HOWTO: Send a Mass 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.
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" 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, 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 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. 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...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 12 Aug 2014
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- HOWTO: Send a Mass Email (Posted: 12 Aug 2014)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved