Sending timely transactional emails on a large scale is a challenging task. It requires considering many nuances so that your emails do not end up in the spam folder. If you want to save time and increase the likelihood that your email campaigns will reach your subscribers, you need an SMTP service. With our brief overview of the best SMTP services, you will be able to glean important information about transactional email services and their features.
What is an SMTP email service?
SMTP, also Simple Mail Transfer Protocol, is a form of communication that includes sending and receiving emails online. SMTP servers require authentication in the form of a username, password, IP address, ports, and security protocol (SSL or TLS). Due to the authentication process, your emails are verified and are more likely to land in your recipients’ inboxes.
There are two different types of SMPT providers. Most likely, you are familiar with such services as Gmail or Outlook. They belong to free SMTP services with a limitation on the volume of messages you can send. While these services can satisfy all needs for private purposes, you’ll need a dedicated SMTP email service for your business needs. Such servers are optimized for a high volume of emails you can send daily.
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Why do you need a transactional email service?
A dedicated SMTP provider is needed to send all sorts of notifications to clients. For example, payment confirmations, notifications about password changing, subscription renewal reminders, and so on. It is also the best way to ensure your emails reach your subscribers’ inboxes. Besides, there are several other reasons why you might need to introduce this kind of service to your business routine:
- it provides options for tracking emails;
- it ensures high-volume sending quotas;
- it offers professional technical assistance;
- it prevents emails from going to spam.
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How to choose the best SMTP server
So, if you are already interested in the topic, you probably know there is just a sea of options. Before settling on any service, it is crucial to understand what parameters to consider. Let’s see some points that should be noted:
- The deliverability rate is the paramount criterion you should be focusing on. The SMTP technology must ensure better deliverability than regular email services. Have a look if there are any proof points on the website, like statistics, for example. You might want to check reviews to make sure there are no deliverability issues reported. Send a few test campaigns yourself to make sure that the service really works as it should.
- Pricing. Most transactional email services offer plans with different price tiers depending on the features and the volume of emails. Before choosing a service, ask yourself whether this very SMTP service is flexible enough in terms of upgrading, what kind of features you might need in the future, and so on.
- Sender reputation control is another vital factor while searching for an SMTP provider. It is crucial that your SMTP server helps you avoid recipient spam folders, maintaining a good sender reputation. A proper SMTP email service should also allow you to view bounces and spam complaints and provide a suppression or block list.
- Security. When it comes to protecting your data and that of your customers, it’s worth making sure the service follows industry standards. Pay attention to how the service complies with international data protection laws, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Also, make sure the data is always processed through secure encrypted connections.
- Accessibility is the last, but not the least, point on the list. The SMTP provider is designed to simplify the process of sending email, not complicate it. Therefore, it should be easily accessible to non-technical marketers and tech-savvy team members. The best practice is to test multiple services to determine which one works best for you.
By knowing what you need to pay attention to when choosing an SMTP service, you can narrow the number of services available on the market. In the next section, you’ll get acquainted with the services that fall under the above-mentioned criteria.
10 best SMTP servers
To help you make your search process as effective as possible, have a look at several best SMTP service providers and a rundown of their main features, advantages, and prices.
SendPulse is a multichannel marketing platform that equips you with a free transactional email service. Using this platform, you can send email campaigns via SMTP or API. The latter allows you to communicate from your website, CRM, or SDK libraries (PHP, Ruby, Python, Java, Node.js, and Оbj-C). Among the available tools are, of course, detailed metrics and analytics that help you evaluate and improve the effectiveness of your email marketing strategy.
The advantages of using SendPulse are numerous.Here are the main pros:
- Dedicated IP address. It ensures the best possible sender reputation and prevents your IP from being blacklisted.
- SPF and DKIM authentication. These authentication methods ensure that your transactional emails won’t land in a spam folder.
- Unsubscribed contacts. SendPulse ensures that your emails won’t be sent to unsubscribed contacts, even if they are on a mailing list.
- Open and click rates. Using the service makes it possible to run evaluations and analyze your performance anytime.
- Custom tracking domain. This means you won’t get any mention of SendPulse in the email header and footer.
- SendPulse webhooks. They’ll help you stay in the know and receive information about email statuses.
- 24/7 customer support. Even with a free plan, you can access a round-the-clock support service in five languages. Besides, you can find a wealth of helpful guides in the knowledge base.
There are no services without limitations. Here’s a con of this platform:
- SMTP limits. There are certain restrictions on the number of sent emails per hour, per day, and the number of domains in use. For example, with a free plan, you can send 50 emails per hour.
Pricing: SendPulse SMTP email service offers a free plan with 12,000 emails monthly. The next most affordable plan starts at $6.40/month for 25,000 emails. There’s also a pay-as-you-go option.
Amazon SES, or Amazon Simple Email Service, is a cloud-based platform that provides business owners and marketers with a cost-effective SMTP service. It allows developers to embed email functionality into any application. It is particularly beneficial for companies that run applications on Amazon Web Service (AWS). Amazon SES allows you to track your activity and reputation, which is an essential feature for any SMTP provider. Overall, Amazon SES is a great free service to get started, but at the same time, it’s not the most feature-rich one.
Amazon SES is a powerful tool for businesses. Among the foremost Amazon SES pros are the following:
- Affordability. Amazon SES is a budget solution with pay-as-you-go pricing, making it easily scalable.
- Reputation and deliverability dashboards. You can keep track of the events that can affect deliverability rates.
- Authentication methods. This SMTP provider supports such authentication methods as SPF, DKIM, and DMARC.
- Free plan with an app. Amazon SES offers an abundant free plan if you send emails from an app hosted on Amazon EC2. The first 62,000 emails per month are free.
- Mailbox Simulator. This feature allows you to run tests and see how your application handles different scenarios.
At the same time, Amazon SES has its drawbacks, namely:
- Arduous access advanced features. Since Amazon SES is a simple SMTP provider, it lacks additional out-of-the-box features that enable other SMTP services. More complex configurations must be created manually.
- Not team-centric. The server has no features, so your team can’t contribute to your email strategy.
- No free customer support. To access support, you should purchase an additional Amazon support package, which can be quite costly.
- Not beginner-friendly. Setting up Amazon SES isn’t particularly straightforward for non-tech specialists.
Pricing: Amazon SES free plan is only available if you send emails from an application hosted in Amazon EC2 and includes up to 62,000 emails per month. If it’s outbound emails from non-EC2, you can expect to pay $0.10 for every 1,000 emails. Note that you are to cover $0.12 for each GB of attachments you send.
Sendinblue is another SMTP email service packed with advanced email marketing features. This platform also includes CRM, marketing automation, Facebook ads, chat, and more. It’s pretty straightforward in its use and is a good choice if you’re getting started with transactional emails. Sendinblue SMTP includes sign-up confirmations, password recovery emails, payment confirmations, and so on.
Sendinblue offers a range of advantages for businesses, such as:
- All-in-one solution. The platform allows you to capture leads, run A/B tests, use a drag-and-drop email editor, etc.
- Integrations for eCommerce. You can easily work with WordPress sites, WooCommerce, and Shopify.
- Great email deliverability. Sendinblue SMTP also makes sure you can split transactional and promotional emails by sender or IP address.
- No payments for a mailing list. Using this SMTP provider, there is no need to pay for the size of your mailing list.
There are, of course, downsides to Sendinblue service, for example:
- Wide focus. The platform is spread across many areas and is primarily a CRM and marketing automation solution.
- SMTP is not a focal point. This means you can send transactional emails through an API. Should you need SMTP, you’ll have to activate it by contacting Sendinblue.
- Limited free plan. Sendinblue is probably not the most budget-friendly solution if you’re looking for a feature-packed platform.
Pricing: The free plan is limited to 300 emails per day. Paid plans for the transactional service start at $15/month for 20,000 emails. If you need both transactional and marketing emails, the suitable plan starts at $25 for 20,000 emails per month.
Mailchimp Transactional Email, also known as Mandrill, is a paid Mailchimp add-on for your account that allows you to deliver personalized transactional emails via an SMTP server. Note that Mailchimp does not have a free plan, but there is a demo version you can try. Besides, the platform offers a range of digital marketing tools, including CRM, websites, ads, and social media. In addition, you can use ROI (Return On Investment) tracking.
There are several reasons to be in favor of Mailchimp when choosing an SMTP relay service:
- Functional marketing platform. Mailchimp is a great choice if you’re looking for a comprehensive solution.
- Beginner-friendly option. It provides a vast knowledge base and easy-to-follow guides if you’re just starting.
- Seamless experience. This SMTP provider is very intuitive, especially if you’re an existing Mailchimp user.
- Email tracking. There are numerous possibilities for tracking deliverability rates, bounce issues, click rates, etc.
- API documentation. It includes all calls, parameters, and sample code.
On the other hand, there are some cons that you might want to take into account:
- Not a budget solution. To access the SMTP email service, you’ll have to pay for the whole email marketing functionality and buy transactional email credits as an add-on.
- No free plan. Testing the service to the fullest if you’re just starting your business can be vital.
Pricing: There is a free trial for new users. You can send up to 500 transactional emails for free. Mailchimp’s plans are based on a monthly block system where each one is a credit for 25,000 emails, starting at $20/block.
Mailgun is a developer-focused email provider with SMTP integration. Since Mailgun’s sending infrastructure is built for transactional emails, it’s optimized for delivery and reliability. This transactional email service easily integrates with any WordPress site or application, offering a wide range of features. You’ll get access to various verification tools, inbox placement, and detailed documentation. However, Mailgun might not be an easy-to-start service.
Mailgun provides businesses with many pros, including:
- Enhanced deliverability features. Mailgun proves to be a splendid choice to reduce bounce rates and spam complaints.
- Enterprise-focused solution. The service is also suitable for large businesses, as it can send a high volume of emails.
- Email Verification API. You’ll be able to utilize the tool for fast and accurate email verification.
- Connection to the Major Webmail Services. This SMTP provider connects with Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook (over TLS or SSL).
If you’re not tech-savvy, Mailgun cons can be quite significant. Some of them are:
- Developers-oriented platform. The server is built for developers, meaning that it might be difficult to use for non-tech specialists.
- Only HTML template builder. Mailgun doesn’t provide any drag-and-drop builder for creating templates.
- No free plan. If you’re just starting and don’t need to send a high volume of emails, Mailgun might not be the best option.
Pricing: Despite the absence of the free plan, there is a 30-day free trial with 5,000 emails. The cheapest plan starts at $35/month for 50,000 emails.
Moosend is one more email marketing automation platform on the market. It includes a professional SMTP service for marketers who need SMTP integration with their website or app. You can seamlessly interact through the Moosend API and customize Moosend to suit your business needs. The SMTP email service is pretty straightforward in its use. It lets you send account confirmations, invoices, password reset messages, etc.
Moosend proves to be advantageous for businesses thanks to the following features:
- Beginner-friendly service. Moosend is suitable for marketers without a coding background.
- IP protection. The SMTP provider enables IP protection due to first-class infrastructure and IPs.
- Integrates with WordPress. It’s possible to effortlessly connect a WordPress site with Moodend’s SMTP server.
- Analytics and reporting. The platform equips you with advanced analytics and tracking systems.
However, there are some potential drawbacks as well:
- No free plan. Despite Moosend being available as a free platform, the SMTP email service is not included in a free plan.
- No 24/7 support is available, but there are other possibilities to contact the team.
- SMTP isn’t the main focus of Moosend, as it’s an all-in-one marketing platform.
Pricing: To access the SMTP service, you’ll need a paid plan. Pricing starts at $9/month, and you can send unlimited emails to up to 500 subscribers.
Postmark is a popular SMTP service that stands out for its ease of use, focus on deliverability, and solid customer support. This SMTP provider was designed for developers and product teams, that’s why it offers a rich feature set. The transactional email service allows you to access fast email delivery and track open and click rates.
If you are considering Postmark, it is important to understand the benefits it can offer:
- Several official SDKs. Postmark email API is available with Rails, Ruby, .NET, Java, PHP, and Node.js.
- Proven deliverability. You’ll get stellar deliverability without paying for a dedicated IP.
- Splitting up different types of emails. Promotional and transactional emails go through a parallel but separate sending infrastructure.
- Full content history. Customers can access their content history within a 45-day window.
While Postmark certainly offers a lot of pros, it is important to be aware of the trade-offs involved:
- The price. The service may be expensive.
- Limited functionality. With Postmark, you won’t get a myriad of features as in an all-in-one marketing platform.
- No free tier. There is no possibility to get a free low-volume plan.
Pricing: The most affordable plan starts at $15 for 10,000 emails a month. It’s also possible to buy 1,000 additional emails for $0.60–1.80, depending on the original plan.
SendGrid is a cloud-based service offering both free and premium SMTP server features. With SendGrid, you gain access to powerful delivery optimization tools such as custom DKIM and suppression control. This one of the best SMTP services offers domain authentication and proactive ISP outreach to ensure you achieve optimal inbox delivery. A global 24/7 support is there to help you out with any questions.
When it comes to SendGrid, there are some compelling reasons you might want to take into account:
- User-friendliness. SendGrid is known for its seamless integration and clear setup process for beginners.
- Real-time analytics. You can benefit from analytics on the go in your personal dashboard or via API.
- Team-optimized solution. SendGrid can be easily tailored to the specific requirements of your team.
It’s also important to be aware of SendGrid’s potential disadvantages:
- The price. Powered by Twilio, SendGrid is one of the most expensive SMTP providers.
- Mixed reviews. Some users have already expressed concerns regarding customer support and delivery.
Pricing: The free plan is very limited and includes 100 emails/day. Paid plans start at $19.95/month for up to 50,000 emails.
MailerSend is an advanced transactional email service built for developers and non-techies alike by the creators of MailerLite. It’s a flexible and reliable SMTP service optimized for deliverability and scalability. With this service, you’ll get a powerful API available with PHP, Node.js, Golang, Python, Ruby, Java, and Laravel. All in all, MailerSend is an extensive SMTP provider with custom roles and options for your team.
MailerSend can be a highly desirable option because of its advantages:
- Great deliverability. The service can also boast about its IP pool management and deliverability consultations.
- Large amount of resources. MailerSend provides documentation on its website covering various topics, including how to get started with the service.
- Dedicated IP address. The service is suitable for high-volume senders.
- Email verification tool. You can verify emails to validate recipients’ email addresses before sending your campaign.
While MailerSend may seem appealing, there are a couple of downsides to consider:
- Limited SMTP credentials. Each domain is assigned only one set of SMTP credentials.
- No template library. With a free plan, you’ll receive access only to 3 email templates.
Pricing: The Starter plan is absolutely free and includes 12,000 emails with the possibility to buy 1,000 emails for $1.00. The Premium plan starts at $25/month for up to 50,000 emails.
SMTP2GO is an evolving SMTP email service that allows you to send emails, track them, and maintain an excellent deliverability rate. This service stands out for a number of features, including an intelligent network to handle traffic and a multi-data center infrastructure that will deliver you emails even in case of internet failure.
If you’re looking for a solution that can help you streamline your marketing workflow, SMTP2GO offers plenty of pros:
- Advanced analytics. The service equipped you with actionable visual reports and analytics for deep insights.
- Additional tools. SMTP2GO offers great coverage of technical aspects, such as spam-trap detection.
- 24/7 customer support. As a user, you can benefit from free access to round-the-clock support.
- Intuitive API. SMTP2GO is pretty straightforward for both developers and non-tech folks.
SMTP2GO may seem like a great option at first glance, but it’s important to be aware of the potential drawbacks:
- No A/B testing. This transactional email service doesn’t support in-built A/B testing, which is a major disadvantage if you plan to test your emails before you send them.
- No contact storage. The platform doesn’t provide a contact database of its own, which means you might need to use another tool for this.
Pricing: The free plan is limited to 1,000 emails/month, with ticket support only. The Starter plan starts at $10/month for up to 10,000 emails.
With a myriad of decent SMTP email services, it can be challenging to settle on a particular one at once. Check out the table below to juxtapose the best SMTP servers based on their features and various budgets.
|SMTP Service||Free Plan||Starting Price||Customer Support||Best Feature|
|SendPulse||Yes (12,000 emails a month)||$6.40 for 25,000 emails||Yes||Custom tracking domain|
|Amazon SES||Yes (only with Amazon EC2)||$0.10 for 1,000 emails||No||Authentication with SPF, DKIM, and DMARC|
|Sendinblue||Yes (300 emails daily)||$15 for 20,000 emails||Yes||Integrations with eCommerce platforms|
|Mailchimp||No (only free trial)||$20 for 25,000 emails||Yes||Automatic loop registration|
|Mailgun||No (only free trial)||$35 for 50,000 emails||Yes||Real-time reporting and analytics|
|Moosend||No (only free trial)||$9 for up to 500 subscribers||Yes||Possible to buy a credit bundle that includes SMTP server and transactional emails|
|Postmark||No (only free trial)||$15 for 10,000 emails||Yes||Compliant with GDPR, the EU-U.S. and Swiss-U.S. Privacy Shield frameworks|
|SendGrid||Yes (100 emails daily)||$19.95 for 50,000 emails||Yes||Real-time email analytics|
|MailerSend||Yes (12,000 emails)||$25 for 50,000 emails||Yes||API available with 7 SDK libraries|
|SMTP2GO||Yes (1,000 emails a month)||$10 for 10,000 emails||Yes||The service sends emails even during an internet outage|
Implementing SMTP is the best way to start with reliable, fast, and high-volume transactional email sending. While a free solution is always available, opting for a more feature-rich relay service will allow you to uplift your email marketing and achieve a higher deliverability rate.
If you’re seeking an SMTP server, pay attention to such services as SendPulse. It offers an absolutely free plan to let you get a feeling of whether this particular service is right for you.