Email best practice

Three content lessons from Gmail’s email sender guidelines

Google is tightening up the rules from early 2024. If you want your emails to land in the inbox and maintain a good sender reputation, you’d better follow them!

We recently covered the authentication aspects of their acronym-laden email sender guidelines. Within the same document are a few stipulations regarding the actual email content. But don’t worry – Google isn’t really interfering with what you put in your mailings, but instead reminding everyone about best practice that should already be followed.

Take an objective approach to your subject

Email sender guidelines: Message subjects should be accurate and not misleading.

Misrepresenting your message content is obviously bad. But so too is vagueness. Baiting customers with promises of tempting but unspecified offers may attract some curious openers. What’s the point however if those same openers walk straight back out the door when that offer turns out to be a disappointment? It’s better to make your message clear from the word go.

Inboxes are saturated with with emojis, gimmicky copywriting, and other look-at-me tricks. Perhaps the email that stands out the most will be the one that respects the reader and talks to them straight.

Have a think about your links

Email sender guidelines: Web links in the message body should be visible and easy to understand. Recipients should know what to expect when they click a link.

Linked elements in emails should be easy to spot, easy to click, and their purpose crystal-clear. Should is probably the operative word in that sentence. All too often, emails have fallen victim to link frenzy. It’s not uncommon to see confusingly multi-linked features, often to the point of being a landing page lottery.

Going wild with links may succeed in funneling more (confused) customers to your website. But if they’ve arrived on an unexpected page, they won’t be buying anything. Keep it simple and clear instead.

What are you hiding?

Email sender guidelines: Don’t use HTML and CSS to hide content in your messages. Hiding content might cause messages to be marked as spam.

Do you code emails with separate desktop and mobile images, or other such split content? That means lots of hidden elements. Apart from being a clunky pseudo-responsive development technique, it’s also a potential spam filter trigger.

Of course, there are other uses for hidden content such as ‘preheaders’ (actually a message preview) and fallback content for interactivity. But if hidden content of any kind is frowned upon and we still find the need to include it in our emails, it raises a question: are we using the medium properly?

Stricter rules… for a better inbox

As harsh as it sounds, the email marketing sent by some otherwise legitimate companies is ethically questionable and not a million miles away from being spam. Google and other companies are taking steps to combat bad email practice – and improve the medium for everyone.