How to Use Gmail with Your Custom Domain (For Free)

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After buying a domain name for a business or organization, one of the first things most people do next is set up a custom email address that matches their website’s domain name, known as an email domain. Sending emails from an email domain makes you look far more credible and professional when compared with emailing people from regular free email platforms, such as those ending in @gmail.com or @yahoo.com.

If you are trying to figure out how to create your own free email domain, and want to be able to use the familiar Gmail inbox just like the one you use for your personal email, there are basically 2 options to consider. Now, we’ll outline these options below and explain how to actually implement each one.

Option one below is considerably more attractive for people who have Gsuite legacy accounts. If you have followed the news you must have heard that Google is putting an end to the legacy free edition. It will become unavailable from May 1, 2022. On this date, all legacy users will be transitioned to Google Workspace paid edition. They will have until July 1, 2022, to pay for it. This has left many people worried about what they are going to do! Do not panic. Continue reading to understand your options.

1. Enable Gmail to Work with Your Custom Domain Email

This option allows you to enjoy all the great features that come with a regular Gmail account while sending emails from your email domain for free. Before you can do this, you’ll need to first have email hosting from a provider that allows email forwarding (you may already have this, just check with your web hosting provider). Once you’ve done that, you’ll sign up with Gmail, forward the emails to that account, and enable Gmail to send as your custom domain email address.

You can then immediately start using your new, professional email address for your startup, blog, business website, or nonprofit. Without a doubt, this is your best option for setting up a custom domain email address for free. This process may sound complicated, but it’s really not, and I will walk you through it below, step-by-step.

What if you don’t have an email hosting plan? In this case, you can move on to option 2 below, which will cost you a few dollars each month for email hosting, or you can transfer your domain to a web hosting provider that offers free email hosting and lets you forward your emails. I personally recommend Bluehost web hosting since they’re inexpensive (currently $2.95/m) and make it really easy to transfer your domain to them from another provider. Once you’ve done this, you can move on to setting up your custom domain with Gmail as described below.

2. Sign up for Google Workspace (formerly G Suite)

While the first option will save you some money, I do recommend just signing up for Google Workspace (formerly known as G Suite) instead. It’s much simpler and more reliable than the first option listed above. In addition to a domain email with Gmail, you’ll have tons of extra features that make it easier to collaborate, store documents, share files, and even add or remove user accounts for other people on your team that use your domain name in their email addresses:

  • For example, I have multiple @thedigitalnonprofit.com emails that I can use depending on the situation, like info@tdn.com, jason@tdn.com, etc.
  • And when I hired a contractor, it took 2 seconds to give them a name@tdn.com email so we presented a consistent brand.
  • During the contract, I could make files & events shareable with all TDN employees to easily collaborate
  • Finally, when the contract ended, I could freeze their accounts with 1 click so my business’ info is safe!

All of those benefits were possible because I had Google Workspace. They actually offer a 14-day free trial so you get a better sense of what it’s like to use all their features. In addition, they provide promo codes that help save 10% off for the year.

This promotion is only available for the Business Starter and Business Standard packages. There are a few differences between these 2 plans; the standard plan comes with much more storage space (2 TB as opposed to 30 GB) and lets you record video meetings. But in general, the standard plan is only worth the extra money if you have a lot of files that you need to store or if you work as part of a team that does a lot of collaborative work remotely, otherwise, I’d go with the basic package.

Google Workspace logo for Gmail email with a custom domain

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One last note — if you’re a registered nonprofit, you can get Google Workspace at a discounted rate, or even for free through Google for Nonprofits. Regardless of whether you’re nonprofit or for-profit, it’s best to take the long-term view and sign up to get all of Google’s business productivity tools, especially given that can save a few extra dollars if when sign up with the promo codes. If you want to switch later, it will be a pain in the butt to transfer all your emails to Google Workspace. But if you still want a quick fix for the time being, here’s a quick workaround to use Gmail with your own, custom domain email for free.

Basically, you’ll just forward all the mail from you@yourdomain.org to a Gmail account, and change a setting so outgoing mail says you@yourdomain.org too. That’s it! So let’s jump right in.

1) Create a Gmail Account

Sign-up page to create gmail account

You probably already have a personal Gmail account, and you could use it for your custom email, but just like finances, it’s best to keep business and personal separate. It will make things a lot easier down the road if you upgrade to Google Workspace or Google for Nonprofits.

Update for legacy Gsuite holders: On July 1, 2022, Google will start charging for your free account. If you use the coupon code above, you will be able to receive the discount, but I beleive there is no way around it after that.

Here’s how to create the free account:

  • Create a Gmail account here and pick a new email address. yourname.organization@gmail.com usually works well.
  • Follow the rest of the steps to verify your phone number, create your account, and sign in.

2) Create Your Professional Email Account Domain

Next, you’ll need to register your custom domain with a registrar that offers email forwarding.

If you haven’t registered your domain already, you can sign up with Bluehost to get a domain name, email hosting, and web hosting all for just a couple of bucks a month. You can even use this tool to see if your domain idea is available:

(You may need to disable AdBlock to use the tool)

Why do we recommend Bluehost?

Well if you’re looking for a professional email, you’ll probably want a website to go with it. Bluehost includes a domain name free if you sign up for web hosting, and they’re pretty much the gold standard when it comes to web hosts.

Use the tool above or link below to get 1) a domain name, 2) website hosting, 3) an SSL certificate, and 4) email hosting for just $2.95 a month.

Click here for deeply-discounted Bluehost hosting and a free domain name.

If nothing else, they have a 30-day money-back guarantee and pretty stellar support, so you can easily change your mind later.

3) Forward Emails from Your Custom Domain

Now that you’ve got a domain name, you’re going to route emails from your professional address to your Gmail address, so that you can continue to use the Gmail interface.

Below are the instructions for several different web hosts.

If your host isn’t listed: Look at the HostGator instructions–chances are you have the same cPanel admin interface.

If that doesn’t work: Your provider might not include email forwarding. You can transfer it to Bluehost for a web hosting package that includes email forwarding. Just click “Get Started” on this link, and on the 3rd step or so put in your existing domain name rather than searching for a new one. They’ll guide you through the rest.

Bluehost

  1. Login to your Bluehost account
  2. Under the hosting section click the email link
  3. Click the forwarding link
  4. Click the add email button
  5. Enter the address you would like to be forwarded. (you@yourdomain.org)
  6. Choose your new Gmail as the destination for the forwarded email
  7. Click submit

Hostgator / Any cPanel Host

  1. Log into cPanel
  2. In the Mail section, click Forwarders
  3. Under the Email Account Forwarders section, Click Add Forwarder
  4. Type in the Address to Forward (you@yourdomain.org)
  5. Select “Forward to email address” (you.organization@gmail.com)
  6. Click Add Forwarder

GoDaddy

*Please note that as of December 31, 2020, GoDaddy no longer offers email forwarding credits. If you have an account that was created before this date you can follow the instructions below. If not, you will need to purchase Office 365 Email Essentials for $23.88/year and then go into the GoDaddy settings for email forwarding.

  1. Login to your account and click your name in the top-right.
  2. Select My Products from the drop-down
  3. Scroll down to the section called Additional Products
  4. Click the arrow to reveal the Email Forwarding section
  5. Click the Redeem button
  6. Select your domain name (Email Forwarding 100 Pack) and click Redeem Credit
  7. Wait for the page to refresh
  8. Scroll down to the Workspace Email section
  9. Click the arrow to reveal your remaining credits for Email Forwarding
  10. Click Manage All
  11. You’ll be redirected to the Workspace Control Center (you may be asked for your login details)
  12. Click Create Forward
  13. Under Forward this email address, type the address you want to forward (you@yourdomain.org)
  14. Under To these email addresses, add your Gmail address
  15. Click Create

1&1

  1. Log in to your 1&1 Control Panel and select the relevant package
  2. Click the Manage E-mail Addresses link from the Mail panel
  3. Click the Set up forwards link located in the right corner of the page
  4. Choose a name and domain for the forwarding address (you@yourdomain.org)
  5. Type your Gmail into the Forward Target(s) box
  6. Click Save

4) Enable Gmail to Send from Your Custom Email Addresses

Enabling to send email as your custom email address via SMTP

Now that we have emails coming into Gmail, this step will allow you to send emails as you@yourdomain.org for free with Gmail’s SMTP servers.

  1. Return to Gmail, click the gear icon, then Settings
  2. Click Accounts and Import, then Add another email address in the Send mail as section
  3. Enter your name and you@yourdomain.org, allow Treat as an alias, and then Next Step
  4. Enter the following credentials:
    • SMTP Server: smtp.gmail.com
    • Username: The part of your Gmail address that comes before “@gmail.com”
    • Password: Your Gmail or App-specific password
    • Port: 587 or 465
    • Secure connection using: TLS for 587, SSL for 465

5) Final Configuration

Final step to set your free domain email as default
  1. You’ll be sent an email with a verification link. Make sure to click it to enable your new address.
  2. Once you are returned to the Settings page, click Make default next to your new, custom email.
  3. Send a friend an email to test outgoing messages
  4. Have them send you a message to confirm incoming messages

And that’s it! You now have Gmail with your own domain for free!

If you have any issues, comment below and I’ll do my best to fix them for you.

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197 thoughts on “How to Use Gmail with Your Custom Domain (For Free)”

  1. Gravatar image of Wayne

    It looks like this will no longer work from May / June 2022. If you disable less secure apps now, then you can’t send emails from the custom domain set up as above using the gmail IOS app or clients like thunderbird.
    This is so annoying! I’ve used your method for the past 12 years without an issue. Like someone else has conmmented, I also use this for our own personal family email addresses so a paid for option just isn’t viable for that kind of use. For what it’s worth there is a free service for email from zoho using your own domain which includes the use of DKIM and SPF records too. The downside is that there’s a limit of 5 email addresses in total, and no IMAP or SMPT is available on free accounts – so you have to use webmail or their own ZOHO mail app on phones.

    1. Gravatar image of Yaron Marcus

      This is indeed the case. I am investigating possible solutions and will update when I have something concrete. Stay Tuned!

  2. Gravatar image of Nathan Adams

    Hi Jason, a really well written article that has got me 90% of the way. The last 10% is that mails are failing Microsoft’s spam filters as there is no DKIM, A recent reply on this very subject refers you to setting up DKIM for Google Workspace, which is a paid service but this blog is for a free service. I cannot see how to enable DKIM for free GMAIL, I can of course set up the DNS records for this but the server needs the private key. Any ideas? I think in light of recent activity Google do not want you to send emails from a custom domain unless you use workspace….

  3. Gravatar image of Admin

    I need help understanding impact of Google terminating legacy Google Apps / G-suite account. I have chatted with Google support but they only say that Google is still considering how to handle legacy personal accounts (not business, not non-profit accounts).

    Background:

    I adopted Google Apps as soon as it was offered (about 2006) and have been using it exclusively to manage my family’s email accounts that use our personal domain name (lorax.us).

    When Google terminated the free level of Google Apps in 2012 they ‘grandfathered’ previous users and everything continued as before.

    Just recently Google said that they will force legacy users to upgrade to paid G-Suite plan (minimum of $6 / email address / month) or terminate the account.

    I do not need any other Google service that is part of the paid G Suite plans.
    So paying $54/Month for my family’s 9 email accounts is far too expensive for that limited service (just have a custom domain name).

    My custom domain name is NOT hosted by Google.
    I have my domain host settings forward our emails to Gmail.
    This has worked fine for 16 years.

    I am not clear how Google’s new rules will effect my emails if I don’t upgraded to a paid plan.

    Doesn’t Gmail natively allow users to receive/send email from other email services?

    So would my emails continue to be routed to Gmail (such as to my admin@lorax.us address)?

    But I don’t have an underlying true Gmail account ( * @gmail.com).
    I only have the *@lorax.us email address this currently managed by Gmail/G-Suite.

    I’d be grateful if anyone has any better insight to continued use of custom domain name emails in Gmail if G Suites terminates my account.

    1. Gravatar image of Jason

      I have the same issue. I am thinking about just creating my own email server but my YouTube TV, YouTube and Google Calendar are all unfortunately tied to the Gsuite account.

  4. Gravatar image of Omar

    Hi there, thanks for the information.
    Google confirmed that they are discontinuing free own-domain e-mail service as off July 2022.
    I’ve been using their service for more than 10 years, but now we’ll have to find alternatives, or pay for every account we might have.
    You can still use it for free with @gmail.com accounts…

    1. Gravatar image of Yaron Marcus

      This is correct. You have until May 1, 2022, to switch and will be required to pay by July 1, 2022. If you do not wish to continue you can export your data using the Google Data Export tool.

        1. Gravatar image of Yaron Marcus

          This is correct. If you have a legacy account you will be able to switch to Google Workspace until May 1 2002 and stay free until July 1, 2022.

  5. Gravatar image of Pascal

    Hey Jason,
    thanks for your article. It really helped us. We can now successfully send emails via our custom domain. That’s nice. Thanks.

    However, we still experience issues, that our mails land in spam. We did already add the SPF domain record, but that did not completely solve it. Debugging problems with a tool like mailgenius.com or mail-tester.com tells us, that there are currently still 2 problems:
    1. Our emails lack a DKIM signature
    2. From and EnvelopeFrom 2nd level mail domains are different

    I expect these problems to cause the issues with the spam folder.
    If you or anyone reading this has a solution to that problem, I’d be super thankful to hear about it.

    Kind regards,
    Pascal

    1. Gravatar image of Yaron Marcus

      Hey Pascal,

      You will need to set up the DKIM. Google “DKIM setup to prevent email spoofing” You will be taken to a workspace support page where there is a step-by-step guide on how to set this up. Good Luck! Hope that helps.

    1. Gravatar image of Jason Jensen

      Hi,
      Yes you can. Just create an invite in your Google calendar and it will automatically send using your custom address.

  6. Gravatar image of Bobby

    Bluehost does not offer free email forwarding with only a domain purchase. I just followed all your steps and purchased the domain from Bluehost to then find out you actually need a web hosting account to have emails forwarded. What a pain. I hope you will consider updating your article for accuracy. I would have gone with GoDaddy if I hadn’t read your article. GoDaddy is a few dollars cheaper if you consider getting a domain and email service for 5 years

    1. Gravatar image of Jason

      Hi Bobby,

      Sorry for the misunderstanding. You are correct in that Bluehost is a web host that offers email hosting and forwarding as part of their package. However, the reason we recommend this for people that want to use Gmail to manage their domain emails but do not want to sign up for Google Workspace is because it’s honestly the best option. If you were to use use GoDaddy as you suggested, you’d have 2 options: using one of GoDaddy’s 2 email packages (Email Essentials for $1.99/month or Email Plus for $3.99/month) or using Office 365 for $8.99/month. None of those options will allow you to use Gmail. The GoDaddy email tools are very simplistic, have terrible reviews, and lack most of the features that are available for free from Gmail. The Office 365 option is more expensive than Workspace and not nearly as user friendly. So using Bluehost with email forwarding is a much better option on all accounts.

      1. Gravatar image of Corinne

        Hi, following along here and I am a bit confused. It appears to me that Bluehost only offers email hosting through Office 365 or Google Workplace (each requiring a subscription). I did dig deeper into the settings and was able to follow your beautifully explicit steps in forwarding email without either of these, using a @gmail.com account but ran into an issue at the end of step 3/beginning of step 4 when needing to confirm/verify the change. Without a mailbox or original hosting for the target email address to begin with, it seems as though there is no way to receive the conformation email with the verification code to complete the change. Am I missing something?

        1. Gravatar image of Yaron Marcus

          Hi Corinne,

          The email should be coming to the original address that you signed up with. The alias is just for when sending out mail. The same email you used in step 3, should be the inbox that the verification link arrives at. Let me know how it goes!

          1. Gravatar image of Corinne

            Hi Yaron,
            Yes, I follow you there but my question is about that original email. I have a domain and web hosting from Bluehost but I do not see the option for email hosting without getting a subscription (to either Office 365 or Google Workplace). I’m wondering if that’s right, since it seems from the post that Bluehost offers at least a basic email hosting for free with web hosting. I’m just not seeing that and without hosting for the original email it doesn’t seem there is anywhere for that confirmation email to land. I’m wondering if I am missing something or if I really do need to get an additional subscription to support email hosting. In which case there doesn’t seem to be much sense in setting up an alternative account.

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