If you are online (hello, you are reading this so you must be!) and you have a business – or are even thinking about having a business – online, you would be doing yourself a huge favor by creating and collecting a mailing list.
Simple as this is, I did not see the value in it and only looked into it at the persistence of my very good blogger friends (you know who you are, thank you!) but as Naomi Dunford bluntly puts it: “If you don’t have a list, you have nothing!” Nothing, people and she is right.
Having a Great Experience with Aweber
So let us agree that building a mailing list matters and in the spirit of learning from mistakes, let me share mine with Aweber so that you may have a fantastic experience with building and managing a mailing list with these best practices.
Aweber is a great company with powerful email marketing software. The tech support for these guys rocks. They provide live phone support. You can talk to someone on the phone anytime you are having a problem during business hours.
I don’t know about you but as much as I love using the email support services, there is something to be said about having someone listen to your frustrations when it comes to managing your mailing list. If you don’t now what I mean, you will after setting yours up!
Nonetheless, there are things you could be doing to have a much smoother ride than your truly as you set up or transfer from an existing list, establish and manage your mailing list so listen up and take good notes.
1. Get a PO Box
Aweber is required by law to display your address at the bottom of each email you send. You need a PO Address. Go down to your local post office and get one. It is easy and extremely affordable. I recommend not using a personal home address. It is not as professional and perhaps even a safety concern for some of you.
2. Set Aside a Week for the Process
There are two scenarios here you might encounter at this point.
- If you are transferring a list, Aweber asks you to confirm that the list is a genuine one – and not a list of email address purchased through unmentionable means.
I find this very wise on their part. This process takes a good few days. You need to provide access to your list’s current home – mine was at Feedburner so I had to provide my Google email/password.
Much as I like to say I trust Aweber, I don’t – and just so Aweber knows, I don’t even trust my hubby or Mom with my passwords so two things: call and provide your password on the phone (do not email it in free text form because it could be sniffed on the web), and make a note to change your password immediately after the transfer!
- If you are creating a brand new list from scratch – easy, no transfer necessary. I still recommend giving yourself a week to learn the system extremely well.
Giving yourself time to setup things right from the start will make the maintenance of your mailing list much simpler in the long run.
3. Set up the Mail Opt-in Form on Your Site
First, you have to decide how you want to use your mailing list. A lot of people use it just for their newsletter so they keep a separate email option for blog post updates – usually Feedburner or Feedblitz. I like to consolidate so I decided to use my mailing list for all updates to my readers – that means, my list gets a newsletter and blog updates.
I blog no more than twice a week and I send out a newsletter twice a month. It’s short and sweet. So far, I have had 0.5% unsubscribe in a daily growing list. Your results may be different. So first, spell out your purpose for your list.
Define Your Message
Put serious thought into your message and your offer with the opt-in form. Are you giving away a “cookie”, or a freebie? Why should anyone subscribe to you? What’s in it for them? Your email leads are fundamental to your success so do what you can to make your subscribers successful from the start. Make them want to sign-up for your list. Make it irresistible!
Create the Mail Opt-in Form
With your message, you can then create and customize your Aweber form from the available options in the Control Panel Web Forms section. They have tons of templates and you can add extra fields of information and test each one on your website to make sure it meshes well with your design. Aweber strongly recommends that you use one of their forms but worry not; the features and the customization are super rich!
HTML vs. SCRIPT
When you are finished designing your form, you can get either the HTML or SCRIPT version to add to your site. I recommend the SCRIPT. That way all changes are always done centrally at Aweber and the updates show up wherever your SCRIPT is running.
You simply insert it where you need it: If you want to put it on your side bar and you are using WordPress, go to your Widgets and create a Text Box and just drop it in. If you want to use it in a post or a page, just go to HTML (the tab next to VISUAL) for that post/page and drop it in.
For inserting in FBML for your Facebook Welcome Fan Page, you will need the HTML of the code.
4. Define Your Workflow
What is the whole user interface process from start to finish? Think through it. The potential subscriber comes to your site, sees the form, likes the offer and the message, fills out the form, then what? Decide where you want to send them.
This is where your Aweber Form Settings come in. Do you want to then display the standard white text Aweber page that reminds them to confirm their email subscription or do you want to send them to your own custom verification page?
What happens after they confirm? Do you want to redirect them back to your site or to a custom thank-you page? Do you want to send them an immediate Follow-up message after confirmation? What is the goal and content of that message?
I have mine set up such that after the readers opt-in, they are re-directed to my custom Verification page where I ask them to immediately confirm their email – and after the confirmation, I send them to a thank-you page where I offer them a free download.
I wanted to customize mine. You may not. Choose what works best for your style and think also about simplicity and efficiency. There is a lot to be said about automated Aweber forms. I’d use them in a heartbeat if I weren’t so stubborn!
5. Drive Them to Your Newsletter Archives
As we said, you may choose to send an immediate Follow-up message after your reader confirms. In this message, they potentially see their first impression of you and you want that to be meaningful, useful, helpful and short! Use this follow-up to tell them what they can expect from your newsletter.
One thing you can do is to direct them to your newsletter archives, which Aweber very cleverly puts together in a public link. This way, they will have missed nothing from the past and this reinforces even more the value of your newsletter.
The coolest thing is that you can edit that list. You can go to any message from the Sent Broadcasts, click on the Subject, get re-directed to the Stats for that message and toggle the Social Media/Sharing button. This will toggle only your Archives provided that in your Broadcast message, you have your settings such that Social Media/Sharing is enabled and your Twitter and Facebook is disabled. In other words, toggling the Social Media/Sharing to on only puts that message in your archives.
I do not use Aweber to send updates to Twitter and Facebook because I customize those – see Kristi’s tips on ways to automate social media updates. If you wish to do send those updates via Aweber, just be sure to test it out first.
6. Understand Blog Broadcast versus Broadcast
This was probably my most frustrating learning curve. There is a huge difference between Blog Broadcast and Broadcast. First of all, if you only use Aweber to send out a newsletter, you will have nothing to do with Blog Broadcast and I kinda envy you. Broadcast feature is reliable, fast and easy to use.
However, if you decided to consolidate and send both your blog updates and your newsletter from Aweber, take note.
RSS feeds come into Blog Broadcast sometime after the post is published; this is sometimes less than an hour but Aweber quotes between 3 to 4 hours to be safe. When they show up in Blog Broadcast, you have options on how to send that out to your list.
Blog Broadcast is very sensitive in that if you make changes to the text body of the message and the timing delivery options after the feed has already been pulled, it can quite possibly skip (yes I know!) delivering your email to Broadcast queue by 24 hours. This happened to me several times and Aweber confirmed these facts.
So I suggest that once you know your desired workflow, do not change your Blog Broadcast settings after you save them. I set my settings, which are: Check Send Immediately and Uncheck Send Automatically – right before I publish the post. You may choose different settings.
7. Best Practices for Blog Broadcast
Using Blog Broadcast is tricky but rewarding with these little known facts.
First, you have to decide between Full update versus Partial update on your post. Are you going to send out just a short post blurb and let them click to come to your site to read the rest or will you send them the whole post? I do the latter. Aweber is set up by default to send out a partial blurb of your post. To make it do a full blurb, you need to do exactly this.
Then you need to decide if you want to update the email introduction blurb above your blog post. This is where it gets very tricky. I like to personalize every blog update with an intro which I create every time. To do this, you must follow these steps:
- Before you press “publish” on your blog post, go to Aweber Blog Broadcast Edit and add your blurb in the HTML section above the code and save.
- Decide when you want to send out the form. If you want Aweber to send it for you as soon as possible, choose When # of items reaches 1, Send Automatically and Send immediately in the options. I personally do not recommend this (see below for reasons).
- If you want to schedule your message, do not choose Send Immediately. Pick a time at least 3 to 4 hours after publish. Then pick When # of items reaches 1 and Uncheck Send Automatically. Save and exit.
- Go publish your post. By the scheduled time, your post will appear in the Broadcast – note I said Broadcast, not Blog Broadcast – Queue, waiting to be sent out.
- Test your message by sending yourself a copy from Broadcast queue. Check your title, your blurb, your images showing up (sometimes the HMTL tags get messed up even if all photos show up fine in Aweber editor itself, trust me!)
- If all is good, hit Queue to send. It will take the system a few minutes to send but you can close the browser and exit anytime.
Note: Send Immediately means that the Blog Broadcast (the blurb and the blog update) is immediately sent over to Broadcast Queue. I leave this Checked.
Send Automatically means that Aweber sends that email out automatically – as opposed to you sending it out manually – when it is available. I do not use this because I like to test my email before sending it, hence I leave this Unchecked.
You can send yourself a test from the Blog Broadcast side as well but Aweber assured me that the final version would appear in Broadcast queue so check that one before sending the email out to your subscribers.
8. To Use or Not to Use the Pop-Up form
First, read the advice in pros and cons of popups and decide where you stand on the issue.
I decided that I wanted to test this out after my research and so far, I have had very good results with no decline – in fact, steady rise – in traffic and subscriptions. The idea is to make it non-intrusive while letting more readers know about your offers. While we never know whom we may turn away and whom we may gain as a reader, we can measure some trends by testing things out.
Aweber has many options for this. You need to create a new Web Form where you can match your template to your existing mail opt-in form template. Then decide on the number of times the form displays for each reader – a one time display is the best option – and the built-in delay in seconds – or immediately if you wish – after the visitor comes to your site.
If the subscriber moves away from the page before the timer reaches 0, they will not see the form so use a timer with this fact in mind. Also if you choose the Display once option, it works by placing a cookie in the visitor’s browser.
This way when they return to your site, Aweber can look for that cookie, and if they see it, the form is not displayed. If the visitor has cleared their cache/cookies, then they will see the form again even with “display once” turned on.
Editor’s note: If you are considering pop-ups or ways of enhancing your opt-in forms, be sure to check out my reviews on Popup Domination (if you want a well-designed popup) and Subscriber’s Magnet (if you want alternatives to pop-ups). If you have Thesis Theme, check out the Marketer’s Delight Skin by Kolakube, a well-designed opt-in form alternative to a popup built into the design (see it in action on Rockin Affiliate.
9. Managing your Subscribers and Aweber Monthly Charge
Aweber shows a box field called “Stop” in Subscriber’s tab and if the box is checked, it means your reader has unsubscribed. However, Aweber keeps them on your list because that information may be useful to you.
You decide whether you want to keep them or delete them. I happen to remove them after reading the subscriber information. If someone wants off my list, who am I to tell them otherwise?
So on your Home page, you have a list stats and a Grand Total which is the Sum of Subscribed (your Active subscribers) and Unsubscribed (Stop box checked subscribers) for your list(s). Note that Aweber takes this Grand Total number into account when setting your monthly charge.
After your first month for only $1, Aweber charges you $19/month for up to 500 subscribers and $25 for 501 to 2500 subscribers and $49 for 2501 to 5000 subscribers. Anything above that and you will likely not care about the cost because you should be making great money from your list!
There is also more information about your subscribers in the Subscribers tab. Aweber shows you the comprehensive list including those who have filled out the form but are still unconfirmed. Aweber keeps them on the list for 30 days before dropping them. Note you cannot delete or send additional confirmation request emails to these subscribers.
10. Patience with Aweber support team
Aweber team is one of the most professional, kind, and helpful support teams I have had the pleasure of working with – and believe me, I have called these guys way too many times.
My advice is to open a ticket, be as clear as possible about your problem, be firm but very professional and patient, and allow them to respond and work through your issues. Also provide as much information as possible to help the process and always be grateful. See my winning secrets on excellent customer service experience and best of luck in your Aweber journey.
Your Thoughts on Using Aweber
Have you used Aweber for your mailing list and/or blog updates? Please share your experiences in the comments for those who are considering using Aweber for the first time or switching over to their services.
Editor’s note: Also a little something to consider for WordPress users – Aweber has recently announced access to their API as well as a WordPress plugin. Be sure to find out more when making a choice for your mailing list provider. I also use Aweber for both my sites using mailing lists including Kikolani and Rockin Affiliate and have nothing but good experiences with their customer service.