Aweber Review (2018) - Pros and Cons of a Leading E-marketing Solution

 Aweber review (image of the Aweber logo beside a typewriter)

In this Aweber review, we take an in-depth look at one of the most popular solutions for designing and sending HTML e-newsletters. We’ll go through the pros and cons of Aweber and discuss its pricing, features, templates, interface and more.

Our overall rating: 3.5/5


How much does Aweber cost?

There are 5 Aweber plans on offer:

  • Hosting and emailing a list containing up to 500 subscribers: $19 per month
  • 501 to 2,500 subscribers: $29 per month
  • 2,501 to 5,000 subscribers: $49 per month
  • 5,001 to 10,000 subscribers: $69 per month
  • 10,001 to 25,000 subscribers: $149 per month

If you have 25,000+ subscribers, you will need to call Aweber for a quotation.

A 14% discount is available if you pay quarterly; a 14.9% discount is available if you pay annually. There are also some discounts available for students and not-for-profit organisations.

One aspect of Aweber's pricing structure that potential users might like is that all features are available on all plans - unlike some competing products you don't have to be on more expensive plans to unlock certain functionality.

That said, the functionality available on Aweber - as we'll see below - is not necessarily as extensive as you might find in competing email marketing solutions.


How does Aweber’s pricing compare to that of its competitors?

Aweber is, in general,

  • significantly cheaper than Campaign Monitor
  • considerably cheaper than iContact
  • roughly the same price as Mailchimp
  • marginally more expensive than Getresponse
  • considerably more expensive than Mad Mimi (note: Mad Mimi's feature set is significantly more basic however).

It’s worth noting that the above comparisons don’t really apply to very small lists however - if you have a small email database, several of the competing products are better value.

For example, hosting a list containing 1000 records will cost you $29 with Aweber, and...

Taking another example, if you have a larger list containing 10,000 records, it will cost $69 with Aweber and...

  • $149 per month with Campaign Monitor *
  • $79 per month with iContact
  • $75 per month with Mailchimp
  • $65 per month with Getresponse
  • $42 per month with Mad Mimi

* A quick note about Campaign Monitor: there are some cheaper Campaign Monitor plans available which allow you to host the same quantities of email addresses as outlined above, but they limit the number of e-newsletters that you can send to them. For the sake of a fair comparison, I’ve referenced the costs for Campaign Monitor plans that permit unlimited broadcasts as these plans are comparable in terms of send volumes permitted to the Aweber ones.

That’s just two examples of course, and Aweber’s competitors have different pricing tiers that will occasionally make Aweber cheaper, occasionally more expensive. But generally I’d say Aweber is priced roughly in the middle of the e-marketing solution scale.

Of course, pricing is not the only factor you should base your decision on...the more important thing to work out is what bang you get for your buck.

So let’s look at some Aweber features.


Key features of Aweber

Aweber provides you with the following key features:

  • the ability to import / host an email database
  • a wide range of templates
  • autoresponders
  • some marketing automation functionality
  • responsive email designs
  • reporting
  • RSS / blog to-email functionality
  • segmentation options
  • phone, email and live chat support
  • integrations with third-party apps

Importing data into Aweber

Importing an existing database into Aweber is a pretty straightforward affair.

You can upload the following file types:

  • XLS
  • XLSX
  • TSV
  • CSV
  • TXT

Alternatively, you can add individual subscribers manually, or copy and paste rows of subscribers into Aweber.

As you import your data, you are given the option to add your subscribers to a particular set of autoresponders, and tag them. Not all competing products permit the addition of imported data directly into autoresponder cycles so this is a nice feature to have.

For anti-spam reasons, you will have to answer some questions about how you collected the data you’re importing. If your list is on the larger side, you may also have to wait until it is reviewed by Aweber's anti-spam compliance team (as is the case with other email marketing tools). 

In essence, Aweber’s importing functionality is good - no complaints here.


Templates

By comparison to its competitors, Aweber provide one of the largest sets of e-newsletters templates available: there are over 700 available.

To provide a bit of context, there are around 500 templates available for Getresponse, 90 for Mailchimp and around 50 for Campaign Monitor.

Toe be honest, I don’t love all of the designs - some of them look slightly dated. I would consider them to be slightly better than the Getresponse ones, but not as good as Mailchimp's or Campaign Monitor's. 

However, the sheer volume of templates available means that with a little bit of tweaking you should be able to find a suitable one for your e-newsletters. There is, of course, always the option of coding your own too.

 Example of an Aweber template

Example of an Aweber template

Using web fonts in Aweber templates

One thing that you can't use in Aweber templates which you can in some other competing platforms (such as Mailchimp and Campaign Monitor) is web fonts. You are restricted to using the usual 'safe fonts' - Arial, Times New Roman, Trebuchet and so on.

There are good arguments for not permitting use of web fonts - for example, your emails are likely to appear more consistently and display more reliably across email clients - but only using web safe fonts can make templates look a little bit blander than they otherwise could.

In general, I’d give Aweber a thumbs up in the template department, but it'd be nice to see some of the templates freshened up a bit, and the inclusion of some attractive web fonts.

RSS to email templates

Like similar e-marketing products, Aweber can take your site’s RSS feed and turn it into e-newsletters that get sent out according to a schedule that you define. In Aweber, this is called 'Blog broadcasts', although technically you can use this feature with any content that has an RSS feed.

This functionality is particularly handy for bloggers who want subscribers on their mailing lists to automatically receive e-newsletters containing their latest posts (or, indeed, a monthly digest of blog posts). In essence, it means that you can power your newsletters from your website - this can be a big time-saver.

It’s worth noting however that you can’t use the standard Aweber template designs for RSS-to-email purposes - you have to choose from a set of templates which are specifically designed for this purpose.

On the plus side, there are quite a few of these to choose from - more than most other e-marketing solutions I’ve tried.

On the down side, many of them look pretty dreadful. And annoyingly, you can’t use the standard Aweber email drag and drop interface to edit them. With a bit of tweaking, you'll probably be able to find something that works ok, but I think there is definitely some large room for improvement here.


Autoresponders

Autoresponders - a series of follow up emails that are automatically triggered by either time or user actions - are a key part of any e-marketing solution.

Aweber claim to have invented autoresponders back in 1998 and as such you’d expect their autoresponder functionality to be mind-blowingly good. Oddly, it’s just ‘okay’.

On the plus side it is very easy to set up follow up emails based on time interval - for example, automatically sending subscribers an onboarding email immediately after sign up, a promo code 2 days later and a ‘follow us on social media’ email a week later is extremely easy. This is a typical use of autoresponders and it’s a breeze with Aweber.

On the down side, triggering autoresponders based on user actions and purchases is a bit more complicated than with key competitors Mailchimp and Getresponse.

Using Aweber, you can create ‘goals’ or combine automation rules with tagging to make autoresponders behave in quite funky ways...but if you want to make use of autoresponders in really advanced ways, you'll probably need to look at other products, particularly Getresponse, which provides 'marketing automation' functionality that hooks up to a built-in CRM.

And speaking of marketing automation...


Marketing automation

Marketing automation is a feature which is increasingly offered by email marketing solutions like Aweber.

I tend to think of it as 'Autoresponders 2.0' - where you go beyond traditional 'drip' campaigns and create complex user journeys using 'IFTT' - if this, then that - style workflows.

With marketing automation, you typically design a flowchart where emails are sent based on user actions: email opens, link clicks, site visits, purchases made and so on. 

 
 Marketing automation in Aweber

Marketing automation in Aweber

 

Aweber recently introduced a new marketing automation feature which to a degree provides this functionality: 'Aweber Campaigns.' With this feature, you can use certain user actions — namely opens and clickthroughs — along with the application of tags to determine what should be sent to whom and when (see above).

However, I think this functionality needs to go a bit further really - tools like Getresponse and Mailchimp provide considerably more flexibility when it comes to which types of user behaviour can trigger mailouts.

For example, in Getresponse, you can use triggers such as purchase, specific page visits, subscriber 'score' and sales pipeline stage to send messages.

So Aweber is definitely playing a bit of catch up with its competitors here. 

 
 Marketing automation in Getrespsonse

Marketing automation in Getrespsonse

 

Responsive email designs

Unlike some other e-marketing tools - notably, Mad Mimi - all Aweber’s email templates are all ‘responsive’.

This means that they automatically resize themselves to suit the device they’re being viewed on. In this day and age of smartphones and tablets, this definitely is a good feature.

One minor gripe I have however regarding the responsive designs is that to preview them you’ll actually have to send a test email to a smartphone. On other platforms you can usually just hit a ‘preview on phone’ button or similar. The lack of this functionality is not a dealbreaker by any means, but it does slow you down a bit, particularly if you are sending a lot of campaigns every month.


Opt in processes

A nice feature of Aweber is the flexibility it gives you around how you want to handle the opt-in process.

You can choose to subscribe your users on either a single opt-in or a double opt-in basis (single opt-in is when a user is subscribed immediately after completing a form; double opt-in is when they have to click on a link in a confirmation email to complete their subscription). 

Both approaches have their merits, so it's good to see Aweber being flexible in this regard - not all competing solutions provide their customers with this choice.


Split testing

Split testing (also known as A/B testing) involves sending variants of your e-newsletters to some of your mailing list, monitoring the performance of each, and sending the 'best' version to the remainder of your list.

Most e-marketing tools handle this automatically for you: you create a few different versions of your email (using either differing content or subject headers), send them to a sample of your data, and your e-marketing solution will roll out the best performing version automatically to the rest of your mailing list.

Split testing USED to be good in Aweber: until very recently, you were able to create and test four variants of an email (making Awber's split testing functionality better than most leading competitors; Getresponse being a notable exception).

For some reason split testing is currently completely unavailable in Aweber - I have been assured by their sales team that it's coming back over the next few months, but if you think you're going to need this functionality urgently you might be best off considering an alternative email marketing solution.


Reporting

Email analytics in Aweber are good. In addition to being able to monitor key stats such as open rate, clickthroughs and bounces, you can also look at a lot of other useful analytics / information, including

  • the growth of lists over time
  • an overview of sign up methods
  • where people are opening your email (i.e., geographical location)
  • the history of an individual’s activity - you can view past opens and clicks etc. at a per-subscriber level

and much else besides.

In terms of how this compares with competing products, I would say that Aweber’s reporting is more comprehensive than that which is available in Campaign Monitor or Mad Mimi; however, I would argue that Mailchimp and Getresponse both provide better reporting interfaces.

With the latter two products you seem to be able to get more of an overview of information in one place, particularly when looking at the performance of individual e-newsletters.

By contrast, with Aweber you’ve got to flick between three sections - “Broadcasts”, “Subscribers” and “Reports” to get an overall picture of analytics, whereas Getresponse and Mailchimp present most of their reporting information on one dashboard (which you can then use to drill down to specifics).


Segmenting data in Aweber

Segmenting data in Aweber is pretty straightforward. You can create segments not only based on the contents of any field in your database, but also on user activity too - emails opened, web pages visited, links clicked, products bought and so on. It’s all very flexible and easy to use.

It's a little bit tricky however to work out how to get to the screen where you create the segments - you basically have to go to a 'manage subscribers' section, search for some subscribers and then save the search as a segment.

To be fair, some solutions (such as Getresponse) use a similar approach to segment creation - but others (such as Campaign Monitor and Mailchimp) provide a more findable 'segments' section.

Unfortunately Aweber doesn't let you broadcast emails to multiple segments at once, however. This will cause problems for some users who have a need to 'pick and mix' segments in mailouts on a regular basis.

For example, say you're a car dealer with a mailing list containing a field called 'car model.' You've used this field to segment your mailing list into owners of VW Polos, Golfs, Passats, Tiguans and Touregs.

You now have an offer which is specifically relevant to Polo, Golf and Passat owners, and you want to send a message about it to those three segments in one go.

In an ideal world you'd just be able to select the relevant segments and send the message to those three groups. With Aweber though - this isn't possible. You'd have to either send three individual messages or create a new segment targeting 'Polo OR Golf OR Passat.' 

You'll have a similar problem if you want to exclude certain segments from the broadcast; so ultimately it's a bit of thumbs-down for the segmenting functionality in Aweber.

Other email marketing tools, notably Getresponse and Campaign Monitor, handle this in a much better way. 


Integrations with third party apps

Aweber offers a decent range of integrations with other solutions. There are over 400 integrations available which allow you to connect Aweber to various types of cloud-based software - web builders like Wix or Wordpress; CRM tools like Salesforce; landing pages like Instapage and so on.

Some of these involve dedicated widgets; others involve adding a snippet of code into a website; others involve a sync tool like Zapier.

It's rare that Aweber will plug into other software quite as seamlessly as Mailchimp (which seems to be the default 'standard' email marketing option for a lot of apps), but you shouldn't have too much difficulty getting Aweber to work with a wide range of other SaaS (software as a service) apps. 

 

Aweber integrations

 

Aweber support

Aweber’s support is one of the stand-out features of the product.

Phone support, email support and live chat support is all available - this compares very favourably with some key competitors including Getresponse, Mailchimp, Campaign Monitor and Mad Mimi, who only offer email and/or live chat support.

Additionally, there’s no hoops to go through to contact support - relevant phone number and email details can be viewed very easily on the company’s contact page, without any requirement to trawl ‘knowledge bases’ or fill in any forms beforehand.

On top of that, the company won a gold award in 2016 the US’ National Customer Association’s Stevie Awards (and a bronze and silver awards in 2017 and 2018 respectively), which augurs pretty well for the quality of the support you’ll receive when you contact them.

If you are a novice to email marketing, then this sort of easy access to good-quality support is a strong argument in favour of using Aweber as your email marketing provider.

In terms of the availability of support, you can contact Aweber's phone support team from 8am-8pm ET Monday to Friday, and their email and live/chat support is available 24/7.


Aweber review: the conclusions

Overall I would say Aweber is a solid email marketing tool.

It's not the best product of its kind available, but it is reasonably priced, easy to use and contains most of the key features you'd expect from an email marketing solution.

The main aspects of the product that would nudge me in Aweber's direction are its ease-of-use and comprehensive support. The latter may be particularly important for some potential users, particularly those starting out in e-marketing without a truckload of technical skills (you probably won’t get stuck, but if you do, you can talk to a real human being on a real phone line about your problem).

Additionally, it's not too expensive by comparison to some competing products, especially Campaign Monitor and iContact.

The main things that would dissuade me are its lack of split testing functionality and its relatively basic automation features.

I hope you’ve found this Aweber review helpful so far, but if you haven’t made your mind up on whether this is the e-marketing solution for you, here’s a simple breakdown of the key pros and cons of using it:

Pros of using Aweber

  • It’s easy to use.
  • Support options are more extensive than is the case with some key competing products and based on Aweber's Stevie awards for customer service, should be high.
  • It’s reasonably priced - whilst not the cheapest product of its kind out there, it is cheaper than several similar solutions.
  • It lets you choose whether to subscribe people to your list on a single or double opt-in basis.
  • It has good import functionality, with the option to import a wide range of file types and add the email addresses you’re importing directly to an autoresponder cycle.
  • It integrates neatly with a good range of third party tools and apps.
  • It comes with a very large range of templates - more than its key competitors.
  • Setting up simple time-based autoresponders is very easy to do.
  • All email templates are responsive.
  • Reporting features are strong.
  • Segmenting data is relatively easy and you can use both field contents and user activity (email opens, links clicked etc.) to create your segments.

You can get a free trial of Aweber here.

Cons of using Aweber

  • Split testing is currently disabled.
  • There are cheaper options out there which offer considerably more features in the marketing automation department - Getresponse being a prime example.
  • Some of the templates look a bit dated.
  • The RSS to email templates are poor and they can’t be edited using Aweber’s standard drag and drop email builder.
  • You can't include or exclude multiple segments at once when sending an e-newsletter.

Free trial of Aweber

One of the best ways to decide whether Aweber is for you of course is to avail of its free trial - you can try the product free for 30 days here.


Alternatives to Aweber

There are many alternatives to Aweber available.

If you’re looking for something a bit more feature packed, Getresponse or Mailchimp are the obvious contenders (you can find our Getresponse vs Mailchimp comparison here), with Getresponse coming in a bit cheaper than Aweber on price too.

If you’re looking for something a bit cheaper, then Mad Mimi is worth investigating (but bear in mind that Mad Mimi is a much more basic solution than Aweber).

If you've got loads of money then Campaign Monitor is worth a look too - it's got a lot of nice features but it's very expensive by comparison to all the aforementioned products. You can read our Campaign Monitor review here.


Any thoughts on Aweber?

If you're an Aweber user, or thinking about becoming one, we'd love to hear from you - scroll down to add your thoughts or queries on the product in the comments section below. 

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