Do I need to setup SMTP to get WordPress to send email?

Mail boxes in Gåseberg by flickr
Mail boxes in Gåseberg by Flickr user aka CJ

Why do contact forms and password-recovery email messages work fine with some websites and not with others? A lot of it has to do with the way the web server is configured and/or the security settings for the client’s domain email. Most web servers can send simple email messages. Others, especially depending on what email service they’re using, need to jump through more hoops. Sometimes it’s as simple as editing an SPF string in the domain’s DNS record. Other times you have to add and configure your own SMTP plugin like WP Mail SMTP.

Without getting into too many details, here are the….

Things I check before manually setting up SMTP on a client’s site:

  • Can the site send email outside the domain? (e.g. to a generic email address like
  • Can the site send email inside the domain (e.g. if the site is can people with addresses receive email?
  • Does the host block outbound email? Some hosts, especially shared-hosting that wants to avoid blacklisting, block outbound mail by default.
  • Are all required DNS records correct for the domain? (SPF, obviously, but some email hosts, especially Microsoft 365, require more.)

If outbound email is enabled and all DNS records are set correctly and the system still can’t send mail to addresses, then you’ll probably have to manually configure an SMTP plugin.

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David Innes,

I've been building and maintaining websites since 1997 and building and supporting similar hypertext-driven software since 1987. I've done maintenance, support, and maintenance for physical and digital systems since 1981. And no, I still haven't seen it all but by now I usually know where to look. More about David Innes...