Did Google Eat Marco Rubio's Campaign Emails?

June 1, 2022

Is Google intentionally sabotaging Republican political email campaigns? That accusation was raised at the end of May by Sen. Marco Rubio when he tweeted:

Marco Rubio for Senate is in @Google purgatory

Since a Pelosi puppet announced she was running against me they have sent 66% of my emails to REGISTERED SUPPORTERS with @gmail to spam

And during the final weeks of finance quarters it climbs to over 90%

There's much that can be said on this topic but let's cut to the chase:

  • There are always 3 groups involved in email marketing: the marketers, the end user, and the third parties in between. Those third-parties include internet service providers (ISPs), email marketing platforms, multi-channel marketing automation platforms, add-on spam filters, and countless apps that help you sort, filter, and schedule your emails. Any of these can impact whether or not an email is marked as "spam."
  • The authors of a study that Republican senators cited as proving Gmail bias, have said their findings are being misinterpreted.
  • Political campaign marketers are known to engage in poor email marketing practices: the very practices that cause email to be marked as spam. (See this and this.)
  • By contrast, professional marketing teams, when faced with spam problems, say "Let's put our Sherlock Holmes hats on and figure out what we're doing wrong and what we can improve."
  • While no observer knows the details of the Rubio team's email marketing practices, we do know they've presented no evidence of sabotage. Furthermore, they've pressured Google to prove a negative, which is logically impossible and signals a bad faith argument. Therefore it's reasonable to view these claims of sabotage with skepticism and to avoid amplifying them.

Spam problems call for objective diagnostics and testing rather than speculation.

While marketers do not have complete control of this issue, there's much that can be done to optimize for deliverability.

What's "deliverability?"

Deliverability, often expressed as a percentage, refers to how many emails (in a measurement set, such as a campaign) wind up in the inbox vs. in the spam folder or undelivered. It includes anything you do to maximize that number.

Here's a more formal definition: Email deliverability is a measurement and a set of practices. It spans metrics, industry requirements, conditions, and actions (including experimentation and analysis) that impact the likelihood that a sender’s email will (a) wind up in the recipient’s inbox (b) in a timely fashion. It includes the use of various software tools. And it's impacted by the behavior of individual email users and by technical changes made to third-party tools.

Good email deliverability rates cohere with good end-user experiences.


Twilio Analysis of Presidential Campaign Email Effectiveness Shows only a Small Number Reach Intended Audience

This interesting study by Twilio/SendGrid used Gmail accounts to analyze the email campaigns of 2020 Democratic candidates for U.S. President. Only 3.8% of emails wound up in the inbox and 21% went to spam, harming their fundraising efforts. About half failed to use proper email authentication.

The answer? Use better email marketing practices.