Imagine a potential dream client filling out your inquiry form, clicking send, and then, crickets. You never got the message because either you didn’t receive the notification at all, or it landed in your junk mail and you just blasted that folder. 😱
If you aren’t confident you’re notified when someone completes a form on your website, make sure you aren’t looking like a jerk because you never responded or possibly missing out on helping people by setting up SMTP to assist with delivery of that precious email. Here’s why SMTP is important.
The what and why.
What the heck is SMTP and why should I care? I’ll give you the CliffsNotes version.
When someone completes a form on your website, you (and the person who completed the form) should receive an email notification about it (if set up properly). Stayed tuned for a post about forms later. Those email notifications originate from your website. Other emails are also generated from your website at various times like when a new user is created, someone purchases something, or your security plugin sends you an update. With me so far?
Ok, wading in…so far so good.
When that happens, those emails need to be routed from the website to your email provider, then to the recipient’s inbox. To make it to the pot at the end of the rainbow (a.k.a the email inbox), the email must also run the gauntlet and go through multiple spam controllers, the spam police that patrol the internet. Makes landing in the inbox almost an Olympic event for that little email.
In order to keep your email provider (and your recipient’s email provider) or the spam police from thinking these emails are spam, an SMTP plugin/service is set up to “verify” these emails with your email provider to prove it’s legit. Think of this verification as your VIP pass to get past the lines without any hassle. It’s not a guarantee, but without it, your email may end up in junk mail or not be delivered at all. Très annoying!
Your VIP pass (the SMTP plugin) ensures that the email address set up in WordPress (usually your admin email address) is actually owned by you and that email address isn’t some scammer that has hacked your site and trying to send spam. Confusing, huh?
Everyone needs it.
I know, I know…sounds techy, but bear with me, as I explain a tad more about it and why you need SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) set up. 😉
The entire world has problems with email delivery. Even big corporations like Mastercard have an SMTP configuration setup to assist in delivery of emails generated from their website.
Using an SMTP authentication plugin/service verifies to the internet police that you DO actually own your email address(es) and aren’t a spammer, and in doing so, your email host also gives a thumbs up. It’s a complicated process, but setting this up will help to ensure no emails are missed by you or your clients, and that’s what’s important.
As scary as all of it may sound, it’s pretty simple (in most cases) to set up with an amazing service and a simple plugin.
There are tons of ways to get this set up, some simple, some more complicated. Here are my top 2 options.
My go-to service for SMTP is Postmark because it’s easy to set up and free to use up to 100 emails per month–plenty for most small businesses.
However, if you get lots of inquiries (via forms), a beaucoup of blog post comments, or other types of interactions that trigger email notifications to be sent from your website, you may need to upgrade from the freebie version.
If/when you do go over your monthly allotment of 100 emails, Postmark will send you an email letting you know that if you want to continue receiving your emails, you’ll need to upgrade to their $10/month flavor which allows for up to 10,000 emails per month.
A huge difference in total emails and well worth the small investment each month for peace of mind and assurance notifications are delivered!
For Postmark to handle the verification (remember the VIP pass I mentioned above?), you’ll need to decide which email address you’d like to use for the verification. It should be an email address using your URL. Typically, it’s a generic email address like email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, etc., but you can use any you prefer (even email@example.com).
Note: The email address you choose will be used as the “send as” email address in WordPress. In other words, when you or a client receives an email notification from your website, it will look like it’s coming from this email address. For example, I have mine set up to use my main, business email address, so when someone completes a form, the email they receive will come from my hello@ email address.
Once you know the email address you want to use, go to Postmark and simply click the blue “Start free trial” button at the top right of their website.
Upon creation of your account, you’ll receive an email from Postmark to the email address you provide. You’ll click a link to “verify” your email address within that email.
You’ll have the option to add more email addresses that you can verify the same way, or if you want to be able to send from any or your domain email addresses, you’ll want to verify your entire domain. To do that, you’ll need access to your domain DNS settings.
Their team and their easy-to-follow instructions will help you get it set up and integrated with WordPress using their plugin. I highly suggest following their instructions to make sure you take care of it properly.
After adding the Postmark plugin to your website, you’ll add the email address you verified and used to set up your account into the plugin settings in your website. Once you’ve done that, test it via the plugin settings by clicking the “Send Test Email” tab.
Note: There is a lot of information in their knowledge base making it possibly a little overwhelming and a tad techy for the tech-averse, but it’s on the easier end of the tech spectrum. Once set up, it will (for the most part) be a set-it-up-and-forget-it type of service. Aren’t those the best?
READER PERK: If/when you convert to a paid plan, you are welcome to contact me and let me know. I’ll submit your name and email to Postmark for a Friends & Family discount where they’ll give you one month for free. That’s good for a couple of Starbucks or a glass of wine!
2 Other Services/Plugins:
If you’d prefer to use something else, other plugins I can recommend are: Post SMTP, WP Mail SMPT, or Fluent SMTP.
These are all good, reliable, and have free options, but they sometimes require extra technical assistance to set up properly. They may also periodically need to be re-set after the plugin updates, if email verification credentials change, or possibly other circumstances. Dig into their sites to compare and for set-up instructions or assistance.
Help when you need it.
If this kind of DIYing is not your cup of tea, reach out here for help, or DM me on Insta, I’d love to hear from you and help you get SMTP’d!
À bientôt !
Hi, I'm Janet
WordPress web designer, digital strategist, and dog lover. At Create Launch Grow, I help women who are feeling stuck in a website they've outgrown, keep their business moving forward with a website that works wonders.