Founded in 1998, AWeber has managed to hold a strong position in the market and currently benefits from a user-base of around 100,000.
Anyone who’s been in the IM game for a while will probably be familiar with AWeber, mostly because it was the the go-to email marketing for such a long time.
But just how well does AWeber work for email marketing today?
For this review, I fired up AWeber to see how it performs as a standalone tool, and in comparison to popular alternatives.
From here on out, I’ll share my experiences using this software, along with what I liked and didn’t like along the way.
System & Segmentation
It’s been several years since I laid eyes on AWeber, and for the most part, it still feels and operates the way I remember it — except for one important detail.
It’s no longer solely list-based.
With the introduction of tagging, you now get a bit more flexibility over subscriber management and targeting. (Though, unfortunately, it does still count the same subscriber across multiple lists.)
For starters, AWeber allows you to manually add tags to individual or multiple subscribers if needed.
Of course, tags are best applied to your subscribers on-the-fly, and you can easily assign tags on a form-by-form basis.
You can also apply tags to custom fields, which allows you to further segment your subscribers based on how they interact with the form itself.
More importantly, tags can be applied and used through AWeber’s automation features
So it’s clear that tags are a consistent theme throughout the software, but just how deep does the rabbit hole go?
Virtually any email marketing tool can apply tags on simple user actions, like subscribing through a form, but what about behavioural-based tags?
A good example of this — and one I’ve been using throughout most of my reviews in this series — is having your email marketing tool apply a tag to any who clicked a specific link in one of your emails.
Unfortunately, it’s not possible with AWeber.
Update: This has just been added to the tool. You can read more on the update by clicking here.
I will say, even though AWeber continue to improve their platform in terms of automated segmentation, it’s still lagging behind in some areas — such as website tracking for more intelligent event-based tagging.
Interestingly, I did find an add-on service called ‘AWtomator’ that allows you to set up more complex, event-based rules with AWeber.
Note: haven’t used this tool myself and I can’t comment on it’s effectiveness as it’s outside the scope of this review. Consider it a potential workaround if you do decide to go with AWeber.
Other than that, one thing that bugged me was the process of importing subscribers.
AWeber does give you various ways to transfer subscribers over, but it then forces you to send out a re-confirmation email.
Can you imagine the hassle of doing this with thousands of subscribers? Not cool, AWeber.
To be fair to them, they did agree to disable this step for me upon request, but I’m not sure that will be the case for everyone, depending on your business and list size.
It’s nice to see that AWeber have implemented tags to some degree, though it really only skims the surface of what’s possible compared to other alternatives on the market.
As I briefly mentioned above, AWeber does in fact support automations these days. (Woop woop!)
It’s called “Campaigns”, and here’s how it looks:
As you can see, it uses a very simple, linear interface with a grand total of 3 actions to build your automation campaign.
- Send a Message (or email)
- Wait (X number of days)
- Apply a Tag (or remove a tag)
Lackluster, to say the least.
I should point out that there are a few tiny extras here and there.
For example, you can apply a filter to your automation to include/exclude subscribers based on things like their country and whether they signed up through an app or your website.
To be honest, though, I can’t see this being useful for most people.
Finally, there are some (very basic) list automations you can apply from the list settings, allowing you to subscribe or unsubscribe someone once their subscription status changes.
Again, nothing to write home about.
To me, the main automation feature of AWeber—Campaigns—is little more than a autoresponder with the ability to leverage tags. Still a long way behind the competition.
This is a strange one, because as I researched the split-testing capabilities of AWeber, I came across several resources explaining how to do it.
Like this one, for A/B testing email subject lines:
But for some reason, I couldn’t seem to find any of those features under my AWeber account.
Later, however, I was told by a representative that A/B testing for forms only shows up once a second form is added.
For an email marketing company that has been around as long as it has, I still think the A/B testing functionality is a bit of a joke.
If you’re going to collect emails, you’ll need a form to do your dirty work.
Fortunately, any email marketing service worth it’s open-rates will include some kind of form builder, and AWeber is no exception.
Here’s what the form builder looks like:
I won’t sugar coat it.
It feels old, looks ugly, and it’s far from intuitive.
I mean, just making simple changes to elements is a bit of a puzzle game in itself. Just take a look at this interface:
The form templates are integrated into the builder, and covers a wide range of categories.
As for the designs?
Honestly, most of them are long past their sell-by-date. I struggled to find even a handful that I’d personally use straight out the box.
No praises to sing yet, but what about form functionality?
Some email marketing tools allow you to create forms that display as popups, and can be triggered after a specified period of time, or even on user action (like a button click).
While AWeber does offer this, the configuration options are not quite as comprehensive.
On a more positive note, AWeber does give you the option to have them host the form if you don’t want it on your own website.
If you’ve been caught up in the page builder hype, it’s likely you’re using something like Thrive Content Builder or LeadPages. If that’s the case, these issues won’t be relevant to you anyway.
The form builder is just about good enough to get by with, but given the quality of the templates and the limited behavioural options, I’m not overly impressed.
Okay, so the form templates didn’t go down too well… but that doesn’t mean AWeber can’t redeem itself here.
The first thing I’ll point out is that you don’t need to use a template if you don’t want to. You can use plain-text or a HTML-coded template, instead.
For most people, I imagine, the “Drag & Drop Email Builder” will be the obvious choice, so let’s dive into that.
While the template builder interface was a step up from the form builder, I still felt like I’d stepped into a time machine.
After dragging a few elements into the workspace, I noticed that AWeber didn’t apply any spacing (or padding) to the text elements.
Everything just felt cluttered, and I couldn’t find a way to fix it…
Overall, the builder wasn’t terrible, but it’s definitely lacking some flexibility in terms of styling options.
So what about the actual email templates?
Well, despite the fact there were a TON of templates to choose from, the library wasn’t categorized, making it very difficult to find an industry-specific design.
(Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the selection, but it just feels like user experience is constantly being left behind.)
As for the designs, again, I struggled to find many that I liked since most looked very “90’s”, unfortunately.
Even AWeber’s attempt at a “modern” template is anything but…
Finally, if that wasn’t bad enough, these templates are not really templates at all, they’re more like themes.
Clicking on any template will apply the same color scheme, but everything else – including your layout – will remain the same.
It’s difficult to find anything I particularly liked about AWeber’s email builder, and aside from having a strong selection of
templates themes to choose from, it’s easily among the worst I’ve seen in this series.
AWeber integrates with around 180 different apps and services, including popular integrations like Facebook, WordPress and LeadPages
How does this compare to other email marketing providers?
In terms of sheer numbers, it doesn’t compete with the likes of MailChimp, which offers around 700 possible integrations…
…but it’s certainly better than some of the newer solutions *cough* ConvertKit, with around 70 possible integrations.
It’s also worth noting that GetResponse is supported by Zapier, effectively opening the door to a number of other integrations.
Unless your current setup relies on some obscure applications and services, it’s highly likely that AWeber will offer sufficient integrations.
Tracking & Reporting
When scheduling a broadcast email in AWeber, you can enable some tracking options right before sending…
You’ll notice it doesn’t have the option to track things like opens or bounces, and that’s because AWeber tracks this by default.
And if you’re wondering what “QuickStats” is, it’s essentially just a reporting dashboard representing your subscribers activity within the broadcast.
Here’s how it looks:
Admittedly, there isn’t much data here. It’s a pretty basic dashboard overall, but, fortunately, there’s a lot more to AWeber’s reporting.
Under the dedicated reports tab, you can see data across 26 different report types.
If you’re the type of person who likes to dig deep into the numbers, it’s fair to say you’ll have your fill with AWeber.
One thing thing I don’t like about these reports – and this is a recurring theme throughout AWeber – is the interface.
Here’s what she looks like:
I realize it doesn’t take away from the data itself, but it’s hard to take it seriously when everything just feels so old.
Anyway, that’s broadcasts… but what about reporting for automations?
Well, I’ll let this screenshot tell you.
Yep, that’s it.
Unfortunately, “opens” and “clicks” is about all you get with automation reporting, which is a real shame given how good the reporting is for broadcast emails.Strangely imbalanced, if you ask me.
While I haven’t had many good words to say about AWeber throughout this review, this thing certainly packs a decent punch on the reporting side of things, even if it does neglect automations.
Support & Documentation
If you ever need some help as an AWeber customer, you do have a few options at your disposal.
The first, and where most people start, is the knowledge base, and I found AWeber’s knowledge base to be somewhat reliable.
Where I felt let down was when searching for definitive answers on whether or not AWeber was capable of something, like A/B testing, for example.
Instead, I got a bunch of outdated entries for 5 years ago, with no mention on how to run a split-testing with AWeber (or if you even could.)
It seems that even the knowledge base suffers from old age.
Fortunately, they do offer phone support and live chat during business hours.
I found the live chat to be really helpful. They were online when they said they would be, and the customer support reps were knowledgeable on the ins and outs of the product.
Spoiler: Meghan’s response was interesting because AWeber actually performed the worst for deliverability across all the email marketing tools we tested. More on that later.
Of course, good ol’ email support is available if your problem doesn’t require urgent attention.
Finally, I had a quick look at Facebook community groups and was pleased to find this one, with over 3,000 members.
It appears to be run by AWeber themselves, which I can only hope since they do ask some account-related questions when requesting to join. (Bit dodgy, if you ask me.)
Aside from the knowledge-base needing a refresh and the somewhat questionable Facebook group requirements, I found the support options were more than sufficient overall.
We reached out to AWeber and a representative of the team mentioned that the Facebook requirements are to ensure that members are actual AWeber customers. Members of the group often get access to early releases, beta opportunities and educational opportunities that are exclusive to customers.
One thing we really wanted to test with all the email marketing tools in this series was deliverability.
As you can imagine, this is quite a difficult thing to test and we spent a lot of time coming on with various ways to do it, but we eventually settled on two separate methods.
- Run the same campaign across all tools and measure open rates
- Use GlockApps to get a more instant, analytical result
I cover our exact process in more detail in the email marketing tools roundup review, so I recommend you check it out if you’re interested in the specifics of these tests.
From our own testing, AWeber achieved the lowest open rate of 30.1% in the given time frame.
As for the GlockApps test, AWeber repeatedly refused my import of the GlockApps seed list. (Believe me, I tried to get it approved but they just weren’t having any of it.)
For the record, we had just paid a month subscription and the import was still rejected on the basis that my account was “set to cancel”.
Of all the tools I tried to run this test with, AWeber was the ONLY one I was unable to carry out.
Here’s what their support had to say:
In the interest of maintaining my sanity, I gave up.
That aside, to give you some idea of how this stacks up, I put together a table that shows and compares the results across all tools in this series.
Here’s what that looks like for AWeber:
Is AWeber Right For You?
Now that I’ve covered all the different features and functions of AWeber, weighing up the pros and cons and giving my experience along the way — let’s talk about YOU.
As with any tool, AWeber isn’t going to be the right choice for everyone, so I’d like to get to the bottom of who exactly this email marketing tool is suitable for.
If you’re looking for email marketing on a budget, AWeber probably isn’t going to be the best option available.
Let’s take a look at the numbers, based on the lowest-tier plan for popular alternatives:
|Tools||Free Plan||1,000 subs||10,000 subs||25,000 subs||50,000 subs||100,000 subs|
|No||$29 p/m||$139 p/m||$225 p/m||$299 p/m||$459 p/m|
|No||$29 p/m||$69 p/m||$149 p/m||$392 p/m||$792 p/m|
|No||$45 p/m||$95 p/m||$295 p/m||$335 p/m||$595 p/m|
|No|| $29 p/m||$119 p/m||$199 p/m||$379 p/m||$679 p/m|
|Yes||$49 p/m||$149 p/m||$254 p/m||$429 p/m||$779 p/m|
|No||$15 p/m||$65 p/m||$145 p/m||$250 p/m||$450 p/m|
|Yes||$15 p/m||$75 p/m||$150 p/m||$240 p/m||$475 p/m|
Of course, with (what I would consider) better email marketing tools like ActiveCampaign and GetResponse being the same price or cheaper, it’s hard for me to recommend AWeber at all.
Despite the fact that it does become a lot more competitively priced at 10,000+ subscribers, it still never quite manages to make the best financial sense for marketers on a budget.
If you’re a beginner blogger looking at AWeber as your first email marketing provider, I can relate.
When I first started out, AWeber was the go-to tool for beginners and experts alike, and it was a great tool.
Is that still the case today?
Unfortunately not. Very little has changed since the golden age of AWeber and the competition have clearly left it in the dust.
While a beginner doesn’t need high-level features, AWeber lacks even some of the most basic requirements of a good email marketing tool in 2017, and that doesn’t look to change any time soon.
The outdated and, in my opinion, overly-complicated user-interface is another aspect that makes this a poor choice for beginners.
I would argue that ConvertKit is a MUCH better alternative for newbies at a similar price-point, with a much cleaner interface and a powerful, yet easy-to-use automations builder.
So, AWeber isn’t the best choice for those on a budget, nor is it ideal for beginner bloggers… but what about seasoned marketers?
Well, if you’ve read this review from top-to-bottom, you won’t be surprised by what I’m about to say…
….I absolutely do not recommend it for high-level marketers.
The biggest reason —and believe me, I could list many ——is that the automation capabilities are VERY rudimentary.
In 2017 and beyond, email marketing automation is the real golden-goose, and AWeber just cannot deliver in that respect.
If that wasn’t reason enough, I found AWeber to be extremely buggy, with countless errors and pages endlessly loading on several occasions:
This has easily been one of the most interesting reviews for me throughout this series, mostly because of the preconceived opinions I had about AWeber.
Despite how popular AWeber was throughout the beginning of the 21st century, it simply hasn’t managed to keep up pace with competitors entering the market today.
While the tool wasn’t terrible in any particular aspect, it was consistently worse than the alternatives we have available today.
For that reason, it’s sad to say, I can’t recommend AWeber to anyone at any budget or any level.