Does email forwarding work to outside mail providers?

If you’re using our email management service, you can setup an email forwarder, which redirects an email address on your domain name to any existing (separate) mailbox that you have.

When using email forwarders to send messages to another Primary Image mailbox, we can guarantee this will work ok.

However, if you’re forwarding email to an external provider (e.g. Gmail, Office 365, Yahoo, etc), then please be aware there’s a risk they could block your messages from being delivered, or they may put your emails into a spam folder. Unfortunately this is out of our control. For this reason, we suggest email forwarders are used with some caution if you’re redirecting messages out to an external email provider.

Why would my external email provider block my messages?

External email providers, such as Gmail, Office 365 and Yahoo (who also run BT Internet customers’ email), have extremely strict criteria for accepting email. Unfortunately, they may defer, block or move messages to a junk folder if they suspect incoming messages are spam, even if they are actually perfectly legitimate emails.

Three reasons this could be happening:

  1. Because the email is addressed to a different email address (e.g., rather than the true email address that your mail provider recognises (e.g., so they may think this is suspicious.
  2. If a lot of spam messages are being delivered through your forwarder(s), third-party email providers may start to believe these spam messages are originating from your domain name, because all these spam emails are getting routed through your own hosting account. They may temporarily restrict all emails in this case.
  3. Some third-party email providers may also mistake contact form messages as spam, because they don’t look like a typical email message.

If your emails are not arriving in your external mailbox, you should seek technical support from your email provider (e.g. Gmail, Office 365, Yahoo, etc), as they will be able to investigate why their systems are blocking your emails from arriving in your inbox. Annoyingly, with large email providers, it can sometimes be difficult to seek technical support from them, unless you hold a business account with one of these providers.

What about forwarding email to corporate email systems?

Larger companies often have stricter spam controls than most, due to the policies set by IT departments.

If you’re planning to forward email from your domain name to a corporate email address, or send contact form entries to a corporate email address, we recommend checking your emails are arriving ok.

If emails are not being delivered, we suggest checking your spam folder first. If there’s no sign of your emails, then contact your IT department and ask if they can whitelist your incoming emails.

Is this a common issue?

All web hosts (not only Primary Image) will face this same issue, due to the nature of how email forwarding works. It’s because third-party email providers (such as Gmail, Office 365 and Yahoo) are the ones tightening their spam filters or blocking messages, because spam is clearly an ever-growing issue. In fact, we’ve noticed advisories issued by a number of other UK web hosts in recent months.

It is, however, worth noting that most of our clients have not experienced issues and the vast majority of emails are accepted by third-party providers.

We have also proactively taken steps to improve email deliverability, such as adding SPF records to domain names, trying to block spam messages from being forwarded, and allocating dedicated IP addresses to customers where necessary.

What would you recommend instead?

There’s two safe options we suggest:

  1. Forward (or copy) emails to a Primary Image hosted mailbox, so you’re not forwarding mails to an external email service.
  2. Or, move your complete email management to a third-party provider (such as Gmail or Office 365). Basically, this means you link your domain name to their systems, then setup all your mailboxes on their email servers, which removes the need to use email forwarders. Gmail and Office 365 offer this as a paid (business) service and typically charge for every email address in use.
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