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Bulk Mail Server®

I have been testing the various free sending services available:

I have been using Amazon SES for about two years, but have decided to trial SparkPost and SendGrid. SparkPost offers their own comparison below:

Amazon SES

SES is inexpensive and very reliable, and I have been using them for about three years.

  • Cost: $1/10,000 messages
  • Setup: Standard SMTP, but you need to ensure you have authenticated your sender address. The SES UI can be confusing, and if you configure it incorrectly and it fails, it can be difficult to determine the cause.
  • Deliverability: Good
  • Summary: Good, but your list needs to be very "clean", if you haven't sent to your list in a while then you are likely to have a high bounce count, and this will prevent you using their service. They will routinely suspend you and you need to prove that you have improved the quality of your list. For this reason, I have pared my mailing down to only the most important contacts. Even then, I find myself constantly monitoring their dashboard to ensure my statistics are kept in check.


Clean easy to navigate web interface with standard SMTP sending. Lots of tracking options (but you do not need seem to be able to choose between open tracking and click tracking. It's either both or none).

  • Cost: $9/month for 50,000 deliveries, $49/month for 150,000 deliveries, etc.
  • Deliverability: Fair. A number of messages are blocked because of reputation issues of the sending server. SparkPost customer service recommends purchasing dedicated IP addresses for an extra $20/month. I may test this.
  • Setup: Generally easy, but you are best to authenticate your domain to improve deliverability (DKIM support). For this you need to edit your DNS records to add a TXT record (much easier than it sounds). I got confused thinking I needed to authenticate both my sending domain and my bounce domain, which tend to clash (your sending domain should be something like mycompany.com, whereas your bounce domain cannot be mycompany.com, it needs to be bounces.mycompany.com). Basically, I resolved this by not authenticating the bounce domain. The problem then is that you do not receive a copy of bounce reports (SparkPost receives, but does not forward them). This is not useful for MailList King. You need to manually export "Message Events" from the UI. Filter the list to obtain the bounces and then import/paste the bounces into MLK (ideally differentiating between the hard and soft bounces).
  • Support: I emailed technical support twice and received a response within two hours.
  • Summary: Generally good, apart from having to manually process the bounces. Deliverability seems lower than SES


Clean easy to navigate web interface with standard SMTP sending. Lots of tracking options. Very similar feel to SparkPost.

  • Cost: $10/month for 100,000 deliveries, $50/month for 100,000+
  • Deliverability: Pending…
  • Setup: Similar setup to SparkPost. You can send without authenticating but that changes the reply address to "via SendGrid".
  • To authenticate you add some TXT records to you DNS record (again, this is fairly straightforward). If you don't want the links in your message converted to SendGrid redirects (for tracking) then you need to disable that setting in options.
    I did a test sending to a number of recipients from a "semi-clean" list (signed up for my mailing list in the past, but I have not contacted for a few years). The bounce rate was high and I was immediately suspended, with a notification to contact support. I emailed them and they responded with more information and restored my service.
    I have since been testing it with my "clean" list. Deliverability seems very low, with many messages permanently in a "Processing" state and others blocked due to the reputation issues of the sending server. Though it is possible I am not understanding their UI or process. I will follow that up with customer support.
  • Support: I emailed technical support and received a response within two hours.

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