In this post I give a first impression review of Aweber.
Building a newsletter list has been a central part of my blogging business over the last few years. While my blogs are the primary tool that I use to communicate with readers – I find that having a newsletter list helps me to reach new audiences and drive people to my blogs (I’ve written about some of the other reasons that I use email newsletters here).
Until recently I used Zookoda to do this. Of course they’ve had some serious problems over the last few months which led me to ‘un-recommend’ them. Their problems led them to suspend services completely.
This presented me with a big problem – I had built up lists of over 60,000 people to my blogs – yet had no way to communicate with them.
Luckily through posting about my Zookoda woes I was contacted by a number of other email services with offers of help. I looked into each one but ended up choosing to move my lists to Aweber.
While some of the other services were free I’ve become a little wary of the free service after Zookoda and coupled with the many recommendations by readers who have had good experiences with Aweber I decided to go in that direction.
I began the process of transferring the lists over from my Zookoda list to my Aweber list a number of weeks ago. This process has not been a quick one (Aweber have some procedures in place to safeguard themselves from spammers importing massive lists of email that were not obtained ethically) but my overall experience has been positive.
My First Newsletter with Aweber
This culminated in me sending out an email last night to my DPS list (just under 30,000 subscribers). You can see the newsletter in it’s HTML version here (they also let you send a plain text email for those who prefer them).
The results of sending this first email were fantastic.
- The % of emails that were delivered was significantly higher
- The numbers of emails opened and clicked on was also higher as a result of more emails getting through
More important than either of those factors to me was the flood of emails that I had this morning from DPS readers saying that they’d not been getting emails for months and were so glad that they were back. I never realized the extent of the problems with deliverability that Zookoda had been having.
Aweber Features that I Love
In terms of features – Aweber has some great ones.
You can use it in a variety of ways – either as an autoresponder, in ‘broadcast’ mode (which is what I’m doing to send out weekly newsletters) or in ‘blog broadcast mode’.
This ‘blog broadcast’ tool is similar to what Zookoda offered in that it allows you to send out posts appearing in your RSS feed via email automatically (Feedburner and Feedblitz also do this). They just updated it today so that you can send these posts out in a variety of ways (for example you can have it send it out on certain days of the week or month and specify times that you want them to go out).
Other tools that Aweber offers which attracted me to it include
- a much wider array of options when it comes to personalizing emails
- to be able to set up auto-responder lists (I’m toying with the idea of a ‘photography for beginners’ list that sends out daily tips from the archives on the site)
- comprehensive reports
- a good range of templates in terms of design
- great customer service (I’ve used the live chat service a couple of times and have found responses to emails have been very quick from the person handling my account)
- the ability to include (and track the performance of) ads in newsletters
There are so many features in Aweber that it’s a little overwhelming at first. I’ve still got a lot to learn about what it’s capable and am discovering new things that I can use daily. Luckily they have some good training materials which have been a big help.
Cost – Can’t I get this for Free?
Aweber is a paid service. They charge a flat monthly fee ($19.95 or less if you pay quarterly, annually) which includes your first 10,000 subscribers and then they charge an additional $9.95 per month per 10,000 subscribers. This includes as many email messages and lists as you want to create.
This isn’t cheap (when you compare it with a free service at least) and at first I balked at it – however as I researched the options it actually was significantly less than what a lot of other services were charging for similar features. After my experience with a free service that didn’t perform brilliantly I realized that if I wanted to take my email newsletters to the next level then I’d have to be willing to pay for it.
I’m glad I did this – the extra traffic that I’ve driven to the site in the last 12 hours (combined with the sales from the affiliate program ad that I included in it) will pay for my use of Aweber fairly quickly.
I’m just a few weeks into using this tool – but so far I am incredibly happy with my choice to switch to Aweber.
Paying for this type of service will not be for everyone. As I’ve mentioned – there are free tools that send newsletters, convert RSS to email etc. If all you want to do is convert RSS to email then I’d probably stick with Feedburner or Feedblitz (in fact to this point I am still using Feedburner for this) however if you’re looking for a dedicated newsletter service and your long term goal is to grow your list into something that is central to your business then I’d encourage you to consider researching the options and going with a professional grade service. I wish I’d done this earlier as switching from one service to another does require some effort and coordination.
Do you use email newsletters as part of your blogging? What services have you tried?