AWeber does email, first and foremost. While other services will sometimes add loads of other things to their platforms (e.g. full social media marketing campaigns, and so on), AWeber mostly does email. And landing pages. But mostly email.
That’s not a criticism by any means. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I generally prefer applications and services that do one thing very well, and mostly stick to it. Since email and landing-page-related features are the only things that matter for the purposes of this review, AWeber is in a very good place to possibly impress us all.
And impress me it did. Mostly.
Email Campaigns, Templates, and Personalization
AWeber’s email marketing is super easy (and free) to get started with. Just sign up for the free plan, which allows you to send as many emails as you like, to up to 500 subscribers and contacts. There are no time restrictions, just send your emails and go.
Paid plans go up to 25,000 subscribers, and if you want more than that, you’ll probably need to talk to Sales/Support.
You can, of course, drastically increase the reach of your emails by sharing them via Facebook and Twitter at the same time as you send them out. You cannot, however, send notifications via SMS, unless you use one of the many third-party integrations for a separate SMS service. And that’ll probably cost you extra, of course.
The emails themselves are also pretty easy to create. Or hard to create; it’s your choice. You can build your emails in a simple drag-and-drop editor, write text-only emails (my personal specialty), or use custom HTML templates, which is always a fun option.
The drag-and-drop editor has 700+ templates, most of which are okay, even good. Some of them are very dated though, clearly belonging to the First Era of Email Marketing, when sabretooth tigers and mammoths roamed the web, usually in GIF format.
But while those templates are painfully noticeable, they are not the majority. See here, most of them are pretty good:
The actual editor is very easy to learn, and pretty flexible, feature and layout-wise. You can easily add blocks of text, images, videos, buttons, social media links, social media sharing buttons, logos, coupons, image carousels, and even RSS feeds. You can change any colors you like, of course, but the font selection is a bit small, unfortunately.
Lastly, right-to-left languages such as Hebrew and Arabic are supported. According to the support agent I talked to, you can use any language you want, as long as you have the keyboard for it. This makes AWeber a solid option for international customers.
Next up, there’s email personalization: that’s the bit where you can use variables to alter the content of your email, depending on who you’re sending it to. That’s how companies start every email with your first name (or their best approximation of it) without making some poor intern send thousands of emails manually.
On AWeber, you can use variables to show the contact’s first name, last name, email address, IP address, signup URL or date, their location (region, city, postal code, or even latitude and longitude). You can also use variables to input snippets like your signature, physical address, the date, and the ever-important Unsubscribe link.
There’s also dynamic content. That means you can make bits of email content actually appear or disappear depending on the information you have about your contacts. For example, if you’re sending out an email full of international deals, but you have some special deals running in California, you could create a block full of deals that won’t be shown to anyone but your Californian customers.
You can make content appear (or again, disappear) based on the contact’s name, any tags you’ve assigned to them, their location, email, IP address, and so many other options.
Last up for this section, let’s have a look at A/B testing, also known as split testing. This essentially allows you to create more than one version of your emails, and send the different versions to different people in your contact lists at random.
For example, if you run a bookstore, you could create one email that advertises your latest selection of crime novels and political thrillers, and another that shows off the latest anthologies of poetry. Then, you take the statistics from both email campaigns and see if your readers want more John Grisham novels or more words that rhyme together.
Yes, yes. I know poems don’t have to rhyme. And they don’t have to be silly limericks. But I prefer it when they do, and are.
AWeber does have A/B testing, it works, and you can split test everything including subject lines, email designs… everything. Some email marketing platforms will only let you split test things like email subject lines, so having a complete solution makes me happy.
Mailing Lists and Segmentation
Managing your contacts is super simple, for the most part. You can add them manually by typing in their information one at a time, copy and paste lots of addresses in, or import contacts from files. Supported file formats include XLS(X), TSV, CSV, and comma-separated TXT files.
You can also easily create signup forms to be embedded in your website, use the WordPress integration, or create a landing page with a signup form right on AWeber.
When it comes to sorting your contacts, there’s one big thing you need to know: you don’t get separate “lists” of contacts as such, unless you use the segmentation feature.
Otherwise, all contacts go into one big list, so don’t go looking for an “add new list” button. However, that one big list can be subdivided by blog-post-style tags, and that essentially replicates the function of separate lists. You can also assign multiple tags to your contacts, which makes it easier to organize them however you want.
This isn’t something that I’d personally consider a problem, but it might take some getting used to if you’re coming from a different email marketing platform that uses more traditional ways of organizing contacts.
Aside from tags, you can sort your contacts by name, IP address, the usual stuff. You can also search for them by location, subscription date, the place they signed up from, the links they’ve clicked, and the web pages they’ve visited (these have to be web pages you control).
And then there’s segmentation. Segmentation is a way to create dynamic contact lists that update themselves when new contacts that meet the criteria are added. Let’s say, for example, that you want a list of all your contacts who live in Arizona, and have clicked on one of your in-email links in the past year.
On AWeber, you can just use the advanced search form to look for contacts with those criteria, and then save your search results as a segment. That segment will get updated every time someone from Arizona meets (or doesn’t meet) the criteria.
However, this isn’t entirely available on the free plan. The advanced search feature is there, but you’ll need to upgrade to the pro plan to actually save your own segments.
Automation is the art of setting up your emails and campaigns so you barely ever have to touch them. For example, you can set it up so a new contact gets a “Hi there!” email when they sign up for your newsletter.
Or, if a user clicks on an in-email link for a particular deal, a tag gets added to their contact information on AWeber. Then, you could set the system to wait about a week, then send them another email with deals for similar products.
Automation on AWeber is called Campaigns. On the free plan, you can trigger an email campaign when people sign up for a newsletter, or when a tag gets added to their contact information. More advanced options, such as automatic abandoned cart emails, are available on the Pro plan.
AWeber has several additional features of note that can make your life a little easier. These include:
Smart Designer – This is literally a tool that will design email templates for you based on the design of your website. These templates won’t be all that fancy, but they make an excellent starting point that you can then customize further. Here’s what happened when I ran my own site through the Smart Designer:
Team Hub – If you have a whole marketing team with multiple clients, AWeber’s Team Hub is for you. It basically allows you to manage your clients and team members in common-sense ways. You can assign specific people to specific clients, manage client information, all that good stuff.
AMP for Email – Google’s AMP for Email is basically a framework that adds a level of interactivity to emails that you normally won’t get. We’re talking about advanced forms, dropdown menus, and one of AWeber’s most recent additions: image carousels. Yeah, in an email.
Turn your blog into a newsletter – There are easy ways to import blog posts and send them out as newsletters. ‘Nuff said.
Integrations and third-party addons – Specifically, there are 1,000+ of them. They give you the ability to make AWeber work with Shopify, Facebook, WordPress, PayPal, Zapier, Etsy, and even WordPress plugins like Divi and WooCommerce. A lot of those integrations work through Zapier, but hey. That’s how we got over a thousand of them.
The live chat was also pretty great, with one small problem: I couldn’t get the live chat window to work on Firefox and had to switch to a Chromium-based browser (ie anything that works on the same code as Google Chrome).
I asked if RTL languages such as Hebrew and Arabic were supported. I got an initial response in less than a minute. Then it took another few minutes to get an actual answer to my question, but that’s still a fantastic experience.
Note: I’d like to apologize for the mouse cursor in the screenshots below. I can’t re-screengrab them, I’m afraid, and my screenshot got misconfigured somehow.
How much does AWeber cost?
AWeber is free for up to 500 contacts. That free plan has very nearly everything that the paid plan does, and no time or email sending limits. Go wild and give it a try. Once you’re ready to upgrade, if that’s what you decide on, the lowest possible price for the free plan is $19.99 per month, paid annually. The price naturally goes up a little if you pay month-to-month, but not by much. Still, it’s something to keep in mind.
If you want to get started for cheap, check out our email marketing coupon page. There’s almost certainly something there to tickle your fancy.