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I've been battling with this issue for couple of months. I need to send bulk mail (not spam) through my social network to users in situations like newsletters, site invitations (when user imports their address book contacts)

I'm using shared hosting and it limits 500 mails per hour. Even though i manage to send mails most of them end up in user's spam box.

After researching these are the solutions that i finally came up with.

  1. Use Google Apps SMTP (http://www.google.com/apps/intl/en/business/features.html)
  2. Move into VPS
  3. Use shared hosting with throttle enabled

Please advise me on what to choose.

Will using Google Apps prevent mail being sent as spam? I can't use other 3rd party SMTP like iContact or Aweber as "invitation sending script" will send emails to thousands of contacts, depending on user's addressbook.

Thanks in advance

marked as duplicate by Falcon Momot, Jacob, Ward, Jenny D, TheCleaner Jun 28 '13 at 13:55

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  • 1
    spamming is not nice. the fact that everyone else does it, doesn't make it any better. – Aleksandar Ivanisevic May 8 '10 at 14:45
  • Sara, does your website by chance involve customized videos? – tomjedrz May 8 '10 at 15:51
  • Why all the negativity? There are plenty of legitimate reasons for sending bulk email. If you've ever run mailing lists with several thousand subscribers you'll know how hard it is to get delivered. What if your website becomes the next Twitter? Would you dare ask SF, only to be flamed? – Martijn Heemels May 8 '10 at 19:20

About SPAM and the address-book-based blasts, I am afraid that Sara is correct. Every social network (Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, LinkedIn, Plaxo, and so on) has some capability to search your address book. As long as the user uploading knows that they are uploading, it isn't hugely unreasonable. And frankly, it is not practical to define SPAM as any email the recipient doesn't want to get. So while we don't have to like it, we can't say that it is outside the norms.

So, Sara, I answer the question with the following stipulations. Unless you accept these conditions, you do not have permission to use my advice ;-)
1- You only send an email ONCE per address, and take no response as an OPT-OUT.
2- You have an easy, one click opt-out readily accessible and linked in every blast.
3- You don't sell or share addresses or other personal info.

Now, to the advice ..

The source server is not likely a huge component of why your emails are getting flagged. Emails from known bad IPs and domains are typically not accepted by the destination ISPs rather than put into junk mail folders.

More likely, your emails look like spam. As to making them not look like spam, I can only give very general suggestions .. not too many links, valid return email address that matches the sending domain, avoid all caps, spelling errors and the various taboo words.

The server and mail service itself should also be setup properly .. reverse DNS, valid MX records, etc. There is extensive info on this site about that kind of configuration.

If the 500 messages/hour is a real problem, Google Apps might not have those limits, I don't know. Google Apps might also have other mail-related terms that will impact your business. I would check, and if it doesn't, go with it. If that doesn't work, rolling your own SMTP server is the only solution. VPS may work, but the provider might have anti-bulk-mail terms as well. You may have to suck it up and get your own hardware and rent rackspace and bandwidth.


Sending large amount of email is a hard task, that really requires specialists. There are too many factors that affect succesful delivery, so you can't do this reliably from your own webserver. Actually 500/hr for a shared account is more than I would expect.

You should probably outsource the sending to some professional company. I'm afraid I don't know of any reputable parties although I'm sure they exist.

The alternative is to setup your own dedicated mailserver. You'll have to be very careful though, to prevent being marked a spammer. That means taking care of many things both technical and social. For example your server will need to have a 'clean' IP address with a reputable hoster; with matching forward and reverse DNS; SPF records; use of Domainkeys and DKIM; a secure server and site so it can't be used for spam; monitor blacklists so you can react quickly; monitor 'abuse' mailbox; etc. Many posts on the technical side can be found on serverfault or elsewere. Read them and implement them, since reputation is everything.

The more social side is avoiding people see you as a spammer. This means, be very clear about your intentions; always do as you say; use opt-in for emails to your customers; make it clear to recipients that you mailed them on the request of their friend; provide clear opt-out instructions on your website and in all e-mails; avoid spammy words; etc.

Some people will inevitably mark you ask spam, even if they opted-in themselves, but if the relative number is low and you interact with blacklists and providers you can get relatively reliable delivery.


Another alternative, not mentioned here is by introducing a 'throttle' into your program.

Basically, instead of sending all your emails at once add them into a queue and use a cron script or sheduled task to send out a maximum of 500 per hour.

How to do this is likely to be a question for Stack Overflow.


Sorry, but sending mail to thousands of contacts based on a users address book is spam, and nothing else. IMHO, this is never acceptable - I can't do anything about an idiot listing me in his address book and then allowing you to read it, but I can assure you: I don't want to get those kind of mails.

  • But every social network use it as I've experienced so far. – Sara May 8 '10 at 14:31
  • @Sara: no, not the reputable ones. Reputable organizations have lists you can opt-in or opt-out of at any time. They don't search through users' address books to harvest email addresses. That at best is SPAM and borders on malware. – squillman May 8 '10 at 15:01
  • Even facebook is using this facebook.com/#!/invite.php?ref=sb – Sara May 8 '10 at 15:17
  • 1
    So does LinkedIn, and Twitter, and Plaxo. – tomjedrz May 8 '10 at 15:30
  • 1
    If the thousands of mails come from a single users address book, then stop right away; you're mailcrazy. However it's quite easy for a single successful website to cross that 500/hr barrier for total mail volume. Many websites run into this issue during their growth, so I think the question is valid. – Martijn Heemels May 8 '10 at 19:26