I have bounced between several mailing management systems over the years starting off with Mailchimp, then testing out Simplycast, I have seen though never officially signed up for Aweber I am fully aware of it’s capability and I know a lot of bloggers trying to save costs will implement a mailing list solution that can leverage Amazon SES smtp service which charges a mere .10 cents per thousand mailings.
Well, Glock Software makes a WordPress Plugin and mailing list solution called WP-Newsman and I gave the free version a whirl to see how it works and how it can work for bloggers who want to centralize their mailing list management even more around their WordPress blog.
You can of course get more functionality and features out of the WP-Newsman Pro Version but for now I will just focus on the free version, features and showcase at the end what you get with the pro version.
First and foremost you need PHP 5.3 or later to be installed and working on your hosting provider in order for WP-Newsman to even work properly. I typically am on the latest version of PHP anyway, so am already using PHP 5.4. If you are using a version less than 5.3 you will get an error from the plugin letting you know and you won’t be able to activate it. To make sure you are using PHP 5.3 or later you can go into your web hosting provider CPanel (or whatever configuration panel has your PHP config) and compare which version of PHP you are using.
If you get any errors about your PHP version you will need to resolve them before the plugin will actually activate, but once it is activated you now can start managing your mailing list from within your WordPress blog.
The first thing you are going to want to do next is configure your SMTP mail settings so that you are able to send mailing list newsletters out via the WPNewsman plugin. You would go into your WPNewsman settings and go to your email delivery settings. Here you can use PHP mail (though your hosting provider may not allow this function, or for sendmail). I found that all of those settings were disabled and unless you are using a VPS or dedicated hosting, you may not have access or want to run mass mailings through your web host. Instead I definitely recommend you setup an Amazon SES account which only costs .10 per 1000 emails delivered and allows you to configure and set the WP Newsman plugin to use their SMTP server.
Make sure you send several test emails to your own email address to rule out any potential issues with the mail send. Now, the WPNewsman Lite version will let you send 2000 emails per month but doesn’t have the bounced email cleanup functionality to prevent you from repeating emails to bouncing email accounts, repeat emails sent to bounced email accounts could lead to blocking of your emails so it is a good idea to leverage the premium version of WPNewsman unless you want to manually clean up all bounced emails every time you send out a newsletter blast.
Speaking of newsletters, the compose newsletter functionality is one of WPNewsmans strongest features in my opinion, you literally have access to over a dozen templates and if you don’t like any you can simply build your newsletter in a WordPress editor like interface with full HTML source code access. I was simply able to port the HTML template of my newsletter from Simplycast or Mailchimp over to WPNewsman mailing list editor and get it to look 100% exact in less than 60 seconds.
You simply start by editing or creating a new template, making what you want to be the default and then copy it as the framework for may mailing list newsletters. You can have any number of templates as well.
I sent a test email of my template newsletter and the format came out identical to the newsletter which gets sent from other mailing list services.
You can manage multiple lists with WPNewsman and by default it will import your WordPress blog subscribers into a list called wp-users, this is like an instant list to start with, but you can also create custom lists and build forms to have readers sign up for those separate mailing list as well.
The form builder is easy to use, though not overly powerful and featured it gets the job done and you have a variety of fields to choose from besides the defaults of first name, last name and email.
Once you have a sign up form created, you simply embed it into any post or page with the shortcode that is provided to you and it will just look like this and you can set your sign up to have a double opt in.
If you don’t want all your WordPress subscribers to become a mailing list, or you need to trim it down you simply can manage your subscribers and mass unsubscribe accounts as needed. I do wish it defaulted to creating a separate mailing list for role type (1 for subscribers, 1 for contributors, 1 for custom roles…etc) but this has to be done manually with WPNewsman if you want to build separate mailing list for different account types in WordPress.
When someone does sign up from your current blog post or page, by default the verbiage will display on the page replacing the form showing that they are almost done and have to confirm the sign up via a link in their email. This is nice because they are never directed away from the site at any point during the sign up.
WPNewsman Pro is a fantastic deal if you plan on sending out more than 2000 emails per month and lets you keep your mailing lists and newsletter templates centralized on your WordPress blog. You can sign up here and it comes to less than $8 per month for unlimited emails and subscribers.
You won’t have to pay just to have subscribers anymore and you won’t find any email mailing service that lets you have unlimited emails per month for that price. You can tie into Google Analytics for tracking and you can combine your WordPress subscriber sign up with your Newsletter to add private pages, links and downloads that only your site members can access as site members will also be Newsletter subscribers so it ties in nicely with WP-Members as well.
I was impressed with WPNewsman Lite and it took me a short time to get it setup with Amazon SES and I will be using it for some of my small campaigns until I grow large enough to need the Pro version.