ConvertKit Review & Tutorial: Simple Email Marketing For Content Creators

Email Marketing Platform For Content Creators

Your email list is the life-blood of your blog.

And as the saying goes, the money is in the list.

But in order to build a wildly profitable email list, you need an email marketing platform that makes your life easy.

You’ve got better things to do than spend 30 minutes trying to change a basic setting, or building an entire automation sequence just to setup a content upgrade for your next blog post.

When you finally get that email provider that fits – you’ll end up with more time to spend on what matters – growing your business.

In this post, I’ll share my thoughts on ConvertKit as I build out a new email sign up system for Blogging Wizard. This post is part tutorial, and part review.

We’ll start off with the tutorial, and I’ll share my thoughts towards the end.

So, if you want to know exactly how to setup a basic email marketing system – you’ll find this helpful.

Let’s get started:

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Why ConvertKit?

I was a ConvertKit customer a few years ago. I ended up leaving because I wanted a tool with a visual automation builder, more advanced reporting, and a bunch of other features.

But as it turned out, some of those features, weren’t as important as I thought they were.

Initially, I was attracted to ConvertKit because of how easy they make it to deliver content upgrades, and their email deliverability.

Now, I find myself in a position where I’m considering migrating back to ConvertKit (as I write this my list is with Drip).

Since I last used the platform, the platform has gone through a lot of changes. Their app has been re-designed and new features have been added, such as the visual automation builder.

Let me be clear: Drip is a fantastic platform and has some impressive features. But it’s advanced automation is overkill for my needs, and their focus is on ecommerce – not content creators. So, I’d love something that fits my needs better.

So, I just signed up for ConvertKit’s 14-day free trial and I’ll be setting up a new email system for Blogging Wizard as I write this post. And sharing my thoughts on the platform as I go.

Onward!

Getting started with ConvertKit

First things first. If you want to follow along with this review, get yourself a 14-day free trial of ConvertKit. You won’t need to enter any billing info.

This review doubles as a tutorial, so you’ll be able to watch over my shoulder as I get Blogging Wizard’s account setup. I’ll be keeping it simple for the time being.

Now, ConvertKit does have a great onboarding process. Including complete checklist to follow but I have my own way of doing things, so I’m going to approach things in a slightly different way to ensure a smooth transition between my current provider and ConvertKit.

So, here’s a rough idea of the process I would follow:

  • Complete account information – There are some important info to enter here.
  • Add my first email sequence – I’ll be copying across my sequence from Drip. This could be as basic as a welcome email.
  • Create my first form – This will be the form for my main lead magnet offering.
  • Create my first visual automation – With the sequence and form completed, it will be easier to build my automation workflow.
  • Add billing info – If everything looks good, I’ll enter my billing info.
  • Migrate subscribers – I won’t cover this part below because it depends entirely on the platform you migrate from, but ConvertKit have a bunch of tutorials to help you. And offer migrations on certain plans.

Onward!

Getting your basic account settings sorted in ConvertKit

Okay, so our first step here is to get our basic account settings filled in.

Fortunately, there aren’t too many important settings to mess around with and that’s refreshing!

So, work your way through and get everything entered in.

Aside from things like inputting your billing info, the most important settings are on the “Email” tab within the account settings. You’ll access your account settings by clicking your website name in the top right corner.

The email settings tab will look like this:

01 Email Settings Tab

I’ve highlighted the most important things, let’s take a closer look:

  • From name & email – You’ll need to select the email address you want to send emails from, and confirm it. I’d recommend using a branded email address that you only use for your email newsletter. For the “from name,” I prefer to use the “name at brand” thing – if you have a personal blog, you’ll just want to use your full name.
  • Default time to send emails – You get the option to not send emails on certain days, and select the specific time when emails in your sequences will be sent. You can override these times in the settings for your sequence(s).
  • Address details – This is a legal requirement but don’t worry. You don’t have to use your personal address because there are other options. For example, you could rent a P.O. box, a co-working space, or use ConvertKit’s address. Check out this help page for more information.

On the top right you’ll be able to view your email templates and choose which one. This isn’t essential, but it’s worth looking at to make sure your emails look the way you want.

You’ll be able to set an account default for email templates, and override the default within sequences. Speaking of sequences, let’s take a look at those next.

There’s also an option to invite team members. You can choose to assign new users as either an admin, or an editor.

Setting up your first email sequence in ConvertKit

Now, we’ll head over to the sequences tab and create our first email sequence.

I already have an email sequence ready to go, so I’m going to move it across into ConvertKit.

One quick tip before we get started…

Before you start adding emails to your sequence, I recommend adding a basic email and changing it from “draft” to “published.”

This might sound strange, but when you do this for the first time, you’ll be prompted to submit some information to get your account approved.

The approval process is a security measure to safeguard delivery rates for everyone who uses the platform.

And while you’re waiting for the process to complete, you’ll be able to get your sequence in order. Rather than waiting around later.

So, when you change an email from “draft” to “published,” you’ll see a prompt like this:

02 Change Email Prompt

Once you submit this form, ConvertKit’s support team will reach out to complete the process. It’s straightforward and the time it takes can vary. It took me a day or two but it’s well worth it to keep delivery rates high.

Any email platform that doesn’t have this type of safeguard in place inevitably suffers from diminishing delivery rates over time and it’s why I initially moved away from MailChimp.

Getting your emails into ConvertKit

03 Getting Your Emails Into ConvertKit

Getting my emails into ConvertKit was a simple copy and paste for the most part.

That said, I did take the opportunity to tidy up my emails and improve them. And add a few new emails to the sequence, etc.

When adding links, I made sure to setup click triggers. So, when someone clicks on a link in one of my emails, it’ll add a tag to their email address. You can add new tags from the main dashboard, or as you add links within your emails. Easy!

04 Editing Links

One of the tags I added was to an email where I ask subscribers to fill in a survey. Later in my sequence, I send a reminder email about the survey.

What’s great about this is from within the email editor, I was able to add a filter to that email. I selected the tag I used to track visits to the survey and excluded everyone who clicked the link.

This means the email won’t be sent to anyone who has already filled in the survey. Awesome!

Getting your email sequence in order

The tab along the left hand side allows you to re-order your emails. Just click the email and drag it to where you need it to go.

You can then select when you want each email to send by selecting how many days after the previous email. If you select “0” your email will be sent out straight away.

Customizing settings for your sequence

While you do have default settings for your emails, you can override some settings for each sequence.

05 Customizing Settings For Your Sequence

So, you can choose which email address you want to send from, as well as when emails are sent.

If you want to switch email templates, add exclusion rules, or duplicate the sequence – you can do all of that from the settings page.

Monitor your results with sequence reporting

While your account dashboard will show you top level metrics, you can drill down into the specifics of how your sequence is performing.

Once inside your sequence, you’ll find the “reporting” button on the right hand side.

Here’s a look at how the report may look:

06 Report Example

(Those 2 subscribers are test accounts I used to make sure everything was working before switching over.)

You can also drill down into the data for each individual email in your sequence:

07 Data For Each Individual Email Sequence

Prepping your sequence to go live

You get the option to preview your emails within your browser, or by sending a test email. This is well worth doing to make sure everything works as expected.

You’ll then need to change your emails from “draft” to “published.”

Setting up forms and landing pages in ConvertKit

I tend to use external tools for adding opt-in forms and landing pages, rather than those built into an email provider.

That said, the forms and landing pages functionality in ConvertKit is great. They’ve got a bunch of form types, and plenty of landing page templates – all of which are easy to customise.

Now, it’s important to note that even if you want to use a tool like Thrive Leads for adding opt-in forms to your blog, you’ll still need to create a form in ConvertKit.

Here’s why:

When you connect a third party tool like Thrive Leads to ConvertKit, it will connect to a form.

This means you can create a form in ConvertKit that will actually deliver your lead magnet for you.

Creating your first form

Now, let’s create a basic form. I’ve clicked on the “new form” button and selected form (we’ll cover landing pages in a moment).

08 Creating A New Form 1

I’m going to select “in-line” since I don’t need a modal popover or a slide-in type form. And I’ve got some templates to choose from:

09 Creating A New Form 2

Let’s select one of these and open up the editor:

10 Creating A New Form 3

There’s a menu on the top and you can click on the form name on the left to rename it. And a vertical menu to the right hand side.

First, we need to customise our form fields, copy, and the button.

The editor is super simple to work with, so we just need to click on the element to change, and we’ll see the options to change on the right hand side.

If you need to add a custom field to your form, you can do so by clicking the + symbol.

Note: When adding a new form field, you can switch to a tag which allows you to display a drop down menu on your form. Whereby, subscribers will select the content they want to receive. In your account, they’ll be assigned a specific tag so you know which content to send to which subscribers.

Once you’ve customised the form elements, we’re going to click on the top part of the menu on the right.

11 Default Success Message

By default, your form will show a success message. But you can have it redirect someone to a different page. I send people to a thank you page that explains how to confirm their email address, and confirms what they’ll get when they do.

This is also worth doing if you want to set up goal tracking in Google Analytics.

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Next up, we have the settings for our incentive email:

12 Settings For Incentive Email

In most email providers this will be called a “confirmation email,” and you can typically only specify one confirmation email per account or email list.

That’s where ConvertKit changes the game. You can customise the confirmation on a form/landing page level.

So, if I want to offer a content upgrade or lead magnet, I can do so without starting an extra email list. And when someone downloads it, they confirm their subscription.

In the next menu we’re able to change form templates and add custom CSS – you may not need this at all but it’s great that it’s there.

Finally, we’ve got the advanced settings menu:

13 Advanced Settings Menu

The stand out feature here is that we can choose to display custom content to those who have already subscribed to our email list. And there’s reCAPTCHA integration to stop bots.

And when your form is ready, just click on the “Embed” button. You can choose to add the form to your website using Javascript, HTML, WordPress shortcode (you’ll need to install their plugin first), or Unbounce.

You also get a dedicated page with your form embedded on it – this is hosted automatically, in a similar way to landing pages.

Creating your first landing page

The landing page creation process is very similar to how you’d create a form, but let’s take a look at the parts that aren’t the same.

First up, you have access to a bunch of landing page templates:

14 Landing Page Templates

Now, it’s time to customise the landing page. This will work in a similar way to the form, but you have a few more customisation options.

So, you’d customise the page by clicking on specific elements on the page. You’ll then see the settings for those elements appear on the right hand side. And when highlighting text, you’ll get the option to add links and formatting (bold, italics, etc).

When it comes to the main settings on the right hand side, you’ll have a few extra options that forms don’t.

For example, on the styles page, you’ll be able to tweak some of the template-specific settings.

5 Styles Page Specific Settings

If you find yourself wondering how to change a background image, that’s where you’ll find it!

Finally, there’s an extra tab for SEO (title & meta description) and analytics integrations.

16 SEO And Analytics Integration

Clicking on each of the tools will reveal the settings you need to input. For example, for Google Analytics you’ll need your UA ID and for Facebook, you’ll need your tracking pixel ID.

Now, what about publishing your landing pages? Good news! ConvertKit will host them automatically and give you a URL to share. But, you can also host these pages on your website with their WordPress plugin.

Reporting for your forms and landing pages

In your “forms” dashboard, you’ll see top level reporting like this:

17 Forms Dashboard

Now, regardless of whether you’re looking at a form or landing page, you’ll get a similar report:

18 General Report

At the moment, I’m trying out external tools, and testing forms so the data is sparse/incomplete.

Regardless, you’ll get a good idea of how each individual form is performing.

Creating your first visual automation

Awesome! Now we’ve got our email sequence and forms(s) ready, it’s time to connect them together with our first visual automation.

There are a few ways to handle automation in ConvertKit. You can setup rules in an “if this happens, then that happens” type format, but let’s focus on the visual automation – they’re a lot easier to deal with.

A quick primer on how visual automations work

On a basic level, these visual automations allow you to create a journey for your subscribers to go through.

You can choose various ways of starting an automation, such as:

  • Someone joins a form
  • Someone is added to a tag
  • A custom field is changed
  • A purchase is made

Then, you can tailor that journey by adding:

  • Events – Jump the subscriber to another step (removing them from the previous step) when certain things happen, such as a tag is added, product is purchased, etc.
  • Actions – Here, you can add the subscriber to an email sequence, tags, or move the subscriber, for example.
  • Conditions – Think of these like decision branches. They’re a “fork in the road” type thing, where if a subscriber matches a specific set of conditions, they can move to the next step.

If this sounds like a lot to take in, don’t worry – you’ll have a basic automation already added to your account, and the option to import automation templates.

Your first visual automation

The automation that is typically included by default simply adds people to an email sequence, after they subscribe via a form, then adds a tag when they’ve completed the sequence.

For the purposes of this post, and we’ll go ahead and customise this automation to use the forms and sequence we just created. And customise the tag added upon completion.

You can tweak each element of the automation by hovering over each step and clicking the “edit step” button.

19 Click Edit Step Button

If you click directly onto a form or a sequence, you’ll be able to edit it in the visual automation window.Hurray! No more getting lost in settings pages!

You can add events, tags and conditions at any point by clicking on the “+” symbols.

Using automation templates

One of the great features within the automation builder is the ability to share and import automations.

So, if you find yourself thinking – “What sort of automations can I create?” No problem! ConvertKit have a help page that includes links to automations that can be imported directly into your account.

Putting your automation live

Is your visual automation ready to go? Great! Just hit the “paused” button on the top right and your automation will then be live.

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Sending and optimizing your first broadcast

Broadcasts are what you’ll use for some emails that aren’t part of a sequence.

Such as the latest issue of your newsletter, for example.

To get started, just head to the “broadcasts” page, and click the button to get started.

Before writing out your broadcast, you’ll get to choose which of your subscribers will receive your email, and which email address to send it from.

20 Who Will The Broadcast Be From

The segmenting functionality for broadcasts is great. By default your email will be sent to all subscribers, but you can click on the “All Subscribers” to change the filter and reveal a bunch more options:

21 Segment Functions

Now, it’s easy to miss another option here. If you select “subscribed to,” you’ll be able to send to those who are subscribed to specific forms, sequences, tags, and products.

Want to get more specific? You can add more filters, or even filter groups if you need to.

Next, we’ll add our content. On this page, you’ll see an email editor like the one used for sequences. So, you can preview emails as you write them, change email templates, etc.

But, there’s an added feature – A/B testing. So, you can test different emails/subject lines against each other to discover which performs best. Just hit the A/B button to use this feature:

22 A B Testing

Once your content is ready, you’ll head to the preview page. I’d recommend using the “preview as subscriber” option to test everything is working as it should – it’ll send you an email just like what a subscriber would receive.

You can then choose to save your broadcast as a draft, send it immediately or schedule it for a later date.

What about reporting? Once you send your first broadcast, you’ll see data on the main “broadcasts” page. And similar to how sequences work, clicking on the email will show a report so you can drill down to see how each email is performing.

What about importing your existing subscribers?

This is a straightforward process.

Just head to your “subscribers” page and you’ll see a button saying “Add Subscribers.”

When you click that button, you’ll see several options:

23 Import Subscribers

The easiest option is to import from your current provider. You can login via a few different platforms, and ConvertKit will pull out your subscribers and import them for you.

24 Import From Current Provider

I always go for the import from CSV option out of habit – this is the option you’ll want if you’re comfortable exporting your subscribers, you want to filter out inactives prior to migrating, or your email provider isn’t listed.

Either way, ConvertKit makes this simple. They also have a migration service but it isn’t something I’ve tried personally.

ConvertKit Review – What do I love the most?

There’s lots to love about ConvertKit, but what stands out the most? And why?

The best way to send incentives to build my list.

No other platform makes it so easy to send out incentives. We could also call them lead magnets, or content upgrades.

With most platforms, if you want to offer a second lead magnet, you’d need to create a second list, or do some sort of witchcraft with visual automation. But that’s too much hassle!

With ConvertKit, I can spin up a new form and offer up a new lead magnet in minutes. And people will get their freebie as they hit that confirmation button – the perfect workflow for list building!

The interface is seriously impressive.

I’ve used a fair few email marketing tools over the years but I’ve found ConvertKit’s interface the easiest to work with.

It’s simple and everything has its place. But, the way you can click on a sequence or form from within the visual automation builder and edit without leaving the page – that’s just so good!

Account approvals to safeguard delivery rates.

Some email providers just allow anyone to sign up and use their platform.

For example, MailChimp has a serious problem with people signing up and importing LinkedIn contacts (or bought lists), then immediately blasting emails out that nobody signed up for.

ConvertKit have an account approval process that stops this. The benefit? ConvertKit customers get better email deliverability.

Invite your team and reduce your workload.

Want to invite your team? No problem. You can choose to assign team members as an admin who will have access to everything, or an editor who has access to everything apart from account settings.

Everything you need to grow your email list – under one roof.

Dedicated opt-in form and landing page builders definitely offer a lot more functionality. But, ConvertKit gives you everything you need to hit the ground running.

You can accomplish a heck of a lot just with ConvertKit. Their templates are well designed, and look great.

Reporting is easier than ever before.

In some email tools I’ve had issues just seeing how many new subscribers I get each day.

The reporting functionality in ConvertKit is different.

On the main dashboard I can switch between net new subscribers, and total subscribers. I can add all sorts of filters, and see lifetime totals for important metrics like open rates, etc.

If I want to see subscriber counts for specific forms, sequences, or tags – that’s easy too.

And there’s granular reporting for specific forms, sequences, and broadcasts when I need it.

What about drawbacks?

ConvertKit isn’t one of those “try to please as many people as possible” type email marketing services.

They’re focused on bloggers and content creators. And as such, they’re not a good fit for everyone’s needs.

And if you’ve used other email marketing services in the past, there may be features you’d expect to be that aren’t.

Here are some examples:

Limited email template options.

If you want highly visual email templates, you won’t find them. You can add your own templates, but those available as “stock” are text based templates.

In some ways, that’s a benefit because those sorts of emails are more likely to escape Gmail’s promotions tab. But they’re not too great for branding.

Reporting data is limited.

Overall, ConvertKit’s reporting is fairly basic. It’s got the important stuff like opens, clicks, and unsubscribes – but, that’s about it!

Subscriber filtering options are limited.

If you want advanced filtering options – you won’t find them. But, in most cases, I’ve found I don’t need them. Only you can decide.

No spam testing.

One feature I’ve quite liked in other email providers is the ability to check how likely an email is to be marked as spam. This is important because a few wrong words can trigger spam filters.

That said, you can still send test emails to make sure you receive emails ok.

ConvertKit Review: My verdict

Based on my current needs, ConvertKit is perfect.

Sure, there are those “would be nice to have” things like more form and landing page templates. And that it can take a little while for account approval, but these are ultimately none-issues.

Account approvals for other platforms have a similar turnaround time, and other platforms don’t even have the template selection that ConvertKit has.

There are feature limitations that could be an issue for some – but only you can decide whether they’re “deal breakers” for you.

So, if you’re a content creator or blogger that wants a simple but effective email platform that’s built with your needs in mind – I highly recommend checking out ConvertKit.

The best part is that you can try ConvertKit free for 14 days without entering your card details. Take it for a spin and see what you think!

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