How I Tripled My Email Subscription Rate (and Why I Switched from MailChimp to AWeber)

  • June 9, 2011 by Corbett Barr
  • 128 Comments

The choice of which email service provider to use is one of the most important choices you can make for your business. It isn’t an easy decision to change, so it’s best to get it right from the beginning.

I know because I recently switched. It wasn’t an easy process, but for me it was well worth the effort. After switching from MailChimp to AWeber, I was able to implement a new strategy that more than tripled my email subscriber rate and also improved open rates.

Those changes are translating to big traffic growth for Think Traffic.

Making sure your customers can easily sign up for your email list should be a top priority. Making sure people who subscribe to your list actually receive those messages is another.

Before I implemented the strategy I’m about to share with you, Think Traffic was averaging 5 or 6 new email subscribers per day. After the switch, Think Traffic now averages 20+ new email subscribers per day, and regularly has days where 60 or 80 or more people sign up.

Last month I even signed up 172 new subscribers in a single day because of this strategy – that’s more than used to sign up in an entire month!

Here’s a weekly graph of the recent email signups at the site:


The difference between 41.6 sign ups per week and 154.2 sign ups per week is huge on an annual basis. It’s the difference between 8,018 email subscribers per year vs. 2,163 subscribers per year.

What could you do with an extra 6,000 email subscribers this year?

You probably already know that email subscribers are far more valuable than any other kind of subscriber. Email subscribers are the key to growing your site and being able to drive sales on demand. That’s why I focus so much on improving my email subscription rate as much as possible.

When you have a solid subscriber list, you don’t have to be dependent on other people to drive traffic or convert sales. Your email list represents a captive audience.

Why I Switched to AWeber

First off, please note that parts of this strategy could have been implemented on MailChimp as well (as a couple of people pointed out in the comments), so not all of the increase can be attributed to the switch to AWeber. Read on to find out how AWeber’s advanced features made my strategy even more effective.

Back in March, I started devising a new strategy for the email list here at Think Traffic. You probably noticed the change. Look over in the left-hand sidebar, or at the bottom of this post. You’ll see something I call the “Traffic Toolbox.”

The toolbox concept is simple and effective. Instead of having just one single giveaway for email subscribers (which is a good idea), I give away a whole kit of resources to email subscribers that will help you grow your site’s audience quickly.

Things like the Ultimate Business Plan Workbook for Bloggers and the “B-list Breakthrough” are both in there, along with other resources.

Check out how the toolbox works here, just enter your email and you’ll get instant access:

There’s something you should know about that little email box above. It’s the main reason I had to switch to AWeber to implement the Traffic Toolbox concept.

The critical piece to the Traffic Toolbox is what happens to existing subscribers when they re-enter an email address. With AWeber, I’m able to politely just direct them to the subscriber’s area for the toolbox. With MailChimp, the software just rudely flashes an error message telling the subscriber they’re already signed up.

That was a dealbreaker, but there are several other very important reasons I switched to AWeber as well, which I’ll get to in a second.

To finish up on the toolbox concept, notice in the graph above what happened to my email sign-up rate after implementing the toolbox: my email sign-up rate more than tripled.

This big increase happened for three reasons.

First, I created a value-packed set of resources to entice people with.

Second, whenever I add a new resource to the toolbox, I write a blog post about the resource and encourage people to subscribe to get access (in the post, see this post on using LinkedIn to build traffic with Lewis Howes for an example of this). Every time I run one of these posts, I get a big spike in sign ups.

Third, AWeber has built-in A/B split testing features that let me optimize every email form and make sure I’m getting the highest subscription rate possible.

Like I said earlier, the process of switching to AWeber from MailChimp wasn’t a piece of cake, so I recommend that you start off on the right foot if you’re still at that point.

If you haven’t started building an email list, you need to drop everything you’re doing and start building your list now. Don’t wait or you’ll kick yourself in six months or a year from now when you realized how much traffic and sales you missed out on.

And in case you’re wondering, FeedBurner doesn’t really count for building a truly useful email list. The problem is that with FeedBurner, you can’t email people separately on demand. They only get email blog updates.

You need to be using AWeber, MailChimp or some other fully featured email service provider. This is one of the most important assets your business can build.

Back to AWeber’s other features that convinced me to switch. Here is a full list of what I like about AWeber vs. MailChimp:

  • Built-in A/B split-testing to make it easy to optimize subscription rates for any form
  • Simpler form insertion scripts. AWeber just gives you one simple little line of code to embed a form you’ve designed anywhere on your site.
  • Better selection and control over forms you can design. AWeber’s interface for designing forms is just easier to use, and there are more options to start with.
  • The ability to send existing subscribers to a particular page, instead of showing them an error message. This is what I mentioned before, and it’s the basis for the entire subscriber toolbox concept.
  • Better deliverability. Once you sign people up, whether they actually receive your messages is a critical question. In my experience, more people receive my messages with AWeber than with MailChimp.
  • Better timing of delivery. When I was with MailChimp, several times during important product launches (like Traffic School), lots of people didn’t receive email I sent out for hours after I pushed publish. With AWeber, they have been much better at delivering messages on time.
  • The ability to send one message to anyone subscribed to any of your lists. Sometimes you’ll want to email everyone on your lists one single message. MailChimp doesn’t allow you to do this, so you’ll have to send multiple messages out (one to each list), and some people will get duplicates. With AWeber you can simply choose to send your message to some or all of the other lists in your account.

This isn’t all to say everything is perfect with AWeber. I still like MailChimp and think it’s a good option if you aren’t trying to do any advanced things like I mentioned above. MailChimp also has an attractive free plan to start with if you’re trying to save money in the beginning.

Also, MailChimp’s interface is cleaner. They’re a company that focuses on design and usability, and it shows within the product. MailChimp is slightly easier to use, and definitely a little more fun.

I don’t miss MailChimp much, now that I have switched. The nicer design isn’t enough to make up for the missing functionality.

If you’re just starting out, or are serious about building your email list, I highly recommend AWeber.

Enter your email in the box below and you’ll get a free test drive account to check it out. If you sign up, I’ll get a little commission as well. Win-win.


Start Building a Big Email List
Helping over 102,000+ businesses like yours raise profits and build customer relationships using AWeber’s opt-in email marketing software for over 10 years.




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(if you’re reading this in email, click here to get your free AWeber test drive)

Questions about either email service? Questions about how I put my subscriber toolbox together? Fire away, I’m happy to answer.

Written by . Corbett is cofounder of Fizzle, a place for creative entrepreneurs, writers, makers, coders and artists, all working to support themselves doing what they love independently on the Internet. Follow Corbett on on Twitter.


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Graham Lutz June 9, 2011 at 4:55 am

I’ve been thinking about one of these programs and noticed that mailchimp and getresponse have free options that go up to a certain number of subscribers – is it worth doing that if you plan to switch to Aweber later?

Is the process of switching all that hard?

Corbett June 9, 2011 at 9:34 am

Hey Graham, the difficulty of switching depends on a few factors: mostly which services you’re switching from/to, how “deeply” you have embedded the service into your site, and your technical skills. For me, the process took a few days to cover everything, and I’d estimate maybe eight hours of total effort on my part.

Jason June 24, 2011 at 3:16 pm

Graham,

I’d go with Campaign Monitor. It has everything Corbett mentioned and more….plus, it’s so damn easy to use (and looks good too, something you can’t say about AWeber). Plus building a list is free, they only charge for sending campaigns.

Antonio Centeno June 9, 2011 at 5:06 am

Corbett,

Great post – I’ve been very happy with Aweber for over 6 months now and you’re the first person I’ve seen review the two and make the switch. I know Mail Chimp is tempting with the free offer they have for a small list – but when I made my decision I just looked at who the best in the industry were using and it was Aweber.

One thing you didn’t mention is phone support – I love the ability to call them up when I have a question. I have done this a dozen times over the last 6 months, and each time I speak to a friendly person who answers my very technical and sometimes hypothetical problems. This saves me hours – and has allowed me to use the service in ways I did not at first envision.

R/S

Antonio

Corbett June 9, 2011 at 9:05 am

Cool, thanks for the comment Antonio. I still wish AWeber had a better designed interface, but the interface they have is perfectly functional as it is. Thanks for the mention about phone support, I haven’t tried it yet.

Trent Dyrsmid June 16, 2011 at 8:45 am

Hey Antonio,

Something you may want to consider if you start with a provider other than Aweber (or any other provider) is this: if you build a list with provider #1, can you import that list into provider #2. Some won’t let you because in provider #2′s eyes, the list wasn’t built by optin. Obviously, this can be a huge problem if you’ve built a list of any size.

The other comment I have is that Aweber chat support is excellent and the ability to build custom forms is very good. Especially if you don’t know how to write code!

@ Corbett – Great post mate. It got me wondering if I had a goal set up for analytics. Turns out that I did but had forgotten about it, lol! When I looked, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it had spiked quite a bit in the last few weeks. Must have had something to do with a my last podcast where I interviewed a guy making a killing with Adsense.

Cheers,
Trent

Mr.G June 9, 2011 at 5:06 am

Now I wonder if you switched to Aweber just because of the affiliate program or because what you wrote above…

Anyways, I have a question for you regrading Email lists and feedburner because I’m still not sure on what to do and how. This is the thing: one of my blogs have around 2200+ emails subscribers with feedburner. I’ve been thinking on creating my email list for a long time but I don’t want to start over, I still want to take advantage of these 2200+ list. I also want them to continue receiving the daily emails with my posts … Is there a way I can get this “win-win situation”? My readers still getting their daily email with the blog posts and me having them in an email list for other business purposes?

Thank you for your posts and your comments!

QOT June 9, 2011 at 5:42 am

Simply place a new subscription form for the new service on your site and all new subscribers will go there. Old Feedburner subscribers keep getting the RSS to email as before.

Corbett June 9, 2011 at 8:43 am

Hey “Mr.G,” thanks for the note. The delivery of email and acquisition of subscribers is so much more important than a few bucks from an affiliate program, that the affiliate program should be one of the last things you think about.

No about your FeedBurner account, you have a few options here.

1) You could run two lists, one where FeedBurner people receive blog updates and AWeber subscribers just receive special or newsletter updates. I don’t recommend this because I think it confuses subscribers, but it does give them options in terms of what to receive. Pat Flynn uses this method.
2) You could continue to let that list receive your email, but stop signing up new people to that list. In this case, you’ll want to also start sending RSS-to-email updates to your AWeber list so that they receive an update whenever you post.
3) You could ask AWeber (or MailChimp or whoever you switch to) to import your FeedBurner email subscribers, because I believe FB is double-opt-in. Some service providers will allow you to do this yourself, others may require a conversation to find out what you’re up to. This is what I did when switching from MC. You will also need to set up RSS-to-email updates with this option.

I hope that helps,

-Corbett

Rob Cubbon June 9, 2011 at 5:24 am

Interesting stuff, Corbett.

Did you just export a CSV or whatever of your list from MailChimp and import it at AWeber and then just happily start emailing your list from AWeber? The reason I ask is that – I believe – if you were to go to MailChimp and do that they would insist on you sending a “Switched Email Providers” email and getting the imported list to re-opt-in (if such a word exists?) which could potentially lose you half your list.

Probably not, since I didn’t receive such an email from you!

QOT June 9, 2011 at 5:40 am

You have to reopt in when you shift any email services. However, I have heard that in direct dealing with such services, if the new service believes that the earlier list is already opt-in, they can manually configure it. We use Feedblitz, and it does not need re-optin for Feedburner subcribers.

Corbett June 9, 2011 at 8:44 am

If your list was properly double-opt-in, AWeber will probably let you import the list without sending a new “switched providers” email or re-verification. You will have to call them or email though, and explain your situation.

David Risley June 9, 2011 at 5:27 am

Aweber is a lot better… good that you switched over. I think most people who like Mailchimp just like the free account and perhaps the internal design. It is a nice starting point for newbie bloggers…. but people who are serious about their email marketing need something more robust like Aweber. That’s why people use them…. not the affiliate program. (Mr. G, come on, dude. Seriously.)

Corbett June 9, 2011 at 8:48 am

MailChimp won me over initially because of the free starting plan and nicer design. I actually even evaluated AWeber in the beginning but didn’t continue with them because I didn’t see how they were better. Now I know.

I’m still a fan of MailChimp and don’t have a problem with people using them, but I do think you miss out on the advanced features and better deliverability/reliability when you really need it.

Anthony Feint June 9, 2011 at 11:34 pm

I think its the other way around. Aweber is great for starting out. But when you start dealing with lists of over 50k (my previous startup ran its app updates through Mailchimp), you need to worry about deliverability. Aweber is used by people who sell crappy ebooks and get rich quick schemes. You don’t want your startups email coming from an IP address that is shared with these guys. Mailchimp goes to huge lengths to protect against this and they really understand email and what startups need.

Benny June 9, 2011 at 5:28 am

Hey Corbett,

In the top left corner, the Traffic Toolbox box is custom made I believe. Is it hard to integrate Aweber with that custom signup box?

I know how to use the tools that Aweber provide to create a form and add the code. Just wanted to know about creating my own box and using Aweber.

Thanks!

Benny June 9, 2011 at 5:36 am

One more question. I just got the email from Think Traffic about this post. The email template looks so nice! How do you get it to look like that? Did you customize it yourself?

Thanks Corbett

Corbett June 9, 2011 at 8:49 am

The sign-up box actually was created over at AWeber, so I could insert the form script and A/B test that box. You can create a custom graphic and use that with the AWeber form creation process.

Mike Potter June 9, 2011 at 5:29 am

Cool – thanks for the info. We’re with MailChimp right now, but have considered AWeber as well. Good to hear your experience was positive.

If you’re looking to integrate social media posts that are synced with email campaigns, then my company’s software (Arkli), may be of interest to you. With it you can easily schedule multiple YouTube videos, blog posts, Facebook updates, Tweets and email marketing campaigns from a single app. We aggregate stats and comments on all the channels as well to help you understand the impact of the posts.

We don’t currently support AWeber, but are working on doing so in the near future.

Thanks,

Mike

Corbett June 9, 2011 at 8:50 am

Hmm, interesting Mike, thanks for the tip.

Marcin June 9, 2011 at 5:58 am

I use both Mailchimp (Polish mailing lists) and AWeber (English mailing lists) and have tested a few other solutions and AWeber is definitely the best email service provider on the market.

Unfortunately they don’t offer support for special characters/other languages (for example I can’t create a Polish mailing list) and that’s why I need to use Mailchimp for my Polish lists. For me, that’s the biggest disadvantage of AWeber.

I hope that AWeber will finally introduce support for other languages; many people have been waiting for it for a long time… I would switch immediately since Mailchimp isn’t very good comparing to AWeber.

It’s extremely frustrating to create a signup form. In AWeber I can create a beautiful form in a few seconds, with Mailchimp I need to design everything on my own.

Follow ups work differently. In Mailchimp, if someone signed up 10 days ago and I want to create a new follow up message that will be sent 7 days after signup, he won’t receive it (since he signed up 10 days ago) and I need to send him a message manually (send a broadcast). This is EXTREMELY frustrating. In AWeber I can create a new follow up message that will be sent 10 days after first message even 30 days after people signed up and they’ll get it.

And of course A/B split-testing for signup forms. It’s so easy to do it with AWeber. With Mailchimp it’s not possible to do it in a few seconds.

Yep, Mailchimp is for free (up to 2000 subscribers), but I prefer paying $20 for AWeber since they are way way better. If someone wants to create an English mailing list, don’t even think about Mailchimp, get AWeber. $20 is nothing for their service.

Extreme John June 9, 2011 at 6:36 am

This post is such a helpful review of AWeber Corbett. And thanks Marcin for the follow up review. I can see that AWeber offers very promising features. The detailed information here really helps a lot. Thanks!

Corbett June 9, 2011 at 8:55 am

Thanks Marcin! Thanks for sharing your experience as well. Very helpful.

Alberto June 9, 2011 at 6:28 am

Sorry but, I can’t understand how the Aweber features you mention have increased our subscribers. As you wrote, the free toolbox and telling about its updates made the difference, but wouldn’t it have been possible also using MailChimp?
What am i not getting right?

rohan June 9, 2011 at 7:24 am

Alberto,
You’re absolutely right. I came here to say the same thing.

From the article:

This big increase happened for three reasons.

First- He created a set of resources
Second- write a blog post about the resource and encouraged people to subscribe
Third- Used the built-in A/B split testing

The first two are totally independent of what email service you use and the third is something that mailchimp handles as well. See here:

http://mailchimp.com/features/ab-split-testing/

This was a strange article.

Ricardo Nuñez June 9, 2011 at 8:07 am

Aweber didn’t helped to get more conversions. He did it with the traffic tool box. The only different was that he wasn’t able to get the box to work properly with MailChimp and that’s not even related with the increase of conversions because the people were already in the list anyway. What he did was an improvement visitor experience.
The title doesn’t mention that he was able to triple his subscribers with Aweber. It says that he switched to Aweber and he also triple his subscribers. Aweber was only a tool for a better implementation. Technically is not a misleading title, I think our mind play us a trick when you put both together.

Corbett June 9, 2011 at 8:57 am

Alberto, I wouldn’t have been able to implement the toolbox concept without using AWeber. The toolbox is the reason why the subscription rate was so improved, along with A/B testing.

With MailChimp, existing subscribers would simply get an error message when they tried to access new resources or additional resources. I also wouldn’t have been able to add a sign-up for for new resources embedded within blog posts that new and existing subscribers could use to access the resources.

Dave Doolin June 9, 2011 at 6:47 am

I’ve never heard or read about anyone switching from AWeber to MailChimp, it’s always from MC to Aweber. Makes me glad I started with AWeber in the first place.

Corbett June 9, 2011 at 9:07 am

Actually, Baker from Man vs. Debt just switched the other way. I think he experienced some delivery timing problems and poor customer support with AWeber. It’s funny because he and I just did opposite swaps, and we’re business partners in The Hustle Project.

Nasrul Hanis June 9, 2011 at 7:30 am

awesome change. congratulations dude for recent progress and yes – Aweber is a great choice! (and yes, I’m experiencing the same thing too!)

Corbett June 9, 2011 at 9:07 am

Cool, glad to hear it Nasrul!

Wayne John @ Southern California Web Development June 9, 2011 at 7:46 am

Good article, but I have an issue with Aweber. I’ve signed up with peoples newsletters in the past who have also used Aweber, and I find that after a little bit of time, I start receiving spam from the addresses I use with Aweber sign-ups. Aweber gets hacked pretty frequently by people that want the email addresses.

I’m not talking about questionable people either. Problogger, John Chow, et al have all lost their email lists to these spammers…but I have yet to see this activity with Mail Chimp, although it could certainly happen with them or anyone else. It just seems that Aweber has a problem securing their data whereas the others don’t, or at least, not as much.

For this reason, I’ve quit signing up or clicking any Aweber link period. I don’t think many people actually realize this.

Did you take time to look at how secure the email addresses you’ll be amassing are going to be with Aweber? I see this all the time. People talk up a service and how great it is, get people to sign-up and then at some point all their email addresses are lost to spammers. You never hear people talk about it when it happens…or if the list owners are even aware that Aweber has been compromised in the past many times.

I’m still looking at both though, but my preference is still with Mail Chimp. I’ve yet to see one of my email addresses that I’ve used for their service come back to me from someone in Russia, India or China. ;)

Corbett June 9, 2011 at 9:20 am

Hey John, yes, I had read some of the reports about hacking in the past, especially Darren Rowse’s account of his experience:

http://www.problogger.net/archives/2009/12/22/aweber-makes-a-statement-about-their-data-being-compromised/

I concluded that the move was still right for me, because the difference in the risk of subsequent hacks of AWeber vs. the risk of MailChimp being hacked is likely low as MailChimp grows. Other services like iContact have been hacked as well.

You bring up a great point, and people should definitely consider all angles before switching.

Vulnerabilities exist in all systems. My WordPress accounts have been hacked, for example. WordPress is still the right platform for me, despite the fact it has security issues from time to time. For now, the same is true of AWeber, my web hosts, the shopping cart I use, my banks, etc. It’s something you watch and monitor and change decisions later if necessary.

Shane June 9, 2011 at 7:47 am

Great post Corbett –

Additionally Aweber gets you closer to a total customer experience. Mailchimp is a great place to start and Aweber does a lot more but eventually you might want to think of what I call “Lifetime Customer Value”. Which Aweber cannot “yet” do.

The idea here is that you use your opt-in to create conversions that provide long term value and thus justify the cost of bringing in the customer.

Here is an example. Say you walk into a store in San Francisco and you want to buy a pair of jeans. So you look around, pick up a pair and then put them back. But just then the “smart” associate approaches you and suggests something else you might be interested in. She even asks a few questions to help her suggest. In the end, you find something and buy it.

Same deal here with our online businesses and advanced email marketing. Imagine now that you are doing a launch. Your “customer” arrives from Twitter because you sent out a link. They see the opt-in sales page. They even click to buy it but then they decide not to. Now is the time to provide what I call “The ultimate experience”. Your marketing software knows that they came from Twitter and thus kicks off an entirely new campaign based just on that and based just on the fact that they “almost” purchased.

I hope Aweber gets here one day because I like to look at our businesses as proving long term customer value (LCV) and sometimes we need all the help we can get :)

-Shane

Brian Gerald Murphy June 9, 2011 at 8:14 am

Great idea! I especially love the automation.

With Aweber, you can do something similar. If you use Aweber’s tracking code on your website to track clicks/hits, then you can track every page hit from a subscriber when they click through (and not just the initial click). You can then create segments based on page hits. So you could send a (broadcast) email to everyone who landed on the sales page but not the confirmation/thank-you page.

Not quite what you envision, but something close.

Buzzlair Voufincci June 9, 2011 at 8:25 am

I was about to use MailChimp but with this thoughtful ‘evidence-based’, i changed my mind.

Corbett June 9, 2011 at 9:36 am

My advice: sign up for a free trial account with both and work through the interface before you make a final decision. Then come back and read through my points again.

Tyler Tervooren June 9, 2011 at 9:37 am

I’m right at the breaking point Corbett, so I appreciate your account here. I started with Mailchimp because it was free and, for the most part, stupid easy to use, but now I’m a year in and find myself regularly frustrated whenever I want to do something a little bit more complicated.

Mailchimp’s chat support is really helpful and has worked hard to try to help me find work-arounds for some of their limitations, but at this point, I think I spend more time talking to support than I do actually solving problems, so perhaps it’s time to make the move.

Shane June 9, 2011 at 9:40 am

Hey there Tyler –

you said it perfectly well in regards to doing something a little bit more complicated…that’s what I was eluding to with “total customer experience” and I think that switching systems goes deeper for me than just ease of use…i want to provide long term value and Aweber gets closer to that!

Corbett June 9, 2011 at 10:00 am

My sense is that AWeber was built by marketers, for marketers, so they understand what people are actually trying to do with email marketing software better than MailChimp (which appears to have been built more by designers).

Barron June 9, 2011 at 12:15 pm

Hey Corb,

If you think it might be helpful, you should do a follow-up mini post on how to transfer your list from Mailchimp to Aweber, some snags we may run into, how to not F up your list, etc.

Another cool mini-post would be to show how you set up your Google Analytics to reflect your email sign ups (and maybe other tips on how to set up our Analytics acct, or what you do, and what you track, etc.) I think most people just use the basic graphs and simply look at how many people visited their site that day, but they don’t explore beyond that.

Ash @ The Middle Finger Project June 9, 2011 at 9:47 pm

You will love AWeber’s support. They even call you the week you start your service, to make sure you don’t have any questions AND send you a physical welcome letter in the mail. :)

Liz June 9, 2011 at 9:39 am

Corbett, I appreciate your points because I *was* suspecting Aweber-mania was mainly due to affiliate income. Now I understand it more.

Now, $20/mo for Aweber isn’t much for a month, but that DOES add up over a year.

I think we freebie Mailchimp users can create special Toolbox-type access by creating a password-protected Toolbox page, and then giving that password to our subscribers (in *every* email we send them–in case they lose it). That’s my idea for now.

Corbett June 9, 2011 at 9:59 am

Hey Liz, I should mention something else as well. For me, the decision was a little different because I was already over the “free” threshold for MailChimp. At bigger list sizes, the cost of AWeber vs. MailChimp is essentially the same (in fact AWeber is slightly cheaper for a couple of price points).

Good idea on the toolbox work-around. For me I wanted something that wouldn’t instigate a bunch of customer service email every time a new resource was added.

Faith | Minimalist at Home June 9, 2011 at 10:01 am

Thanks for the real deal insight, Corbett.

I’m currently with Mail Chimp because free sounded pretty darn good at the time. However, one thing that I’ve noticed is that whenever I sign up for a Mail Chimp list (even when I test MY OWN) 99.9% of the confirmation emails end up in my junk mail. Yet I never seem to have this issue on Aweber sign ups. That doesn’t really leave me with a warm fuzzy feeling imagining people trying to sign up to my list only to miss my email in their junk folder.

I think you have given me the push I need to make a switch and come up with a nifty toolbox of my own. :-)

Corbett June 9, 2011 at 10:27 am

That was another huge problem I had with MailChimp, thanks for bringing it up Faith. Not only confirmation emails, but also regular email ended up in the spam folder way to often. I used to have subscribers write me rather often about the issue.

Ashley Pitman June 9, 2011 at 10:21 am

Corbett,

Awesome post. I just sent it to MailChimp. I think that was some of the best feedback they could receive.

Corbett June 9, 2011 at 10:28 am

I’m happy to chat with anyone at MailChimp if they’re interested.

Benjamin June 9, 2011 at 12:20 pm

I just switched from MailChimp to Aweber as well. Main reason being I hope to implement email campaigns with other websites, and I have found MailChimp to be slow transitioning between pages in the past.

All Aweber needs now is a MailChimp theme! Sure functionality comes first, but the Aweber interface doesn’t half bore me to tears. I’m tempted to stick post-its on the top right hand corner of my netbook screen with random monkey quotes to recreate the loss ;)

Corbett June 10, 2011 at 10:12 am

Funny thing, I’ve gotten over the MailChimp design pretty quickly. I actually think now that AWeber’s interface is more usable overall and it’s faster to get things done with when you’re in a hurry. MC does have too many pages for each operation.

Mari June 9, 2011 at 12:27 pm

Interesting article. I just started with MailChimp simply because they had the free plan. But I wonder how long before I start running into the same issues as you mentioned. Plus, now I have to wonder how hard it will be to transfer everything once it comes time to. I wish AWeber had a free starter plan aside from the free trial. I would have gone with them instead. But as you know when you are just starting out, you try and find the free/cheapest alternatives. Hmm, now you’ve got me thinking…..

Corbett June 10, 2011 at 10:13 am

Just build your list up to 500+ people really fast, and the cost comparison will no longer be an issue ;)

Paul Cunningham June 9, 2011 at 3:43 pm

There are trade-offs in the choice of email service provider, whichever way you go. Aweber is good at things like delivery and automation, Mailchimp is good at things like design and social integration. Both of their blogs are worth following too, and Mailchimp’s resources section is useful for anyone doing email marketing.

Some of their limitations can be worked around if you have the skills – eg Aweber handles form split testing for you but you can code your own PHP function to split test two different forms (or ads, or calls to action, or anything) on your site.

Corbett is right, how Aweber handles existing subscribers (letting you silently redirect them to a page instead of showing an error), and being able to de-dupe when sending to multiple lists at once are excellent features for bloggers and marketers.

Since you can try both free (or nearly free, Aweber is $1 for first month) really you just need to make a plan for how you want to use it and spend a week testing each service. Though I appreciate that it is hard to predict exactly what features you’ll be depending on later when you’re just starting out.

I use both now. I use Aweber for lists that involve affiliate marketing (because Mailchimps T&C’s do not allow it), and I have started using Mailchimp for one particular list that needs a feature they have (ability to import multiple RSS feeds into a single RSS to email campaign – eg having an email with latest articles from blog RSS feed, and then in the sidebar latest forum posts which is from a different RSS feed).

Since you an port a double opt-in list from either provider to the other I wouldn’t get too caught up on it though.

Corbett June 10, 2011 at 10:15 am

Great advice Paul, I forgot to mention the Terms over at MailChimp regarding affiliate marketing. That’s something else that made me nervous.

Thanks for the “mini-review” follow-up. This is why I still love comments in blog posts. So much value.

Allan Ward June 9, 2011 at 5:09 pm

Great article Corbett.

I decided long ago to use Aweber from the outset for my blog. When you don’t have many subscribers it is more expensive than some other options, but I was thinking of the future and wanted to avoid a painful changeover from another provider.

I love your toolbox concept. I’ve been wanting to add a few more free things to my blog and wondered how to do it and you’ve just given me the best idea. I can have different signup boxes for different reports, all downloadable from the one page. This also makes it easier to add new things. And you’re right – Aweber does make it simpler for those who’ve already subscribed to get to the download page.

Thanks again. I’ve got a bit of work to do over the weekend.

Allan

Corbett June 10, 2011 at 10:15 am

Awesome Allan, I want a full report after you’ve implemented the changes. Cheers!

Mike Reeves-McMillan June 9, 2011 at 6:23 pm

The toolbox concept is great, and not unlike something I’m planning to implement for my new site. (Glad to hear in advance that it does work.)

My approach, though, involves using the free WordPress plugin S2Member.

I have it set up so that when someone subscribes to my list, MailChimp’s WebHooks feature sends their email address through to a small custom PHP page I wrote, which subscribes them to my WordPress site and generates a password for them.

This means they are automatically part of the membership site (S2Member stands for Subscriber to Member).

All I need to do then is direct people to pages that are protected by S2Member and restricted to subscribers only. I can do this from an email or from an index page. It’ll ask them to log in and give them the option to retrieve their password if they’ve forgotten it or don’t know it.

I also could use the MailChimp API to put the password in a field in MailChimp and let them know what it is, of course – I’ve done that with another site.

One of the things I like about MailChimp is that it’s easy to use their API. I had a look at aWeber and it didn’t look as simple to me, but I could be wrong here.

Corbett June 10, 2011 at 10:16 am

Cool Mike, sounds like you have it all figured out. That’s a little too heavy for my tastes in this case, but it will definitely work. Best of luck.

Aymeric - taskarmy.com June 9, 2011 at 7:22 pm

Hi Corbett,

I didn’t understand what made the improvements in your subscription rate: is it the ability to A/B test? In which case could you show some examples of experiments you have run that had a dramatic impact on the resuts?

Corbett June 10, 2011 at 10:20 am

The “toolbox” concept is primarily responsible for the increase in subscription rate, both the sidebar inclusion, as well as the in-post inclusions. A/B testing added some additional increase in conversion rate but wasn’t the main driver.

As for test results, I found a few things like button call-to-action, description text, the toolbox image, and inclusion of a “we respect your email privacy” all can have a big effect on conversion.

Try running tests on those different aspects for your own audience. Every situation is different, so you’ll need to do the specific tests for your own audience.

Ash @ The Middle Finger Project June 9, 2011 at 9:36 pm

I have no idea if you know this, but I used to work at AWeber as their Public Relations Specialist. :)

Just here to vouch that those guys mean business.

They’re excellent at what they do, and Tom, the CEO, is constantly striving for improvement. This is one company that doesn’t cut corners.

You want serious email marketing? They’re what’s up! And they have a sweet ass office. And do amazing things for their employees.

<3

Corbett June 10, 2011 at 10:23 am

I have no idea how I didn’t know that. I knew you were a PR wiz, but the company name must have escaped me because I wasn’t using their software at the time. Thanks for the insider’s perspective!

Niall Doherty June 9, 2011 at 11:37 pm

Hey Corbett,

Thanks for sharing all that info. I just switched from Feedburner to Aweber myself a few weeks back and have noticed a nice boost in subscription rate.

One thing I’m wondering: Do you have any concerns about people accessing the Traffic Toolbox resources and sharing those URLs directly? For example, if a subscriber sees your video interview with Lewis Howes and posts it on Twitter/Facebook, then non-subscribers will be able to click through and watch directly without having to enter their email address.

Keep up the great work!

rey June 10, 2011 at 12:13 am

Corbett, Thanks for this post. We have updated our clients websites thanks to your incredible toolbox. Seems people find it too valuable when you have a value driven “toolbox of content” to give away. It really has increased our sign ups!

Corbett June 10, 2011 at 10:08 am

Fantastic! I’d love to hear a detailed report about your results sometime if you care to share.

Justin Premick, AWeber June 10, 2011 at 5:34 am

Hey Corbett,

Thanks for the detailed writeup and kind words about AWeber! Really awesome to see your results.

Can’t believe I managed to not meet you at WDS. Next year for sure.

Thanks for using AWeber! Reach out anytime you need help or have a question.

Corbett June 10, 2011 at 10:06 am

Cheers Justin, thanks for stopping by. Sorry I missed you at WDS, I didn’t know you guys were representing there.

Sarah Russell June 10, 2011 at 7:33 am

I’ve been with Aweber since I started online, so I can’t really compare it to anything else, but one thing I do love about Aweber is their help section. There’s tons of great stuff in there – it’s probably the equivalent of buying an entire ebook on email marketing.

And I definitely like your toolbox idea – great stuff, as usual!

JP June 10, 2011 at 4:41 pm

Nice reading (the post, the comments, and the answers to the comments!)

I know both companies and have read the same (good and bad) stuff about them both!

I just can´t get something out of my mind…

How come nobody mention a self hosted solution? Like Interspire?

Franck June 11, 2011 at 12:44 am

I use both services, and if i fully agree with what is being said around aWeber vs Mailchimp.

I don’t feel the way you’ve been presenting the migration is helping a fair comparison (your increase in numbers is not related to the ability of the any of provider).

aWeber is simplier (for newbie it is) & more powerfull (advanced features greta for IM that you’ve mentioned), better support (at Mailchimp the are cool and rather ineficient), extremly focused to Internet Marketing, which is great if you’re in that activity. Better affiliate program too. DOES NOT SUPPORT Special characters (bad for non english lists).

Mailchimp is free but more complex, you can wait years before a feature being implemented. Mailchimp targets agencies, start-up and designers. They go for freemium, which i don’t like. The objetive is to sell the company at one moment, and that’s drive a rather different attitude than the one fo taking care of its customers. There are no VIP services at Mailchimp for paid customers, which I can simply not understand. Does support all language. Reward program which is not a real affiliate program

I think that before talking about deliveries of emails, you should analyze millions of emails sent during a fairly long period. I would say that both are OK in terms of deliveries/spam box. I would think that complains/unsubscribe rate should be higher at aWeber because they are more permissive (list swapp) and gets more Internet Marketing newbies. I personally have no data to support that feeling

Any way the best service I know is Campaign Monitor, which turns out to be the most expensive too.

Overall thats a great conversation. Thanks for sharing

Jared June 13, 2011 at 4:27 pm

Hey Corbett,

Ok. So I’m in the process of my 30 day trial of Aweber (and did an early cancellation). However, I decided to give it another try because I’m not sure I can build things to where I need it with my current one (used Mynewsletterbuilder.com).

So let me ask you this…

How the HECK do you do the Blog Broadcast to where it shows up good in everyone’s email? In short, it looks good everywhere else but my girlfriend Yahoo (to where each line is bunched together).

I asked about 3 different people over at Aweber but they’re blaming the fact that it’ll show differently on every type of mail system and that they can’t really control it. All I know is, I’ve never gotten an email from any big name bloggers to where it looked like all the lines were bunched up.

Thanks again Corbett!

I’m on page 46 of your “18 months. 2 blogs. Six figures eBook” and really getting a TON of great stuff from it.

Cheers.
*J

Sunil from The Extra Money Blog June 20, 2011 at 1:33 pm

right on the money C – those are the very same reasons i use aweber. i currently have a mailing list for each of my 16 niche websites, which is a big reason i am able to print money on demand as you stated. i will reinforce your point further, if you don’t have an email list, drop it all and go build one!

Brankica August 20, 2011 at 8:10 am

I read this post awhile back and I am thinking about doing the same thing.

Any chance you know where can I find the info on how to move the list from MC to Aweber. I know that both have double opt in confirmation, but do you just copy the e-mail addresses or is there another way you have to do it to move the list?

JP September 20, 2011 at 1:15 pm

Corbett,

How do you get your traffic toolbox page to not show up in your related posts. I have some ‘hidden’ pages like that but they keep showing up in my related posts.

What plugin do you use?

Caleb Wojcik September 20, 2011 at 6:21 pm

The plug-in we use is called Similar Posts. Hope that helps!

Michael Robinson October 4, 2011 at 9:37 am

MailChimp just bought TinyLetter, which is great if you just need a simple list. You don’t even need a website to run a newsletter with it.

My mailing list strategy is to get as many people signed up on TinyLetter as possible, and maybe, if I decide to do something profit-driven, set up a list for it on MailChimp and plug it on the newsletter.

Jeff Goins November 22, 2011 at 8:01 am

Interesting. I’ve thought of making this switch, too.

Marissa - Local Marketing Challenge February 22, 2012 at 4:57 pm

Here are two additional scenarios where Aweber trumps Mailchimp. If you want to automatically remove a person from one list when they subscribe to another (such as when someone joins your list to get a freebie but then purchases something, you want to MOVE them to the buyer’s list so they don’t get both lead list emails AND buyer’s list emails). You can do this with Aweber, but I haven’t been able to find a way with Mailchimp. Also, if you’re using Mailchimp for the “FREE,” you can’t setup an autoresponder series. And btw Corbett — sweet blog! I’m subscribing.

Lisa Cash Hanson April 18, 2012 at 12:45 pm

I may switch soon- I did read recently that icontact may have a better open rate because they don’t end up in spam as much have you heard that or do you still prefer Aweber?

Corbett Barr April 18, 2012 at 12:51 pm

I haven’t looked into iContact. AWeber is still working very well for me.

Regev June 1, 2012 at 11:51 pm

Thanks for the review! Really helpful.
Do you know if I can use it in foreign languages as well?
Also, what plugin do you use for the comment subscribing thingie?
Thanks!

jb June 6, 2012 at 11:31 am

Don’t get sucked in with all that bandana monkey business! Cheap tricks sink ship!

Mailchimp.com has the worst customer service and has a bunch of hoops you have to jump through (usability issues) before they will send to your list! (It takes 18-24 hours via email only with no phone number to call) Do yourself a favor and find someone with a phone number! WOW what a disappointment mailchimp.com is… still no resolution; and apparently they do not care about social media…

I am trying AWeber now and will report back. (side note: verticalresponse.com was really fast)

MohinishSingh July 7, 2012 at 9:01 am

Hi Corbett, I didn’t get how you did that setting in aweber.

I am copying your tookit method on my site :) … I’ll see what happens.

Regards

Julie July 30, 2012 at 11:53 am

I just signed up for Aweber and really like it so far. I need to work on building my list. Right now I am working on my first free report. Thanks for your tips :)

Susan Elcox August 19, 2012 at 11:56 am

I used to use Constant Contact for e-newsletters for a client. But it sends fully HTML newsletters. Is this a different kind of animal from what AWeber is? Did you look at them before selecting your preferred provider? I thought Constant Contact was wonderful, fully featured, easy to use, great support team.

Corbett Barr August 20, 2012 at 11:40 pm

Hey Susan, great question. We haven’t used Constant Contact enough to judge one way or the other. Thanks for sharing your experience.

Jody Heath April 24, 2013 at 4:11 am

My biggest beef with aweber, is the lack to be able to manually opt in a person. If I have someone on the phone who says they can’t find the confirmation email because it went out a week ago and is in some remote area of their spam folder or inbox. We should be able to–on a case by case basis–manually opt people in to any list; or at the very least, send them another confirmation email; or at least we should be able to mail out the original confirmation link.

I thought I had figured out the work around by creating a new single optin list (with same followups) for these problem child subscribers; but low and behold, aweber has disabled single optin when we manually add them in the control panel; they have to be added via a web form for single opt ins; and we all know that problem……..you can only add a few before you get the message, “too many subscriptions added from your computer” Any tips?

Monica August 27, 2013 at 1:58 pm

Hello Corbett,

I read about the toolbox signup for the email updates. What I don’t understand is if I already have a sign up form ,do I need to add this email updates box ? And how does it work after the reader signs up for the email updates? I didn’t really understand what you were explaining.

Thank you.
Monica

Corbett Barr August 27, 2013 at 4:12 pm

Have you signed up for our list to see how it works? It’s pretty straightforward. Just offer a special “subscribers-only” page that you send new subscribers to after they confirm. You can also send existing subscribers there if they re-enter an email address (in the case of new resources being offered).

Jennifer M. August 27, 2013 at 3:10 pm

A lot of these options are available with Mail Chimp as well (A/B testing, for example), so I’m pretty unclear, based on what you say here, what advantage AW has over MC. I’ve only ever tried MC, so maybe I’m biased towards that, but you really haven’t mentioned anything you can do with AW that you can’t also do with MC.

It does concern me that you noticed MC not always delivering items, although I don’t understand what that has to do with subscription rates. Switching providers doesn’t seem to have been the key to your rate increase though, as you imply in your title, but rather the fact that you started giving away more things was (which you can do no matter which service you use).

I’m not saying don’t use AW, just that your arguments have a lot of holes in them. I was hoping you’d convince me to switch, but instead it just comes across that you use AW because you like it. (Which is a fine reason, but not really one that’s going to triple my subscription rates).

Corbett Barr August 27, 2013 at 4:11 pm

Hey Jennifer, thanks for the comment. This article was written in mid-2011, so some things have likely changed. We’ve grown much fonder of MailChimp over the past year, especially because they don’t seem to have problems with affiliate links any longer.

One of the biggest issues, as mentioned in the article, was the fact that MailChimp would simply display an error page when an existing subscriber entered their email address again. This prevented us from offering the “toolbox” concept as it’s currently implemented here. The toolbox was in fact one of the biggest drivers of our subscription rate increase, and the way we implemented it was key, especially because it gave us an opportunity to add new items for subscribers over time. MailChimp may very well have the features to allow these methods now, and they’ve certainly added lots of great features over the past couple of years.

Blake September 23, 2013 at 8:36 pm

This problem i see with both of these products is they’re limited by peoples email clients and in size by what’s consumable inside an email. With online newsletters like iNewsletter you can make changes to your newsletter live, have it hosted forever, never have it lost like an email, full back catalogue and place links to your newsletters on your websites. That’s powerful.

John November 6, 2013 at 10:58 am

One caveat with Aweber; NEVER miss a payment. They “deleted” 6 years worth of subscribers when my auto-billing changed and I had mistakenly failed to update from my old email notifications address. 6 years of double opt-in, over 15K subscribers. May not sound like a lot, but my niche is small and very targeted, so it was quite significant. They claimed that had no way to retrieve them even if I brought the account current, which I found incredulous. They also claimed they do not keep backups beyond 90 days, which I think is incredibly irresponsible. They basically said “too bad, we tried to notify you.” While I realize it was my error, I found the response unacceptable and switched to Mailchimp. Aweber was great, but to throw my subscriber list in the trash after 6 years as a customer is reprehensible.

Corbett June 9, 2011 at 8:46 am

QOT, you don’t have to send re-verification if you work with the email service provider. Also, I believe that if you switch to MailChimp from somewhere else, MC will let you import email addresses on your own without even calling/emailing them.

Corbett June 9, 2011 at 8:50 am

I customized the HTML email myself, but I’m happy to give you a copy of the template code. Just send an email to support@thinktraffic.net

Corbett June 9, 2011 at 8:55 am

Cheers John, no problem.

Rob Cubbon June 9, 2011 at 8:58 am

Great, thanks for all your help, QOT and Corbett, I’m going to give AWeber a call sometime and transfer.

rohan June 9, 2011 at 8:58 am

It’s more than just the title. You can’t with a straight face say that it was not heavily implied that the switch to Aweber was an important contributing factor to the increase in subscription sign up rates. Even the title technicality does this. And from the post:

“After switching from MailChimp to AWeber, I was able to more than triple my email subscriber rate and also improve open rates.”

“Last month I even signed up 172 new subscribers in a single day because of this strategy AND switch to AWeber”
-
I Capitalized the “AND”.

Meh, it’s no skin off my back either way, and I do think Aweber is the better service by far, but I’d prefer a less misleading article to get the point across.

Corbett June 9, 2011 at 9:02 am

Sorry rohan, but you’re missing two important points.

First, as I replied to Alberto, the toolbox concept relies on the ability to add resources over time, and let existing members also access those resources. This is only possible with AWeber. I could not have implemented the toolbox concept with it’s important subscriber-rate-boosting nuances without switching to AWeber.

Second, regarding A/B split testing, what MC provides is campaign split-testing. What you really need is form split testing, and only AWeber offers that. This is critical to improving your subscription rate.

Thanks for the comment, I hope the clarifications help.

Shane June 9, 2011 at 9:13 am

Thanks Brian –

Yeah, I was envisioning more of a “total customer experience” with email marketing and going deeper into conversions and opt-ins with it….which is where you can get even more value than just traffic alone :)

I like the idea of the tracking code as well.

Mr.G June 9, 2011 at 9:16 am

Corbett,

Thanks a bunch for you answer. Just one additional little question: If I move all my FB suscribers to AW or CM… Are they going to receive duplicate blog news? One from FB and another one from the email list?

I guess there will be some meassure you have to take to avoid this, right?

Corbett June 9, 2011 at 9:35 am

Not if you turn off the FeedBurner email feed ;) There’s a setting in your FeedBurner account.

Mr.G June 9, 2011 at 10:01 am

Thanks very much for your kind answers.

rohan June 9, 2011 at 12:35 pm

I’ll respond in case my posts come out of moderation.

You’ve just responded to why existing readers benefit from the toolbox. My point is, you can implement a toolbox resource with any email provider. It will NOT work with existing customers, but we’re talking about NEW subscribers here. The toolbox difference between Aweber and mailchimp only affects existing subscribers, so how does that impact NEW subscribers? Answer: It doesn’t.

The single explanation that you’ve given for why Aweber improved your sign up rates that can not be easily duplicated with mailchimp is the A/B testing for forms. That’s it. How come no one else but Alberto sees this?

Corbett June 9, 2011 at 1:31 pm

It’s cool Rohan, I can see how you might be confused. Take the information as you wish. Yes, I could have improved my sign-up rates with MailChimp as well. I’m just pointing out the nuances of why AWeber made my strategy work better. I wouldn’t have implemented a toolbox resource unless existing subscribers could be served well. That’s what prompted the switch, along with the other items I mentioned above.

I made a couple of clarifying changes to the article above, so hopefully the correlation is clearer now. Cheers.

Alberto June 10, 2011 at 12:45 am

Thank you for your answer. I was focusing on the new subscribers and didn’t understand the importance you gave to old subscribers.
However, are you sure you wouldnt have been able to add a sign-up for for new resources embedded within blog posts?
On my site I use a custom html code that now is in the sidebar, but I could easily add it to the bottom of each post, inside my template.

rohan June 10, 2011 at 10:56 am

Hi thanks for reaching out and I do understand a bit better where you were coming from. Love your blog, so many ridiculously good tips!

Corbett June 10, 2011 at 10:05 am

That’s funny, I’ve found deliverability to be higher with AWeber in the couple of months since I switched. MailChimp messages and confirmations ended up in spam folders more often (or worse, in the black hole of nothingness).

MailChimp is much more lenient about letting people import lists without re-confirmation, which leads to higher complaint rates, which the ISPs definitely don’t like.

If you’re running a really big list for a startup or something, chances are you’ll end up with a custom solution like sendgrid or Amazon’s new email service.

Corbett June 10, 2011 at 10:11 am

Cool ideas, thanks B. How about this for a title: “How NOT to F up Your Email List When Switching Providers” ;)

Leon Aldrich October 4, 2011 at 7:11 pm

I second the motion…

Lifechitect June 12, 2011 at 9:37 pm

Hello Corbett and fellow readers!
I have been following your blog for a while but haven’t had a chance to comment. I recently started a blog and was wondering if you know of any free alternatives to Aweber and other paid services?
Thank you!
and keep up the great posts.
Sincerely,
Lifechitect.com

Check June 23, 2011 at 8:53 am

Yes! I want to see a post like this. I’ve been thinking of switching to aweber for similar reasons to what you gave above, but I don’t want to loose my mailchimp subscribers.

How do you get everything switched over without starting over?

Check June 23, 2011 at 9:05 am

Good to know! Maybe I’ll finally make the switch… Do you have an affiliate link?

Corbett June 23, 2011 at 8:57 am

You can contact AWeber and ask them to import your MailChimp subscribers. Depending on your situation it might be possible to import without resending a confirmation.

Jason June 24, 2011 at 3:17 pm

See the comment I left for Graham above. Campaign Monitor is awesome (better than AWeber IMO) and it’s free to build your list.

Gina December 20, 2012 at 3:08 am

I agree with Jason, Campaign Monitor is brilliant and has excellent customer service.

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