New Gmail Layout 2013 | The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

What did Gmail do to their layout?

In case you haven’t seen yet, Gmail unveiled their new layout starting in late May 2013, which prompted me to look into the impact of the new layout for Gmail users, email marketers, and see the perspective of other tech gurus weighing in on the issue.

New Gmail Layout 2013

As someone who helps clients with e-mail marketing campaigns, you might expect me to have an averse reaction to seeing all our hard earned work in keeping people up to date with something they have expressed interest in going to their “promotions” inbox. While admittedly that was my initial reaction, I’m seeing that the new layout could not only be for Gmail users, but email marketers who are doing the right things. Which brings me to…

New Gmail Layout Analysis – The Good:

Let’s start with the easy one.

The new layout is good for users.

If you look at the Google’s company philosophy, their #1 point is “Focus on the user and all else will follow”. I’d be willing to bet they did a little user testing to make sure that the changes were beneficial to the users before rolling out this new feature. Personally, I’ve enjoyed being able to see emails from clients in my primary inbox, see what’s going on on LinkedIn groups in my social tab, and read my daily articles from my favorite newsletter subscriptions in the promotions tab.

The new layout is good for email marketers who are providing value

This is a key one for me, and something to think about if you’re someone who sends out e-mail newsletters to subscribers. A user in a related thread on Warrior Forum put it rather bluntly, but his points really resonated with me:

Warrior Forum Response

People will eventually find that you can drag your favorite “promotions” into your primary inbox where they will stay from then on (seriously it’s that easy!). I’ve already done it for one of my favorite subscriptions, Chris Lema’s blog. Why? Because he sends articles every day that provide value and enhance my knowledge and skill-set. I’ll probably do the same for Copyblogger and some of my favorite news sources, while the ones that lack value are going to probably wallow in my “promotions” tab without being on my mind much.

So to conclude this section, email marketers who are providing value just got a huge leg up on those that don’t. I wouldn’t expect to see the results immediately, but once people get used to the changes, my guess is that we’ll see increased engagement for high-value providors and less for the rest.

New Gmail Layout Analysis – The Bad and the Ugly

Gmail Layout effect on Email Marketing

I just want people to read my emails 🙁
Image credit: Lori Lafargue

Ok maybe I wasn’t completely fair in the last section…there’s probably some good e-mails that I’ll be missing in the promotions tab and probably some email marketers providing value that are losing out on some engagement. Lucy Beer from showed me a pretty legit analysis from MailChimp that overall open rates went down slightly (.5%-1%) since the changes took effect. Check back with them for more data as it becomes available.

Social Triggers makes some good points about how people that voluntarily signed up for your newsletter now have another barrier to reading what you send them and puts you in the category of spammers trying to sell you things you don’t want or need. Thanks Luis Camargo for sending this over!

Here’s another nice article by Kikolani on what the new Gmail layout means for marketers, bloggers, freelancers, and others and how to work around some of the issues.

New Gmail Layout Analysis – Conclusion

There’s no real clear answer on whether the new changes are good or bad but I give it my tentative seal of approval. If you’re a user, enjoy the changes and drag things you like into your primary inbox and if you are an email marketer, keep putting the focus on value and maybe even let your subscribers know that if they are fans of your newsletter they can drag your emails over to the primary inbox.

What do you think of the new Gmail layout changes? Agree with my analysis? Sound off on the comments!


  1. Lucy Beer says

    I don’t use the Gmail interface so this won’t affect me personally as a user – but I think what’s annoying about the trend is that large companies, like Facebook and Gmail are trying to dictate what’s important to us. Kinda like how Facebook filters my newsfeed if I don’t interact with a Page I’ve liked. It’s not up to them what I want to see in my feed. Same with this. Maybe if they called the tab something less derogatory than “Promotions” – how about “Email Newsletters You Have Signed Up For”?! “Promotions” sounds one step away from spam, but yet the user has actively opted in to receive the info.

    • says

      Thanks for the comment Lucy 🙂 I agree with your take on “promotions”, especially for some of the awesome stuff we get by newsletter subscriptions. Thanks again for sharing the Mailchimp data!

  2. Benjamin says

    David, I’m still bristling at the look and feel of the new format for Gmail because it seems counterintuitive in layout for an average-Joe user like me, but your article was well-thought out and helped me not take the new look/feel so hard. I even sent an email (Gmail, of course) after reading your article and thought, Wow, maybe this new Gmail layout is going to be okay. Thanks for some insight, Author.

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