You have two main options for setting up a mailing list for your WordPress site. One is to install a plugin which integrates a newsletter service directly into your site. The other is to use a standalone mailing service; with these, you will generally manage your site’s signup forms through a plugin, but you’ll manage your lists and mailings by logging into a service completely separate from the site. Today we are going to have a look at the pros and cons of each method to help you decide which option is best.
For this comparison, we are going to look at two of the most popular services. The great news is they both have free versions so you can get started today without any financial outlay.
Option 1: Use a Plugin to Manage Your Newsletter Directly in WordPress
MailPoet Newsletters (formerly Wysija) is the most popular newsletter plugin for WordPress. Once installed, you can start sending newsletters to your subscribers, directly from inside your WordPress website.
The main benefit of a service that is managed from inside your site is the convenience and ease of use. The ability to manage your subscribers, compose and send newsletters, all from inside your site means there is one less website you have to login to and system to learn.
MailPoet allows you to easily create newsletters featuring your latest blog posts, simply by dragging and dropping them into the newsletter templates. You can also setup MailPoet to automatically email your subscribers whenever you publish a new post. You can also easily display signup forms, making it very easy for your visitors to subscribe.
One downside of this approach is the lack of features. The ability to send scheduled emails using an autoresponder is lacking. Another downside is that WordPress wasn’t built to send out large volumes of emails and depending on your webhost, you may have problems sending your newsletter to a large list. The best solution is to use a professional SMTP server, but this can be tricky to configure and introduces another service into the mix.
MailPoet is free to use until your list of subscribers reaches 2,000, followed by $99 annually for unlimited subscribers and access to the premium features.
Option 2: Use a Third-Party Solution
MailChimp is a good example of an external solution. Like MailPoet, use is free for the first 2,000 subscribers. While you do need to login to the MailChimp website to use the service and send messages, for that trade-off in convenience, you get access to features not available with MailPoet.
MailChimp does integrate into WordPress with a number of third-party plugins to accept signups on your site. So it’s just the sending you’ll be doing externally—although this does have the complication that your MailChimp presence is spread across two services. (So if something went wrong, you might be able to send mails but not collect signups, or vice-versa.)
Another advantage of using an external service is that it handles newsletter delivery. There are no mailbox settings to configure or limitations on how many messages you can send per day. As a newsletter is nothing without effective delivery, this is definitely a good thing. Another advantage is you aren’t responsible for keeping the software up-to-date, unlike an integrated newsletter system handled through a plugin.
Should you use an integrated service or an external one? We recommend the latter, with MailChimp being a great choice. You might have to login into a separate website to manage your newsletter, but the extra features, lack of mailbox configuration issues, and ease of use make it the sensible choice. With MailChimp offering so much for free, plus a good selection of supporting WordPress plugins for displaying the signup forms on your site, you can’t go wrong.