Sending from a custom domain
Unlike hosting on a custom domain which is largely a cosmetic feature, there are significant benefits to sending your emails from a custom domain.
By default, Buttondown sends your emails from its own domain and webserver. This is a good thing — it means when you are first starting your newsletter you can focus on writing, editing, and growing instead of dealing with arcane DNS issues.
However, as your newsletter matures it becomes a better idea to think about sending directly from your domain instead. This has a number of benefits:
- Your emails look more professional. Open and click rates are non-trivially improved for newsletters that are coming from, say, `newsletter.this-week-in-poetry.com` instead of `mail.buttondown.email`.
- You can start accruing "domain reputation" for your own domain. This improves the overall engagement rate for your emails. More importantly, that domain reputation carries with you — even if you leave Buttondown for another service, so long as that service also allows you to send from a custom domain.
Dealing with emails that are ending up in spam
If you're not using a custom sending domain, then this is likely because you're sending your email from Buttondown's mail servers, but 'signing' it with your own email address. This looks like spam (or at least mistaken identity) to most mailboxes, especially if you're sending from a `@gmail.com` or `@hotmail.com` account.
To remediate this, you should send your emails directly from Buttondown:
This will cause emails to come from firstname.lastname@example.org, which will have very high deliverability:
Dealing with 'softfails' due to SPF
Depending on your newsletter configuration, you might have been asked to set up an SPF entry for your custom domain. This is a DNS record that begins with the string:
However, this record can only be used once in a single domain. If you're using the same custom email domain for Buttondown and for an inbox provider such as GSuite, you need to take an extra step to combine the two records.
Instead of having two separate records, like:
The proper solution is actually to edit the existing one into something like that references both domains:
v=spf1 include:_spf.google.com include:mailgun.org ~all
Otherwise, some mailboxes may read the GSuite one and ignore the Mailgun one (set by Buttondown), causing a softfail and thus lower deliverability.
The difference between hosting domains and sending domains
Hosting on a custom domain means using a domain outside of `[buttondown.email](http://buttondown.email)` to host your newsletter and archives — for example, newsletter.jmduke.com.
Sending from a custom domain means setting up your DNS records so that Buttondown sends outgoing emails from your domain, improving reputation and delivery metrics.
Hosting requires you sign up for Buttondown for Professionals; sending does not. This is because, well, sending emails that actually get delivered is pretty dang important, and it's scummy to hide that behind a paywall.
Can I use the same domain for hosting and sending?
Unfortunately, some DNS providers will not let you set up the exact same domain or subdomain for both sending emails and as your custom archive.
For these DNSes, we recommend setting up completely separate subdomains — something along the lines of the following:
- `[newsletter.janedoe.com](http://newsletter.janedoe.com)` for your custom newsletter domain (where folks view archives and subscribe to your newsletter)
- `[mail.janedoe.com](http://mail.janedoe.com)` for your custom sending domain (where outgoing emails come from)
This is the best option to preserve the deliverability of your newsletter (and, frankly, most people are not particularly confused by this at all.)