Use Gmail to Send Email from Custom Domains for Free (With Pictures)

Gmail is great. It is powerful, sleek and easy to use. Using gmail with a custom domain for free makes the platform even better.

Sending emails from an @gmail address works for personal situations. Sending emails from @mydomain.com is necessary in professional and business settings. If you’re on a shoestring budget, or you just don’t want to pay $5 or $10 a month for Google apps to configure your custom domain email address, you can (and should) use gmail with a custom domain for free.

There are three steps involved, and you don’t need to be technically savvy to set this up.

  1. Enable email forwarding
  2. Setup SMTP server
  3. Create a Gmail alias

Email forwarding

Our first step is to setup an email forwarding and simple mail transfer protocol (SMTP) service. Here are a list of email forwarding and SMTP services that have “free” pricing tiers that you can use.

SendGrid allows free users to send 12,000 emails a month. That is the most of the four companies listed above. For the example below I am going to be using mailgun. If you want to use Zoho check out this comprehensive tutorial.

SMTP server

Go to mailgun and signup for an account with your @gmail email address. Make sure you use your @gmail address – you need to do this in order verify your account.

Once in mailgun, head to the primary dashboard page. Scroll down to the “Sending Domain” section and click Add New Domain and add your domain name.

custom-domain-with-gmail-mailgun

Follow the domain name server (DNS) instructions and add the DNS records with the service that manages your DNS.

I manage my DNS for shefska.com with DigitalOcean.com, so I simply add the DNS records there.

digital-ocean-dns-records

If you registered your domain name with GoDaddy or Namecheap and are not sure how to set up DNS records simply google “how to set up DNS records with XXXX”. There are plenty of tutorials out there.

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Next, click on Domains, and then click on your domain name. Click on Manage SMTP credentials. Create a new SMTP credential for the custom domain email address you want to use (for example, “zach@shefska.com”). Enter in that email, and a password. You’ll need these credentials again in Gmail. Don’t forget them!

This is the most “technical” aspect of setting up your custom domain with Gmail for free.

Mailgun routes

Next we’ll tell Mailgun to route emails it receives to your gmail account.

Click on the Routes tab and then click on Create New Route. Enter the following information:

routes-in-mailgun-for-gmail

Be sure to use your email addresses in place of mine!

Gmail alias

Next, go to Accounts and Import settings page in Gmail. Click on Add another email address you own under the Send mail as section.

gmail-add-email

Enter the email address that you just set up in mailgun and press next.

  • Server: smtp.mailgun.org
  • Port: 587
  • Username: from the SMTP credentials section above, e.g. “zach@shefska.com”
  • Password: the password you set in mailgun SMTP Credentials

Click Add Account (it says Save Changes in mine because I have already set this up), and confirm your email by completing the verification process. Nice! You’re done.

If you want, you can set your new email address to be your default on the Accounts and Import settings page.

There you go, 10,000 free emails per month from your custom domain name in gmail!


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11 thoughts on “Use Gmail to Send Email from Custom Domains for Free (With Pictures)

  1. Great tutorial! I was testing out this method and had some reservation though.
    What about bounced mail? It doesn’t seem to come back to me, it just goes into the logs on Mailgun.
    Is there anyway to change the return-path to the actual email address you’re sending from instead of going back to Mailgun?

    1. Hey Zach, I’m glad you found the tutorial useful! I have not been able to find a way to route the “bounced email” response back to your sending address..

      I wish I had more to share on that, if you figure a way out, I would love to know!

      1. Hey Zach,

        I may have found a potential workaround IF you’re the only one using Mailgun for emailing with your domain (i.e. no other users sending out mail via Mailgun).

        There’s a service called Zapier (zapier.com), which automates tasks between web apps. It supports integration with the Mailgun API, and you can set up a “Zap” to send you an email (have to specify the email to send to) every time there’s a new bounce event or new failed delivery event (I believe you’d have to set up 2 tasks, one for each event).

        I haven’t actually tried it with Mailgun, as I’ve decided on using Postmark for sending emails over Mailgun, but I took a look at creating a Zap with Mailgun’s API and it seems to have the options to achieve the same thing.

        Let me know if you end up trying this.

  2. Zach,
    Thanks for the updated tutrial. The pictures were really helpful for this noob. Question about creating the domain name in Mailgun. Mailgun instructions “recommend using a subdomain with Mailgun, like “mg.mydomain.com”. Using a subdomain you will still be able to send emails from your root domain e.g. “you@mydomain.com”.” Did you follow this?
    Also, when addng the alias account to Gmail after saving the chages, Google attempts to verify the account. However, I am not receiving the verification in my Google email. If it were not to go to the Google email, where should I look for it?
    Thanks.

    1. Hi there David-

      You do not need to worry about using a subdomain with MailGun. Check out this article for more information on that: https://help.mailgun.com/hc/en-us/articles/203357040-Can-I-use-the-same-domain-name-for-Mailgun-and-for-Google-Apps-or-another-email-server-

      Make sure your routing rules have been set up correctly so that emails will forward to your gmail account. That is most likely why you have not received the verification for your alias account.

      1. Hi! Having the same issue. Followed all of the steps and all went well, but in order to send using the domain based email in Gmail, it needs to verify via an email to the domain email, with a code. But it is being suppressed with a permanent failure. Any ideas?

        “Delivery to the following recipient failed permanently:

        hi@rrr.com

        Technical details of permanent failure:
        Google tried to deliver your message, but it was rejected by the server for the recipient domain rrr.com by mxa.mailgun.org. [00.00.00.000].

        The error that the other server returned was:
        000.00.00 Recipient rejected: “

  3. Great tutorial ! I’m really glad to be able to use gmail to manage my emails from my personal domain, Thank you !

  4. Hi, thanks for this tutorial. I’ve just set it up so I’m still waiting to see if it works. I noticed that the routing page at Mailgun has been changed – now you don’t even have to paste in the expression, there’s a dropdown list.

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