Google has built a system that figures out which of your messages are important, and presents them at the top of the screen so you don’t miss them. The rest of your messages are still there, but you don’t have to dig through dozens of newsletters and confirmations to find the diamonds in rough.
The beauty of the system lies in its simplicity — it’s nearly as easy as Gmail’s one click spam filter. There’s almost no setup: once it’s activated on your account, you’ll see a prompt asking you if you want to enable Priority Inbox. You can choose from a few options (the order of your various inboxes and if there are any contacts you’d like to always mark ‘Important’) but don’t have to setup any rules or ‘teach’ Gmail what you want it to mark important. It just works, at least most of the time.
The system uses a plethora of criteria to decide which messages are most important: things like how frequently you open and/or respond to messages from a given sender, how often you read messages that contain a certain keyword, and whether or not the message is addressed solely to you or looks like it was sent to a mailing list. If you come across a message that’s been marked important when it shouldn’t have been, you can hit an arrow to tell Gmail it’s messed up. Likewise, if a message that should have been flagged gets sent to the ‘everything else’ area, you can promote it. Through these actions Gmail gets progressively smarter, so the system should work better over time.
TechCrunch writer Jason Kincaid also says that now that a computer is prioritizing your email, intros will becoming even more important. Perhaps someone will develop a kind of SEO strategy for getting a prospect’s attention via email, based on the kinds of keywords Gmail tends to prioritize. That said, not doing annoying things in an email, like starting it with “Dear Sean” (not my name) or “Hey there,” both intros that I discovered in my inbox this morning, will always help your case.