Oct 22, 2015

How to Send Emails That Gmail Users Won’t Block

In September, Gmail added a “block sender” feature to their web interface and mobile app. Now, when you get an email from a sender you’re not comfortable with, you’ve got options. Instead of marking the email as spam, unsubscribing, or manually setting up a filter to remove it from your inbox, you can block that sender from your inbox with one click.

This is great news if you love to keep your own inbox tidy. But what does it mean for you as an email marketer? I’m here from MailChimp’s deliverability team to help you out.

When you click “block sender” in Gmail, a filter is created that sends all future emails from the sender’s address directly to your spam folder. Just like with other filtered messages, the sender is not directly notified. The tab heading in Gmail’s settings menu has changed from just "Filters" to "Filters and Blocked Addresses,” which associates these 2 actions together.

But just because “block sender” is separate from Gmail’s “report spam” feature doesn’t mean it affects a sender’s reputation any less. In fact, since clicking “block sender” means that a sender’s messages will now automatically go to spam, we can expect that a sender’s Gmail reputation will get worse the more they’re blocked by recipients. Marking something as spam in your inbox feeds into Gmail’s global spam-filtering algorithms for other users, and Gmail weighs user-reported spam heaviest when filtering spam.

So, how can you prevent your subscribers from clicking “block sender” on your campaigns? Start by thinking about why someone would use the block feature in the first place. Maybe they don’t trust a sender’s opt-out process, or maybe they don’t trust the sender anymore because the content isn’t what they expected. Maybe they’re overwhelmed by the number of emails they receive from a single sender. Maybe they don’t remember who the sender is or where they signed up for the emails in the first place.

You can avoid causing subscribers this kind of confusion by following some basic email marketing best practices. In other words, check yourself before you wreck yourself:

  • Before every send, ask yourself if your subscribers know who you are and if they expect this specific kind of content from you.
  • Pay attention to your unsubscribes to make sure your subscribers aren’t accidentally receiving multiple emails from you.
  • Frequently prune unengaged subscribers to avoid sending to people who have blocked (or might start blocking) your campaigns.
  • Include an “update profile” option in your campaigns so subscribers can select how often they’d like to hear from you

This new “block sender” feature might seem like a bad thing for email marketers, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, if it gets you to be more deliberate in putting together your campaigns and managing your lists, it may even lead to better emails and better subscriber engagement overall. And with the holidays quickly approaching, now’s the perfect time to reevaluate what you’re sending and check your list (twice).