Why you should not use noreply@domain.com in your emails

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When we were designing our SendGrid platform, we tried to solve most of the existing email problems and make an extensible platform where other companies could add functionality and solve future problems. One of the current problems is taking incoming replies from emails. We noticed many companies sending automated or transactional emails to their users using a From email address in the form of noreply@domain.com. This creates two huge missed opportunities that SendGrid users can now easily take advantage of by using our parse API.

The first missed opportunity is communicating with users.  Companies such as Posterous, WordPress, Intense Debate, and Facebook have taken advantage of the wide adoption of email to develop great applications.  WordPress and Posterous allow users to write and publish a blog post by just sending an email.  In the same manner, Facebook and Intense Debate allow users to reply to comments by just replying to an email.

The second missed opportunity is increasing email deliverability.  Webmail email providers such as Yahoo and Gmail automatically add email addresses that users reply to often to their contacts list.  Messages from senders in the contacts list won’t be marked as spam in most cases.  The best way to start is to allow registered users to reply to emails to confirm their email accounts in addition to providing a confirmation link.

So why haven’t companies taken advantage of this in the past?  First, it is difficult to setup the infrastructure to handle this.  It requires setting up email server software, worrying about scalability, and maintenance.  Second, parsing emails correctly can be difficult.  Emails are encoded differently, have multiple parts, languages, etc.  Luckily, SendGrid makes all these pains go away.

Companies using SendGrid can get this functionality in minutes.  SendGrid acts as an email proxy to web applications.   Users just point a domain such as domainmail.com or a subdomain such as mail.domain.com’s MX record to our cluster  mx.sendgrid.net and give us a URL to post parsed emails to.   Any email sent to that domain/subdomain comes to SendGrid, we parse it (including attachements), and post it to a web application.  This allows programmers to develop regular web forms that are exactly the same as if they were taking user input from a web browser.  Companies can give unique email addresses to their users or use the same email address and include an unique identifier in the subject (such as ZenDesk) or in the body.  For more information go here.

If you are a SendGrid user using this feature please let us know so we see what cool applications you have developed.  We would love to feature them in our blog.  Also, we would love if you can provide feedback by taking our survey here.

Carly Brantz is a veteran in the email deliverability space working to make email simple and easy for developers by regularly writing whitepapers, research briefs and blog posts about email, technology and industry trends.

Carly Brantz on Twitter

12 thoughts on “Why you should not use noreply@domain.com in your emails

  1. This is a killer feature. I look forward to moving http://dailylit.com over to SendGrid some time this year. Already have great plans for what to do with email response parsing. In the meantime will get some of the USV portfolio companies that are already using SendGrid to check this out.

  2. This pretty much convinced me to start moving an app I am working on over to Send Grid immediately. If the execution is as good as I expect it to be, it makes SendGrid a no-brainer for most web apps. Awesome.

  3. Will you retry on error, say if you receive an error 500? This is killer if we know that we are guaranteed not to lose email.

    • Yes, we retry for approximately 5 days. The retry protocol works similarly to that of mail servers where the time between retries is incremented the more errors we get from your web server.

  4. Pingback: OverLinked » People should be replying to your marketing emails

  5. This looks really cool, but it is unclear to me how you would pass context information. Above you say:

    Companies can give unique email addresses to their users or use the same email address and include an unique identifier in the subject (such as ZenDesk) or in the body.

    What I'd like to do if possible is to have the reply-to address be something like:


    where the numeric "8d7fe0883fab" part is a unique identifier that specifies both (1) what "conversation" the user is replying to and (2) the user's specific email address; and, of course, have all of these emails invoke my site's web service. Now, I read your comment to say that you can include this unique identifier in the subject or body, but can you include it in the email address like this? And will the "to" field then have this complete email address?

    • Hi Gary,
      If you put the address in the Reply-to: field, we will pass that address in the "to" field. In this case, the "to" POST field will be "comment-8d7fe0883fab@mydomain.com ".

  6. What makes me crazy in these situations if they at least don’t mention an email address I can reply to and I have to figure that out by myself.

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