There are numerous autoresponder solutions and email marketing services available today, some free, some that cost, third party services such as GetResponse or Aweber and several others and scripts that webmasters can install on their own servers.
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Whichever route you decide to follow there are benefits and drawbacks to each.
Third party services are most favored due to the fact that, at least with the two market leaders, deliverability is high and there is little chance of spam complaints finding their way to your door. Features are comprehensive and due to their market positions, users of both GetResponse and Aweber usually find that integration and compatibility with other programs and services is generally high. The downside of course is the expense and some people are unable to afford or justify the monthly fees associated with the services.
Scripts are numerous but often installation is a nightmare and I’ve certainly tried a few only to find that they did not work as advertised or that support was non existent. There are paid and free solutions if you want to go this route, but, in all honesty, I’ve yet to find a genuinely great autoresponder script that is easy enough to get up and running for a person of limited technical skills and has all the features you might require or desire.
Having recently lost the services of my autoresponder and email marketing company, due to a major failure of their server and systems, I once again found myself cast into the tedious search for an affordable alternative to what was an excellent email marketing package. I wasted a lot of time trying and rejecting a number of scripts, looked at a few commercial third party services and was beginning to think that I was simply not going to find anything as good as I’d had at anywhere near the price I have been paying.
Enter the free WordPress autoresponder!
It was then that I came across the GWA Autoresponder for WordPress. A free WordPress autoresponder in the form of a plugin.
It was urgent that I found something as quickly as possible as all my opt-in forms were no longer functioning so it grabbed my attention because it was free, and because it was a WordPress plugin. However, I doubted a free WordPress autoresponder would have the functionality I needed and decided to take a closer look to see just what it could do.
I have to say that the free version will be more than adequate for a lot of WordPress users who just want to be able to set up an opt in form on their blogs and start building a list. It is really simple to install and set up and if you are a remotely competent WordPress user you can literally have it up and running in a few minutes. Basically if you can install a plugin, you can install the free wordpress autoresponder or GWA Autoresponder plugin too.
I downloaded the plugin and had it functioning very quickly but it soon became apparent that it wasn’t going to be a substitute for my previous service. Basically, it’s fantastic for those who have no need of anything more than a means of generating opt-ins on their WordPress site with a built in autoresponder facility that can be loaded with sequential messages and used to mail out to their list manually when desired. You can build your opt-in forms and use them on any web pages you choose, not just on your WordPress sites, which is good, but there are some limitations – hey, it’s free, so you have to expect some.
As a free user your opt-in forms will have a link back to the service which you cannot remove and your emails will all have a link appended to the footer too. If this really bugs you, you can pay a small fee of $5 to have the branding removed.
All in all it’s a great free autoresponder and I would recommend it to anyone who is not yet using any form of autoresponder or mailing software.
If you want to harness all the features and really have your own fully featured autoresponder which you can use to build an unlimited number of lists and forms, be able to redirect subscribers to any URL after opt-in, upon confirmation and on unsubscription, you will need to upgrade to the pro version.
Aha you say, here’s the catch! But really it isn’t, if you don’t need the extra functions you can use your free autoresponder forever and never worry about paying a cent. The beauty of upgrading is that it is an amazingly low one time cost of just $27.00 if you grab the one time offer that you will see when given the opportunity of taking the upgrade.
I bought a copy immediately because the value of the pro version would be very hard to beat anywhere. In terms of ease of use and customization options I’ve not seen anything better and certainly not from either free or paid scripts that I have experimented with. Also, support was very prompt and courteous and once you pay for the upgrade you will get access to some useful bonuses, and some comprehensive tutorials on how to use your new autoresponder in a variety of ways to get the best from it. It worked straight out of the box, requires no cron jobs, although you can use them if you need or want to, and there was no knowledge of script installation required whatsoever.
As a pro user you can import all existing subscribers into your lists without the need for them to opt-in again which is a bonus as anyone who has had to move a list before will confirm. The autoresponder is shared hosting friendly as it can be throttled in a variety of ways to ensure you do not upset your hosting provider by overloading the server with your emails or falling foul of their hourly sending limits. Spam complaints are minimized by the fact that the autoresponder offfers double optin for all subscribers and records their information upon signup so their can be no doubt that they asked for your emails. Every email includes a one click unsubscribe link too of course. You would have to be an idiot to fall foul of the CanSpam Act using this software, but for those who are new to email marketing, there is plenty of advice within the interface as well as in the members area.
All in all a great solution for any WordPress user looking for either a free or paid autoresponder service. There is a lot more to the software but I hope this has given you a good idea as to whether it might be for you or not. The free WordPress autoresponder is an entirely risk free proposition so why not try it on your blog and let me know what you think.
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