- This blog post was originally published on 06/24/2016 and was updated on 03/01/2022
Note: If you’re using SMTP to route all of your personal mail through SparkPost, awesome! However, be sure to use an email address with a different sending domain (not one associated with your SparkPost account) for your account login. That way, if you ever run into any issues, you’re still able to contact us for help.
You know you need to send email, but you don’t want to spend a lot of time or effort on it — you just want something that works out of the box. It’s not too much to ask! Many frameworks, languages, and tools come with SMTP support, but the last step is the most important – an SMTP server. SparkPost fills that need with SMTP support and a simple setup process.
Today, I’ll be demonstrating how to set up an SMTP relay, so you can use your own email client to send emails from your personal domain. I’ll be using Gmail as my email client and shopwithkindness.org as my sending domain.
Let’s get started!
What Is SMTP?
Simple mail transfer protocol (SMTP) is an approach to sending and receiving emails that helps email servers — the computers used for email operations — decode and understand your email requests. For example, your email recipient appears in one section of the guidelines, which tells the server who the receiver is and where to reach them.
In SMTP, the outgoing mail server introduces itself to the receiving computer through a process known as a handshake. It then tells the receiving server what message to send and where to send it. The receiving server verifies the domain name and IP address before confirming the request. Once the incoming computer authorizes the communication, the initial computer transmits the message.
SMTP involves more extended conversation between the two servers to send the email and uses a text-based code known as ASCII to communicate.
What Are the Advantages of SMTP?
Many advantages for using SparkPost SMTP exist, including:
- Wide acceptance: Since most platforms support the SMTP guidelines, migration is simple.
- Limited need for coding: Unlike the application programming interface (API), the SMTP approach requires no advanced coding knowledge to set up and use.
- Customization: You can continue using existing resources while retaining control over message generation.
- Delivery speed: With text-based ASCII exchange, messages generally transmit quickly.
- Complete notifications: The SMTP protocols deliver thorough information on fail issues, so you can analyze and prevent future issues.
When Do You Use SMTP?
SMTP is only applicable to sending emails. The protocols cover transmitting the data between the two servers — the relay portion of the transaction. Another procedure, such as post office protocol (POP) or internet access protocol (IMAP), retrieves the message for the recipient from the incoming mail server.
What Is an SMTP Relay?
An SMTP relay is a company that provides a dedicated outgoing mail server using SMTP transmission standards, making bulk email sending efficient and effective.
Why Would I Use an SMTP Relay?
Many businesses rely on third-party SMTP relays for sending marketing communications. Separating promotional and transactional messaging from internal communications protects the primary business domain from blocklisting due to spam concerns.
What Is SparkPost Used For?
SparkPost is more than just an SMTP relay — we’re a complete email sending and delivery solution for businesses. The world’s industry leaders trust us with 4 to 5 trillion emails annually. SparkPost improves email communication and enables delivery, so your messages hit the inbox, not the spam folder. Our team uses the largest data footprint in the industry to provide robust analytic insights for decision-making.
Does SparkPost Use SMTP?
SparkPost is compatible with SMTP. There are two ways to use SparkPost to email your subscribers and customers — API or SMTP relay. The ideal method for your business largely depends on your existing structure and programming. API integrates easily with many popular systems, yet SMTP may be a better choice for businesses without a developer on staff or those operating on legacy systems.
How to Setup SparkPost as Your SMTP Relay
There are a few things you’ll need before setting up your SparkPost SMTP relay.
- A verified sending domain.
- An API key with the “Send via SMTP” permission enabled.
- An email client or service which allows you to enable SparkPost as your SMTP relay.
For this walkthrough, I’ll be using Gmail. To begin, navigate to the settings.
From there, click on the “Accounts” tab.
Next, click on “Add another email address you own”.
In the pop-up menu, enter the (verified) email address and press next. I’d like to be able to send with “email@example.com”, so that’s what I type in.
Then, enter “smtp.sparkpostmail.com” as the SMTP Server,“SMTP_Injection” as the username, and 587 as the port. Your password should be your API key with “Send via SMTP” enabled. This information can be found under Account -> SMTP Relay in your SparkPost dashboard.
Let’s get started!
Lastly, you’ll need to log in to your inbox to confirm. After that, we’re done! Time to send some Shop With Kindness emails.
If it turns out that SMTP isn’t the right email solution for you, consider taking advantage of the SparkPost API. The API has many pros (and cons). Take a look at Dave’s blog for more information regarding the differences between SMTP and API.