Email Forwarding & Sending Alternative to Mailgun

Gone are the days of having a powerful email forwarding system, free, with Mailgun. Sure, it still has a free plan. But to send through your professional email (email@yourwebsite.com) with their Routes feature, it now costs $35 per month. Ridiculous price, right?

It took me 2 weeks to find something similar. I don’t email much. It’s not a huge necessity for any of my websites, so I needed something really cheap or free.

So here is my take on replacing Mailgun for both email forwarding and sending with our professional email. Through ImprovMX and Gmail!

Step 1. ImprovMX sign-up & settings

ImprovMX is an email forwarding service. Signing up is weird as it starts by creating our first alias by providing our web domain address and email.

If your domain host or web host doesn’t provide an email service for free, then you’ll need this email forwarder.

Signing up to ImprovMX, free email forwarding alternative to Mailgun
There is no password involved (hence “no registration”). So when logging back in, we have to request a special link by email. (I stay logged in to avoid this small annoyance).

We can connect up to 5 domains and create 10 aliases with the free account. It’s more than enough for us that don’t email much. Do note that the speed delivery is sometimes a little fast, but sometimes very slow.

Point ImprovMX DNS records to your domain for email forwarding

ImprovMX only requires 2 MX records and one TXT.

All domain/web hosts work differently, so you’ll need to find a guide on how to do change the DNS settings.

Here are some domain/web host guides that may hopefully help you:

This is an example on Cloudflare (simply go to the DNS tab):

ImprovMX DNS settings example to email forward
Important! Even though ImprovMX tells you to set the second MX record’s TTL to 10, it should be 20! Or else it may not work.

Step 2. Sign up for a free Gmail account (or use your existing one)

You can either create a new one specifically meant for your website or use your personal one. If you decide to use your personal one, don’t worry, as your emails can be sent as email@yourwebsite.com instead of @gmail!

But instead of me writing a how-to, I’ll link you to ImprovMX’s own guide on how to do it easily. Their guide is very simple and yet very helpful.

But as the initial states, you must enable two-factor authentication (2FA) first on your Google/Gmail account!

https://improvmx.com/guides/send-emails-using-gmail/

Follow every step, including making an app password (this helps keep things secure).

Optional but highly recommended Gmail guides

This small guide on the link located below shows how to create a filter and label in Gmail for email forwarding. These settings separate incoming mail like magic into their own label. Your professional email will only appear inside said label!

gmail labels example
Notice how mail in my professional email address are conveniently separated into its own label. These labels work like folders. In other words, Gmail can work as an email client.

This site linked below explains well, step by step on how to do this. Except for step 5, edit the ‘To’ section, not the ‘Has the words’ section. On the ‘To’, simply put your professional address (email@yourwebsite.com).

https://www.laptopmag.com/articles/filter-mail-gmail

Step 3. If you’re on WordPress, you may need an SMTP plugin!

Depending on your web host, your WordPress is not capable of sending emails for X reason. WordPress sends emails through PHP, which either are not well configures by your web host, blocked, or not configured at all. Not to mention, SMTP (instead of PHP) is a better choice anyway. So in this case, an SMTP plugin for WordPress is required!

Recommended WordPress SMTP plugins:

  • WP Mail SMTP (by WPForms)
    https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-mail-smtp/

    This plugin is the most popular one, and for good reasons. It has enough features for the free version. We’re also able to connect to few email services through API or OAuth to authenticate. These prevent saving credentials in plain text inside WordPress.

  • Post SMTP Mailer (by Yehuda Hassine)
    https://wordpress.org/plugins/post-smtp/

    Another SMTP plugin which is gaining high popularity. It claims to be the next generation in its area. It has more features than the one above (and a Chrome extension!). Honestly, I may switch all my websites to this one if the developer keeps up the great work.

  • WP Mail Bank (by Tech Banker)
    https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-mail-bank/

    Another SMTP plugin with high reviews and large amount of downloads. I’ve never used this one, but the reviews speak for themselves. It also supports Gmail’s OAuth 2.0, which is what we’ll need for this guide.

    I don’t have a guide for this plugin, though. Sorry. But it should work similar to the others, so try to follow the first SMTP setup guide.

Guides to setup SMTP

Depending on which plugin you chose, please follow the appropriate guide:

-WP Mail SMTP guide:

Before you follow their guide (link provided below), make sure to first leave the settings on default except for these:

WP Mail SMTP setup
Obviously, change the values to your own. Don’t add your Gmail address. Use your professional one. Check those two check boxes too.
google oauth consent screen user type
You’ll also come across this option in the Google Console page during the guide. The plugin developer mentions choosing Internal, but if you don’t have GSuite, then choose External.

Follow this guide linked below, written by the developers. Read it thoroughly except follow my examples from the images above.
https://wpmailsmtp.com/docs/how-to-set-up-the-gmail-mailer-in-wp-mail-smtp/

And that’s it for this plugin guide! Skip the Post SMTP Mailer guide below. And if you encountered errors, scroll below.

-Post SMTP Mailer guide

If you’ve chosen this plugin, then first copy my example below and then follow the developer’s own guide:

post smtp mailer setup
In the developer’s guide, on step 4, copy my example instead but with your details. Do not input your Gmail address.

Follow the instructions from the developer’s guide. BUT! Steps 5 and 12 need a different setup, shown after the link below:

https://www.cloudways.com/blog/post-smtp-mailer-fork-of-wordpress-postman-smtp-plugin/

For step 5 in his guide, type: smtp.gmail.com

For step 12, the developer only mentions to click on the ‘Configure consent screen’. You’ll have two options. If you have G Suite, pick ‘Internal’. If on free Gmail, then click on ‘External’.

And after that, you may get lost. To continue on step 14 to create an OAuth client ID, go to Credentials on the left menu, and click on the + Create Credentials button.

And after following both our steps…

After following his guide but with my corrections, there’s one last thing to do in the plugin settings.

post smtp mailer show all settings

On the plugin’s main page, click on ‘Show All Settings’ under the wizard button. You’ll then see this screen:

post smtp mailer gmail api setting

Change from SMTP to Gmail API.

Right after that, click on the Message tap on the upper navigator of the plugin.

post smtp mailer message settings

As shown in the image, change the Email Address to your professional one and click on the checkbox. Then change the Name field as well to reflect your preferred name, and click on that checkbox as well.

And that’s it! WordPress should be able to handle your SMTP properly, securely, and through Gmail and your professional email address. But…

Redirect error??

If when attempting to grant access through Google fails because of the redirect error, then add the authorized redirect URI again!

credentials edit
Go back to the Credentials page and click on the pencil icon to edit.
google api may have to re-add authorized redirect uri
Then simply add the authorized redirect URI provided by the SMTP plugin.

“App isn’t verified” warning?

this app isn't verified

You’ll most likely encounter this error page. Google doesn’t know about the app you’ve just created. It doesn’t trust your website because it doesn’t know about it. You trust your own website, so click on Advanced. Then the “go to” link.

this app isn't verified unsafe click
It will state that your website is unsafe by default. But just because Google hasn’t verified it yet, it does not mean it’s unsafe. It’s your website. You know it’s safe…right?

You’ll then need a form plugin for a contact form on WordPress

A contact form is beyond this guide. They won’t require any special setup, now that SMTP is configured. So any should do. There’s WPForms, Ninja Forms, Formidable Forms, Contact Form 7, etc. I personally use the first two I’ve just mentioned.

Step 4. Test your entire setup!

First check if you can email from Gmail with your professional email address. When composing an email, be sure to edit the From to switch to your professional address.

gmail compose from professional email
When composing an email, make sure to change the From to switch to your pro address.

As ImprovMX is a free email forwarding service, don’t expect emails to arrive instantly. Unfortunately, during my tests, it took a few hours (2?) one time. Sometimes it only took seconds. So you’ll need patience. Sorry. :(

If you have any questions or need more clarification, please let me know! This is my first time writing a detailed guide like this.

Kunou

Kunou is a website owner of numerous sites in progress. He loves his dogs, video games, computers, and some anime. As one of his introverted hobbies, he knows how to draw a little.

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