If your business uses Gmail, or if you’re considering adopting Gmail, you should know it’s more than a basic email service. Employees spend roughly 4.1 hours a day on email, writing, reading, or organizing messages, which adds up to more than 20 hours per week, per employee. Learning to optimize that time, and improve productivity across your business could help you substantially improve productivity—and in some cases, communication and morale.
As someone who’s used Gmail for multiple businesses, I can share with you some of the most valuable hacks I’ve discovered along the way.
Why Gmail and G Suite?
First, you should realize the core differences between Gmail for business (and, by extension, G Suite) and Outlook (along with Microsoft’s Exchange Server for email). Microsoft and Google offer very similar email packages, along with peripheral apps that can improve your business. For example, Microsoft offers Word and Excel, while Google offers Google Docs and Sheets.
There aren’t many differences in terms of package specifics, like storage space or pricing, but Gmail and G Suite offer far more options to business owners (as you’ll see). If you can learn to take advantage of these flexible offerings, and the thousands of extensions of the core Gmail product, you can achieve far greater productivity and efficiency in your business.
How to Improve Gmail for Business
Once you’ve decided to move forward with Gmail for business, make sure you use these 10 hacks to improve your effectiveness:
1. Create custom email addresses.
By default, when you sign up for Gmail with your business, all your email addresses will come with the “@gmail.com” ending. But if you have your own domain name, when you sign up, you can quickly verify your domain name and create new users with your custom domain. The verification process is short and sweet; all you need to do is insert a short HTML tag into your site’s homepage—which you can do even if you’re not an experienced coder. Email addresses that feature a professional domain will be taken more seriously than those with a basic “gmail.com” address, and you’ll get some extra exposure for your brand name, too.
2. Integrate EmailAnalytics.
EmailAnalytics is one of the best tools available for Gmail; it’s an analytics app similar to Google Analytics that tracks how you (and your employees) use email on a regular basis. You’ll be able to see how many emails you’re sending, how many you’re receiving, your top senders and recipients, your most and least popular times of day for email, and even how long it takes you to read and/or write emails. It’s a comprehensive look into your email productivity, and if you harness that power wisely, you can greatly improve your team’s efficiency. You can sign up for free right now!
3. Train your employees on best practices.
Most companies assume that their employees know how to email. Most of us have either grown up with email or have used it in a professional setting so long that it’s second nature to us. However, without training or established standards, it may be difficult to get your team on the same page; some employees will use email as a substitute for chat or phone conversations, while others will avoid email altogether. Some will monitor their inbox nonstop, while others will go days without checking it. Spend some time educating your team about the most efficient strategies for writing emails—including when to send emails, how to structure them so they can be read easily, and best practices for email etiquette.
4. Take advantage of email variants.
Gmail doesn’t take dots (.) or plus symbols (+) into account when routing emails. That means, you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, or even something crazy like email@example.com. Why would this matter? As a professional trying to manage a hectic ongoing influx of emails, it pays to know where each of those emails are coming from. And thanks to some backdoor settings, you can establish incoming emails with different addresses to go to different areas. Think of it as a built-in sorting feature, so long as you use it intelligently. For example, you could use john+smith for all your email newsletters, and john.smith for all your clients, while relying on johnsmith for all your internal communications. It’s as simple or as complicated as you want it to be, but if used properly, it could save your team hours of time.
5. Share files easier with Drive.
As a G Suite customer, you’ll get access to a range of other apps, including Google Drive, and along with it, Google Docs, Google Sheets, and other document processing apps. I encourage you to use these apps; not only will they allow you to share and collaborate easily within your team, you’ll also have the option to attach Google Drive files easily into an open Gmail message. All you have to do is click the Drive logo at the bottom of the Compose window, and you’ll have access to your full library of files, which you can then send to everyone.
6. Pay attention to your other G Suite apps.
By the way, don’t neglect the other Google apps you’ll have access to in G Suite. You’re paying for them, so you might as well make use of them. For example, you’ll get access to Google Calendar, Google Keep (a note-taking and note-sharing app), Google Vault (for archiving and electronic discovery), and Jamboard (a kind of group brainstorming app). In some cases, training your staff on these apps and integrating them into your daily processes can be needless complexity. But in many cases, they’ll make your life easier.
7. Establish a system of marks, labels, and priorities.
Gmail offers more flexibility for inbox organization than any other email app I’ve found. You can change layout settings, and create your own system for marking emails. By default, you’ll have access to importance markers and stars, which can help you establish a hierarchy of priority and/or urgency. If you dig a little deeper, you can open up access to multiple colors and types of stars, and create a system of labels and sublabels to tag each email as belonging to one (or several) categories. I recommend you come up with a system of organization, either for yourself or for your entire team. That way, you can keep your inboxes tidy and well-organized from the beginning.
8. Utilize Advanced Settings (formerly Gmail Labs).
Google likes to experiment with new features before integrating them in its core apps. But what most Gmail business users don’t realize is that you can enable many of these settings to improve your productivity or gain access to new features. It’s been called Gmail Labs in the past, but now you’ll find it under the Advanced tab of the Settings menu. Play around with these settings to find new, efficient ways to use Gmail; just be aware that sometimes, these features won’t work as intended, and they’re subject to removal with little to no advanced notice.
9. Experiment with third-party apps and plugins.
Another advantage of Gmail for business is its openness to third-party apps, plugins, extensions, and other integrations. On the right-hand side of your inbox, you’ll see a link to the G Suite Marketplace, where you can browse some of the most popular apps to integrate with your inbox. You can also find Google Chrome browser extensions that make your Gmail experience better in some novel way. I’ve compiled a list of my 54 favorite apps and extensions here; obviously, it would be too overwhelming to download (or even try) all of them, but there should be at least a handful with the potential to improve your work.
10. Automate everything you can.
Automation is the cleanest way to save time, so try to automate any email-related functions you can. For starters, you can turn on the built-in features of Gmail that sort email on your behalf. For example, you can use Configure Inbox in the Settings menu to add more tabs to your inbox—by default, you’ll have access to Primary, Social, and Promotions, but you can also add Updates and Forum notifications. Gmail will sort new emails into the appropriate category, so you can have a clearer view of your messages. You can also create filters of your own; in Settings, head to Filters and Blocked Addresses. There, you can establish criteria for specific email groups (using factors like senders, recipients, email size, or subject line content), and automatically apply an action to those emails as they come in, such as trashing them or marking them as read. Be careful not to filter any unwanted emails with this feature, but do set up any filters that have the potential to save you time. Its effectiveness and productivity savings will compound over time.
Gmail’s openness to other apps and plugins is one of its greatest strengths—and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more reliable email service for enterprises. Once you’re more comfortable with Gmail and you’re ready to set up employee email monitoring (or just learn more about your own email habits), get EmailAnalytics. It’s free to sign up, and it has the power to revolutionize how you and your team email.
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