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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. Glen Allsopp says:

    I used Aweber for quite a while whilst building up a list and use it for another newsletter I run which has 30,000+ subscribers. the only issue for most people is that if you are list building then take a break whilst not making anything the monthly 20$’s can start to add up.

  2. Egbert says:

    Well, Glen, I don`t think listbuilding on Problogger takes too much time, especially when announcing it in a post. Think Darren can afford this. :-)

  3. David Walker says:

    I use Aweber for my autoresponders and mailing lists. can’t complain about it really.

    Glen, surely if you got to the point where you had 30,000 people on your list you should be able to make some money out of even a small percentage of them which would more than cover the $20 monthly fee?

  4. David Cheong says:

    I’ve received few subscribed emails which these emails are using the aweber service, and impress on the part where i can actually have a link to downloads some goodies like ebooks via it and at the same time, it also would drive me to visit the website for something more, i think paying a little sum in return of getting royal visitors and newly subscriber, it is worth.

  5. 45n5 says:

    I was with aweber and then went to the diy freebies, phplist, pommo, etc.

    I found with the freebies that as high as 15% of the emails weren’t making it through to the recipient. With aweber almost every email makes it through.

    If you are selling a product or service, it’s well worth the money that aweber costs to have your emails get through.

    I’m now back with aweber ;)

  6. I’ve been using Aweber for years — I’d never use anything else.

  7. Dr Pickle says:

    You make AWeber sounds like a good product. As your reader, my main concern about this newsletter is whether I will miss anything by not subscribing. I already read your RSS, and I don’t want to receive emails from you also, so I won’t be subscribing.

  8. I have used Aweber in the past and found it to be pretty reliable and easy to use.

  9. ShootTheBaby says:

    I started with Aweber a few months ago for my photo site and have been very happy. I wish they had a little better support for Safari, but other than that, I can see why people use them.

    The challenge is finding the time to try to take advantage of all their features vs. everything else that we have to do to keep our sites up! :)

    Eric

  10. Dan Blank says:

    Darren – thanks so much for sharing this, finding a service like this is on my to-do list, and you just saved me a bunch or original research!

    Have a great day.
    -Dan

  11. Sangesh says:

    I hadn’t heard of this site, but till now. Will surely check it out.

  12. Dave Sherwin says:

    I’m in the e-mail delivery world, and have servers dedicated just to getting e-mail through. It’s a daily battle, even with opt in subscribers. Free services can never compete with Aweber, which is truly the “gold standard” of mail systems.

    People who struggle to make free services work are tripping over dollars to save dimes.

  13. I just signed up and I can’t wait to give it a test drive. I’ve been looking specifically for the RSS-to-email function scheduling and design/content control for some time. Thanks for the post!

  14. Hendry Lee says:

    Aweber has a new service that allows better tracking and behavioral targeting.

    Which one do you use Darren?

  15. Rich Hill says:

    I used Feedburner/Feedsmith to handle the email subscribers and then read up on how to implement the existing subscriber database into Aweber, and di try it, but the instructions are so darned difficult for me to grasp that I gave up on it.
    I will fight another day, but at this time it was not worth the bother.
    Thanks for the info Darren.

  16. Darren — I have been using Aweber too and I feel it is the best service out there for newsletters, ezines and other marketing. Thanks for reinforcing my own preference for Aweber with your post.

  17. Roger says:

    Thanks Darren, good post. We have been using MailChimp with great results for about a year now. The interface is a no-brainer and it offers many of the features you describe for Aweber. They do not offer an RSS feed for the newsletter. I use Feedblitz for this.

  18. Todd Andrews says:

    I’ve been using AWeber for years and always had good experiences with the service.

  19. Chase Roper says:

    Ok, sold!

    Now there’s no way I CAN’T go check out the rates.

  20. RareV says:

    playing devils advocate, here, if you were Darren and were making recommendations to 50,000 readers, one of your major criteria would be whether the product had an affiliate program or not ;-) as long as the features were adequate.

  21. Sweet… I use Aweber too and I <3 it!

  22. GirlPie says:

    I’ve been using and loving MyEmma.com, which does all the things you listed, but I didn’t compare services (just fell in love and signed on some years ago) so it may be a price thing. Thanks for the good breakdown of what’s useful to you. And we’re looking forward to your newsletter~

  23. AWeber rocks! Been using them for several years now. If ever you have any issues, they are there by live chat or phone to take care of immediately. They make it easy for you to broadcast emails in a hurry, and keep track of every little thing you need to know.
    They are pros at marketing online, which helps a lot when you think of adding a revenue streams. You can tell what the % of clickthroughs are. Gives you an idea of how responsive your list is to your message.

  24. I use Campaign Monitor to send out my monthly Health and Fitness newsletter to around 6000 subscribers. It has links back to my blog articles for the month. CM is an excellent and reliable service with great reporting functionality. I find that a newsletter is a good way of keeping readers informed and I have run a couple of “forward to a friend” competitions which spreads my exposure even more.

  25. I used to use phplist and the rants I could write… in fact I have on my blog a little but the upshot is, you get what you pay for, plus all the stress of administering it yourself. I don’t have a very big readership for my newsletter so I use Your Mailing List Provider (YMLP). they are very inexpensive and have a fantastic simple offering, ideal for basic users!

  26. Lisa Irby says:

    Darren, I’ve been using AWeber for at least 3 years now. I don’t send many newsletters but I use their autoresponder feature to send a “tummy tip of the week” for my site about flattening your stomach.

    It has really helped me build up loyalty and repeat visitors. My audience loves receiving the quick tip once per week and it’s nice because I create all the messages in advance and sit back while the AWeber Autoresponder works its magic!

  27. Ian says:

    We have been using Icontact for years and I liked the Aweber pricing structure much better and actually tried it for over a month. During that time we sent seven newsletters and had four days where the Aweber site either went down during the writing process (resulting in the loss of the newsletter to that point) or was running so slowly that the creation process took over three hours for a newsletter that usually takes half of one.

    There tech support said that the second problem must be our end because they didn’t see any problems (we weren’t having problems with any other site access).

    When the site wasn’t working on Memorial Day weekend they had a voice mail saying they would be back on Tuesday.

    When I sent a note telling them to cancel my service the autoresponder said I would get a reply in two days. It took over four.

    They asked me why I was canceling and when I told them why they canceled it without any other word except to send me an auto note asking why I was canceling my service.

  28. Hey
    I enjoy that service. It is simple to use. I really appreciate the fast response .

  29. John Tan says:

    Hi Darren,

    I have been using Aweber for almost 3 years now and I am very happy with their customer support and their services.

    They are constantly upgrading, even we need to pay for the upgrade but it worth every penny.

    A very powerful tool I must say.

  30. Pushy Hamper says:

    I’ve just started using Aweber to promote my new site and big cash give-away.

    I gotta say I love the features and tools. When setting up my timed-autoresponder, I used the Spam checker that actually analyzes the whole e-mail and tells you exactly where you’re going wrong and how to improve it. Luckily, no improvements were needed (all scoring between 1.5 and 2.2), but it’s easy to slip up and make a mistake and this tool will help you to keep you in line.

    An excellent service overall.

  31. Jean Gogolin says:

    Hi Darren,
    I’ve been using Constant Contact, a paid email service, for about 5 years and been happy with it. My only complaint is that they don’t yet have the autoresponder feature, though they say it’s coming.
    Do you know anything about CC, and if so, how would you compare it to AWeber?

  32. Great advice.

    So instead of a visitor coming along and leaving (never to visit your site again) if he opts into your email list, you’ll see revisits from him.

    The best way to get someone to opt-in to your email list is to give something away of value, like a report or ebook in PDF form.

  33. narendra.s.v says:

    well its fine but how a tech blog can utilize it, i mean by sending newletters?!

  34. I started with Constant Contact and then switched over to AWeber because of the auto-responder feature.

    I *HATED* AWeber and so did my readers. I couldn’t get the features I wanted to work correctly, my readers complained about the ugly templates, about half of my readers said they never received the opt-in confirmation, customer service was condescending to me and on and on and on.

    I switched back to Constant Contact and everyone is happy once again (the downside of CC is their lack of an auto-responder).

  35. I really like Aweber, too. Their system is reliable, powerful, and backed up with good customer service.
    I wish they would allow you to easily offer multiple noozle signups on one page, though. That’s something that Feedblitz currently does better.

  36. I really like Aweber, too. Their system is reliable, powerful, and backed up with good customer service.
    I wish they would allow you to easily offer multiple noozle signups on one page, though. That’s something that Constant Contact and Feedblitz both currently do better.

    @Jean: I agree with your criticism about Constant Contact’s lack of autoresponders. CC recently added “surveys” but who needs that from an email provider, especially when SurveyMonkey already does the job just fine? As far as I can tell Aweber does pretty much everything that CC does (except for the multiple signup pages) and offers autoresponders, too.

  37. Saroj says:

    I have been using this for 1yr. Thanks for your tips

  38. I’ve been using aWeber now since 2002 and have over 60 lists.

    One of the best benefits to autoresponders that many bloggers don’t realize is not only can you use them to deliver newsletters…you can also use them to send off:

    * eSeminars (craft up a 30-60 day daily eseminar in your niche – I did that at http://www.risetrends.com )

    * Customer care followup notes when people buy your products (I just finished the customer care series for my latest book – every 3-7 days a new message gets sent out to customers with either helpdesk references, unannounced bonuses, etc.). Depending upon your product delivery mechanism, you can automatically subscribe buyers to the followup (‘course, they have to double-opt in first). I wrote http://tinyurl.com/4sy42h for SparkPlugging; that gives some other ideas as well.

    * 7 Day Followup (it’s been said that it takes 7 impressions for customers to buy; offer a free 7 day ‘tips’ series etc. to showcase your knowledge and brand your name in the visitors’s mind

    * Extra visitor benefits – you can offer writings on your newsletter that’s not provided to your regular blog viewers

    aWeber has definitely withstood the test of time.

    Enjoy,

    Barbara

  39. jeflin says:

    Maybe Darren can elaborate with a post on how to use Aweber properly. Guess that will be a good follow-up to this post.

    For new bloggers, it is hard to justify the monthly fees. It should work beautifully for marketers who already have tons of leads to send their product informations or new product launches.

    Jeff
    http://jeflin.net

  40. Jennifer says:

    I agree with jeflin’s comment. A post about how to use Aweber properly would be very helpful. :)

  41. Billco says:

    Aside from being a webomercial for Aweber, what are the benefits in using a 3rd party newsletter service vs simply running a “plain old” mailing list using Majordomo or Mailman ? Please note I’m a unix guru, so all these paid-for web services tend to elude me, as I’ve been doing things “the hard way” since the dawn of the web.

    Do they offer some sort of networking features, or any promotional aids to draw in new readers ? What would someone coming from the DIY world gain from Aweber’s services ?

  42. Ryan McLean says:

    I use a mixture of aweber and http://www.constantcontact.com
    Aweber is great for autoresponders but I have found Constant Contact to offer more emailing options for my weekly newsletter

  43. Jeff says:

    Darren,

    How do you feel about AWeber’s new pricing structure? Certainly with a large readership like yours, you will be paying upwards $100/mo.

    The flat rate of $20/mo is a thing of the past. I think only GetResponse now has a flat rate structure.

  44. Israel says:

    While aweber has changed their pricing structure, they are allowing grandfathered members to stick to the old pricing, unless they want some of the new features they have added…

  45. Ben Goheen says:

    I use http://www.getresponse.com and it appears to have most if not all the same features at aweber, plus is a couple dollars cheaper a month.

    Just thought I’d throw that out there since nobody else has yet.

  46. Darren Rowse says:

    Jeff – yes it can get a little expensive – however I see it this way – as my subscriber numbers grow so does the ability to make money from the list. $100+ isn’t great – but with 40,000 or so people on my lists if I can’t make $100 a week back off it somehow I’m probably not doing my job too well. As the numbers go up hopefully the earnings will too :-)

  47. Jeff says:

    Darren,

    Thank you for your response. I ask because I am signed up for both Aweber and GetResponse. I’m trialing both to figure out which I like better.

    Aweber is nicer than GR. Better interface and usability. GR has a few awkward quirks.

    GR upsells their product. In a GR confirmation email, the first paragraph MUST contain a reference to getresponse.com. Also, the default html subscription form code contains “Powered by GetResponse email marketing software“. You can edit it out, of course, but I find that quite unprofessional, both for your web page and for GR.

    And to seal the deal, GR does not allows you to export your list, meaning you can’t switch services. A very unprofessional baiting marketing tactic.

    These details might not tip everyone toward the slightly pricier Aweber — after all, GR *does* work as an autoresponder. Why spend more on just a few bells and whistles?

    I will probably stick with aweber. :-)

  48. Hi Darren,

    well another added benefit is that with blogs, you may get too busy to read them sometimes and eventually you could forget to visit for a period of time.

    Having an email newsletter allows you to easily pull those readers who’ve gotten busy back to your blog again, since people check their emails more frequently than they read blogs. On top of that, it’s just another way to expand your reach and find new channels of communication like how you would with podcasting and videos.

    An email subscribers list to which you regularly send out newsletters and have a good relationship with is a very powerful compliment to a solid blog.

  49. Jeff says:

    addendum: I apologize. GetResponse does allow exporting your list to a CSV file. It took me a while to figure out how.

  50. Hmm AWeber.. we’ve never heard of it! Great to hear it’s given you much success. We enjoy Constant Contact but are always open to new ideas.