If your website or company relies on sending emails to potential customers to generate business, it’s important you have an SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) provider that allows you to communicate with your audience.
Having a good SMTP server allows you to send messages to a single user based on the content they interact with on your website - rather than send an email blast to an entire 'listserv' of customers.
Let's see what SMTP services can do for you - and let's have a look at five of the best SMTP servers:
- Mandrill (SMTP provider for MailChimp)
- Amazon SES (over 60,000 free monthly emails)
- Google SMTP Server (free SMTP service)
- SendinBlue (works well with WordPress)
- SendGrid (supports custom code)
Recommended for: MailChimp users
Mandrill is the SMTP service provided by MailChimp, which makes it a convenient choice if you are already using MailChimp for bulk email marketing.
]The service provides in-depth analytics for your emails, including a searchable activity log and the ability to run split tests on website visitors.
Mandrill offers highly customizable templates with automatic inlining for any included custom HTML and CSS code.
Another nice feature of Mandrill is that it offers a WordPress plugin and offers comprehensive documentation to get the most out of its API. Plus, the ‘Rules Engine’ makes it easy to define complicated setups for when different types of emails should be sent to your site’s visitors.
The main downside to Mandrill is its cost. You purchase email sends from Mandrill in ‘blocks’ of 25,000 emails, with prices starting at $20 per block. That’s already on the pricey side, and you need to have a paid MailChimp account (starting at $20 per month) in order to use Mandrill at all. On top of all that, a dedicated IP is not included and costs an additional $29.95 per month.
- Sent email reporting and logging
- Easy integration with a proprietary platform
- API is great
- Very reliable
- You can use Mandrill only if you have a Mailchimp account
- Can get quite expensive
2. Amazon SES
Recommended for: those who will send huge amounts of emails
Amazon SES (Simple Email Service) is an extremely inexpensive provider for users that only need bare-bones SMTP services. If you’re an Amazon EC2 user, Amazon SES is one of the best free SMTP servers because you get up to 62,000 emails per month free when you call Amazon SES through an EC2 instance.
Otherwise, Amazon SES costs just $1 per 10,000 emails and $0.12 per 1 GB of attachments sent.
That said, Amazon SES offers virtually no analytics to track the success of your emails. You get basic information about delivery rates, including how many emails were bounced or rejected, but no information about link clicks or conversion rates.
More challenging is that Amazon SES also provides no templates for designing your emails. So, you’re largely on your own when it comes to crafting your messages.
The other downside to Amazon SES, especially for WordPress users, is that there is no plugin to make it easy to connect your site to the SMTP provider. Instead, you need to go directly through the API, for which there is good documentation but little customer support.
- Cheap and versitile storage
- Very reliable and simple to use
- Great for sending huge amounts of emails
- Amazon SES has a great reputation
- Quite complex and may appear overwhelming
- Lack of analytics
Recommended for: G Suite users
Google SMTP Server is one of the best free SMTP server options available, although like all things free it comes with some limitations. The free service will only send up to 100 emails per 24-hour period. So, it’s only suitable for newer businesses or websites with very little traffic. Note that you will also need either a free or paid G Suite account to access Google SMTP Server.
That said, Google SMTP Server has the important advantage of being part of Gmail. This means that messages delivered to other Gmail accounts are highly unlikely to end up in your visitors’ spam folders.
There is also a WordPress plugin to configure Google SMTP Server with your website, although it takes more work to set up triggers than with other SMTP providers. You’re also largely on your own when it comes to crafting emails, as you only have access to the basic formatting available within Gmail.
- Completely free with G Suite account is available
- Is a part of Gmail so it's unlikely that emails will go to the spam folder
- Great for small businesses and companies
- Very big and reliable infrastructure
- Outgoing emails limited to 100/day - not suitable for bigger enterprices
Recommended for: businesses using WordPress
SendinBlue is a versatile SMTP provider that offers favorable pricing and a wide range of features. Integrating SendinBlue with WordPress is easy using the company’s WordPress plugin. Better yet, a well-documented and powerful API enables integrations with a variety of other sites and web content.
The main advantage of SendinBlue is that you get both one-on-one emails and bulk email marketing with this single SMTP server. The service also features drag-and-drop email templates, which makes getting started with creating targeted messages fast and easy.
All of your emails are managed through a single control panel and you can view detailed analytics for all of your messages. However, SendinBlue is still lacking in advanced features like split testing, and the triggers aren't as complex as they can be with a service like Mandrill.
SendinBlue is free for up to 300 emails per day. Paid plans start at $25 per month for up to 25,000 emails each month, and prices scale to $173 per month for up to 350,000 monthly emails. Note that a dedicated IP will cost an extra $12 per month.
- Cheap and competetive pricing
- Great variety of automation features for marketing
- Very easy to use and intuitive interface
- Flexible email templates
- Support may appear slow
Recommended for: custom code and mail testing
Despite the complexity of the API, SendGrid also paid attention to user-friendly features like drag-and-drop templates. The provider’s analytics are well thought out and detailed, and you can easily set up split tests, customer segments, and scheduled emails.
Plus, SendGrid offers functionality for both one-on-one emails and bulk email marketing. Another advantage of SendGrid is that it is a highly secure service. It’s one of the few SMTP services that enable two-factor authentication.
SendGrid starts out with a 30-day trial in which you can send up to 40,000 emails for free. After that, you can send up to 100 emails per day for free, or switch to a paid account starting at $14.95 per month for up to 100,000 emails per month.
Note that SendGrid also charges an additional $10 per month per 10,000 contacts on all of their paid plans. In addition, a dedicated IP is only included on plans starting at $79.95 per month.
- Seemless integration with WordPress via plugin
- Easy wysiwyg template builder and editor
- Useful mailing features (inbox, bounce, open tracking, click tracking, etc)
- Responsive and helpful cutomer support
- Paid plans can appear too expensive for new businesses
Why Do You Need an SMTP Provider?
One of the best ways to convert website visitors into customers is to follow up with them via email after they interact with some part of your website’s content.
For example, for an eCommerce store, this could include reminding them that they left items in their cart but didn’t finish checking out. Of course, sending emails to everyone who visits your site and customizing those emails based on users’ actions would cause an incredible amount of work.
That’s where SMTP services come in. The best SMTP server allows you to automatically email potential customers with pre-made messages when they interact with specific content on your website.
While you could accomplish this using the ‘mail()’ function in PHP, having an SMTP provider ensures that your mail is delivered to your potential customers’ inboxes rather than end up in spam folders.
SMTP servers also give you detailed analytics.
So you can see if your emails are successful in converting visitors to customers - just have a look at Mandrill in the picture just here.
Which SMTP Provider Is Best for You?
Choosing the best SMTP server for your business depends on the number of emails you expect to send, the level of analytics detail you need, and the importance of complex triggering for your marketing.
Amazon SES is an extremely inexpensive solution, which makes it highly scalable. However, it’s also bare-bones and doesn’t offer much in the way of analytics or templates.
At the other end of the spectrum is Mandrill. But while it's very expensive, it's very user-friendly and offers a huge range of analytics and mail creation options.
SendGrid and SendinBlue are more middle-of-the-road options, with flexible pricing to fit your business’s needs. SendGrid, in particular, offers an extremely powerful API and two-factor authentication, which can make it a great option for advanced businesses.
For small businesses in need of the best free SMTP server, Google SMTP server offers 100 emails per day for free, forever.
Did this guide help you choose the best SMTP server for your business? Let me know in the comments below!