You’re here because you stopped getting emails from your website.
Some quick context and history
Email providers such as Gsuite (Google), Office365 (Microsoft), and others have been working hard on their anti-spam for years. You already know that you have a spam folder filled with things you don’t want to see, but have you ever thought about the emails that didn’t even make it that far?
I remember when I was 10 and had my first email. It was a Hotmail address and before long it was bloated with nasty and scary ads for adult content, drugs and other supplements, fake trips, etc.
Back then, we just had to wade through this stuff.
Then providers started to understand that it was their responsibility to protect us from this spam, and they’ve mostly been doing a good job of this so far.
Of course, the world is filled with grey areas and their algorithms need to constantly evolve. They can block emails sent to huge groups of people, but what about your important office memos? They can block emails that are coming from an automated source, but what about your contact forms?
Turns out, keeping your inbox safe and clean is much harder than it sounds.
The issue we’re currently facing
In the pursuit of inboxes safe from spam and scams, email providers have been upgrading their security systems often, which has had some unintended consequences. Yes, this is why you aren’t getting your own contact form submissions.
Your website is sending the email, but it’s being blocked
I actually had an employee at Google tell me that her emails have been blocked. Even Google themselves aren’t safe from their own security.
An important note at this point. If you’re like most of our clients, the problem is not that your website stopped sending your forms. They’re being sent like they always were, but now they’re being blocked when they get to your email. Not pushed to the spam folder—blocked.
Who does this affect?
This is an important and difficult question. I’ve even found it hard to get useful answers online. What I can give you is our experience here at Yas, though you’ll see that we don’t have the perfect answers, either.
Sometimes contact forms start getting blocked as soon as we launch a website, sometimes they work fine for months and then start getting blocked, and sometimes they never get blocked at all.
I haven’t seen any trends for industry, type of website, size of website, or anything. To us, it feels completely random.
In short, these blocks can happen to any website at any time.
So what do I do?
We used to use effective methods like making sure the sender email isn’t on a blacklist, or going out of our way to whitelist the email or the sender IP. While they used to be effective, these old methods haven’t worked for us once in the last 2 years.
The only consistent solution we’ve found is called SMTP. WordPress websites have access to a simple plugin called WP-Mail SMTP that we’ve had reliable results with. That said, we don’t have any experience dealing with this problem outside of WordPress.
WP-Mail SMTP is free to use for some providers like Gsuite, but requires the yearly paid Pro Version for other providers like Office365.
What is SMTP and how does it work?
SMTP stands for Simple Mail Transfer Protocol, but the name isn’t really important and honestly I had to look it up as I was writing this.
Effectively, what it does is logs your website into an email you control to send your contact forms from that email.
The idea is this: Your email server won’t block its own emails.
Your email server is sending emails to itself, which are not being blocked
Using the SMTP plugin, we select an email you already have (or one you want to create for this specifically) and we hook it up in the website. Emails sent through SMTP will all say they’re being delivered from that email (because they are) and they’ll all appear in that email’s sent folder.
Are there any drawbacks to using SMTP?
The downsides are minor inconveniences like:
- It’s difficult to set up, though WP-Mail SMTP does have instructions
- It may have a yearly cost depending on your email provider
- If you change the connected email’s password, it needs to be reconnected or it won’t work, though this is usually only one or two steps to do.
Should I set up SMTP right now?
You should set up SMTP if you fit into one of these categories:
- You’re not currently receiving contact forms from your website
- You’re not having any issues right now, but missing contact forms would be detrimental to your business if they went several days before your team noticed
Let me know if you have any questions about SMTP and/or email and form delivery issues, or if you have any additional information about this topic that I didn’t include. I expect there will be more changes as email providers continue to refine and evolve their security tactics.