WPLift is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

How to Configure WordPress to Use SMTP Server: WordPress Tutorial

Last Updated on August 18th, 2023

Tags: , ,

Having trouble with WordPress emails not sending or ending up in recipients’ spam folders? Setting up a WordPress SMTP server might be just the ticket.

The default way that WordPress sends emails (via wp_mail) just isn’t that reliable because it’s not designed for reliable emailing. SMTP, short for Simple Mail Transfer Protocol, is designed exclusively for email, which is why it’s the solution to your WordPress site’s email woes.

In this blog, we will look at the basics of SMTP, and why it is helpful for WordPress users. Then, we will look at the most essential part of the blog: how to configure your WordPress site to send emails via SMTP rather than the default WordPress email function. 

Why Set Up a WordPress SMTP Server?

By default, WordPress sends its emails using the wp_mail function. You don’t need to configure anything – your site can start sending emails right away as soon as you install WordPress.

However, the problem is that your WordPress site’s server isn’t really configured to send emails, and this method also lacks authentication. When you put those issues together, you end up with many of your site’s emails in users’ spam folders.

For example, it’s pretty common for notification emails from a form plugin to end up in spam, and we have observed all of these while working with the WordPress website cycle.

So, if the problem with WordPress’ built-in email-sending tool is that it’s not really designed for emails, then the solution is to find something that is specifically designed for sending emails. That “something” is, SMTP!

The only issue is that SMTP isn’t among WordPress’ core functionalities. Hence, you must install a plugin if you want to have more control over how and when your emails are delivered. 

Fortunately, there are hundreds of WordPress email configuration plugins available online. You can use any of them to send messages from your website.

An SMTP server is a web server that’s specifically designed  for sending emails. Using a WordPress SMTP plugin, you can configure your WordPress site to send all of its emails via the dedicated SMTP server, making your emails much more trustworthy.

Article Continues Below

After doing SMTP settings for WordPress site, your site’s emails should be able to avoid the spam folder most of the time. 

Better yet, as long as your site doesn’t send more than a few hundred emails per day, you should be able to find a free WordPress SMTP server that can get the job done. 

Best Free WordPress SMTP Services

There are a variety of different SMTP services that you can use. Here are some of the best options offering a forever free plan:

  • SendGrid – forever free plan for up to 100 emails per day.
  • Sendinblue – forever free plan for up to 300 emails per day (also lets you send marketing emails – learn more in our Sendinblue review).
  • Pepipost – forever free plan for up to 100 emails per day.
  • Elastic Email – forever free plan for up to 100 emails per day.
  • Mailjet – forever free plan for up to 200 emails per day.

And, here are some good options that, while not offering a forever free plan, are still pretty dang affordable:

  • Amazon SES (Simple Email Service) – very affordable  ‘pay-as-you-go’ pricing for just $0.10 per 1,000 emails.
  • Mailgun – three-month free trial, and affordable pricing after that.
  • WP Mail SMTP – The plugin doesn’t have a free plan but comes with a 14-day money-back guarantee. The Pro plan is the most affordable option for online entrepreneurs, bloggers, and WordPress website owners who want to explore different SMTP setup solutions. 

Please remember that the installation and configuration process for each of these WordPress plugins is quite different. Each plugin comes with extensive documentation, so you shouldn’t encounter any problems adding them to your site.

Finally, some WordPress hosts also offer their own SMTP servers that you can use for your WordPress site. It is a great option. However, it’s not an option that we recommend. These servers are reliable, but they usually don’t offer API access like a dedicated SMTP service.

A plugin like WP Mail SMTP lets you send emails directly from your Gmail account. However, integrating Gmail SMTP with WordPress is technical as it involves enabling Gmail API with the Google Developers Console. 

Moreover, the WP Mail SMTP plugin might be too expensive for bloggers or digital entrepreneurs starting their first site. 

Since you can find many solid free SMTP services, We recommend using a dedicated service instead of your host’s SMTP server.

How to Configure WordPress SMTP Server Using SendGrid

Again, while there are different free SMTP services, for this tutorial, we will be using SendGrid. Follow the simple steps for doing SMTP settings for WordPress site effectively.

Article Continues Below

  1. It’s free forever for up to 100 emails per day, which should work for most WordPress sites.
  2. It offers an API that gives you a simpler way to send emails instead of needing to enter standalone SMTP server credentials.
  3. It features a dynamic template editor that allows you to perform conditional testing. 
  4. The plugin features an activity feed, and gives you an estimation of your sender’s reputation.

One of the biggest downsides of using SendGrid’s Free plan is that it doesn’t include guaranteed ticket response times, so you may have to wait a couple of days to get an answer to your question.

The basic WordPress SMTP server configuration process goes like this:

  1. Register for a free SendGrid account.
  2. Access your SendGrid API key.
  3. Use a WordPress SMTP plugin to configure your site to send emails using the SendGrid SMTP API.

Let’s go through it in more detail…

1. Register for a SendGrid Account

To get started, visit the SendGrid website, and register for a free account. You’ll be asked to provide information about yourself, your company, and the number of emails you want to send monthly.

You won’t be able to create a SendGrid account, if your WordPress website hasn’t gone live yet.

2. Create SendGrid API Key

Once you’ve activated your SendGrid account, you need to create an API key. The API key is what you’ll use to connect your WordPress site to SendGrid. It’s also more secure/reliable than entering SMTP credentials directly (e.g. a server, username, password, etc.).

To create an API key, go to this link, or go to Settings → API Keys in your SendGrid dashboard. Then, click the Create API Key button.

create api key in sendgrid dashboard

Next up:

  • Give it a name – you’re the only one who will see the name, which just helps you remember it.
  • Choose Full Access.
  • Click Create & View.

create api key and configure in sendgrid dashboard

Article Continues Below

Then, you should see your API key – keep this screen open because you’ll need it in the next step, and SendGrid will only show you your API key once. If you accidentally close it, don’t worry! You can just create another API key!

Authenticating your domain and activating the two-factor authentication are some steps you’ll have to take when configuring your account. Still, you can complete these steps after you integrate SendGrid with WordPress. 

Please note that you cannot manage subscribers, access dedicated IPs, or test emails with the free version of this plugin.

created api key and view in sendgrid dashboard

3. Install Post SMTP Mailer/Email Log Plugin

Next, you need to install the free Post SMTP Mailer/Email Log plugin on your WordPress site. There are many WordPress SMTP plugins; however, we consider this plugin due to some reasons:

  • It’s 100% free.
  • It lets you connect to the SendGrid API, and has a ton of other services.
  • You can view a log of the emails that your site sends, which helps you make sure everything is working.
  • The plugin has over 300,000 active installations. 
  • Intuitive setup wizard.
  • It uses OAuth 2.0 authorization protocol to protect email passwords.
  • It lets you set a fallback SMTP server so that you can still deliver emails even if SendGrid fails for some reason.
  • It’s a fork of the previously-popular Postman SMTP plugin. This plugin was very popular until the developer discontinued supporting it.

The plugin has a 4.8 rating from around 388 reviews on the WordPress directory, which indicates it is one of the best WP Mail SMTP plugins.

Go to the WordPress Plugins menu, and locate the Post SMTP Mailer/Email Log plugin. Proceed to install and activate the plugin.

4. Configure Post SMTP Mailer/Email Log

After installing and activating the plugin, head over to the WordPress settings menu. Find the plugin’s ‘Start the Wizard’ option, and follow the on-screen instructions to configure it. 

Afterward, go to the new Post SMTP tab in your WordPress dashboard, and click the Show All Settings link under the wizard button:

post smtp mailer settings

On the next screen:

  1. Choose SendGrid API in the Type drop-down.
  2. Leave the Mailer Type as PostSMTP.
  3. Paste your SendGrid API key into the API Key box (from Step #2).
  4. Click Save Changes.

post smtp setup

Then, open the area of the full settings again, and go to the Message tab. There, enter the From Address and Name that you want to use. When people receive an email from your site, they’ll see this information:

post smtp setup tutorial

Then, save your changes. Optionally, you can manually configure the password and OAuth 2.0 authentication, but we don’t recommend doing this if you don’t feel comfortable tinkering with the plugin’s settings.

5. Send a Test Email

To make sure that everything is working, the plugin lets you send a test email:

  • Go to the main Post SMTP tab.
  • Click the Send a test email option under the Actions column.

Then, enter the email address that you want to send your test email to:

post smtp setup and sending mail

You should see a success message:

post smtp setup and sending mail successfully

And then, when you go to your email account, you should also see a test message:

post smtp setup and sending test mail

You can also see a log of all the emails that your site sends by going to Post SMTP → Email Log. Again, this helps you diagnose potential problems with undelivered emails:

post smtp email logs

Start Using a WordPress SMTP Server Today

Even for a simple WordPress site, your site will send a lot of transactional emails for things like password resets and form submission notifications. By default, you might experience poor reliability for these types of emails.

The fix is to use a dedicated WordPress SMTP server. 

In this blog, we have provided you with how to do just that using a 100% free solution. Implement it today, and enjoy much more reliable emails.

Remember that free SMTP server solutions often limit the number of emails you can send daily, so they’re only suitable for recently launched websites. 

You’ll have to upgrade to a paid plan once your subscriber list and marketing needs start to grow. 

Do you still have any questions about setting up WordPress with an SMTP server? Ask in the comments!

Frequently Asked Questions about WordPress SMTP Servers

 How to Configure WordPress SMTP Server?

SMTP isn’t one of WordPress’ native functionalities, which means you must install a plugin if you don’t want to use its default PHP mailing options. 

Open WP’s dashboard once you install the plugin, and head to the Settings menu. Choose the Email option, and provide the sender information, including your email address and the name, as you want the recipients to see in their inboxes. 

Continue to adjust the mailer settings by selecting the Other SMTP option, and clicking the Return-Path checkbox. Next, you’ll be asked to specify an SMTP host, and port before adding an SSL or TLS protocol to protect your site’s email communication.  

What is SMTP WordPress? 

SMTP stands for Simple Mail Transfer Protocol, which delivers messages from a WordPress website to a server or directly to a recipient’s mailbox. 

WordPress sites commonly use plugins connecting them to transactional email services such as Gmail, Yahoo, or SendLayer.

SMTP replaces WordPress’ PHP email function, and allows website owners to improve their email delivery rates by sending messages recipients perceive as reliable. 

Simply put, SMTP WordPress reduces the chances of your emails being labeled as spam, making it useful for website owners who send hundreds of emails daily. 

A team of WordPress experts that love to test out new WordPress related software, WordPress plugins and WordPress themes.