AWeber is a great autoresponder service, but once your list grows to a decent size you’ll start to notice something… the monthly bill!
I run dozens of different websites, each with its own mailing list. If you add up all my subscribers the total, as of March 2014, comes to 112,762 subscribers. I left AWeber a long time ago, but how much do you think that would cost me per year if I was still with them?
The answer is mind-boggling… AWeber’s fee for an account with combined lists that size is $10,140 per year!
Now guess how much I actually paid to get my emails delivered last year?
$586.36… Which is $9,554 less than what AWeber would have charged me!
How do I save almost $10,000 per year in autoresponder fees and still get my emails delivered? I use the MyMail WordPress plugin to manage my lists and I outsource the actual emailing to Amazon.
Yes, that Amazon… The one that sells books.
Most people don’t realize it, but Amazon also has a TON of great cloud-based web services available through their conveniently named “Amazon Web Services” platform.
Amazon Web Services offers web-hosting, cloud-computing, SMS text messaging and a whole lot more… Including an email sending service, which they call Amazon Simple Email Service (or SES for short). SES is what I use to send emails to my lists.
But before I get to the main part of the tutorial where I show you exactly how to switch your email list over to Amazon let’s go over some numbers. I doubt most people reading this have a list of over 100k subscribers, so let’s see how much you can save if you have a smaller list.
SES charges you per thousand emails sent, and AWeber charges per subscriber, so it’s a little difficult to directly compare the two services. In the examples below I’m going to assume you send 2 emails per week to each of your subscribers. If you send more you’ll save a little less, but I mean “a little less” literally, since SES only costs 10 cents per thousand emails!
How Much Can You Save By Switching To Amazon SES?
$285Saved Per Year
$338Saved Per Year
$775Saved Per Year
So even with a tiny little 250 person list you are wasting $285 per year if you are using AWeber!
And There Are Other Benefits too!
As if saving money isn’t enough, you’ll also be able to:
1: Run single or no opt-in lists
I don’t mean spamming people! There are lots of legitimate reason to put someone on a mailing list without an opt-in. If someone buys a WordPress theme from you, for example, they can automatically be added to a customer support list to be notified of important security updates.
2: Correct bad emails on your signup form
Guess what happens if someone subscribes to your list and mistypes their email address? Emails like “email@example.com” or “firstname.lastname@example.org” are easy to correct if you manage your own list. With AWeber you lose that subscriber forever because the double opt-in email never gets to them.
And yes, it happens WAY more often than you think. I gave dozens of typo email addresses subscribing to my lists every day. Now I can correct them (it takes about 5 seconds) and they still get my emails.
Have I convinced you to switch yet? Good, now let’s get started.
Step 1: Get the MyMail WordPress plugin
Even though we’re outsourcing the email delivery to Amazon, we still need something to manage the subscribers and the autoresponders. As I said before, for that I use MyMail, which you can get at CodeCanyon for $37 (a small price to pay to save so much money per year).
Once you’ve bought the MyMail plugin and have it installed on your site (it installs like any other WordPress plugin) we need also need the MyMail AmazonSES Integration plugin, which is free to all MyMail users. Download that from the link above and install it as well.
We’ll also need some info from Amazon before we configure the plugin, so let’s set that account up now.
Step 2: Sign up For Amazon Web Services
Head on over to Amazon Web Services and create an account. Just hit the “Sign Up” link at the top of the page and follow the instructions. It’s pretty straight-forward, but if you have any question just leave a comment at the bottom of the page and I’ll be happy to help.
Step 3: Configure SES
Once you’ve signed up go to your Account Console and click the SES link, or you can go straight there from this link.
When you first start out your going to be limited to “Sandbox” access, which means you can only send and receive emails to verified email addresses. This sandbox is for getting your account configured and testing, and once we verify everything is working properly you can request “Production” access, which raises your sending limit to 10,000 emails per day and lets you send to any email address.
First, you need to verify an email address. Click the “Email Addresses” link on the left and verify the email address you will be using to send your emails.
Step 4: Verify Your Domain & Setup DKIM
Next, we need to set up your DKIM. DKIM stands for “DomainKeys Identified Mail” and is simply a way for ISP’s to know that Amazon is authorized to send email on your behalf. Basically, it’s what stops spammers from pretending to be you!
Click the Domain link on the left side of the page and then click “Verify a New Domain” at the top. Enter your domain and make sure the “Generate DKIM Settings” box is checked.
Next, a bunch of scary looking DKIM and verification record sets will pop up.
You need to go to your domain name account settings and add these as DNS records.
This will most likely be done from your domain registrar’s website (GoDaddy, 1&1 Domains, etc), but if you have a private nameserver you’ll need to add them in at your webhost using WHM, cPanel or whatever software you use. If you don’t know whether you have a private nameserver or not then you probably don’t, since setting one up is a fairly advanced procedure.
I’ll walk you through adding these records at GoDaddy since it’s the most popular domain registrar.
Start by going to GoDaddy.com, logging into your account, and clicking My Account » Manage Your Domains.
That will give you a list of all the domain names in your GoDaddy account. Click on the domain you’re setting up for SES and that will bring you to the “Domain Details” page. On that page you need to click the “DNS Zone File” link.
When that page loads click the “Edit” link.
We have 3 CNAME records and 1 TXT record to add, so let’s do the TXT record first. Scroll down to the “TXT” section, click the “Quick Add” button and copy & paste the records into the box.
Now do the same with the three CNAME records. Click “Quick Add” and copy/paste them into your DNS settings.
Click the “Save Zone File” button and we’re done with our GoDaddy account!
It can take a few hours for the changes to register, so it will be a while before you get a confirmation email from Amazon telling you everything has been verified.
Step 5: Get Your Amazon Access Key & Secret Key
To connect MyMail to Amazon you’ll need your Amazon Access Key and Secret Key. To get those go back your new Amazon account, click your name at the top of the page and then click “Security Credentials.”
Next click the “Access Keys” option.
Now you’ll need to click “Create A New Access Key” and follow the prompts. You’ll see in the screenshot below that the button is grayed out for me, since I already have two access keys (which is the limit), so I can’t make any screenshots of the process. Just follow the on screen instructions… It’s easy!
Step 6: Configure The MyMail Plugin
Once you have your Access Key and Secret Key head back to WordPress.
On your Dashboard go to Settings » Newsletter » Delivery and click the AmazonSES tab. You should see a box that looks like this (your fields will be blank right now, of course).
Enter the Access Key and Secret Key you got from Amazon and hit the “Save” button. You’ll get a green light with the message “Your credentials are ok.”
Now it’s time to setup a mailing list, and a signup form. Navigate to Newsletter » Lists and add a list. You can name it anything you’d like, but I’m going to call mine “Blog Subscription.”
Now we need to setup a campaign. It’s important to understand that “campaigns” are different than “lists.” A “list” is just a bunch of email address, but a “campaign” tells MyMail and Amazon what and when to send something to your “list.” That’s something that confused me the first time I started working with MyMail, so I want to be sure you understand the difference between the two.
Here is how my “Blog Subscription” campaign is setup. Remember you can click the image below to make it larger. If any of the settings confuse you just read the MyMail documentation and watch their intro video. It will tell you exactly how MyMail works.
Now we need to setup a form so people can subscribe to our list. That is under Settings » Newsletter » Forms. Go through the options and set the form up like you want it (it’s self-explanatory), then head over to the widget section of your WordPress Dashboard.
Add the “NewsLetter Signup Form” widget to your sidebar, select the form you just created and people can now sign up to your list through a sidebar widget.
Step 7: Test Your Emails & Request Production Access
This step is easy… Sign up to your own list using the email address you verified with Amazon and send an email to the list. If you set up your campaign and SES account correctly the email should appear in your inbox within a few minutes.
Once you get your email you know everything is setup correctly, so go back to your Amazon SES Dashboard and click the “Request Production Access” button. Fill out the Production Access form and submit it.
Once you do this Amazon will manually review your site to make sure you aren’t a spammer. Don’t worry, as long as your site looks remotely legitimate you’ll be approved, and it usually only takes a few hours at most.
After you’re approved your new autoresponder will be up and running! Congratulations, you now have an autoresponder with higher delivery rates than AWeber, more features, and it’s 99% less expensive!
Resources Used In This Tutorial