Will Google Kill Email Marketing?

As far as I can tell, there are two questions to answer here:

  1. Does Google want to kill email marketing?
  2. Will they succeed?

Let’s look at the facts.

First, Google separated all Gmail inboxes into tabs.

On May 29, 2013, all Gmail inboxes were updated to show three tabs instead of just one inbox. The tabs, Primary, Social, and Promotions, were meant to help users deal with overcrowded inboxes. They simplified the user experience and kept personal emails separate from marketing emails.

For many people, this was a clear shot across the bow of email marketers. Times were changing. And the power of Google was out to get you.

Next, Google launched their Gmail Sponsored Promotions ad unit.

While I could not find an exact date, Google recently rolled out their new Gmail Sponsored Promotions (GSPs) to all Gmail users. In the past, your Gmail inbox was surrounded by ads that companies could manage through AdWords managed placements. But now, the GSP ad shows up at the top of the Promotions tab, looking just like an email, but highlighted to stand out.

That means that not only are your marketing emails separated from the main inbox, they will never show up at the top of that tab.

There are other things in the works.

Google is testing a new “Pinterest-style” layout for the promotions tab, showcasing images first and subject lines/senders second. Take a look.

Google is just the first to take these steps in a web email client. But who would be surprised if others, like Yahoo and Microsoft, followed.

Imagine a time not too far into the future when marketing emails were never in the primary inbox and never the highlight of the promotions tab. That time is coming.

So back to our questions…

First, does Google want to kill email marketing? My answer is no. I don’t think that is their goal. But they clearly see opportunity in making money from email, and the steps they are taking will have the impact (intended or not) of hurting email marketers.

And second, will they succeed? Email marketing is not dead, and will not die anytime soon. But Google is not a company you want to have against you. So we may soon see major changes in how email marketing works, what it looks like, and how effective it is.

Stay tuned for more…