AWeber Review – Sadly Switching

Sad AWeber Review

Sad AWeber Review

This AWeber Review is the third part of a 4-part series on Email Autoresponder:

  1. Email Autoresponder vs Email Newsletter
  2. Best Autoresponder for me?
  3. AWeber Review – Sadly Switching (you are here)
  4. AWeber vs GetResponse – Comparison

In my previous post “Best Autoresponder for me?“, I talked about why it is important to choose a good autoresponder now and some criteria to help in that selection. Today in this sad AWeber Review, I will explain why I personally have chosen to switch from AWeber.

I have been using AWeber for 2+ months (since starting this site). And while I don’t have any complaints about the timeliness of their auto emails nor underlying reliability, I have however decided to change autoresponders.

(I am not the only one.  See Reference section at the bottom to see why others are sadly leaving AWeber recently – some for pretty similar reasons).

AWeber Review from a Newbie’s Perspective

Just so you know, I am quite a newbie to this brave new world of autoresponders.  Before I started this site (rather, I migrated from a previous platform to this self-hosted WordPress platform), I had not even heard of autoresponders.  But since the beginning of this site, I have adopted a new attitude: from a lackadaisical blogger to one more focussed on the possibility of building a long-term business.

And that is how I came across autoresponders and discovered how important a part they play in the whole business-blogging adventure.

This AWeber Review is primarily for newbies.

So this AWeber review is primarily for autoresponder newbies. And I speak from the stance of a newbie – with all of a newbie’s needs.

Front and foremost of those needs are:

  • affordability (if I can’t afford it at all, then it is out of the ball park for me)
  • reliability (if the autoresponder  cannot be relied on to provide high email delivery rates, then why bother with it)
  • ease of use

And it is because of the lack of ease of use that had set me down the track to finding an alternative.

AWeber Interface – Clunky – Not User Friendly – Confusing

I was originally swayed toward AWeber because quite a number of top bloggers use AWeber.  And many wrote about how easy it is to use.  (I suspect that either some are technically unchallenged and/or have techno-geeks working for them.) But that has not been my experience.

Remember that this AWeber Review is from the perspective of a newbie.  And also of someone who does not want to have to spend hours and hours researching, reading up, and learning how to use a system effectively.  I just want to be able to have a gentle learning curve, not have so many technical aspects thrown at me all at once, and to get on with my job – which is to write my blogs and run my site.  And have a life!

Let me give you some examples.

Example 1 – Unclear On-Screen “What-To-Do” Guide for Newbies

As a newbie, there are always new terms and concepts one has to grasp.  And each step can be quite time-consuming and absorbing.

(For example it took me hours to fiddle around with, test, re-test and create a sign-up form I could use. That was followed by tweaking and testing and re-testing the functionality of the form and the look and feel of the confirmation and welcome emails. Not to mention the reading up and videos to understand the interface.)

Well I got through all that and thought I was quite satisfied.  And done. For now.

Then it occurred to me – just last night, 2 months down the track (!!), “What about my regular postings?  Are they being sent out to my subscribers?”

I don’t remember having to set that up.  Where do I set that up? Why was there no clear guide to alert me to at least the essential steps I had to take?

I had come across “segmenting”, “AB testing”, “WordPress widgets”, “Adding forms to Facebook”.  All great features I would look into later but not necessarily essential.  But surely, they could have alerted me to the fact that I had only created a sign-in form, a double-opt in confirmation, a Welcome email and nothing else!

I wish AWeber Had a Clearer Guide to Help Newbies – on screen

Essential Newbie Steps Wanted
I expected, at a minimum, that AWeber would guide and alert me from set-up to sign-up (for subscribers) to actually producing some newsletter (from me) that would be automatically sent out. In other words, an essential newbie guide to explain what the following are and how to set them up:

  1. List (aka Campaign)
  2. Sign-up Form
  3. Double Opt-in Confirmation
  4. Follow-up or Welcome email (for subscribers)
  5. and as a minimum – Automated Newsletter based on your posts

Note: AWeber does provide on-line guide and alert system with regards to #1 to #4. Just no reminder or alert if you failed to remember to create #5


Example 2 – Confusing Terminology

It is quite standard to be able to automate your RSS feed to be sent as an automated, regular email newsletters to your subscribers.  In a simplified nutshell, that means that:

  1. you know your RSS feed (e.g. a self-hosted WordPress blog on your own domain would most likely be www.yourdomain.com/feed/)
  2. your do your normal blog posts
  3. your autoresponder automatically picks up your posts (via your RSS feed) and sends it out to your subscribers
  4. your subscribers automatically get updated of your new postings

There are options, tweaks, and configurations within that, but that’s basically it.

Now unless you are familiar with this, would you know that to automate your RSS feed to Email Newsletter process, that it would be called by the confusing and unclear term of “Blog Broadcasts“? (In contrast, GetResponse uses the much clearer terminology “RSS-to-Email”.)

Well, that is what it is called in AWeber.  I did see that term on my dashboard, but how was I to know it was not some other fancy-doo-dah functionality that I would only probably need at some later stage?


Example 3 – Clunky Interface

Now that I finally know what AWeber means by “Blog Broadcasts”, I have to:

  1. tell it what my blog’s RSS feed is (which is ok coz that is a pretty standard step required by all automated distribution systems)
  2. choose an email newsletter template for my newsletter’s look and feel (still ok and they have lots of ready-made templates to choose from)
  3. customize that selected template => not so good
AWeber Review - No On-Screen Help

AWeber Review – No On-Screen Help

The template is populated with rss-fields (variables).  That is cool. But what do they mean?

You literally have to spend (quite a bit of time) searching through their Knowledge base to find it.

SideNote: Finally found it under What Do Variables in Blog Broadcast Templates Do?

I must admit that GetResponse also does not make the list or RSS (and Personalization) variables handy by linking to the list on their user-interface. Annoying!

 

 

AWeber Review - No on-screen help for personalization variables

No on-screen help for personalization variables

Then if you wish to personalize the template, the process is not very helpful nor intuitive.

You click the “Personalize” link and the corresponding personalization-variables box appears.

But again no way to quickly discern what those variables stand for. And no intuitive way to add to personalization-variables list if you wanted to.


AWeber Review - Poor Preview Screen

AWeber Review – Poor Preview Screen

And if you wanted to preview your template, you get no help.  The preview screen looks exactly like the design screen – filled with variables fields!  Not useful at all.


I could go on for a bit longer on how the AWeber user interface features provided a less than satisfactory user experience. But if you refer to the bottom Reference section, you will be able to read up more about it. Others have also done an AWeber Review and explain why they too decided to switch away from AWeber.

What it did prod me to do was to do more research to find a better alternative (for me) as my preferred autoresponder.

Footnote on AWeber Review

Please do not think that I am advising anyone to move away from AWeber. Nor am I saying that they are not reliable and don’t deserve their respected reputation in the industry. After all, many top bloggers do use AWeber on their sites. Have done for many years and continue to do so. I would still encourage anyone who is more patient, and more technically inclined to give AWeber a try. I think their reliability and service will not disappoint.

However for me, an autoresponder newbie and a time-conscious blogger, I really want effectiveness PLUS user-friendly ease.


Next: AWeber vs GetResponse

Now that you have read my AWeber Review, you must be wondering if you might want to switch from AWeber too? You might want to find out about GetResponse as an alternative first. So in my next post, I do a mini-comparison of AWeber vs GetResponse and why I chose the latter.


Still a Yes for AWeber

Strange as it may seem, yes I would still recommend AWeber for their reliability, their delivery performance, and their many features. And as I said, as so many top bloggers use it, they cannot all be wrong. AWeber remains one of the top, if not the top autoresponder in the market.

 


Reference for those who need more

 

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Comments

  1. Helena,

    You brought out some good points. According to you, Aweber truly needs to have some video tutorials and better written instructions on how to set-up and use the system. I agree with you there.

    However, what you failed to acknowledge is that Aweber has OUTSTANDING CUSTOMER SUPPORT!

    I have been using Aweber for several years now. They walked me through how to set up the blog broadcast, email opt-in box, autoresponder, etc. They also have a webinar once week, or more, on how to set up your system and get started!

    So it sounds like you 1. have never called customer support and , 2. never set through one of their short webinars.

    I believe that if you had done steps one (1) and two (2) above, you would still be with Aweber and you’d be loving it. In addition, you can probably find FREE set-up tutorials on YouTube or Google.

    If you had completed steps one and two above, I believe you would understand why so many of the TOP bloggers and Internet Marketers in the World use Aweber and have been using it for years. ( I am talking about people with Tens of Thousands of people on their email lists!)

    There are hundreds of templates to choose from in the email Opt-in box and templates to choose from when sending out blog broadcasts and email blasts. The service has worked almost flawlessly for me over the last several years. The stats they provide on opens and click-through rates are extemely helpful. If the preview view isn’t helpful, I believe that sending out the test post using the “TEST” button should answer all your questions about how it will actually look when going live.

    One time, a long time ago, I was having trouble trying to create a customized email Opt-In box for a client. He wanted some crazy thing created by someone on Fiverr to be in the box. The customer support when over and above what could possibly be expected of them to make it work. The guy I was talking to had to give the project over to one of their tech / coding experts to fix the problem and he did. I was truly impressed.

    In my opinion, Aweber is The Best email autoresponder on the market today. As someone who is a HUGE FAN of Aweber, I find it sad that you left them without calling customers support OR MYSELF, JUPITER JIM, (on skype, of course) to help walk you through things. It is so easy, breezy when they just walk you through everything step-by-step over the phone.

    On the other hand, you have pointed out a problem that Aweber should address and that is their training and instruction materials. They should definitely have better video and written tutorials on how to use everything. And while I found the ‘get started’ webinar extremely helpful, years ago, you shouldn’t have to get on a webinar to learn about the product. At the very least, they should record one of those webinars so you can just click and watch any time you want!

    In any event, I think it’s great that you are reviewing email autoresponders for newbies, because that’s definitely an important issue they should address right in the beginning!

    Thanks for all your dedication and hard work!

    Take Care,

    Jupiter Jim

  2. Helena Asmus Lim says:

    Hi Jim,
    Thank you for 1) taking the time to read this post, 2) for writing such a informative helpful feedback.

    I didn’t really find anything wrong with AWeber’s tutorials and videos, as such. They do have a lot but no newbie wants to trawl through endless info in the beginning. A NEWBIE wants to learn the basics AS FAST AS POSSIBLE AND GET THE JOB DONE. So my point here is, the Knowledgebase, FAQ, and online help are not exactly geared towards making the life of a newbie easy.

    Yes, there are lots of free YouTube videos as well as a bucket load of tutorials on the internet. Again, one should not have to do that just to get the basics set up and running.

    You are right, I didn’t acknowledge AWeber’s customer support. But I could not as I didn’t use it .. because nothing was broken nor was there anything I could not figure out (with more reading, more reading, more watching, more watching).

    It was because I only realized (myself) that I was not sending out any newsletters 2 months down the track! I know that sounds silly. But the mindset of an autoresponder Newbie is very different from one who is used to it.

    With so many new things to contend with and trying to grasp the bigger picture, it is easy to forget that ..er, the newsletter (of some kind) has to be set up. So my “complaint” was that there was no reminder nor alert that I might want to set up a newsletter. A very useful and needful reminder/alert for a newbie! But one does not turn to Customer Support for that!

    I don’t mind doing the research and reading up down the track when I want more advanced stuff like segmenting and deeper marketing.

    Yes I do know that AW has hundred of templates to choose from. I tried them. For the Opt-in to the Broadcasts. But they are CLUNKY. Not user-friendly.

    And yes, AW’s preview is lousy. And yes, I did do the “Test” button to send preview to myself. (Very inefficient if that is the only way to see output as one makes multiple design changes – as one invariably does). Plus, after 2 testing, no more emails came through. I even used different email accounts to test. Same result. So, not so good.

    I fully accept you are happy with AW and a great fan. And I am NOT advocating for anyone who is happy with AW to switch. In fact, I do still recommend AW for anyone who is already autoresponder savvy.

    But since I have been trialing GetResponse and their interfaces and putting them through their paces, I find them GetResponse to be MUCH MORE USER FRIENDLY. MUCH! And MUCH EASIER FOR A NEWBIE.

    In summary, speaking as a newbie, I can only say that GetResponse is MUCH EASIER and clearer FOR A NEWBIE. And as both Aweber and GetResponse have solid reputations in the industry, I am fully hopeful that GR will continue to prove a good choice when I am in need of the more advanced features like segmenting, etc.

    Tomorrow I should be posting part 4 of this series where you get to see some of the side by side comparisons between AWeber vs GetResponse. That might explain much more of why I chose sadly to leave AW. (No one wants to jump ship and have to set up all over again from square one. So my switch is most definitely not an illogical, groundless whim!)

    I hope you will join me tomorrow and check out the comparisons I so painstakingly put together 🙂

    Thank you again Jim for your time and willingness to always offer a hand and word of advice.
    Helena

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