Ultimate Guide: Create and Send Newsletters with the Best Email Plugin for WordPress

Illustration by Illustration by Sènga la Rouge

Today, we’re sharing everything we know about how to create and send newsletters from WordPress — over 8 years’ worth of experience and hard lessons learned, all in one ultimate guide.

We’ve published a lot of content over the years about how to create great content for your email newsletter. But sometimes, it’s good to take a step back, review what you know, and learn something new. So in this post, we’ll cover everything you need to know from the ground up, from choosing the best WordPress newsletter plugin to creating and sending an email newsletter.

Whether you’re just starting out with a free newsletter for WordPress or you’re a seasoned email marketer who is well-versed when it comes to WordPress newsletter plugins, I promise you’ll find something useful in this post!

WordPress newsletter plugin index:

  1. What is an email newsletter?
  2. Choosing a WordPress email newsletter plugin
    1. 6 Best Email Plugins for WordPress
  3. Why have an email newsletter?
    1. Pros of sending an email newsletter
    2. Cons of sending an email newsletter
  4. How to create an effective email newsletter
    1. Define your email newsletter strategy
    2. Build your email list
    3. Create content that delivers value
    4. Consider your call-to-action
    5. Design your newsletter
    6. Choose a “from” name and “from” email address
    7. Write a preheader
    8. Include an unsubscribe link
    9. Set newsletter sending frequency
    10. Segment your email list
    11. Measure newsletter performance
  5. Isn’t it a bad idea to send from WordPress?
  6. Getting started with MailPoet

What is an email newsletter?

An email newsletter is a type of email that companies and individuals send out to a list of subscribers. Email newsletters usually contain some kind of valuable content, such as news, updates, announcements, promotions, tips, guides, blog posts, etc. 

A list of email subscribers, aka an email list, is usually made up of existing or potential customers who have signed up to receive marketing campaigns.

The point of an email newsletter is to keep subscribers connected, engaged, and informed about what’s new with you or your business (and to help drive sales).

Email newsletters are a powerful marketing and communications tool that have various useful functions. They remind subscribers about you, inform people about your products or services, tells users what you’ve been up to lately, and help you build a connection with people who are interested in you and your business.

People like email newsletters, but only if they deliver value.

Choosing a WordPress email newsletter plugin

Before you can start creating and sending email newsletters, you need to have an email platform for your WordPress website to help you do it. This means choosing a WordPress plugin that enables you to create, send and analyze email newsletter campaigns.

Through talking to our customers, we’ve found there are six criteria that people usually consider when deciding on WordPress newsletter plugin:

  1. Is it a popular solution?
  2. Is it easy to set up?
  3. Is it easy to use?
  4. Does it come with support?
  5. Does it provide reliable deliverability?
  6. How much does it cost?

Let’s take a look at each of these criteria in more detail.

1. Is it a popular solution?

The popularity of an email newsletter plugin will tell you a few things: that people are using it, that people trust it, and it’s reliable.

The WordPress.org plugin repository is one of the best places to start when searching for a solution since many premium email newsletter plugins are available as free versions.

When you search for “newsletter” in the repository, several quality freemium options are returned.

The information you should be looking out for includes:

  • Last updated
  • Activate installations
  • WordPress version / Tested with

It’s also worth reading some of the latest reviews to see whether there have been any recent issues with the plugin. I also recommend reading the latest threads in the “Support” tab. This will give you an indication of the availability of support and how quickly problems are resolved.

It’s tricky to determine the popularity of premium plugins, but the WordPress repository will help you get a handle on what’s out there and the options worth investigating further.

2. Is it easy to set up?

Once you’ve found a plugin that you like, it’s time to test it out. Fortunately, with freemium plugins, you can try before you buy.

Ideally, there should be a getting started wizard or video that talks you through how to get set up. Alternatively, there might be some kind of “getting started” guide in the plugin’s documentation that explains how to configure the plugin.

The initial plugin set-up shouldn’t take you long to do or be difficult. If you find configuring the plugin is confusing or you’re spending too much time trying to understand the documentation, it’s time to look at other newsletter options!

3. Is it easy to use?

A great WordPress newsletter plugin should make it really easy for you to create your content, update the design, and hit “send.”

Here are just some of the things you should look out for in a well-designed and easy to use newsletter solution:

  • Ease of use and an intuitive interface. It shouldn’t take you long to learn how to use it.
  • Drag and drop email builder. It’s important that you can create your newsletters quickly and easily.
  • A collection of well-designed, responsive email templates that you can customize.
  • Integrates with WordPress. It’s important any email marketing services you use will work with your WordPress site.
  • Tools for adding signup forms to your WordPress site so you can capture new subscribers.
  • Intuitive tools for managing your email lists and subscriber information. (Don’t forget to check if there are subscriber limits as you may not be able to send to unlimited subscribers.)
  • Automation features for welcome campaigns and other autoresponders.
  • Detailed analytics so you can track the success of your newsletters using metrics such as open and click-through rates.
  • Tools for segmentation so you can segment your email lists and send targeted newsletters.
  • GDPR compliant.

4. Does it come with support?

If you run into problems, you don’t want to be stuck trying to fix things yourself. That’s why it’s important that your email newsletter plugin comes with support.

You should always have access to a detailed knowledge base or documentation. In addition, look out for what methods of support available, including email and live chat.

Often, free plugins in the WordPress repository will provide limited support (which typically takes a few days). If you want a faster turnaround for your support questions, you’ll need to upgrade for access to premium support.

5. Does it provide reliable deliverability?

Deliverability basically means the ability to deliver emails to subscribers’ inboxes. The thing is, deliverability is complex and involves a whole lot of email deliverability management that goes on in the background.

So let’s backtrack for a minute.

When you use a plugin for your newsletters, there are three different ways you can set up WordPress to send your emails:

  1. Using WordPress’ PHP mail, 
  2. Using SMTP, or
  3. Using an email sending service (such as the MailPoet Sending Service).

Let’s take a look at each of these methods in more detail.

a. Using WordPress’ PHP mail

As far as WordPress’ PHP goes, this option lets you send email directly from the backend of your WordPress site. It’s also an option that we don’t recommend. I’ll explore why in more detail below (skip to: Is it a bad idea to send from WordPress?).

b. Using SMTP

Plugins like Easy WP SMTP can help you configure and send all your outgoing WordPress emails via an SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) server, completely bypassing PHP mail.

This option is more reliable compared to PHP mail since it uses proper authentication, but it’s the least worst option here because it’s relatively insecure and there are no guarantees when it comes to deliverability.

For security reasons, many solutions impose sending limits. This means that if you try to send your newsletter to an email list with thousands of subscribers, your emails will create queues, leading to delays or errors. In the worst cases, your emails might not send at all.

b. Using an email sending service

A dedicated email sending service can provide the reliability you need so your newsletters always reach their destination and land in inboxes, not spam boxes.

At MailPoet, we’ve got you covered. We’re the only email provider for WordPress that has built and maintains its own email delivery infrastructure. When you use the MailPoet Sending Service, your emails will be routed through our servers, built specifically for WordPress.

Our email deliverability team monitors each and every one of the 30+ million emails that pass through our servers each month, ensuring they reach their destination, leaving no email behind. It’s how we maintain our 98.5% rate, matching and often exceeding industry standards set by third party email service providers like Mailchimp, SendGrid, AWeber, and even Amazon SES.

6. How much does it cost?

If you choose to go with a premium plugin, look out for solutions that offer a free trial or free plan so you can decide if it’s the right solution for you.

It’s also important to weigh up the cost versus what you’re getting — or not getting — for your money.

For instance, if you choose to use WordPress PHP mail, your emails might not always be delivered, and when they are they could land in spam boxes. Similarly, you might experience issues with sending limits if you use a plugin with SMTP.

Ultimately, you should choose the option that best supports your email marketing ambitions.

6 Best Email Plugins for WordPress

Looking for the best newsletter plugin for WordPress? Here are the top 6, with a brief summary of each to help you make the right choice for your specific email marketing needs.

1. MailPoet

Not sure where to start with newsletter plugins? We recommend checking out our addition to this list, MailPoet, which you can download and start using for free.

More than 300,000 websites use the MailPoet newsletter service to keep in touch with their subscribers. The best thing is that you can use MailPoet from the comfort of your WordPress dashboard. Quickly add content and images directly from your media library — no need to upload files to third-party services when it’s all right there, ready to use in your WordPress dashboard!

With MailPoet, you’ll have access to a growing collection of well-designed newsletter templates, our dedicated MailPoet Sending Service (so your emails are always delivered on time, every time, to inboxes), and analytics so you can learn what works, what doesn’t work, refine your email strategy, and optimize your email campaigns for next time.

Here are just some of MailPoet’s features:

  • Create newsletters in your WordPress dashboard
  • Intuitive drag-and-drop email designer
  • Manage subscribers and subscriber lists in WordPress
  • Send automated welcome emails
  • Connect your WooCommerce store and send product recommendations based on what your customers loved and bought before.
  • Segmentation and automation
  • Keep track of open rates, clicks, and segment data with built-in analytics.
  • Send emails that get delivered on time, every time with the reliable and secure MailPoet Sending Service.
    Automatic blog post notification emails
  • Add signup forms to your sidebar or footer as widgets, use shortcodes and even iFrame
  • GDPR compliant
  • Friendly support team

Note: This post will show you how to use MailPoet, the best WordPress newsletter plugin, to create and send email newsletters from WordPress.

2. Newsletter

Newsletter is another free newsletter plugin available from WordPress.org. This option lets you send unlimited emails to an unlimited number of subscribers.

Newsletter’s key features include:

  • Easy to use drag and drop email composer for building responsive newsletters.
  • The ability to control delivery speed – from 12 emails per hour to as many as your site can manage.
  • Single and double opt-in, plus privacy checkbox for EU privacy laws compliance.
  • Customizable subscription widget, page, or custom form

This plugin users your web host to send emails, so once you’ve installed and activated it you’re ready to send your first newsletter. The catch is that sending through your web host via PHP mail isn’t exactly reliable or secure.

To counter this problem, you can set up a third party SMTP service to send your emails for you. Newsletter is compatible with Amazon SES, SendGrid, ElasticMail, and Mailgun, to name a few.

For more advanced features, including WooCommerce integration, reporting, autoresponders, and forms integration, you’ll need to sign up for Newsletter’s professional extensions, starting at $65 a year.

3. Mailster

Mailster is another email newsletter plugin that can turn your WordPress dashboard and site into a fully functioning newsletter sending and automation tool.

It aims to be a complete alternative to platforms like Mailchimp and ConvertKit. Rather than constantly switching tabs and copying across media content (and paying a monthly fee), you can do everything from your WordPress dashboard, all for a one-time fee of $59.

Key features include:

  • Unlimited subscribers
  • Unlimited lists
  • Unlimited forms
  • Easy drag and drop email builder
  • 80+ pre-made templates
  • Send your latest blog posts, birthday greetings, follow-ups and custom email campaigns automatically
  • Track campaigns in real-time. Get in-depth statistics for opens, clicks, unsubscribes and bounces.
  • List segmentation
  • Integrates with WooCommerce and Ninja Popups

Mailster works using your web host or SMTP. If you want reliability and security, we recommend sending via a reputable email sending service, like SendGrid, Mailgun, or AWS.

Configuring this plugin involves a bit of technical set-up, so if you’re starting out with email newsletter, we’d suggest checking out another option for WordPress.

4. SendinBlue Subscribe Form And WP SMTP

SendinBlue’s official plugin for WordPress is a powerful all-in-one email marketing plugin. Unlike other free plugins that send via your web host, or force you to spend time setting up an SMTP service, this plugin takes care of all that for you. The wp_mail() function automatically uses SendinBlue’s SMTP to send transactional emails for better deliverability and tracking

Key features include:

  • Create custom subscription forms and easily integrate them into your posts, pages or sidebars
  • Manage lists and use advanced segmentation to improve your campaign performance
  • Easily create and send beautiful newsletters using the drag and drop builder
  • A real-time report dashboard gives you advanced insights into deliverability and performance, including opens, clicks, bounce reports, etc.
  • Auto-installation of SendInBlue’s marketing automation script on your website

The one catch with this free plugin is that you’ll need to sign up for a SendInBlue account, and you’ll be limited to sending 300 emails per day. To remove sending limits, you’ll need to upgrade to a paid plan.

SendInBlue s a great option for bloggers who want to get started with email marketing. It’s easy to set up and gives you all the tools you need to grow your list and send beautiful email newsletters.

5. Tribulant Newsletter

Tribulant is a premium all-in-one newsletter plugin for WordPress that turns your dashboard into an email marketing hub. It lets you create beautiful newsletters, send bulk emails, keep track of analytics, and fine-tune your sending.

Key features include:

  • Send email via SMTP, API or local mail server
  • Set single or double opt-in per form, list or globally.
  • Add subscribe forms and opt-ins to widgetized areas for your site, such as sidebars and footers
  • Bounces are handled automatically and users can unsubscribe.
  • Create autoresponder campaigns for your subscribers.

With the email scheduling feature, you can tell the plugin to put emails sent out into a queue and schedule it to fire several emails in batches an interval. This is useful for load-shedding on your server.

Pricing starts at $64 for one website, including support, access to all premium feature, and no limits. Premium extensions are available, which allow you to integrate the plugin with WooCommerce, Google Analytics, and more.

6. SendPress

SendPress is a simple newsletter plugin designed to help you build clean, modern newsletters, which you can then schedule to send to your subscribers. It offers an easy-to-use, code-free newsletter editor, along with good-looking customizable templates.

Key features include:

  • Unlimited subscribers
  • Unlimited responsive newsletters with tracking
  • Simple newsletter editor
  • Customizable subscription widget, page or custom form
  • Sync WordPress roles to newsletter subscriber lists
  • Single and double opt-in for GDPR compliance
  • Html and text versions of newsletters
  • Customizable Templates with easy to use theme styler
  • Stat tracking for each email, including clicks, opens and unsubscribes
  • Send with your web host or Gmail for free
  • Scheduled sending

SendPress is a solid option if you’re a blogger and getting started with email newsletters. However, keep in mind that you’ll need to set up an SMTP service for reliable email delivery.

For advanced features such as spam testing and autocron email scheduling, you’ll need to upgrade for $39 per year.

An email newsletter is a type of email that companies and individuals send out to a list of subscribers. Email newsletters usually contain some kind of valuable content, such as news, updates, announcements, promotions, tips, guides, blog posts, etc.

A list of email subscribers, aka an email list, is usually made up of existing or potential customers who have signed up to receive marketing campaigns.

The point of an email newsletter is to keep subscribers connected, engaged, and informed about what’s new with you or your business (and to help drive sales).

Email newsletters are a powerful marketing and communications tool that have various useful functions. They remind subscribers about you, inform people about your products or services, tells users what you’ve been up to lately, and help you build a connection with people who are interested in you and your business.

People like email newsletters, but only if they deliver value.

Choosing a WordPress email newsletter plugin

Before you can start creating and sending email newsletters, you need to have an email platform for your WordPress website to help you do it. This means choosing a WordPress plugin that enables you to create, send and analyze email newsletter campaigns.

Through talking to our customers, we’ve found there are six criteria that people usually consider when deciding on WordPress newsletter plugin:

  1. Is it a popular solution?
  2. Is it easy to set up?
  3. Is it easy to use?
  4. Does it come with support?
  5. Does it provide reliable deliverability?
  6. How much does it cost?

Let’s take a look at each of these criteria in more detail.

1. Is it a popular solution?

The popularity of an email newsletter plugin will tell you a few things: that people are using it, that people trust it, and it’s reliable.

The WordPress.org plugin repository is one of the best places to start when searching for a solution since many premium email newsletter plugins are available as free versions.

When you search for “newsletter” in the repository, several quality freemium options are returned.

The information you should be looking out for includes:

  • Last updated
  • Activate installations
  • WordPress version / Tested with

It’s also worth reading some of the latest reviews to see whether there have been any recent issues with the plugin. I also recommend reading the latest threads in the “Support” tab. This will give you an indication of the availability of support and how quickly problems are resolved.

It’s tricky to determine the popularity of premium plugins, but the WordPress repository will help you get a handle on what’s out there and the options worth investigating further.

2. Is it easy to set up?

Once you’ve found a plugin that you like, it’s time to test it out. Fortunately, with freemium plugins, you can try before you buy.

Ideally, there should be a getting started wizard or video that talks you through how to get set up. Alternatively, there might be some kind of “getting started” guide in the plugin’s documentation that explains how to configure the plugin.

The initial plugin set-up shouldn’t take you long to do or be difficult. If you find configuring the plugin is confusing or you’re spending too much time trying to understand the documentation, it’s time to look at other newsletter options!

3. Is it easy to use?

A great WordPress newsletter plugin should make it really easy for you to create your content, update the design, and hit “send.”

Here are just some of the things you should look out for in a well-designed and easy to use newsletter solution:

  • Ease of use and an intuitive interface. It shouldn’t take you long to learn how to use it.
  • Drag and drop email builder. It’s important that you can create your newsletters quickly and easily.
  • A collection of well-designed, responsive email templates that you can customize.
  • Integrates with WordPress. It’s important any email marketing services you use will work with your WordPress site.
  • Tools for adding signup forms to your WordPress site so you can capture new subscribers.
  • Intuitive tools for managing your email lists and subscriber information. (Don’t forget to check if there are subscriber limits as you may not be able to send to unlimited subscribers.)
  • Automation features for welcome campaigns and other autoresponders.
  • Detailed analytics so you can track the success of your newsletters using metrics such as open and click-through rates.
  • Tools for segmentation so you can segment your email lists and send targeted newsletters.
  • GDPR compliant.

4. Does it come with support?

If you run into problems, you don’t want to be stuck trying to fix things yourself. That’s why it’s important that your email newsletter plugin comes with support.

You should always have access to a detailed knowledge base or documentation. In addition, look out for what methods of support available, including email and live chat.

Often, free plugins in the WordPress repository will provide limited support (which typically takes a few days). If you want a faster turnaround for your support questions, you’ll need to upgrade for access to premium support.

5. Does it provide reliable deliverability?

Deliverability basically means the ability to deliver emails to subscribers’ inboxes. The thing is, deliverability is complex and involves a whole lot of email deliverability management that goes on in the background.

So let’s backtrack for a minute.

When you use a plugin for your newsletters, there are three different ways you can set up WordPress to send your emails:

  1. Using WordPress’ PHP mail,
  2. Using SMTP, or
  3. Using an email sending service (such as the MailPoet Sending Service).

Let’s take a look at each of these methods in more detail.

a. Using WordPress’ PHP mail

As far as WordPress’ PHP goes, this option lets you send email directly from the backend of your WordPress site. It’s also an option that we don’t recommend. I’ll explore why in more detail below (skip to: Is it a bad idea to send from WordPress?).

b. Using SMTP

Plugins like Easy WP SMTP can help you configure and send all your outgoing WordPress emails via an SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) server, completely bypassing PHP mail.

This option is more reliable compared to PHP mail since it uses proper authentication, but it’s the least worst option here because it’s relatively insecure and there are no guarantees when it comes to deliverability.

For security reasons, many solutions impose sending limits. This means that if you try to send your newsletter to an email list with thousands of subscribers, your emails will create queues, leading to delays or errors. In the worst cases, your emails might not send at all.

b. Using an email sending service

A dedicated email sending service can provide the reliability you need so your newsletters always reach their destination and land in inboxes, not spam boxes.

At MailPoet, we’ve got you covered. We’re the only email provider for WordPress that has built and maintains its own email delivery infrastructure. When you use the MailPoet Sending Service, your emails will be routed through our servers, built specifically for WordPress.

Our email deliverability team monitors each and every one of the 30+ million emails that pass through our servers each month, ensuring they reach their destination, leaving no email behind. It’s how we maintain our 98.5% rate, matching and often exceeding industry standards set by third party email service providers like Mailchimp, SendGrid, AWeber, and even Amazon SES.

6. How much does it cost?

If you choose to go with a premium plugin, look out for solutions that offer a free trial or free plan so you can decide if it’s the right solution for you.

It’s also important to weigh up the cost versus what you’re getting — or not getting — for your money.

For instance, if you choose to use WordPress PHP mail, your emails might not always be delivered, and when they are they could land in spam boxes. Similarly, you might experience issues with sending limits if you use a plugin with SMTP.

Ultimately, you should choose the option that best supports your email marketing ambitions.

MailPoet: The best newsletter plugin for WordPress

Not sure where to start with newsletter plugins? We recommend checking out MailPoet (which you can download for free!).

More than 300,000 websites use the MailPoet newsletter service to keep in touch with their subscribers. The best thing is that you can use MailPoet from the comfort of your WordPress dashboard. Quickly add content and images directly from your media library — no need to upload files to third-party services when it’s all right there, ready to use in your WordPress dashboard!

With MailPoet, you’ll have access to a growing collection of well-designed newsletter templates, our dedicated MailPoet Sending Service (so your emails are always delivered on time, every time, to inboxes), and advanced analytics so you can learn what works, what doesn’t work, refine your email strategy, and optimize your email campaigns for next time.

Here are just some of MailPoet’s features:

  • Create newsletters in your WordPress dashboard
  • Drag-and-drop email editor
  • Manage subscribers and subscriber lists in WordPress
  • Send automated welcome emails
  • Integration with WooCommerce
  • Segmentation
  • Automation
  • Advanced analytics
  • Advanced delivery infrastructure built for WordPress (the MailPoet Sending Service)
  • Automatic blog post notification emails
  • Add signup forms to your sidebar or footer as widgets, use shortcodes and even iFrame
  • GDPR compliant
  • Friendly support team

This post will show you how to use MailPoet, the best WordPress newsletter plugin, to create and send email newsletters from WordPress.

Why have an email newsletter?

What’s the first thing you do in the morning and the last thing you do at night? If you’re like me, you check your email.

I know, it’s a terrible habit! But it’s ingrained — and I’m not the only one glued to my inbox. Stats show there’ll be 3 billion emails users worldwide by 2020. Already, Gmail has 1.5 billion of those users.

The fact is, email is one of the most effective marketing channels. A well-designed email newsletter sent regularly guarantees constant traffic and sales.

Consider these stats:

  • 99% of consumers check their email every day (DMA Insights)
  • Across home, work and mobile, consumers check their email 20 times a day (DMA Insights)
  • The rate at which emails prompt purchases is not only estimated to be at least three times that of social media, but the average order value is also 17% higher (McKinsey)

Why is email still so popular after decades of Nigerian prince scams, Viagra ads, and spam? For one thing, we’ve “grown up” with email. When you started using the internet, you would’ve created your first email account at the same time. So for most people, email is a fundamental part of your online identity. In a sense, internet == email.

While other communication technologies like social media have come along, they’ve struggled to retain the same dominance as email. Email continues to be the dependable workhorse that everyone uses and relies on. Plus, there’s the fact it’s not “owned” by some big corporation like Facebook.

Wondering whether setting up a newsletter email is right for your business? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons.

Pros of sending an email newsletter

1. A great way to connect with customers

Why do people subscribe to email newsletters? Because they want to receive email newsletters!

To give you an example, have a look at the open rates for our recent two MailPoet newsletters:

To put that into context, a 30% open rate is generally regarded as an excellent open rate and anything above that is even better.

A Disqus poll asking readers why they sign up for newsletters found 72% want to learn more or stay up-to-date on the latest about a topic that interests them. A Return Path study backs up these findings: “When newsletters deliver great content and follow email best practices, they help marketers measurably strengthen subscriber engagement and stay connected to their audiences.”

Essentially, sending newsletters with useful and informative content alongside your promotions can help you build a long-term relationship with subscribers. And that’s what connecting is all about.

2. Drives traffic to your website

If you want people to visit your website, it’s not enough to cross your fingers and hope that people will enter your URL or somehow stumble across your site organically. You have to work to drive traffic to your site — and email newsletters play an important role in generating site traffic.

If you want people to visit your site, browse your content, and make a purchase, you need to invite, encourage, and incentive them. There are many ways you can accomplish this with your email newsletter, such as sharing your latest blog posts and including a link to “read more” on your site, and including calls-to-action when promoting your products to send people to your product pages.

For example, check out how one of our customers, Katrin, uses her email newsletter to shares images from her recipes and draw subscribers to visit her website to find out more.

3. Ridiculously high return on investment (ROI)

A recent Litmus survey found that the returns on email investments continue to be staggeringly high. For every $1 marketers spend on email marketing they receive $42 in return. That’s up from an average 38:1 in 2018.

And then you’ve got Email Monday reporting that one in five companies report an even higher ROI of over 70:1!

Woah.

To give you an example, Mariener, a Dutch sunglasses brand and MailPoet customer, includes coupons in its bi-weekly newsletter to drive sales. This strategy has helped the company grow its email list while encouraging click-throughs to its WooCommerce store. (You can read the full case study here: How a Sunglasses Brand Built its Email Following.)

The takeaway? If you’re spending all your time and money on other marketing channels, it’s worth rethinking your email strategy.

4. Drive customers back to your brick and mortar store

Whether you run a yoga studio, wine shop, case, gym, or spa, a regular email newsletter can help keep your customers up-to-date about your latest news, and at the same time encourage customers to come back to your physical store for special events and treats.

For example, Aurélien, a MailPoet customer who run a wine store in France, uses MailPoet to let customers know about upcoming wine tastings. Thanks to his newsletter, his tasting events fill up quickly!

You can read more about Aurélien’s story in our case study.

Cons of sending an email newsletter

1. Developing content is time consuming

The biggest barrier to sending email newsletters is that it’s often viewed as a chore. Putting together content for an email newsletter takes time, right?

Well, it doesn’t have to.

Choosing a single goal for your newsletter can help you stay on-message and help you avoid spending too much time on it. Plus, simple emails are easier for subscribers to quickly read, digest, and keep you with, whether you send monthly, weekly, or daily.

For more on coming up with ideas for your newsletters, check out How to Come Up With Content Ideas.

2. Subscribers can suffer inbox overwhelm

Email is convenient because,  in theory, you don’t have to respond immediately. The problem is, when you don’t respond right away, your inbox can quickly fill up. By the end of the week, you’ve got hundreds of unread emails waiting to be opened but you don’t have time to read them all.

So you start deleting less important emails, but at the same time you don’t want to delete them in case you miss something important. So you put off opening them until a time when you’re less busy, but you’re always busy… Argh!

Worrying about overwhelming your subscribers isn’t a reason not to email them. But you should be concerned about sending email newsletters that deliver value. If your newsletters lack substance, subscribers might lose interest and become inactive.

If your open rates start dropping, it’s time to try email segmentation, start experimenting with sending times and frequency, and stop sending emails to inactive subscribers.

How to create an effective email newsletter

Convinced that an email newsletter is a marketing must-have for your business? Before you dive into creating your own, there are a few important questions to ask yourself:

  • What do you want to achieve by sending an email newsletter?
  • Who will read your newsletter?
  • How will you measure your newsletter’s success (or otherwise)?

Your answers to these questions will drive your email newsletter strategy, the content you develop, as well as your newsletter’s ongoing measurable success.

To help you create an effective email newsletter, I’ve detailed below all you need to know to plan an effective strategy, get started building your email list, craft the right message, and measure your results.

1. Define your email newsletter strategy

Creating a strategy for your email newsletter doesn’t have to be complicated or take you very long to do. Basically, it’s a 3-step process:

1. What are your goals?

What do you want your email newsletter to achieve? Most businesses send newsletters to drive traffic and sales to their website, others want to invite email subscribers to online and in real life events, while some just want to raise brand awareness.

Having clear, actionable goals will give your email newsletter purpose and help you measure its performance and effectiveness. The goals you set will depend on your individual or business goals and values.

When it comes to goal setting, I’m a big fan of SMART goals. SMART goals bring structure and trackability into goal setting, ensuring your goals are more likely to be achievable. SMART goals must be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. The Balance has a great article explaining what SMART goals are and how you can create them.

But let’s take a look at an example. Say you’re karate master running your own studio and you want to boost re-enrollments with an email newsletter. Let’s break down the SMART goal:

Broad goal: I want to create an email newsletter that encourages students to re-enroll

  • Specific – I will create an email newsletter and get 10 students to re-enroll
  • Measurable – I will measure my progress by how many existing students re-enroll
  • Attainable – I will get set up with a newsletter and send emails monthly. I’ll ask existing students to sign up to the newsletter by filling out a paper form at the studio.
  • Relevant – Creating a newsletter will enable me to share photos from events and tournaments and build a community for my studio.
  • Time-based – My newsletter will be up and running within two weeks, and I’ll send my newsletter on the first Tuesday of each month. I will have 10 re-enrollments before winter classes start.

The resulting SMART goal would be: I will create an email newsletter within two weeks and ask students to sign up by filling in a form in the studio. I’ll send a monthly newsletter that build a community for my studio. This will allow me to share photos and encourage students to re-enroll.

2. Who is your target audience?

Who is going to read your newsletter emails? You might already have an existing community around your product, service, or brand that you’ve built on social channels that you can tap into. Or you might be building an audience from scratch. Whatever the case may be, it’s important you have a clear idea of who you want to target.

Defining your audience is essential to the success of your email newsletter. In order to deliver value to your subscribers, you need to understand their needs and motivations so you can provide content that appeals to them.

As Susan Chritton writes:

“One of the biggest mistakes that budding personal branders make is trying to appeal to everyone. Think about the game of darts: You have to aim in order to hit the board. (If you let your darts go without aiming them, you probably won’t be very popular.) If you hit the board, you score. And if your aim is very good and you hit the bull’s eye, even better!”

So think about who you want to reach with your emails. Consider things like demographics, location, interests, and — importantly — pain points, i.e. what problems can you solve for your subscribers with your newsletter?

For more on defining your audience, QuickSprout has published a fantastic guide that I highly recommend reading: How To Define Your Target Audience.

3. What are your Key Performance Indicators?

Once you’ve defined your goals and your target audience, you need to set corresponding Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). If you’re not sure where to start, you might want to consider some of the most typical metrics used when measuring newsletter effectiveness:

  • Number of subscribers
  • Open rates
  • Click-through rates
  • Unsubscribes

While these metrics are important to track, it’s essential not to lose sight of the bigger picture. Specifically, how your newsletter contributes to your business goals.

Some goals you might want to consider include:

  • Conversions
  • Repeat purchases
  • Increased sales
  • Increased product usage
  • Increased customer reviews
  • Increased social following

There are some goals that are difficult to measure, like raising and maintaining brand awareness. But tracking the metrics above will help you get a clearer picture of the effectiveness of your newsletter.

Take Aurélien, who I mentioned earlier, who runs a wine store in France. After launching a new website for his business (which he didn’t realise had MailPoet installed!) I personally helped him set up a newsletter for his business that:

  • Helped him keep loyal customers informed about tastings, workshops, and new bottle arrivals;
  • Increased his site traffic; and more importantly
  • Brought customers back to the store to make repeat purchases.

In fact, according to Aurélien:

“My subscribers are my most valuable followers. The newsletter conveys a sense of privilege, or exclusivity, especially those who are in my loyalty program. I don’t have the same results on Facebook, even less on Twitter.”

2. Build your email list

The first thing on your to-do list after choosing an email service provider should be creating an email list. After all, there’s no point sending an email newsletter if you don’t have anyone to send it to!

Building an email list is easier said than done. But there are some simple actions you can take to start capturing emails:

1. Add a subscription form to your site

The first step towards email list building is adding a sign-up form to your site where people can enter their email. You’ll need to give people a reason why they should give you their email, so explain what value your newsletter offers.

Many email solutions let you add a sign-up form to your WordPress site using a widget. Make sure to add your form to all the important pages of your site, including your homepage, blog and contact form. The footer of your site is another place you might want to add your form.

With MailPoet, you can create multiple subscription forms for your site and customize how they look.

For more tips on list building and creating an effective subscription form, check out 8 Ways to Make Your Newsletter Signup Form Work Harder.

2. Creating a landing page

Creating a landing page for your newsletter is another great way to capture emails. While a small subscription form provides enough space for a site visitor to enter their email, an entire page gives you room to explain the value your newsletter provides and convince would-be subscribers why they should give you their email.

You may want to add testimonials from existing subscribers about why your newsletter is awesome. All in all, a landing page ensures visitors aren’t distracted while considering whether to sign up to your newsletter.

MailPoet’s newsletter landing page. Sign up — the monthly newsletter have a lot of cool links to read!

3. Tell your followers on social media

Make the most of your existing audience. Announce your newsletter via tweet or in a Facebook or Instagram post. Tell your followers on LinkedIn and YouTube. Leverage your social following to capture more emails.

For more tips on how to build your email list, check out 20 Simple Ways to Get More Subscribers and Build Your Email List

Tips for managing email lists

Once you’ve got an email list in place, there are a few other housekeeping rules to keep in mind:

  1. Use double opt-ins. A double opt-in adds an additional step to the newsletter subscription opt-in process, requiring subscribers to verify their email address and confirm interest. Usually, this is in the form of a follow up email. Double opt-ins help you avoid fake emails entered by evil robots, filter out mistyped and misspelled emails, and get subscribers that actually open your emails.
  2. Don’t buy email lists. If you are wondering if buying an email list is a good idea, the answer is a resounding no. Don’t do it. Ever. Not only is it illegal, but you could get blacklisted by email services providers. We go into more detail in Should You Buy Email Lists?
  3. Ask for consent. Don’t be a spammer — always ask for consent before adding someone’s email to your list. GDPR and the CAN-SPAM Act clearly set out how you should ask for consent and handle your subscribers’ data.

3. Create content that delivers value

Now for the existing part: creating your content. The question you should be asking yourself at this stage is how do you create content that’s compelling enough that subscribers will want to open your newsletter while at the same time delivering results for your business?

My guiding principle is to always create quality content. This means focusing on delivering useful and informative content that helps your subscribers. Your goal should be to craft content that is better than other newsletters.

This is what creating quality content is all about — you want your content to be the best. Otherwise, there’s no point creating a newsletter that’s a clone of other newsletters out there. If your newsletter is similar to other newsletters, you want to make sure that yours is original in some way.

This might seem like a daunting prospect, but it’s achievable! To help you create amazing content for your newsletter, here are three different approaches you could try:

1. Create original content

If you want email to be the focus of your marketing strategy, consider investing time and resources into creating original content for your newsletter. This approach will involve some careful planning, including creating a content calendar and planning well in advance so you’ve got time to source or create copywriting and images.

For small businesses and individuals, this might be an approach to take if you want to send short opinion pieces or advice to your email list. The benefit is that your content will stand out for its originality, ensuring subscribers will look forward to your regular newsletter.

The downside is that you’ll need to spend more time on developing content — and brushing up on your writing skills if you don’t have a dedicated copywriter to help you.

When creating original content, it’s also important that you consider your brand voice and tone — basically, your brand’s personality. For more, check out Why UX Writing Is a Thing Now.

2. Create a digest of existing content

An easier approach is packaging up your new posts (and even old posts into your archive) into a digest. A lot of businesses do this with great success. The main advantage is that you can repurpose content that you’ve already published and use it to drive traffic to your site.

For example, InVision sends out a weekly newsletter that shares links to its latest blog posts for the design community:

3. Curate other people’s content

If you don’t have a blog or don’t have enough content for a digest, why not share other people’s content? While this might sound like stealing, it’s not — many newsletters curate links to relevant content from around the web.

One benefit of this approach is that it helps position you as an authority in your niche. While you might not be sharing your own content, it shows that you’ve got your finger on the pulse and know what’s happening around you. Plus, it delivers value for time-poor subscribers who don’t have time to search for these links themselves and prefer to have them delivered in a timely newsletter.

NextDraft is a popular example of a newsletter that leverages over people’s content. Dave Pell, who calls himself the “Managing Editor” of the internet, reads about 75 news sites and plucks the top 10 most fascinating stories of the day, which he shares in his daily newsletter.

For more on creating newsletter content, read Top 5 Time-Saving Tips for Creating Email Newsletter Content.

4. Consider your call-to-action

When someone opens your email, what do you want them to do? When they click your links, where do you want them to go? And when they get there, what do you want them to do next?

Considering what actions you want subscribers to take will help you guide subscribers toward your desired action, e.g. reading a blog post on your site, signing up for an event, pre-ordering a book, sharing your newsletter.

Be explicit about the action you want subscribers to take when they open your email and don’t be afraid to use strong CTAs. This will help increase traffic to your site. For more on this, check out 5 Best Practice Tips for Email Links That Get Clicks (and Taps!).

5. Design your newsletter

Once you’ve got your content ready, you’re ready to drop it into your newsletter template. You can use one of your email service provider’s templates (ours are pretty cool!) and customize it to match your brand and WordPress theme.

Alternatively, you could upload your own HTML template from a third party seller. However, I highly recommend using a template from your email service provider. This will ensure your newsletter is optimized for display in a variety of email clients and will look great on mobile devices (very important!).

Here are some other tips for designing your email newsletter:

  1. Before choosing an email template, consider your content first. If you want to send a digest of your latest blog post, for example, you’ll want a template that lets you upload featured images and post excerpts.
  2. Structure your content clearly. Keep it simple and ensure your content is laid out in a way that subscribers will easily understand at first glance.
  3. Consider your brand. Add your logo to the top of your newsletter and use your brand colors for links, buttons, and other elements.
  4. Avoid making common mistakes. To ensure your emails are well-placed to be opened, read, and clicked on, brush up on these 6 mistakes to avoid in your email newsletter.

After designing your newsletter, it’s a good idea to test it before you hit “send.” We’ve published a round-up of the best testing tools for previewing emails here: 20 Best Tools for Testing Emails.

If you want to send multiple newsletters, you will need to use different email templates to distinguish each newsletter. But to provide consistency, use the same colors, fonts and structure for your content.

6. Choose a “from” name and “from” email address

Use a clear “from” name and “from” email address so subscribers can quickly see who your emails are from in their inbox. Some senders try to get creative or don’t realize the importance of the sender name and email. Keep in mind that the “from” name is the first thing people see when they look at your email.

It’s a good idea to use your business name or your name and your business name. For example, when Kim Gjerstad sends out MailPoet’s newsletters, he always uses “Kim at MailPoet” as the “from” name. Why? Well, if you got an email just from Kim, you might not know who he is. By adding “at MailPoet” it explains where he’s from and gives you an idea about what the email might be about.

8. Craft a click-worthy subject line

Email subject lines can make or break an email. For subscribers who get tons of emails in their inbox every day, a funny, shocking or simply factual subject line can compel someone to open your email.

In fact, nearly 47% of email recipients say they open an email based on the subject line. Meanwhile, 69% of email recipients say they report email as spam solely on the subject line, which can tank your deliverability rate.

Email conversion strategist and copywriter Val Geisler recommends spending as much time on the subject line as on the email itself.

There are 11 different subject line styles that you can use to increase your open rates:

  1. Numbers and lists
  2. The shock factor
  3. Humor
  4. Appeal to vanity
  5. Keep it short
  6. Appeal to emotions
  7. Be straightforward
  8. Include discount
  9. Time is running out
  10. Curiosity
  11. Ask a question

To help inspire you: 12 of the Best Email Subject Lines We’ve Ever Seen.

Here at MailPoet, we class an excellent open rate as 30% or higher and a good open rate above 10%. For more, check out How to Improve Your Email Open Rates.

7. Write a preheader

A preheader is the short summary text that follows the subject line when viewing an email in your inbox. Here’s what it looks like in Gmail:

This text provides a hint as to what the message contains before you open it. Generally, the text for the preheader comes from the first text found in the email. On mobile and on desktop, the preheader can mean the difference between a subscriber opening your email or archiving it (or, worse, deleting it).

So make sure your preheader text is meaningful and not just repeating your subject line. Not sure what to write for your preheaders? There are some great tips in 5 Preheader Text Ideas to Increase Your Email Effectiveness.

9. Include an unsubscribe link

It’s important that you comply with legal guidelines set to combat spam, specifically the GDPR and CAN-SPAM Act. This means including a clear unsubscribe link in the footer of your newsletters.

According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s CAN-SPAM Act: A Compliance Guide for Business, businesses that use email must Tell recipients how to opt out of receiving future email from you and you must honor opt-out request promptly.

At MailPoet, we enforce a 1-click unsubscribe link in the footer of your newsletter.

10. Set newsletter sending frequency

Creating and maintaining a regular sending schedule will ensure your subscribers know when to expect newsletters from you. Plus, it has the added benefit (pressure?) of giving you a deadline to meet.

Working out a sending frequency can be tricky. You want to send your newsletter often enough that your business is front of mind for subscribers. At the same time, you don’t want to send too often in case your subscribers think your emails are spammy.

Once a month is the default, safe choice. As Kiefer Conrad writes:

“A monthly newsletter allows you to be comprehensive. Rather than sending a short daily or weekly newsletter, you can send a monthly newsletter filled-to-the-brim with good content, interesting links, and other useful goodies. Instead of skimming through your newsletter, your readers will look forward to it — after all, it only comes once a month.”

After you’ve established your newsletter, you might want to experiment with sending frequency. This, of course, will also depend on your time and ability to create content for your newsletter.

But what about specific days and times of the week to send your newsletter?

There is a ton of conflicting advice. WordStream found the best time to send emails is Thursday between 8am and 9am. CNBC has reported the best average time is weekdays between 10am and 2pm.

The truth is, the timing of your emails depends on your audience.

The key takeaway? Experiment with your sending times while monitoring your open rates. This will help you determine the sweet spot for your email list.

11. Segment your email list

Email blasting, where you send one big “blast” to all of your subscribers on your list, is no longer email best practice. In 2019, it’s all about segmentation. That means segmenting your email list into multiple, smaller lists so you can send targeted, personalized messages to your subscribers.

Stats show that email segmentation is well-worth the effort. According to an Email Monday report for the Direct Marketing Association, 76% of all revenue came from segmented, targeted, and triggered campaigns. Other research shows email recipients are 75% more likely to click on emails from segmented campaigns than non-segmented campaign, and click-throughs are 100.95% higher.

The idea here is that you want to keep your subscribers engaged. When subscribers are able to choose the content from you that interests them, they are more likely to open your emails and click-through to your links.

For example, say you run a website about dogs. Consider the categories on your website. Maybe you have one for “training puppies” and another for “health.” You could separate create email lists for subscribers interested in learning more about each of these categories.

Make sure to check out our in-depth tutorials on email segmentation for beginners and how to segment your subscribers with a second email list.

12. Measure newsletter performance

After you’ve sent your first email newsletter, you can start monitoring your analytics and stats. Warning: checking stats can be addictive!

Make sure to choose a WordPress newsletter plugin that provides advanced tools for tracking and analyzing your newsletters. This is important so you can see how your subscribers are responding to your newsletters.

Most businesses track the metrics I mentioned earlier (opens, click-throughs, unsubscribes etc). This data is a goldmine of information that can help you improve your future newsletters since it tells you which elements of your newsletter can be refined.

For example, if your open rate is low, consider testing your subject lines. If your click-through rate is low, you might need to make your CTAs clearer and/or bolder. If your unsubscribe rate shoots up, try reviewing your content or segmenting your list.

Here’s an example of stats from a campaign that we recently sent to MailPoet subscribers:

I would also recommend using Google’s Campaign URL Builder to add UTM codes so you can track click-throughs in Google Analytics.

Tracking results and improving your newsletters should be an ongoing process. Creating an email newsletter isn’t something you can set and forget — it’s important that you keep working to improve what you’re sending to subscribers.

Isn’t it a bad idea to send from WordPress?

It’s a common myth that you shouldn’t send emails from WordPress. So let’s set the record straight: sending email via WordPress’ wp_mail function using your web host is a bad idea.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t send emails from WordPress at all — it means you should only use a WordPress newsletter plugin that doesn’t use wp_mail, such as MailPoet.

Let me explain.

WordPress uses a function called wp_mail to send emails via PHP. This function is vital to the sending flow in WordPress, and how, by default, WordPress handles all email (like password reset emails, for example).

The wp_mail function is used by 24 other functions within WordPress, including sending out critical emails such as password resets amongst others. In essence, wp_mail is a wrapper of the PHPmailer class and uses your host’s web server to send mail in the same way as PHP mail does.

The problem is, this method for sending is unreliable and insecure as far as email marketing goes.

We know it’s free to send with your host, but it’s at your own risk! Here’s why:

  • There’s a strong chance your emails will land in spam folders one day.
  • Hosts have a bad reputation as email senders because they send 80% the world’s spam.
  • Hosts are often blacklisted with spam filters, including known hosts such as HostGator or Bluehost.
  • Your host’s SMTP account is designed to be used for your email addresses and not necessarily for sending newsletters
  • Hosts generally impose limits on how many emails you can send per hour or day.

We’ve written extensively about what you should avoid using WordPress’ wp_mail function and sending via your web host here, here and here.

Third party email service providers, like MailPoet, can ensure your emails are always delivered, increase your deliverability (open rates), ensure your emails are delivered to inboxes (not spam boxes), and you can avoid the headache of setting up your own mail server.

What you might not know is that behind the scenes at MailPoet, there’s someone working hard to make sure your subscribers actually receive your emails and open them. That someone is our Email Deliverability Manager.

This role isn’t just one person for us — it’s shared across three groups: engineers, support, and a third party, Postmastery, who ensures best practices. By keeping this position in-house, we have more control over our email deliverability and are in a better position to help our customers send amazing newsletters to their subscribers.

At MailPoet, we also have our own dedicated emailing infrastructure, the MailPoet Sending Service, to support our plugin and help you send emails from WordPress easily, reliably, and securely. This means you don’t have to use WordPress’ wp_mail function or your web host for sending email — we can send your emails for you via our dedicated email server.

We watch our deliverability rates like a hawk so you don’t have to. We monitor each and every one of the 30+ million emails that pass through our servers each month, ensuring they reach their destination, leaving no email behind. It’s how we maintain our 98.5% rate, matching and often exceeding industry standards.

So there you have it. Sending emails from WordPress is safe — as long as you do it with MailPoet!

Getting started with MailPoet

You’ve made it to the end! You’re ready to start creating and sending email newsletter from your WordPress site 😃

As I mentioned earlier, it’s important to choose a WordPress newsletter plugin that is easy to use, provides a great collection of newsletter templates, is reliable and secure, and gives you access to analytics so you can track your newsletter performance. These are all things MailPoet offers and more!

It wasn’t all that long ago that email for WordPress was — let’s face it — unusable.  It was difficult to use and slow, not to mention unreliable. Which is why so many site owners ditched the WordPress admin and sought out third-party solutions.

So we in 2011, we launched MailPoet. Our mission was simple: we wanted to put email back into the hands of site owners. We wanted to build a simple, intuitive, and rock-solid solution for WordPress that people could use to create beautiful emails and rely on to deliver their emails on time, every time.

And we did it! We’ve proven email for WordPress can work — because we made it work. Our stellar deliverability rate, thanks to the MailPoet Sending Service, now matches and often exceeds the industry standards set by the world’s top email companies.

We’re always listening to customer feedback and continuously improving our service. Our team is made up of a talented and passionate group of people whose number one focus is outstanding email delivery. No interns here, just real engineers applying 30 years of combined experience to help you send better emails for WordPress.

Ready to get started? Sign up for free and try MailPoet on your WordPress site and send your first email newsletter today!