[HOWTO] Send a Group Email

Category: Email

A reader asks: 'I want to send emails to a large group of people on a regular basis. But I've heard that if you do it wrong, you'll get tagged as a spammer, and your emails will never be delivered. What software or services do you recommend for sending email to a list of people?' Read on for the answer...

Sending Email to Many Recipients

The reason this person wants to send a mass (or bulk) email was not mentioned to me. But there are many reasons why you might want to send emails to a group of recipients. It could be as simple as keeping in touch with a group of friends or family. Perhaps you want to send out a group or club newsletter. Maybe you're sending invitations to a party or event. Or 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 on Craigslist 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 reaching 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 blacklist.

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.

Normally 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", and a new Google Contacts tab will open. Click "Create label", enter the list name, and click OK. You've created your list. Now click the icon or checkbox next to the people you want in your group. After making your selections, click the icon on the top right that looks like a rectangle pointing to the right. (I told you this was obtuse.) Click the name of the list you just created, and your selected contacts will be added to the list. You can now close the Contacts tab and return to the Gmail tab in your browser. To email the list at any time, click the Gmail Compose button, type the list name in the "To" box, and press enter.

If you use another webmail service, such as Yahoo Mail, Outlook.com, 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. Keep in mind you can use the BCC (blind carbon copy) option to send to a group without revealing everyone's address to all recipients. If you're sending to a dozen or so recipients, this approach should be fine. Some people split their mailings into groups to avoid getting flagged as spam, but management of the list, including removing bad or non-deliverable addresses, can become cumbersome.

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 is another option 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.

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. You don't even need a credit card to sign up.

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 certain benefits that are important for people who email to large groups on a regular basis. Management of your list, professionally designed email templates, handling of bounced emails, and the ability to customize messages for each recipient are lacking in the do-it-yourself approach. They also 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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Most recent comments on "[HOWTO] Send a Group Email"

Posted by:

pdsterling
07 Jul 2017

I have nothing but praise for MailChimp. have been using it for over three years, and every problem I have ever had was caused by "free" web-mail making unannounced changes or decisions.


Posted by:

Ken
07 Jul 2017

Our company blocks any mail coming from Constant Contact. There is no way we have found to tell legitimate email from spam.

EDITOR'S NOTE: That seems unwise. Constant Contact has many thousands of legitimate senders.


Posted by:

Annie
07 Jul 2017

I'm surprised you didn't mention google groups. That might be why gmail group setup is obtuse, google puts all their effort into their yahoo group competitor, googlegroups.com

I use it for several different groups I organize through my church. It works well and keeps track of all messages sent, too.


Posted by:

Mark
07 Jul 2017

We have a small software company, and email our customer list of ~2,000 names a couple times per year. We've been using a bulk mail sending service called TurboSMTP, where we buy email delivery service in blocks (such as 10,000 email deliveries, to be used within a year). They don't allow spam either--like the 50,000 names for $49 from Craigslist that you mention, Bob--but their service has been simple and trouble-free for us...and because it is "pay as you go" it lets us avoid the monthly fees of a cloud-based email management service. (I really *hate* subscription-based software, for a lot of reasons.)


Posted by:

Jim Michaels
07 Jul 2017

I send occasional group emails (maybe 3 to 5 times per month) using Thunderbird. These go to an organization of around 250 folks. I have them in a separate list and just use "select all" and Bcc them and send the list using Cox.net. Never had a problem and this list a few years back was over 500.


Posted by:

MJ Buttrey
07 Jul 2017

I strongly recommend that people always use blind copy (BCC) when sending to a group unless there's a pressing reason not to do so, e.g., if members of the group need to discuss the message with each other by email. Above all, if passing on a "chain email" (which is inadvisable for lots of reasons), only send it BCC after deleting any other email addresses in the message you received.


Posted by:

Stoney
08 Jul 2017

My ISP (Mediacom) has, I'm pretty sure, a maximum of 99 or 100 at a time. So I put my golfing group (over 115) in bcc, open it up, highlight and cut approx. half and hit send. Then I go to sent items, open the email just sent, hit forward, paste in the names previously cut into bcc, clean up the email, and hit send. A pain in the neck, but it works. I've also tried sending all at once using gmail, which works fine.


Posted by:

Richard
08 Jul 2017

If you are interested in an autoresponder I am a member of a free marketing platform called MarketHive. It has several tools, one of which is an autoresponder, all the tools are free to use...no limits...no strings attached. The MarketHive platform was designed by Tom Prendergast, the inventor of autoresponders (he called it a sequential mailer and named it veremail) and it has a 99.97% deliverability rate TO THE INBOX and an AAA+ IronPort rating. You can not add in emails...they must opt in, that is part of the reason the ratings are so high. You can check it out for free here: https://markethive.com/tipco613/page/autoresponder


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