Transactional Email Deliverability for Your Website

Categories:  WordPress

As you know, I’m a big fan of automation and the ways it can lighten the burden on small business owners and creatives. However, there are times when certain automations don’t work quite right, and they can end up causing more harm than good. An example of this is your website’s email capability.

Email deliverability is important if your website sends transactional emails to your customers or visitors. Almost all websites send transactional emails, but it can be especially important if you: 

  • Use contact or registration forms on your website
  • Have an e-commerce site and send emails related to customer orders
  • Allow users (yourself included) to log in to the back or front end of your site

So what can go wrong? The default method for sending emails from a website server is relaying mail. This is where the server says it’s you and sends email out in your name, giving automated emails a more personal touch. Even though your email is legitimate and intentional, some servers receiving the email will see that it wasn’t sent from an authenticated sending server, will consider it forged, and will reject it, kind of like an overzealous bouncer.

What can you do to improve email deliverability for your WordPress site?

  1. Pick your email. Determine what email address you want to use, preferably one that matches your website domain name.
  2. Install a SMTP plugin to send emails. I recommend Post SMTP. This routes emails from your site through your sending server, instead of the website host’s built-in relay. This means it’s handled as a normal email, and more mail servers will see it as legitimate and accept it.
  3. Use a reliable service. Connect the SMTP plugin to a service like Postmark or Mailgun, instead of Google Workspace or Office 365. While it is possible and often convenient to use a service you already have, they can easily become disconnected or run into sending limitations. Because of this, I recommend Postmark and use it for all of my sites. And yes, you can use the same address with both Postmark and Google Workspace (or any other combination) and replies will still land in your regular inbox. 
  4. Set up monitoring for failed email delivery. This helps ensure that if there’s a problem—like a connection error with your sending service or a typo entered into a contact form—you are alerted and can resolve any issues. Post SMTP offers a Slack Webhook connection for failed monitoring. Personally, I use a Zapier webhook in this field to create a task in my project management software and send me a text message. 
  5. Make sure everything is configured. Properly configure SPF, DKIM, and DMARC records for your sending domain. Without these in place your emails will likely land in spam. Each service that you use (Google/Office, PostMark, Mailchimp/ActiveCampaign, etc.) will provide records during the account set up. These need to be added to your DNS so that the services can connect to your domain and send emails. DMARC is slightly different as it’s not typically included in the set up process, but it helps protect you from others spoofing your domain and using it to send spam messages. I recommend using Postmark’s free report.

With a little extra setup and fine-tuning, your emails will be landing safely in their intended destinations!

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