PSA – stop using your webhosting service to send/receive emails!
Learn how to get quality email hosting. But why do you need it and how does it affect your business? 2 things: email deliverability and spam. Real email hosting resolves the following issues:
- Outgoing emails sent from your website (WordPress) ending up in your clients/customers “spam box” where they never see it.
- Outgoing emails not getting sent due to security restrictions (on web-server) or random php failures (on your website).
- Too much spam coming into your emails.
RULE OF EMAIL HOSTING – don’t use your web server to send emails!
Yes, I know it was fine many years ago (sending emails from your GoDaddy/cPanel webhosting account). Heck, maybe it’s working for you even right now. But here’s why you need to stop doing it (3 reasons):
REASON #1 – email deliverability
The aggressive spambox
This is the most important reason of all. When you send emails, you want them delivered to your recipients! PERIOD! But here’s the catch. Very often, the emails DO get delivered but they end up in the recipients SPAM BOX! That’s not much of a “delivery” now, is it?
Think of all the potential business you could be losing. Customers that never got their order info. Coworkers that never not got your requests. Friends that never got your invites. And on and on. The hardest part of hitting the spambox is that you didn’t even know your emails went to the spambox. They just silently don’t arrive. Nobody knows you sent something. And you never know it didn’t get there. No error messages sent out. It’s just a massive disconnect in communication.
Why is that?
The spam blockers on email servers have gotten more aggressive than ever. It’s really hard to get anything through. Do you remember the golden age of HTML emails when just about every email in your inbox looked like a mini-website in itself? Full-color images, fancy links and stylized-text? But what about now? Many large companies are trying to go super minimal or even just plain text. That’s what the trend has become today. People trying not to trip the spam blocker.
Server IP reputation
Apparently, any emails with photos or links and certain keywords are highly likely to get marked as spam. You know what else is a large factor in whether or not your email gets marked as spam? Your [email] server IP reputation!
Look it up yourself:
- MXtoolbox Blacklist check
- Sender Score reputation
- There are many other servers but the MXtoolbox is what I use mostly.
So there’s something to know about server reputation. LOW-reputation and NO-reputation are the worst problems you can have for an email server.
- LOW-reputation – means your server has been marked for spam by some email servers around the world. Maybe it’s because spam was actually sent from that server. Maybe it’s because lazy users simply marked your emails as “spam” as a more convenient way of unsubscribing. If you’re on a shared server, there’s a very good chance somebody else on that server was sending the spam (gee thanks neighbor, NOT!).
- NO-reputation – you thought being on your own VPS with a dedicated IP would solve all your email deliverability problems, right? HA! You wish it were that easy! There’s a chance your coveted dedicated IP was already previously marked for bad spam reputation (typical of spammer behavior to rotate IP’s regularly, dumping them as they get blacklisted). But if not that, you have the “NO-reputation” issue…which is your emails still aren’t trusted because your server doesn’t send enough emails! LOL. It’s like wondering whether or not to try that new business that doesn’t have any Yelp reviews! Scary, right?
So where does that leave us?
- You need a server that sends a lot of email.
- But is TRUSTED by other email servers.
Basically, you need an email server that verifies email from its own users. An email server that cares about its own reputation. Do you think your $5/month cheapo webhosting server is going to care about its email reputation? Hahahaha…..HELLLLLLLL NO!
Do you think that expensive WP Engine / Kinsta “managed hosting” is going to care about email hosting? Also a big fat flaming NO! They don’t even offer email hosting and now you know why. Just imagine, a couple hundreds customers on each server clogging up support lines everyday with the same complaint “my emails won’t go through!”
In this day and age of email hosting, it’s just too hard to build up an email server with great reputation. Sending emails from your own server just isn’t feasible anymore. It’s like trying to get into Hollywood without any contacts or referrals. It doesn’t work.
REASON #2 – spam detection
Spammers are so good/aggressive nowadays
Here’s the other thing email servers have a massive problem with, blocking spam. Spammers have gotten so good at mimicking trustworthy emails, that many email servers don’t even know how to deal with them anymore. I’m sure you’ve seen it too. Spams spoofing your own business domain, sometimes even spoofing your own email address. (WHAT THE FLIPPING HELL, HOW DOES THAT EVEN HAPPEN?!) Oh yeah. They get around your server spamblock by making it look like it’s even coming from your own server.
Are there ways to block most common spam tactics? Of course, but can the average cheap webhosting server do it? NOPE! Think about it this way. If even Google and Yahoo’s billion dollar email service can’t block spam, what makes you think your little $20 web-server can? And on a more cynical conspiracy-theorist thought, what makes you think they even want to? After all…if you use up your space allotment, you’d have to purchase a bigger plan, right? Poor service gets them a chance to upsell you to something more expensive (profitable), right? It’s like those small airplane seats!
The best email spam protection comes from dedicated EMAIL SERVERS
Webhosts don’t have time to deal with the complexities of email hosting. They don’t have time to tune and retune their spam blocker to account for the millions of incoming spam, while still allowing the millions of “legit marketing” emails that also look quite similar to spam! They’ve got hackers and the hundred other usual webhosting issues to deal with. Email is among their lowest priority.
If you’re sick of looking at hundreds of spam in your email box everyday, or coming home from vacation to see your inbox turned into the Gotham City of spam, you need to get a real email hosting service (run by actual email hosting experts).
I’m at the point where I too, wonder what the difference is between spam and non-spam. I guess it’s just “consensual” spam and “nonconsensual” spam.
REASON #3 – email hosting complexity
What does it take to run an email server?
Hell if I know. I’ve already tried and never got very good at it. As an experienced webhost and server-manager, here are the things I’ve dealt with on a regular basis:
- Adding DNS records – to improve email deliverability rates. SPF, DMARC, DKIM. Maybe it used to help like 5 years ago. But it does nothing now.
- Installing spamblocking software – on my server and even email clients. Most do nothing or have clever ways of blocking spam but with a few pitfalls. Either they don’t block enough spam, ORRRRR they still snag a few false positives. I don’t know about you, but false positives are acceptable for me. One lost critical email could mean a lot of business and potential dollars lost, or even a really angry client because I never got their important email. No way in hell do I love dumpster-diving through my spambox for false positives.
- Managing IP reputation – oh what a painful process. If you’re lucky, somebody else on your server notices their emails getting blocked and tells you about it. If you’re not lucky, you stumble upon it right in the middle of an important project. You look up blacklists and start contacting different server companies and ISP’s, filling out forms and begging and proving with all the info you can that you are not a spammer. But their attitude is indifferent, “guilty until proven innocent”. And likewise too, email hosting is also the least of their concerns. UGHHHHH!!!! You know what the hardest part of all is? Trying to explain to them why your client’s marketing emails (that look just like spam)…is NOT spam.
- External email rights – do you allow outside servers to send emails from your domain or not? If you say “NO”, then integrated apps and services not hosted on your server can’t send emails on your behalf. If you say “YES”, then outside spammers can spoof your domain and spam the crap out of you. Hmmm….at least I get to choose how I die.
- Email frequency – oh this is a big one. I never got that deep into the woods to manage this but it’s a thing. You have to control how many emails your servers send out at once. Do it too much and you trigger the spam-blockers.
- Email protocols and web client – I hear POP3 is outdated now and IMAP is all the rage. Kinda makes sense. No more hassling with POP3 download (but leave on server for X number of days). Deciding what protocols to use, deciding what protocols you have to allow for your clients. Deciding which web clients to install. Settings and more settings.
- Email storage – high performance web servers now are stored on super expensive RAID 10 drive arrays. Do you really want to waste your precious SSD storage on junk emails?! Hell no! So what do you do? Locally-mount some block storage? Or build a less performant server solely for email use? Ehhhh…just one more proxy, huh?
- Email management – haha, back in the good ole days when email management wasn’t actually about the delivery/receipt aspect but more about the actual management. Where to store them. How to migrate them. Users, passwords. The easy stuff!
BEST Email Hosting providers?
This will be an entirely separate guide in itself but I’ll list off the names right now for you to get started. It used to be that enterprise-grade email hosting was expensive or difficult to setup. That isn’t the case any more. BUTTTTT…for just a few extra dollars a month, you still can get reliable enterprise email hosting for your business!
- G-Suite – this is the gold standard of email hosting. It only makes sense that your emails would get through if you’re emailing from the biggest email company in the world. G-Suite is also the most expensive but also most features, great deliverability and spam protection. I love the integration with their mobile.
- MXroute – my second choice (and personal favorite) because it’s cheap as heck and works amazingly. For a low-cost, functional but no-frills email hosting, MXroute is your very first step. If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t want to pay for email hosting, go MXroute.
- Outlook 365 – arguably even better email deliverability than G-Suite since they at least can get through their own email servers and also really tough spam blocking (Microsoft has the toughest spam-blockers! I actually hate them for it.). Also integrates nicely with everything else Microsoft Office (as expected).
- Rackspace/Zoho – reasonably cheap but full functional email hosting providers with great delieverability, spam protection, and cloud space. Think of them as “cheaper G-Suite” but without Google integration, of course.