Gmail Distribution Lists Made Easy: Send Group Emails Like a Pro

Struggling with sending emails one by one in Gmail? Discover the power of Gmail distribution lists to simultaneously reach multiple Google Contacts. This tutorial will guide you in creating your own list and improving your email productivity with just a few steps. It all starts with Contact Labels.

Before I start, I should clarify some terms. First, Google no longer uses the phrase “Google Groups” in its Contact Manager. Instead, they use the word “Label.” Google Groups is reserved for their public discussion groups and private forums. You may see me use “labels,” “groups,” and “lists” interchangeably. I prefer the original term “Groups”.

Gmail Distribution Lists

Distribution lists or email lists have long been a favorite feature for power email users in all email applications. They allow you to use a single list name that equates to everyone’s email addresses on the list.

For example, you could have a personal distribution list called “Family” that includes 25 of your relatives. Rather than typing or selecting each contact, you use the list address or label in the email address field. Gmail then translates this list to the equivalent email addresses.

One caveat is that these email lists work for your Google account but not for other contacts, even if they’re on your contact list. In other words, Uncle Joe won’t be able to use your family distribution list. Instead, he will have to create his own. Or, if you’re nice, you could export those contacts as a CSV file for him or send him the tutorial on how to import Google contacts.

Another item to remember is these email labels don’t show to others. For example, many people get emails from their companies with names like If you look at those emails, you see that group address in the From: field and often can reply to it. However, with Gmail lists, the outgoing email doesn’t show your group or mailing list label name.

Starts with Google Contact Labels

For this tutorial, I am using my Google Workspace account. As a result, your screen may look slightly different from the free version. You can get to your contacts by going to in your browser.

The Google Contact Manager is divided into two parts, as shown in the picture below.

[1] This left section shows your existing groups and functions. Some groups are automatically created based on your activities. For example, if you import records into Google Contacts, it will create a new contact label. Another example is “Starred” or “Favorite” contacts, shown at the top of your contacts list.

[2] The right section displays the contact’s primary fields. In some cases, you may see incomplete entries. For example, you may have a starred contact synced from your Android phone, but you don’t have their email address.

How to Create Contact Labels (AKA Groups)

Groups or labels can either be created ahead of time or at the time you select your contacts. Google does have two contact repositories – Contacts and Other Contacts. Most likely, you will just be using the main group.

  1. In this scenario, you hover your mouse over the contact’s icon and check the box to include it. Once you select a contact, new control icons appear at the top. I’ve outlined them in red.
  1. Click the Manage labels icon from the top right and select Create label. The Label icon looks like a price tag.
Google Contact Manage Labels icon.
  1. Enter your new label name and click Save.
Adding a label for a new contact group.
Creating a new contact label

Your new label (aka group) should show on the left side with an indicator of how many contacts are in this group. And depending on your screen width, you should see values in the Labels column.

Using Labels and Contact Search

In this example, I wish to create a group for city council members. I previously added “city council” text in their Notes field for each contact record.

Contact record with notes and email address.
Contact record with a note
  1. Open Google Contact Manager.
  2. Click the + sign to the right of Labels in the left menu.
  1. Provide the name of your group in the Create Label dialog.
  2. Click Save.
  3. In the text box at the top, enter your search criteria and click the Search button with the magnifying glass. You should see the contacts that match your criteria.
  4. Hover over each contact and click the checkbox to include.
  5. Drag the contacts on top of your new label.

An important point to remember is if you create a group based on search criteria, the group isn’t dynamic. So, for example, if I make a group based on contacts with the note “city council” and add another contact with the same note, it will not join my existing group.

Conversely, removing the note from a contact won’t delink the contact from my existing group.

Tip: If you have a large number of items returned in your search, hover over the first entry and tick the checkbox. Then go to the down triangle next to the selection icon and choose All.

Selection menu options showing All.

How to Create a Gmail Distribution List

Emailing the members is simple once a group is created from your Google contacts. Although you can email from the Google Contact Manager, you can’t use labels.

  1. Open Gmail.
  2. Click the Compose button.
  3. In the To: text box, type the Google Contacts label name. It should appear once a match is found. In this case we can see there are 3 members.
Entering label name into To: field.
  1. Click the Group name, and all the members will show individually in your To: field. And yes, you can use the Cc and Bcc fields instead.

One item you may have to look out for is contacts with multiple email addresses. Gmail will use the first email address listed for the contact. You can see the order if you open the contact’s record.

Removing a Contact’s Label

One item you may need to do is to change a contact’s label. In my “city council” example, I would probably adjust the members based on election results.

  1. Click the contact record you’d like to change to see its details.
  2. Click the More actions button on the top right. It has three vertical dots.
  1. In the Change labels section, click the label with the checkmark you want to remove.

Key Points & Takeaways

  • Google no longer uses the phrase “Google Groups” in its contact manager. Instead, they use the word “Label.”
  • Distribution lists or email lists allow you to use a single label name that equates to everyone’s email addresses on the list.
  • These email lists work for your Google account but not for others. Each user needs to create their own list.
  • The outgoing email from a Gmail list never shows your group or label name.
  • You can create groups or labels ahead of time or when you select your contacts.
  • Be aware of contacts with multiple email addresses. Gmail will use the first email address listed for the contact.