Stop using Hotmail! How to set up your own domain's email...
[UPDATE: Google Apps is no longer free. Their new pricing has been added to the post. Also added a paragraph about Hover.com.]
Previously we've discussed the importance of setting up your own website on your unique domain as the hub of your online presence machine. One vital tool that is a part of your domain setup is an email address which utilizes your personalized unique domain as opposed to using a generic email service's domain such as Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, you home internet provider (Comcast, ATT, RR), etc. For me, and I think for many other professionals, it makes a positive statement when I receive an email from a potential client who has made the effort to set up their personalized email on their domain. And conversely, receiving an email from email@example.com tells me that you're not quite ready to go all the way with your business.
I understand that setting up email for your domain can be a daunting task, and that it's hard to get people to communicate with you using the new address when they already have the old one. Let me reassure you: it's not as hard as you think.
Almost all host services come with the ability to set up email using your host's servers. While this is usually the easiest way to go it is not usually the best option in my opinion. Services like GoDaddy charge extra for options like IMAP service (more below) and spam filtering. And more importantly, no matter how good your host's servers are, they are very unlikely to even come close to Google's - especially when it comes to security and no fuss anti-spam measures. Google offers free email along with calendars, contacts and cloud documents/collaboration tools called Google Apps. It's basically Gmail but with your own domain instead of Gmail.com. And it's only $50 per email address/users, which is well worth it for all you get in Google Apps.
If you need a cheaper and simpler email only solution without all the file sharing bells and whistles of Google Apps, you can transfer you domain registration to Hover.com and sign up for their email hosting service. Prices range from $5 per year for a "Forward Only" address, to $35 per year for their "Mail Plus" option, to $149 per year for their deluxe "Business Mail" service. Hover has awesome customer service and is very easy to set up.
All good host services offer an easy automated setup option for Google Apps. Once you enable it just visit https://www.google.com/a/cpanel/domain/new and follow the very easy instructions. The trickiest part is verifying that you own the domain, which requires uploading a coded HTML file which they give you to your domain via FTP. If your host service doesn't offer a web FTP interface for you to upload the file, you can download a free FTP client like Cyberduck or FileZilla. Your FTP user login information should have been included in the confirmation email when you signed up for your host service account, so dig through your email and find it. Or log into your host service account and find your FTP user information. Google is great about giving very detailed instructions for each step.
Once your Google Apps account is set up and verified, you can set up your old generic email to forward to your new address. Just do a search for instructions on where to find the forwarding settings in your old email account web control panel. That way you'll still receive all messages from people who haven't been informed of your new email address, and when you reply hopefully they'll notice it's coming from your fancy new personalized domain and change it in their records. You may even want to add a little note in your signature prompting people to update their information for the first few weeks.
Here's another quick email tip: use IMAP instead of POP on your smartphone and email client like Mail or Outlook. Android and iPhone/iPad make it simple to set up your new Google Apps email this way. Just choose to set up a new Gmail account on your device and enter your custom domain's new email address and password. The beauty of IMAP is that it automatically syncs all your devices' inboxes, and allows you to save messages to files on the server which you can access from each device. POP will only cause you problems unless you only use one computer to check your email.
Finally, don't forget to create a signature in your email clients which reinforces your branding with your slogan, logo, a quick blurb about upcoming important news, and even your primary social media account links.
Email is still your primary method of making business communications with the world. So spend a little time making sure it, like all other internet based tools, consistently represents you and your brand.
Do you use Google Apps? Do you have questions about setting up your email? Or do you have some tips to share? Please use our comments section to participate in the discussion, or drop us a line on Facebook.
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