Did you know there are different types of WordPress Email?

Different Types of WordPress Email

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You can send different types of WordPress Email

Overview

There are different types of email in WordPress because you can use email differently based on what your intentions are.

Email, and how you send it can be a difficult topic to understand. To better understand it, you need to think about how your email is used. Is it for notifications and alerts, do you just want to know what is going on on your site, or is email marketing a key part of your business.

Some WordPress site owners don’t know the difference between the types of Email or how best to handle the processing. This article is a tutorial about email, how it is used, and how WordPress is configured to handle it.

I’m also providing an architectural view and how to address some of the shortcomings of the delivery process.

This post is not meant to explain how to set up your site for email, but more to explain the logic behind how email is processed in WordPress.

If you want to know how to set up your site, there are a number of excellent posts and videos that will give you a step-by-step guide.

Types of Email

WordPress site owners create two types of email

  • Transactional Email – System notifications and alerts. Email sent to an individual to alert them of an action.
  • Bulk/Promotional email – Newsletters and announcements sent to multiple users.

We’re not talking about how the email addresses are captured, but about “how” the email addresses are used.

Transactional Email

Transactional email is the most common type of WordPress email sent. When a user account is created, WordPress will send an email to the new user with account information

A transactional email can include event notifications, security alerts, task completion emails, feedback from completed forms, and more. Most of the notifications are short messages, less than a page.

If you capture information in forms, the notification/confirmation sent is a transactional email message.

Bulk/Promotional Email

Bulk, Promotional, and unsolicited email is mail sent to a list of people. Laws in most countries prohibit sending “unsolicited” email without prior consent.

Common types of bulk email include newsletters and announcements. Subscription forms are a common method used to get permission from subscribers before adding them to your lists.

Good list management also includes a method to unsubscribe.

Why WordPress email fails

I’ve heard a lot of complaints about WordPress not sending email. There are a lot of reasons (reasons within reasons) it doesn’t.

Most reasons revolve around the use of the built-in PHPmailer function. To use email, a user needs to be verified at a number of levels. 

  • Email must come from a valid email account on a verifiable domain – the sender on a WordPress site (unless they are the application, WordPress) rarely is guaranteed to be able to send successfully.

    The account that is trying to send (and by default that is the admin user account on the site) needs to log into their mailbox, using a user account and password (authentication) to send the email.
  • The sender has to connect to a post office they are authorized to send from.
  • Email needs to move from a valid email address to a valid and identifiable email server – The WordPress PHPmailer function tries to bypass that route. Modern email servers will not process any incoming email unless they can accurately determine where the email is coming from. There are protocols built-in to those servers that require them to check the origin of the email before they will accept it, protocols that exist between email servers.
  • Bulk email is frowned upon by local email servers – Most hosting companies limit the number of emails that can be sent from a single account or domain over a certain period of time. If that is exceeded the sender risks email traffic being throttled or stopped altogether. 

When WordPress email works

A more reliable way to send email is to use the internet standard SMTP protocol. WordPress email will work using SMTP because the client uses a verifiable method, using an email agent (a client) to connect to their mailbox on a post office and using a Message Transfer Agent (MTA) to send the mail. 

As stated previously, The post office is designed to speak with clients and other post offices. If mail is within the same post office, message transfer is easy; the recipient’s email is moved into their mailbox. 

If the message is destined for another domain a channel is opened between the post offices. Part of that setup is checking to see if the post office is valid. That check is done by querying DNS for the domain and specific DNS records (DKIM & SPF https://www.sparkpost.com/blog/understanding-spf-and-dkim/) to see if the post office requesting to send is authorized for that domain.

What about Bulk Email?

The internet recognizes that email sent from certain authorized email providers is acceptable. Email Service providers like MailChimp, MailerLite, Sendinblue and others have built a business around handling large volumes of email.

How do they do it and avoid being blacklisted? They manage the sending process.

  • Limiting the number of email messages sent out over a given period of time from a specific account
  • Spacing email messages from accounts over a time
  • Supporting opt-in/opt-out for subscribers and more

Conclusion

There are clearly different types of email support required in WordPress. A site owner has to understand those differences. They must be prepared to handle transactional and bulk content. How that is done differs, just as those two types of email. When building out your WordPress site, it’s important to take how you process email into account.

It is an important part of not only how you manage your website, but also how you keep in contact with your visitors.

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