Personalize your emails with mail merge in Gmail

Learn how to combine Google Contacts and Gmail multisend to combine names into personalized emails.

This hand drawn illustration shows the fields added during the circular merge.
Image: Andy Wolber

In late 2022, Google added the option you can personalize your Gmail messages sent from multicast mode. This means that you can now insert a @firstname, @lastname, @fullname, or @email field into a multi-sent email, and the corresponding field data will be merged from the recipient’s Google contact record. More importantly, when Google announced the feature, the company also indicated that there will be “support for custom circular labels using tables” in the future.

The multi-send method is available to those who use:

  • Google Workspace Individual.
  • Google Workspace Business Standard or Plus.
  • Google Workspace Enterprise Starter, Standard or Plus.
  • Google Workspace Education Standard or Plus edition.

Additionally, the Google Workspace administrator must enable the feature by setting Allow Multi-send Mode to ON in the Admin console under Apps | Google Workspace | Gmail | User Settings | Multiple sending methods.

Managing a mailing list in Google Contacts

Gmail’s multisend merge comes from Google Contacts data, so make sure you have the correct information for each contact field you want to use for multisend merge. If you need to import data into Google Contacts, you can download the Template provided by Google to make sure the correct fields have data for the .csv import. Open Google Contacts in a desktop browser to view the data fields (Figure A) is used in the circular letter creation process:

  • Prefix
  • First name
  • Last name
  • Suffix
  • E-mail

Figure A

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This screenshot shows the first step in Gmail mail merge.
First, make sure each recipient’s information is correct in Google Contacts and check the name and email fields. For ease of use, you may want to tag your contacts so you can later select that tag to add all associated contacts in the email recipients field.

First, make sure each recipient’s information is correct in Google Contacts and check the name and email fields. For ease of use, you may want to tag your contacts so you can later select that tag to add all associated contacts in the email recipients field.

In most cases, you will also need to create a contact tag (eg Newsletter as shown here Figure A), then add the tag to each contact you want to add to the list. This allows you to select a label while in the recipient field in Gmail and add all contacts with that label to your recipient list. You can select the checkbox to the left of each contact for a contact set, select the tag icon (above the list of contacts), then select the contact tag and click Apply to add the tag to the selected contact set.

SEE: Managing Google Contacts (TechRepublic)

Make sure your recipient list doesn’t exceed Gmail’s sending limits or rules. One notable numerical restriction is that the maximum number of recipients for a multi-send email is 1,500 email addresses. If you send that much email from an organization address, you can send 500 more emails that day before you hit the 2,000 message limit per day.

SEE: How to send bulk emails from Gmail (TechRepublic)

Another important rule is not to send spam: Make sure the people you’re emailing are people who want to receive your emails. By default, all bulk emails contain an “Unsubscribe” link that allows the recipient to remove themselves from the list. However, if you are emailing internally – to people within your organization – opting out may not be possible. In other words, people may not be able to unsubscribe from an internal message sent repeatedly, such as those less-than-useful emails received by a leader in your organization who has mastered the art of sending nonsense. If you truly never want to see emails from a specific person in your organization, you can set the filter to automatically archive selected emails.

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Insert merge fields in multi-send Gmail

To create a new multisend email, you must use a desktop browser such as Google Chrome as follows:

  1. Open Gmail.
  2. Select the Write Mail button in the upper left corner. (If the button doesn’t appear, select the three horizontal lines menu option in the upper-left corner, then select Mail.) Alternatively, if keyboard shortcuts are enabled, press the ac key.
  3. Select the multisend icon in the lower right corner of the mail writing menu icons, as shown by the red square Figure B. The icon appears as an envelope placed in front of another envelope. The text box says “You are using multicast” with additional text and a link to find more information.

Figure B

This screenshot shows the second step of Gmail mail merge.
Enter multisend mode, then select recipients, add a subject, and enter content. Enter the @ key in the body of the email to access the mailing label options, which allow you to insert custom merge fields.
  1. Add recipients (eg a group of recipients via the Google Contacts tag), your email subject and content, just as you would in any standard Gmail.
  2. Place the cursor in the email text field where you want to insert the merge field, then type @ to access the available mailer tags as shown in the red circle Figure B. From March 2023, these include @firstname, @lastname, @fullname and @email address.
  3. Select the desired email label from the list.
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Once you have entered the entire content of the multiple email, click Continue. You can then choose from the following:

  • Cancel to return to editing emails,
  • Send Preview to forward a copy of your email to your own inbox so you can review the content of the email closely, or
  • Send All to perform a merge that sends an email to all selected recipients.

Because multi-send emails by definition reach many recipients, preview each message before sending. Typos, errors, omissions and incorrect dates/times will inevitably remain well hidden and will only be revealed after the Send button is pressed. Use the Send Preview option with careful proofreading to minimize errors.

If one or more recipients are missing data from the merge tag you’re using, the system allows you to enter a default alternative (such as the text to use when the last or first name is missing), or you can go back to the draft and modify the list of recipients. to add missing data or remove recipient. For example, if the email starts with “Hi @firstname!” you can choose “there” for contacts who don’t have a first name, which means “Hello!” Send SMS to those contacts.