Author: Marc Kline

Grow Your List With Hosted Web Forms

By Marc Kline

Hosted Web FormsOur posts about web forms are usually centered around publishing web forms to pages that already have other content (e.g. your homepage).

Today, let’s talk about a new feature that will let you to publish a form published to its own page, without you having to publish anything to your site.

The new Hosted Web Form option might help you grow your list faster. Here’s how…

First… What is a Hosted Web Form?

The hosted option for web forms provides a quick way of putting up a form with little overhead. Create your form, press save, and it’s published to a page accessible from our servers (on aweber.com).

It’s kind of like taking a Polaroid picture – push the button and you have what you need instantly.

Check out this video to see how it’s done:

Why Would You Use a Hosted Web Form?

I’m sure there are other uses, and we’d love to hear your plans and ideas for using this feature, but let’s jump right into three that come to my mind:

1. Email

You can use email to build your email list.

The best way to do it is by encouraging your subscribers to forward messages to their friends, with an easy way for their friends to sign up themselves.

With a Hosted Web Form, you can send subscribers directly to a form-only page, where there are no other distractions vying for their attention other than the opportunity to subscribe.


Feel free to click on this image to download it. Then, put it somewhere on your site to use in your own messages to help build your list.

2. Twitter

Twitter’s 140 character limitation is both a blessing and curse – it lets you share your thoughts and links with just a few brief sentences.

Meanwhile, email lets you stretch your legs a bit more, and this is a compelling reason to try to turn some of your Twitter followers into email subscribers.

You might even create a form designed to specifically target your Twitter followers. Because publishing a Hosted Web Form is so quick and easy, you can do this in just a few minutes.

Tip: run your form’s URL through a shortener, like bit.ly or idek to give yourself the most room in your tweets for a convincing reason for your followers to click your form’s link, and to track clicks to that link.

3. Wordpress.com Blog (And Anywhere Else You Can’t Post Form HTML)

You can’t publish HTML forms to a free hosted wordpress.com site. In the past, we have suggested publishing a form to a blank page on another site, linking to it from a button or link from the blog’s sidebar.

Now, you can simply link to your Hosted Web Form. Just add a text link or banner to your sidebar or inside any of your posts.

The same goes for any other service where you can publish a link but not form HTML.

Design Tips for Your Hosted Web Forms

Here’s a few things to consider when creating your hosted forms, so you can really take advantage of their strengths:

1. The Medium is the Message.

The medium is the message

It’s so easy to make a ton of forms tailored for each specific purpose, so take advantage of this fact. For example, if you’re tweeting your form, address your Twitter followers directly and tell them why they’d benefit from getting your newsletter too.

2. No Man is an Island, but Your Hosted Web Form kind of Is.

No man is an island, but your Hosted Web Form kind of is

Usually your form appears in pages with lots of other content. Here, your form stands alone, so a form with nothing but “Name” and “Email” fields probably won’t do the trick.

Part of the advantage here is that you don’t have to worry about how wide your form is and how it will fit in with the rest of your pages design. So, stretch your form a little wider than you’re used to and include some compelling copy.

3. Make Your Form Pretty, and Make It Your Own.

Make your form pretty, and make it your own

When forms appear within the beautiful layout your designer drafted up for you, it can and sometimes should be designed with pure simplicity in mind.

Since the background for your form here is pure simplicity itself (ie. whitespace), this may be a good opportunity for you to try out any of our 255+ professionally designed web form templates to make sure it has some visual appeal.

You may also want to customize the form with your logo, for all the benefits of brand consistency.

How Will You Use Them?

I’m psyched about the release of Hosted Web Forms for a bunch of reasons, but mainly because it is such a simple feature with broad implications. Our users can and will post forms in places they never have before and with no technical hub bub required.

How will you use this feature? We’d love to hear from you about this in the comments.

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Happy Holidays: Support Hours & Some Holiday Photos

By Marc Kline

As the holiday season arrives, our team looks forward to spending time with our friends and families.

As a result, we will be taking some time off for Christmas and New Year’s:

  • Thursday, December 24 – Closed
  • Friday, December 25 – Closed
  • Thursday, December 31 – Close at 6pm EST
  • Friday, January 1 – Closed

After Christmas, we’ll be back at 9AM EST on Saturday, December 26 to answer your questions by phone, email and livechat. After New Year’s, we’ll be back at 9AM EST on Saturday, January 2.

If you have any questions on those holidays, email us and we’ll get you an answer when we return.

You can also use the Knowledge Base to get answers to many common (and not-so-common) questions. In many cases, you’ll even find screenshots and step-by-step walkthroughs. You may find the answer you’re looking for there!

As always, we will be monitoring the system and the support inbox to address any critical issues.

Sharing a Little Holiday Spirit…

For some, the holidays are decidedly about gifts, eating, and relaxing. That’s just fine, and we hope everyone has an opportunity to enjoy a bit of each!

But as we celebrate, grateful for what we have, it’s hard not to acknowledge that there are families out there who will have a difficult time doing much of any of the above.

With this fact in mind, we held our first food drive this fall, donating about 250 pounds of food to Philabundance. As we were wrapping things up, someone quipped, “Can’t we just do this all the time?”. Instead, we rolled right into a holiday toy drive. Just last night, we dropped off “the goods” at the the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House.

Here are some photos from both drives, plus some random seasonal pictures from around the office.

We’d like to wish “Happy Holidays” to all of our customers and readers. We look forward to joining you, refreshed, for another year of successful email marketing!

Trigger a Lightbox Web Form With a Link or Button

By Marc Kline

A lightbox is one way you can grab your visitors’ attention – it appears above your webpage and shades everything else out.

We offer the lightbox as an option in our Web Form Generator. Once a page loads, the form installed on it appears above it. For some, this is great – a way to really catch the visitor off-guard with an offer to sign up for your email marketing campaign.

Well, one man’s treasure is another man’s “annoying pop-up”. Some just don’t like them and there’s no convincing. They don’t want something that appears unexpectedly.

Does this describe you? Then I wonder how you might feel about lightbox that appears only when a visitor does expect it – and asks for it.

An Alternative to the Automatic Pop-Up

When we recently re-did the Web Form Generator, the project’s lead developer, Dan, unsurfaced a neat option. By copying and pasting in some JavaScript above your form, you can set a button or link to trigger the loading of a lightbox, thereby preventing some of the possible pains of pop-ups while preserving a lot of the good stuff.

Check out the demo, then head over to the Knowledge Base to learn how to do this for your site.

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Improvements to Make Your Thank You Pages More Dynamic

By Marc Kline

There are a few reasons a website owner would want to have email subscriber form data (ie. what subscribers type into a form plus other info) passed to their thank you pages.

Examples:

Wanting to include some info about the subscriber, like their name and email, on the page they see after they submit the sign up form

Integration with a database for other, non-email related use (e.g. follow up by phone, any other CRM related tasks)

Integration with third party services (e.g. shopping carts, membership sites); note that many times this can also, or instead, be done with email parsers

If these possibilities sound interesting…

Good news! For a long time now, we’ve offered a feature that passes form data to the thank you page – the page subscribers see after successfully submitting a form – and turning on this feature is as easy as checking a box when creating your forms.

After that, get with your developer. Or, do it yourself, geeks! Either way, you just need a script written for your thank you page to do whatever it is you’d like to do with that form data.

Cool stuff, but what if you’re using confirmed opt-in?

Err, hmph, actually that could be a problem. For example, maybe you don’t want to do anything else with form submitters until they confirm and become active subscribers (ie. not dead weight).

In other words, in some cases it would be better if this form data was sent instead (or additionally) to the page subscribers see after they click on the confirmation link.

Ask, as some of you did, and ye shall receive. Well, not always, but you score this time…

Form data can now be passed to the “Confirmation Success” page, too!

Not only that, but if you or your developer have set things up for a thank you page, there’s not much new to learn. You just have to setup your script on your confirmation success page and check a different box:

Bonus Points – How to put subscriber names, emails, and whatever else you want on your thank you pages:

At the top of this article, I mentioned this type of thing. Here’s what it might look like:

Notice how it’s taking the info our subscriber, Clark Griswold, submitted from the query string? To do this, even the non-geek may not need to get in touch with his/her developer.

There’s just a block of code you need to copy and paste into the “head” section of your page. Then, you’ll put a smaller block of code wherever you insert form data.

Sound like too much to handle? It should be easy for your developer, then. Otherwise, here’s the code and instructions on how to do it.

Happy customizing!

Using Send Windows for Exceptional Targeting: A Restaurant Example

By Marc Kline


The Autoresponder Send Windows feature can help increase the relevance of your emails – that sometimes hidden factor that ultimately determines how well your email marketing campaigns perform.

However, you may be at a loss for just how you might employ send windows in your campaigns.

Fortunately, with some creative thinking, we think every email marketer can come up with a use that will make a significant difference in their results.

Let’s take a detailed look at an example of how send windows might be used to boost the effectiveness of an email marketing campaign.

How a Restaurant Might Use Send Windows

The owner of a restaurant wants to send a series of autoresponder messages to all new email subscribers to advertise regular events and promotions. They can use send windows to help ensure they reach the subscriber in their inbox when they are most relevant and likely to provoke a response.

Here is what this autoresponder sequence might look like:

Note: If you’re unfamiliar with Autoresponder Send Windows and how they work, you may want to learn a bit about them before reading further.

  1. Message 1 – Welcome Message

    Every autoresponder sequence should have a welcome message.

    In this case, our restaurant may want to provide some basic information about their restaurant (e.g. link to menu, directions) and set some expectations about what the subscriber will receive later.

    Note: This message has no send window, since it is always sent immediately after someone subscribes.

  2. Message 2 – Mornings, Monday through Friday: Buy a breakfast sandwich and receive a free coffee


    To promote a work week, on-the-go breakfast special, we probably want to catch our subscribers early in the day, the first time they check their email.

    By setting a send window covering Monday through Friday, from 6:00AM to 9:00PM, perhaps we can hit them when they could really use some breakfast and a coffee.

  3. Message 3 – Sunday through Thursday: Buy one dinner, get a second dinner at half the menu price


    Sunday and weekday dinners are often relatively slow at restaurants, so our restaurant provides a price incentive to help fill tables.

    By setting a send window covering Sunday through Thursday, from 6:00AM to 3:00PM, we can send messages advertising a discount that arrives in the inbox when subscribers are looking to solve their dinner plans for the week.

  4. Message 4 – Wednesday Dinners: Free dessert on a bill of $25 or more


    We send each subscriber a message giving them something for their sweet tooth to look forward to, with our send window for this message set to Wednesday, again from 6:00AM to 3:00PM.

  5. Message 5 – Thursday Lunches: 20% off entire lunch bill when business card presented with check


    Our restaurant has a large banquet room with a TV that has video inputs perfect for laptop slideshows. We send a message with a send window set for Thursday between 6:00AM and 12:00PM, to target subscribers when they might be thinking of planning their next lunch meeting.

See Them in Action

The calendar below shows an example of a subscriber who (conveniently) signs up on the first of the month for the campaign described above.

Toggle on and off send windows, hovering over the green highlighted calendar dates to observe how they affect this sequence of autoresponders.


(Click to see the calendar demonstration)

Notice that with send windows off, we don’t accomplish what we set out to do with our message campaign – target our subscribers when each message is most relevant to them.

Only with send windows on do we deliver these messages to all new subscribers when they are most likely to bring them into our restaurant as patrons.

Send Windows Aren’t For Restaurants Only!

Of course, the benefits of targeting subscribers during specific windows of time are not unique to restaurants, and we’ll highlight some other examples we’ve developed in future blog posts.

For the meantime, we might all benefit from some real examples from real businesses like yours. Have you setup your send windows, or do you have any ideas about how your industry might use them you’d like to share?

Web Form Tracking Enhancements

By Marc Kline

When creating an in-line (as opposed to a pop up type) opt-in form for your website, AWeber provides an option of two types of HTML available to publish to your site:

  • A JavaScript Snippet
  • A Raw HTML Version

Up until recently, the Raw HTML version did not provide the ability to track the performance of forms published to your site.

Then Dan, one of our developers who also spearheaded our recently released Setup Wizard project, helped cast another vote for the old cliche adage, “where there’s a will, there’s a way”.

What’s Changed?

Tracking for the following is now available for both versions of HTML provided by our web form tool:

  • Displays
  • Submissions
  • Submissions / Display Ratio

From now on, if you need the full HTML for a form so you can make advanced changes to its design, you won’t lose these useful stats.

Two Quick Notes

If you have forms created before the beginning of December, you will need to get their HTML again and re-publish to your site.

Also, unique displays are still available only if you use the JavaScript Snippet version).

More on the difference between the JavaScript Snippet and Raw HTML versions.

Setup Wizard Makes Email Marketing Easy

By Marc Kline

My introduction to email marketing came through working with AWeber users on our Customer Solutions team, so I know a lot about your concerns.

We all know it can be intimidating to start anything new, and many of our new users are just getting started with their first email marketing campaigns.

I can’t tell you how many times people have asked me, “Can I just have a walk-through of what I need to know?”.

Well, I’m as happy to say now as I was then: “Yes! I’d be happy to show you how to set up everything you need to know to start seeing results.”

Email Marketing Setup Just Got Easier

OK, so maybe I can’t speak with each and every user personally, but you might hear me in the videos in our new setup wizard.

Here’s a quick preview:

Setup Wizard

The wizard will quickly guide you through just the steps you need to take to start building a list of subscribers and have a welcome message ready to go out when they sign up.

When Can I Use the New Setup Wizard?

If you’re one of the limited number of users we’ve rolled this feature out to, you can see this now in your control panel as you work on your lists.

Don’t see it there yet? Check back soon. We’ll release it for all accounts in the very near future.

Free HTML Email Template: Malibu

By Marc Kline

One of our email designer virtuosos, Bob, put together a new template to help our customers get promotional emails out on the fly, in an effective way.

New to AWeber? Check it out, then click to download a ZIP file you can preview and pass to your web designer.

Already an AWeber customer? There