This review originally was published on April 14, 2022, with the email subject line CT No. 118: Robot Basquiat + the best email service providers, alongside a few notes about AI image-creation tool DALL-E 2.

Email is still the most effective content distribution channel to reach most people regularly and consentfully with the most immediate return on investment. It's the only digital communication technology that is consistently growing worldwide. And EmailOctopus is the most effective email service provider to quickly launch an email newsletter alongside a standalone website (i.e., a portfolio or existing Wordpress/other CMS site).

Unlike more marketing-first ESPs, EmailOctopus is a straightforward tool to build lists and launch email campaigns. It's lighter, cheaper, easier for n00bs to navigate and less pushy than Mailchimp. It includes many of the same features as ConvertKit, but with EmailOctopus, you own your mailing list when you decide to leave the service.

Before I get into the full review below, a word of caution: if you are relatively happy with your current email service provider, do not switch!

Switching email providers is time-consuming and impacts whether your messages get delivered. This means that if you switch ESPs, you'll likely experience a decline in open rates, and your messages won't reach your audience. Most businesses, content or otherwise, shouldn't migrate to a new ESP more than once every five years. Yes, five years.

Spend your time carefully choosing an ESP, friends, and if you don't know how to properly warm your IP, well, do some googling and maybe hire a professional before switching.

EmailOctopus at a glance

Visual review of EmailOctopus ESP: This tool improves efficiency, integrates with a variety of common tools, starting at the cost of a lunch salad to start. It's finely tuned, good for single users or teams, and relatively intuitive.

Compared to other similarly featured ESPs, EmailOctopus provides most basic email marketing and newslettering services at a lower cost. EO users can access these standard features:

  • Merge tags for light personalization
  • Multiple lists
  • Forms
  • Pop-ups, embeds and landing pages
  • Custom templates
  • Tagging via segmentation
  • Limited automated sequences based on timing and certain actions
  • Low-code to no-code
  • Custom database fields
  • Basic reporting and analytics, including bounce and complaint tracking
  • API

EmailOctopus charges based on the number of users in your list,* encouraging list managers to keep their lists clean and active. It's less cluttered than some more popular ESPs, but maintains an ease-of-use that will appeal to the DIY and novice newsletter crowd. If you don't want an ESP tied to a specific web or app content management system, Email Octopus will likely meet your needs.

Here's the thing about the marketing automation features that Email Octopus lacks: If you have good content, most of them are not necessary. I'm anti-segmentation for lists under 10,000; it's high-effort, low-reward. Even with a larger list, segmentation should be used sparingly. Instead, focus on the what the newsletter says, the subject line, the preview text, the value proposition, y'know: the content.

Operating a paid newsletter with Email Octopus is not ideal, but it's possible for no-code connoisseurs familiar with Zapier and Stripe.

If you're seeking a fully featured ESP with marketing automation like scheduling and A/B testing, Email Octopus is probably not for you. Automated sequences are functional but limited, based on timing instead if-then sequencing. Pop-ups, embeds and landing pages offer limited aesthetic customization if you're no-code. I'd recommend that users have some experience with managing email before choosing EmailOctopus, but if you've sent an email via an ESP before, you'll probably get the hang of EO quickly.

If you're seeking a low-cost independent email provider, you want to own your list, you and you have an existing website with WordPress or another agnostic CMS, EmailOctopus may be your ticket to email newsletter success.

*Technically, you'll be charged if you send more than 10 emails to each person on your list each month, which, if you can do that without spam, I'd be super impressed.

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