Find Out Why Gmail Categorized a Message as Important

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Gmail's Priority Inbox is generally spot on when it comes to highlighting especially important email. From time to time, however, this feature classifies email inconsistently. For example, Gmail Priority Inbox might classify an email from your boss, an update 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? Fortunately, you can follow the clues fairly easily and help Gmail "learn" to categorize your email more appropriately.

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. (If the marker isn't visible, see below.)
  2. Wait for text to appear with a short explanation of Gmail's message assessment as you hover over the marker.
  3. 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 might 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've taken some kind of action on these messages in the past.
  • You marked it as important.
  • It was sent directly to you. Messages sent to more than one person tend to land lower in the importance hierarchy, while those with only you in the recipients list are deemed more important.
  • 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.