terms: Feel free to be as big a jerk as you want, but don't attack anyone other than me personally. And don't criticize people or companies other than me anonymously. Got something crappy to say? Say it under your real name. Anonymous potshots and personal attacks aimed at me, however, are fine.

Posted by: Scott
Date: 2013-07-26 04:41:53
Subject: Awesome

Great article, we are having trouble getting into Gmail its always going to Spam so this is definitely worth a shot. I do love your terms!
Posted by: Ric Faust
Date: 2013-01-10 08:22:41
Subject: Taming Gmail

So...from what I get from this, all we have to do is add 'Gmail' to the subject? We don't have to update the body with instructions to Star us or in some way indicate to Gmail that the customer wants to receive our emails??? It just seems too simple. Thanks for the info, look forward to an update.
Posted by: Al Iverson
Date: 2012-05-30 13:29:35
Subject: nice to see this

Ken, thanks for sharing this. It fits with what we've seen of Gmail lately.