Gmail Importance Ranking Markers

In a recent post I discussed how Gmail marks up your messages with arrow symbols to show whether they were addressed to you, to a group, or to a list. On the screenshot I used, you’ll have noticed too that some of these markers are highlighted in yellow:

Click image to enlarge

Click image to enlarge

A yellow marker shows that Gmail considers the message to be important. You can search for important messages in Gmail by using the search operator is:important.

To decide whether a message is important, Gmail takes into account a number of issues combined into an algorithm. These include:

  • Who you email: If you email somebody a lot, it’s likely that messages from that person are important.
  • Which mails you open: Those you open are likely to be more important than those you don’t.
  • What keywords take your interest: If you always read messages about trains, a new message about trains is more likely to be important.
  • Which messages you reply to: If you always reply to messages from somebody, messages that person sends are probably important.
  • Your recent use of stars, archive or delete: Messages you star are probably more important than messages you archive or delete.

You can hover over these importance markers to open a tooltip-style message indicating why Gmail thinks the message is important, and/or click on the indicator to toggle the importance on or off.

If you often correct the importance of messages this way, you can train Google’s algorithm to better decide which messages it should mark as important in the future.

The markers are on by default, but you can turn them off if you wish:

  • Click the gear in the top right, choose Settings, and select the Inbox tab.
  • In the Importance markers section select No markers then click Save Changes.