Free SMTP Plugin – I Could Kick Myself…

UPDATE: I sent an email out yesterday evening (13th) with a link to the free plugin, so go check your email.  This was a thank you to subscribers only, and I won’t be posting the link to it here on the blog.

***

It’s FREE plugin time.

It can’t have escaped your attention as to how much of my attention I’m investing in WordPress at the moment.

While not perfect for your needs, it does make it easy to set up a site quickly.  And of course there are all those free plugins – 99% of which are junk in a business context – to help you do so.

One of the things that’s always been an issue for me is email deliverability.  i.e.  You send an email, but does it ever get there?  Who knows?  That’s why I use a third party mailing service in some instances.

But getting your emails delivered isn’t really rocket science, you just need to take a little care.  For instance enabling Domain Keys and SPF in cPanel will help in both directions – both sending and receiving email – and takes about 2 minutes to do.

And of course, always making sure that if you’re using a script on one of your sites that it uses SMTP to send the email.  That really helps as many ISPs and email providers will filter out email as it comes into their network if they can see it hasn’t been sent via SMTP when they examine the email headers.

What we’ve been doing in creating scripts and plugins here is to make sure they all have SMTP support to aid in deliverability, and this seems to work well.

In the case of WordPress we’ve been building the SMTP functionality into the plugins themselves.  Which is great, but…

Well.  You know how you sometimes have one of those OMG moments and you get a little revelation?  And then you feel like kicking yourself for not having realised it before?  I had one of those about a month ago.

I thought…

“Why on earth are we adding SMTP code into every plugin?  Why not just write a plugin that intercepts all email sends and make sure it goes via SMTP?”

Of course!  That would work.  I had a look round at existing plugins and it seems that I’ve been beaten to it.  So I took a look and immediately thought we could do better, and that’s exactly what we’ve done.

We’ve taken the idea of sending emails via SMTP and gone a step further.  We’ve added the ability to throttle and queue emails.

You see the problem is, many web hosts and ISPs are very aware of the amount of spam being sent and to limit this, they only allow a certain number of emails to be sent per hour or per day from each domain or account.  Anything over your quota is discarded.

So while you may think you’ve just sent 800 emails out with your desktop app or a web application such as WordPress AutoResponder (WPAR), most of them have been discarded even before they’ve left the network.  Oh dear.  :-(

This new FREE plugin addresses that problem.

Once activated, you enter your SMTP settings and your web host quota (e.g. 200/hour), and that’s it.  From that point on any email sent via WordPress either through a contact form, or a comment update plugin or WPAR will be pushed into a queue, and if available to be sent will do so there and then.

If the queue is greater than your quota, then the new email waits until the next send and then out it goes if there’s a slot available.

Cool huh?

We’re just doing final test and fix today, and if all is well hopefully it will be out to you tomorrow.

UPDATE: I sent an email out yesterday evening (13th) with a link to the free plugin, so go check your email.  This was a thank you to subscribers only, and I won’t be posting the link to it here on the blog.

***

While you’re reading this, I’d also like to just do a quick mention of another plugin that’s almost complete called “Widget Contexts”. This is the final of the trio of what I think of as the control plugins.

The first was “Ads Manager” which allows you to display ads depending on lots of different rules you can set.

The second was “Widgets In It” which allows you to place any widget into any post or page, not just in a sidebar.

This final control plugin “Widget Contexts” allows you to decide which widgets will appear on which parts of your site.

When activated it adds to the bottom of every plugin an auto-generated selection of “contexts” and tick boxes to decide where you want the widget to appear.

That might sound a bit complicated but it’s very easy to use in practice.

For instance you may decide you only want to show a certain widget on a particular page on your site.  All you do is untick every other page within the widget context.

Or you may decide that you want to place different ads on special pages such as your 404, category archives and tag archive pages.

Easy!  Just create the ad using either a text widget or Ads Manager, and then only select the special pages you want them to appear on.

There’s good reasons for wanting this level of control, and I’ll explain why in another post.  ;-)

***

Right!

While we’re waiting for Widget Contexts to be finalised and tested, probably by the end of the week, you can have a play with the free SMTP Throttler, so watch out for that announcement tomorrow.  ;-)

-Frank Haywood


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18 Comments

  1. Maury says:

    Wow Frank – you were reading my mind!

    I have a small website that I manage for my local homeowners association, and people have to fill out a simple WP registration to post comments. When WP sends them their password, that password ALWAYS winds up in the spam folder, even with Gmail – and I was looking for a solution. This new plugin will solve that problem – can’t wait!!!

    Thanks!!

  2. Phil Cullum says:

    I’m impressed with the level of work flow analysis that goes into your products, as well as your transparency in sharing your thought process. I am looking forward to the Widget Contexts plug-in.

    Phil

  3. Jamie says:

    As a user of your WordPress Autoresponder I am certainly looking forward to this.
    I am dead keen on being able to control all aspects of my sites with the minimum of 3rd party services.
    I have been using another WordPress autoresponder ( I won’t mention which, for fear of offending the developer) on a couple of clients’ sites for a few months now – however, although this uses throttling – I find that it is a very complicated plugin to use and very often causes conflicts with other plugins – as to support – well, that’s non existent, really.
    If anyone is reading this and looking for a WordPress Autoresponder – look no further – if it is as good as Frank’s current offereing it will be brilliant.

  4. Maury says:

    I’ve been reading a bit and perhaps I know enough to ask the question correctly – and I’m hoping this new plug-in will fix this.

    As I stated in a prior post, I have a small site that users must register on to be able to post a comment. WordPress has a standard register plug-in that will automatically send the person who just registered a WP generated password. It’s this automatic password sending that I want to be able to change from the WordPress automatic internal script to your plug-in, so the WP auto-generated password gets through.

    Will your new email plug-in address this problem?

    Thanks!!

    P.S. – I just found that I had already purchased your WP auto-responder plug-in, and had forgotten. lol Would that plug-in address my problem?

    • Frank Haywood says:

      @Maury:

      It will certainly help. You can never predict whterh an email will arrive or not, but you can facilitate it by doing a few simple things I’ve mentioned in this post like enabling SPF and using SMTP to send emails. The plugin will do the SMTP part of it.

      -Frank

  5. Ken Biddle says:

    As usual Frank you come up with the goods time after time. This should go hand in hand with the autoresponder plugin.

    Regards
    Ken

  6. HaRa says:

    Hello Frank…

    My question is:

    I already got the first Multiple Income Stream Themes from You.
    However I have not set anything up yet, because the setup of blogs is something I am not familiar with yet. I rather design a ‘normal’ site, which is no problem for me.
    Even though I know how easy it actually is, but I have never set up a blog, because it gives me a feeling of stepping on a stage in front of an audience, before I know how to handle and manage it. While a normal site gets created behind closed doors on my PC, and when everything is right and ready to go, uploading lifts the curtain.

    So far I always believed, blogs are only a substitute for those who can’t or don’t want to design a normal site, giving only the advantage of easy updating without having to reload the whole page, as well as have visitors being engaged in a conversation about something. Though I understand, that the input of others, means constantly growing new content and thus better SE recognition.

    Now I have to set something up quickly, that needs a good page of introductory text which always has to stay on the top. But below I like to be able to easily posts updates and promotions, as well as receive comments and questions and answer them there. Does that work with a blog alone, or would I have to create a homepage, and link to the blog from there?

    I also have earlier bought Socrates (for quite a bit more money!), and am likewise not sure, what is better – or better for which purposes.
    (At that time I was told – from Joel Comm – this is the first and only blog template with marketers in mind).

    Can You explain me something here?
    Or if You don’t have the time, perhaps some links where I can study it on my own?

    I really appreciate it !

    Thank You !

    HaRa

    • Frank Haywood says:

      @HaRa:

      >> “So far I always believed, blogs are only a substitute for those who can’t or don’t want to design a normal site”

      I used to think that but I realised it was far easier in terms of maintainability to have a site that had an admin panel at the backend. A couple of years ago (or more) I experimented with a few online WYSIWYG eidtors, but they didn’t really do the trick for me. WordPress is good but still not quite ideal. It will do until I find or create a better solution.

      (And of course as WordPress like to tell us, some of the biggest sites in the world are based around their platform.)

      We’ve just almost finished a site for a client with the help of the brilliant designer of the Multiple Streams Themes (MST). We’ve used WordPress as the backend and using the learning from MST plus a couple of other ideas we’ve come up with, it looks absolutely stunning and is a dream to maintain. We intend to use all the plugins I’ve had developed over the last few months to give us fine control over the content and marketing.

      >> I like to be able to easily posts updates and promotions.

      Yes, a blog would be ideal for that.

      >> At that time I was told – from Joel Comm – this is the first and only blog template with marketers in mind

      There are many themes with marketers in mind, but it depends what your marketing angle is for the site as to which one you should go for.

      So for instance if you believe there’s any money in AdSense (I don’t), then a particular style of theme that marketed AdSense ads for your targetted niche would work better than a theme for pro-bloggers like the MST themes.

      -Frank

  7. Ian Douglas says:

    Hi Frank,

    Thanks for sharing the tip about enabling Domain Keys and SPF in cPanel. It has significantly reduced the amount of spam I receive. I look forward to trying out your SMTP plugin.

    Best wishes,
    Ian.

    • Frank Haywood says:

      @Ian Douglas:

      You’re very welcome.

      It’s daft isn’t it? SPF and Domain Keys should be on by default, but you have to go activate them to get the benefit. Since I activated them, I realised I didn’t really need Spam Assassin etc and I only get a few spams a day now compared to the torrent I used to get, and when I do get an extra few they never seem to last more than 48 hours before dying off.

      It’s all much better than it was a couple of years ago, and I would actively recommend people not to use spam filters any more as they often filter out genuine business email. I know that because I’ve been on the bad end of trying to send someone emails but them never getting through. He uses Google’s Postini in case you were wondering – avoid it like the plague I say.

      -Frank

  8. FreeMaverix says:

    Thanks Frank for the answers and explanations.

    One thing that You oversaw, I like to know whether I can have a longer

    introduction on a blog (your MSTs) before the posting section begins.
    This needs to stay up and above regardless how many new posts are added in

    time. How?
    Or would I have to set up a normal static page first, with a link to the

    actual blog at the end (located in a subdirectory)?

    Can I also arrange the posts so, that the newest is always on top, and the

    older ones descend downwards, with the oldest at the bottom? How?

    Thanks…

    • Frank Haywood says:

      @FreeMaverix:

      There’s a sidebar at the top of the page just above the posts “Ad Header Widget Area” where you could place your longer introduction using either a text widget or an Ads Manager widget. However this ad area would appear on all your posts and pages. If that’s what you want, fine, but if not, then you could use the Contextual Widgets plugin to suppress its appearance on individual pages.

      If you only want it to appear on your home page, then you could use Ads Manager and the WordPress conditional tag is_front_page() to make it only appear on the front of your site.

      With WordPress, new posts are always displayed first with older ones below by default.

      -Frank

  9. FreeMaverix says:

    Here a feedback about your site: It looks like You have a bug in your site!
    Actually on this page, as I didn’t had this problem with your previous
    posts.

    When I tried to view this page, after loading, it remains for a few seconds
    and then (I believe when it has loaded completely) it suddenly disappears,
    leaving me with just a white page. So it’s impossible to read anything.

    I tried it in on different notebooks and different browser versions.
    Only with Firefox it stayed up, which I otherwise find unsuitable for me as
    I do a lot of work offline (because there is no internet service where I
    live, except a limited satellite with a 40MB daily cap, and I need to save
    pages for offline viewing). With firefox I can’t save any pages – not even
    images – once I am offline, because it can’t ‘read’ the source code. And
    the pages don’t remain in the cache to make it possible to exit Firefox and
    open it again later, and it’s often a problem to keep my notebook powered
    up all the time just to not lose any pages until I can view them. All
    tasks that are no problem with Opera.
    The only reason I use Firefox, is because I can’t find any of the video
    downloaders (ex.Orbit) working on Opera – which means whenever I get a site
    with video, I have to also load it in Firefox as well, to save the video
    from there, so that then I finally be able to view it later with a video
    player (AlShow is great). Boy, everyone doing videos nowadays really bugs
    me!! And I don’t want to know how much I have missed, simply because I
    couldn’t see/hear it and many don’t bother to also write what they say.

    • Frank Haywood says:

      @FreeMaverix:

      I think it might be a local issue to you. I’ve tried the site in FF, Opera, IE8 and Safari and it loaded fine in all of them.

      I’d not heard of Orbit, thanks for that. While we’re sharing, here’s some useful tools:-

      Get iPlayer for the BBC iPlayer – I believe it will allow you to download from any country, not just the UK, and interestingly all BBC streams are provided unencoded. It’s only the BBCs own iPlayer that applies DRM!

      http://www.infradead.org/get_iplayer/html/get_iplayer.html

      And the two tools I use for watching video are Media Player Classic (nothing to do with Windows Media Player).

      http://mpc-hc.sourceforge.net/

      And VLC.

      http://www.videolan.org/vlc/

      Between them they play just about every format, and where they overlap, usually one does it better than the other. You might also find useful the Combnined Community Codec Pack (CCCP) which includes Media Player Classic.

      http://www.cccp-project.net/

      -Frank

  10. ASU Service says:

    Hi Frank,
    I just installed this plugin on a hostgator account. When active no emails go … as soon as I turn it off all mailings go fine.

    HG is busting my chops about violating their 500/hour send rate and I need to do something.

    Any ideas what I might be doing wrong? I’m using version 1.01 on WP 3.05

  11. ASU Service says:

    Hi Again Frank,
    Just discovered that it is (sort of) working. Sadly, I have to initiate a test message to get all other messages to go.

    Thanks!

  12. C says:

    Hi Frank

    How do I get a copy of this free SMTP plugin? I really need this soon. Thanks

    Regards

    • Frank Haywood says:

      Hi,

      This was an email subscriber only freebie and I don’t plan to release it formally just yet. However, it does come as part of the WordPress Autoresponder plugin package, so if you have that, you already have it.

      -Frank

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