Gmail - not an email marketing service

Don’t use Gmail for email marketing. Please.

Gmail and other webmail services are built for sending one-on-one emails. Perfect for personal use, not so much for business marketing. Trying to use them for marketing will likely leave you in a bad spot. Here’s why.

1. Contacts are not opt-in


Someone appearing in your Gmail contacts is not proof that you have explicit permission to send them promotional messages.

Most Gmail accounts can be configured to automatically add people as new contacts when you email them, or vice versa. This is bad opt-in proof, and sending promotional email to a list built this way runs afoul of spam laws in most jurisdictions.

Gmail also precludes you from being able to use a double opt-in process, the gold standard for email marketing.

2. Contacts can’t opt-out permanently


In promotional emails, an unsubscribe link, like explicit opt-in, is required by law in most parts of the world. With Gmail, you’ll most likely have to process “reply to unsubscribe” emails by hand. There's nothing more frustrating for someone receiving your email to have to reply "unsubscribe" and there are definitely better ways to spend your time than manually deleting contacts from your list.

And if your “list” is your Gmail contacts, you’ll have to “unsubscribe” someone by deleting them from your contacts; there will be no difference between someone who has unsubscribed and someone who was never on your “list.” So it’s possible they’ll accidentally end up in your contacts again if you email them or they email you.

But let me just repeat my first point: if you don’t have a working unsubscribe link in your promotional emails, you are probably breaking the law.

3. You’ll affect deliverability of important emails


Contacts who mark your email as spam will affect the delivery of all your other emails, including transactional, support, and other “must get to inbox” messages. And our data shows people are much more likely to report spam if there isn’t an unsubscribe link.

4. No analytics or segmenting


Email marketing services provide analytics like open and click tracking. As is well covered on other parts of the web, you need use this data to remove inactive subscribers regularly and stay compliant. And you should be segmenting your list based on behavior, so you can target your messages appropriately.

5. You’ll probably leak your entire contact list


About once a month I get a promotional email via Gmail where someone has accidentally put their entire contact list in the “To:” or “CC:” line, instead of “BCC.” Even neglecting the impact to your business, this is a huge violation of your customers’ privacy. Don't do that to customers.

6. Your list will grow slower, and be less compliant


Privy and other list growth services do not support Gmail as a marketing service, so your list will grow slower. And on top of this, you’ll have a hard time justifying your list is legitimate with opt-in proof, so migrating to a real marketing service will be hard, and it’ll be harder the larger your list becomes.

7. There are no excuses


Ease of use: Modern email marketing software is easy and straightforward to use; in fact, easier than using Gmail for marketing, since you won’t need to ram a square peg through a round hole.

Price: Can you afford to be managing your marketing in Gmail? If email is a critical part of your business strategy, then you’ll actually make more money by paying for a marketing service. If it isn’t, then you’re just wasting your time spamming your Gmail contacts anyway.


Privy integrates with these recommended services:

  • Emma: for professional marketing, support, and value-added services.

  • ConvertKit: for professional bloggers.

  • Mailchimp: for general email marketing (up to 2000 contacts free).

  • Klaviyo: for ecommerce marketing (up to 500 emails/month free).

Along with 30+ fantastic email marketing alternatives:

Have a question? Let us know in the comments or get in touch at our support address.