Gmail’s “Promotions Tab” has been the bane of every winery doing email marketing since its introduction in 2013.

When you receive a new email, Gmail performs a scan of its content so that it can sort which tab the email should go to β€” Primary, Social, or Promotions. And believe me, if Google’s algorithms can identify you by your face, they can determine whether or not you’re promoting something in an email.

Gmail Tabs

Here’s Why Your Emails End Up In The Promotions Tab

Rather than break down Google’s algorithm with hundreds upon hundreds of factors, here’s the five most-likely reasons your emails go straight to your fans’ Promotions tabs.

1. Your Emails Are Overdesigned 🎨

Do your friends regularly write to you in the form of sales brochures with colored backgrounds and two-column grid layouts? No, only people with something to sell do that. Ding! Promotions tab.

Instead, use plain text emails. Trust me, you won’t look unprofessional. There’s nothing unprofessional about having your emails read. Last I checked, anyway.

2. You’re Using Too Many Images πŸ–Ό

I analyzed hundreds of winery emails, and the average email from a winery has 7 images. That’s WAY too many.

If you need to include images, use one or two MAX.

No more logo at the top. They already know whose email they’re reading before they even click into it.

By the way, social media icons count as images. Get rid of them. Why do you even want someone to click to your Instagram page when they’re already reading your email? If you’re selling something on your website, why do you want them to pop over to your Twitter?

3. You’re Using Too Many Links πŸ”—

The average email from a winery has 10 links from my analysis. That’s a special kind of overkill that will land you in the Promotions tab every single time.

Use one or two links maximum.

By the way, half of the links in the emails I analyzed aren’t even related to the thing the email is trying to promote. They’re to random things like “visit us”, “share on facebook/twitter/linkedin”, “view all events” and other nonsense that distract the reader AWAY from your primary objective.

And yes, the links that your social media icons point to count as links. Take them out.

4. You’re Talking Like A Brand πŸ€–

Stop talking like a brand, and start talking more like a person. Better yet, start talking more like a friend.

πŸ‘© Friends start their emails with “Hi Sarah,”

πŸ€– Brands start their emails with a logo.

(didn’t grab their name when they opted in? “Hey there, it’s Jeff”)

πŸ‘© Friends refer to themselves as “I”, as in “I’m going to be pouring our 2014 Pinot Noir all day at the event”

πŸ€– Brands refer to themselves as “We”, as in “We’ll be pouring our 2014 Pinot Noir…”

I’d rather just hear the thing from one member of the Cherrywood Wines Family rather than the whole family speaking in unison. It’s so much more personal, and Gmail reads it that way too.

πŸ‘© Friends say: “Sarah, I wanted to share with you something ridiculous we’re doing… until the end of March, we’re shipping every order for $5”

πŸ€– Brands say: “Starting Now Through March 31st…Β OUR “SPRING CELEBRATION” $5 SHIPPING SPECIAL”

Do you see the difference? Gmail does.

5. You’re Using A Low-Quality Email Service Provider πŸ“§

Sorry, but unless the rest of your email is REALLY GOOD, using something cheap like Mailchimp is going to land you in the Promotions Tab almost without fail.

I’ve had good results with Aweber, ActiveCampaign, and Infusionsoft by Keap.


Here’s an example of a BAD winery email:

Animated GIF of a bad winery email

Sorry, not trying to throw shade here. Got nothing but love for you, just using you as an example.

Here’s what they do wrong:

  • It’s almost entirely image-based, with very little accompanying text.
  • There’s pretty much no conversation.Β It reads as a sales brochure, rather than a friend talking to a friend.
  • It focuses too much on layout, which means it again looks like a brochure.
  • It’s rife with links to products and social media pages.
  • Their service provider is Constant Contact. They’re not the WORST, but I’ve never had someone send me anything using Constant Contact and have it end up in my Primary Inbox.

So, pretty much everything I suggest you NOT do, they did it.

It’s not just them. There are SO MANY WINERIES sending out this same exact stuff.

That may have worked really well in the early 2000’s, but times have changed, the Promotions tab was born, and results have diminished considerably.

Let’s take a look at some people who’ve put their 2019 shoes on and stepped into the present:

Animated GIF of a good email

This may not be a winery, but it’s a damn good marketing email. It reads like a conversation, 0 images, and it’s sent via Infusionsoft.

Now, you might look at this and say, “Wait! He’s not selling anything! There aren’t even any links in this email!” β€” And, well, you’re right. That definitely helps. Though what he IS selling is going to be sold in person at this event he’s speaking at.

But the thing is, all of his emails end up in my Primary tab, even the ones with links in them. He does everything right, and is rewarded for it.

But then, you might be wondering how this would work for selling wine.

So here’s a couple more examples:

Animated GIF of another good email

I’m not totally sure on this, but I think Vino (above) sends these out by hand. It didn’t look like they were using an email service provider when I analyzed their headers. I don’t recommend you do that, just because it would be a huge headache.

I also think this is way too much text to go in an email, but it seems to be working for them.

Here’s what Vino is doing that I DO recommend:

  • Plain text, 0 design
  • Conversational β€” reads like a person wrote it, not a brand
  • Not using a low-quality email marketing service (presumably)

And if you’re ever in Portland, pay Vino a visit. They’re a cute shop with friendly owners.

Finally, and perhaps more relevantly, here’s a winery with a strong example to follow:

Animated GIF of a good winery email

The bad? They’re using Mailchimp. For most people, that means Straight-To-Promotions.

But the good?

  • Highly conversational
  • Emojis rather than sales-brochure images
  • Plain text, 0 design
  • 2 links, and they’re the same link without any kind of “SHOP NOW” verbiage

Use of emojis is up to you β€” if you think they make you look incompetent or it doesn’t fit your brand, you won’t lose points for eschewing them. Just make sure you keep an open mind about the people that do, because you might learn a thing or two from them.

Look, I know it can be REALLY hard to fight the urge to sound like a “brand” and flood your emails with images and brand-speak. I get it. That’s what we’ve all been taught for the past couple decades.

But things are different now. People just don’t resonate with that. And just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean it’s correct. I think the abysmal open rates that marketing emails receive says plenty.

Try out my suggestions above β€” use no more than 2 images, 2 links, talk like a human, switch to plain text, and use a better email marketing platform like Aweber or Infusionsoft.

If you hate it or it “doesn’t work,” go back to the old way. Or, send me an email, because there’s probably something that I could help you fix about it.

Or if you want to see some insanely good results, try what I suggest below…

The 100% Guaranteed Way To Avoid The Promotions Tab

People talk about whitelisting, as though ANYONE has time or the attention-span for that, like it’s going to cure your email marketing woes.

It won’t.

Your plea to be whitelisted is written in your emails, which are already not getting opened because, well… you know why.

The best way to guarantee that your emails don’t end up in the Promotions Tab is to start sending your campaigns through Facebook Messenger Marketing 😎

Ha! Not the answer you were expecting, but it’s a lot easier to avoid a pitfall of a dying medium when you’re using a platform that’s four times as likely to get your campaigns read.

Didn’t know you could send the equivalent of your email campaigns through Facebook Messenger? Yes, it’s awesome. I’m seeing 95%+ open rates with it, and the platform lends itself to conversation so much better than email.

Now, I’m not recommending that you just drop your email marketing altogether and go 100% messenger marketing. Not at all. Keep it going, and do them both.

Click here to read more about how wineries can use messenger marketing.

I hope this writeup has given you some helpful direction for how to avoid the Promotions tab in Gmail.