How to Utilize the Power of Gmail’s New Promotions Tab: Webinar Recording + Q&A

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The Gmail Promotions tab has gotten a major update, providing email marketers with brand new, more visual opportunities to make their emails stand out. In addition to standard inbox text (like a subject line), marketers can now include additional information like promotion codes, a featured image, and deal expiration dates—all visible to your subscribers before they open your email.

We’ve teamed up with Jordan Grossman, Product Manager, Gmail, for an exclusive webinar to walk you through Gmail’s updates, and to give you the knowledge and tools you need to get your emails ready for the new Promotions tab.

Did you miss the live webinar? Don’t worry. You can access the full webinar recording and download the slides at any time.

While we covered as many questions as we could during the live webinar, we didn’t have enough time to get through all of them. Read on to get answers to more frequently asked questions from the community.  

  1. How does Gmail decide what gets featured as a top deal?
  2. My email service provider strips the JSON code when sending. Can I still annotate my emails?
  3. Might the annotation markup affect email deliverability with other mailbox providers?
  4. Will only emails that have annotations get featured in the Promotions tab?
  5. Does using annotations automatically send my email into the Promotions tab?
  6. Are the new features only available on Gmail mobile apps?
  7. What image dimensions do you recommend for the Single Image Preview?
  8. Are animated GIFs supported in the Single Image Preview?
  9. What are the character limits for the offer description and offer code?
  10. Can and/or should the annotations be set in any other language than English?
  11. When setting a custom logo via the annotations, will that logo display in the Primary tab as well?
  12. How can nonprofit organizations—or any other brands that don’t offer promotions in the typical sense—utilize these new features?
  13. Is setting an expiration date required to get my email featured in the Promotions tab?
  14. If an offer expires, will that promotion annotation be removed? Does the email itself remain in the Promotions tab?
  15. Does adding annotation code mean the email is more likely to get clipped?
  16. Would you recommend using the JSON code over the microdata in the HTML? What’s the difference?

FAQ

How does Gmail decide what gets featured as a top deal? Is it based off previous user engagement with a brand?

Jordan Grosmann: As we make our algorithms more sophisticated, the details of the answer might change, but the basic idea is that we are trying to figure out what is the most valuable and helpful for users. In order to do that, we use a collection of signals including, but not limited to, the user’s history with that sender and the sender’s vertical. We look at things like open rate, but try not to overly rely just on open rate because we understand that email opens is not the only important thing that happens. Sometimes an unopened email drives users to the sender’s website directly—aka it was a good email and a good outcome.

My email service provider strips the JSON code when sending. Can I still annotate my emails?

Bettina Specht: Some ESPs remove scripts—including the JSON code that’s used for Gmail annotations—when sending email. If yours does too, you can use microdata as an alternative method to annotate your email. Our Gmail Promotions Builder allows you to download and use either the JSON or microdata version if you’re not comfortable writing the code yourself.

Might the annotation markup affect email deliverability with other mailbox providers?

Jason Rodriguez: It’s unlikely that annotations will affect deliverability. Jordan mentioned during the webinar that it doesn’t affect deliverability in Gmail, and we’re assuming that the same will apply for other mailbox providers. Deliverability is increasingly focused on sender reputation and engagement as opposed to email-specific content, so as long as you aren’t doing anything overly dubious in your annotations, your deliverability should be just fine.

Will only emails that have annotations get featured in the Promotions tab or will the algorithm pull in other relevant emails as well?

Jason: The Promotions tab weighs a lot of factors when deciding what to show. While annotated emails will allow your emails to display additional content when bundled in the Promotions tab, Gmail will still pull in relevant, non-annotated emails, too. Gmail is all about determining what’s relevant and promotional in nature and separating that out from emails that are pulled into the other tabs in Gmail.

Does using annotations automatically send my email into the Promotions tab?

Jordan: No, the annotation in no way contributes to which tab the email ends up in.

Are the new features only available on Gmail mobile apps?

Bettina: The new Promotions tab functionality is currently available in the most recent version of the Gmail app for Android (8.11.25 or higher) and iOS (5.0.181119 or higher). The updates will come to the desktop via the Gmail webmail client in 2019.

What image dimensions do you recommend for the Single Image Preview?

Bettina: Images in the Single Image Preview are 538 x 138 pixels in size and have a 3.9 aspect ratio. That doesn’t mean that the image you link to from your annotations has to be exactly that size though. You can link to an image in any size, and images are center-cropped automatically.

Jason: Using larger images can be beneficial, too. As more mobile devices use high DPI screens, delivering higher resolution images ensures that your visuals appear crisp on those screens, instead of pixelated.

Are animated GIFs supported in the Single Image Preview?

Bettina: No. GIF and WEBP images are not supported.

What are the character limits for the offer description and offer code?

Bettina: There is technically no character limit, although the text in your badges may be cut off or truncated based on the total character count of all features used. Use our Gmail Promotions Builder to set your badge copy and to generate a preview of your promotion. With that, you’ll see if your text is getting truncated and you can make changes, if needed.

Can and/or should the annotations be set in any other language than English? For example, will “Halva priset” (Half price, in Swedish) affect the promotion bundle in any way?

Jordan: We recommend using whatever language and character set you use for the rest of the the email. We do not interpret or translate the text and leave it up to the sender to provide whatever text makes the most sense for their message and recipient.

When setting a custom logo via the annotations, will that logo display in the Primary tab as well?

Jordan: Custom annotated logos will be shown only under two circumstances: 1) when an email in the Promotions tab is put into a bundle, 2) when the email is highlighted in the Primary tab as part of the Promotions tab teaser (what the user sees that tells them they have new/expiring email in the other tab).

How can nonprofit organizations—or any other brands that don’t offer promotions in the typical sense—utilize these new features?

Jason: We don’t recommend repurposing any of the capabilities, however, highlighting gift matching in the deals badge, end dates for fundraisers in the expiration timestamp field, your logo (obviously), and inspiring imagery are all appropriate things to consider.

Is setting an expiration date required to get my email featured in the Promotions tab?

Jordan: Definitely not. Nothing is required aside from a good relationship with our users.  If it doesn’t make sense to include an expiration date (aka nothing in your message is expiring), don’t give it a second though.

If an offer expires, will that promotion annotation be removed? Does the email itself remain in the Promotions tab?

Jordan: We won’t remove the email from the tab because of the annotation at any point. When the email is old enough, it will no longer be eligible to be in the top bundle, but it will then just return to the Remaining Promotions section. It is important to remember not to include an expired date in the annotation though—that will prevent bundling. (This happens more often than you would think.)

Does adding annotation code mean the email is more likely to get clipped?

Jason: Gmail clips emails that weigh 102kb or more, prompting the user to download and show the rest of the email when that happens. Although annotations do add more code to your email, you can currently only annotate so many things, all of which are short amounts of text. It’s unlikely that annotations will add enough code weight to trigger clipping. However, if you’re in the habit of sending lengthier emails, you may want to be cautious.

Would you recommend using the JSON code over the microdata in the HTML? What’s the difference?

Jordan: We recommend trying the JSON in the head tag of the HTML first.

JSON is easier for a person to read, spot errors, and understand the code for testing. Putting it into the head is also the safest place to put code that you never want a user to see rendered in the message body (but we can’t guarantee some inbox provider won’t mangle your HTML—it’s safe on Gmail and haven’t heard of any problems elsewhere). We only recommend moving the code out of the head and/or using microdata under circumstances where your ESP is stripping your code out before delivery and when they won’t change what they’re doing.  

If you are more comfortable with microdata, though, please use it. It will get the same result, despite being a little harder to read by a human.