As you might know, I have a mailing list here at Joomlablogger.net. You might even be a subscriber (I certainly hope so!).
There are several products available for managing a mailing list in Joomla. And there are even more services available for managing an online mailing list.
I have chosen Aweber.com - an online, paid mailing list service. And I'll tell you why (there are compelling reasons to do so).
I got this question from a reader a few days ago:
Newsletters - any recommendations? Integration with K2 is a big plus.
Sometimes, the solution to a thing like this, is to think outside the (Joomla) box. I simply don't subscribe to the notion that everything needs to be handled by Joomla. Oftentimes, a particular service is best handled by an online solution. A mailing list is a very good example of this. I'll explain why.
Update June 2011:
This post was written in november 2011. Since then, a lot has happened in the Joomla world regarding newsletter software.
Here are some options:
- Mailchimp and JoomlaMailer integration for Joomla
- The upcoming Migur newsletter component
- The upcoming newsletter component from JoomlaWorks
I still think most of my points below are valid. However, you now have more options to choose from.
Joomla Component or External Solution?
As mentioned, I have opted for the external mailing list solution, using Aweber.com. I tried using a Joomla mailing list component on a client site a year or so ago. Not too impressed.
The solution itself was nice enough, but there were several obstacles:
- Lack of captcha or other means of verifying the subscriber (double opt-in for instance)
- Problems setting up the SMTP (outgoing) mail server to handle sending email to thousands of subscribers
- Too many of the emails ended up being tagged as spam
- Unsatisfactory handling of bounced emails and statistics
Also, the support for the component was not as good as I'd hoped buying it.
All of these obstacles lead me to seek another solution when setting up the mailing list here at Joomlablogger.net. After getting rave reviews a sites like problogger.com and johnchow.com, I figured Aweber.com was worth looking at. So I did, and I haven't looked back. I'm a raving fan, and I know this post shows just that. Simply because I believe the Aweber service is the best around.
Benefits of using Aweber
- Reasonably priced
- Easy to set up
- Easy to integrate into Joomla (any website, in fact)
- Uses double opt-in
- Emails from Aweber avoid spam filters
- Continuous development
- Solid company
- Active blog
Feature-rich. The Aweber service has built-in support for indivdual newsletters, follow-up emails (sent automatically at set intervals), and blog broadcasts (based on your blog RSS feed).
It also handles all aspects of subscription, un-subscription, changing users from one mailing-list to another (for instance after a purchase) and much more.
Reasonably priced. The service is priced reasonably. As a user of Aweber.com, I really see the value provided, and have no problems at all spending $19 a month on it. The price is higher for higher volume (based on subscribers), but you'll get a discount if you pay for several months at a time.
Easy to set up. When you first sign up to Aweber, you are presented with a setup wizard. This wizard takes you through the whole process of setting up your mailing list. The instruction are clear and easy to follow.
Easy to integrate into Joomla (any website, in fact). I use the Custom HTML module to integrate forms from Aweber.com into my Joomla site. Full code is provided and images etc are hosted at Aweber. I particularly like the fact that I can change the forms on Aweber.com and the changes are shown instantly in my Joomla site. Without the need to go into the module and change the code.
They use double opt-in. Double opt-in means that the subscriber has to sign up using a web form, then confirm this subscription by clicking a link in an email which is sent from Aweber. This ensures that the subscriber really wants to receive email from you, and avoids filling your list with fake email addresses.
Emails from Aweber avoid spam filters. One problem you will face if you host your own mailing list, is avoiding the spam filters installed on the receiver's server or email client. The Aweber service is known throughout the net as a reliable source. Thus, the mails coming from Aweber.com are less likely to end up filling the junk mail folders of your subscribers.
Continuous development. The service is continuously improved and features added. For instance, the web form builder is being completely re-built at the moment. When completed, the form builder will enable you to create advanced web forms for opt-in to your mailing list - all in a browser interface. You won't need Dreamweaver, won't need to know HTML, won't need to know CSS. It's all done online. And this is just one example of how Aweber works to improve the service.
Solid company. Aweber.com is among the biggest companies in this area.
Very useful blog. Aweber has a very useful blog going, where you will learn a lot about email marketing and how to get the most from your Aweber subscription.
Why can't I just switch to Aweber later?
It's possible to import a mailing list from another system into Aweber. But it's not a good idea. Because of the double opt-in required by Aweber, the users will have to opt in again. This will most likely lead to a huge loss in active subscribers. That's why you will benefit greatly from setting up your list with Aweber to begin with.
So, for me, there can be only one.
Do also read my post about How to Send Automatic Email Updates with Aweber and Joomla. I answer the question about integration with K2 as well.