If you’re not building an email list, you should be. You may well have heard the popular phrase, “the money is in the list”. But even if money isn’t your priority, you should be building a list. Why? Here are a few good reasons:
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- A list of highly targeted people is an asset to your blog
- Traffic can fluctuate – your list is far more constant
- You can use your list to promote services and products
- You can generate repeat traffic to your blog by utilizing your list effectively
I am just scratching the surface here. If you’d like to know more about what a mailing list can do for you, check this article out. I am not here to try and sell list-building to you. I am here to compare the two most popular email list services available – AWeber and MailChimp. So let’s do that!
For those who are just dipping their toes in the water, MailChimp wins hands down. It is free to use whilst your number of subscribers remain under 2,000 and your emails sent per month remain under 12,000. Once MailChimp does start charging you, it remains cheaper than AWeber until you get into five figure numbers of subscribers, at which point, the price plans are pretty similar (AWeber | MailChimp).
Whilst Aweber does charge $19 per month for up to 500 subscribers, you do have the opportunity to trial it for a month for just $1 (and if you decide it isn’t for you within the first 30 days, Aweber will refund your precious dollar!).
Both AWeber and MailChimp are powerful services. As such, the learning curve is pretty steep. There are a lot of functions for you to get used to, and the number of tools and options can be overwhelming at first.
When it comes to interface, there is not much that can be said, objectively speaking. I have a personal preference for AWeber (which I would consider less intuitive, but more powerful), but I know plenty of people who swear by MailChimp. Ultimately, there is not enough difference between the two to make a clear decision either way.
AWeber has really got you covered when it comes to custom form design. The interface is slow and clunky, but there are a plethora of form designs for you to choose from and shoehorn into your blog.
There is a downside however. If you want to just take the “guts” of the opt-in form and customize it yourself with HTML and CSS, you have to go through the same process as you would with a customizable form, copy and paste the HTML code, then strip out of all of the unnecessary code and start from scratch. It’s both messy and a pain.
Whilst AWeber is all about inbuilt opt-in forms, MailChimp majors on external opt-in forms. They give you lots of lovely options for creating a branded standalone opt-in page which is then hosted on MailChimp’s site.
The problem with MailChimp is that it offers very little when it comes to onsite forms. Just three options in fact: “Super Slim”, “Classic”, and “Naked”. The first two are pretty darned similar. However, the third one is very useful for people who want to design their own forms manually (it is something that AWeber should offer).
Overall, AWeber has the edge with powerful onsite opt-in form customization. The concept of someone having to click on a link to then sign up is a step too far for many bloggers. You want to make signing up to your list as easy as possible.
Drafting & Designing Emails
There is no contest here. AWeber’s text editor is awful. If you are like me and write your emails in Word or another word processing program before copying and pasting it, you are in for an unpleasant surprise. AWeber does some very strange things to text that has been copied and pasted. In fact, it does some very strange things, full stop. I emailed AWeber and to their credit got a quick reply:
We are planning to release a new message editor in the upcoming months. This new editor fixes many of the problems that our current editor has and is much more friendly to our users.
This email was received on 6th September, and the new editor has yet to make an appearance. Until it does and is demonstrated to be a big improvement on the existing editor, there isn’t much good I can say about it.
Only a slightly more positive note, AWeber does offer a pretty good selection of templates for you to choose from.
Meanwhile, MailChimp’s ‘Campaign Builder’ is very sexy indeed. You have a choice of an enormous number of templates, or you can also strip it right back to basics if you so wish.
In a nutshell, the whole process of drafting emails when it comes to using MailChimp is far more user-friendly.
AWeber has excellent features for analyzing and managing both your autoresponder messages and your list. For instance, you can actually see which email any subscriber last received. This can be especially handy if you start fiddling with your autoresponder series and want to delete/edit emails. You can also filter your subscriber list by a huge number of variables. With AWeber’s powerful filters, it becomes very easy to target specific subsets of your list and generally manipulate your database to suit your needs.
MailChimp’s autoresponder management features are more straightforward, but also more basic. MailChimp simply isn’t as powerful as AWeber when it comes to managing your list and manipulating your autoresponder series. Its features are more than sufficient for the start-up list builder, but if you are setting your sights on a big list and targeted marketing, AWeber has so much more to offer you.
AWeber has an excellent reputation when it comes to delivering emails. Their success rate is reportedly in excess of 99%, and my experiences do not contradict that claim. AWeber also features a built in “Spam Score”, which judges how likely it is that your message will be considered spam by an email client. In this way, you can alter the content of your email in order to reach the maximum number of readers.
MailChimp has a very cool little feature known as Inbox Inspector, which submits your message to various email clients in order to see whether or not they treat it as spam. With this tool, you can drastically reduce the chances of your messages being intercepted by over-zealous spam filters.
Although it is a good tool, it takes time for Inbox Inspector to return the desired information. Aweber’s spam score is instant and in my experience is highly effective in guiding you to create emails with very high delivery rates.
AWeber’s tracking capabilities are without parallel. When you have built a sizable list and rely upon such data, Aweber’s tools are invaluable.
The features are comprehensive – AWeber tracks opens, clicks, conversions, and more.
MailChimp has some great tracking features as well, but they just don’t go as indepth as Aweber. The tracking from reader to reader is much more limited. When it comes to rolling up your sleeves and analyzing reader engagement data in order to tweak your campaign, AWeber definitely gives you a far better depth and specificity of information for you to work with.
AWeber offers wonderful support options. You can reach them by telephone (7 days a week), instant message, or email. They also have a comprehensive knowledge base, webinars, and video tutorials. I have only heard good things about Aweber’s customer service.
MailChimp’s support is more limited. They have a live support chat option which is open on weekdays. Beyond that, you can only reach them by email. If you are having a major issue with your list, the delay in support from MailChimp can be costly.
Both services are popular with good reason. MailChimp’s no-cost entry level service is a huge attraction to many. But the general consensus leans in favor of AWeber when it comes to the most important aspects of list management, such as tracking and spam management.
If you are just starting out with your list then you may wish to test the waters with MailChimp. But when it comes to the heavy hitters with huge lists, they are almost always using AWeber. That in itself should give you a good indication of which is the best service.