AWeber Communications has been around since 1998, when it was founded by entrepreneur Tom Kulzer. Over the past 16 years, the company has grown to include 110 employees and moved from Kulzer’s apartment to a 71,000-square-foot facility which offers slides as an eco-friendly (and fun) alternative to elevators.
AWeber is a robust and modern program, especially for businesses which want to send all new subscribers the same series of messages. The autoresponder setup is easy, intuitive, and well explained within the program, and users have a lot of options. Reporting is likewise a step above that of many email service providers (ESPs).
There are drawbacks, however, and they are threefold: first, the program seems to be falling behind on the social media front. Second, AWeber is a little on the pricey side, especially for businesses with very small lists (1000 and under). Once you hit the 2500-subscriber mark, costs are more in line with industry averages. The company has no send-based subscription plan, which means if you have a large list but send infrequent emails, there are probably better choices for you. Third, the company makes its free trial unnecessarily burdensome by requiring a credit card. This would be a minor issue if not for the fact that customers have reported complications with canceling the service.
For many companies, though, AWeber remains an excellent option, far more robust than many ESPs on the market. Read the full review for details.
AWeber offers a free 30-day trial for lists of up to 500 subscribers. After the introductory month, there is a single list-based pricing plan available. (As with most ESPs, one contact stored on two separate lists qualifies as two subscribers.) Users who pre-pay for three months save $8, and users who prepay for a year save $34.
Unfortunately, AWeber has begun requiring a credit card for the 30-day trial, so you’ll need to make sure you cancel manually if you decide you don’t want to stick with AWeber.
All plans allow for unlimited emails.
Pricing is as follows:
- Up to 500 subscribers – $19/month
- Up to 2,500 subscribers – $29/month
- Up to 5,000 subscribers – $49/month
- Up to 10,000 subscribers – $69/month
- Up to 25,000 subscribers – $149/month
- Over 25,000 subscribers – Contact AWeber for pricing.
If you exceed the monthly limit on your plan, you’ll be billed for the next plan up. Unfortunately, there’s no alert or warning to tell you when you’re getting close.
Image Hosting and Associated Charges
AWeber offers unlimited image hosting for all accounts, with a maximum image size of 10 MB each. All users also have access to the software’s image library, which contains over 6,000+ images.
AWeber is cloud-based.
Hardware and Software Requirements:
Supported operating systems and browsers are as follows:
- For Windows 2000, XP, Vista, 7, 8: Internet Explorer (9+), Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Safari.
- For Mac OS X: Safari, Google Chrome, and Mozilla Firefox.
- For Linux / Ubuntu: Mozilla Firefox
There are mobile apps for iPhone/iPad and for Android.
Specific Size of Business:
AWeber is tailored to small businesses, generally those with lists under 25,000. The program allows for one user per company.
Ease of Use:
AWeber finds a healthy balance between ease of use and robust functionality. There are some nice features – particularly in the autoresponder realm – but navigation is intuitive enough that I was able to perform basic tasks without looking up tutorials. When I did find myself at a loss and turned to the online help resources, I was quite impressed with the range and scope of guidance available.
Upon signing up there’s a skippable introductory video. AWeber has a bit more of a setup procedure than most ESPs; to get started, you’ll need to fill out information including the business address you want to feature on the bottom of emails, as well as any customizations you want to make to AWeber’s standard opt-in confirmation message. Once you’ve finished those basic configurations, you’ll be free to explore the program.
Six tabs along the top of the screen direct you to Home, Messages, Subscribers, Sign Up Forms, Reports, and List Options. Some of these have drop-down options. Links to My Lists, My Apps, and Help, along with My Account, can be found in the upper right-hand corner. Your home page is an account overview which displays new subscribers, scheduled and recently sent messages, and list stats.
AWeber offers three email editors: a drag-and-drop WYSIWYG editor, a plain text editor, and an HTML editor for those who prefer to code their own emails. The WYSIWYG editor is pretty easy to use and allows for a fair degree of customization, though not quite as much as I would have liked. You can insert a simple “Click here” button, coupon, logo, or signature with the click of a button. Social share buttons are easy to generate once you link AWeber with your Facebook and Twitter account. Drafts are autosaved every two minutes, and you can see a list of previous versions (so that if you accidentally delete something, you can usually retrieve it).
To start, you’ll have 700+ templates to choose from. There are some very nice layout customization options here, once you learn how to use them. AWeber uses both “sections” and “blocks” in its organization. Blocks are elements like text boxes, images, etc. Sections are the frameworks in which they exist. Most programs use similar organization, though they may use different terminology. The difference comes in your ability to edit or customize the sections themselves. In previous versions, the ability to customize elements like buttons was limited–you couldn’t change the text of buttons–but you now have the ability to easily customize those elements.
In AWeber, you can easily split sections into as many rows or columns as you wish. You can also adjust the sizes of those rows and columns the same way you can adjust cell sizes in spreadsheets. This gives you a lot of control over exactly where elements appear and how they line up. It also might mean a bit of a steeper learning curve at first.
Most of the editor’s shortcomings are image-related, even for basic functions like cropping. You can resize an image, but that’s it. In addition, getting at the HTML and CSS is a bit of a pain. It can be done, but you’ll need to save your message as a template, then edit it as a template, save your changes, then start a new message using that template. It works, but you’ll waste a lot of time clicking and scrolling.
Sending the Email
Before sending your email, you can preview it, though there are no options to view how it will look in various email clients or on mobile devices. You can also check the message for potential content filtering problems by saving it and checking its spam score.
As with most ESPs, you’ll need to certify that any list you upload is permission-based and conforms with the provider’s anti-spam policies. AWeber takes this a step farther than some. You will need to enter the source of the email list when you upload it, and AWeber requires confirmed opt-in for all addresses. This means your first email will have to be a request for your subscribers to confirm their subscriptions. Anyone who doesn’t confirm can’t be in your list. (AWeber does allow some exceptions to this rule if you have a list which has already gone through confirmed opt-in with another ESP.)
AWeber has a default message you can use for subscribers to confirm their subscriptions; you can also customize it or use your own if you wish. (Unfortunately, the confirmation request went directly to the spam box of my test Hotmail account.)
You can add lists in the following ways:
- Upload a csv, txt, xls, xlsx, or tsv file
- Manually copy and paste a block of addresses into a text box
- Manually add single contacts (up to 10)
You can add up to 25 custom fields for subscriber information and sort them using AWeber’s powerful tagging system.
Once you’ve got your list set up, sending the email is very easy. You can opt to queue it immediately (AWeber will send it within 30 minutes) or schedule it for whatever date/time you wish. You can also post it to an RSS feed, publish it to your webpage, and post it to Facebook and Twitter.
My test email had no problems with spam filters. Appearance was similar to the preview in Gmail and Hotmail, but there was a serious problem with Yahoo: all text showed up centered regardless of its original format.
AWeber’s automation system is simple, but pretty powerful. You can initiate an automation sequence when a contact is added to your list or a tag is applied.
You’ll have to wait a little while after a mailing to see your stats in AWeber. I didn’t see this as a problem (few companies require up-to-the-second data on opens and clicks). About an hour after I sent my message, I received a Quick Stats email from AWeber, informing me of the number of sends and opens on my recently delivered message.
As for reporting options, AWeber presents the standard raw numbers and percentages (clicks, opens, unsubscribes, and the like). It also includes more advanced data such as opens, clicks, and revenue over time; subscriber growth; and stats by location, area code, or designated market area. In addition, you can compare results across your past 20 emails. You can track subscribers based on their signup method, and the list segmentation options provide plenty of ways to optimize your email marketing. Reports are well laid out and easy to understand; much of the data is presented in both chart and table format.
Customer Service and Support:
My experiences with customer support were for the most part very good. As a rule, representatives were friendly, helpful, and prompt in responding to my queries. Response time varied between 20 minutes and six business hours.
AWeber offers the following support resources:
- Live Support – AWeber provides live one-on-one support through the following means:
- Email: Contact AWeber at firstname.lastname@example.org, or use the company’s online contact form here.
- Phone Support: You can reach AWeber at 1-877-293-2371 (U.S.) or +001 215-825-2196 (international) Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST.
- Chat Support: Available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST and Saturday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST.
- Social Media – AWeber generally responds to user comments and questions on Facebook within 24 hours (and often within an hour or two). Comments on Twitter are likely to get a response within a few hours. You can also check out the company on LinkedIn and Google+.
- Knowledge Base – A searchable collection of hundreds of articles on the software, including walkthroughs, troubleshooting, and explanations of software features. A great resource for both new and experienced email marketers; articles provide links to video tutorials as well as step-by-step written instructions accompanied by screenshots.
- Video Tutorials – AWeber’s collection of video tutorials covers topics from basic account setup and getting started to split testing and integrating with Google Analytics.
- Live Webinars – AWeber provides live webinars which focus on educating users about different aspects of the software and email marketing in general. Each webinar is typically offered every 1-2 weeks, with the exception of “Setting Up Your Account in 15 Minutes” which is available every weekday.
- Email Marketing Guides – Learn about advanced email marketing techniques and get industry-specific pointers from AWeber’s series of email marketing guides. All guides can be downloaded as pdf documents.
- Blog – The AWeber team posts weekly entries to its blog. Articles typically discuss new features of the software, email marketing advice, and general tips for small business owners.
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
On the whole, user feedback on AWeber seems to be pretty positive. Most of the complaints I note below are from users who like many aspects of the software, but also feel it has some problems that need addressing. The company has only six complaints in the past three years with the BBB, and a respectable-but-not-perfect A- rating.
The most common complaints I found are as follows
- UI Problems – Some users complain that the UI could be better; they find it frustrating and harder to use than some of the other options on the market.
- Price – Several users feel that the price is too high for many small businesses, especially businesses which don’t need all the bells and whistles AWeber has to offer. This is compounded by the fact that there’s no “dormant” mode; so long as your lists are in AWeber, you’ll need to pay the monthly fee based on your number of subscribers, whether or not you are actually sending emails. Some would like to see a low-price or freemium option for very small businesses.
- Trouble Cancelling – Some users say they have difficulty figuring out how to cancel, or that AWeber has continued to charge them after they canceled. A point of possible confusion is the option to put an account on hold for $4.99/month when one attempts to disable one’s account.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
AWeber is accredited by the BBB. In addition to the generous assortment of customer testimonials posted on its site, AWeber gets 4.5/5 stars on G2 Crowd. The user reviews on TrustRadius are also mostly positive, but a bit more critical overall.
- Follow Up Emails – One of AWeber’s most popular features is the support for multiple autoresponder series. Users like the fact that they can create staggered campaigns with emails being sent at set intervals, and that once the system is set up, it is fully automated and requires no action from the user.
- Easy to Use – Most users agree that AWeber is overall easy to use, even for beginners.
- Template Selection – Several users praise both the quantity and quality of templates available.
- Great Customer Service – It’s easy to find comments about fast, helpful, and personal customer service.
- Flexible – A lot of people praise the flexibility of the program and the variety of features it offers. Particularly beloved are list segmentation, reporting tools and analytics, autoresponders, and integrations.
AWeber has a very nice feature set, particularly in the area of autoresponders. An overview of the program’s features can be found here. Some highlights include:
- Editor – The drag-and-drop WYSIWYG editor provides users with a choice of over 700+ templates, all of which utilize responsive design for viewing on mobile devices. You can read more on the editor here. Alternately, users can create messages in plain text format or can code their own templates using HTML.
- Follow Up Series (Autoresponders) – In addition to one-time email blasts (called Broadcasts), AWeber allows you to create chains of autoresponders (campaigns). An example would be a welcome email which is sent to each new subscriber who signs up, then a series of weekly “How To” emails explaining the various applications of your product. You can set the interval between these messages to anywhere between 0 and 999 days. You can also start subscribers at different points in the cycle if you wish (so for instance, if you had a separate signup form for advanced flying widget users, you could start them on #5 of your series (“New Applications of Flying Widgets”) instead of #1 (“What is a Flying Widget?”). You can set up separate follow-up series for each list, and you can copy them between lists.
- List Segmentation – You can segment your lists in order to deliver tailored content to your subscribers. Lists can be segmented by pretty nearly any criteria you can imagine: birthday month, location, or people who specify a certain interest on your signup form.
- Send Windows – You can schedule your follow-up series to only send on certain days and/or times, based on the recipient’s time zone.
- Global Text Snippets – This tool allows you to change information in many email messages (such as store hours) all at once. Find out more here.
- Subscriber Options – AWeber allows you to provide your subscribers with a range of unsubscribe and preferences options. You can allow subscribers to update any fields you wish (for instance, email address or phone number), in addition to providing them with summary descriptions of each list they are subscribed to.
- Automation Rules – You can set up rules which automatically remove or add your subscribers to lists based on their subscriptions to your other lists. For instance, you could set a rule that automatically removes subscribers from your “Prospects” list after they purchase a product.
- A/B Split Testing – Split testing is a great way to optimize your emails, and AWeber makes it pretty painless. You can split test broadcast messages by subject line, content, or time sent. You can also split test signup forms.
- Analytics and Reports – AWeber provides 28 reports; these can be viewed online or downloaded in csv format. You can compile the reports which are most important to you and use them to create your own dashboard in the reporting area.
- Blog Broadcasts – A real boon to bloggers looking to boost their readership, this tool allows users to automatically email their blog audience each time they post, or to put all their articles into a digest grouped daily, weekly, or monthly by using a simple template design. Learn more here.
- API – AWeber provides an API, so developers can create their own integrations with other apps and programs.
Integrations and Add-ons:
AWeber offers over 100 add-ons and integrations with popular software programs and services.
- PayPal – You can provide customers who make a purchase with the opportunity to sign up for your mailing list – and add users to different lists based on what they purchase.
- Salesforce – Track the subscriptions of your Salesforce contacts. (See our review of Salesforce here.)
- Google Analytics – Allows users to link AWeber with a Google Analytics account.
- Website Integrations – Provides easy integration with content management systems such as WordPress and Drupal.
- E-Commerce Integrations – AWeber offers integrations with many popular shopping cart programs, including Shopify (see our review here) and Magento (see our review here).
Social Media Integrations
Because of the integral connection between social media and email marketing, it is important to look at the social-media specific integrations AWeber offers.
- Facebook – Generate a signup form which you can add directly to your Facebook page. You can also post newsletters to your wall automatically.
- Twitter – Users can automatically share email newsletters with their Twitter followers.
- SplashPost – SplashPost allows you to add promotions, coupons, and videos to your Facebook page; with this integration, AWeber automatically imports the new subscribers you gain from posting “subscriber-only” content.
What they will disclose? The company uses SSL encryption for credit card transactions, “follow[s] generally accepted standards,” and runs concurrent backups of user data.
Anti-spam Policy & Protection
AWeber has a strict and comprehensive anti-spam policy in order to keep its deliverability rates high. Upon signing up for an AWeber account, you must certify that your list is permission-based and meets the company’s anti-spam standards. In addition, before your first mailing, you will need to send a subscription confirmation to all your subscribers. Anyone who doesn’t confirm their subscription cannot be included on your list. (This is known as confirmed opt-in.) AWeber will sometimes make exceptions for lists which have already been through that process and have a proven history with another ESP.
Included in all accounts is Spam Score, a feature that shows you how your missive scores on SpamAssassin’s tests. You can see what might cause email providers to chuck your message in the spam box; with any luck, you’ll be able to spot potential problems before they actually occur.
AWeber has a lot to offer, especially for companies which frequently utilize autoresponders. The autoresponder series set up was among the most intuitive and simplest I’ve ever seen…and of course, once your series is set up, you can allow it to run in the background with no further actions on your part. The WYSIWYG editor has some nice features and recent updates have improved the email design experience significantly. The analytics and reporting capabilities are a step above par, as is AWeber’s number of integrations.
The main weakness I see is the price-point where small companies are concerned. If you don’t need all of AWeber’s bells and whistles, there’s no reason to pay for them. You’ll also want to make certain that if you are trying to cancel your account, you’re not just accidentally suspending it. This is especially important where the free trial is concerned, as AWeber requires your credit card info.
You should have a good deal of room to grow with AWeber. You can start out with simple functions and move into more complex areas as you gain confidence and the needs of your business expand. If you like what you’ve read here, I’d suggest you give AWeber’s free trial a go and see if it seems like a good fit for your company.