FeedBurner vs. Aweber: Do You Really Need an Autoresponder for Your Blog?

This guest post is by Aman Basanti of Ageofmarketing.com.

When it comes to turning casual visitors into regular readers there are two main options—FeedBurner and Aweber.

FeedBurner uses Feed-based technology (RSS and Atom) to send updates to your blog subscribers. Owned by Google (Google bought it in 2007 for $100 million), FeedBurner is one of the biggest feed syndicators on the Internet.

It works like this: a site visitor subscribes to your feed and every time you add a new post, a message is sent to them alerting them of the addition. The subscriber needs special software (a feed reader) to access the feed.

For more information on feeds, see Darren’s post, What is RSS?

Aweber is email-based technology that allows you to send automated email messages to your subscribers. It works similarly to a feed but does not require special feed-reading software, only an email address to subscribe to a blog.

Aweber is the most popular autoresponder software system on the Internet. Other popular brands include Infusionsoft, MailChimp, and GetResponse.

Advantages of FeedBurner

  • FeedBurner is free, Aweber costs money: The key advantage of using FeedBurner instead of Aweber (or other auto-responders) on your blog is that FeedBurner does not cost anything. Aweber, on the other hand, can cost $20-$100 a month depending on the number of subscribers you have.
  • FeedBurner take less effort: Most popular blogging platforms (WordPress, Blogger, TypePad etc.) publish feeds automatically. There is nothing more to do on top of publishing a post. With auto-responders, however, you have to manually setup the messages and sequence them (but you can now set up a blog broadcast in Aweber, which creates an automatic email newsletter).
  • FeedBurner supports both feed readers and email subscribers: The key advantage of auto-responders like Aweber used to be that you did not need special software to subscribe, only an email address. As millions of people still do not have feed readers or prefer email, this meant that you still needed an aut-responder to capture those readers. But FeedBurner changed all that by allowing people to subscribe to a feed using an email address. This means that while an autoresponder only supports email, FeedBurner supports both feed readers and email.

Given that FeedBurner is free, easy to set up, effortless to use, and supports both feed readers and email, why would you want to pay for an auto responder?

The fatal flaw in feeds

The key thing that you cannot do with a feed is sequence messages: you cannot create a series of messages to be sent to your subscribers. This means that your subscribers only get alerts for posts that are added after they subscribe.

For example, say you post four articles over four weeks, and a visitor subscribes to your blog after week three. This means they will only get alerted about the fourth post, and will not receive posts one to three, as shown in the image below.

Feedburner alerts

In FeedBurner, you cannot send alerts for older posts

Now, if you post time-sensitive information (news or latest developments) on your blog, this doesn’t matter. But if you publish evergreen content, or you want to take your blog readers through a specific set of messages, the ability to sequence is crucial.

Autoresponders allow you to do just that. You can create a sequence of messages, set how long the wait is between each message, and the autoresponder will execute that for you for each subscriber, regardless of when they join, as shown below.

Aweber sequencing

Aweber allows you to create a sequence of messages

Then there are the other benefits of auto-responders like Aweber—customization of look and feel of emails, personalization (“Hi John”), controlling the wait period between messages, solid delivery rates, split-test multiple lead capture forms, and so on.

The audience factor

A third factor in deciding which system to use is your audience. If you have tech-phobic audience, then an email-based system like Aweber is likely better for you.

For tech-savvy audiences, on the other hand, FeedBurner may be better. Technically inclined people are more likely to use and prefer to get their blog updates through feeds. Feeds also have the added benefit of allowing another blogger to include your feed on their blog, creating free exposure and traffic for your blog.

The best way to find out what your audience wants is to have both options on your site for a month and see what your readers prefer. You may even find that it is useful to have both.

The bottom line

If you have a small budget, publish time-sensitive information, and/or cater to a tech-savvy audience, FeedBurner will be sufficient for your blog.

If, on the other hand, you want to take your subscribers through a sequence of messages and control the wait periods between the messages, then Aweber is better suited to your blog.

What are you using: Aweber, FeedBurner … or something else? Tell us how you do it in the comments.

Aman Basanti writes about the psychology of buying and teaches you how you can use the principles of consumer psychology to boost your sales. Visit www.Ageofmarketing.com/free-ebook to get his new ebook—Marketing to the Pre-Historic Mind: How the Hot New Science of Behavioural Economics Can Help You Boost Your Sales—for FREE.

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Comments

  1. I strongly believe FeedBurner is not an option for anyone treating their blog as a business. It offers only the most basic features, and is strictly for people not wanting to earn from their blogs.

    Aweber offers tremendous flexibility and ample options to fully utilize your email list. If you are using the list only to send out your posts, you are really under-utilizing it! It is better to pay a small amount to use the list better and earn a lot more from it in return!

    Advantages?

    - You can have sequential emails as Aman has pointed out
    - You can send attachments with your emails
    - You can decide the exact time when the emails are sent out
    - You can get subscribers through multiple forms, which means you can monitor the forms’ performance and tweak accordingly
    - You can get subscribers through lightbox forms which have awesome conversion rates
    - You can run A/B split tests between different forms
    - You can run A/B split tests between different emails
    - You can find out who clicked on which link inside your email, and send follow up messages targeted to those specific people

    These are just a few thins that come to mind immediately – I am sure there are many more…

    Any serious blogger wanting to earn from the blog has to go with Aweber. As I said, it is better to pay a small amount to earn a lot more in return!

    • Thanks for adding a more complete list of features that Aweber offers. And I like your concept of spending a little to make more – isn’t that what business is all about?

    • ozpinoy says:

      I use feedburner because I can’t afford aweber…… it’s like this…. catch 22….

    • I’ve devised a way to compile subscribers on my blog plan site. I didn’t want to pay for aweber and feedburner doesn’t offer an autoresponder system.

      It is a devious plot and my site currently implements it. Too much effort to define it via this comment here though. sorry.. but I will definitely get to it on my step by step blog that is all about how to setup a blog..

      it really sucks there isnt a trust worthy autoresponder that is free, but I guess people have to make a living somehow!

      - tork

    • Kaushik says:

      Aweber is for marketers trying to turn readers into buyers. Typical users of Aweber include affiliate marketers, junk emailers.

      Feedburner is for bloggers to deliver pure content, nothing else.

      If you are serious about blogging, you shouldn’t spam your readers.

  2. Right now, I’m using Feedburner because I’m trying not to spend money, but the point you made about feedburner being more for tech savy audiences made me think. I may have to adjust my mindset and come up with the dollars for Aweber since my audience might not be as comfortable with feed technology.

    Great article. It made me re-think things.

    • If you do not want to spend any money then the subscribe-via-email option in Feedburner might be enough for you.

      Alternatively, you could check out the MailChimp – which allows you to have 0 – 2,000 subscribers and send 12,000 email for free. Enough for my small blogs on a budget.

    • I agree 100%.Most internet users have no idea what RSS is or how to use it. I think I’m a pretty smart guy, but I had some problems using RSS and finding it on Google when I first started; so someone like my mom or sister would be completely confused.

      Bottom line, the average person is not going to benefit from a RSS reader. They need a no-brainer way to get information directly into there emails and not through a google reader.

      Feedburner has the email option as well, but its still very limited as far as an auto-responder goes.

  3. @stuartflatt says:

    Surely they are two very different ways of communicating? If I subscribe to a feed I expect to see every blog post or article on a site.

    But if I subscribe to a newsletter I would expect a special newsletter or multiple posts? Imagine getting an email every time a new blog post came out on Mashable (for instance), it would be unmanageable.

  4. Thanh Pham says:

    Having an autoresponder is a must for any blog which regularly updates content and is not a news-site. One of the first things you want to show your new subscriber is your best content. You can assume that not every subscriber will start digging into your archives, so show it to them. One way is by having a “best of” alike page on your blog. Another way is by having your best content in your autoresponder.

    That way the subscribers gets exposed over time to your best content, and if they love it, they will love your blog even more. Then they will be awaiting every new content piece you put out.

    • “You can assume that not every subscriber will start digging into your archives, so show it to them.”

      That is a great point Thanh. Too many people assume that everyone will dig around on your blog – most people don’t. Plus there is only so much you can read in one sitting. Its better to drip feed that info over time. Thanks for adding that in.

  5. I prefer Feedburner actually, and I think it’s best. Delivering one e-mail to my subscribers a day with the newest content on the website/blog is definitely better than spamming them with a lot of emails from aweber. I’ve subscribed a couple of times to some blogs through Aweber, and I kept receiving a lot of emails everyday which turned me off the websites and forced me to unsubscribe.

  6. Jason says:

    I’m currently using both, and I’m trying to decide what to do about it.

    It’s not a bad idea to have both. Some people will just be interested in site updates. Some people will be interested in your newsletter, but you have to give them something for signing up (it’s better to, at least).

    What you REALLY want to do by having both is convert your feed subscribers into newsletter subscribers. ;)

    I’ve got a list set up via MailChimp that I send recipes out to on a weekly basis (Mailchimp has a very good free program for new bloggers like me). That’s the list I created after reading a bunch of “your list is the most critical piece of your blog” posts. At the same time, I have a feed set up but it also gets email subscribers.

    What I’m trying to determine is how to incorporate my email feed subscribers, who obviously only signed up for site updates, into my list in a non-clunky way. Since I have their addresses, I’d like to use them to send other stuff too (I added my first sales autoresponder last week).

    Thanks for the post and ideas!
    -jason

  7. Good post. I’ve been thinking in this line for some day. Good points you stated. Anyway, I use both feedburner and aweber. The reason being that I run Google Adsense on my blog and feedburner gives me the opportunity to make more money with AdSsense for feed. Aweber gives me more flair. All the same, I enjoy both

  8. I switched from Feedburner to MailChimp and I’m loving it. It integrates very well with WordPress. The primary factors that make it a great tool for me is 1.) Great ability to customize, and 2.) Ability to track engagement and see how subscribers are using the emails.

  9. Ileane says:

    I use FeedBurner and I’m considering a move to FeedBlitz for my newsletter. Aweber sounds like a good option too though. Thanks for the comparisons.

  10. James says:

    Nice article….this has definitely got me thinking about whether i should invest in a service like aweber as opposed to just using feedburner.

  11. darkduck says:

    If I subscribe to a feed, I want to get something which is posted from now on.
    If I want to get historical posts, I can always refer back to the blog itself.
    So, your point about chained e-mails is invalid.

  12. I use both right now, but because Aweber provides the ability to create a “blog broadcast” via RSS I could easily move away from Feedburner and work solely with Aweber.

    Though this would consolidate the subscription list, the one thing holding me back is the design aspect. Though Aweber provides a powerful way to deliver content via email, the templates available aren’t quite as simple as Feedburner’s no non-sense approach.

  13. Brian Yang says:

    Why not use…. both? :)

    I plan to use aweber once traffic levels make it worth the money.. or is that a dumb idea?

  14. Kevin Rossen says:

    I know this article focused on Aweber, but I think for the majority of small-niche, small-traffic bloggers out there MailChimp is probably a better option. It gives people the ability to dabble in email subscriptions, newsletters, and auto-responders without having to spend ANY money. I’ve been considering setting up an email newsletter for a while now, and this article has basically given me some more motivation to do so.

    That said, I only use FeedBurner right now.

    • Great point about MailChimp – it allows you to have up to 2000 subscribers for free – which as you pointed out, “for the majority of small-niche, small-traffic bloggers out there MailChimp is probably a better option.”

  15. Anastasia says:

    There’s a powerful free WP plugin for autoresponders. So you still can send Aweber-like emails – scheduled and/or new posts. So it still can be free.

  16. Robert says:

    Is there anything preventing you from using the free option (feedburner) until your blog grows to the point that the cost of aweber is justified?

    Is it possible to import your list from one to another? Because feedburner has an email option as well.

  17. Feedburner is great and I recommend them to every new blogger. It’s a great service and a great way to track subscriber counts and growth.

    But there comes a point when you either 1.) outgrow it, 2.) you need to step it up and offer a bit more – to build, grow and maximize use of your email list.

    I use Aweber these days. It’s nice to be able to track conversion rates on my email web forms through-out my site so I can adjust accordingly.

  18. Feedburner is a good one for a newbie blogger like me, works well for my subscribers, gets them what they need. I am happy with it, but maybe i will review again later.

  19. This should help clarify…

    Here’s the deal…HAVE BOTH!!!! If you have a small blog, get Feedburner, but then add MailChimp. It’s a Fremium service, with SUPPORT! If you are under a certain number of subscribers, it’s free. They will supply the code for you to add a “Get Our Blog via Email” widget, which is how most people will sign up. Then you can code the HTML email they forward out when you post to match your blog’s design. You can then set how often the email goes out, and at what time of day. It’s simply terrific.

    You can even host documents, so if you’ve written a whitepaper, as we have, you can enable your site visitors to download it via a link (button) with double opt in approval.

    We have been very happy with MailChimp and highly recommend it (we are non-endorsed, no affiliation!)

    • Great information Preston. Thanks for adding it in.

      • Anytime Aman…great post by you, I think that many bloggers don’t understand Feedburner vs. a service like Aweber (I had a lot of frustration when trying to use Feedburner), but having and utilizing both services is terrific. –Preston

    • Debra Torres says:

      Preston, I’m using Weebly to host my blog. Can I use MailChimp with my blog or do I have to have a blog or newsletter through MailChimp in order to use their service?

      • Debra, I don’t think it matters where your blog is hosted. MailChimp is an HTML email service, not a blogging platform. It’s extremely flexible and enables you, as a blogger, to do many things all from one platform. As I indicated, we use it to capture people who sign up to get our blog via email. Everyday when we post a blog MailChimp see’s the feed and shoots an HTML email to our subscribers (the email template matches our identity). The email has a summary of the post as a link, and also has SMM buttons, and our previous 3 blog posts. Additionally, we use it to host our whitepaper, so when someone wants to download it, they go from a link on our site, to a sign up form on MailChimp–and it’s all automated. I highly recommend it–they have great chat support and have been very helpful! I hope this has answered your question :-)

        -Preston

  20. Robby G says:

    I personally got rid of Feedburner last week am only using Aweber. I didn’t like the service of Feedburner, it wasn’t working properly for some reason, but either way I’m happy with Aweber.

  21. At this point in time, when I am just starting to build my audience and my blog is more of a writer’s platform, Aweber doesn’t interest me because of the cost issue. As it is I am spending a fair bit on it so I like to keep the cost low. Maybe when – hopefully sooner rather than later – I am having difficulty counting my subscriber numbers, I might look into Aweber. Also, if I never, ever want to sell anything on my blog, do I still need an email list building system?

    • “Also, if I never, ever want to sell anything on my blog, do I still need an email list building system?”

      Depends.

      Do you at some point want to take your readers or blog visitors through a specific sequence of messages? Maybe like the best of Writing Happiness? Maybe a mini-course delivered over a period of time?

      If yes then you need an auto-responder. Otherwise, you could do without.

  22. This is an interesting article as many of the comments attest. Certainly if you have e-products to sell then Aweber makes perfect sense – I noticed the SEO and Blogging e-books I bought from Problogger were delivered through Aweber. So far I’ve not been inundated with Aweber emails from Probloggler but when I subscribe to something and the volume gets too great, I dismiss it as junk, unsubscribe and avoid the offending site. The key of course is to understand your market and strike the right balance in e-mail delivery – enough to engage but no so much as to offend.

  23. Jeff Goins says:

    Feedburner to distribute daily posts and Mailchimp to send weekly newsletters (thinking of doing an autoresponder campaign).

  24. I like the ideas that you have presented, but I was wondering why you couldn’t have both aweber and feedburner on your blog. What are the disadvantages of having both on your blog?

    • You absolutely can have both – I have both. While most people want to subscribe by email, many people want to use feeds. The best way to capture maximum audience is to offer both options.

      • I agree with you completely. The only thing that is hard for me to decide is weather to go with aweber or mailchimp.

        • Aman Basanti says:

          David,

          If I could do it all over again, I would go MailChimp :)

          It allows you to use its service for free until you have a significant number of subscribers – around 2000.

  25. After reading your article, I clicked over to your blog and, I took ‘home’ a different message than you might have expected from this article alone. While, I agree that thinking outside the box can sometimes gain a blogger the edge, it’s crucial first to give readers a solid reason to come back day after day…something tangible that benefits them, makes them smarter, healthier, happier or wealthier. And, by the measure of your blog, you’re doing a good job of it. I, on the other hand, am getting good at the ‘mechanics’, but falling short in the ‘packaging’ department

    Google just pulled the rug out from underneath me within the last couple of days, don’t know why…probably never will, but maybe it’s for the best; maybe it’s the goad I need to break away and move on…discover a topic I can get excited about, one that readers can get excited about too.

  26. Alice says:

    GREAT, GREAT, GREAT POST! I began an account with Aweber for the same reasons stated here, mostly the auto-responder. However, I was not diligent is using it fully so relied on Feedburner. I am definitely going to give Aweber another try now. Thanks again for such a useful and insightful post!

  27. Aman,
    Nice article. I believe it should be determined based on how we need to personalize the communication.
    Thanks for sharing – Manickam

  28. Eddie Gear says:

    Aman , that is why I use MailChimp. That way, I will not have to worry about the cost to a certain extent and also about subscription or sending our rss posts.

  29. viqifrench says:

    Thanks! This post answers “half” of my burning question.

    The rest of my conundrum on this topic:
    a.) How to offer a free report via my Feedburner?, or
    b.) How much fumbling with (free!) MailChimp code must I do to “easily” offer a free report.

    Alas, it’s never easy, is it? :)

  30. a nice review for tools on an auto blog updater, very helpful for all the bloggers who often want to put things on queue.

    - Jack Leak

  31. Amit says:

    Great information Preston. Thanks for adding it in.

    And I like your concept of spending a little to make more – isn’t that what business is all about?

    View – web.goodluckfreshers.com