How to Send a Mass Email

Category: Email

A reader asks: 'I want to send emails to a list of people on a regular basis. But I don't want to get tagged as a spammer. What software or services do you recommend for sending email to a group of people?'

Sending Email to Many Recipients

There are many reasons why a person might want to send emails to a group of recipients. Perhaps you want to send out a group or club newsletter. Maybe you're sending invitations to a party or event. Or perhaps you run an online business, and want to send a message to your customer list. Hopefully, you're not thinking about sending 50,000 emails to a list of names you purchased for $49.

You're right to be concerned about the spam issue. Even if your intentions are the best, and your message is benign, sending the same email to a large group of people is one of the "triggers" that anti-spam filters look for, and it can result in your outgoing emails ending up in a black hole, instead of the intended recipients. And it might even violate your Internet Service Provider's terms of service. Let's take a look at several options for mass emailing that will maximize delivery success, and minimize the chances of getting you on the Most Wanted Spammers of 2013 list.

Sending Mass Email / Bulk Email

Using Your Email Program to Mail to a List

If your intentions are to simply communicate with a group of friends, I recommend using your email program's built-in list or group feature. Every mailer is different, but in general, you'll go into your Contacts or Address Book, tag each of the intended recipients, and save it a list. You can then compose a new email and easily send to the list, instead of tediously entering each address every time you need to email your list.

I love Gmail for its simplicity, but this task is surprisingly obtuse in Gmail. To create a list, you need to click on the little black triangle next to the word "Gmail" at the top left of your Gmail window. Select "Contacts" then click the checkbox next to the people you want in your group. Click the icon near the top of the window that looks like a three-headed monster. Click "Create new", enter the group name, and click OK. You've created your list. To email the list, click on the group name under the My Contacts heading on the left. Click the checkbox that appears above the list of names, to select all the items in the list. Click the envelope icon that will appear above the list, and the familiar Compose screen will appear with your list of addresses.

If you use another webmail service, such as Yahoo Mail,, or a desktop mailer such as Windows Mail or Thunderbird, there will be a similar capability to create a group or list of contacts, and send to that list. If you're sending to a dozen or so recipients, this approach should be fine. But if your list is larger, or business-related, there are better options.

Online Alternatives for Group Emails

Yahoo Groups is a free service designed specifically to help groups of people communicate. You can create a group for your club, organization, or a bunch of friends. After inviting people to join the group, you can send messages to the group by email, and they'll be distributed to all the members. Yahoo will maintain an archive of all messages, and offers additional features such as photo albums, group calendars and member polling.

Facebook and Google+ are other options for informal groups to communicate. Facebook Groups lets you have open groups, or secret groups, so only members will be able to see the group and its postings. On Google+, they're called Communities but the idea is pretty much the same.

What About "Bulk Email" Software?

If you're planning to email a large group of people, you may be tempted to buy software that promises to help you build, manage and broadcast to email lists. I strongly recommend against using these "bulk mailer" programs. Typically, these programs will offer a feature to extract or "harvest" email addresses from websites, and claim to help you avoid blacklists.

Sending high-volume email from a typical home Internet connection (especially if you do not have the permission of the recipients) is a bad idea for several reasons. First, your emails will have very poor deliverability. Spam filters on the receiving mail servers are very good at sensing patterns used by spammers and bulk email programs. If your messages are not silently deleted, they will be bounced back to your inbox as undeliverable. Second, your ISP may cancel or freeze your account. If your abuse of your ISP's mail server causes it to be added to a blacklist, then it could affect the ability of ALL of their customers to send email.

Bulk email software is so 1995. Read on for some better alternatives...

Email Marketing for Businesses

If your bulk emailing is on behalf of a business or organization, my recommendation is to use a web-based email marketing service. Mailchimp's free version is popular with non-profits and small businesses because it lets you send up to 12,000 emails per month, with up to 2000 subscribers. So, for example, you could send to a list of 400 people every day of the month; a list of 1000 people twelve times a month, etc.

If you need to send larger volumes, check into Aweber or Constant Contact for more robust email marketing services.

MailChimp, Aweber, Constant Contact and similar services all have relationships with the major ISPs, to help ensure high delivery rates. In return, they help to minimize unwanted email by requiring that senders have permission, and recipients can easily remove themselves from a mailing list. In all cases, getting permission is key. If you're sending to people with whom you have no existing personal or business relationship, you're likely to raise red flags and possibly lose your account. See my list of Email Marketing Best Practices for some tips on how to communicate effectively via email to large groups.

Do you have something to say about sending bulk or mass emails? Post your comment or question below...

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Posted by on 10 Jan 2013

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Most recent comments on "How to Send a Mass Email"

Posted by:

10 Jan 2013

Hi Bob, You might want to change the spelling of "Receipients" to "Recipients".

EDITOR'S NOTE: Oops, thanks! Fixed now.

Posted by:

Linda Crawford
10 Jan 2013

I send out messages for a few groups, but it is usually no more than 20 addresses. I have designated my name as "undisclosed recipient" and I use that in the "to" line, then I go to BCC and put in the names I want or in some cases I have the group already together in my contacts list. This has always worked for me. I use Windows Live Mail, but used Outlook Express before that.

Posted by:

Pat Correz
10 Jan 2013

I send a nsltr every month to a list of over 200 members. I set up an email addressed to myself, then copy/paste about 80 email addresses from the master list as "blind" copies. I end up sending about 3 emails to handle the list. This goes thru every month without problems. By numbering them #1, #2, etc. if one bounces I can easily find and identify the recipient's name and often send again as a single email which then goes thru or tells me the email address is wrong. Have been doing this for 3-4 years successfully..on

Posted by:

10 Jan 2013

Wonderful article. But why did you not start (or at least include or reference) use of the BCC line?
Regards, Dale....

Posted by:

10 Jan 2013

Not having ever participated in large-scale emailing, my first thought is to privacy of the recipient. Do the services you mention compose the email header such that it appears to be addressed only to the individual? Seems like that would be important lest the recipient automatically reject the message as being bulk advertisement. Plus, I hate receiving email with a huge list of addresses almost as much as I hate that the huge list now has my address. Could I, for instance, include a large number of addresses in the bcc entry of Outlook or other email client, in order to get that "personalized appearance"?

Posted by:

Carole Taylor
10 Jan 2013

Thanks for the info. I'd like to know how to personalize the email by addressing the recipient by name. My AskBob email is addressed to my first name. Thanks.

Posted by:

Art Frailey
10 Jan 2013

I always use the BBC box for several addresses. It does not show any addresses when opened except the one that is opening the mail. Yahoo will generally let me send about 75 like this. It is not any harder to load, and it protects all your recepients privacy. Hence, the people who are in the business of grabbing addresses for advertisement are put at a great disadvantage.
I also clear all previous email that I received with a message, before forwarding.

Posted by:

Art Frailey
10 Jan 2013

Hi Bob,
I had never posted on your sire before today. Thanks for making it so easy. Some of the posts are so difficult, I just don't mess with anymore.
Have a wonderful New year.

Posted by:

10 Jan 2013

I once used longer though. Why? Especially if you forward humor, be careful that you don't send a fat joke to someone who has weight problems; don't send ethnic jokes to sensitive people; don't send religious jokes to those who don't appreciate them; no liquor humor to AA members, etc. I take the time to prevent hurting someone's feelings. Lists are okay for newsletters and the like. Otherwise, be careful...they'll be glad you did and you won't have to eat your hat!

Posted by:

Peter Fiorentino
10 Jan 2013

Hello Bob:

Good article, but some of us like to use an email client, rather than a web based email account. I have personally been using Pegasus Mail for a number of years and find it's "distribution list" feature extremely powerful and easy to use.

With Pegasus (which is free donation ware)you can directly copy email addresses from a database or spreadsheet to one or multiple distribution lists with great ease - and you can save your outgoing message using its "stationery" feature to send it in multiple discrete "blocks" to avoid exceeding your ISP's outgoing hourly limit. In my case, Verizon's limit is 500 messages per hour - so I just split up my 900 member list to be sent out separately, more than 1 hour apart.

I highly recommend this powerful free program for maintaining and communicating with group lists.

Posted by:

Tom Chess
10 Jan 2013

I do a weekly newsletter to about 200 on Aol.
I use a dedicated "screen name" for this.
I contacted AOL for this "screen name" and they
"White Listed" me for this email address..
I have been doing this for 9 years.

Posted by:

Earl J Moniz
11 Jan 2013

Great article Dr. Bob ... as always... (wink)
* * *
As with Dale above, I agree about bcc:. . .
In ymail, using the list as the identifier will explode your list into individual email address in the TO: line...
The only way to keep each recipient from receiving every email address on the list is to place the list identifier in the bcc: box...
the list still explodes to individual email addresses, but no one sees them.
* * *
The sender will need to place another email address in the TO: box ...
I use a secondary email address of my own to make sure it is posted (I get a copy of the message in my other email inbox. . .).
Each recipient does not see his/her own email address anywhere, only my secondary email address in the TO: box.
* * *
I love your comment that email software is so 1995 . . . very funny... (wink)

Until that time ... Earl J.

Posted by:

11 Jan 2013

Thank you for this article, which comes at a good time for me. I am using a product called GroupMail, which has so many bells and whistles that I do not comprehend! Like "girls just wanna have fun," this boy just wants to send emails without gas from my ISP, which has a peculiar rule that one may not write to more than 99 addresses at once, nor more than 1,000 per 24 hour period.

I thought the concept of "bulk email client" was some sort of dodge, in which one does not send email via the email client, but dumps it directly onto the Internet, and away it goes. I appreciate your mention of MailChimp, which I am going to try out, although again, it is highly engineered and over-developed for a basic user like myself. I wish they would start out very simple, and add features as one needs them!

Can you use your influence to get them to KISS?

P D Sterling

Posted by:

Stan Duncan
11 Jan 2013

One thing I'd add to your good article on mass emailing.

When sending out local, home grown mailings, through your own email program, make sure you send all of the emails with BCC. Otherwise you'll have dozens of names cluttering up the mailing and looking unprofessional.

To make them look better, you can also put a box around the mailing by selecting "table" and creating just one category for it. If it asks for how much of the screen to take up, sixty percent is usually about the same size as a professional blast email. Into the box you can also insert graphics and a banner at the top. The cumulative effect is that you've created a blast email that looks and feels like a Constant Contact or MailChimp mailing.
Stan Duncan

Posted by:

11 Jan 2013

While I could create a contact group and send a group email in Thunderbird, my email server balked at sending an email to more than 25 people. I will go the gmail route that you suggested next time.

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