Is it safe (spam-wise) to use your own email for transactional emails?

I’m setting up my first Ghost installation, but I’m slightly confused about the place where you define the credentials for transactional emails and bulk emails. From the docs and some research I understand the following:

  1. The SMTP email credentials in the config are used for the so-called transactional emails.
  2. The Mailgun API credentials are for bulk email.

Am I correct in this?

For the transactional emails, is it ‘safe’ to use your own email address (or a specially created email on my own domain) or should that also be Mailgun? Or is using Mailgun only recommended?

It would be awesome if someone could clarify this. Thanks!


**Edit:** PS: for the developers among us, are there also plans to support other mail providers for bulk mail? Like Amazon SES or others?

You are right on points 1 and 2…(one detail: use the Mailgun Private API key for bulk)

Although transactional emails have a low chance of being considered spam, when I look at my logs I see enough dubious emails (typos, listbombs, etc) that I still prefer using a more “disposable” email domain.

For transactional emails, you can use any SMTP provider (including your own server, I suppose)…I know the majority of Ghost people go with Mailgun, some with Amazon SES. The only thing you can’t do is use Nodemailer.

In my case, to be super safe, I use a sacrificial domain (ie my blog in .com, my emails go from .country)…for just the price of a domain registration, I save myself a lot of hassle

I think spam reputation attaches primarily to your domain (or subdomain)…that’s why Mailgun recommends sending your transactional/bulk emails from mail.domain.com (or even mail1.domain.com for transactional and mail2.domain.com for bulk)

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I think the Mailgun flex plans gives 1,300 free emails per month, so that’s a start…as a side note, by using Mailgun, I was able to figure that about 20% of my signups did not complete the double-optin…even though they were legitimate emails…I understand the rationale for double optin, but it probably results in considerable loss

Thanks Joseph for the answer.

It’s indeed a good idea to go with a subdomain or an other domain, I’ll certainly do that.

Yes, and unfortunately there’s no option to view all the people who signed up, but who didn’t complete registration…

subdomain for transaction emails is a good practice.

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One thing I’ve found is that subscribers are most likely to want to login to the website and either comment or view comments when they’ve just received the newsletter email. Unfortunately, Mailgun takes about an hour or more to process all my newsletter emails, and as far as I can tell transactional emails are added to the same Mailgun queue as bulk emails. So I had users waiting an hour or more for their sign in link to arrive, which really reduced engagement with the post.

(Maybe Mailgun would process bulk emails faster if I had a dedicated IP with them, but I’d like to avoid having to do that since it would triple my monthly costs.)

So right now I have Ghost sending transactional emails via Sendmail. I’ve set up reverse DNS, SPF, DKIM, SRS, spamassassin, and I’m in the process of setting up DMARC. It has been a reasonable amount of work but it feels like this stuff might be handy to know so I don’t mind. So far emails are being accepted by mail providers, with the exception of users of a specific Microsoft service. It only affects a tiny proportion of subscribers, but hopefully I can address it. (Maybe emails are going to spam, but since the user specifically requested the email and the Ghost modal tells them to check spam, that doesn’t seem like a massive drawback.)

Thanks for telling me this about Mailgun. The Mailgun website (Transactional Email Services | Mailgun) says that they also offer transactional emails.

Could it be that you need to create a specific email address inside Mailgun for transactional emails? And are (bulk) emails send from a subdomain of yours?

I actually have Mailgun set up to send bulk emails from a gmail address, just because a friend of mine got set up with Ghost before I did, and that’s how they did it. When I was using Mailgun for transactional emails, they were being sent from the default noreply@mydomain.com.

(That’s the other thing about Mailgun, they don’t do inbound email routing on the free plan, and you want to use an email address that can accept replies to improve deliverability.)

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Interesting issue @stuwest re:queuing of transactional after bulk…if that’s generalized and not particular to your previous setup, then that’s bad…I did the reverse, I kept transactional on MG and bulk on ConvertKit

@ralphjsmit : the config of your transactional happens by :

  1. adding a domain to Mailgun
  2. taking the SMTP credentials of that domain from Mailgun
  3. adding those credentials in a Ghost config core file, as explained here: Configuration - Adapt your publication to suit your needs
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Thanks! I’m exploring the world of email. Just wondering, would it also be possible to use an @outlook.com email, just for the sake of simplicity?

I already got the config set up, but I’m now exploring all the different aspects of email…

For transactional, you can use SMTP credentials from any provider…you can also set a “From” email in that config file and I think (not 100), that the From email can be from a different domain than the SMTP domain

For bulk, your only choice is Mailgun

Separately, in Ghost Admin, you can set reply-to email address to any email address you want (as long as you are able to receive an email at that address because Admin will ask you to verify that address)

Where deliverability is concerned, then the best setup is to use the same domain for all purposes. And ideally, I would use the same email address for all purposes. That way, when people reply to your email, then if the reply-to address is the same as the from address, then you have just made that address safe with that user, improved engagement, which helps deliverability.

Separately, can I ask why you are setting up your own email server, as you seem to have said?