Marketers Hate This One Weird Trick, Discovered By a Dad, To Keep Your Gmail Inbox Uncluttered!

Which is:

Make a filter that takes any email with the word “unsubscribe” in it and punts it directly into archived mail, rather than sending it to your inbox. Since nearly all marketing email has a footer that explains (in very small type) how to unsubscribe to the mail, all of it will now bypass your inbox and you’ll mostly only see the mail you actually want to see, from actual humans you care about. You can still see the marketing email (and anything else that might have been sent to the archive) by clicking on the “All Mail” tab, so you won’t miss anything; you’re just prioritizing what you see.

“Why not just unsubscribe to marketing email when you first get it?” Well, see. I often do, but a) sometimes I do actually want the marketing mail, I just don’t want it cluttering up my inbox, b) this is easier than unsubscribing to each thing.

(Mind you, what I really want it what Inbox, the alternate mail client from Google, used to do, which is to figure out what emails were marketing and put them all into their own daily single-line category in my inbox, where I could look at them, or not, or archive them or not, at a glance. But Google decided to can Inbox and hasn’t ported that functionality into GMail, so this is the next best thing.)

This is a really simple filtering trick which honestly I should have thought of at least a decade ago, and now that I have, it’s almost shocking how much it’s improved my email experience in general. If you’re using GMail I genuinely suggest you try it. I suspect you’ll be glad you did.

37 thoughts on “Marketers Hate This One Weird Trick, Discovered By a Dad, To Keep Your Gmail Inbox Uncluttered!

  1. I’ve done this for years, and here’s a good refinement:

    1. Write a rule that adds every address you send mail to to your address book.

    2. Write a rule that moves every email from a previous correspondent to a special “People I know” inbox

    3. THEN filter mail for “unsubscribe” in the body

    This means that any mailing list or other message you’ve replied to won’t be filtered out by the “unsubscribe” filter. You can also opt future messages out of any of your filters by adding the sender to your address book, which is quick and easy.

  2. I have two separate emails. Gmail is my “real” address, that I give to the ppl/enities whom I know and trust. My old sbcglobal email is the one I give to anyone whom I strongly suspect will try to send me a bunch of spam. So far, I haven’t been wrong.

  3. Of course, if you already have that rule, you’ll never see this particular e-mail, but I guess you won’t need to either.

  4. I use Thunderbird as an email client. It does a good job of filtering junk based on stuff that you’ve previously marked as junk.

  5. Oh yeah. Here’s a pro tip for filtering out junk phone calls.

    Set up a do not disturb rule. Make it always active.

    Allow any text messages to come through.

    Only allow phone calls from someone on your contact list to actually ring. Anything else will get sent to voicemail.

    If it’s an important call from someone not on the contact list, they will leave a message.

    This won’t work if you get lots of legitimate calls from strange numbers.

    Checking my call history, I see 1 from my wife, 7 unknowns, 1 from my daughter, 4 unknowns, 1 from daughter, 5 unknowns, etc. The only ones that rang through are the ones from wife + kids.

  6. For stuff I actually want to see, but not right away, I use unroll.me (https://unroll.me). It archives emails you designate and sends you an email once a day that is a digest of all the stuff it filtered for you. It doesn’t delete those emails, but creates a filter with a label “unroll.me” so you can go look at the originals if you need them, or do a mass delete.

  7. Good idea, except that many old-fashioned (!) mailing lists include unsubscribe information in their footers. So you’d have to make a rule that excepts them from this otherwise sensible suggestion.

  8. I second kufat’s recommendation — this is what the promotions tab tries to solve, and it’s >95% accurate for me.

  9. re: Mailing lists:

    Nah, I want them out of my inbox, too. Again, the rule doesn’t disappear all these emails, it just puts them somewhere I can see them on my own schedule. Obviously, other people’s mileage may vary.

  10. Inbox did such a great job with its bundles. Less important and automated emails were still delivered and were clearly where I could find them without bogging down my inbox. Reverting back to Gmail from Inbox has been a painful process for me.

  11. Thanks for the great tip. Works really well.

    Sadly, after many attempts to manage Tor.com’s emails (tordotcom@mail.macmillan.com), I’ve had to label them Junk. Their unsubscribe “link” is entirely non-functional and they didn’t respond on social media. I like to read some of their emails but wasn’t able to manage them via the links in each Tor email.

    Don’t understand why services go backward in ways that serve customers less and piss them off. Well, money, or profound indifference to users. “Both” is a possibility.

  12. I find I almost never get marketing emails on Gmail. Maybe that’s just me. In fact, I run some of my other accounts through Gmail and forward them back just to use the spam filter.

  13. Not to mention that curiously, in what I’m sure is entirely a coincidence, about 30% of the time the unsubscribe link at the bottom of the email is either a dead link, or it takes you to a page on their website that doesn’t provide an obvious means by which to unsubscribe. It’s so odd!

  14. But Google decided to can Inbox and hasn’t ported that functionality into GMail

    They’re really, really fond of taking great functionality and getting rid of it. See also: the gradual evolution of Hangouts.

  15. What I am curious to know is why when I do unsubscribe, it takes weeks before they actually stop. Are they (gasp!) deliberately ignoring requests? In this cyber age I can’t imagine why such a request wouldn’t happen in real time.

  16. I was going to forward this my wife’s Gmail account but I’m afraid since it has “unsubscribe” in the text I fear it’ll get punted to her Marketing folder. ;)

  17. The tabbed Gmail inbox has been around since 2013. Inbox became available on a limited basis in October, 2014.

    I was an early internal dogfood user of Inbox and I found it so confusing that I dropped it after two months.

  18. As Kufat said, GMail already handles it. I _never_ look at GMail’s “Inbox”. I use the Social tab (where “Whatever” shows up—come to think of it, it’s the Mostly Scalzi tab), Forums where all my subscribed mailing lists go (and those all have an unsubscribe link too!), Updates (most other stuff that’s not marketing, but _some_ marketing from people I communicate with), and Promotions has all the rest of the marketing stuff.

    Who needs another filter? I have too many of them, already.

  19. If you don’t want to send them to ‘junk’ you can always create a new mailbox or mailboxes with catchy names, like ‘Probably crap, but…’

    I have one mailbox just for a small print shop I do business with. Saves moving things later.

  20. Also, any email with the phrase “million dollars”
    Which should get any of the nigerian prince style scams
    And another for the word “bitcoin” and the word “porn”
    for the sextortion scams going around…

  21. You realize, don’t you, that this will filter out any email from you also since there is an “unsubscribe” notice at the bottom!

  22. I don’t send any emails with “unsubscribe.” The site does, and does so automatically; I don’t have to do anything. And it’s fine even so. As noted before, the emails are there to see, they just skip the inbox. I check the “all mail” tab occasionally.

  23. This is not just a Gmail thing. Many other mail clients, such as Mac Mail, offer similar filtering.

  24. While I don’t use Gmail I do use mail rules to make my life easier. My strategy is to have group in my contacts list called Whitelist. Any mail that makes it past the junk filter but isn’t on the Whitelist gets moved from my inbox to another folder I can skim over at my leisure and my inbox only has email from addresses I’ve already approved.

  25. True! In fact this feature was in Gmail before they made and sunsetted Inbox, and survives it’s better looking deceased cousin

  26. That’s a pretty cool (and obvious, now that you mention it) solution. What’s working for me is using two email addresses — one for personal emails and actual important stuff I want to see, and another for everything else.

  27. I have a few email address I use. One for personal stuff, one for online merchants, one for fun stuff, a couple of legacy emails, plus a separate one just for my smartphone. On all of them I filter pretty aggressively thus my inbox is pretty uncluttered. Though one (one of the legacy emails) is subjected to waves of spam every once in a while, it was what I used when I registered on a web service that has been the subject of more than one well publicized security breach.

Comments are closed.