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Gmail launched Gmail tabs to allow users to separate and find email more easily based on email type. 

There are five tabs, which users can individually switch on and off:

  • Primary
  • Social
  • Promotions
  • Updates
  • Forums

All of these tabs count as being in the inbox. 

Note: Gmail only has one spam/junk folder, called 'Spam'. 

How do the tabs work?

Gmail categorises all incoming mail based on these five tabs before it makes a decision on inbox or spam placement. 

This is why if you mark emails as 'not spam' in the spam folder it will automatically move to the appropriate tab in the inbox.

Gmail takes hundreds of factors into account when determining the correct tab, including:

  • Whether the sender is a commercial sender or an individual.
  • The infrastructure being used and what type of sends they typically receive from it.
  • The content of the email, including the template, links and keywords; all which can indicate whether the campaign is commercial, a shipping update, a receipt etc.

Can senders change which tab emails land in?

Yes, but you should consider carefully whether you should. 

Gmail has designed these tabs for the benefit of its users. Tabs allow your contacts to find campaigns more easily, and contacts who have the promotions tab active are used to looking in it when they want to read those types of campaigns.

Moving tabs risks moving your content to a tab where users may engage less with it.

There are two main ways to change which tabs mail lands in:

  1. Change your campaigns to look more like the content for the tab you want them to be in. E.g. if a transactional campaign is going to the promotions tab, check to see if there is any content which could be causing confusion - such as product recommendations and remove this.
  2. Create a campaign asking your contacts to move the email to the desired tab. While this can sometimes work,  more often than not the effect is short lived as other contacts will continue to read the campaign in the original tab. These types of campaigns also risk being poorly received, as they are of no benefit to the subscriber and from a sender’s point of view you can’t track whether they are effective or not.

In general, looking to influence tab placement should only be done if campaigns are being wrongly categorised and it is affecting your campaign metrics.