Simplest/cheapest setup for consistent mail/domain branding

One of the things for me that’s important even for small business is online brand consistency. You’ve got your own domain name? Great! But you’ve got a Hotmail address listed on your website or business card? Not so flash…

While Google for example used to allow you to use “Google Apps For Your Domain”, providing up to 10 (and previously more) email addresses “@ your domain”, they no longer give these away, and they now charge $5/month/address. 🙁

However, as long as you have control of the DNS settings for your domain, it is possible to set up things up to maintain brand consistency between your domain (website) and your email using e.g. GMail for no extra cost on top of whatever it costs you to register your domain.

Here’s a brief summary of how to go about it for the technically minded.

Assuming you have:

  • registered your domain
  • configured your domain registrar to point at the nameservers of wherever you’re hosting your website

Then the next steps are:

  1. sign up with GMail for a free account – the important point here is that the actual email address doesn’t really matter to anyone other than you, since nobody else will see it once we’re finished
  2. register for a free account with Mailgun
  3. add your domain name to your new Mailgun account
  4. follow the Mailgun directions to add 2 TXT records to the DNS settings for your domain allowing you to send outbound email via Mailgun (basically the SPF related records to maintain security of your email sending)
  5. follow the Mailgun directions to add 2 MX records to the DNS settings for your domain so that emails to your domain are routed via Mailgun
  6. ensure Mailgun shows the listing for your domain as Verified
  7. note the SMTP settings for your domain name in Mailgun
  8. in your GMail settings, follow the steps to send email from another domain, pointing GMail at the SMTP settings for your domain in Mailgun
    • in GMail, click “Make default” to set this as the default email address to send as
    • in GMail, also set the option that says “When replying to a message: Reply from the same address to which the message was sent”
  9. go back to Mailgun and under the “Routing” section, create a route that does a match_recipient on your desired email address, e.g. me@my-domain.com and forwards any email received at that address to your new GMail address
  10. send an email to me@my-domain.com and watch it arrive in your GMail inbox.
  11. reply from your GMail inbox and you’ll receive the reply as though it came from me@my-domain.com complete with appropriate TLS security
  12. voila, your GMail email address will essentially be nowhere to be seen publicly.

You can even extend this process by repeating the steps from 8 onwards for more email addresses at your domain and receive them into the same inbox, e.g. at step 9, you could set up a route for my-alter-ego@my-domain.com -> me+alter-ego@gmail.com.  The interesting thing here is that when GMail receives that email, it ignores the +alter-ego bit in terms of sending it to your GMail inbox in the first place, but you can set up GMail filtering rules that can attach appropriate GMail “labels” to those emails based on what you want to do with them.

Mailgun don’t charge for sending rates of <10,000 emails per month; in other words, as long as you’re not sending more than 10,000 emails/month via this process, you don’t have to worry about how many emails you receive via Mailgun routing at all.

 

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