Inboxing at Gmail is crucial. The mailbox provider accounts for 50%+ of most email lists these days. Therefore, any filtering at Gmail can cost your business big.
So it pays to be proactive, and make use of Google Postmaster, which is a free tool that Google provides to help monitor your email program’s reputation. Think of it as a sort of report card issued by Google for your email program! The three things I use most from Google Postmaster are the reports on complaints, IP reputation, and domain reputation.
An important note is that the data in Google Postmaster is always delayed by two days, and sometimes, there might be an even longer delay in reporting. I’m not sure if there is an official policy on this, but my sense is that they don’t want to give real-time information that allows nefarious actors to “game the system”, as it were. So Google Postmaster is a helpful tool, but it does have this significant downside.
Now let’s talk about complaints! Here is a screenshot of a recent report:
Today is May 13, and you can see data is only reported to May 11. Complaints here are at a good level, .1-.2% complaint rate is not usually going to get you into trouble. When you’re averaging at .3%, it’s something to keep a closer eye on, and if you’re consistently at .5% or above, then it’s worth digging into your program to find out which emails are generating the most complaints, and make changes.
Your ESP probably reports complaints (some do not, for example Active Campaign), but these complaint reports do not include Gmail, as Gmail does not report complaints in the same way that other mailbox providers do. The only way to monitor Gmail complaint activity is in Google Postmaster. My recommendation is to monitor complaints in both Google Postmaster and your ESP directly, and if there is an issue in Google Postmaster, pull a report from your ESP to see which campaigns are generating the most complaints. Even though these reports from your ESP do not include Gmail complaints, most likely the campaigns generating high complaints at Yahoo, etc. will be the same for Gmail, and those are the ones to address first.
When you set up Google Postmaster, you configure it based on your mailing domain. Below is a 120 day history of one of Loop7’s mailing domains. This was a brand new domain that we warmed up, so Gmail started it at “Bad” reputation. You can see how it slowly stepped up over time, and now enjoys a “High” reputation due to good mailing practices.
Below you can see another mailing domain that we manage, which was recently downgraded to “Medium” domain reputation. We are currently working to improve the reputation of this domain by focusing on a smaller, more engaged group of subscribers, and hopefully the reputation will restore to “High” in a few days.
This report shows you the reputation for all IPs that Gmail detects your domain being mailed on. In the screenshot below, there are 4 IPs. This is the same warm-up that I mentioned above; the four IPs for that mailing instance needed to be warmed up as well. You can see that IPs started at “Low” and slowly improved to “High” with good mailing behavior. IP and domain health tend to trend together, so this report can be redundant. However, it is helpful sometimes as you’ll remember if your domain is being used in multiple locations, eg. a CRM system for transactional email and an ESP for marketing email. It’s possible that a shared IP for transactional emails has lower reputation and thereby drags down the reputation of your marketing program as well.
If you haven’t set up Google Postmaster before, here’s a helpful article on how to get that going.
As a final thought, as frustrating as inboxing issues with Gmail can be, the good news is that the Google algorithm is designed to forgive. So when you see an issue in Google Postmaster, it could be an early warning that your emails are starting to get filtered, so it’s best to make adjustments in your email program to improve reputation.
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