WordPress and your hosting provider are terrible at sending emails.
In most cases, they flat out fail to send the emails at all. They never even leave the site. In a perfect scenario, the emails go out but the deliverability on those emails is terrible and they either never reach their destination or they end up in spam.
You can solve these problems with just one plugin, and it's completely free: FluentSMTP.
How does FluentSMTP Work?
FluentSMTP acts like the middleman between WordPress and email service providers. If you're using FluentCRM then it facilitates that integration as well.
Below is a diagram for you to follow along.
FluentSMTP connects your website to a provider rather than trying to use WordPress and your hosting provider to send emails.
This is where most people get confused and mistakenly believe FluentSMTP is sending the emails. It's not. It's simply creating an interface for an email provider like Amazon SES or Sendinblue to send emails for your website.
The customer receives the email that by all appearances comes from you, but it was send by you through one of the providers.
Types of Email Your Site Can Send
There are two types of emails you can send send: Transactional or Marketing.
If you're just getting started, or don't do any email marketing from your website, then you only need FluentSMTP to manage your "transactional" emails.
Transactional emails are automated emails triggered by account activity, notifications, or commercial transactions. These emails are unique to the individual who triggers them. Here are some examples:
- Shipping notifications
- Order receipts
- Customer service responses
- Password reset notifications
- Account credential welcome emails
- Comment notifications
These emails can be pretty important, and when your website is responsible for sending them it's recipe for disaster, AKA they're never delivered.
If you're going to send marketing emails from your website, which is actually pretty uncommon since most people will use an external service like ActiveCampaign (which I use for my marketing email), then you'll need another service that facilitates this and probably another Provider.
The makers of FluentSMTP have an email marketing platform for WordPress called FluentCRM (which I use in my businesses), and it uses FluentSMTP without any advanced configuration required. In fact, FluentCRM works BETTER with FluentSMTP.
Marketing emails will typically exceed the limitations on free accounts, so you'll need to sign up for a service provider which have a cost associated with it.
Choosing a Connection Provider
FluentSMTP integrates with pretty much everything worth using for sending emails. These providers each come with their own pricing, sending requirements and limitations, and setup process. I'm going to recommend the three that I use below and caution you against using Google Workspace for marketing emails because it has limits and I've seen accounts closed too many times.
I use Amazon SES, which is so cheap it's practically free. However, it has one of the most involved and difficult setup processes of all email providers. I have a complete Amazon SES Setup guide and walkthrough (with video) here.
Once you have your Amazon SES account set up and integrated with FluentSMTP, you'll need to apply for production access so that you can get out of the Sandbox.
The Amazon SES Sandbox limits your ability to send emails. While in the sandbox, you can only send emails for testing purposes, which usually means just yourself. The process of setup and getting approved took about 2 days for me.
I would only go through this hassle if you plan to send marketing emails to a large list.
Sendinblue: Easy, Quick Choice (FREE)
I really like Sendinblue as a quick, default pick for sending transactional emails. With a free account, you simply paste in your API key to FluentSMTP and you're all set. You can send up to 300 emails per day completely for free.
You don't need to use the actual Sendinblue SaaS platform. They're like a MailChimp or ConvertKit service. You just want their API key that FluentSMTP will use to send through them.
Sendinblue is awesome for WooCommerce sites with relatively low volume.
SendGrid is pretty much just like Sendinblue. You won't really use the SendGrid interface, you'll just copy and paste the API key into FluentSMTP and you'll be done.
I use SendGrid for my clients (I have a paid subscription) because it lets me track when emails are opened, delivered, and what the user does with them. This is crucial for me when I'm managing my client's emails because I can prove what's happening to almost every email.
Pricing is competitive. You can send up to 40,000 emails for $15/month. If you have high-volume transactional emails, I highly recommend SendGrid.
A rising star in the transactional email space is Postmark. I want to emphasize that this option, unlike some of the others, is strictly for transactional emails. If you want to send marketing emails, you'll want to go with their parent company ActiveCampaign.
Their pricing is relatively more expensive, coming in at $10/month for 10,000 emails. Though if you're sending 10,000 transactional emails I sure hope you're capitalized enough to justify $10 to facilitate that.
What really sets Postmark apart is their reporting tools. They're the leader in deliverability and troubleshooting.
Common Issues Fixed by FluentSMTP
Students aren't receiving my Thrive Apprentice emails with their account details.
Use FluentSMTP to fix your WordPress site so that it will send emails properly.
Students aren't receiving their password reset emails or other emails from my site.
Your site isn't set up to send SMTP emails. Install FluentSMTP and follow my guide above.
Emails sent from my website are showing the wrong from name.
FluentSMTP lets you choose your Sender Name (from name) and 'force' it so that recipients always see the right name.
Emails send from my website are showing the wrong email address.
You can choose a 'from' email address in FluentSMTP. This should be an email address at the same domain.
I don't get comment notifications or notifications when someone creates an account.
This is because your website can't send email. This is very common, and usually the first indication you need a plugin like FluentSMTP.