In my last article, I pitted AWeber and MailChimp against each other in a fight to the death. It actually wasn’t anywhere near as exciting as it sounds, and no one was actually killed. But AWeber did walk away triumphant, whilst MailChimp was left nursing a bloody nose.
There was also a whole load of useful debate in the comments section too, so be sure to check that out for some alternative views on the two services. Thank you to everyone who contributed!
If you are sold on moving forwards with AWeber (don’t forget they have a $1 trial with a 30 day guarantee), you’re in good hands. In this article, we are going to get your list set up and your first message written and ready for sending to your potential horde of adoring fans. Tomorrow, we are going to get some sign up forms installed on your blog.
Once you have signed up and logged on, you will be presented with your Control Panel, which will look like a less-populated version of this:
The first thing we want to do is create a list. All of your actions will stem from the creation of your list. So go ahead and click the “Create A New List” button.
You will then have a few fields to fill in:
You do want to take a moment to make sure that these fields are filled in correctly. The List Name will obviously be used as an identifier by you, but will also be seen by your subscribers at certain times. The List Description will actually show up when a subscriber chooses to unsubscribe, so it can be your last line of defense!
You will also want to make sure that your “From” Name and Address are relevant. You do not want your subscribers deleting your emails because they do not recognize your name and/or email address.
Finally, ensure that you put in a valid Contact Address. Spam guidelines are very strict these days, and you absolutely want to make sure that you are on the right side of the law to avoid gaining a negative reputation. If you are not keen on releasing your home address into the public domain, you might choose to list a P.O. Box.
Next, you will be presented with an option to receive notifications of subscriber sign-ups:
Regardless of whether or not you want subscriber sign-up notifications, you should put your name and email address into these fields. Why? Because it will give unsubscribers the option to leave feedback. Understanding why someone is unsubscribing can be very valuable information, and some people will take the time to let you know.
Once you’re done, click “Save Settings” and we can then move onto personalizing your list.
Fill in your Company Name (or blog name, if appropriate), URL, and Email Signature. You should also upload a logo if you have one.
Below those fields, you can choose to publicize your broadcast archive via Social Media. I have mixed feelings about this option, and am currently sat in the camp of “your broadcasts should be unique to your list – that’s the whole point”. So I’m going to skip over this feature.
Finally, you have a Global Text Snippets tool. Don’t worry about this at the moment, although you may want to read the description briefly and make a mental note of what it can do for you. It may come in handy in the future.
Once you’re done with those fields, click “Save Settings” and we can move onto the final step of the list setup process.
This is an important step that shouldn’t be neglected. You will be presented with the template email that will be sent out to confirm a subscription:
It is only necessary to fiddle with this template email if you have option 2 set to “On”. I strongly encourage you to keep this option on, for the reasons stated in AWeber’s description above.
So why is the confirmation message so important? Bear in mind that us internet folk are an impatient lot. Say someone signed up for your mailing list but didn’t check their emails straight away. They might check their emails the following day and see your “Confirm your subscription” message. If they have forgotten that they signed up, it might get immediately deleted – it’s not exactly inspiring, is it? So make sure that your subject line is engaging and gets people clicking. And by extension, you may wish to optimize the content of your email to remind people how they are going to benefit from signing up to your list.
Remember – a subscriber isn’t a subscriber until they have confirmed. Some people will go through the first stage of confirmation but never confirm their intended subscription – it is unavoidable. Make sure that you minimize such occurrences by optimizing your confirmation message.
Finally, you have the option to send your brand new subscriber to a customized success page:
You don’t need to worry too much about this at the moment. However, setting a customized confirmation success page is a good way of bringing a subscriber straight back to your site and getting them re-engaged with your content (and is also a great opportunity to ask them to follow your Twitter account or like your Facebook page).
Once you have completed all of the above steps, the infrastructure of your list is in place. However, before you start signing people up in their droves, you need to draft your first email that will be sent out when someone subscribes.
Creating Your First Follow Up Message
You have two options when it comes to your first follow up message:
- Introduce them to your list and tell them what they can expect.
- Get straight into the meat of your content.
If you are going to be producing a periodical newsletter, option 1 is the best one to go with. After all, they will only get your freshest editions, and you can hardly send them a periodical newsletter that you haven’t yet produced, can you?
If you are going to be running an autoresponder series then it is best to crack straight on with your content, so option 2 is the way to go.
Either way, there is one important thing that you should include in your follow up message – a reminder to add your email address to their “safe list” or “white list”. In this day and age, people use some very powerful spam filters, and the best way to avoid being filtered is to be exempt.
In order to create your first follow up message, click on “Messages” in the top navigation bar (1), then “Create A New Follow Up Message” on the next page (2).
You will now be presented with a text editor. Filling in the subject line is obviously straightforward enough. Unfortunately, AWeber’s text editor is very buggy and can do some strange things to your formatting. You may wish to draft your email in the Plain Text box first, then copy and paste it into the text editor for final formatting when you have finished.
It is important that you include a plain text version of your message. Many people do not have the capability (or choose not) to read HTML messages. As such, you need to cater for them.
If you want to go upmarket, then you can choose from AWeber’s extensive list of templates. As you can see from below, you can check out previews before you select a template.
One final thing – if you are technically minded, you can get into the guts of your email and edit the code by clicking on the little “Source” tab at the bottom of the text editor.
If you have experience with HTML and CSS you have the opportunity to do some pretty funky stuff. Having said that, you will want to make sure that your message displays correctly in your subscribers’ email clients. More on that shortly.
At the bottom of the screen, you have the option to track clicks. Bear in mind that if you keep this option selected, your URLs will be re-routed through AWeber’s servers. This means that any inquisitive reader will see that your links are pointed to strange-looking URLs. This shouldn’t be of any particular concern to you, but it is worth knowing. Link tracking is extremely useful, so you should have the option selected.
Once you are finished, you have the option of previewing your message or saving it. I advise that you save the message and proceed to the next screen. We can send a test message from there – in my experience, the preview option doesn’t necessarily represent what your readers will see.
You will now be directed back to your main Messages page, where your first message will now be listed.
Go ahead and click on the “Test” button. This will present you with an option to send the email to an address of your choosing, so you can check out how it looks. I advise that you always do this when creating a new message.
Also, if you need to set up email addresses for your domain, don’t forget to check out WPMU DEV’s email hosting (included with your membership).
Your list is now fully set up, and your first message is good to go. Once we have some signup forms installed on your blog (which we will go through tomorrow), you will be well on your way to building your very own email list.
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