How to Use Gmail Labels Effectively for a Clean Inbox
Lina Yakunina
Product Marketing Manager
December 15, 2020

Do you know how much of your working day is spent looking for information in your inbox? 

According to McKinsey, almost 20% of employees’ time is spent searching for information. That’s the equivalent of one full day at the office.

And with office workers receiving 121 emails per day on average, it’s more than likely that much of the time is spent sifting through emails and attachments.

Luckily, email labels are Gmail’s secret weapon to fight against inbox clutter. They allow you to quickly organize your inbox, reducing the time required to track down information. 

This guide will take you through the process step by step to create a neat, tidy, and well-organized inbox. It includes screenshots, how-to’s, and some insanely helpful tips to take your labels to the next level.

Here are the sections we will cover in this article, you can enjoy the full read or scroll to the section of your choice.

  1. What are Gmail labels
  2. How to create a label
  3. How to automatically add Gmail labels with filters
  4. How to edit your Gmail labels
  5. How to create nested labels
  6. How to search within labels
  7. How you can manage your tasks using Gmail labels
  8. How to share a Gmail label with your teammates or external partners

Ready to be an inbox ninja? Let’s go.

1. What are Gmail Labels?

Labels are a simple way to organize and de-clutter your inbox. In Gmail, you can create a label to categorize emails that are sent, received, or drafted. 

Your Gmail Labels are accessible from your left sidebar, displayed with an arrow-shaped icon (more on how to color them later).

Gmail Labels vs. folders

Similar to folders you can use with other email clients, you can create a label in Gmail to organize your inbox by grouping together relevant emails. But unlike email folders, you can add multiple labels to one email for extra flexibility. Indeed, an email can be part of multiple projects and workflows, right?

For instance, Sales teams can use email labels to organize their inbox by creating different labels such as ‘Leads,’ ‘Contacts,’ and ‘Deals.’ 

Project Managers, on the other hand, might create a label for a given project and another label to classify emails with an external vendor.

2. How to create a Label

It’s really simple to create a label. Any logged-in Gmail user has three options for adding a label to an email:

  1. First, from inside an email, you can select the ‘Label As’ icon at the top of the window. Then select ‘Create New Label’ and name the label accordingly.
  2. Second, you can select ‘Create New Label’ from the menu on the left-hand side and enter the name of the category and, if required, subcategory. 
  3. Third, you can select the gear icon from the top right of the window and then select ‘Settings’ from the drop-down menu that appears. Next, select ‘Labels’ and then ‘Create New Label’.

3. How to Automatically Add Gmails Labels with Filters

While you can always add a label manually to an email, automating this process will save you a ton of time. Depending on your use case, there are multiple ways you automatically add a label to an email.

Use filters to add a label

You can add a label using a filter rule. It’s quick, easy, and allows you to automate your inbox categorization:

  1. Inside Gmail, click the gear icon and select ‘Settings.’
  2. Next, click ‘Filters and Blocked Addresses’ from the top.
  3. Select ‘Create’ to apply a new filter.
  4. Select how you’d like the mail to be filtered. For example, it could be by words included or the sender’s name. 
  5. Click ‘Create Filter’ with this search.
  6. Check ‘Skip the Inbox’ and ‘Apply’ to apply the label.
  7. Click ‘Create Filter.’

Add or remove labels in bulk

You can also easily add or remove labels from multiple emails in one go by following these easy steps:

  1. Select the emails you would like to add or remove labels from. 
  2. Click the ‘Label As’ icon from the top. 
  3. Either select or deselect any labels. 
  4. Click ‘Apply.’

Use the “Move to” button to apply a label

To archive emails and keep your inbox uncluttered, you can move emails out of the inbox and into another folder or label with just a couple of clicks:

  1. Open the email you would like to move to. 
  2. Select the ‘Move To’ icon from the top. 
  3. Select the folder or label you would like to move the email to. 

Or simply select multiple emails and drag them into a chosen label.

Add labels to outgoing emails

The above options are related to adding labels to emails in your inbox. But it does not stop there: you can also add labels to your outgoing emails. To do so, follow these easy steps:

  1. Compose a message in Gmail.
  2. Select the ‘More Options’ icon (the three stacked dots toward the right side) in the toolbar at the bottom of the compose window. 
  3. Choose ‘Labels’ from the new menu that opens.
  4. Another menu will pop up with the available labels, check off the one(s) that you want to use. Or select ‘Create New’ and enter your new label name.
  5. You can also choose to ‘star’ the message from the same menu if required.
  6. Select the body of your message again to close all of the menus.
  7. Compose your message and hit send as usual. The label(s) that you chose will be applied to the message and any ongoing email chain.

Add labels using advanced automation features

Gmail is great, it’s arguably the most feature-packed email provider on the market. But like most email solutions, it lacks advanced automation features such as email templates and sequences. 

In order to automate your outreach, you can use Gmelius. We are a collaboration platform that seamlessly integrates inside Gmail. Gmelius allows you to create, share, and send personalized email templates and automated follow-up sequences based on your recipients' interactions.

Create email Templates with label automation

To do so, first, install Gmelius and create an email template (read the full guide on creating and sharing email templates), using the "Label As" function. Now, whenever you select that template in your Compose window, the label will be applied automatically.

Create email Sequences with automated label categorization

Sequences can also be used as a more advanced automation feature. When creating an automated sequence, you can direct Gmelius to add labels at certain stages in the workflow.

All of your email templates, sequences, and conversations sync in real-time across your entire team and all of their devices, so once you receive a reply, you’ll find the email under your chosen label.

4. How to Edit Your Labels

Once you create a label in Gmail, you can also edit its color, name, and visibility. 

To edit the label, follow these steps:

  1. On a computer, open Gmail (you can't edit labels from the Gmail app).
  2. On the left side of the page, hover your cursor over your label's name.
  3. Click the down arrow from the drop-down arrow.
  4. Click ‘Edit.’
  5. Make changes to your label.
  6. Click ‘Save.’

5. How to Create Nested Gmail Labels

Some projects might be more complex and deserve to be broken down. Or some project types might be broken down by account or client, or by location. To reflect this, you can also nest labels within higher-level, parent categories. 

So, if you are launching an outbound sales campaign to acquire new clients located in the USA, you can create a label named ‘NEW YORK,’ which is nested under the ‘ACME - USA’ label. 

Or, if you are a firm providing accounting and tax services, you can create a parent label for "tax" and sub-labels for each customer you're servicing.

Follow these steps to set up a nested label in Gmail: 

  1. Select the gears icon in the top-right corner of the window, and choose ‘Settings’ from the drop-down menu. 
  2. Select ‘Labels’ if the Labels tab isn't displayed. 
  3. Select ‘Create New Label’ and enter a new label name. 
  4. Select a higher-level label in the drop-down menu inside the ‘Nest’ label section. 
  5. If you need to move an existing sub-label to a different higher-level label, navigate to the ‘Labels’ section and find the label you would like to change. 
  6. Select ‘Edit’ in the Actions column. 
  7. Choose a new higher-level label from the drop-down menu in the ‘Nest’ label. 
  8. Click ‘Create’ or ‘Save.’

Changed your mind and want to un-nest a Label? You can easily change a sub-level label into a high-level label by following these steps:

  1. In the ‘Labels’ section, find the sub-label you want to convert. 
  2. In the Actions column, select ‘Edit.’
  3. Deselect the ‘Nest’ label. 
  4. Select ‘Save.’

6. How to search within Labels

You can search by multiple filters in Gmail, yet the search operators can be a bit intimidating. With the right queries in place, there's a lot you can achieve. For instance, you can search for all emails in one label that were sent by a specific email address. 

To search, follow these steps: 

  1. In the search bar at the top of Gmail, enter the ‘label: label_title’.
  2. Use the up and down arrow keys to highlight the label you want to open.
  3. Click ‘Enter’ to view the emails in that label.
  4. Press the spacebar after the label name and enter the text that you want to search for within the label. For instance, if you’d like to only see emails from one email address, enter the label: ‘label_title email_address’.

Want to master more search operators to take control of your mailbox? Check out Google's search operators directory.

7. How to manage your tasks using Gmail Labels

Looking to help organize your Gmail tasks with labels? One common hack is to create a “to-do” label to help organize emails that have an outstanding follow-up item or task. But there's an even smarter way. You can use your labels even more effectively to manage tasks with Gmelius, as we offer project management functionalities right inside Gmail.

Turn a label into an actionable Kanban board

Seeing your emails as a list of threads is not very actionable. So Gmelius allows you to turn Labels into Kanban boards directly in Gmail. Your emails are turned into task cards, which you can easily visualize and move from one column to the other to drive your tasks to completion. Gmelius also offers powerful automation, so you don't need to drag and drop your task cards manually.

Sync your Kanban boards with Trello

You can also integrate your Kanban boards with Trello using Gmelius. Our Gmail to Trello 2-way integration allows you to sync your boards, in real time.

The added benefits?

- No more data dispersion, communication gaps or copy pasting between Gmail and Trello.
- You can collaborate with your team or external partners in Trello
- You can allow your team to work from their preferred tool, with no more tab-switching
- You can manage your Kanban boards on the go using the Trello mobile app

All updates reflect in real time, both in Gmail and Trello. See it for yourself:

You and your team can manage emails as task cards and seamlessly collaborate on projects in real time, both from Gmail and Trello.

Alternatively, if you already have a tailored board on Trello, but would like to work on it from Gmail - you can import your Trello boards inside Gmail using Gmelius.

To learn more about our 2-way Gmail to Trello integration, follow this article.

8. How to Share Gmail Labels

Gmail is the most powerful email provider, however, as with all email solutions it is primarily designed for individual use. 

Unfortunately, this is a serious flaw for modern teams that work collaboratively across departments, offices, locations, and timezones.

Granted, there are various hacks you can cobble together to force your email to work for team collaboration —  you can forward, cc, bcc other team members, you can share the login details to one email account, or you can hook up a third-party CRM. 

You guessed it. None of these are ideal solutions. 

Instead, you can use Gmelius to share a label with your team. That way, you can collaborate more efficiently and effectively.

You can either create a Label, or share an existing label with chosen team members, or external partners (if for instance, you are working with an offshore team, freelancers or external agencies). All members of the shared Label have access to the emails filed inside the Label. Unlike forwarded emails, team members have access to full email threads, including future replies.

You can assign an email to a team member, and work together on email threads, avoiding duplicate conversations or missed emails. 

By sharing email labels you immediately increase transparency and accountability around team emails, create efficient and successful team collaboration, and benefit from advanced automation features. 

The applications of shared labels are universal. For example, marketing teams can create a label to share conversations related to a new campaign with the sales team or conversations related to invoices with the accounting department. 

It only takes a couple of clicks to set up Gmelius’ shared email labels. Once an email label is shared, you can find it nested under the Gmelius label on your left sidebar. 

And if your team is on Slack, you can even use the Gmelius Slack integration to create full sync between shared labels and your chosen Slack channels.

There’s no need to jump back and forth between platforms; everyone in your team can share and assign emails to other team members, add email notes, and more, either directly from Gmail or Slack. 

For further details with screenshots follow the article on how to create a shared label.

Summing up

Gmail is arguably the most feature-packed email provider out there. 

Labels are just one piece of Gmail’s functionality, that allow you to customize and organize your workflow. 

However, Gmail alone doesn’t do everything. In fact, it lacks core collaboration functionality, such as the ability to share labels with your team. 

Fortunately, Gmelius does. 

And it’s this powerful combination of Gmail and Gmelius that enables your team to be as productive as possible, save time, and improve efficiency. 

See how Gmelius can help you collaborate using Shared Gmail Labels 🙌

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