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How to use Gmail with your own custom domain (for free)

February 16, 2017

People love the familiar Gmail interface, but using Gmail with your own domain isn’t free, and resorting to isn’t very professional.

For a long-term solution, I recommend signing up for Google for Nonprofits. It’s free and made to handle enterprise-level IT needs. I can even send you a spreadsheet to tell you if you’re eligible. Just complete this form here:

Know that if you want to switch later, it will be a pain in the butt to transfer all your emails to Google for Nonprofits. But if you just need a fix for the time being, here’s a quick workaround to use gmail with your own, custom domain.

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

1) Create a Gmail account

Google's Sign-up page

You probably already have a Gmail account, and you could use it for your nonprofit’s 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 for Nonprofits.

Here’s how to make the account:

  • Visit the Gmail sign-up page and pick a new email address. usually works well.
  • Follow the rest of the steps to create your account, and sign in.

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2) Create your custom email and forward it

Chances are, your web host also includes email hosting, or at least email forwarding1. If you’re hosted by GoDaddy, 1&1, Bluehost or Hostgator, you definitely have email hosting. Below are the instructions for each of those hosts.

If you use a different host, look at the Hostgator instructions–chances are your host uses the same interface.

3) Enable Gmail to send as

This step will allow you to send email from Gmail as using SMTP settings. If your host does not provide an SMTP server, you can use Gmail’s.

  1. Login to Gmail and click the gear, then SettingsGmail's settings
  2. Click Accounts and Import, then Add another email address in the Send mail as section
  3. Enter your name and, click Treat as an alias and then Next Step
  4. Enter the SMTP server according to your web host.
    • Username will be
    • Password will be the password of that email.

5. Click make default next to

4) Enjoy!

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

Test out your new set-up by emailing to see if it arrives in Gmail. Then send a friend an email from Gmail to confirm outgoing mail works.

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

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  1. If your host doesn’t provide mail forwarding, use this tutorial.
  2. If you don’t know your servers hostname, go to your cpanel. On the left side you will see a section called stats. Click the expand stats link if it is present. The hostname will be shown in the list of stats.
  3. If your Gmail uses Two-Factor Authentication, you’ll need to create an app-specifc password for Gmail. To do so, follow this tutorial.



12 Replies to “How to use Gmail with your own custom domain (for free)”

  1. This is great information. Love the step by step instructions. Can’t wait to implement this. As a non-profit, I can’t help but wonder about what gmail would do with donor info etc. Is this a secure alternative? or am I safer with GoDaddy?

    • Hey Barbara, I would imagine GoDaddy and Gmail are equally secure. According to Google’s privacy policy, their computers–but not humans–scan the content of emails to put it in the appropriate inbox tab and possibly serve you targeted gmail ads. (

      You can opt out of the service by going into Settings > ad personalization.

      One final thing to note is that email is inherently insecure, as the messages are not encrypted. I personally have never heard of someone intercepting emails for nefarious purposes, but it’s a good idea to refrain from sending credit card numbers and the like.

  2. Followed youyr instructions to the T. Just wondering, do i need to anything abouit the MX settings?
    My domain is hosted by go addy and i am forwarding the domain to gmail.
    Appreciate your assistance

    • and when i triy to do the setting in gmail, it comes with authencation error and asking me to check username / password

      • Yes the same happens with me since we have just created a forwarding account with Godaddy – that account doesn’t really have a password. I wonder what can me done about that.

    • Hey, I ran into the same problem. I am using go daddy and it looks like you need to create a user/email account with Godaddy first, however I think you would need to pay for that(no certain). Since we want this feature for free just use the gmail account you created for step 3 part 4. Note: make sure to enable less secure app to access your account more info about that in this link .

  3. I am trying to set up receiving my personal domain email through a gmail account I already have. I have forwarded my personal domain email through Namecheap (where I purchased domain). I can’t get your plan to work. I used the gmail server that you suggested ( and it errors out saying Authentication failed. Please check your username/password. I am using the exact user name and password that I log in to gmail. What am I doing wrong? The forwarding works, but I can’t SEND using the personal domain email address.

  4. Quick Question —
    Does using your suggested solution use Gmail to store all the incoming email data on Gmails servers?
    And does this also mean that Gmail will handle spam?
    I am having issues with my Media Temple email accounts and I would love to move all of my emails over to Gmail IF Gmail will handle spam, data, and basically work just like my current Gmail email which tends to be the most stable of my 5 email address…

  5. Hi Jason – I have tried multiple times to add my account to my Gmail, and continue to get the 535 error. I have read some other threads and followed advice and changed my password in GoDaddy. I even went as far as changing my e-mail address and am still getting the 535 error. Any other ideas?

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