How do you keep in touch with your audience?
Sure, you might update your website’s blog once a day and send updates via Twitter or Facebook, but these things can become… pedestrian. Updates on Twitter only stay visible for a few minutes, while Facebook is always persuading its users to check the next item from a friend or relative. Social networking is always in motion, and as such you shouldn’t rely on it completely to communicate with your audience.
Instead, the ideal fall-back position should be adopted: email. Newsletter messages to your regular readers can be personal and should be engaging, but the challenge is in collecting email addresses from your readers.
Why You Should Use Opt-In Email List Management
Email addresses can be gathered from your readers using any of these opt-in list management plugins – but why should you use opt-in? Why can’t you simply use email addresses that are already attached to comments or those that have been provided in competitions or other giveaways?
The reason is simple. To use these addresses without permission – given when a user “opts-in” – is to send an unsolicited message, an unwanted email which you might know better by its other name: spam.
So to avoid spamming users, opt-in emails are sent. The following WordPress plugins can be used to send suitable messages to users signing up to your email newsletter.
G-Lock Double Opt-in Manager
Providing your readers with a means to sign-up to your email list, this plugin is available directly from the WordPress site and as the name suggests has a double-opt-in feature.
This means that once an email address is submitted, the owner of that address must confirm their interest in your newsletter. After this has been done, the software will automatically dispatch a welcome email. Unsubscribe options are also available, and the email addresses are stored in your WordPress blog, from where they can be easily exported into whatever email marketing software you use. Email messages are customizable and there is a wide-range of options available.
Note, however, that G-Lock Double Opt-in Manager requires your web server to be running PHP 5. You will need to check with your web host to confirm if this is the case or not.
Designed to collect addresses with an opt-in form with the additional benefit of an all-in-one WordPress-based email newsletter composition and distribution tool, Newsletter Manager is the perfect catch-all solution for smaller mailing lists. While larger lists typically need a third-party service (RichWP recommends GetResponse) to deal with the distribution of messages, Newsletter Manager can send your newsletters thanks to its useful email composition box.
Opt-in form features are good, with shortcodes and widgets added to WordPress that will enable you to share your email signup box anywhere on your blog. In addition, opt-in messages are customizable.
You can download Newsletter Manager from the WordPress Plugins site.
A more modest plugin is Feedblitz Membermail which cleverly adds email opt-in functionality to two key areas of your blog.
Rather than placing a signup form in your sidebar or a popup, this plugin adds checkboxes to the user registration screen and comment form, enabling you to quickly gather addresses. The email is then sent using the familiar opt-in procedure, with willing participants completing a CAPTCHA to join your mailing list, thereby ensuring they haven’t clicked the checkboxes in error.
This understated approach is popular and integrates smoothly with the rest of your blog.
Our final choice of easy-to-use email list opt-in plugin is WP-Email-Capture, designed for ease of use and with a good selection of export options (to services such as Aweber, Mailchimp, Groupmail, Constant Contact and CSV format) for you to farm the opted-in email addresses to your preferred email distribution software (RichWP recommends GetResponse).
With widget functionality and configurable email messages to your newly signed-up readers, WP-Email-Capture requires a name and email address from each reader before sending the opt-in message. Quick and easy to install, the plugin does have a slight downside: a big banner ad for Aweber. Other than that, it’s great to use.
Which One Should You Choose?
As you can see, the available choices for low-volume opt-in email list management are pretty good, with a solid selection offering various additional options.
When making your choice, I would recommend basing your decision on the export features if you plan to have any significant growth in your email list over the coming few months. The reason for this is simple – your demand might outgrow your server’s ability to dispatch emails in a timely manner, resulting in you having to resort to a third party email newsletter provider (note that these typically offer a tiered service based on the number of users). Having an effective export option will then ease the transition to a new email management tool.