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ConvertKit does a lot right, but honestly, there are better options out there. The lack of templates hurts the experience a lot, as does the lack of anti-spam security measures. Plus while ConvertKit markets itself as being “for creators”, it doesn’t actually do anything differently.
It’s mostly functional, but not in any way outstanding.
What Is ConvertKit? Email Marketing for Online Creators – In Theory
ConvertKit is aimed squarely at online content creators and those who wish to sell digital products. The website is replete with photos of a modern, creative user base – presumably selling music, subscriptions to their community, and maybe even a t-shirt design or two.
The idea, of course, is that you could be one of them, and that ConvertKit is best suited to your needs as a creative.
This raises several questions: how is this service any better for online creators than the competition? What does it do differently? Do those differences actually make the experience better? And, of course, should you entrust your marketing needs to ConvertKit?
I dug around the site and its features, and my answer is… maybe? Read on and you’ll see what I mean.
Okay, I’m going to tell you upfront that ConvertKit’s feature set isn’t all that different from any other email marketing service. In fact, it doesn’t do anything differently for creatives in terms of email marketing – apart from seriously limiting your template options (more on that below).
That’s not to say you can’t run a successful marketing campaign on the platform. You can, and many people do. You can even sell your digital products or subscriptions directly via ConvertKit…as long as you’re in the right country.
But all in all, it’s just about “good enough”. Whether that’s good enough for you and your business depends on what your needs are. But here’s a rundown of what I found.
Email Campaigns, Templates, and Personalization
Running an email campaign with ConvertKit is pretty flexible. You don’t need to worry about sending too many emails, because there’s no limit on sends at all. You pay for a certain number of subscribers, and that’s it.
You can publish your newsletter (or ad campaign) just via email, but you can also add each email to your public feed. That feed can be embedded in your website, or in a landing page.
Publishing via SMS and social media, however, has to be accomplished through third-party integrations. Although these will almost definitely cost you extra, they are readily available.
But while publishing is a relative breeze, how will the actual emails look? That’s, uh… That’s a somewhat annoying thing about ConvertKit.
See, when you first go to create an email “Broadcast”, the only template option you’ll see is “text only”. That’s great for those of us with a certain laziness in our souls, but most people will want to have some sort of email design they can customize.
I had to dive into the knowledge base to find out what was up. Turns out you have to go into the menu at the upper-right, click “Email templates”, and make one of your own.
From there, you can create your very own fancy template. You can copy and paste your own into the code editor, or create one using a starter template – not that there’s tons to choose from. Yeah, there are only 8 starter templates. That’s just not enough.
I mean they look okay…but again, there’s only 8.
From here on out, it’s up to you to make the template your own. You just have to set up your own color and typeface choices in a simple template editor, then you can build actual emails with said template.
The font selection is really small, though, and don’t expect complex layout options.
When the time comes to edit your actual email, this is really straightforward. You get a simple one-column layout to which you can add images, text, buttons, dividers, countdown timers, and image galleries.
You can also add content snippets. These are bits of text and images that can be saved and reused with a click in any email you design, so you don’t have to constantly recreate certain repetitive parts of your emails.
Oh, and all email templates are mobile-friendly.
Another feature I like is that the email editor is integrated with Unsplash and Instagram. This makes it easy to grab free stock photos, or photos from your own Instagram account, and just slot them into your email.
Sadly, there’s no right-to-left language (RTL) support in the email editor. That means if you want to send emails in Hebrew or Arabic, you can’t. The agent I asked about this said that it’s a popularly requested feature, so the team is “considering” it, for what that’s worth. I’d just go with a service that already has this feature, if you need it.
Within the email editor, emails can be personalized. You can use variables to input each subscriber’s first name, a personalized greeting, and/or email address.
You can also show or hide content in an email based on tags associated with your subscribers. For example, if one subscriber is tagged “photo frames” based on a product they bought in the past, and another is tagged with “apple peeler”, you could show each of them different products to check out next.
Incidentally, you can tag subscribers who click specific links in your emails, which can help you determine what interests each subscriber.
Speaking of what interests your subscribers, that brings us to A/B testing. A/B testing is where you might send a bunch of people one version of your latest email campaign, and another version to the rest of your subscribers.
The data you get back can help you see what sort of advertising works best for your customers, for example whether they like bigger or smaller text. You can even test different colors on your “Buy Now” buttons.
Well, you can test those things using other services, anyway. ConvertKit only allows you to to run A/B tests on the subject lines of your emails, and not the content. That’s not great.
I sent out a test email campaign, and I have to say I was less than impressed. All in all, the user interface took a while to learn, despite the focus on simplicity, as some options seem almost hidden.
Worse, the email design features are, to be honest, quite lacking. Of course, that’s not necessarily a dealbreaker for everyone. You might think that fiddling around with an email’s design is just the worst. And, honestly, that’s fair enough. Email design can be a finicky business, even with sophisticated template creators.
But plenty of others will find ConvertKit’s design features really limited. The distinct lack of customization options in terms of aesthetics and branding is still going to hurt ConvertKit’s review score in this section.
Mailing Lists and Segmentation
Adding contacts to your list is, thankfully, a fair bit easier than figuring out the template situation. You can add subscribers one by one by typing in their details yourself, import contacts from a .csv file, or import contacts from other mailer services.
Unfortunately, you can’t import contacts from services like Google Contacts (at least not that I saw). Also, .csv is the only file format accepted for upload. I much prefer it when these services can import things like Excel files, at the very least. Excel is everywhere.
Also note that on every import, you’ll be required to map all included data fields, so ConvertKit can sort information like the subscriber’s name, email, and any tags you want to add.
Speaking of tags, that’s going to be your primary method of organizing your subscribers into lists. Other platforms often separate the list a subscriber is on from their tagging features. They might include other data options for easy sorting, like a subscriber’s location or the email campaigns they’ve received.
On ConvertKit it’s all “tags”. You might find that a blessing, or very annoying. It’ll depend on how you like to organize things.
Now, when tags aren’t enough, that’s where segmentation comes in. Segmentation allows you to create lists of contacts that meet certain conditions. For example, you might want a list of people who subscribed after a certain date, who live in France, and who are tagged with “baguettes.”
Whenever anyone new subscribes to your website, if they meet all of those conditions, they will be automatically added to that list, and you can create personalized email campaigns just for those people.
ConvertKit offers pretty decent segmentation. You can sort contacts by their subscription date (including people who subscribed before or after a certain date), their tags, where they’re located, and more.
You can even add filters for emails that contain specific text.
That’s all good, but when you pay by the number of subscribers, you want to make sure you only keep people who actually read and interact with your emails on your list. In the industry, we call keeping track of that “list hygiene”. And it’s as important as the name implies.
Unfortunately, on ConvertKit, list hygiene is locked behind a feature called Subscriber Scoring, which is only available on the (most expensive) Creator Pro plan. The subscriber score keeps track of how engaged specific users are by measuring how often they open your emails, click the links in them, etc.
You can then segment users by their subscriber/engagement score. You could use this to regularly remove subscribers with low scores, and save yourself (and them) some trouble.
Lastly, every email marketing service needs a way to keep email from going to users who don’t want it. Obviously, if a user clicks “Unsubscribe” on one of your emails, they’ll be unsubscribed from your list, and won’t get any more email from you unless they subscribe again.
On your end, though, you have more options. You can unsubscribe users yourself, or delete subscribers from your system entirely. In both cases the user can resubscribe. But you can also block users entirely, so even if they try to sign up again, they’ll never hear from you.
It’s the “nuke it from orbit, it’s the only way to be sure” option, and it can help you to achieve compliance with regulations in certain countries.
Landing Pages and Forms
ConvertKit’s forms are basically newsletter signup forms, and they can be embedded in any website you want. A simple, but useful feature.
The landing pages are a bit more interesting…but only a bit more interesting. There are 50+ templates to choose from (what a difference from the email creator!) and they mostly look okay. Good, even.
The thing is that they’re landing pages only, and they’re kept very simple.
There are no custom layout options, and content is basically restricted to what is “allowed” in the template. This is NO substitute for a site builder. Now, if all you need is a landing page builder, it doesn’t have to be – but many competitors, like Sendinblue, offer more options in their landing page builders.
With ConvertKit, you can basically replace images, change text, and that’s it.
On the upside, there are more image editing features than you’d expect from a service that mostly keeps things simple. You can crop images, add a filter, and change the color levels. You can draw shapes, arrows, and text on them, too.
Weirdly enough, though, you can’t resize your images. I found that a little inconvenient.
Lastly, landing pages integrate with custom domains. You can also integrate them with SEO and analytics platforms, such as Google Analytics and a few others. So, you know, you can see how many people go to the page vs. how many people sign up.
Automation is one of those features that can make or break an email marketing platform. If you had to send every email campaign to each person manually, that would get pretty darned tedious. With automation, you can set up a series of emails ahead of time, and watch them get sent out to new customers automatically.
For example, if someone signs up for a webinar, you could use automation to send reminder emails a month, a week, and a day before the event. Or, you could use automation to send reminders to people who added stuff to their cart on your online store, but then left before making a purchase.
ConvertKit has a decent automation interface that works a lot like mind-mapping software. It’s intuitive, and allows you to send different emails, apply tags to subscribers, and generally manage your whole campaign automatically, depending on how people do or don’t interact with your emails.
You can even use automation to send out emails based on the RSS feed from your own site. Plus there are several handy automation templates available to get you started, so you don’t have to learn everything from scratch.
First up: third-party integrations. ConvertKit integrations include Facebook, Gumroad, Patreon, Squarespace, Shopify, Stripe, WordPress, and more. You can also integrate ConvertKit with Zapier, which allows you to integrate your email service with hundreds of other online platforms.
There’s also a newsletter referral system, which allows you to give your subscribers “prizes” for signing up a given number of other people to your newsletter. These have to be confirmed subscribers, of course, and the prizes in question are yours to define and deliver.
Still, it’s a cool feature.
Lastly, you can set up ConvertKit to track purchases made on your online store (such as Shopify, for example), and add tags to those specific subscribers based on what they bought. This will let you get a better idea of what your customers like.
So here’s the thing about deliverability. We cannot, with any certainty, give you a number. Saying something like “X service has 78% deliverability” means absolutely nothing, because there are too many variables in play. You have to consider server location (both of the sender and recipient), infrastructure, the technology being used, and a couple thousand other things.
However, we can tell you whether a service has the basic features and policies required to make the email they send look trustworthy to email providers. (And we can give you some tips on how to boost your deliverability).
I’m talking about features like good old DKIM. This is basically a technology that uses encryption to tell email services, “Yes, the email you’re receiving really does come from this domain address.” Having DKIM enabled tells email providers that what you’ve sent probably hasn’t been spoofed or tampered with.
DKIM is available on ConvertKit, and the company has a handy guide to using it in the knowledge base.
Next, we need to know how ConvertKit handles spam. If a lot of spam is coming from the same server(s) that sends your emails, it’s likely that yours will get blocked along with the rest.
Well, ConvertKit’s basic policy is simple: if you get caught sending spammy emails to people who haven’t asked for them, you’ll be banned.
However, we like to run an extra test to see how email marketing services handle uploading lists of suspicious emails. Some of us testers use a pre-made list of gibberish emails, while I like to use a list of known spam addresses. We just upload the addresses (and don’t send any spam) to see if the system will catch this.
I’m sorry to say that ConvertKit completely failed this test. The spam email addresses were uploaded, processed, and put into my account without incident. This is…bad.
Then there’s affiliate marketing. Services that allow affiliate marketing can sometimes cause problems because some affiliate marketing schemes are sleazy and spammy as hell. And, again, if your emails are coming from the same server, your emails will look bad too.
So, it might be mildly alarming that ConvertKit allows affiliate marketing…unless you want to do some yourself. There are rules, though: you need to have your own business outside the affiliate marketing. And if all you ever send are affiliate marketing emails, your account will get into trouble.
Lastly, there’s the question of dedicated IP addresses. Having your own IP address can be ideal, because it means that your emails will stand on their own “reputation” with email providers. The other emails that ConvertKit sends won’t affect yours.
And ConvertKit does have dedicated IP addresses. They are available for people who send more than 50,000 messages, 3 times per week (150,000 messages per week total).
All in all, ConvertKit does have some useful deliverability-related features. But other people’s affiliate marketing programs could potentially hurt your email’s chances of getting through. And somewhat more alarming is the apparent lack of security checks on email addresses that are uploaded to the service.
Any action that might be taken against spammers would be taken after they’ve done some damage, to put it simply.
Okay, so the pricing page for ConvertKit says that the Creator Pro plan gets “Advanced reporting”, but that’s up for debate. The only reporting I’ve found doesn’t even get its own section of the site – it’s lumped in at the top of the Subscribers pages.
Now, you can track trends in user engagement, clicks, and overall email deliverability, as well as purchases (if you have that set up). That’s certainly not nothing. But, uh… I have to be honest. ConvertKit offers some of the simplest analytics I’ve ever seen.
It really doesn’t tell you a lot. You’d get more information out of a complex system of automations and tags, although that would require you to calculate your own statistics.
Sure, it’s great for your subscribers’ privacy, but ConvertKit doesn’t tell you enough to plan detailed, targeted campaigns. If you want the real deal, look no further than AWeber – you’ll get detailed reporting even on its free plan.
You have several options for support. First, there’s a pretty large knowledge base with all kinds of useful info. Then there’s the community forum where you can ask your fellow ConvertKit users for help.
For that personal touch, you can contact the support team via their live chat/email system run on Intercom. The “email support” promised on the pricing page is something I could never actually find on ConvertKit’s website or app.
Also, I had to go to the community forum to even see the live chat help window. It should be a bit more… everywhere.
Once I (at last) figured out how to talk to the support team, it wasn’t so bad. First, I asked about support for the aforementioned RTL languages in the email editor. This is where I found out for sure that they aren’t supported. I got my response in about half an hour.
On my second test, it only took the team about 15 minutes to confirm that yes, you can send as many emails as you want on the free plan.
Lastly, I asked about ConvertKit’s refund policy. I got a simple link to the right page about an hour after I asked. The short version: you can get a refund any time in the first 30 days after you pay for a plan.
See all of the responses I got below:
All in all, my experience was good, if a bit slow. Chances are good that the support team is pretty much constantly busy, as the community seems quite active. So, you know, I’m not blaming the support people.
But those delays are bad for anyone who needs support in an emergency, which is why ConvertKit can’t get full marks for this section.
I Can’t Argue with ConvertKit’s Pricing
So, first things first. ConvertKit’s free plan is fantastic for a newbie. The free trial is free forever. You can have up to 1,000 subscribers, send emails, sell digital products and subscriptions (if you’re in the US or another supported country), and set up unlimited landing pages and forms.
Getting into the paid plans, I’d first recommend you take a look at our detailed breakdown of ConvertKit’s pricing. For the abridged version, the lowest possible price is $15 USD per month for up to 300 subscribers ($9 per month if paid annually). For 1,000 subscribers, you’re looking at $29.00 per month.
Side note: for the same price and the same number of subscribers, you can get GetResponse’s Basic plan which solves some of the issues I’ve found with ConvertKit (think hundreds of email templates and extensive personalization tools).
Prices can go up to a couple thousand a month for up to 400,000 subscribers, and over that…you’ll need to work out a custom deal.
Note: The basic Creator plan is essentially functional, but the Creator Pro plan has much-needed features like the subscriber engagement score.
All in all, I’d say the prices are fair for what you get…on paper. If the email designer was better and had more templates, and if the security was a bit better, I’d be a lot more convinced. As it is, the price to feature ratio is just okay.
Still, ConvertKit’s financial policies are great. You can get a 14-day free trial for all paid plans, with no credit card required. I used it to do research for this review. And even after you pay up, there’s a 30 day refund policy.
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ConvertKit REVIEW: BOTTOM LINE
ConvertKit does a lot right, but, honestly, there are better options. The lack of templates hurts the experience a lot, as does the lack of anti-spam security measures. Also, while ConvertKit markets itself as being “for creators”, it doesn’t actually do anything differently, or offer any features specifically for creators.
It’s mostly functional, but not in any way outstanding.
Is ConvertKit worth the money?If you want a highly simplified experience, with some third-party integrations that are creator friendly… I mean, you could get all of that elsewhere, and more, for less. To put it simply, ConvertKit failed to convert me.
I’m sorry for the pun, but not for the judgement. The service is functional, but for everything it gets right (like the automation), it gets other things quite wrong.
You’d pay comparable prices for more and better features with ActiveCampaign, GetResponse, or Benchmark Email. In fact, I’d say all options on our list of the top email marketing services might work better for you, so have a look there.Is ConvertKit better than Mailchimp?In the ConvertKit vs. Mailchimp war, ConvertKit wins…but not by a lot. Mailchimp, for all its flaws, actually has a template library (even if those templates are old). You also don’t have to design everything yourself more or less from scratch, and the email editor has a bit more functionality to it. Plus, it has somewhat better analytics.
But ConvertKit does better automation, by a lot. It also has less limiting pricing plans, and a support experience where you actually get to talk to people. Frankly, it’s that last factor which pushes ConvertKit ahead for me.
Even so, any of the other options I listed above would be better than ConvertKit or Mailchimp.Who is ConvertKit suitable for?In theory, it’s designed for online creators who want to grow their audience. An interesting concept for sure.
But the sad truth is that all of its features – the ones that are actually working and complete – are nearly identical to those of any other service. It’s suitable for just about anyone with an online business – if you don’t mind not having the better features you can get elsewhere.Is ConvertKit free?Sort of. Out of all the free plans I’ve seen on email marketing services, I have to admit that this is one of the better ones. You can send unlimited emails – again, for free – to 1,000 subscribers. You can do this indefinitely, as well. So, if you have a very small business, or maybe just a small community newsletter, you can just use the free plan and it’ll be fine.
Users on the free plan can even send emails from addresses with custom domains (ie. [email protected]). This is actually encouraged as a way to increase your email’s deliverability.
If you want to get a discount on the paid plans, or for any of ConvertKit’s competitors, check out our page of the best coupons for email marketing services.
Ezequiel Bruni is biologically Canadian, legally Mexican, and self identifies as a total nerd. He’s been a web and experience designer off and on since he was a teenager, and loves sharing the kind of beginner’s advice he really wishes he’d had when he first started. He also loves video games, tacos, open source software, video games, sci-fi and fantasy in all their forms, and video games. He does not love writing in the third person.