WordPress is the most popular CMS. Many Email Service Providers (ESP) offer some type of WordPress email integration, but that doesn’t mean they are a good choice for your WordPress + email needs.
So lets dig in deeper, what’s the best email service provider for WordPress?
Email is a key component of most websites’ user experience and marketing strategy. Just think about some of the possible combination of email and website CMS:
- E-merchants make a large chuck of their revenue through email
- Bloggers work diligently to to increase their visitors’ loyalty through newsletters
- B2B companies build authority online and increase engagement with their audience
Not all WordPress email marketing providers are integrated equal
According to W3Techs, WordPress powers over 30% of the web. Many email service providers offer some type of integration with WordPress. But not all wordpress integrations are created equal. Is it a native integration? Which parts are integrated? You need to do some benchmarking before finding the best wordpress email service provider. So you can be sure that they will integrate intimately with your website.
Transactional email versus marketing email integrations
Transactional emails and marketing emails serve very different purposes:
Transactional emails are one-to-one emails that are triggered by a specific user interaction (think password reset emails, order confirmations, etc.). These emails are often sent through plugins like:
- Ecommerce plugins: Woocommerce, WPeCommerce, bigCommerce, etc.
- Membership plugins: MemberPress, RestrictContentPro, or LearnDash that specializes in gating online courses.
- Form plugins: Contact Form 7, Gravity Forms, WPForms.
Marketing emails are one-to-many emails that generally have a clear commercial objective. Think weekly product feeds, newsletters, etc.
Let’s first look at the transactional email marketing software selection for WordPress.
Choosing the best transactional email service provider for WordPress
Transactional emails are fundamental to the proper functioning of any website. They often contain important information to provide a smooth User eXperience (UX).
WordPress has a basic functionality to send emails natively. But many sites will choose a dedicated external email service to send transactional WordPress emails. There are a number of advantages for using an ESP in these cases, namely:
- Deliverability: ESPs allow you to add the proper technical settings, authentication and check your emails. With a good email deliverability team at the ESP, you know that bounces are managed and potential problems at ISPs are spotted and handled. This protects your send reputation and reduces the chance of them land in the SPAM folder.
- Flexibility: You can customize your transactional emails by using templates and editor. And personalise them with any data field that you hold, this allows you to personalise your emails for each recipient.
- Ease of implementation: Most ESPs offer a drag and drop builder to design your transactional emails, which makes it much easier to build and update your emails. Without the chance of “breaking” them.
- Sending speed: check if your ESP is able delivered your emails in real-time. This is especially important for transactional emails like password resets where later delivery will create frustration and the user breaking off the session because they can’t continue.
- Tracking: ESPs offer reporting about open rates, click rates, etc. Which is typically not available in wordpress plugins that send email.
WordPress and Deliverability: Get your emails into the inbox
The first thing you should expect of your transactional emails is that they make it to your recipient’s inbox. Transactional emails landing in the spam folder can generally result in:
- Your customer care team gets a ticket (that’s when you’re lucky, although this can add up to many, many requests)
- Your potential new customer abandons after not finding your email in their inbox and you lose a sale.
- Native php doesn’t build a sender reputation
Many WordPress sites still use the native php mail function, sending these emails through their own server. But building and maintaining a solid sender reputation to ensure your email make it to the inbox requires a lot of time, energy, and technical deliverability knowledge.
Moreover, getting it wrong can result in getting blacklisted, for instance by people entering fake email addresses (and not noticing or recovering from it). That makes self-managed deliverability very hard to maintain at any sort of scale.
Deliverability Best practices
Email deliverability is a complex and technical topic. There are many best practices to help ensure that your emails make it to the inbox. The bigger ESPs usually make this much easier and require very little from the WordPress user.
Key features to ensure top-notch email deliverability on WordPress:
- Advanced reporting on delivery, open-rates, and click-rates. Ideally, you want this broken down by Internet Service Provider (ISP) to help you troubleshoot any issues.
- Soft-bounce and hard-bounce reports for each email address.
- Automated blacklisting of hard-bounces to avoid sending emails again to email addresses that don’t exist anymore.
- SPF, DKIM and DMARC authentication (these are used by ISPs to ensure the sender is really who they say they are).
Keep a consistent brand image in your transactional messages
Design of transactional emails is often considered less important than marketing emails. But just like your landing pages or your marketing campaigns, they are associated to your brand. So it’s essential that you maintain a consistent brand image and tone – even in your transactional emails.
Think of it this way; transactional emails are expected communications with your brand. They receive even more engagement than normal marketing emails. So they should convey the same image that you have in all of your other communications.
When searching for the right transactional email service for your WordPress site, make sure to:
- Pick a provider that offers a variety of email templates.
- Test the tool’s drag & drop email design builder to ensure your marketing team will be able to quickly design emails that match your brand.
- Check whether the email integration with wordpress allows to use dynamic fields easily. Can you configure order confirmation emails to include the dynamic product name, price, links, etc? Can you add product images to your emails easily?
- The best email services for WordPress also let you trigger emails from pages visited and other website events. (eg: clicks, logins).
Degrees of WordPress integration: Choose an email tool that can scale with you
Because transactional emails are almost always triggered by on-site user interactions, it can be a bit of a pain to set up properly. Whether it is your technical team or your marketing team handling transactional emails, pick a email marketing tool that’s easy to install with WordPress.
The WordPress integrations can be deeper for some email tools than for others. This results in different degrees of technical know-how required for the setup process:
- Is there a dedicated plugin developed and maintained by the email tool technical team? Or is it a plugin developed by an independant, affiliated team with no to little knowledge about the email product roadmap?
- Is the email platform taking over every email sent through the platform, or is it merely an addition to your WordPress native email function?
- Is the email platform also tracking pageviews and identifying known subscribers when they come to your site?
- Is the email platform up to date and able to run on wordpress’ latest versions?
Regardless of your current situation, transactional emails can be pretty efficient communication channel. Make sure you select a tool that has robust and detailed documentation, as well as frequent updates. This ensures that you’re completely covered no matter what issues arise.
Choosing the best marketing email provider for WordPress
The best ESP is the one that helps you best reach your objectives. Email marketing for bloggers can look very different than email marketing for eCommerce shop, although they both use WordPress, possibly in combination with Woocommerce. Marketing emails usually have commercial goals. Marketing emails are geared towards revenue. Performance is ideally calculated as ROI (Return On Investment) – using revenue or profit as the “return”.
To maximize ROI for any email campaign, there are two important distinguants to pay special attention to.
1. Targeting and segmentation of your messages to increase conversions and purchases.
2. The size of your email marketing list (and thus list growth)
When considering email marketing providers for WordPress, look for a tool that allows you to act upon those two to maximize your ROI. Email list growth, and tools to segment your email list well in order to maximize your campaign’s impact.
Segmentation is essential to WP email marketing
Segmentation is the process of dividing your email list into groups or segments. For email marketing, any information that is available in your ESP to group contacts together can be used for segmentation.
This information can be historic data about the preferences of your subscribers.
What products did they buy?
What’s their average basket value?
How much do they typically spend?
What time of day are they most likely to buy?
You can only create some of those segments through multi-layered selections though, so make sure you pick a tool that handles that kind of complexity well. Or even handles it for you.
For example, some ESPs offer “Send Time Optimization”. This sends your email campaign to each recipient at the time when they are most likely to open it, based on previous openings of emails sent by you, or by others. It might sound like overkill, but it actually has a huge impact on your open rates, and on your bottom line.
It’s usually a good idea to use on-site behavior to segment your audience. Some ESPs also include marketing automation features to send emails automatically.
For example, Happy Garden, a furniture e-shop started sending follow-up emails one month after each purchase. They send and customize these emails automatically, based on the products purchased. This simple email increased their revenue by 7%.
What to look for in email marketing software for WordPress:
- On-site integrations and the segmentation options they provide. How easy is it to access pageviews information? Products purchased information?
- Conditional statements to personalize the emails for each recipient without technical knowledge.
- Marketing automation features: can the platform send emails automatically based on given triggers? For example, X days after each purchase.
- Depending on the plugins you’re using (woocommerce, bigcommerce, etc.), also check whether the ESP offers an integration. Some ESPs will offer to synchronize with your e-shop data. Think of product information for example: category, photos, availability, etc.
- It can also be interesting to look for specific use-cases to ensure they’re easy to set up on the ESP you’re considering. Abandoned cart emails, welcome emails, or drip email sequences are all things you’re likely to implement at some point.
An ESP that works well with your WordPress list building tools
Many ESPs offer subscription forms. Be sure to check whether your ESP’s integration with WordPress allows you to integrate subscription forms easily. Is there any code involved? Can you customize the look and feel of your forms? Are you able to insert floating bars and the like through the ESP’s plugin?
You might already be using lead generation software like OptinMonster or HelloBar to grow your list. If you don’t already have a tool for capturing new subscribers, it could be good to sign up for one. Then you can find an email tool that has good integrations with the WordPress plugin you’re using for your list-building.
The main reason why close integration between list growth tools and email marketing software is so important is two-fold:
Ensure data-integrity: it is essential for your data to be accurate and consistent. Think of email addresses for example: how are they validated? Are you positive that every email address you collect is a real email address?
If you have several email addresses for the same person, do you just send out emails to every address you have? Do your subscribers have the option to choose what email address to receive different types of emails on?
These considerations are essential to proper segmentation and deliverability. They can become a nightmare very fast though. Picking an ESP that integrates closely with your list-building tools is a good way to ensure data-integrity.
- Avoid data-duplication: Avoid moving around data as much as possible. The “moving around” part is usually where things go wrong. When duplicating data, you will end up with different data-sets. A close integration with your list-building plugins ensures some deduplication logic is in place. That way, you don’t have to deal with deduplication yourself.
Data, Privacy, GDPR and multi-list subscriptions
Data-privacy and data-protection are serious issues that should be dealt with properly. It is not okay to overlook these issues. When picking an ESP, you should make sure you sign up with a provider that has built-in functionality for GDPR.
GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) is the latest EU regulation on data-privacy. Any company working with customers, visitors, or subscribers located in the EU can be liable if breaching that regulation.
GDPR requires you to inform users very clearly about what exactly they’re opting into when subscribing. Many marketers now break down subscription options to avoid the “all-or-nothing” approach.
Example of distributed subscription of your WordPress lists:
Do you wish to subscribe to our newsletter?
Do you wish to receive information about product updates, etc.?
Do you wish to be notified of new resources when we publish them such as eBooks, infographics, etc.?
Multi-list subscriptions allow you to use simple opt-in checkboxes for each of these options. This allows users to properly opt into all of the lists that sound interesting without typing out their email for each form. This is becoming a best practice, and it’s a good idea to make sure your email marketing provider offers that option.
Double opt-in (asking for subscribers to confirm their subscription by email) is not a GDPR requirement. It is however generally a good idea to have this type of system so you can prove that your subscribers opted in.
In any case check if your ESP is GDPR compliant.
Landing page builder
It is very helpful if your ESP offers a drag & drop landing page builder. While your core pages and content can run on WordPress, in some cases, you might need to build a quick data-capture landing page:
- You want to get your subscribers to opt-in to a specific marketing operation you’re running (BlackFriday discounts, etc.).
- You want to grant specific access to some content or features (ex: download an eBook)
- You want to run a referral program
Essentially, anytime you want to try a specific marketing tactic, it saves you a lot of time to build a landing page connected to your ESP. It’s also very practical to use a drag and drop builder when you’re building a page outside of your brand identity for specific operations or events.
Transactional and marketing email in one WordPress email marketing platform
Transactional and marketing email might be very different to you, but to your subscribers, they’re just emails from you. For that reason, it’s important to ensure consistency across these two types of emails.
It is good to pick an email provider that offers both options from the same platform. This removes the headache of having to (de)duplicate your contacts over two different databases. Additionally, it helps keep consistent brand image and customer data.
Depending on the setup, marketers with little to no technical knowledge should be able to design and edit all emails rather easily. That’s where an intuitive email drag & drop editor tool comes in handy.
Above all else, the email provider you choose for your WordPress site should allow you to have complete flexibility. Having a solid WordPress integration and key features will definitely help. But your email strategy will likely evolve dramatically, and often, which makes flexibility the key feature to look for.
Most email service providers offer integrations for WordPress. But be sure to check how far the integration really goes, and whether you can use the same provider for both transactional and marketing emails. This will make your life (and those of your team) much easier in the long run as you scale and grow your business.