How to personalize email with mail merge in Gmail

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

Image: Andy Wolber

In late 2022, Google added the ability to personalize Gmail messages sent from the multisend feature. This means you can now insert a @firstname, @lastname, @fullname or @email field into a multi-send email and the system will merge the corresponding field data from the recipient’s Google Contact record. More importantly, when Google announced the feature, the company also mentioned that “support for custom mail merge labels using spreadsheets” will be added in the future.

The multitasking feature is available to people using:

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

Additionally, a Google Workspace administrator must enable the feature by setting Allow multitasking to ON in the admin console under Apps | Google Workspace | Gmail | User Settings | Multitasking mode.

How to manage a recipient list in Google Contacts

A Gmail multisend merge comes from data in Google Contacts, so make sure you have correct information for each contact field you plan to use in your multisend merge. If you need to import information into Google Contacts, you can download a template provided by Google to ensure you have data in the correct fields for .csv import. Open Google Contacts in a desktop class browser to check the data fields (Figure A) used in the mail merge process:

  • Prefix
  • Name
  • Adjective
  • Conclusion
  • e-mail

Figure A

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

First, make sure the data for each recipient is correct in Google Contacts by checking the name and email fields. For ease of use, you may want to tag contacts so you can later select that tag to add all associated contacts to an email recipient field.

In most cases, you’ll also want to create a contact label (eg Newsletter as shown in Figure A), then add this tag to each contact you want to include in this list. This makes it possible to select the label while in the recipient field in Gmail to 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 contact list), then select your contact tag and select Apply to add the tag to the selected contact set .

SEE: How to Manage Your Google Contacts (TechRepublic)

Make sure your recipient lists don’t exceed Gmail’s sending limits or rules. A notable numerical limitation is that the maximum number of recipients for a multicast email is 1,500 email addresses. If you send this amount of email from an organization address, you will be able to send an additional 500 email messages that day before reaching your daily total limit of 2,000 messages.

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

The other important rule is don’t spam: Make sure the people you’re emailing are people who want to receive your email. By default, every multi-send email includes an “Unsubscribe” link that allows a recipient to remove themselves from this list. However, when you’re emailing internally — to people within your organization — unsubscribing may not be an option. In other words, people may not be able to unsubscribe from an internal multi-sending message, such as those less-than-useful emails from a leader in your organization who has mastered the art of sending nonsense. If you really want to never see emails from a specific person in your organization, you can configure a filter to automatically archive selected emails.

How to insert mail merge fields in a Gmail multi-send

To create a new multisend email, you will need to use a desktop class browser such as Google Chrome as follows:

  1. Go to Gmail.
  2. Select the Compose button at the top left. (If the button doesn’t appear, select the menu option with three horizontal lines in the upper-left corner, and then select Mail.) Alternatively, if keyboard shortcuts are enabled, press the c key.
  3. Select the multi-mission icon from the bottom right of the composition menu icons, as shown by the red box in Figure B. The icon appears as a folder placed in front of another folder. A text box indicates “You are using multitasking” along with additional text and a link to learn more.

Figure B

This screenshot shows the second step in a Gmail mail merge.
Enter multisend mode, select recipients, add a subject and enter content. Type the @ key in the email body to access the mail merge tag options, which allow you to insert custom merge fields.
  1. Add recipients (eg a set of recipients via a Google Contact tag), an email subject, and content as you would in any standard Gmail.
  2. Move the cursor in the text area of ​​the email to where you want to insert the merge field, then type @ to access the available mail merge tags, as shown by the red circle in Figure B. As of March 2023, these include @firstname, @lastname, @fullname and @email.
  3. Select the desired email label from the list.

Once you have entered all the content of the multisend email, select the Continue button. At this point, you can choose:

  • Cancel, which allows you to go back to editing your email,
  • Send Preview to transfer a copy of your email to your Inbox so you can carefully review the content of the email or
  • Send All to perform the merge, which sends an email to each selected recipient.

Since multicast emails go to multiple recipients by default, be sure to preview each message before sending. Inevitably, typos, errors, omissions, and incorrect dates/times tend to remain well hidden and are only revealed after you hit Send. Use the Send Preview option, combined with careful proofreading to minimize errors.

If one or more recipients do not have data in a merge tag you used, the system will allow you to enter a default alternative (eg text to use when first or last name is missing) or return to the draft and modify the recipient list to either add the missing data or remove the recipient. For example, if your email begins, “Hi @firstname!” you can select “there” for contacts that don’t have an input name, which results in “Hello!” text to these contacts.

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