What is the difference between deliverability and inbox placement?


What is the difference between delivery and where you place in the inbox? Can you explain how this works?


Delivery simply deals with your emails actually reached their destination, meaning that the email did not bounce. However, there’s a myriad of things that can happen past “delivered”, one of which being placement.

Placement means, where are your emails going after they’ve been delivered. Regarding Gmail, you have the following folders (or Gmail tabs):

  • Primary
  • Social
  • Promotions
  • Updates
  • Forums
  • Spam

Let’s take a closer look at each one:

Gmail Primary Tab

This is the coveted holy grail of folders. You need to maintain good engagement AND keeping your complaints under 0.1%. Most mailers struggle to get to this tab, let along maintain it. You cannot buy a new domain and associate it with an ESP and expect to hit this tab, if you do it’s a short-lived fluke. Most emailers back 4+ years ago were in this tab and doing well on ESPs, but it’s nearly impossible to ‘luck’ your way in. We provide a service that keeps you here at this inbox: https://inboxignite.com. However, if you are generating a high amount of complaints or poor engagement, we’re not going to be a good fit.

Gmail Social / Promotions Tab

It’s the precursor to spam. However, it’s a great indication that you are moving in either a positive or negative direction. Suppose that your emails were going to spam, but you find that your emails are now landing in the Promotions Tab. Congrats! You are building positive engagement. On the flip side, if you were in the Primary or Updates tab and now find yourself in the promotions tab, you are building negative engagement (people aren’t opening your emails and/or you are generating complaints).

Gmail Updates Tab

This tab isn’t enabled by default. Most gmail users don’t have this one turned on. So, it’s a step behind the primary tab. It’s a GREAT tab to be in, but again, just like the Promotions tab, if you were going to the Primary tab and have found yourself in the Updates tab, you are building poor engagement. And again, if you were in Spam OR Promotions and find your self in the Updates tab, you are building positive engagement.

Gmail Forums Tab

This tab is reserved for forum footprints. Marketing materials going to this tab have something in their header that matches the footprint of a forum email. Again, this is a sub-optimal tab, but it’s not a tab that’s turned on by default either, so you can maintain great engagement (pending quality content) in this tab.

Gmail Spam Tab

This is the tab that you land in due to bad or unknown reputation. If you bought a new server, expect to land in this tab. IPv4 has all been mailed. If it hasn’t, part of the network has been mailed and you are in SPAM because of another mailer’s poor practices. Many ESPs are landing in spam because of the IP Range. But even if you have the money to go with a “great” aka “pay-to-play” ESP that has a “good” IP range, you’ll quickly learn that your emails are still going to spam. This is because of domain reputation. You are not identified by your domain or your IP, but rather, a combination of the two. Both IP and Domain make you a unique sender and those two metrics together are the deciding factor on your inbox placement. It’s just important not to generate spam complaints, but it’s almost equally important to send emails that people are opening. If you are going to the Primary tab and you send 10k emails out, but nobody opens them, that’s going to massively harm your next blast.