A Word Of Warning: Why Your Newsletter Emails Might Not Be Reaching Your Audience

This article was originally published at IndieHackers forum by author Callum Hornigold — Founder of 30figured.com and reposted without any edits here with the consent of the Callum 🙏🙌

“Scratch your own itch.”

It’s the ubiquitous advice for entrepreneurs worldwide emphasizing we should produce content for our audience that solves our own personal problems.

Well, recently I’ve been trying to scratch an itch. In fact, this is somewhat an understatement. It’s more akin to lancing a huge, pulsating boil or soothing a blistering third-degree burn.

And it’s plagued entrepreneurs and marketers far and wide.


Your newsletter emails are likely being sent to the Promotions Tab in Gmail rather than the Primary Tab (where your audience are far less likely to find them.)

How To Ensure Your Emails Go To The Primary Tab

I’ve invested quite some time amalgamating all my research into this problem so I thought I’d share it with the Indie Hacker community.

From asking fellow Indie Hackers on forums (thank you guys) and checking out info from some of the world’s top passive income website owners, to digging deep on Reddit.

Here are some of the methods I either used or considered to ensure your newsletter emails go to the Primary Tab on Gmail:

An internet trend towards simple letter form for marketing emails?

Method #1: Keep It Simple Like Pat Flynn (smartpassiveincome.com)

I’ve been a fan of Pat Flynn for a while now. He offers marketing and technical tips on how to generate serious passive income with your website and his website generates millions a year.

May I also add his emails reach my Primary Tab EVERY TIME.

So how does he do it? What is this sorcery?

His advice is to keep it simple. Ensure your newsletter:

  • has no more than one link.
  • includes no pictures.
  • mentions the reader’s name using Merge Tag Tricks with Mailchimp or Aweber.
  • is typed out by hand (No RSS feeds).
  • is written to the reader like you’re their friend (anyone giving you their email and time deserves your friendship).
  • doesn’t get spammy with things like: ‘MAKE A MILLION DOLLARS DOING ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!!!’
  • is written in Traditional Letter Form.

This seems to have worked for many entrepreneurs.

However, using MailChimp my email was still bombing straight into the Promotions Tab.

Also, what if you don’t like the idea of turning your emails into something overtly simple and arguably austere?

I recommend, if you wish, trying the above out and if it doesn’t work check out method #2 next.

Method #2 Set Up Custom Domain Authentication (DKIM and SPF)

Google uses DKIM and SPF as a way to scan incoming emails for SPAM.

You can find out how to do it for MailChimp here.

However, I’ve read on numerous blogs that it has little affect on your odds of Primary Tab salvation.

I decided to pass on this, mainly because it looked more of a ballache than it was worth and I believe there are better options.

The Primary Tab conundrum is somewhat problematic and questions how entrepreneurs market to their audience

Method #3 Sit Patiently

If you’re a new site, eventually your emails will start to go into the Primary Tab.

This is because if your audience are hungry for your content (which they should be) they’ll eventually start searching for it within the Promotions Tab.

The more opens, clicks and replies it gets in the Promotions Tab the more likely Google’s wonderfully simple and never annoying algorithm will view you as a trusted and helpful source of information.

However, as a man whose feet don’t touch the ground trying to launch a website and work a full-time job in Korea, sitting round and hoping for Google magic happy tabby changes wasn’t an option.

I needed action. I needed results.

Enter method #4.

Method #4 Ask Your Reader To Move Your Email To Their Primary Tab

After Steps #1 failed, step #2 an #3 weren’t an option and I grew my first gray hair, I decided to work around the issue.

I noticed that my auto email workflow on Mailchimp was going straight to the Primary Tab.

So I decided I could send out an auto newsletter sign-up email (keep it simple) that explains they may receive further emails in the Promotions Tab.

The email would also offer an explanation (potentially with pics like the ones below) of how to move the emails from the Promotions Tab to the Primary Tab and easily set it so they go to the Primary Tab every time. BOOM!

Try testing the email by signing up to your own newsletter. If you find that email going to your Promotions Tab, take out the pictures and write a simple explanation.

Also, it’s a good idea to encourage your audience to add your From email address to their Google contacts and offer an easy step-by-step breakdown of how to do it.

It may not be perfect, but if they’re engaged users they’ll do it because they’ll want to see your magical, life-changing content.

Simply showing your audience how to ensure your emails hit their Primary Tab may be the best solution if you don’t want to sacrifice your newsletter design

Step #5 Smugly Celebrate

I decided to celebrate by having a rather cavalier cup of chamomile tea (still tearing sh*t up in my thirties).

However, upon the second sickly sweet sip I nearly choked in the sudden realisation I still only had 10 subscribers. Two of these were myself and the rest mildly sympathetic family members and friends.

To be fair, I haven’t officially launched the site yet. So, I’d appreciate it if the Indie Hacker community could sign up to the 30figured.com newsletter and test the process to see where my auto emails are going.

And if you receive an email in your promotions tab, either:

a) angrily email me and call me a disgusting charlatan who’s wasted your precious time reading this blog for nothing


b) accept that nobody knows the volatile nature of Google’s algorithms, nothing is real or matters and we’re merely tetrahedrons amongst the ever expanding fabric of the universe.

Wishing you peace and productivity,

Written by Callum Hornigold — Founder of 30figured.com

Bonus Tip: Use this Litmus tool to see which tab your email will go into.