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Why I Use Aweber To Deliver My Newsletters

Yesterday I announced the re-launch of the ProBlogger Newsletter (there have been 500+ new subscribers added to the list from last time bringing it to a total of around 16,000 – the first newsletter will come out next week) and since doing so I’ve had a number of questions about why I use newsletters, ‘how’ I deliver newsletter (AWeber), why I’ve chosen the tool that I have and why I have chosen a service that isn’t free.

Rather that responding to each person individually I thought it’d make a useful post for others considering adding a newsletter to their blog.

Why Do I Use Newsletters?

This is a common question and one that understandably puzzles some bloggers. Afterall – we’re all told that RSS is the best technology and email is dying…. or is it?

Back in 2005 I wrote a post titled Why Email Newsletters Can Improve Your Blog – I don’t tend to link back to posts that are three years old but my reasons for starting to use newsletters are still valid today:

  • Increased Readership
  • Promotion of Posts
  • Build Community
  • Improve Your Blog
  • Drive Sales
  • Email is familiar and Easy to Use

All I’ll really add to the list is that on the days that I send out my photography newsletters my blog comes alive with extra visitors, many more comments than normal, participation in polls, ad performance, affiliate sales and more.

If I happen to miss sending an email one week (or I’m late) the activity is not there and I get emails from readers asking where it is.

Which Tool Do I Use?

Let me start with the easy question – which tool do I use?

AWeber

I’ve been using AWeber to deliver my photography newsletters since last year.

Why AWeber?

Regular readers know my painful story of having to switch from a free newsletter service to AWeber so I won’t rehash it all here (you can read the full version here) – but the long and short of it is that I invested a lot of time and energy into building my newsletter list up over years with a free service only to find that it became unreliable and ended up suspending it’s service – leaving me with no way to get my newsletters out. At this time I began to investigate other services and after the recommendation of many friends and readers decided to switch to a paid service.

In addition to being convinced by the recommendation of others it was the feature list that attracted me to AWeber. Since signing up they’ve upgraded their service and feature list a couple of times – it’s always a good sign to see a company improving and developing.

Some of the features that I enjoy:

Unlimited lists in the one account – some providers charge per list. So I have a photography list (two actually) and a problogger list.

Unlimited emails – some services charge per email that you send. I can send as many as I want each month to as many lists as I want.

Autoresponders – put together a sequence of emails that you want to send readers so that when they sign up for a mini course they get them sent out in an order and timing that you choose. For example on my photography site I’m going to put together a 10 part free mini-course on the basics of photography that will get sent out to readers once a week over 10 weeks. It’s a great way to connect people into your course and add value for readers.

Deliverability – this was a big one for me. Using my last free service I was getting very high numbers of bounced emails and emails being labeled as spam. It wasn’t unusual to see 20-30% of my emails not even getting delivered. My last 5 emails with AWeber had between 0.1 and 2.6% of emails undelivered. This means literally thousands of readers are getting emails that previously didn’t.

Text and HTML Emails – I like to send HTML emails to my photography readers as they are a very visual bunch. AWeber just added 27 new templates to the ones they already had. As someone who is not very design capable these save me a lot of time and I’ve had a lot of great feedback from readers. For those readers who can’t get HTML emails there is the option to send a text version too.

Analytics – AWeber has more ways to track the activity of your subscribers use of your newsletter than I’d ever experienced before. Not only can you track which links in your newsletter get clicked (very very handy) it allows you to

  • split test different versions of your newsletter to see which works best
  • to see how different web forms on your blog perform
  • to track what time of day readers open emails and click links
  • to send emails only to certain subscribers (based upon what they’ve clicked previously)
  • to track where on your website readers are going after they click on a link

The list goes on…. and on….

In fact there are so many ways of tracking readers and testing how your emails convert that it takes time to apply them all.

Blog Newsletters – I’ve actually not used this feature yet but it is handy to know that it is there. It allows you to turn your RSS feed into a newsletter. While you can do this with Feedburner (the service I currently use) AWeber gives a lot more control – it allows you to send these updates not only daily but weekly, monthly etc and to have more control over how they look.

Customer Service – Even before I switched to AWeber I was impressed with the support that they offered. They helped me transfer my previous lists across (it was a bit of a process and they do have to have some safeguards in place to stop Spammers using their system – but we got there) and have answered every question I’ve had of them – usually within hours. They have a live customer support instant messaging service which operates most hours which is very helpful.

Free Trial – There are a lot more features that I’ve not mentioned (and to be honest have not even discovered or tested yet) – but you can test them all for yourself. AWeber offers a free month long trial so you can play with them all to your heart’s content. This is how I got a feel for AWeber before signing up.

Why a Paid Service?

I asked this question of my friends who used AWeber and other paid newsletter services for a long time. There are so many free tools out there available to bloggers that I totally understand why we’re wired to ask it – however for me it came down to this:

  • Newsletters are a Core part of my business as a blogger. They’ve become so valuable that I cannot afford not to have them.
  • I cannot afford to have a service that disappears at some point or becomes unreliable in it’s uptime.
  • I cannot afford to have a service that doesn’t deliver a high rate of email.
  • I wanted a service that I could email and say ‘I’m paying for this – so fix it’.
  • I wanted a service that had high standards and that didn’t get taken over my spammers (one of the reasons my last service became unreliable).

For me this meant I went with AWeber. I can understand why others choose not to pay for a service or go with other options – but for me the arguments and my previous experience said it all.

As mentioned above – Aweber’s model is not to charge per email or per list that you have – but it’s based more upon subscriber numbers. For me this made sense. I wanted the flexibility to send as many emails as I want to my multiple lists. I have also found that as my subscribers grow in number that the list becomes more profitable for me – so I can justify the extra expense when I jump up a price bracket.

Have Your Say?

AWeber will not be for everyone. Some have had good experiences of free services, others have chosen different ones and for others a newsletter is not something that they choose to use. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the topic of newsletters as an extra feature on your blog.

Do you do them? What service do you use?

UPDATE: Also check out Get Response – many bloggers I talk to have had great things to say about this service. They’ve got a similar feature set to Aweber and some great new features.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. David Godot says:

    For anyone that would rather host their own mailing list management software as opposed to using a hosted, subscription-based service like Aweber, I recommend a product called 1-2-All.

    http://www.activecampaign.com/12all/

  2. Interesting post, I have never explored the possibility of implementing a newsletter for my blog. I assume its more useful for when you have reached that plateau of having a large amount of loyal followers. Many of us who own small blogs… is there really a point? I mean, wouldn’t email lists that deliver new posts satisfy the needs? What are your opinions?

  3. Sara says:

    Hi everyone,

    Like Mark (45n5) I started off with aWeber, but then decided i could totally find something free. I tried free autoresponder services, newsletter services and I’m a techie so I even did some DIY duct-taping to try to get what I needed. But when it really came down to it the ease, reliability and excellent customer service brought me back to aWeber.

    Someone else mentioned using your own self-hosted solution. There are (at least) three major problems (or could be) with this.

    First, you have to have the knowledge base to get this running. I haven’t found a self-hosted autoresponder/mailing list application that was easy to get going out-of-the-box.

    Second, if you are running a small-ish or medium sized blog you really need to consider the server resources needed to run this sort of service. It’s a different animal than just incoming and outgoing traffic, especially if your list is large.

    Finally, your own little domain isn’t necessarily the most trusted one in the world and that alone could make your messages end up in the junk folder. Also, if you fill an email with words like “free” “service” and “sign-up” your delivery rate can almost make it useless to even spend the time creating a newsletter in the first place.

    One of my favorite features of aWeber is their little spam meter. It has taught me a lot about how to word things to get messages where I want them to go.

    Sara

  4. Ecko says:

    Someone may say that using free service doesn’t danger his/her blogging business, but using paid service always better because there’s always the difference between the free service and the paid one.

    Why use paid service if we can get the free one? That’s a great idea. But, why using free service while the paid one give more advantage + satisfaction? :D

  5. GolfSpy X says:

    Great article…will you ever explain “How You Use AWeber Efficiently”??

    I think that would be very helpful … Thanks Darren!

  6. Brian says:

    We host phpLIST [free] ourselves and find it great! We imported a very large subsriber list without a hitch and had our first newsletter out soon thereafter.

    Unfair to compare free versus paid ‘anything’ in this world, but so long as it does the job, go for it.

  7. Hugo says:

    Hey,

    aweber sounds pretty good to me, however I guess monthly payments are not for everyone and the free service, whilst being less reliable can be a better option.

    Personally I didn’t fancy the monthly payments nor did I want to risk my business with a free service. I opted for Sendblaster.com which is a one of payment and offers many of the features of aweber. The great thing for me is the system sits on my desk top and I can set it off and it just keeps emailing them with little effect to my system. If I don’t fancy sending a newsletter for a while I don’t get charged.

  8. I’ve been using aweber for a few months and for first time tonight I noticed their site was inaccessible? Does anybody know if that happens often?

  9. Btw, if any of you has a feedback on how much emails are delivered using different services ? I use phplist hosted and managed by myself, and on a 9000+ subscribers base, I have a read rate of about 45%. What about yours ? Are paid services offering better rates ?

  10. SMB Asia says:

    My company has always been using lyris, and the result is not so good. drop rate has been high, and their website interface is very slow.
    Maybe this is a good time to tell the management to consider the change. thx.

  11. jennine says:

    this may come off as an odd question… but are you using the affiliate feature of AWeber. I noticed they have a decent affiliate program… and well I didn’t notice any mention in the post.

    i know you’re the problogger, and you do affiliate marketing, but i was wondering about the ethics of doing a write up of a program without disclosing the affiliate partnership.

    not that it would hurt you, i’m sure many people would be more than happy to support your efforts, as you helped us so much, but i wondering how transparent one should be when it comes to affiliate marketing?

  12. It appears that the free trial is not in fact a free trial. Not sure if they changed this since you wrote the post, but you should let people know. I might sign up anyways, but I hate to invest money (even “risk-free”) without being able to use the service and start to build my database.

  13. I’ve used Aweber for years. My largest list is 400 users and I have around 40 separate lists for both clients and my own companies. Love the product and service – especially the autoresponder service.

  14. Mike says:

    I tried a free service for a while. I had relatively good success. I was able to integrate it into my word press blog easily.

    There is a new A Weber Integration Plugin now (at least I just now noticed it) so I am going to switch back to A Weber.

    $20 per month seems like a very reasonable cost considering the potential when you begin to put A Weber to use.

    I will say that I had to dedicate at least 1-2 hours to educating myself on the functionality of A Weber as there are any options within

    This was a good post to read as it confirms what I suspected.