HOWTO: Send a Mass 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" 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. 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...

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Most recent comments on "HOWTO: Send a Mass Email"

Posted by:

Yehuda Z.
12 Aug 2014

Word of caution. A teacher of mine was sending out an inspirational e-mail to over 700 former students from his GMail account. I believe that every single student was asked if he wanted to receive this regular lesson.
Google froze his account. I guess sending out a mass mailing 5 times a week on average to 700+ people must have triggered some analytic software that decided it was all spam.
And by the way, how can you fast track an appeal to Google? This teacher is very, very ill and no longer has his contacts list or any of his emails.

Posted by:

John T
12 Aug 2014

A stand alone, (not subscribed) emailing program is featured at EmailEZ.con. Try this program free, and upgrade later, if/when needed. Check out all of it's features, and benefits. Working great for us. Thank you Bob for your education.

EDITOR'S NOTE: I can't recommend this type of program because it almost certainly will violate your ISPs terms of service, and will result in poor deliverability.

Posted by:

12 Aug 2014

I believe you are using one of the three e-mail marketing products (Aweber, Constant Contact and Mailchimp) mentioned above. Do you prefer that product over the others or is it more serendipity that you ended using that one?

Useful article! Thanks.

EDITOR'S NOTE: I use Aweber because I think it offers the best features and deliverability.

Posted by:

13 Aug 2014

Another very comprehensive and detailed coverage, Mr. Rankin. Are there any security and privacy issues involved in such 'mass mailings'? Especially, since the actual email addresses of the recipients can be collected and used without permission (or even possibly sold at Craig's List)? I am also not certain if the recipients would prefer to not have their email addresses known to others in the list/group. It should also be mentioned that Microsoft Office Outlook is also another viable program that can be used for such purpose!

EDITOR'S NOTE: Privacy? Yes, if you roll your own, and you don't use BCC to hide the recipient list. Can't see a security problem.

Posted by:

Keith Freeman
13 Aug 2014

As well as Yahoo Groups (who have been "improving" their offering - and causing much grief lately) Google also offers a very similar service - Google Groups.

Posted by:

13 Aug 2014

-----------------> EDITOR ONLY


Bob, I recently had a former student transfer to a University in Canada. She ask for a copy of my old Study guide I used to pass out every semester that had hints about how to be a good student -- nifty tricks, little poems to remind them they were "ONLY" students, etc. I don't have that comptuer so I wrote one up from memory.

One trick is to underline ONLY what you don't already know, and try to make it a sentence form. That way when you go back to study for an exam, you read near full sentences after you've read the passage several times previously so it's now stuck somewhere in your brain, and you are reading in near full sentences, which you are trained to do -- You can cut your reading by about 80% in studying your books before an exam. -- little tricks like that (plus it's easier to remember what you know that what you don't).

So - part of my notes talked about really reading the into and find the part of the chapter, often at the end, where they tell you what they told you, that is what the authors think is important, so look out for those things, and consult that one page or so summery every so often to keep you on track. READ FOOT NOTES AND END NOTES. -- we both know why.


She wrote back and said thanks for my 4 hours of time, but ALL her books were E-books, in fact at her U almost ALL books were e-books!!!

I know I have a clunky way of setting book marks for end notes so when I hit one in a text I can to there and read it, then back to the text, but it's clunky. It's no loner stick a paper clip or piece of paper there and just flip a page. It's - well you know how the process would work, book mark the page you are on, go to book marks, go to the page of end notes, read the end note, if it spills over onto another page, read that, then go back, book mark that page, go back and delte the page that was the original end note, tap the page you were reading, when you finish that page, go back and delete that book mark, and then go back and start reading again. YIKES!

Foot notes are even harder since you have to find the bottom of the page first and book mark that for faster reference, then go back to where you left off reading.

Each takes long enough to lose the train of thoght the author was making.


With the migration of higher ed to e-books, what IS the best way to use them in school - and in particular, what's the best way to handle foot and end notes? The table I have doesn't allow me to tap the foot note or end not to go to the end. Do ANY allow that? Or are they slotted for general or 'easy' reading only?

Have they forgotten an entire segment of the population?


A LOT of information CAN be gained in foot-end notes - year of publication for one, or antidotal asides that add to the richness of the learning experience. You know he stuff I'm talking about because you've jump through the hoops too.

Just an idea to mull around as Fall Semester now begins to rapidly approach.

Thanks -- Doc.

Posted by:

Susan Gawarecki
13 Aug 2014

I've been a long-time user and fan of Yahoo groups, but the problem is that there are always a few people who--for whatever reason--can't figure it out, won't sign up, or have an account that blocks the group. Inevitably these groups goes back to a "Reply all" model which ends up with bad or missing emails continually being reintroduced into the system. And Yahoo doesn't allow you to send to more than 100 addresses at a time, which is about to become a problem for my friend who is advertising his business via his email. Time to try one of these subscription services, I think.

Posted by:

18 Aug 2014

Just wanted to thank you for your info , it helps a lot..
visit our site for very useful info:

Posted by:

19 Jul 2017

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Article information: AskBobRankin -- HOWTO: Send a Mass Email (Posted: 12 Aug 2014)
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