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7 Strategies to Get Your Ad Listed in the “Top Picks” Section of Gmail’s Promotion Tab



From the time Google introduced Gmail tabs, the way marketers used email for promotions changed. Most promotional emails no longer end up in the coveted Primary tab section. Instead, promotional emails now have their own tab, one where only 19.2 percent are ever read.

The best chance for promotional emails to get back on the primary tab is by asking current subscribers to manually set up your domain for it.

But what about for your cold prospects? You’ll likely end up in the Promotions tab, but how can you increase your chances of being one of the 19.2 percent of promotional emails that actually get read?

The answer? Targeting the Promotion tab’s ‘Top Picks’ section, where your email will float to the top of the inbox. You can also do this by creating Gmail Ads.

There are many reasons to send a Gmail Ad, but one of the big ones is being able to send a campaign to a prospect even if you don’t have their email yet. Plus, Gmail Ads have the potential for engagement other emails do: recipients can choose to save your ad in their inbox and forward it to their friends.

To reap all these benefits, you need to make sure your email ads are in top form. In this blog post, we’ll address strategies that will help you start Gmail Ads that are exactly that.

Strategies to Get Your Emails Listed in the “Top Picks” Section

1. Treat Your Gmail Ad Like a Landing Page

Let’s start with basics: what not to have in your Gmail ad.

It’s tempting to be a little aggressive in getting your prospect to do what you want, but Google doesn’t give you a lot of space, especially for text in the Collapsed Ad view. You only have 20 characters for the subject line and 90 characters for the description.


Be careful with how you word your subject lines and descriptions, not only because your prospect will ignore your ad, but you could also run the risk of getting flagged. Avoid subject lines that are risky or clickbaity, as Google might mistake your ad as a phishing scam.

Think of your ad as you would a landing page where you entice your audience with an eye-catching visual and then direct them to your call to action.

A good landing page has a CTA that commands attention. It’s mobile-responsive, not too heavy with multimedia that it bogs down page load times. It doesn’t have too many links or fields, distracting your prospect from converting. It highlights the benefits and values of your offer.

2. Leverage Your Email Marketing Data

Treating your Gmail Ad like a landing page is the first step. The next would be to optimize these ads by following strategies that have previously worked for you.

If you’re thinking of running (or have already run) Gmail Ads, you’ve probably done some email marketing previously. Your past email marketing campaigns contain treasure troves of data you can apply to strengthen your email ad.

Revisit your email marketing metrics. Which emails had the highest open rates? What about these emails worked well? Is it the way you worded your subject line? Is it the way you designed your CTA?

Strategies that have worked well for you organically before will likely work even better for you in a paid ad campaign. It fits, too, because a Gmail Ad looks and works like an email marketing campaign.

You also want to see what kind of audiences give you the highest open rates or even convert to paying customers from your past promotional emails. These details will be valuable when it’s time to select audience and demographic targets for your ad.


You want to target prospects that more or less fit the customer persona that buys from you.

3. Spy On Your Competitors

Which keywords should you be targeting?

For Gmail Ads, you should be targeting your own branded keywords, as well as branded keywords by your competitors. This will allow you to sneak into their current customers’ inboxes and make them aware that you’re an option.

Make the most out of Gmail Ad’s Domain Targeting feature by targeting ancillary domains related to your business. With the way Google’s targeting works, you’ll likely show up in inboxes of prospects that have received non-spam emails from these domains in the past.

If you do this, make sure your ad copy can communicate why you’re a better (or related) option for your prospect. You can offer a discount or highlight your unique selling points in the Expanded Ad.

4. Substitute Remarketing with Keyword Targeting

Remarketing is tricky for Gmail Ads as user privacy keeps you from simply remarketing to people who have interacted with your brand before in some way.

But you can still end up in their inbox by using branded keywords as well as your own domain as a keyword and retargeting them in that way.

You want to end up on their inboxes because they will have heard of your brand before and are likely to click on your ad. You might even catch them at a better time when they’re ready to engage with your brand again.


When setting up your targeting campaign, you should set up the targeting automation according to your ad budget. For smaller budgets, select manual or conservative targeting to set parameters yourself. If you have a bigger budget and want to target a broader market, select aggressive automation.

Aside from being very specific with your keyword targeting, you can also exclude keywords, site categories, and topics.

5. Diversify Your Ad Formats

You can’t just stop at one Gmail Ad. Testing different ads is how you optimize your campaign. You can set different ads to rotate on the Google Ads platform.

Google offers four different templates for your ads:

  • Gmail Image – a single image your prospect clicks, sending them to your landing page
  • Single Product – an image with a description and a button for your CTA
  • Multiple Products – a carousel where you can display different products
  • Custom HTML – you can upload your own custom-coded ad

If Gmail’s default templates are limiting, sign up for BenchmarkEmail, an email marketing tool that has a robust builder, allowing you to craft an email ad that is sure to stand out.

In addition to custom HTML capabilities, you can also use ad extensions. You can even create an ad where the recipient can call you straight from your ad without going to your website.

When diversifying your ads’ formats, don’t forget to diversify the content, targeting audiences in different stages of your marketing funnel.

Make sure you check that the metrics you want to measure are being tracked. Keep an eye on the ‘Gmail clicks to website’ metric that measures how many times your link was clicked when your Gmail ad was opened.

6. Include Visual Elements

As your promotional emails can be saved and forwarded, you want to make sure your audience will want to do that. You can do this by making your emails pop!


Gmail ads have image support, and one high-quality image will interest your prospects far better than a carousel of poor quality ones.

You can use typography to highlight your brand’s value without using too much text. The fewer words you use, the more direct you are, and the more your prospect will be compelled to take action.

Make the most out of the Custom HTML template and create an ad with a video. Make sure you run tests for both desktop and mobile view to see that none of the info is obstructed or hard to read or see.

Another interesting visual element you might consider using is an emoji. Emails that have emojis on their subject lines are 254 percent more likely to be opened. Of course, these emojis have to be related to what your email is about and should be appropriate to use for your industry.

7. Allow Your Brand’s Personality to Shine

Your branding isn’t just how your brand looks; it’s also how you communicate with both customers and prospects. From how your visuals look to how you phrase your ads, these all affect your ad’s likelihood of success.

Instead of giving audiences the hard sell in your ad, word your copy as to “lower the threat” to whoever is reading it. Instead of telling them to “buy now,” ask them to “see more.” Cold prospects aren’t likely to buy immediately, especially if this is the first time they’re encountering your brand.

Make sure your branding is consistent with how your ad looks. You don’t want prospects who clicked your CTA to think that they’ve been misled to a completely different advertisement.

Accounting software, Freshbooks, uses the same style and tone for their emails as they do for their site copy. Their branding is consistent, and they’re known for making accounting approachable for their users.


Key Takeaways

Gmails’ Promotion tab isn’t a dead zone for businesses that keeps them from reaching their prospects through email marketing. Crafting an optimized email and making the most out of Gmail Ads make it possible for promotional emails to stand out in any inbox.

No other email strategy will allow you to send emails to targeted prospects before you even get any addresses.

Of course, as with any strategy, you need to set KPIs and keep an eye on metrics, constantly improving what you’re doing. When you do so, your email won’t just be a top pick for Google’s algorithm; it will be a top pick for your audience, too!

Author Bio

Kevin Payne is a content marketing consultant that helps software companies build marketing funnels and implement content marketing campaigns to increase their inbound leads.



What Not to do in Email Marketing



What Not to do in Email Marketing

Email marketing is one of the best ways to speak directly to your audience. You can build a relationship with them and create loyal customers. It is also a great way to generate traffic to your website, increase leads, and execute large campaigns.

With all of the benefits that your company can gain from email marketing, it’s no wonder that 64% of small businesses engage in email marketing. However, there are still a few important things to keep in mind. In order to be successful, you should avoid these 4 mistakes explained by 97 Switch when preparing an email marketing campaign.

Talk About Yourself

Many companies fall into the trap of only talking about themselves. They assume that since their audience signed up for emails, they want to hear all about the company and the sales. While marketing your products or services is important to do sometimes, your audience is still looking for value.

Failing to foster a relationship with them by being too sales-y will lead to unsubscribers and a loss of potential customers.

Instead, it’s important to give the audience something in return for their loyalty. Exclusive deals and sales codes are appreciated, but they also want to see educational or entertaining content in their inbox.

One way to do this is by creating content such as “you asked, we delivered” or “your questions answered” to show that you care about your customers and the feedback they give you, and it builds trust.

It’s also important to speak your audience’s language. Sometimes, companies get too caught up in trying to sound professional and impressive and end up using jargon that’s hard to understand.


Using more simple ways to get your message across is imperative, as it makes the email easier to consume and thus more valuable.

Email Without a Purpose

While building relationships with your customers is one of the main goals of email marketing, you should keep in mind that they don’t want to hear from your company just for the sake of connecting.

Ensure that you have a clear purpose for each email you send, whether that be to inform, entertain, or motivate.

Being intentional about when to reach out includes sending timely emails. You should respond to relevant industry, company, or world news in a timely manner. Readers would find you reminding them about the last day of a sale important, and that qualifies as a purposeful email.

Part of proceeding with a clear purpose is also including a call to action in your emails. Your readers want to know exactly what you’re asking of them, and making it simple is the best way to get it. Beware of including too many calls to action, as it can be more confusing and seem more selfish than helpful.

Over Generalize

Personalization is one of the greatest strengths of email marketing, yet it is often overlooked. Simply including first names in an email makes it sound more personal and builds stronger relationships. This can easily be achieved using an email scheduling tool such as Mailchimp. Again, this is a way to build customer relationships. Research shows that using someone’s name in the subject line increases open rates by 26%. Be that as it may, personalization is more than just plugging in names.

Using an email marketing tool is also an easy way to utilize the segmentation aspect of personalization. By separating your audience into groups, you can categorize what they would each be most interested to hear from you.

It has been shown that segmented campaigns perform better than non-segmented campaigns. An example of this is categorizing your readers as beginners, intermediate, or advanced knowledge of your industry. Based on this category, you can send each segment a different email that would pertain to them more specifically.


Your readers will appreciate that your content is tailored to their needs. Imagine sending a beginner an email that skips over the basics of a process. They would be confused and find it very unhelpful.

Now imagine an expert who is wasting time reading the basics that they know by heart. They would become frustrated and lose interest in finishing the email. These are just two examples of using segmentation to better serve your audience.

Use Poor Subject Lines

Often, people will decide whether to open an email at all based on the subject line alone. A mistake that marketers tend to make is wording the subject in a way that sounds like spam, and thus never gets opened or reaches the audience.

As we mentioned before, it is also helpful to include someone’s name in the subject line. While it might seem like a shot in the dark to form an effective subject, there are a few tips for the best open rates you can achieve.

A good subject line should be short. The ideal length for a subject is 7 words, based on a study conducted by Marketo.

However, you also want to make it interesting so that people are curious and want to know more. This curiosity is enough to encourage people to read the email.

However, you want to avoid click-baiting your readers with interesting subject lines that have nothing to do with the content in the email. Make sure that your subject is also relevant to what you have to say. Otherwise, you will have the opposite effect you’d intended by destroying trust and losing credibility.

Being Inconsistent

Simply sending out random emails is not enough to see results. You have to stick to a schedule that your readers can count on and know when to expect to hear from you in their inbox.


The frequency can vary based on your industry and from business to business, but emailing at least once a month is recommended. The more you email, the more you will be on the top of potential customers’ minds when they need what you offer.

That being said, you shouldn’t always assume more contact is better. If your company emails are flooding their inbox, you can bet that they will either block the sender or unsubscribe from future emails. Finding a balance is key to seeing the best results from your campaigns.

You should also consider the brand voice that you are using to speak to your customers. If your emails all sound like they were written by different people, then it’s hard to gain the brand-strengthening benefits of email marketing. It is also confusing to your audience and makes it harder for them to connect with the company.

A good way to remedy this is to create a company persona, where you give a personality to the company that is sending the emails.

Are you funny and witty, or are you serious and somber? Consider strengthening your branding within the company before communicating it with the world.

Key Takeaways

You can’t expect to be perfect at email marketing, so don’t get discouraged if you find that you have made these mistakes. There is always room for improvements, and every so often it’s a good idea to evaluate how your email marketing campaigns are going.

Using analytics to track your results and adjusting your strategy will help you grow as you fix any mistakes you might be making.

By taking the time to improve your strategy, you will see the success that can carry across all your marketing efforts.


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