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ConvertKit vs AWeber – a detailed comparison & review

I’ve used and recommended AWeber for years. It’s been a solid platform, and it’s served me well.

But email marketing has moved on, and unfortunately AWeber hasn’t.

I want to do things now that AWeber simply can’t do, and this led me to look for an alternative email service.

One that offers state-of-the-art marketing automation functions, so I can really tailor my email campaigns to suit my readers’ interests and behaviours.

By doing this, I will serve my readers better by sending them emails that I know will interest them, and that will be relevant and helpful to them…

…instead of hitting them with things that only might interest them, which wastes their time and bores them. And ultimately makes them unsubscribe.

The improved relevance increases open rates, and subscriber retention rates — dramatically.

But most of all, addressing your subscribers’ individual interests and needs more precisely, means they read more, engage more, and ultimately buy more…

After looking at all of the email service providers in great detail (Infusionsoft, Drip, Active Campaign etc.), I eventually settled on ConvertKit as a likely candidate.

I’ve spent the last two months testing it, and most importantly, living with it day-to-day to see how it performs in a real-world situation.

I’m pleased to say it came out very well, and I’m now changing over to it.

It gives me all the advanced facilities I need, it’s easy to use, it’s well supported, and it costs only a little bit more than AWeber.

Why did I need to change from AWeber?

AWeber works very well if you just want to build email lists, setup autoresponder sequences, and send broadcasts. It’s cheap, pretty reliable, and straightforward to use.

But I want more…

It’s not 2010 any more.

I need to be able to tailor my email messages to my readers much more precisely. To be able to talk to them almost one-to-one, taking account of their interests and the actions they have taken.

Just like you would if you were talking to them face-to-face, and you knew their history.

That is the only way to do email marketing now.

The days of building an email list, and sending out scattergun email broadcasts in the hope that some of them find a target, are over.

People get too much email to read, and 90% of it is junk anyway, so to get your reader’s attention you have to speak to them personally. To address their particular needs and interests.

Imagine if you buy a product, and then a few days later you get an email from the seller saying ‘Hey, buy my product here’. Does that make you feel like a valued customer — when you’ve already bought the product?

Or worse still, you get an email offering the same product at a cheaper price than you just paid for it…

Would you ever buy from them again?

Or you join somebody’s list because you are interested in a particular topic, but as well as getting emails about that topic, you also get lots of emails about other topics that you aren’t interested in.

The end result may be that three quarters of the emails are irrelevant to you, so you end up unsubscribing, even though you are still interested.

You are still a potential customer, but you’ve gone, simply because the emails didn’t speak to you.

If people keep receiving emails from you that aren’t relevant to them, you’ll lose them.

They won’t read them, they won’t buy anything, and they will unsubscribe.

However, if you regularly send them emails that are exactly what they want, they will look forward to them, read them, and even buy more stuff!

Marketing automation with ConvertKit

With ConvertKit it’s very easy to setup simple marketing automations that trigger different emails based upon a subscribers interests and behaviours.

This is a game-changer if you’re still doing email marketing the old way.

For example, if somebody clicks on a link about SEO, they can be automatically tagged as ‘interested in SEO’, and I will send them further emails about SEO because I know they are interested in that.

At the same time, I probably won’t send them any emails about Affiliate Marketing, because I have no reason to think they will be interested in that.

However, once they have finished receiving the emails about SEO, I can then ask them what else they are interested in, and if they want, I can send them a sequence of emails about that new topic. Or not, as they choose.

And that all happens automatically.

It’s all setup in just a few minutes by using some simple automation rules in ConvertKit.

For another example, when somebody buys one of my books on Gumroad, they are automatically entered into a welcome sequence where over the next few days they will get a couple of emails talking about the book, and how to get the best out of it.

So my emails are directly relevant to what they are doing right now (reading the book).

I’m speaking to them about something that they are interested in at this moment, and building the relationship.

[I don’t have to do anything myself for this to happen — ConvertKit integrates with Gumroad and purchasers are automatically added to my list, tagged as buyers of the book, and added to the relevant autoresponder sequence.]

But, if I send an email promoting that book, it won’t be sent to them because they have already bought it.

So I don’t look an idiot, and they don’t get fed up.

And here’s a thorny problem I struggled with for years:

I have a number of autoresponder sequences, that typically send out a few emails over a week or so. I also send out a daily (sometimes!) email newsletter about whatever happens to be of interest that day.

If somebody is in the middle of a carefully-crafted autoresponder sequence, which is taking them through something in a particular order, I don’t want to suddenly burst in with something completely differerent, right in the middle of it.

I also don’t want them to get more than one email per day from me (although my Mum would love that, my readers generally don’t).

This is easily handled in ConvertKit — you can set it up so that only people who aren’t currently in an autoresponder sequence get the newsletter.

The marketing automation possibilities are endless with ConvertKit. It’s an email marketer’s dream.

What’s the difference between AWeber and ConvertKit?

There is a fundamental difference between ConvertKit and AWeber. It’s a whole different approach that changes everything.

AWeber is a list-centric system. People subscribe and join one or more mailing lists. All subsequent email actions are based upon their membership of the lists, not upon them as individual subscribers.

It’s not uncommon for subscribers to be on several of your lists — for example I have many subscribers who are on 6 or 7 of my lists in AWeber.

This can make it VERY confusing when you are sending different emails to different lists. Somebody on several lists might get several emails all at once, all on different subjects!

You also never know how many subscribers you actually have, as some of them will be counted (and charged for!) several times.

ConvertKit on the other hand is a subscriber-centric system.

It works on a system of tags, rather than lists.

Targeting by tagging

A tag can reflect an interest, or an action, or a behaviour. Or pretty much anything come to that…

The emails you send can be targeted and filtered by tags, so you can include and exclude people, based upon their tags.

So for an example, you could target:

People on your fishing list who like trout fishing, who have been to one of your fishing weekends and completed your fly fishing course but haven’t yet bought your book.

This allows you to frame your email precisely around exactly where the subscriber is in your funnel, so that you can weave a very compelling message that speaks directly to them.

Can you imagine how much more effective that makes your email marketing?

As opposed to just sending an email to everybody on your fishing list!

People can subscribe to your list, and be tagged (and un-tagged) with as many interests (or even disinterests) as you like, but they will always be just one person.

This makes it much easier to tailor your broadcast emails and funnels to suit them as individuals, rather than taking the scattergun approach and bombarding them with irrelevant stuff.

If you do that you will lose their attention. They won’t buy from you.

Basing the system around people rather than mailing lists is not just a systems architecture choice, it reflects a subscriber-first philosophy that is at the heart of ConvertKit.

What are the problems with AWeber?

1 – The main problem with AWeber is the lack of precision in targeting who you send your emails to.

You can send a broadcast email to a list, and you can include or exclude other lists, but that’s about all you can do. They do have a tagging feature in their new ‘Campaigns’ system, but this is in Beta only, and is not released yet.

[I tried using this once after AWeber sent me an email telling me how great it was. It didn’t work, everything went wrong. A lot of subscribers either didn’t get the emails they should, or received the wrong emails. AW support advised me not to use the Campaigns/Tagging feature, as it is only in Beta, and not recommended for live use. It’s been in Beta for over a year now…!]

2 – It’s very difficult to move subscribers from one list to another.

If somebody is on one list, say on one topic, and they become interested in something else and want to receive emails on that topic, you have to send them to another opt-in form where they have to sign up again manually. 

Unbelievable! You want to facilitate this and make it easy, not make them jump through more hoops.

In contrast, with ConvertKit all they have to do is to click on a link and they are automatically tagged with the new interest, or added to the new autoresponder. It’s as simple as that.

3 – AWeber counts (and charges for) every subscriber on every list.

So if somebody is on 6 of your lists, you will be charged for 6 subscribers!

And your subscriber headcount is inflated too — you don’t have anywhere near as many subscribers as you think you do. In fact it’s impossible to tell in AWeber how many people you DO have.

But it does make you feel good if you have loads of subscribers, so maybe that’s a benefit…

4 – Cleaning your list is a nightmare with AW

It’s important that you periodically clean your list up by removing inactive subscribers who never open or click on your emails (although because so many emails are now read on mobiles, open stats are not reported reliably on any email platform, but that’s a separate discussion).

Repeatedly sending emails to inactive subscribers harms your deliverability (the number of your emails that actually reach the recipient) because the email services such as Gmail will see that people aren’t opening your emails and likely conclude they are spam, and consign them to the junk folder.

So the recipient never sees them, let alone reads them.

Not only that, you are being charged for these people that never get your emails!

On the face of it, AWeber does have a way to find and remove people who haven’t opened or clicked your emails for some time, but this totally falls apart when people are on more than one list. It just doesn’t work.

[I emailed some of my apparently inactive AWeber subscribers last year with a view to removing them, and got howls of outrage from loyal readers who were false-flagged as inactive, when actually they read most of my emails. Never again.]

Because ConvertKit is subscriber-based rather than list based, it can easily find inactive subscribers and put them into a reactivate/delete sequence.

Apart from those issues, AWeber is actually pretty good. I still use it for some things, although that will probably stop when I get time to move everything over to ConvertKit.

If you just want to build a list, send out simple autoresponders and broadcasts, and don’t need any automation (i.e. email marketing 5 years ago) then AWeber is ideal.

In fact there’s nothing better that I’ve found, but you really should raise your email marketing game higher than that if you want to be successful in today’s market.

How does the pricing compare between AWeber and ConvertKit?

ConvertKit is actually quite a bit more expensive than AWeber.

Or is it…

At first sight, ConvertKit charges quite a bit more.

OK, you’re getting a LOT more facilities which should enable you to increase the ROI on your email marketing by far more than the difference in cost.

But, the difference in cost isn’t as much as you think…

AWeber charges for every subscriber on every list, so if you have multiple lists you are almost certainly paying for far more subscribers than you actually have.

ConvertKit only charges once for each subscriber.

AWeber also charges for people who have unsubscribed.

Ok, you could mitigate that cost by deleting all your unsubscribes, BUT that also deletes all their history too, so if they ever come back (and people do, quite often), you won’t be able to see what they have already had.

ConvertKit only charges for current subscribers — they don’t charge for unsubscribes, or ‘not yet confirmed’ subscribers.

So the bottom line is, ConvertKit will probably cost you a bit more than AWeber, but not as much more as the price list suggests.

The increase in profitability from your enhanced email marketing should more than cover it. MUCH more!

What is ConvertKit not so good at compared with AWeber?

There are a couple of things AWeber does that I miss with ConvertKit.

Email Scheduling

With AWeber you can schedule emails to go at a subscriber’s local time.

This is very useful if you have subscribers all over the world, and you want to optimise your sending so your emails arrive at the best time.

WIth ConvertKit you can schedule a time, but it’s the same time for everybody, irrespective of their location.

It may be the perfect time of day in New York but it could be 3AM in another part of the world. Even worse, you could get caught in the 9am email rush hour.

So for me this isn’t as good, but I talked to them about it and they’ve added a feature request, so it may come in a future version.

Segmenting by opens/unopens

You can’t segment emails by who opened (or didn’t open) an email like you can in AWeber, only by who clicked on something. You can resend to the people who didn’t open, and that’s very easy, but you can’t do any segmentation based on opens/unopens like you can with AWeber.

Again, this will hopefully come in the future. ConvertKit is evolving very quickly, and improvements are being incorporated every month.

Other differences and features

Unsubscribes

It’s worth pointing out the difference in the way AWeber and ConvertKit handle unsubscribes, as this can catch you out if you’re used to AWeber:

When somebody unsubscribes from AWeber, they are only unsubscribed from that list. They will still remain on any other lists they are subscribed to.

Good news for you, but it may annoy them if they continue to get emails from you when they think they have unsubscribed.

When somebody unsubscribes from ConvertKit on the other hand, they are unsubscribed from everything (there is only one list, remember?).

That sounds alarming at first (nobody wants to lose subscribers), but there is a way around it. In fact it’s better.

You can setup a custom unsubscribe link at the bottom of your emails which un-tags them so they no longer receive emails on that subject, but remain on your list.

And you still have the normal unsubscribe link which removes them from everything. It’s their choice.

So even the unsubscribes are tailored to the user’s preferences!

Multiple domains and businesses

If you have several distinct, unrelated businesses, you will probably need a separate ConvertKit account for each.

AWeber handles this very easily with it’s separate email lists, but ConvertKit is really only intended to be used for one business per account (you can read more about this here).

It’s not really a problem, you just have an account for each business. If they are unrelated, it keeps it all nice and tidy anyway.

But if you are running multiple businesses this is definitely something you need to look into and plan for.

(My recommendation would be to start with one business anyway, and learn the new system before you transition the others).

Opt-in forms & landing pages

Both systems allow you to create and customise opt-in forms. These are forms that you put on your website or blog, and they are where people actually signup to your list.

Personally I use specialist tools like Thrive Leads and SumoMe to create my opt-in forms, so these out-of-the-box forms aren’t of any interest to me. But both systems integrate with these tools, and many more.

However, if you don’t use specialist list building plugins like Thrive, and want a simple solution without spending any more money, ConvertKit forms are very good.

They are smart looking, easy to use, and have a fair degree of sophistication, such as ‘exit intent’ and so on.

They are not quite as powerful as Thrive, but they’re pretty good and they mean you don’t have to buy (or learn) anything else.

ConvertKit also allows you to build very smart (and responsive) landing pages without needing any additional tools such as LeadPages.

Again, personally I build my own landing pages using another plugin from Thrive — Thrive Landing Pages but this is more than most people need, and it’s another thing to buy.

ConvertKit Landing Pages are actually very good indeed, and will do everything most people want right out of the box.

You can do everything (email service/opt-in forms/landing pages) with just one product, instead of trying to make several different tools work together, and having to learn (and buy) several different products.

And if you do use ConvertKit opt-in forms on your website, you can stop them showing to people who have already signed up.

You can either just hide the form, or you can show them something else instead…

How cool is that!

Conditional text in emails

This is a killer feature in ConvertKit.

You can actually change the content within an email depending upon a subscriber’s tags.

So you could add a paragraph talking about a product if people haven’t bought it yet. Or show them a different paragraph if they have…

All in the same email!

What about support?

I’ve always found AWeber support to be very good.

Provided that is, you ask them fairly straightforward questions (that you could probably have looked up in the documentation yourself if you weren’t so lazy).

They are fast, courteous and helpful.

But if you go off-piste and ask them something difficult, in my experience it all changes.

I have had some of the most convoluted, confused, and slow conversations ever. And the answer usually turns out to be no. Once I’ve explained the question three more times…

Maybe it’s me. Perhaps I’m trying to do too much with something that’s not designed to do it, and the support caters for the 90% who just want to do the things it does do. In which case it’s me that’s out of step, not them, so no complaints.

ConvertKit support on the other hand is a whole different story.

It’s a sophisticated, clever product, and the support matches that.

No matter what I’ve asked them, they’ve been fast, friendly, known the answer, and solved the problem.

And I’ve never had to explain the question to them (my personal bugbear – when people don’t read the question properly).

But they go a bit beyond mere technical competence…

During one support conversation my girlfriend was taken ill. It was nothing to do with the support call, and in due course the problem was fixed, and so too was she. Thankfully.

Three days later, even though the support ticket was closed, ConvertKit support emailed me to ask how she was.

I’ve never had anything like that before. I didn’t know this person, the ticket was closed, but they still cared enough to follow up on something that was nothing to do with ConvertKit.

Most people don’t even follow up the open support tickets, never mind the closed ones!

So yes, ConvertKit support gets a big gold star from me.

Is there an active community for ConvertKit?

Yes, very much so. There is a thriving Facebook Group called The ConvertKit Family, where people ask questions and share hints and tips.

It’s a great place to bounce ideas around. You can learn a great deal from other users there, and often get some great ideas you can use in your own business.

Migrating from AWeber to ConvertKit

With there being such a huge difference in the way ConvertKit and AWeber work, you might expect the migration to be tricky when moving your existing subscribers and emails over from AWeber.

Happily, that was not my experience at all — it was very straightforward.

You just export your subscribers from AWeber in a CSV file, and then import that into ConvertKit.

Setup tags beforehand for each of your lists, and then when you import your lists (one at a time), your subscribers can be tagged automatically to indicate which list they were on in AWeber.

At the same time they can be added to any autoresponder sequences if you want.

If a subscriber is on more than one list in AWeber, they will not be imported several times — they will be imported once, and further imports will just update the tags without duplicating the subscriber.

There is no way to import the email messages from AWeber into ConvertKit, just good old copy and paste. This isn’t a big deal, and it’s a good opportunity to revisit the copy and revise it as necessary.

Especially in the light of the new facilities you have in ConvertKit!

If you want to replicate an AWeber sequence in CK, then create your sequence in ConvertKit, turn off your subscriptions in AWeber and send new subscribers to ConvertKit instead.

Let the AW subscribers complete the sequence there, and then import them, but don’t add them to your new ConvertKit sequence, or they will just get the same emails all over again!

[ConvertKit has no facility for recognising which email in a sequence a subscriber has reached, so it’s not practical to import subscribers who are in mid-sequence with AWeber. Let them finish the AWeber sequence first, and then import them.]

Summary: ConvertKit compared with AWeber

ConvertKit is an extremely powerful, but at the same time very easy to use, system that will take your email marketing to another level if you’ve been using AWeber.

You can use it simply to target your emails much more precisely, so they address your users’ individual interests, and take into account their previous actions and history, giving a level of ‘intelligence’ to your emails.

Or you can create sophisticated funnels that react to your users’ actions, and automatically send them along pre-determined paths depending upon what actions they take.

AWeber is still the best system if you just want to send out simple autoresponder and broadcast emails, and can cope with the issues caused by your subscribers potentially being duplicated across several lists.

Which is best for you depends upon your business, and what you want to achieve.

Email marketing is still one of the best ways to grow your business, but these days it requires a much more sophisticated approach which requires more sophisticated tools.

After carefully evaluating all the tools available, I finally chose ConvertKit for my business, and I’m very happy with the results. If you’d like to try it yourself take a look at their website.

They will also be happy to arrange a demo for you where one of their experts will walk you through the system, and show you how it will work for you. Could be half an hour very well spent.

I also have a private link that will give you a free month of ConvertKit — just contact me if you’d like me to send it to you.

If you have any questions, or would like to share your thoughts or experiences with AWeber or ConvertKit, please drop a comment below.