How To Set Up Email On Your Own Domain With Google Apps

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set up email accountIf you run your own website or self-hosted blog it’s a good idea to have an email that shares its domain. This will lend additional credibility to your website and make it clear that people are communicating with you in your capacity as webmaster instead of communicating with you personally.

Most web hosts will set up an email account with your domain on their servers, but this can be a headache. The mail client is often terrible. This will force you to either use a client on your PC or set up an elaborate mail forwarding system. You can bypass this fuss by setting up an email with your domain on Google Apps.

Sign Up For Google Apps

Visit the main Google Apps for Business page to start on your adventure. Don’t worry about the “for business” subtitle. The service is free for up to ten users and Google isn’t going to check to see if you’re actually a business.

Click on the Free Trial button. You’ll first need to enter some personal information including a current email address, which can be another Google account. Click next.

set up email account

Now you will enter your domain information. You can also buy a domain if you don’t already have one. Click next.

set up email address

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Select your account information including your user name, which will be used in your email address. You will also need to enter a password and answer the Captcha. Then click Accept and Sign Up. It may take a moment for the next page to load, so be patient.

And that’s the basics. You now have a Google Apps account registered to the email address you just set up.

Confirm You Own The Domain

Now that you have an account set up you need to confirm you actually own the domain. You should see the admin control panel, as pictured below.

set up email address

Click on “Confirm that you own the domain.” You will be directed to a page that includes an HTML verification file. Download it and then upload it to your web server as you would any other file. If you don’t have FTP access for uploading files, now is a good time to consult your web host’s help files and download a free FTP client. Make sure you upload the file to a publically accessible folder, not to an FTP folder or database folder.

set up email address

Next, Confirm your domain by opening the file you uploaded in your browser. You should just see some text saying “google-site-verification” and some characters after that. Now click Verify. You should receive a message saying your domain was successfully verified. Click the continue link to go back to the admin panel.

Set Up Mobile Access

set up email

The next step shown by Google is adding people to the Apps account. This is not a critical part of getting your email to work, however, so we’re going to skip to the next step. That’s directing email to your new Google Apps account.

Click on the “Direct email to Google Apps Mail” link. You’ll be directed through a few steps including mobile access. Pay close attention to the mobile access portion if you intend to use your Google Apps email on a smartphone. These steps are different for every mobile operating system you want to access the email account with.

Set Up MX Records

Now the final step is setting up your email’s MX recorders. This will direct email sent to your domain to Google’s servers. If you don’t take this step your email will simply be sent your web host and won’t be sent to Google Apps.

The method used to update MX Records will depend on your web host. Many, including mine, use cPanel, so I am going to use it for explanation.

You first need to log in to cPanel by going to www.yourdomain.com/cpanel. Your web host should have set up a password for cPanel – if you do not know your login information, you’ll have to reset your password or contact your web host’s support.

set up email

Once logged in, find the MX Entry icon in the Mail section and click on it. This will bring you to the main MX Entry page. There will be a Domain drop-down menu. Open it, then select the domain you are configuring. Wait a moment for the page to update.

You will see some new options. First among them is Email Routing. Select the Remote Mail Exchanger button. Scroll down to Add New Record and enter the value “1” in the Priority field and ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.COM in the Destination field, then click the Add New Record button. Repeat until your records conform to the table on Google’s MX Record Values help page.

Next, click edit next to your existing MX Record, which will be filed under your domain name. Change the Priority to 15 and then click Edit. When you’re done, it should look like this.

set up email account

Now send a test email to your Google Apps email to confirm that the record was successfully changed. It should go through almost instantly.

Remember, these are guidelines for an implementation of cPanel, which is commonly used but is not deployed by all web hosts. The basics you need to remember are this.

  • Find where MX recorders are altered
  • Enter the MX records detailed on Google’s help page
  • Make sure any previously existing record has a higher priority number, is turned off, or is deleted. I prefer changing its priority so it could easily be enabled if desired.

Conclusion

Hopefully this information will help you set up a Google Apps email account. The MX records are of course the hardest part to tangle with, but it’s not rocket science. If you can’t figure out where you’re supposed to change the MX recorders on your web host, email their support or check their FAQ. They should be able to direct you to the correct menu, and the issue is so common that they may already have a solution entered into the customer knowledge base.

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Comments (34)
  • Jim Evans

    What’s the alternative, if any, now that Google Apps is no longer free?

    • Rob Hindle

      For small business paying for Google Apps is still an option and a better deal than hosted MS Exchange accounts. Paying gives the benefit of proper support, see my previous posting on the near impssibility of getting support for the free version.

      The “free” alternative is to use the services often provided as part of your domain registration package. Set all email to forward to a Gmail account, set up a desktop email client to fetch mail from Gmail but send via your domain registration package. (You can set Gmail to show “reply to” address as your.name@your-domain but some email clients will still show Gmail as the origin as will the headers if anyone cares to look).

  • Rob Hindle

    DO NOT DO THIS.
    Why?
    Read the Google forums. Google may disable your account and give no reason other than “you have violated their terms of use”. Requests to re-enable seem to get an automated and unhelpful response. I know an elderly gentleman who’s been affected and no way would he have done anything to have violated the terms of use (which can be summed up as “don’t send spam”). My best guess is he’s had his account hacked but there’s no way to find out, no way to restore access.

    Here’s one of the many Google forum postings on the subject:

    A friend using Google Apps for a non-profit organisation has asked for help. His account has been disabled. He completed the form to get it re-enabled (http://support.google.com/accounts/bin/request.py?hl=en&contact_type=disabled2&p=) He got a response which was “ask your administrator”. He is the administrator and he can’t log in – Catch 22? Where next?
    Tried the administrator password reset option, password apparently changed OK but still can’t log in.
    This raises a wider issue, basically the outcome of this seems to be “don’t use Google apps because it may be arbitrarily blocked with no practical way of recovering it and no reason given for the blocking.” Maybe one of his user group has had his account hacked, maybe one has inadvertently sent an email that someone thought looked like spam, whatever the problem they would fix it if they could but they can’t, basically destroyed all confidence in Google. As Google apps have the MX record the only option now is to reclaim that and direct it elsewhere – and write off the now inaccessible old emails stored in those accounts.

    In the past I’ve suggested to a few people that they use Google apps, I now feel I’ve advised them badly, especially struggling micro-businesses for whom loss of email could mean loss of business.

    Is this a ruse by Google to get people to pay for the nominally “free” accounts? If they were to pay would they be any better served or could Google still cut them off giving no reason and no way to recover the accounts?

    • Rob Hindle

      Eventually I did get this resolved. After 2 weeks I managed to get email contact with Google tech support and on their 3rd attempt they restored all service, then said the account suspension was “the result of a false positive” – i.e. the users had done nothing wrong but Google’s algorithms had incorrectly flagged a violation of their T&C.

      In this instance we attempted to upgrade to a paid acount but that was blocked too, could only be done if logged in to the existing account.

      As far as I can ascertain, should the same problem arise with a paid Apps account it would be easier to resolve because that does include a proper support route.

  • Darren Reynolds

    I’ve been using google for years now and i have done it a slightly different way. Just using a normal gmail account, I have set up ‘Send Mail as’ addresses.

    From my domain I forward my web address to my google site and and changed the cname to point to google…

    Is there still a benefit for me to sign up to google apps or just stay as i am and continue using gmail.

    • Scott

      Darren,

      I’ll let others with loads more experience on the matter address your question directly.

      I thought, though, that I would offer this observation: several years ago a relative of mine briefly owned his own domain and used GA for hosting. He decided to switch hosting to another email service he liked (EuMX.net) and found out that he could still use the GA account for sending/receiving email, even though the MX records were no longer pointing at Google’s servers. He set up the GA account to POP his EuMX account (thereby getting all email for his domain stored at both sites), and he was able to send from his GA account through Google’s smtp servers.

      So basically he was able to use his domain at two services simultaneously (Google Apps and EuMX.net; the former being free, the latter being $16/yr).

      All this is just “FYI.” You and others can determine whether there would be any advantage to you in setting things up this way instead. :-)

    • Darren Reynolds

      Cheers Scott

  • Hank

    Is there a way to verify you own the domain if you do not have web hosting? I have my own domain and use GoDaddy as my email provider. I use the domain for email only, so I have now web hosting and no web server to upload a file to. Does Google offer another way to verify I own the domain? Thanks!

    • Matt Smith

      So you have a domain, but no access to an FTP for uploading files? Are you sure? That seems strange, but I’ve never used GoDaddy. I’m not sure what kind of packages they offer.

  • Johann

    If you value your email address and want to do things properly then you should also bear in mind that using Google Apps for your email is probably the easiest way to get DKIM up and running. Along with adding in your SPF records you are able to fully implement an email solution that is completely DKIM/SPF/DMARC compliant in a matter of minutes. This is something that virtually no other provider allows (MS Office365 included – it allows SPF but not DKIM).

    Sorry for the acronyms, but let’s just say that having DKIM/SPF in place and DMARC reporting is a very good thing if you’re running your own domain’s email.

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For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.