How to send and receive custom domain email with Gmail for free

This process will take about an hour. If you find this tutorial going over your head, just shoot me a question and I’ll answer + update the tutorial.

A little history

Every puzzle has an answer

  1. Enable email forwarding
  2. Set up Zoho SMTP Server
  3. Add Gmail aliases

Enable email forwarding

Set up Zoho SMTP server

Get started with their free plan and use the forwarding address you created in the previous step when asked. You’ll need to verify ownership of your domain, and for that, Zoho gives three options: CNAME, TXT, and HTML verification. I prefer the HTML method because it works instantly, but the CNAME method will work without access to your file server.

For the CNAME method, you’ll need to go back to your registrar’s page to manage your domain. Find the “All Host Records” page so you can add a new CNAME record. For TTL, just put 1800. Here are some more screenshots to help:

Now with your domain verified, you can add user accounts to Zoho. This is when you choose up to 10 addresses from which you want to send mail. I like to set up with ray@domain, hello@domain, and sometimes developer@domain.

Zoho will probably tell you that there are more things you need to do, but once you’ve created the email accounts, you’re ready to move on to the next step.

Add Gmail aliases

A pop-up window opens and walks you through setup. Type in the name you want to show up in emails you send, an email address you created with Zoho, and leave the box “Treat as an alias” checked. Click next step.

On the next screen, you need to enter SMTP data. Google used to let you use their servers to do this, but their policy changed and that’s why we’re using Zoho. Clear the fields preset data and fill it in with the following:

SMTP Server: smtp.zoho.com

Username: An email address you created on Zoho.com

Password: The Zoho.com password for the aforementioned email

Port: 465

Leave SSL selected and ignore the TLS option. Click through with the “Add Account” button and the final page of the pop-up will tell you it needs a verification code. If you set up your email forwarding correctly* in the first step, you’ll receive an email from Google in your inbox within a minute or two. Once you add that code, you’ll be good to go!

*Note: If the new alias you try to verify is set by the registrar to forward mail to the same @gmail account you’re adding it to (the forwarding address from step 1), the verification email will fail and likely the fail message will go to spam. If it happens to you, tell the registrar to forward email to a different email while you verify the alias on google. Then simply switch it back to the desired account after you receive and submit the verification code.

Make sure to check another box on the Accounts and Import tab that says “When replying to a message: Reply from the same address the message was sent to”.

Closing Thoughts

In my example, I set up hello@lobby.space to send to golobbyspace@gmail.com, but I could also set up many more email addresses to both send and receive at golobbyspace@gmail.com. At Budgie, we use Devin@, Hello@, and Ray@ all in one Gmail inbox, using some inbound filters to automatically label each incoming address.

Hope this helps! If you use this tutorial, shoot us an email at raymondgh@gmail.com to test it!

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