As part of the process of giving folks a cost range for their website projects, they often mention that they want a newsletter. I wanted to review the different approaches that can be taken when trying to integrate a newsletter into a small business website.
There are many different ways to integrate a newsletter into your website and I’ll be covering some of the methods that my clients have used successfully with pros and cons of each approach. One of the things to understand about a newsletter, is that part of the process is creating the newsletter, while another part is sending it out. Another part is how to get folks to subscribe and how to manage that subscriber list. Each of these aspects needs to be taken into consideration when thinking about how best to implement a newsletter on your website.
Here are some of the ways my clients have implemented newsletters on their websites, in order of cost.
1. Using a subscription form and manually sending out emails.
Adding a standard HTML form on a website is easy and when someone fills out the HTML form, it simply sends the website owner an email. When the owner gets the email, they add the sender to their newsletter list, usually a distribution list in their mail application.
Pros: Very simple and low cost
Cons: Clients need to spend time manually managing their newsletter distribution lists. If they send out too many emails, their accounts might be suspended. The formatting of the newsletters is done by clients’ mail applications.
2. Using a hosting company based “distribution list”.
Some web hosting companies (click here to see DreamHost’s) have a distribution list feature. This requires setting up a few pages on a website that incorporate subscription and un-subscription code. Newsletters are sent out via the hosting company’s control panel.
Pros: Fairly simple and low cost. Subscriptions are managed automatically.
Cons: Your hosting company has to offer this. There will be limits on the amount of messages you can send out in a given time unit. The formatting is controlled by the hosting company control panel.
3. Installing your own newsletter software
You can also install your own newsletter software on your website. This will require the creation of a database to store your subscribers. Some online stores have this capability and will integrate a newsletter feature with the purchase process.
Pros: Moderate cost. Subscriptions managed automatically. No monthly fees.
Cons: Need to find appropriate software and someone to install it. Learning curve required for clients understand how to write and send newsletters. May still need to limit number of emails sent and received to avoid email server shutdown.
4. Using a third party newsletter or email marketing solution.
A good example this is Constant Contact or My Emma. You sign up for an account, pick a plan, and then add a little snippet of code to your website. Many of them have nice templates you can customize to make your newsletters appear professional. The email list lives within the third party’s database, and their email servers are used to send out your messages.
Pros: Easy to set up, automatically subscription management, no worries about having your own email account shut down, templates available.
Cons: Monthly fee.
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve got clients who use all four of these newsletter or email marketing strategies. From their feedback, the ones that seem to use #3 (using an online store integrated solution) and #4 (third party) are the ones that send out the most newsletters and get the most benefit. If you’re not too tech savvy, then I’d simply recommend using a third party newsletter or email marketing service. Although it requires a monthly fee, you don’t have to send out emails from your own email server, which is a big plus, meaning you are not limited in the number of emails you can send. They also manage subscriptions automatically, letting folks subscribe and unsubscribe directly, without your involvement. Happy newslettering!Jill
Aldebaran Web Design, Seattle
Jill Olkoski has a BS in Engineering, a BS in Computer Science and an MA in Clinical Psychology. She delights in using her advanced technical and psychological skills to help small business owners develop cost-effective and successful websites.