Amazon Simple Email Service (SES) will help your WordPress installation send out emails more reliably and ensure they go straight to your recipient’s inboxes, not spam folders.
Are your WordPress emails consistently going into the spam folder? Or not being delivered at all? Perhaps you’ve received complaints or noticed it yourself. It’s a common problem.
Spam marked emails can often happen if your hosts’ server has been blacklisted, among other reasons. As well, emails sent to many recipients can often fail. Fortunately, there’s Amazon SES to help us deliver WordPress email more effectively.
Why Use Amazon SES?
WordPress sends email using a method similar to PHP’s mail() function. It depends on your server to send out message and can often times be unreliable depending a number of factors including the size of the message and number of recipients.
Often times you can work around this snafu by using Gmail as your WordPress SMTP server. This is a cost effective that may work for some alternative, but keep in mind that Gmail’s SMTP Servers have limitations:
I used Gmail as my SMTP server temporarily and it worked great. However I also send out several notification emails (notifying them of replies to forum topics etc…) Google’s SMTP didn’t like the auto emails and after about 20 emails it stopped sending from that email as the SMTP server.
As you can see Gmail works to send your WordPress emails, but not if you’re sending many emails through the service. Keep this in mind if you are running bbPress, BuddyPress or WordPress multisite.
Setting Up Amazon SES
The process to set up an Amazon SES account is rather simple:
Amazon provides you a lot of documentation on how to get started with the service.
After you have verified your account it’s time to test out the service using the sandbox via a WordPress plugin called WP SES.
Install the WP SES Plugin
The plugin I’m using to send email through Amazon SES is called WP SES. Download, install and activate this plugin.
WP SES is not a bad plugin if you can get past the typos and clunky UI. It’s actively developed and there’s even a website for it. Oh yeah, and it’s free.
Configure WP SES
Once you have the plugin activated let’s get started configuring it. You will see a notification telling you in order to use the plugin it must be configured. Click on the link to be taken to the plugin settings page and complete the following steps:
- The email address and name are the senders of the emails you want to send.
- The return path is the email to which you want to send your delivery notifications, typically failures and spam complaints.
- WP SES needs your Amazon Access Keys (Account > Security Credentials) in order to function. Get your keys and insert them into the appropriate fields within the plugin.
After you have completed the fields it’s time to confirm that you own the email address that will be used to send out emails.
Confirm Your Email Ownership
To add your email as a confirmed sender, just click “Add this email” below the Confirmed Senders table:
Notice the email in the image above is not yet confirmed. This is because you will have to verify it by clicking on the link within the email that Amazon sends over in their verification request:
After you click the verification link your request will be processed and the email will be confirmed.
Send a Test Email
WP SES provides the ability to send a test email via Amazon SES to the newly verified sender email. Click the Send Test Email button:
Did you receive the email? If you did everything is a go and you’re ready to move into production. If not, review the previous steps to ensure you didn’t skip anything.
SES Production Access
Great! You’ve received the test email, nearly all setttings are configured in the plugin, and you’re ready to request production access to Amazon SES. What’s a bummer is it’s not immediate. Typically you have to wait up to 24-hours for production access.
If everything checks out on Amazon’s end they will send you an email confirming your production access.
Final Step: ‘Activate’ the Plugin
Now that you have production access it’s now time to fully activate the plugin so ALL emails run through Amazon SES. Simply click the activate plugin to finalize the configuration:
Now Begin Enjoying Reliable Email Sending
You are using production mode now, so test it out. Make sure emails are still sending. If they are you’re good to go!
The setup isn’t exactly painless. There are several steps involved and Amazon Web Services by their own nature aren’t for the technically challenged. But, we never saw a bit of code and the WP SES plugin makes the process pretty simple.
What are your thoughts? Spill your mind in the comment section below!