The phrase “Above the fold” is a Internet term referring to the space in the top portion of a webpage or email, that a visitor sees without invoking the mouse to scroll or go below the fold. It is the most valuable portion of digital real-estate, a place where headlines, sub-headlines, and teaser copy resides, and it is often wasted with oversized banners, fancy graphics, and lost opportunity to convey value to visitors. Today, however, there is now a new “fold” to consider, as a result of Gmail’s new Priority Inbox.
The Gmail Priority Inbox is an optional feature of Gmail allowing users to filter emails based on Gmail’s algorithm of engagement with the sender, as “Important and unread”, if the email was “Starred” by the recipient, and “Everything else.” Of course there is heated debate about this approach, as well as it’s legality.
What’s clear is users want relief from the overwhelm most inboxes provide, this is an opportunity for marketers to step up their game.
How it Serves Gmail Users
The benefits of the Priority Inbox is self evident. Unlike the impact of Google Buzz with privacy concerns, Google is going the other way by helping Gmail users guard their most precious asset, their time. For anybody with interest in the Internet Marketing industry, you’ve likely been hammered by product launches over and over. The Gmail Priority inbox will provide relief, and has the potential to buy you back some time in the process. Sweet.
How the Priority Inbox Serves Marketers – Staying Above the Gmail Fold
If you aren’t looking at the reporting your email service provider offers, you should. Look at a 12 month report of open rates; you’ll likely see an interesting and disturbing trend. Now, consider how your messages offer three things for your subscribers.
Relevance: Are your messages relevant to the market? How do you know? Ask, and ask often. Learn more on that here.
What are the top challenges of your subscribers and how is that causing them pain (results)? Then figure out how you can provide content that demonstrates your understanding of their challenges and the solution.
Timing: It’s important to understand when email subscribers are most responsive. Check your email stats for open times (Aweber also does a good job of this). Hint: some markets respond higher to weekend mailings. And now for the most important aspect of your email marketing.
Engagement: Today it’s all about conversation and feedback. This is what the priority inbox is all about. Done right, relevance and timing set the table for engagement. It is engagement that services like Gmail’s priority inbox is designed to filter in or filter out.
Marketers Should Strive to Stay Above the “Priority Inbox Fold”:
A Few Ideas for Engaging Your Subscribers:
- Ask them to answer an important question by replying to you via email. Offer a personal response. Not only does this make your communications more meaningful, but this is what Google’s Gmail Priority Inbox factors in placing emails in the “Important and unread” above the Priority Inbox fold. Hint: subscribers of MarketingProfessor.com experience this. :-)
- Hold a contest which is for subscribers only, and requires them to respond via email.
- Have your call to action be a link to a blog post. Ask them to join the conversation on the blog.
- Ask them to Facebook “Like” your content, if appropriate, tweet it out, or share it on Linked In (if your market is reasonably technical).
It’s worth noting that the search engines favor content having comments, “Likes”, and tweets as stated by Matt Cutts.
Bottom-Line: Don’t Embrace Status Quo
It remains to be seen how quickly Gmail users will adopt the Priority Inbox. I’m willing to bet that those who continue to use traditional mass and blast approaches to email marketing will need to make adjustments to survive in gmail inboxes. However, it’s not just Gmail that has taken these measures, services like Hotmail, and Yahoo! Mail that have similar ranking and filtering options in their programs. Consider the Hotmail Sweep Feature, and Yahoo’s Inbox Filter for emails from contacts or connections.
Here’s a screenshot from my Yahoo account:
More Info About the Priority Inbox:
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