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Joomla and AcyMailing Newsletter System versus Constant Contact
There are two reasons to consider using you own E Newsletter system instead of Constant Contact. The first reason is price. Non profits and other public service community organizations are often on a very limited budget. Yet their primary purpose may be getting important information emailed to their members every month. In the past, options for getting this information out were extremely limited. Either one simply sent out a pretty dull but free text email to everyone on the email list. Or your organization had to spend $50 or more per month on a professional E – Newsletter service like Constant Contact in order to send out a colorful “HTML” newsletter. $50 per month converts to $600 per year.
Thankfully there is now a third option. One of the primary benefits of using the Joomla Content Management System (CMS) to build your website is the abundance of Free open source “extensions” which can use the database associated with your Joomla website to achieve all kinds of purposes. In this article, we will explain how to add a free extension called “Acymailing” to your Joomla website in order to better organize your email lists and send out colorful HTML E- Newletters. (Note that AcyMailing also offers more elaborate versions for $50 to $150 – but this is a one time purchase price not a monthly charge. For most non-profits, the free version will do everything you need.
The second reason to go with the Joomla Acymailing system is control over issues like avoiding being blacklisted without warning. The following is a letter from a former Constant Contact customer who finally switched to AcyMailing:
I have been using Constant Contact for about 18 months while my newsletter has grown from 600 to 2400 subscribers. However, I am very frustrated with CC backend and reporting problems. Despite a 70% read rate, so many times people don't even get them--my newsletters go into their spam folders or worse entire @google.com or @hotmail.com emails are blocked altogeher. Not one of my readers has ever clicked 'this is spam', so I'm not taking the blame for it. My tipping point was yesterday when my newsletter was scheduled to go at 1pm, specifically to remind people about a big fundraiser that was happening at 6pm--with essential information on last minute auction bidding. Alas, it did not send, we called Constant Contact and they were having yet another problem that stuck my newsletter in neutral until 5:54pm, a little late with the end result being a noticeable shortage of online bids for our items. This is on top of a formatting issue with the previous issue of my newsletter that required me to send it a full day late. Enough venting. I'm ready to switch and the research I've done continually points me here. Do people have experience with this migration from CC? Are there features I've gotten used to with Constant Contact that I may not get here? I'm willing to be flexible and give up some features in the name of consistency, but I am very concerned about making sure my emails arrive without formatting problems and don't end up in spam! Any feedback welcome.
Here was the response from the developers of AcyMailing:
AcyMailing will be installed on your own Joomla website and will use your server.
E-mail services companies have to deal with millions of e-mails per day so they monitor their server to make sure they are not blacklisted... which unfortunately happens very often due to the amount of e-mails they send.
In your case, you will use your own server to send e-mails and will obviously send a small amount of e-mails compared to the Constant Contact servers so you won't be considered as a spammer.
Most of hosting companies apply some limitations on the send process. AcyMailing includes the ability to control the send rate of your E Newsletters to stay under these limitations. This also helps you avoid being blacklisted.
There are some drawbacks to using the Joomla AcyMailing System. First, you have to have a joomla website. This requires paying for a hosting company which could cost $50 or more per year. You also need to learn how to build a Joomla website. But this is not much harder that learning how to use WORD to write a document. You also need to download and install a couple of Joomla free Extensions described below. But the biggest drawback is that you will need to learn how to create your own AcyMailing templates and Newsletters. Again, this is not much harder that learning how to use WORD. Once you have these basic skills, you will have complete control over every aspect of your newsletter production and transmission.
There are a few things you will need to have before starting this process. The first is a better TEXT editor than the one that comes with the standard Joomla installation. In a prior article, we explained how to add and activate the JFCK editor. If you skipped that step, you should go back and get that done now. http://www.joomlafckeditor.com.
Also in a prior article, we explained how to add a file manager called Extplorer to your website (used mainly for making it much easier and faster to load multiple images to your website. If you skipped that step, you should go back and get that done now.
Finally, some web browsers are much easier for creating HTML newsletters than others. I highly recommend downloading the Mozilla Firefox web browser. Google Chrome is acceptable. But Internet Explorer will not work with some of the aspects of creating an AcyMailing Newsletter. But this, I mean that it will display the newsletter after it is created and to subscribers using Internet Explorer. But it won’t work with the JFCK Editor to create create AcyMailing Templates and Newsletters.
DOWNLOADING THE FREE ACYMAILING EXTENSION
To find the Acymailing Extension in the Joomla Extension Directory, go to:
Here you will see an entire list of features that come with this program. You can also view their website for more information. If you click on Documentation, you will be taken to over 100 pages of detailed explanations of how to use this extension and how to overcome common problems. Also on their website is a free forum where you can search through hundreds of posts on how to write an E Newsletter.
For now, begin by downloading the latest version of AcyMailing Starter by clicking on the Download button:
This takes you to the AcyMailing website, ww.acyba.com, where you will see 4 options to this program. The Free Starter addition will do for most small non-profits and community organizations with only a couple thousand subscribers on their email list. However, if you have a commercial website with a larger list then you may want to pay for one of the more detailed options. Keep in mind that the price is to buy this system, so even the most expensive option is much cheaper than a few monthly payments to a rental service like Constant Contact.
The Starter option is also a good way to try the AcyMailing System and see if it fits your needs. So click on the Green and Black Download button:
Enter your Name and Email Address. Not only will you get the Free program, but you will also receive a follow up email with additional instructions. This method is also teaching you how to use your Free E Newsletter Sign up method to expand your organizations email list.
This brings up the File Download Screen:
Click on SAVE to download this program to your computer. It is a big program so it might take a few minutes to download. When it is done downloading, save it in your Joomla folder in a folder for your Joomla Extensions.
The program comes as a ZIPPED file. Do NOT unzip the file. Instead, log in to your website Administrator back end and click on EXTENSIONS > INSTALL. To reach the Extension Manager:
Click on BROWSE and locate the AcyMailing file you just downloaded. Click on this ZIPPED file, then click on UPLOAD FILE. It will take a couple of minutes to load to your website. When it is done, the following screen will appear:
AcyMailing will now automatically install its module, some plugins and three “starter” templates which you can customize to create your own templates.
AcyMailing will also install one default Mailing List and subscribe all your Joomla users to it so that you can directly create your first Newsletter and send it.
To reach the AcyMailing Dashboard, click on COMPONENTS > ACYMAILING.
This brings up a screen which explains what each of the AcyMailing Menu Items do:
Click on the blue “Users” menu item:
Here you will see that AcyMailing copied your Joomla User list and turned it into an AcyMailing Newsletter Email list.
You can use the IMPORT button to bring in a whole list of names and email addresses using an Excel CSV file. Or you can add new names and email addresses one at a time using the NEW button. You can also delete Users using the DELETE button and edit user information using the EDIT button. Note that all of the names have been subscribed to the default Newsletter email list. You can have several different lists for different groups which we will get to next.
Click on LISTS:
Right now, we have only one list, the default NEWSLETTERS list. It only has 4 subscribers. To create a new list for your community newsletter (to which we will import our email list later) click on NEW:
Let’s call our newsletter list Community News by typing Community News for the List Name. You do not need to type anything in to the Alias box. But you should click on YES for ENABLED. Most of my email lists are organized by either subject or zip code. I have about 20 different lists with as many as 500 users per list. You can have as many lists as you want. But it is a good idea with large lists to break them down into smaller groups of only a few hundred and this will help later on with staying under the Sending Limits of your Hosting provider.
Click on SAVE to save your new list.
Before adding Users, it is a good idea to test your newsletter using some of your personal email addresses as a test list. So go ahead and make a test list and add just a couple of email addresses to it to confirm that the emails are being properly sent before you send your E Newsletter to a larger group. You can also just rename the default list as a Test list by clicking on it and changing its name.
To change who is on the Test list, go back to Users and Click on EDIT for each User to select which lists they should be on. Because different email services tend to display your E Newsletter in different ways (or even not at all). It is important to have test email addresses from several email services. If you have not already done so, get at least one free email address from both Yahoo and Gmail and add these Users to your TEST list. :
Click on SAVE.
Now that we have a TEST list of users, we next will make a custom template. We will then use the custom template to make a newsletter which we will then send to our test list. Finally, we will check out test list to verify that the newsletter displays properly and that all of the links work. After all this, we will be ready to send out our first real newsletter to a few of our closest friends for feedback. Once all the kinks are worked out, we will be ready to conquer the world.