The State of Email Deliverability in WordPress

This post is not sponsored by any of the mentioned companies or products.

Emails are useless unless they get to the recipient’s inbox. WordPress sites generate all sorts of emails:

  • New user accounts
  • Forgotten passwords
  • WooCommerce orders

The list could go on. These are called transactional emails, and this is what this article will focus on, not marketing emails. Having emails delivered to the intended recipient’s reliably is very important, but by default, WordPress is really bad at doing this. Let’s explore why.

The Problem

By default, WordPress uses a function called wp_mail() to send emails from your website. When using this default method, you are sending emails using your web server and not through your email provider. This is similar to how spammers and scammers spoof email addresses, which is why WordPress emails often end up in the spam folder.

The Solution(s)

There are a few valid solutions to this problem. There’s no single best solution as it really depends on your budget and volume of emails your website sends.

Send via SMTP

SMTP stands for “simple mail transfer protocol” – it’s the method that most email clients use for sending emails. By changing WordPress to use SMTP instead, email deliverability should increase.

The downside of this method is that most email providers have a limit (usually per hour) of how many emails they will allow you to send (this is to stop spammers). You will need to check with your provider how many they allow you to send and work out if this would be enough. For non-membership or eCommerce sites this way is likely to be fine.

It is possible to do this programmatically, but it may be easier to use a plugin such as Easy WP SMTP.

You will need to know your providers SMTP settings to set the plugin up (can be found easily using a search engine), but once setup you should have much more reliable emails.

Use an email deliverablity provider

Using an email deliverabilty provider is now common practice. These are companies that specialize in ensuring emails get to their intended recipients. These services are a good choice for sites that send lots of critical emails, such as eCommerce or membership sites.

They are usually paid for products, with a small free tier for testing. There are many providers out there; we don’t recommend a particular company, but we’ve tried to recommended companies that provide a first party WordPress plugin or have an excellent third party offering:

There are also some popular services that have out-of-date WordPress plugins, such as Sendgrid and Mailgun. You can use the WP Mail SMTP plugin for these – although we wouldn’t recommend it for client websites because of the needless menu bar icon, it’s non-standard UI and constant upsells.

Setting up using the above plugins is usually simple, but may require some DNS entries depending on the provider.

Wrapping it up

Email deliverability is critical for many sites, particularly eCommerce and memership sites. Using a specialist provider might save you time and money in the long run and save you all sorts of headaches.

What have your experiences been with WordPress email deliverability? Let us know in the comments.