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Reviews and expert opinion Cakemail

Alexandros Melidoniotis Alexandros Melidoniotis Email Marketing Expert

Cakemail markets itself as an easy-to-use EMS designed to help small businesses grow. Different plans are available for email marketing and transactional emails (I used the basic Growth plan), but the platform feels a little incomplete. It’s beautiful to look at, but many must-have features are either missing altogether or have not (yet) been migrated over to the software’s new “next-gen” version.

Overview

Bake It Till You Make It

I spent a few weeks trying everything Cakemail had to offer – and while the new UI looks beautiful, it quickly became clear that lots has been dumbed down for the sake of simplicity.

As things stand, Cakemail feels like an EMS that’s still under construction. I didn’t like having to switch back to the software’s classic version every time I wanted to access basic features like A/B testing.

If you’re a small business that doesn’t want to spend much time on email marketing – so all you need to do is send the occasional newsletter – Cakemail offers a sleek UI that’s easy to use, with lots of modern templates, at a pretty low cost (one of the cheapest I’ve seen!). So it might suit you if you’re on a budget and that’s all you’re looking for.

But still, you can’t get away from the fact that if you take your email marketing seriously, Cakemail just doesn’t deliver on some very basic features. So, read on to learn more about my experience with Cakemail, what’s missing – and where other email marketing services (EMS) do better.

3.0

Features

It’s a Simple Set of Features, but I Wanted More

Cakemail primarily targets small businesses, so I wasn’t surprised to find it stuck to the basics. Unfortunately, that’s a bit of an understatement.

The design is beautiful, and the user interface is easy to navigate, but key features are either incomplete or missing altogether.

There’s a robust email editor that comes with hundreds of modern templates. Segmentation and personalization aren’t too bad, either… But I was disappointed with the lack of landing pages, advanced automation, and proper A/B testing.

Email Campaigns, Templates, and Personalization

Cakemail gives users plenty of options to design and send out emails. You can use one of the many templates as your starting point, or you can start from scratch. If designing your own template, Cakemail gives you three options: a blank canvas, an essentials-only template, or starting with your own HTML code.

I was pleasantly surprised by Cakemail’s email templates. There are more than 600 designs to choose from, all sorted by theme and type, not to mention the advanced filtering system. There’s great variety, and everything looks fresh and modern – perfect!

All Cakemail templates are mobile-responsive, too, and you can easily switch between desktop and mobile view with the click of a button.

Cakemail email templates
I was pleasantly surprised by Cakemail’s template quality and variety.

Once you’ve chosen a template, the system will redirect you to the platform’s drag-and-drop email editor.

You can drag and drop several content blocks directly onto your email’s main body, including images, buttons, videos, GIFs, and even raw HTML code. Although these are enough to get the job done, some elements, such as countdown timers, social share buttons, and signup forms, aren’t available.

Cakemail email editor
Cakemail’s editor gets the job done.

One thing to be aware of is that if you want to send emails in right-to-left (RTL) languages, such as Hebrew and Arabic, Cakemail’s content blocks won’t automatically adjust. In this case, you’re probably better off opting for an EMS that supports RTL languages, like GetResponse.

Powerful imagery has the power to carry meaning and convey emotion. And although Cakemail doesn’t have its own image stock library, it integrates with Unsplash, Pexels, and Pixabay, making it easy to replace template images with stock.

If you’re like me, and you want to make sure your email’s visuals are as unique as possible, you’ll also appreciate the built-in image editing tool. By selecting an image and clicking “apply effects & more,” you can play around with filters, size, dimensions, stickers, frames, and the like.

Cakemail image editing tool
Built-in image editing tools are always welcome – but this dog is perfect as is.

Like most email marketing platforms, Cakemail allows you to personalize your subject lines and main body text with personalized fields (aka merge tags), such as your contact’s name. To add one, simply select the merge tag option on the text edit menu or insert the field manually by enclosing it in brackets.

Cakemail in-text merge tags
When used correctly, personalization can make your emails so much more engaging.

When you’re ready to begin the sending process, all you have to do is click on the big “Continue” button on the top right side…and that’s when Cakemail starts to feel a little more limited.

As it stands, there’s no option to deliver your email by your contact’s time zone, and there’s no intelligent send-time optimization option either. This is a big drawback when you want to optimize your email marketing.

GetResponse’s perfect timing tool tracks when subscribers are more likely to interact with your emails, waiting a maximum of 23 hours before delivering them based on that data. It makes for a great alternative if flexibility is what you’re after.

There’s also no option to simultaneously share your message on other social platforms. And if you want to test several versions of your email against each other, Cakemail’s newer version doesn’t come with an A/B testing tool.

If you want to access A/B testing, you’ll have to use the older (aka Classic) version of Cakemail, available from the website’s sign-in tab.

Cakemail old editor A/B testing
This old editor is your only option for A/B testing.

Needless to say, this process is less than ideal. The older version is outdated and pretty slow, the email editors are different, and the two versions don’t even share the same templates.

Mailing Lists and Segmentation

Cakemail only supports CSV files and copy/pasting from a spreadsheet to import your contacts. And it doesn’t natively integrate with other platforms, making it difficult to migrate. This came as a surprise, seeing how even smaller EMS often integrate with Mailchimp and Google Contacts.

Cakemail importing options
Once again, Cakemail offers the bare minimum.

On a positive note, Cakemail does ask whether or not you have full permission every time you import/add new contacts, which is a good indicator that the service takes spam seriously.

Cakemail permission confirmation message
Always make sure you have full permission to send contacts emails before adding them to your lists.

Another positive is that Cakemail does allow you to segment your contacts, and you can get quite specific with them. I created one that included all the male subscribers who opened my latest newsletter but didn’t click.

Cakemail segmentation
Cakemail’s segmentation is good – although I wish they had added a few time-bound conditions.

The search function and contact filtering system aren’t great – you can only search contacts by email, and the filtering system is basic at best. You can filter by attributes like active, unsubscribed, or deleted, but you can’t search by custom attributes or advanced behavioral parameters (for example, opened a newsletter or clicked a link).

Some email marketing platforms will help you keep your contact lists nice and clean, performing automatic cleanups every now and then. Unfortunately, Cakemail isn’t one of those platforms.

And while Cakemail does automatically add contacts who unsubscribe to a suppression list, there’s no way to export this list – or any other list – with the new, “next-gen” version of the software. Once again, you’re forced to use the classic version of Cakemail to complete an otherwise straightforward task.

If you have many subscribers and list hygiene is a priority for you, you might want to consider ActiveCampaign for its easy list management and customization.

Landing Pages

I thought – and hoped – that the landing page feature had become a staple in the EMS industry. Turns out I was wrong, because Cakemail doesn’t do landing pages. At all.

Cakemail only offers simple opt-in forms that you can edit and link to in your newsletter – no images or any other form of graphic element allowed.

Cakemail form editor
This form editor is the closest you’ll get to a landing page builder on Cakemail.

Sure, you don’t need landing pages to run a successful email marketing campaign, but a well-designed landing page can draw attention to your brand, helping you gather more leads, grow your lists, and deliver more conversions.

All top competitors offer landing pages with their plans, making Cakemail look like the odd one out. Again, ActiveCampaign offers much more here, with unlimited landing pages and access to 50+ landing page templates on the Plus plan.

Automation

Unfortunately, Cakemail offers one of the weakest, most rudimentary automation tools I’ve ever come across. For starters, automations on Cakemail are permanently assigned to specific lists. Effectively, this means there’s no way to weave dynamic segments into your sequences.

But that’s not the only problem. Cakemail’s automation tool comes with only one pre-built template, one available trigger, one condition, and one action. It does one thing, and one thing only: initiate a sequence of emails when someone subscribes to a list.

Cakemail's automation tool
Cakemail’s automation tool leaves a lot to be desired.

Yep, you heard that right. In its current form, Cakemail’s automation feature is only designed to send new subscribers a series of follow-up emails. You can select how much time will pass between each send with the one available condition (delay), and that’s pretty much it.

What can I say? It looks like it’s in Cakemail’s nature to serve half-baked goods.

If you’re tired of waiting for Cakemail to come out of the oven, I recommend you take a look at ActiveCampaign’s powerful automation suite with its affordable Lite plan. The simple drag-and-drop automation builder can help you set up advanced automated workflows in a few clicks.

Integrating seamlessly with ecommerce apps, it goes beyond simple follow-up emails and engagement tracking, throwing automated text messages, Facebook Ads, and lead scoring into the mix.

Integrations

Well, this is awkward. Cakemail’s platform integrates with a total of zero apps. I don’t know if this was done to keep things simple or if the platform isn’t powerful enough to support third-party apps in the first place.

Why? Well, I encountered many bugs and errors while trying things out. A few hours into my first day of testing, the whole platform went down for a good eight hours – more on that later.

The platform is currently running a beta version of an integration with Zapier, but you’ll need to email if you want to be part of the testing phase.

Needless to say, if you run an e-commerce store or are looking for ways to introduce and sync data to Cakemail, you’re – once again – out of luck.

3.8

Deliverability

Your Emails Might Reach Your Subscribers’ Inboxes

The “deliverability tests” you see on most websites aren’t too reliable. Honestly, there are just too many variables to consider for any single figure to be meaningful

If you want to learn more about how we evaluate deliverability here at Website Planet, make sure to check out this in-depth guide on the topic. But in short, instead of relying on arbitrary percentages to measure deliverability, we prefer to focus on specific features/tools known to improve the odds.

So, the first thing I did was check whether Cakemail offered DKIM authentication. This is a simple protocol that tells email service providers (such as Gmail and Yahoo) that you really are who you claim to be.

I didn’t find any clue pointing toward DKIM authentication on Cakemail’s “next-gen” version of the software, so I turned to the classic suite. Thankfully, DKIM was available through the older platform, and it took me only a few minutes to set it up.

Unfortunately, Cakemail doesn’t provide users with an easy, step-by-step setup guide. The only relevant article I could find on their blog outlined the importance of DKIM, prompting users to contact their deliverability department at the end.

Next, I tried to learn more about Cakemail’s anti-spam policy. How does a strict anti-spam policy affect deliverability, you ask? Well, because users share domains to send emails through the service, only a few spammers are enough to ruin everyone’s deliverability rates.

Cakemail’s anti-spam policy is clearly defined on the platform’s official Terms of Use. You shouldn’t have any issues as long as you adhere to the rules and avoid spammy practices. And if you violate the ToS, Cakemail reserves the right to terminate your account without notice.

Now, services that take their policies seriously often introduce safeguards to ensure spam doesn’t find its way out of the platform. I imported a CSV file filled with known spam contacts to see what Cakemail would do. I waited a few hours and then waited some more – nothing. I imported 190+ spam contacts, and Cakemail didn’t bat an eye.

Next, I looked at Cakemail’s affiliate marketing policy – since a lenient policy can sometimes allow wiggle room for more spammy practices. Affiliate marketing isn’t allowed on Cakemail. However, you can still include affiliate marketing links in your newsletters, provided they add value and are relevant to your service/product.

By far the best way to keep your deliverability rate as high as possible is to get yourself a dedicated (or private) IP address. Cakemail offers a dedicated IP with its Premium plan, starting at $230.00/month and 100,000 contacts.

That’s not a terrible price. However, if you’re sending emails to that many subscribers, Cakemail’s probably not the right choice for you.

4.4

Analytics & Reporting

Decent Stats and a Beautiful Interface

A robust analytics suite is one of the most powerful tools an EMS can offer – and Cakemail does a decent job presenting the data on your campaigns’ performance. Plus the new user interface looks great.

Cakemail analytics and reports
Cakemail’s analytics suite looks great.

To see your stats, navigate to the Campaigns tab, click on any sent campaign, and a detailed stats page will pop up. The first box contains detailed information about your open and click rates. There’s also more information about soft and hard bounces, click performance by URL, unsubscribe rates, and delivery rates.

If you click on “people opened” or “people clicked,” Cakemail will bring up a window with more user interaction data (such as browser, device, operating system).

I’d have appreciated some more information about my contacts’ location and email service provider, but overall, that’s pretty good.

3.5

Support

Their Support Team Wasn’t as Quick or Informative as I’d Like

No matter how simple or user-friendly the platform you’re using, it’s always good to know help’s available. Cakemail offers support through chat, phone, and email. Its knowledge base isn’t as extensive as it could be, but it’s useful enough if you’re looking for a quick answer to a simple query.

In short, Cakemail’s support is okay, but it could be a lot better.

Chat

Cakemail claims to offer chat support through its website Monday through Friday, 9am to 5pm EST. I couldn’t find the live chat window, so I submitted a ticket about it. Cakemail got back to me some 30 hours later.

It turns out live chat isn’t yet available, but the representative assured me it was a feature they were planning to incorporate into the platform soon.

Cakemail chat support 2
Cakemail replied more than 30 hours after I submitted my first ticket.

I also asked whether Cakemail supports RTL languages, and Fabricio here told me he’d check with his team and get back to me soon. Almost a week later, I still hadn’t heard back from him.

On the third day of testing, I found myself stuck at the login page, with no way to access my account. At first, I thought the problem was with me, but several login attempts later (the forgotten password link wasn’t working either), I figured there was something wrong with the server.

So, I submitted another ticket. This time, Fabricio got back to me in just a few minutes.

Cakemail chat support 2
Fabricio was a lot quicker this time around.

Leaving aside the fact that the entire server was apparently down for 8 hours in total (!!), the third ticket I submitted about Cakemail’s affiliate marketing policy was misinterpreted. I wanted information about Cakemail’s policies regarding affiliate marketing, but instead, I received an answer outlying the platform’s own referral program.

Cakemail’s representatives were eager to help, but their answers were always a bit too vague and generic – which is a shame.

Phone

I don’t particularly love calling companies, but I appreciate it when the option’s there. In this case, I didn’t have the chance to test Cakemail’s phone support – it’s only available with the Premium plan, which starts at $230.00/month.

Email

Although Cakemail lists a few contact email addresses, none of them are meant to be used by existing customers. They’re reserved for sales and pricing queries, as well as questions about the platform’s affiliate marketing program.

Overall, Cakemail’s support wasn’t great. The ticket system is a relic of the past, and getting the help you need takes ages – if you’re lucky enough to receive a reply. Phone support – useful as it may be – comes at a hefty price.

4.0

Pricing

Cheap Plans – Just Know What You’re Paying For

Cakemails offers three plans, plus two additional plans for users who want to send transactional emails. And Cakemail is seriously cheap – at least on the starter plan. Of course, you don’t get a ton of features for the price, but if you just want an easy-to-use newsletter builder on a budget, that’s what you’ll get with Cakemail.

The free plan includes 2,000 contacts, 12,000 monthly emails, and most of the platform’s tools and features. You’re limited to one list, but you can use Cakemail’s API, email marketing campaigns, email editor, contact management, analytics, and forms.

The Growth plan starts at $8.00/month for 500 contacts, removes Cakemail’s logo, extends your list limit to three, and grants access to all 600+ email templates. This is one of the cheapest starting prices I’ve seen around. So, as I said, if you’re sure you don’t need any substantial email marketing features, this might be a good fit for you.

The Premium plan starts at $230.00/month for 100,000 contacts. Yep – that big of a jump from the Growth plan. It throws phone support and private IPs into the mix, but I can’t really recommend Cakemail at this price. If you’re willing to spend the money, you can get considerably more by looking at an alternative EMS.

The Growth transactional email plan starts at $8.00/month for 25,000 emails, and the High Volume transactional plan starts at $230.00/month for 1,000,000+ emails.

It’s also worth noting that all Cakemail pricing options come with unlimited user access, which is something you don’t see too often.

Plans are billed monthly, so there are no annual discounts. And keep in mind that Cakemail will only issue full refunds if you cancel your subscription within 48 hours of your purchase. As always, make sure you take full advantage of the free plan before switching to a paid one.

For basic email marketing functionality, the Growth plan is pretty good value. But if you need more than this, spend your money elsewhere instead of on the Premium plan.

Comparison

How does Cakemail match up to the competition?

ActiveCampaignCompare4.8Compare
SendinblueCompare4.7Compare
CakemailCompare4.1Compare
Squarespace Email CampaignsCompare3.0Compare

Cakemail REVIEW: BOTTOM LINE

Cakemail is an affordable EMS platform designed to help small businesses grow. But in an attempt to make things easier for beginners, Cakemail has dumbed down many of its features.

I have to admit that Cakemail is easy to use, shipping with a pretty UI. And it’s cheap at the price. If your goal is to design a couple of emails and automate a few campaigns, Cakemail makes this easy to do.

But if you need any more than that, it’s just not going to work for you. Some tools (such as A/B testing) are only available through the old version of the software, others (like the automation suite) feel incomplete, and a few (including landing pages) are missing altogether.

If all of these are dealbreaker features – and if you’re wanting to grow your business through email marketing, there’s no question they should be – I’d recommend ActiveCampaign instead, which offers all of the above on its Plus plan.

Overall, when comparing Cakemail to its competitors, I feel like I was served an underbaked chocolate chip cookie that looked delicious but tasted incredibly bland. Half the ingredients were missing, and my chocolate chips turned out to be raisins.

FAQ

What Is Cakemail?Cakemail is an EMS designed for simplicity and ease of use, founded by Steve Smith in 2007. The new “next-gen” version of the software features a beautiful user interface, 600+ email templates, contact management, analytics, and unlimited users on all plans.How Do I Use Cakemail Newsletters?All you have to do is sign up for a free Cakemail account. Navigate to “Campaigns” on the main menu and click on the big green + button. Select your starting point, and take advantage of Cakemail’s easy-to-use drag-and-drop editor to create your email. To send your newsletter to your subscribers, you must first import a list through the “Contacts” tab.Is Cakemail Free?Yes, you can use most of Cakemail’s features without paying a dime. In fact, Cakemail’s free plan is quite generous, capping you at 2,000 contacts and 12,000 monthly emails. Unlimited users can access your account, but keep in mind that you’ll only be able to manage one list.What Is the Best Free Email Marketing Service?There are many EMS out there with great free plans. Sendinblue is the first one that comes to mind. Its sending limit is set to 300 emails per day, but you can have an unlimited number of contacts in your lists. AWeber is another solid option, featuring plenty of advanced tools and excellent support on all plans. Check out our list of the best email marketing services in 2022 for the full lowdown.

Alexandros Melidoniotis Alexandros Melidoniotis
Alex is a linguistics nerd who’s got nothing against the Oxford comma. He spends most of his time writing, looking up words, and playing video games. He also enjoys testing software, often sharing his thoughts and ideas here on Website Planet.

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