Simple Email Service (SES) is one of many services under Amazon’s Web Services (AWS). It can be used for sending emails at low cost and comes with a generous free tier of 62000 emails per month.
What is SES Sandbox?
All new SES accounts start in a sandbox, where you can test the capabilities of Amazon SES. When your account is in the sandbox, you can only send email to verified identities, with a typical limit set to 200 emails per day. A verified identity is either an email addresses or domain that you verified ownership of.
A sender identity is the email or domain you plan to send from. When you verify a domain in SES, which requires adding DNS records, you can use any email addresses under that domain as senders (From address).
About Amazon SES Regions
There are over a dozen (geographical) regions you can choose from when setting up your Amazon SES account. You should choose a region that is most representative of where you list subscribers are located. If your audience is global, we can recommend selecting Ireland region (one of the oldest available regions). Some very new regions need to be Enabled before they can be used, see image on the right for a reference.
Each SES region is setup like a sub-account – it has its own daily sending limit, statistics (bounce and complaint rates) and reputation. Using multiple regions can be very useful when managing email for multiple businesses or brands.
Getting Out Of SES Sandbox
To start sending email to your list using new SES account to you need to get it out of sandbox by submitting a request to Amazon and specify daily sending limit you would like. Amazon typically approves within 1-2 business days, as long as you provide sufficient information.
To ensure fast approval make sure to:
- Provide a link to your website, ideally the page where you have an email collection form.
- If you are using another platform on top of SES, like BigMailer.io, state that you use a platform that automatically processes bounces, complaints and unsubscribes for you. Otherwise, you have to explain how you plan to process complaints and unsubscribes (required), which typically means custom development work.
- If you own a domain it would be best to add it as a verified sender identity before submitting a request to Amazon. You can add an email as a sender (From address) instead of a domain, but if you do it for an email address with a free service like gmail or yahoo your request to get SES out of sandbox might be denied. Amazon likes to see you use your own domain as a sender.
While in sandbox mode you can only send emails to yourself – your own verified email addresses or domains.
Do I need to have a website?
You don’t have to have a website on the domain that you verified as intended sender, but you are less likely to get approved. If you verify a domain name but it’s only parked with no website hosted it becomes a red flag for your approval request. The exception to this is if you specify your website URL in the request where you actually collect email addresses or plan to link to in your emails, in cases where you plan to use a different domain as a sender from what your brand uses for its online presence.
If you don’t have a website you should make it clear where/how you collect your email addresses and where you plan to send your subscribers from the emails, e.g. an online store on an e-commerce platform like Shopify, Etsy, or Amazon.
What if I don’t get an approval?
You can file another request after fixing your setup, e.g. adding a verified domain as a sender identity or launching a website.
How to use SES for email marketing.
SES is fairly limited and in the past has been favored by developers for sending transactional email only. Using Amazon SES for email marketing directly requires developing a custom mechanism for processing bounces, complaints, and unsubscribes. Web development skills are required for such custom implementation.
Amazon SES does NOT facilitate managing email campaigns, templates, or engagement reporting (opens, clicks).
If you already use Amazon SES for your transactional email or plan to, using BigMailer allows you to:
- Store and manage your email templates (no application code changes needed for template updates).
- Send bulk, automation/drip, or transactional email campaigns.
- Keep your bounces, unsubscribes, and complaints synced up across email types.
- See engagement analytics for all your email types.
- Manage all email types with a simple price point (no separate fees for email marketing vs. transactional emails).
- Manage multiple senders and SES connections without login to SES – good for security and easier for marketers.
If you are considering use of Amazon SES for your transactional email it’s best to setup on a platform like BigMailer from the beginning to avoid application code updates later on.