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E-Newsletters and Auto-Responders with Aweber

You have a great website, you blog (hopefully more regularly than I have been) and as a result you will have people who will want to receive notification of any specials or freebies you may offer. What is the best way to keep those people in the loop? With a newsletter. There are many services out there and my friend, Dennis Edell, has chosen Aweber. He’s currently running a contest where the person with the best review of Aweber wins him using their affiliate link. So I’m in – after all, I do use Aweber myself.

What is Great about Aweber

The most important thing I like about Aweber is that they have three distinctly different features: 1) a newsletter service, 2) auto-responder service, which is crucial for various reasons, and 3) Ability to send RSS feeds via email.

Pricing and Subscribers Lists:

  • For a mere $19 a month you can have up to 500 subscribers.
  • With the $19 a month you can have separate sign-up forms on various domains or within one domain – for example – on my site I have three forms: 1) one is a newsletter sign up 2) sign up to receive all my weekly blog entries as one email (what better way to know what you missed) and my #3) is for a free PDF download to determine how much your time is worth. This allows me to send various visitors what they are most interested in.
  • Additionally I have a sign up form on my Facebook fan page that offers those visitors a free copy of my “How to Get Started on Twitter” ebook.
  • Other places you could add a sign up form: Blogger, Ning, etc. – anywhere that you have the ability to add in raw HTML or a snippet of Java Script.

Getting Started with Aweber:

  • New subscriber lists and global fields (fields used on all lists) are easy to set up and define
  • They offer numerous templates to get you started and with a little HTML knowledge you can tweak to your favorite/branded colors. With advanced HTML knowledge you could design and use your own template.
  • About six months ago or so they began to offer a selection of “pretty” web forms that are easy to design and slightly modify.
  • With your web forms (sign up forms) you have several display options: static, hover, fade-out, etc.
  • When you design your forms you have several options on what new subscribers see as the “thank you” page – including the use of your own custom, self-hosted “Thank You” page.

Using Aweber

You have your newsletter or auto-responder set up….now what?

  • You can easily copy a previously sent item to use again and just write over your existing data
  • Similar to blog posts you can write in advance and then schedule them to go out at a later time
  • On Twitter and want to share your great newsletter there? No problem, just connect your Twitter account and when your newsletter is sent to email subscribers it will automatically send out to your Twitter account
  • Very recently Aweber has added Facebook (to post your newsletter to your Facebook account). I have not used this feature so I’m not sure 1) how it shows up on your facebook account and 2) can you only send to a personal profile, a fan page, a group or all? (anyone using Aweber that can add in comments if they’ve used this new feature?)
  • If you are including a prior blog post in your newsletter you can also Add The ReTweetMeme button to your newsletter.

Analytics and Reporting

  • Aweber offers a slew of option for reporting – including: how many people your newsletter was sent to, how many opened your newsletter (see below for more detail on this), how many links within your newsletter were clicked as well as which ones were clicked, how many email addresses bounced, spam complaints, etc.
  • Notifications of new sign ups and unsubscribes: with each sign up you can be notified. What is really nice about this is that you can see the exact location they signed up (e.g. I get most of my newsletter signups from this blog post on How to Add Twitter Icons to Your Email Signature).  When you configure your account you have the ability to request info from the end user on why they have unsubscribed, which can also be emailed to you for important feedback.

Misc. features I enjoy in Aweber

  • Ability to mass import names and emails from a CSV file into a list. (Note: if you manually add to Aweber you are limited to 10 per 24 hour period)
  • Have people that sign up at one location that you want to add to your master list? Very easy to do with additional rule settings on your lists.
  • Easily review subscriber info and delete out duplicate or never confirmed submissions.
  • No knowledge on how to install the form to your website? They have an “newer” option that allows you to email the HTML code for your form to your web designer.
  • After you have a certain number of subscribers you can set up a split-test which can give you greater insights as to what your website visitors want.
  • Ability to personalize messages with easy to insert fields in Aweber.

What is Cumbersome about Aweber

  • Don’t have HTML knowledge? You may find it somewhat difficult to edit their offered templates to be exactly what you need.
  • They have so many options and features that sometimes navigating to what exactly you need from their menu can be somewhat difficult.
  • Open Numbers on your emails – if you send to Twitter (and I presume the same holds true for Facebook) those will show in the open numbers so you could have more opens than the number of people actually emailed to. There is no way (that I am aware of) to segment these numbers for true analytics.
  • Don’t have your own website? You may have some issues then with adding in pictures as you need a direct URL to add in a picture into your template or the body of the newsletter.
  • While you can send downloadable files in the email (PDF, MP3, etc.) they will advise that you don’t do that as it increases the likelyhood that your message is marked as spam. (You can get around this by hosting the download on your own site – but again, if you don’t have your own site this could be problematic).
  • Setting up an auto-responder program and you are in “testing” mode – double and triple check that your “send after last message” dates are set far, far into the future (e.g. 999 days) otherwise anyone who is on an auto-responder list you’ve set up (but not fully developed) will be receiving your “test” messages. (yup, I made this mistake)
  • Since Aweber is a double opt-in service frequently the email confirmation ends up in your junk folder
  • List names can be difficult to think of – I believe that lists names are universal and often you will find a name you want is in use by another Aweber member.
  • Word of Caution: When setting up your confirmation email on a list – by default the intro email sent to your subscribers will have your list name embedded in it – rarely will that name be what you want your subscribers to see – so be sure to edit that.

I’ve worked with Aweber for myself for over a year now and often do custom templates and newsletters for clients. I’ve also worked with Constant Contact, Vertical Response and Mail Chimp for clients. While I’ve never had the opportunity to fully delve into many of the others Aweber seems to be the best value with the most options.

Tell me below in comments what do you like most about Aweber? If you like it and want to review it remember that Dennis Edell’s contest ends June 30th so you have plenty of time to join the fun.

Use another program? Tell me what it is and what you like/dislike about it in the comments below.