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.

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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.

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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.  😉

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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