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Emails play a vital role in online communication, and WordPress, a prominent content management system (CMS), heavily relies on emails for a range of functions, including confirming registrations, resetting passwords, and delivering notifications. WordPress offers two main approaches to send emails: the PHP mail() function and the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP). Each method comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages, and your choice between them should be determined by your website’s specific requirements and circumstances. In this article, we will delve into the characteristics and limitations of PHP mail() and SMTP, aiding you in selecting the most suitable email delivery method for your WordPress website.

PHP Mail Function

The default method for sending emails within WordPress is the PHP mail() function. This function is inherently integrated into the PHP programming language upon which WordPress is built. PHP mail() allows for the direct dispatch of emails from your web server, without the need for any additional configuration or reliance on third-party services.

Advantages of PHP Mail

  1. User-Friendly: PHP mail() serves as the out-of-the-box method for sending emails in WordPress, necessitating no supplementary setup or configuration. With WordPress installation alone, the mail functionality is readily available.
  2. Cost-Effective: Since PHP mail() operates independently of external SMTP services, you are not burdened with extra expenses for email delivery services.

Disadvantages of PHP Mail

  1. Delivery Challenges: Many web hosts impose stringent limitations on the volume of emails that can be dispatched through PHP mail() on an hourly or daily basis, which may lead to delays or, in some cases, non-delivery of emails. Additionally, as PHP mail() sends emails from your web server, the reputation of your server’s IP address significantly influences email deliverability. A poor IP reputation can result in your emails being placed in spam folders or blocked.
  2. Limited Features: Compared to dedicated SMTP services, PHP mail() is lacking in terms of advanced capabilities such as email tracking, bounce handling, and automated retries for undelivered emails.

SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol)

SMTP is a widely employed protocol for sending emails across the internet. Unlike the PHP mail() function, which transmits emails directly from your web server, SMTP requires an external SMTP server to oversee the email delivery process. This external server can be a dedicated email service provider (ESP) or your web host’s SMTP server.

Advantages of SMTP

  1. Enhanced Deliverability: SMTP servers are purpose-built for email transmission, ensuring more reliable email delivery compared to PHP mail(). Employing an SMTP server can circumvent common delivery issues, including IP reputation problems and email sending limitations imposed by web hosts.
  2. Advanced Features: SMTP services frequently offer added features that PHP mail() lacks, such as email tracking, bounce management, and automated retries for undelivered emails. These features prove invaluable for more effective email communication management.
  3. Scalability: If your website experiences growth and you require a larger email volume, SMTP services are better equipped to handle the increased workload. Many SMTP providers offer scalable plans to accommodate changing demands.

Disadvantages of SMTP

  1. Additional Configuration: Unlike PHP mail(), employing SMTP for email delivery in WordPress necessitates additional setup and configuration. You must register for an SMTP service, install a suitable plugin on your WordPress site, and configure the plugin with your SMTP credentials.
  2. Cost: Utilizing an SMTP service may entail additional costs, particularly if you need to send a substantial number of emails. While free SMTP services exist, they frequently impose limitations on the monthly email count or available features. Premium features and higher sending allowances may require a paid plan.

Comparing PHP Mail and SMTP for WordPress

Having explored the advantages and disadvantages of PHP mail() and SMTP, let’s evaluate them based on various aspects to determine the superior method for sending emails in WordPress.

  1. Deliverability: SMTP holds the upper hand in this aspect, offering better deliverability in contrast to the PHP mail() function. By utilizing a dedicated SMTP server, you can circumvent many common deliverability challenges associated with PHP mail, such as IP reputation issues and email sending limitations.
  2. User-Friendliness: PHP mail() excels here since it is the default email delivery method in WordPress and requires no additional configuration. Conversely, SMTP demands registering with an SMTP service, installing a plugin, and configuring it with your SMTP credentials.
  3. Features: SMTP emerges as the leader in this category, as it provides advanced features that PHP mail() lacks, including email tracking, bounce management, and automated retries for undelivered emails. These features facilitate more efficient email communication management.
  4. Cost: PHP mail() is more cost-effective since it doesn’t entail the need for additional email delivery services. Nevertheless, if you require a high email volume or advanced features, an SMTP service might be a worthwhile investment.


In conclusion, both PHP mail() and SMTP present their own set of advantages and disadvantages when it comes to sending emails with WordPress. PHP mail() is the default, user-friendly, and cost-effective option, yet it may be susceptible to deliverability issues and lacks advanced features. On the other hand, SMTP offers enhanced deliverability, advanced features, and scalability but demands additional configuration and potentially comes with supplementary costs.

Selecting the appropriate method for your WordPress site ultimately hinges on your specific requirements and circumstances. If you operate a small website with minimal email demands, the PHP mail() function may suffice. However, if you prioritize superior deliverability, advanced features, or have a need for sending a substantial number of emails, an SMTP service may prove to be the better choice.

To implement SMTP in your WordPress site, numerous SMTP plugins and email service providers are available. Popular options encompass WP Mail SMTP, Sendinblue, Mailgun, and SendGrid. These providers offer varying features and pricing plans, so carefully assess your needs and budget before making a decision.