In with the inbox: How to best use Gmail Sponsored Promotions

Gmail Sponsored Promotions (GSPs) are a new form of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising which allows you to target Gmail users directly in their inbox. It’s still in beta, so not available to all accounts, but we wanted to bring you our early impressions.

The ads appear in the promotions tab just above your emails and look very much like an email, with the addition of a thumbnail and an ‘x’ so you can discard any you’re not interested in. It is also possible for them to appear more like a conventional ad on the right hand side of the inbox.


Once expanded the adverts look just like regular emails with added options to ‘forward’, ‘dismiss’ or ‘save to inbox’. If you decide to save one for later it will be starred in the promotions tab and also appear as a regular email in your ‘primary’ email tab.



Demographic targeting in GSPs is very similar to the Google Display Network (GDN). All the things you would expect to target are available:

• Age Group (18-24, 25-34, 35-44, 45-54, 55-64 and 65+)

• Gender

• Language

• Clients (essentially the same as ‘device’ in GDN, except you can separate Android and iOS)

• Locations


The ‘user attributes’ are where things start to get interesting. Some you will recognise from the GDN, but there a few email specific areas:

• Interests: Identical to the ‘other categories’ targeting on the GDN. It is surprisingly granular and an easy way to target a large list of users. You can also combine lists; for example, if you sell road bike parts you can combine ‘Road Bikes’ with ‘Bike Parts & Repair’.

• Keywords: Contextual targeting that looks for keywords within a user’s last 300 emails.

• Domains: Targets users based on domains they have received emails from. Great for targeting competitors.

• Purchases: Looks at a user’s purchasing patterns and lets you target at quite a granular level. For example, if you sell baby car seats you can target people that have recently purchased related products such as baby strollers, baby toys or baby monitors.

• Mailing lists: Targets users based on their email address; a great way to either include or exclude your current customers. Lists must have at least 1,000 email addresses.

• Jobs: Targets people by their profession – which includes students and people that are retired.

It is well worth noting that you can both include and exclude user attributes and make custom combinations using AND/OR rules.



This is a personal favourite of ours as on paper it seems too good to be true! To set up, you simply use the ‘domains’ feature and target your list of competitor’s domains. We’d suggest excluding your current customers though; again, this can be done by domain but can also be done by mailing list.


If you are running a promotion through email marketing, why not increase your visibility and push your message with a GSP campaign running in parallel? The best way to do this is to use mailing lists; that way you can target exactly the same people as your regular email marketing campaign.


The GDN has always been a great way to get your brand in front of potential customers, but lots of people suffer from ad blindness. This is bad news for us marketers, as it means our efforts often go to waste. But GSPs are so new that people are intrigued by them, so more likely to engage. In our early tests we’ve seen an ad expansion rate of 25-30% and impression to external click through rate of around 1%, which far surpasses our equivalent display network campaign for our test site.


As a new product the reporting is nowhere near as good as we’ve come to expect in Adwords, but we didn’t find it too much of an issue as you can pull all the data into Analytics. I’m not sure how the GSP campaigns appear in Analytics as default, but we used UTM parameters to make sure we were tracking everything we needed. Ad Content is definitely one we would recommend, as performance varied significantly between the four ads we tested in each campaign.


We've been quite surprised with the quality of traffic we've received through GSPs, which has so far provided a greater ROI than the display network. Obviously the reach is far smaller than that of search/display networks, but the incremental sales and exposure to potential customers via a new channel is very exciting. What’s more it’s currently very cheap, so if you can it’s definitely worth testing it before everybody jumps on board to take their slice of GSP pie.