Please don’t burn me at the stake for what I’m just about to say, but I really need to be honest with you.
I love the idea of open source and free software just as much as the next guy. And I particularly love WordPress. It’s a truly genius platform that allows anybody to build a quality site that’s accessible on all devices and optimized for the modern web in general. That being said, WordPress is not the perfect solution for all things.
One of WordPress’ main advantages is that there are more than 37,000 plugins available for the platform in the official directory, plus thousands more on the premium side of the market (in various places). This allows you to extend the functionality of your site nearly endlessly. And in its core, that’s a great thing! But it also gives you the wrong impression of what you should be doing with your site vs. what you are able to do.
Just to give you an example – which will also be a nice segway into the topic at hand – there’s a number of invoicing plugins available for WordPress. This means that if you have a website for your business, you can start sending your invoices straight from that site, as opposed to using a dedicated solution or working with an accounting firm.
So, yes, you can do this, but should you? Should you really compromise the finances of your business just for the little convenience of having the possibility to send an invoice from WordPress? Should you trust that this one developer who built the invoicing plugin really knows all the issues of web security related to invoices as well as all the required-by-law details?
In most cases, the answer is “no.”
And it’s also a “no” when it comes to running the whole of your email marketing from a WordPress site. Here are six specific reasons:
1. There’s no quality and free solution
The main reason why you’d want to handle email marketing in-house and not use an external ESP is to save money. If you already had funds to invest then you’d immediately go to one of the top companies in that space (like SendinBlue or MailChimp, or some other good ESP).
Therefore, what you’re probably looking for is a free alternative.
Unfortunately, there isn’t one.
Well, okay, there’s a number of free email marketing plugins for WordPress available, but the problem is that they either limit some of their functionality, or the functionality is sub-par in the first place.
So you have to make a decision, which kind of puts you between a hammer and a hard place. Are you willing to compromise the quality of your email marketing campaign and thus impact your possible results, or are you ready to pay premium rates to get a more functional email marketing plugin?
A much easier solution is to just sign up with an external ESP right from the get-go. They often have free plans too.
2. The freemium model problems
As I said in the previous section, there isn’t really any quality free plugin that wouldn’t be limited in some way. There is, however, quite a lot of what’s called freemium solutions.
Freemium is a fancy term used to describe a business model in which you get the main product for free, but then pay to unlock its premium features.
In theory, this is great. You can use the basic functionality for a while, and then as your needs grow along with your list, you can upgrade to the premium plan. But as it turns out, the problem is that those limitations tend to be quite serious.
For instance, with a standard ESP, you often get the whole of their functionality as part of the free plan, and the only thing that’s limited is the number of emails you’re allowed to send. With freemium plugins, you can also find that apart from the volume of your newsletters, there’s also limited access to things like analytics, stats and dashboards, subscriber info, bounce handling, there’s no DKIM signature, or even no support.
As brutal as it might sound, you’re often left to your own with those things.
3. You get to work with only one site
This is possibly the biggest problem with running your email marketing through WordPress. Quite obviously, limited by the technical aspect of the whole thing, you can only market a single site that way.
Granted, you are able to promote whatever you wish, but the actual emails are only sent from one domain – your website’s domain. Also, most email marketing plugins for WordPress only allow you to have a single list, so you can’t segment subscribers based on the brand/products that you want to market to them.
Depending on the scale of your operation this might be a huge obstacle.
4. You’re sending emails from a single server with a single IP
Email deliverability is a serious issue in the email marketing world. One of the unfortunate things that tend to happen is that over time, the server/IP that’s sending your email will see its reputation drop and thus its deliverability metrics go down as well.
This is generally due to spam reports issued by some of the recipients and other factors that just add up over time as you’re running your marketing campaigns.
Now, with an external ESP, this isn’t that much of a problem. Even if the servers/IPs encounter some issues, they are fixed right away by the ESP without you even knowing that something was not right.
If you’re handling your email through your own site, however, then those issues can bite you really quickly. If the worst case scenario happens and your emails stop getting to their destinations completely, the only thing you can do is change your server to a different one and with a different IP. This certainly isn’t a cost-free solution.
So at the end of the day, by handling email marketing through WordPress, you’re just endangering yourself and causing either unneeded expenses along the way, or a bunch of undelivered emails (which is even worse because it renders your email marketing efforts useless).
5. You can lose your list due to a technical issue
With external ESPs, one of the things you pay for is them taking care of your email list, keeping it safe and secured from any hacks or technical problems.
Also, even if anything happens, only the ESP is to blame, thus it’s them who have to take the responsibility for the issue and do whatever they can to fix it. In other words, the ball is entirely in their court.
With email marketing plugins for WordPress, however, it’s not always the case. First of all, you’re hosting the solution with your web host, which means that you can lose your list if your web host fails. This is something that can happen completely independently of your email marketing plugin and its quality.
Secondly, WordPress is a constantly improving platform that has updates released very frequently. And whenever an update goes public, plugin developers need to follow suit making sure that their creation is still 100 percent compatible with that new version. This can result in quite nasty bugs that prevent you from sending (or tracking, or creating, or whatever) your emails for a period of time until things get fixed.
Thirdly, whatever other WordPress plugin you’re using on your site is a possible security breach point for a hacker to steal your data. Here’s what this means; even if your email marketing plugin is secure and high-quality, a hacker can still use some other plugin that you have installed on your site – a less secure one – to break into your database.
6. It consumes additional server resources
Email marketing plugins for WordPress are not the smallest things out there (in terms of disk space and memory size required to run them). And this shouldn’t be surprising.
Think of it this way. Most plugins position themselves as an alternative to external ESPs. For that to be true, the whole functionality that a standard ESP usually offers needs to be somehow crammed into a WordPress plugin. Naturally, such a plugin is going to consume a lot of your server’s resources.
The consequence? Your site slowing down and being less accessible to visitors. Of course, this does depend greatly on the quality and the price of your hosting plan itself, but it can still be a serious issue for some webhost setups (particularly the basic/shared ones).
Moreover, email marketing plugins require the server to perform operations that it was most likely not optimized to do effectively. As obvious as it might sound, let’s keep in mind that standard web hosting setups are optimized to host websites, not necessarily to send thousands of emails every week.
The bottom line
As you can tell, I’m not particularly fond of using WordPress for email marketing. In my opinion, you are really way better off going to one of the specialized ESP firms and finding a solution that fits your needs hand-in-glove, even if you have to pay for it initially.
Actually, I would only advise going for an in-WordPress solution if you somehow haven’t been able to find an external ESP offer that really speaks to your needs.
But what do you think about this? Do you have any experience with email marketing plugins for WordPress?