If you want grow your readership and develop a better relationship with your audience then building a mailing list or newsletter for your website is an excellent solution.
Having a list of subscribers you can email each time you publish a new post or launch a new service is an invaluable asset to have at your disposal.
Luckily, when it comes to WordPress, there are plenty of options available for easily setting up a mailing list and managing it from within your admin dashboard. While standalone email marketing services such as Aweber and MailChimp are popular choices, WordPress users can take advantage of a small selection of high quality plugins that allow them to manage their list of subscribers and send messages from within their WordPress installation. This removes the need for an account with an external website, having to login elsewhere to send messages, and in some cases, avoid paying a monthly subscription.
When it comes to plugins that bring mailing list functionality to WordPress there are a few good options to choose from. Once such service is WPNewsman, which we will be covering in detail here.
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WPNewsman is one of the plugins mentioned above that allows you to create and manage a newsletter service from within your WordPress site. The plugin is available in two versions: lite and pro. The free version, known as WPNewsman Lite, includes everything you need in order to get started. WPNewsman Pro includes additional features as well as the ability to send emails to an unlimited number of subscribers as opposed to the Lite version’s limit of 2000.
Setting up WPNewsman
WPNewsman Lite can be downloaded just like any other free plugin available through the WordPress.org plugin repository. This means you don’t even have to leave your site to install it and add a newsletter service to it.
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Once installed, the plugin adds a new menu item to the main menu in the admin dashboard and from there you can access the main features of WPNewsman.
By default the plugin comes with two mailing lists but it’s possible to create multiple lists. This is great as although each installation only works on one site, you might want to manage multiple newsletters for one site. For example you could have a mailing list for those who want to be sent a general newsletter on a regular basis, alongside a newsletter for a particular event or side topic featured on your site, such as a product launch or new service notifications.
Creating your own newsletter templates is an easy task with this plugin. The editor is well designed and looks very similar to the standard WordPress post editor so new users should quickly be able to find their way around it.
WPNewsman comes with a large list of shortcodes that allow you to personalise your emails by inserting things like the subscriber name and the name of the blog. You can also insert shortcodes to display portions of the messages that are only visible to the recipient when viewing in an email client or only when viewing on the web.
You can also download free email templates right from within your WordPress admin with this plugin. WPNewsman allows you to browse the different templates available from the free repositories at HotEmailTemplates.com and Campaign Monitor. Amongst those two stores you should be able to find a professional looking template that matches the theme of your site.
Downloaded templates can also be edited in the same way as you would create your own giving you lots of flexibility over how they look.
The plugin also comes with a series of ‘action pages’. These pages are shown to users at various points during the subscription process such as when they are subscribing, confirming or unsubscribing. These pages can all be edited so you can take the opportunity to offer your new subscribers a chance to follow you on the various social networks by adding links to your social profiles on to the corresponding page.
The settings for the WPNewsman Newsletter plugin are pretty easy to get to grips with. They include things such as entering the email settings such as the ‘from’ name, email address and return address for your newsletters. You can also select whether to send a welcome message, subscription notification and notifications to the admin when a user joins or leaves your list.
When it comes to sending your emails using the WPNewsman plugin there are a few option to consider. As well as using PHP mail and using sendmail directly (*nix only), you can use your custom SMTP server or alternatively load the Gmail or Amazon SES SMTP settings. Amazon SES is a cost effective way to send emails to your list without placing a burden on the SMTP service included with your webhosting account and is something to consider once your list begins to grow and you are sending out regular emails. The pricing for Amazon SES is very competitive, starting from $0.10 per thousand messages.
There is also the option to throttle deliveries by limiting them to a set amount per day/hour/minute.
The Form Builder
WPNewsman comes with a great form builder to allow you to design the opt in, or sign up, forms you want. Having a form that you can easily tweak and adjust in order to experiment with conversion rates is a valuable ability to have.
The form builder consists of an easy to use drag and drop visual editor that makes designing your own subscription forms very easy, no matter what design skills you possess. Once you’ve built your form, or selected one of the included form templates, they can be quickly inserted into posts and pages using a shortcode specific to that form, or displayed in your WordPress site’s sidebar using a widget.
An additional positive feature of the forms in WPNewsman is that they can easily be switched to be displayed horizontally rather than the standard vertical layout. This makes the forms perfect for inserting into the midst of a post to encourage reader to sign up as they are reading, rather than as an afterthought when they’ve reached the end of the article. This feature isn’t often seen in the other WordPress newsletter plugins and even some of the external email marketing services are lacking this feature, although in theory you could edit the CSS of the form to have it display any way you like.
Lite vs Pro
WPNewsman Lite, the free version of this plugin, has everything you need to get started and begin building a list of email subscribers for your WordPress site. It’s only once your subscriber list starts growing and you begin establishing your newsletter that the features of the pro version become necessary. With the premium version you can:
- Send emails to an unlimited amount of subscribers (lite is limited to 2,000)
- Track the recipients actions using Google Analytics and Piwik
- Use the included bounce handler to keep your list verified and clean
- Get priority support and jump free users in the support queue
While these are features worth having, especially for a professional site or one that is generating income, the free version should be enough for most users, at least in the early stages of their usage.
When it comes to pricing, the current cost of the pro version is $79, reduced from $99, for one year of support and upgrades and is valid for one site or domain. For the latest pricing information visit the premium plugin information page.
Downsides of WPNewsman
While WPNewsman has some excellent features and ease of use, especially when looking at the free version, there are a couple of areas where it might be worth looking at a non-WordPress integrated email marketing service such as Aweber.
Services like Aweber and iContact do work with WordPress, but you must login to a separate site and manage your lists and send emails, rather than through your WordPress admin dashboard. However, despite the extra hassle of a separate login and another service to manage, the additional features might make them a better choice for some.
The lack of an auto responder feature is one area where users might be better suited to opting for a more advanced email marketing service. While WPNewsman is first and foremost a newsletter tool, for those wishing to do any email marketing through their site, such as sending a scheduled list of emails to subscribers after they’ve signed up, a service like Aweber would be a better choice.
Email marketing services like MailChimp and Aweber also allow you to manage multiple lists for multiple sites, whereas WPNewsman only works with one site per installation/license. If you are managing the newsletter or mailing list for multiple sites then keeping your email service independent from your WordPress installation might be a more practical solution.
However, despite all the above, if you are managing one site and wish to send out email newsletters without time delayed auto sending facilities for sales funnels and other marketing purposes, then you can’t really fault WPNewsman.
WPNewsman is a great plugin and there was nothing I experienced that would make me dissuade anyone from using it. It is very easy to use, comes with access to lots of free templates and makes managing a newsletter from inside your WordPress dashboard a surprisingly simple task.
If you don’t need auto responders and the ability to manage multiple lists for multiple sites then you can’t go wrong with the WPNewsman.