Setting up a custom domain may seem daunting for those that have never done it before. But if you follow these simple steps you’ll have your custom email domain setup in no time.
NOTE: Custom domains are only available to customers on selected Ortto plans.
Why set up a custom domain and tracking subdomain?
Setting up a custom domain for email only or for email and tracking provides different benefits, depending on your needs.
A custom domain means that your emails will be sent on behalf of your domain. Instead of your emails sending via @autopilotmail.com they will appear to the subscriber like any other email you send, e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are many benefits to setting up a custom email domain and it is highly recommended as:
- your emails are more likely to reach the inbox,
- you may achieve higher open rates, and
- your subscribers will know the email is from your trusted brand.
Learn more about how a custom domain name can help with your sender authentication in Understanding email deliverability.
Email delivery and tracking
In addition to the benefits of setting up a custom domain for email delivery, adding a tracking subdomain provides you with custom tracking links in your email messages, and a customized tracking code for capture widgets and Talk Messenger.
Knowledge base hosting
Allowing knowledge base hosting for your custom domain enables you to have consistent branding in your knowledge base URL, so that it matches your organization’s domain (rather than containing "ortto").
Once you’ve added your custom domain with knowledge base hosting enabled you can select it at Settings > Knowledge base > Settings > Domain.
Tracking links in emails
When you configure a custom domain for email delivery and tracking, your custom domain is used as the sending domain (the From email address) and is added to links that a recipient can click within the email. In the example below, the "Read more" button takes recipients to a blog post on your website (e.g. mybrand.com/blog). However, when someone clicks "Read more", they will visit the blog page via the tracking subdomain (e.g. track.mybrand.com).
Having your custom domain integrated with your email messages can help to improve email deliverability and prevent your email being blocked or landing in your recipient’s spam folder. The custom domain adds authenticity to you as a sender, which helps email providers (like Gmail and Apple Mail) to recognize you as a legitimate sender.
As your tracked subdomain will be used as the initial destination for links contained in the email message, this helps recipients recognize and trust the links as belonging to you/your brand. Using the example above, the recipient can hover over the "Read more" button before clicking it and see that the link is associated with your brand.
Learn more about authentication and careful link usage in Understanding email deliverability.
Tracking code for capture widgets
The tracking subdomain you setup in your Ortto account is added to the tracking code of any capture widgets you configure (once your custom domain is set up).
Having a custom domain included in your capture tracking code allows tracking data to be collected and processed even if website visitors are using an ad blocker browser extension, because the ad blocker can see that the tracking code belongs to the webpage (the domain names match), so is unlikely to block it.
Set up a custom domain name and tracking subdomain
To do so:
- Navigate to Settings > Custom domains.
- Under Custom domain name click Add domain.
- Enter your Domain name (e.g. yourbrand.com) and select your Domain provider.
- If required:
- Select Enable this domain for activity tracking and widget hosting to set a custom tracking subdomain. And/or,
- Select Allow hosting your knowledge base on this domain to set a custom knowledge base subdomain. Or,
- Leave both tracking subdomain and knowledge base subdomain options un-checked if you only want to set a custom email domain.
- Click Ok.
- You will be given a series of CNAME records (3 for email only or 4 for email and tracking) you need to add to the settings of where you registered your domain.
- Next, navigate to the the settings of your registered domain. Here are links to instructions for adding the CNAME records to some of the common domain providers:
- GoDaddy and
If you use one of these providers click on the link to see the specific instructions. If you don’t use one of these providers, we recommend doing a quick Google search for "<DOMAIN PROVIDER> how to add CNAME records". Once you find the instructions, follow them to add the CNAME records.
NOTE: If you're using Cloudflare DNS, you'll need to disable Cloudflare proxying by setting the "Proxy status" for all of your CNAME records to "DNS only".
An example of this is shown in the Ortto video guide to configuring a custom domain, (starting at 1:02 in the timeline for CNAME record settings). Watch the video below.
Once you have completed the custom domain name setup, you can add another custom domain name by clicking Add domain and repeating the process.
- You can add a maximum of 10 custom domains.
- If you have more than one tracking subdomain, you will be able to select the appropriate one when configuring your tracking code.
- When you setup a custom domain to use when sending emails (e.g. your From email address is email@example.com) and you have configured a tracking subdomain, Ortto will use the tracking subdomain in the email tracking code (to capture recipient activities such as Opened email). If you have a custom domain setup for email, but no tracking subdomain, Ortto will insert the system default tracking code.
- If your custom domain cannot be found, Ortto will fallback to the default domain you set. If your default domain cannot be found, Ortto will fallback to the system default (autopilotmail.com)
Custom domains and Talk
If you are using email auto-forwarding, it’s recommended that your domain settings include DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) signatures and a sender policy framework (SPF) record.
The DKIM signatures are covered when you set up up your custom domain, as the CNAME records we provide include 2 DKIM signatures (e.g.
ap3._domainkey.mybrand.com) which help the email server verify that messages sent from your domain are authentic.
Your domain’s SPF record identifies the specific mail servers that are allowed to send mail on behalf of your domain. You may need to add a new SPF record (if you don’t already have one) or edit an existing SPF .txt record to include Ortto’s mail server (
autopilotmail.com), similar to the following:
v=spf1 a mx include:_spf.google.com include:autopilotmail.com ~all
Here are links to instructions for adding/editing the SPF record for of the common domain providers:
NOTE: Adding or editing an SPF record is not a requirement for custom domain or email auto-forwarding setup in Ortto, we just recommend it as best-practice.
Using your tracking domains
For each custom domain name you setup for email delivery and tracking, you will need a tracking subdomain that matches the email domain. For example, if you wish to send emails from
mybrand.com, your tracking subdomain should match, like
track.mybrand.com. Or if you want to send emails from a subdomain
app.mybrand.com, your tracking subdomain should include the subdomain, like
When it comes to using your tracking subdomain in the tracking code that you insert into your webpage/s, you can use any of the tracking subdomains you have setup across all your subdomains. For example, where you have
blog.mybrand.com, you can add a tracking code containing the tracking subdomain
track.app.mybrand.com in the
<head> section of both
Test your new custom domain
After you have added the CNAME records it’s time to test.
- Navigate to Settings > Custom domains.
- Under the domain name click Verify setup to test everything is working.
- If it is, congratulations your email domain name is now set up.
- If it isn’t, please create a support ticket by clicking Get help in Ortto and we will assist you.
NOTE: If you added a tracking subdomain and set your new custom domain to
default, you may need to update the pre-existing tracking code in your website to include the subdomain.
Some data sources you integrate with Ortto, such as e-commerce data sources like Shopify, include a tracking code.
- If you integrated the data source prior to creating the custom domain, once your tracking subdomain is setup, you will need to manually update the tracking code to include the new tracking subdomain.
- If you integrate the data source after you have created your custom domain, the data source will inherit the 'default' tracking subdomain. If you wish to change the domain included in the tracking code, you will need to do so manuall
Edit and delete your custom domain name and tracking subdomain
Once you have setup a custom domain name, you can edit the settings by clicking the
more icon then Edit. This is where you can set a domain as the default.
Delete a custom domain name by clicking the trash icon and confirming your choice. Deleting a custom domain name means that any emails you send will revert to the default autopilotmail.com domain.
A domain owner with a certification authority authorization (CAA) record can specify which certificate authorities are allowed to issue certificates for their domain.
The authority that Ortto uses to issue certificates to authenticate your custom domain is called ZeroSSL (sectigo.com).
When you add a custom domain, Ortto automatically creates a CAA record that allows ZeroSSL to issue a certificate to us on your behalf (to authenticate your domain and complete the domain setup) so you don’t need to.
However, if you have a custom configuration which prevents this, please speak with your IT team about allowing ZeroSSL.
The below table describes the domain statuses you may see.
This indicates that you have set the domain as your default domain.
Both the domain and tracking subdomain are yet to be verified. Emails will be sent from the default Ortto domain and tracking will fallback to the default Ortto tracking domain.
The tracking subdomain is yet to be verified. Emails can be sent from the custom domain and tracking will fallback to the default Ortto tracking domain.
The custom domain is yet to be verified. Emails will be sent from the default Ortto domain but the tracking subdomain will be used for tracking.
The certificate to authenticate your tracking subdomain is in progress. Emails will be sent from the custom domain but clicks and opens will be handled through the default Ortto domain until the certificate is approved.
Emails will be sent from the custom domain but clicks and opens will be handled through the default Ortto domain until the certificate is approved.