Help me find a better way to combine mail for multiple domains i one inbox.
March 8, 2012 6:07 AM   Subscribe

I have two domain names and a Gmail account, and I'm looking for the best way to combine them all so all my email ends up in one place.

I have two domain names and a Gmail account, and about a third of my email goes to each place. The mail to addresses at my domain names gets forwarded to my Gmail, so I have a single inbox, and I'm mostly happy with the arrangement.

Except I don't trust my domain host: some kinds of email don't seem to be getting through. Signup confirmations from vBulletin forums never arrive, and I think I'm also missing out on some other email that may well be getting stuck in a spam/malware filter that I don't have access to.

I want all my mail to get through to my gmail account, so I can decide what's spam and what's not.

I don't understand all the options open to me, so here's a string of questions:

1. Can I switch my DNS servers to a different host that will forward all my mail to my Gmail account, completely unfiltered? If so, recommendations please! I'll probably only do this if it's free.

2. I have tried to look into Google Apps, however Google's documentation is as bewildering as ever! If I move my domains over to Google Apps, I would have one vanilla Gmail account and two Google Apps accounts. Is there then a convenient way of getting at all my mail in a single inbox? I would wish to remain logged into my existing Google account at all times because of Youtube, calendars, Google+, Reader, etc.

3. I'm considering moving my domain names to a different provider next time they're up for renewal anyway. Is there a good way of finding out which hosts do what to people's email as it passes through their servers?
posted by nowonmai to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I just set up a forwarding rule at that forwards anything to This works great for me, because I didn't want to pay for any hosting at Gmail. As far as I know, you can't set up the MX record to go right to Gmail unless you start paying them for service.
posted by getawaysticks at 6:09 AM on March 8, 2012

Response by poster: That's my existing situation, but some of my mail is getting lost.
posted by nowonmai at 6:40 AM on March 8, 2012

Best answer: You can setup Google Apps for the two domains. Create the addresses, then log into the accounts and have them forward any mail to your gmail account.

In the Gmail account just setup a filter to label the emails based on where they're coming from. You can also setup Gmail to allow you to reply with another e-mail address.

So essentially what you're doing now, except you're using Google Apps to forward the domain's email.

There is a free Google Apps for your Domain account (limited to 10 users).

Items will still get marked as spam in the domain accounts - so you may want to login in and check periodically (or there may be a filter so you can not use Spam on those two accounts).

Tip: Whenever I log into one of my domain accounts, I use my browsers Privacy/Incognito Mode, so I can log in without having to log out of my main Gmail account.
posted by backwards guitar at 6:44 AM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have a similar situation. Many domains but use GMail primarily. I use Google Apps. I point my mx records to them and I never miss an email. I am not technically knowledgeable in this issue, but I was able to sign up and accomplish it easily. I can send as any of my other domain email addresses.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:45 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Definitely recommending Google Apps. I've put many of my clients on it. One of them has a very complicated (silly, IMO) setup of forwards, group accounts and catch-all email addresses. It all works just fine.
posted by Magnakai at 7:20 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I also use Google Apps for two domains. I use a desktop mail client that fetches from both, but if you want to use a web interface that consolidates everything, you can have gApps account #1 import e-mail from gApps account #2 (and from your gmail address). Replying to account #2 e-mail and making it looks like it came from account #2 might take a little fussing.
posted by adamrice at 7:25 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nthing just using Google Apps. I have all mail that goes to any address at one of my domains that I have Google Apps for to another Gmail account. I also setup the Gmail account to be able to use the other domain's email address as a possible From option, so that if someone sends mail to that address I can email them back with the same address they sent it to without actually logging into that account.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:31 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yep, another Google Apps user here. My Google Apps for my domain forwards that email to my personal gmail account. When I send from my personal gmail I can choose which address to send as.

Unfortunately, if I send as my custom domain it's "on behalf of" and not completely transparent to the recipient. If it really mattered, though, for a particular email I could log into Google Apps for that domain and send it from there.
posted by losvedir at 7:36 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

people won't like this, but: use outlook.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 7:49 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm going to recommend Google Apps here too, but rather than setting forwarding rules from the mailbox, you might consider changing the MX records for those domains to your Apps domain, thus bypassing the mail filters, etc that your domain host currently provides. I do this quite a bit, and it works very well.

losvedir, you can now get rid of the "on behalf of" stuff.
posted by me & my monkey at 9:02 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

It looks like you can actually create a single Google Apps account and use it for both domains, per this help page. Don't know if that's availible on the free version or not, though, as I've only got a single domain. I'm pointing my MX records at google and taking my hosting provider completely out of the loop.
posted by yuwtze at 9:49 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

The mail service provided by pretty much any domain host will suck, you need to move the MX records to Google Apps or or GMX or someone who's primary business is providing a reliable email service.

you can now get rid of the "on behalf of" stuff
All that option does is route the outgoing mail through a different mail host, it won't help at all with incoming mail.

I agree with everyone telling you to setup Google Apps, but rather than redirecting email to your gmail account, I would do it the other way around and choose you@yourdomain as the primary account. It will be a pain to setup all your google settings from scratch but using your own domain keeps your options open if you ever want to move away from Google services in the future.

If you put both domains on a single Google Apps accounts you are limited to 10 email addresses (on the free edition), if you setup 2 separate Apps accounts you will get 10 email addresses for each domain.
posted by Lanark at 10:06 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Looks like Google Apps is the way to to go! Backwards guitar's tip to use porn mode when checking in on the Google Apps accounts makes life easier.

I've migrated one of my domains to Google Apps to see how it goes. I'll have to think whether I want to keep them separate or put them both on the same account. I don't forsee a need for more than 10 addresses.

I did make one stupid mistake which I'll outline here for anyone doing the same thing: was already attached to my ordinary Gmail account, so when setting up Google apps I had to pick a different primary email address (I chose I should then have immediately gone to the email settings, and set up a catch-all so that email to would be sent to admin. As it was, I had a short spell before I realised that mail to was being rejected.

I'm happy that I can get everything working the same way as before, but more reliably, with Google Apps, but I'd still be interested to hear other ideas.

Thanks everyone!
posted by nowonmai at 11:15 AM on March 8, 2012

I don't forsee a need for more than 10 addresses

With Google Apps you can actually receive to and send from as many email addresses as you want at your domain. For receiving, just set up a catchall account that will receive every email sent to that domain (it can be your normal account for that domain too, it doesn't have to be separate) and have that account forward everything to your Gmail. To send mail from a new email address on that domain, just add it as an alias in Gmail, you will get an activation email sent to that address (which your catchall will get) which you can respond to and then you can use the new address whenever you want. The 10 account limit just means you can only have 10 mailboxes/Google accounts for that domain.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:30 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, understand that Google treats addresses and aliases differently, I think. That is, you can have 10 unique inboxes, but each one can have any number of aliases that reach them.

Google also supports "plus addressing" (that's what it was called before Google+ came along) so you can give out an address as and it will go to Although I've noticed that some web forms don't accept plus addresses, probably because they know we can use them to track how our addresses are sold.
posted by adamrice at 1:45 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

You can log into multiple google accounts including your domain accounts at the same time in the same browser without having to go to porn mode. To me, the important thing to remember when doing it is to log into your primary account first because that is the account that will be used when you click on other google services. I currently have 2 gmail and two my domain accounts open in this Chrome browser as I write. In your gmail account at the top on the right click on your name. Then click on switch account then log onto another account and viola!
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:55 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks again everyone! One last update incase it helps anyone with similar questions:

In the end I decided to set up one Google Apps account, with my second domain as a "domain alias" of the first. That way, and share a single inbox.

A filter prevents mail addressed to myname at either domain from being labeled as spam, then everything gets forwarded to my pre-existing Gmail address.

Lanark's suggestion to switch over entirely to Google Apps is a good one, except I've been using the old account since 2004 and I have previously imported email even older than that. If Google ever provide tools for one account to be absorbed by another I'll do it, but I can't find a satisfactory solution for migrating all my old mail right now.

The way I have things set up now, it can all be unravelled and split back out to separate accounts for each domain without a headache, because all my mail is in the preexisting GMail account. I like that flexibility.
posted by nowonmai at 3:15 AM on March 9, 2012

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