Setting Up Free Custom Domain Email Addresses with GoDaddy and Gmail (2020 Edition)

Yes, I know that GoDaddy is not a great company to support given their SOPA / PIPA lobbying. That said, I’ve been buying domains here since I was in elementary school. I am a creature of habit, don’t yell at me you internet nerds.

Recently I went into the rats nest that is GoDaddy’s dashboard to setup a free email forwarding address for a side project. I found it fairly impossible. Thus leads me to this post.

Here is how to do this in the 2019 version of GoDaddy’s dashboard and Gmail. It will take you about 30 minutes. Just do all the things I say and you’ll get out alive.

Here we go…

  1. Visit your GoDaddy dashboard here. Go to the ‘My Products’ section.

2. Scroll all the way down past your domains, and expand the Additional Products section. (this took me forever to find be grateful).

3. Click on the ‘Redeem’ button next to Email Forwarding. In the dropdown window, select the domain you’d like a forwarding email address for and click the button to redeem the ‘100 pack.’

4. Scroll up to the Workspace Email section and click on Options next to the 100 pack. Don’t click on ‘Sign It’ it won’t work if you don’t have another email with GoDaddy.

5. Click on the hilariously tiny ‘Launch Control Center’ button in the top right. Yeah, GoDaddy ain’t interested in you doing this in the least. They want your money not your love.

6. [Thanks to Gissel Zamonsky for pointing this out] Check your MX Records for this domain by clicking on Tools > Server Settings. If you’re MX Records are not yet setup (GoDaddy doesn’t do it for you), navigate to your DNS settings for this domain and add the two MX records below.

7. Now, once you are in the Launch Control Center click on Create Forward in the menu bar.

8. Enter the email address you want to create for your domain, and enter in the Gmail email address you want to forward that email to. You may want to go ahead and enable the ‘Catch All’ feature on this screen.

Great, now you should be able to send a test email to that email address. It will possibly take several minutes for your test email to actually arrive, given the rusty legacy tubes and pipes of the internet. Use this time to send GoDaddy a strongly worded email about how silly they are for making you do all of this.

Once you receive your test email, now it is time to setup Gmail so that you can send outgoing emails as this email address. This is a good time to close the GoDaddy browser tabs triumphantly.

Google explains how to do this here. I know you think this part will be easy, but it will not be easy.

9. Go into Gmail, and click into Settings. Go to the Accounts and Import section and click on:

Enter the email address you want to forward, keep ‘Treat As Alias’ checked, and on the next screen fill it out like this:

Username is your personal gmail address

If you are like me, you’ll get this error:

10. If you get the Less Secure Apps error, you have to go into your Security Settings in your Google Account. Google explains this more here but just follow my steps instead of reading that. The way I ended up being able to do it was by Enabling 2 Step Verification and then requesting a custom App Password.

11. Enable 2 Step Verification by click on that setting in the Security section of your Google Account and following the Steps. Be sure to have your phone nearby.

12. Once you’ve enabled 2-Step, your account won’t be able to interface with ‘Less Secure Apps’ with your normal password. So, go into App Passwords in your Google Account, and create a custom password for your Mail client.

After clicking Generate you should then get a screen like this:

13. Copy paste that password into the yellow screen back in Gmail.

The Username is your personal Gmail email address

14. Pray to your version of a higher power.

15. Hopefully it worked! If it did you will see this screen:

16. Now all you need to do is click on the email link that Google just sent you to confirm your email, then you will be able to send email from your newly created forward address!

What have we learned?

Ok. So what have we learned? Well, this is a really complicated way to save the $5/mo for Google G Suite. If you want to cave and go that route, be my guest. But ah, turns out it will soon be $6/mo.

Google, why do you choose to do this to us?

To me, the victory of saving that $6/mo is worth this temporary pain of setup. Companies with duplicitous UIs like GoDaddy and price creep like Google should not win!

Anyway, I hope this helped you.

Oh, and if you lost one of your Airpods and you want to replace one of them without talking to Apple Support for an hour, you can check out this side project of mine…

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