Find Out Why Gmail Categorized a Message as Important

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Something like this happens from time to time: Gmail Priority Inbox classifies an email from your boss, one from a blog you follow, and a forwarded joke from your elderly aunt as important. Clearly, though, one is more important than the others. So how did Gmail get it wrong?

Why Gmail Put That Message Into Your Priority Inbox

Google uses complex algorithms to ascertain importance but makes the reasons easy to see.

To get an idea of why Gmail determined a particular email was important enough to make your Priority Inbox:

  1. Move the mouse cursor over the importance marker displayed in front of the message in the list or following the subject when you've opened the message.
  2. If the marker isn't visible, see below.
  3. Wait for hovering text to appear with a short explanation of Gmail's message assessment.
  4. Click on the marker to "teach" Gmail not to classify this email and others like it as important.

Potential Reasons for Categorizing an Email as Important

Among the explanations you might see in the procedure above are:

  • The words in the message. You may have marked similar emails important in the past, or the message urges you to action.
  • The people in the conversation. You've exchanged emails frequently with the sender or have consistently marked their emails important.
  • Your interaction with messages in the conversation.
  • You marked it important.
  • It was sent directly to you.
  • You often read messages with this label.
  • Gmail's "magic sauce." You may see this for older messages marked as important.

Make the Priority Inbox Marker for Important Messages Visible

To enable the yellow priority tag for messages marked as important in Gmail:

  1. Follow the Settings link in Gmail.
  2. Go to the Priority Inbox tab.
  3. Make sure Show markers is selected under Importance markers.
  4. Click Save Changes.