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Comparison of Five Post Notifications Solutions for WordPress

Originally Published on Mailpoet.com on March 21, 2012 By Kim

We love when our websites send automatically a daily or weekly newsletter with our latest posts. It’s more common to see post notifications than newsletters written manually in the WordPress community.

Post notifications has several names depending on who’s talking about it:

  • Email subscription to post updates
  • Email alerts
  • Post notifications
  • Automatic newsletter, or auto newsletters
  • RSS to Email

I personally always called them “email alerts” because Lorelle said so a few years ago. Most of my past clients just used the term “automatic newsletter“, which makes a lot of sense, if you ask me.

Five plugins / services for email subscription reviewed:

1. Wysija Newsletters plugin
2. Feedburner email alerts
3. The legendary Subscribe2 plugin
4. “Email subscription” delivered by JetPack
5. MailChimp’s Rss to Email: free under 2000 subscribers

This is my own selection. I believe they are the best or most used (no official figures!). You should be satisfied with at least one of them. But there are others. Google around if you think my list is a little short or add ideas in the comments below.

Let’s take a look at each to evaluate the pros and cons.

Wysija Newsletters

Here’s a short video demo on how you can set this up quickly with our own plugin:

We’re for sure a little biased. Nonetheless, here’s my own take on it.

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Quick to setup
  • Allows you to import lists of subscribers
  • Stats for total number of opened, clicked and unsubscribed
  • You can import and export lists

Cons:

Feedburner Email Alerts

This is my personal favorite. My past clients were rarely satisfied with its looks though.

It’s still at the top of my list because I lost count of how many I installed myself since my first install 6 years ago.

The concept is easy: any new posts in your RSS feed are sent to your subscribers once a day or week.

This is an example what a typical Feedburner alert looks like :

Feedburner screenshot

Pros:

  • Reliable, with an occasional hiccup
  • Good deliverability (emails actually get delivered)
  • Automatically integrated with Google Analytics
  • Easy and good stats

Cons:

  • Not newbie friendly (take a look at this tutorial)
  • Lack of design and layout customization
  • Can’t import existing lists
  • Can’t easily resend the activation email to people who didn’t to activate their subscription (export to Excel!)
  • Translations in languages are unreliable
  • Send once a day or once a week, no other choice
  • Feedburner stopped evolving once Google bought it. Even with the new beta interface…

Subscribe2: the only plugin!

Very simple and practical free little plugin. I installed it on quite a few intranets where Feedburner can’t access the RSS feed it needs. This plugin has been getting quite a few downloads everyday since its beginning.

Screenshot of the basic out-of-the-box looks of an email from Subscribe2, which we use internally ourselves:

Subscribe2 screenshot

Pros:

  • Very easy to set up
  • You can send to your site’s users
  • Highly customizable frequency and scheduling
  • It’s maintained and updated
  • Double opt-in isn’t forced, which is great for intranets
  • Notifications can be enabled for comments too.
  • Stats available in Google Analytics (only)
  • It’s free, but consider donating!

Cons:

  • Difficult to customize the looks (no themes)
  • Some of its emails are in simple text and not HTML. There’s an extended version that does take care of that.
  • You can’t send to hundreds or thousands because there’s no queue to send in batches. There’s is a paying solution though.
  • You’re forced to send emails through your host. There’s a hack to send via SMTP, but it’s not ideal.

JetPack’s email subscription to post and comments

JetPack is a suite of plugins and services of WordPress.com blogs made available for your own WordPress site that you host yourself. They recently added post notifications, which is a service more than a plugin.

JetPack’s subscriptions’ emails always look the same regardless of the site:

Jetpack Subscriptions Screenshot

Pros:

  • The easiest to install…
  • … there’s only a widget to configure!
  • Good deliverability
  • Users can pick their own frequency of notifications to: immediate, daily or weekly
  • Notifications are also available for comments, which is an alternative to the ever so popular Subscribe to Comments plugin, which we use on this blog
  • Multiple languages

Cons:

  • You can’t configure the design or layout
  • You can’t import an existing list
  • You can’t exclude posts from categories of your choice
  • No stats
  • In English only

MailChimp’s RSS to Email

MailChimp converts the RSS of your site into post notifications, just like Feedburner. I’ve only set it up once myself, but this is a popular solution for many in the WordPress community. It’s free as long as you have under 2000 subscribers.

MailChimp offers the most flexibility in terms of design. This example is a notification from Yoast’s popular blog on WordPress :

RSS to Email by Mailchimp screenshot

Pros:

  • Most flexible in terms of design
  • Good deliverability (avoid spam filter)
  • Many plugins available to help integration, like subscription form widget
  • Allows you to import lists of subscribers
  • Good variety of stats

Cons:

  • Not that easy to install and configure
  • You need to learn another application
  • MailChimp logo displays at the bottom of your newsletters

Lowdown: what to go for?

1. Our own plugin, of course! 🙂
2. For simplicity‘s sake: JetPack
3. For simplicity and stats: Feedburner
4. For a subscription site (aka members): Subscribe2
5. For maximum flexibility: MailChimp