Out of the box, most web hosting providers support some sort of email message sending. The most typical use of this is with a simple “contact us” form. A visitor completes the contact form, and the information in the form is sent to the site owner by email. Usually the visitor will receive a thank you email message too. These emails are usually generated by the web hosting provider using PHP, along with the form that’s embedded on the website. Basic ecommerce transactions do the same thing.
The problem with the web host’s basic emailer is that it all too often is unreliable, not branded and is not configured for security and deliverability. In other words, if the form’s email message is sent, it can too easily wind up in a spam folder. This can lead to missed messages from interested visitors—which is not good! This is where a transactional email service integration can be a huge help.
A transactional email service generates email messages, usually personalized ones, in response to an event or transaction that happens on a web server. The most common uses are for website forms (like contact message forms), password recovery requests and ecommerce transactions (notices and payment receipts, etc.). Besides offering much better reliability, integrating a transactional email service with your website provides other valuable benefits:
Brandability & trust building: A service can optionally be setup to send messages using your domain, or (better) a subdomain of your domain, such as forms.yourdomain.com. Using a subdomain allows you to separate this email message processing from your primary domain name and to provide unique security verification such as SPF and DKIM (see below).
Message security: As noted above, an email service allows you use your own domain, (or theirs), and will require proof of your domain ownership to do so. Generally, this includes DKIM and SPF tags added to your domain’s DNS details. This prevents message spoofing—critical for deliverability and trust, especially with ecommerce transactions. This feature will also greatly reduce, if not eliminate, the possibility of your messages winding up in the SPAM dump.
Message tracking logs: Most transactional mail providers offer a tracking feature. If enabled, you can log in and see detail about opens, delivery or bounces in the service’s log files. This is really valuable for troubleshooting missed messages.
There’s a lot of transactional email services, but a few are dominant. I’m a big fan of Mailgun. It’s generally easy to set up and you can send up to 10,000 messages/month for free. If you need more than that (a good quality problem to have), it’s inexpensive to upgrade. Also check out SendGrid, Amazon SES, and Mandrill.
If you opt to use the service’s default sending domain, you can probably do the setup yourself… but for full benefits, work with a webmaster that can confidently edit your domain’s DNS.
📬 Happy emailing!