How to improve website email deliverability

Websites need to send automated emails for a variety of reasons, the most common being form submission confirmation and receipt of a purchase. Unfortunately, these important emails don’t always make it to their destination – and that’s a problem. It’s helpful to understand why your email confirmations aren’t being delivered and how to improve website email deliverability.

Note: the emails we’re talking about today are different from marketing emails. Marketing emails should always be sent through a service like Mailchimp or Constant Contact.

Read on to learn:

  1. Why automated emails aren’t delivering
  2. Ways to make sure automated emails deliver

Why aren’t my website’s automated emails being delivered?

To understand the problem, we first need to understand the background. Websites live on web servers. Sometimes, these servers function as email servers as well. For example, WP Engine is a web server that can double as an email server. However, some web hosts will not allow email sending for fear their servers will be misused for spam and their IP addresses blacklisted by receiving email servers. Even when web servers allow email sending, they are typically not optimized for this purpose or set up to play nice with your content management system (CMS). If an email doesn't send or bounces, there may be no way to see a log of these errors and diagnose the issue.

The prevalence of spam is another contributor to poor email deliverability. As spam has become a bigger and bigger problem, email services like Gmail have become more aggressive with filtering incoming messages. Sometimes your messages might not even make it to your visitors' spam folders, let alone their inboxes, unless your (sending) email server is configured correctly.

We hate to call it out, but sometimes the truth hurts – user error is another added complexity to why automated emails aren’t delivered. Sometimes your visitors might have a typo in their email address, and then complain to you that they're not receiving your messages. You may have no way of seeing that the message simply bounced.

How can I improve my website email deliverability?

1. Adjust settings : It may take several rounds of trial and error to fix deliverability issues. Try changing your server configuration or the settings of a plugin that's attempting to send email. This might include experimenting with different “from” addresses, or making sure the content of your messages isn’t too short (these can get flagged as spam).

Even if you get these things right, your emails still may not make it to their destination. There are so many different email services out there, each with different levels and types of spam control.

2. Use a third-party email server: Since plugins and web servers can be unreliable for sending messages from a website, we recommend using a third-party email server. A third-party email server uses an API (what’s an API?) to route all messages through a third-party sender. Email sending services deploy millions of messages per day, and their advanced tools are built to help “convince” visitors’ receiving email servers (like Gmail) that your messages are not spam.

Third-party email servers also provide detailed logs of what is happening to your messages — if they’re delivering, bouncing, getting marked as spam, etc. We recommend SendGrid for most of our clients. SendGrid allows you to send up to 100 emails per day through their service for free. We also like Mailgun and Brevo.

3. Hire a web partner: Solving problems like poor email deliverability is why we’re here. We can help diagnose issues, integrate your website with a third-party email service, and create forms that work with your automated email workflow.

Effective website email communication is a must. We’re here to help.

Get in touch

Monthly newsletter: Interviews with experts, websites doing it right, and recommended tools.

Sign me up

Hire us: exceptional websites and a better project experience.

Get started today
× strategy-guide-graphic

Free eBook: The Website Strategy Guide

Develop an air-tight plan for a winning website.

Learn more