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About Gmail's Important marker

I have always been interested in the Important label since I first saw it in Gmail. I found the concept new, was fascinated with how Gmail could detect and mark emails as important for me and was eager to see how accurate such detection could be.

Over the years, I have managed to acquire some knowledge related to Gmail's Important label and a blog seems like the perfect place to put all my learnings together including answering some of the FAQs associated with it, such as
  1. Where can I find the settings for the Gmail Important label?
  2. What do the options mean?
  3. What are the reasons for which emails can be marked as important?
  4. How can I turn this feature off or how to actually get Gmail to stop marking my emails as important?



Gmail tends to rely on their algorithms for (most if not all of) their message detections and alerts related to it and the marking of messages as important is no exception. 

The "Important" label can be seen in the Gmail left panel, between the Snoozed and Chats system labels.



Where can I find the settings for the Gmail Important label?


The settings for the Gmail Important label are located inside the Inbox tab of Gmail settings - https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#settings/inbox.


What do the options mean?


The Show/No markers options are self-explanatory.

Selecting the "Use my past actions to predict which messages are important to me." option means your past actions will be considered in addition to Gmail's algorithm to determine what's important. It doesn't mean it will be the only criterion to determine important messages for you. 

Similarly, when you select the other option, it doesn't mean that Gmail won't stop marking your emails as important but that Gmail will then use only their algorithm to determine what's important. 

What are the reasons for which emails can be marked as important?


Hovering over the yellowed important marker will tell you why Gmail thinks this conversation/message is important. There are multiple reasons. The first two do not require explanations.






The final reason means Gmail has deemed that email important based on their algorithm which heavily relies on AI & ML and learning from your email interactions such as, but not limited to:
  • Your email sending behaviour like the contacts you send emails to and how often you email them.
  • Your email reading behaviour like the emails from contacts you open and how soon.
  • Keywords that feature prominently in emails that you usually read.
  • The emails you reply to and how soon.
  • The emails you star, archive or delete.
The easiest way to mark/unmark an email as important is to click on the arrow-shaped important marker as shown in the Importance marker settings screenshot above. Depending on whether the email is marked/unmarked as important, the arrow-shaped marker will be in yellow or without colours.

How can I turn this feature off or how to actually get Gmail to stop marking my emails as important?


This is a commonly asked question in the Gmail Help Community where people want to mark their important emails by themselves and have the Gmail algorithm play no role in it. As is seen in the screenshot above, there is no "off" switch for this feature. So, if you do not want Gmail marking any of your emails as important, you can make it happen by creating a filter. 

I have read suggestions that selecting the "No marker" option shown in the importance marker settings screenshot above, hides the Important marker from the messages and also turns the feature off. That is incorrect because even with that option selected, you should be able to see proof of the system marking emails as important by using the is:important search.

If it is about emails from one individual or a domain that you want Gmail to not mark as important, then you can use a search query like from:email@example.com or from:@example.com (for a domain) and select the option "Never mark it as important". It should override Gmail's importance definition. 


If it for all incoming emails, then include a nonsense string like "poiuytrewq" in the "Doesn't have" field, which would possibly match all incoming messages (it is always best practice to check the emails your search query matches with), and then select the "Never mark it as important" option.


Note: You can also use the AND and OR search operators to define filters to specify other case-scenarios.

One important thing to remember is that filters are applied in the order they appear. So you may want to ensure this one is the first on the list or else earlier acting filters may have an unwanted effect on how this filter should ideally work.

Comments

  1. This is really helpful. I had no idea that if you hovered over the important label you would see reasons why it was marked that way. And it's really useful to be able to change that behavior with filters.

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