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Because of spam, sending email newsletters and other large quantities of email requires serious consideration, and in many cases, professional help.

I have been working on figuring out how to send emails to a large group of people at a time for a few weeks. I have an organization, and would like to send weekly emails out to them. Right now I have 1500 people, but am actively signing people up and expect to have several times more over the next couple months.

In Hotmail today, I was able to send around 200 emails before a message that said I could send no more emails for 24 hours. I also have come to find out that some of them may have been spammed, one source said that sending over 100 leads to emails being identified as spam, which defeats the purpose of sending them out.

I also found an email service that provides for 5000 emails a month for $300 dollars, I do not have the funds for this service, but they mention they have some advanced features that would allow me to track the emails.

I am thinking about setting up 3 to five free accounts and sending about 90 a day from each account, to prevent them from being spammed. But of course, this would only allow me to send 3 to 5 hundred emails a day, and in a tedious way.

A personal email account is the wrong solution for this problem, particularly if it's Hotmail, and particularly if you actually want your messages to be delivered.

There are several approaches to the general problem of sending large numbers of emails periodically.

Do it yourself - direct: this is the approach you're trying. Basically, this means simply using an individual email account to send the email.

As you've already encountered, there can be problems with this approach. Because Hotmail has been abused so much by spammers, they've instituted "rate limits" on the number of emails you can send at once, and the number of emails you might send in a day. Many other ISPs also have similar limits for similar reasons.

If what you're doing is well under those limits, this might be an appropriate approach, however I would throw out two additional caveats:

  • Don't use free accounts like Hotmail - since these are what spammers tend to abuse the most, you're more likely to be flagged as spam simply by virtue of having used these services. And using free email accounts looks less professional.

  • Use BCC - send the email "To:" yourself, and then "BCC:" your recipients. This keeps the email cleaner, and doesn't expose everyone's email address to everyone else - an important privacy consideration.

"ESPs are designed to solve exactly the problem you're posing: getting your email delivered ..."

Online Groups and Free Services: a surprisingly effective solution for many folks are to use on-line discussion groups like Yahoo Groups.

Yahoo Groups lets you set up a mailing list, optionally including Yahoo Groups web features. You can define the group to be a "discussion" group, where any member can post to your list, or a "newsletter", where only the owner - you in this case - can. Members can choose to receive the messages on the web in their Yahoo account, or by email to any email address they choose.

The "cost" is that the messages may have advertisements attached, and your members will need to sign up with a Yahoo account. You may not be able to directly import your list of members - you'll need to send them a one time message telling them to go join your group.

There are alternatives to Yahoo Groups, and there are also free newsletter services, but I've no direct experience with them. If you do intend to stay in the free services arena, Yahoo Groups would be the direction I'd encourage, since it's a known and popular service.

Do it yourself - mailing list software: I'm not going to spend a lot of time on this, since it may require a little bit of technical expertise to get going.

There are software packages available specifically to manage email newsletters and discussion groups. The most common is a free open source solution called mailman. This package is installed on a server, and gives you direct access and control over as many mailing lists as you like. It supports import/export, full user account management as well as the ever important subscription confirmation that's a big part of avoiding being called a spammer.

Many inexpensive web hosting services will include mailman as part of your web hosting package. This is a great way to get mailman services pre-installed and ready to use.

Do it right - use a service: for the numbers you're discussing, I have to recommend that you use a email service provider. ESPs are designed to solve exactly the problem you're posing: getting your email delivered to a large number of people on a regular basis.

There are many providers, but I'm partial to AWeber - you can read my recent review.

I'm not sure which ESP you found, but it doesn't have to be nearly as costly as you've described for the amount of mail you're planning on. There are many providers that will come in well under what you found, including AWeber.

The advantage of going with a true ESP is management and deliverability. You certainly won't have to jump through all the hoops you've described in piecemealing a Hotmail based solution, and a good ESP will have a strong reputation and high deliverability. They may force you to play by a few rules, but the result is that your email list will be full of people who want to be there, who want your email, and who are less likely to consider what you're sending spam.

Rules?

Regardless of what solution you eventually take, there are some important rules that you need to consider and follow when you start mass mailing. Most of these are common sense, and are important ways to avoid being called a spammer. Others are actually legal requirements, at least in the U.S..

  • Don't add people to your list without their permission. This is the definition of spam. The best way to make sure that they actually do want to be on your list is to use a confirmed opt-in process. That's the scenario that requires them to send some kind of confirmation email before they are actually added to your list.

  • Send them what you promise to send, and nothing else. If people sign up, even using confirmed opt-in, for a newsletter, and then you start sending them other unrelated messages, that too is another definition of spam.

  • Make it easy to leave your list. One-click unsubscribe might be required if your list is of a commercial nature. While it's tempting to want to make it difficult to leave, so as to retain more subscribers, it increases the chances that they will start reporting your email as spam. And besides, do you really want to be pestering people who don't want to hear from you?

  • Be clear in each message who the message is from. If people don't recognize the email, it is, once again, so much spam to them.

Sending bulk email, email newsletters, hosting discussion lists, and anything that results in "messages to a lot of people at once" is something that requires a lot of special consideration. I encourage you to take the time to think it through and do it right.

Both you, and your recipients, will benefit.

Article C3408 - June 6, 2008 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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4 Comments
Bill Chubb
June 10, 2008 9:35 AM

To endorse, and amplify, what Leo has said...
In my view Hotmail and Yahoo! are responsible for the vast majority of spam. Anyone and his dog can get a free e-mail account with them and anyone using either of these free e-mail services cannot, in all seriousness, be expected to be taken seriously. If you're trying to portray a professional image, steer clear of free ISPs, especially Hotmail and Yahoo!
Regards
Bill

Chrystin
June 10, 2008 11:42 AM

It's a shame yahoo and hotmail have such bad reps, as they really provide good services. By the way, I pay for my yahoo via AT&T and will never, ever give it up.

That said--one way to deliver "white spam" is to have an account with AOL. You can set one account up with them to deliver "white spam". So in my case, I have 7 AOL accounts, I picked one to be my "white spam" account and send all the e-mails I want to send from it. You have to call tech support to get this set up, and you do not have to be a paying subscriber to do this.

You also have a slight limitation in that you can only send it to as many recipients as will fit in the bcc field which in my case tops out at about 300 per box. I have e-mail lists of about 600 and divvy them up.

Another route to go is to buy yourself a web site, very, very cheap now, about $50 a year and you can set that account up to send "white spam" from. You can do an extremely simple website, if you like. I'm not even certain that you actually have to have the website functional to use the e-mail account. Call somebody like www.godaddy.com for info on it.

rahman
July 4, 2008 4:28 AM

Dear Sir Leo:


thanks alot from your help with peoples and thanks alot from your good openions.
sir i have a quation.
When i send an email to an organization.From that side they will send me autmatically reply email.How can they do it?

MARYANN
September 21, 2008 2:24 PM

for 6 months i have gone through 8 helpers to straighten out my problem that would last for over night or 2 days. at@t has me now no being able to write an email. i also couldnot copy pieces because it said a plug was pulled. i think simeone is playing with me. i think i will have to go to another account.

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