Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by Web Marketing Today. Practical Ecommerce acquired Web Marketing Today in 2012. In 2016, we merged the two sites, leaving Practical Ecommerce as the successor.
Don’t let anybody tell you an attractive email newsletter has to cost a lot of money. These free resources can get your emails to look like they came from a Fortune 500 company, all for a lemonade stand price. If you are starting out on a shoestring budget, or if you just love to stretch a dollar, bookmark this page. You’ll want to come back here again.
Email Service Providers
These are just a few of the email service providers that offer free accounts. I have not included any of the WordPress blog plugins for email marketing because you are better off with a known email service provider. You’ll get better delivery and better tracking than if you used a plugin on your own.
- MailChimp. Send up to 12,000 emails or mail to a list of up to 2,000 subscribers. You’ll have access to MailChimp’s email template builder and an array of tracking and signup tools. The only drawback is the free plan does not include autoresponders. You’ll need to upgrade to do an automatic campaign.
- Constant Contact. This giant of email marketing providers also offers a free trial, but it only lasts for 60 days. You get access to dozens of email templates and autoresponders, plus social media and tracking analysis. The drawback? You only get to mail to 100 contacts, but you can mail to them as often as you’d like.
- Mad Mimi. Less well-known, but delightful to use, Mad Mimi’s free trial lets you have up to 2,500 contacts and send up to 12,500 emails. It has pre-designed email templates, but its email builder interface is easy enough for almost anyone to use. Autoresponders, called “drips,” are included.
- ReachMail. ReachMail has one of the most generous free plans. You can mail up to 15,000 messages — and store up to 5,000 contacts — per month. You’ll get all the tracking and deliverability support expected, plus you can create surveys and include social media engagement. The drawback? You’ll see the ReachMail logo at the bottom of your emails.
- Kualo. If you want to combine your hosting account with email marketing, Kualo is worth a look. A free trial includes 15,000 emails sent each month and 2,000 subscribers.
Subject Line Optimization
- MailChimp’s Subject Line Suggester. The only way to access this tool is if you are in your MailChimp account and have started building your email message. But if you are willing to get that far, you’ll have access to a tool that lets you compare your email subject line to all the email subject lines ever sent in the MailChimp system, with performance data. Given how powerful subject lines are, that’s a nice advantage.
- Litmus’s Subject Line Checker. This is very different from what MailChimp offers, but it might be helpful. You’ll be able to see how your subject line will look across a dozen different email clients. With this tool you can make sure the critical part of your subject line isn’t getting cut off.
Spam and Deliverability Tools
- Lyris’s Content Checker. This gives your email a “spam score” and suggestions for how to tweak your email message to improve that score. The tool is powered by SpamAssassin, a popular spam filter that many email service providers include only for paid accounts.
- Email Spam Test . This is also powered by SpamAssassin, but has a different layout and response format.
- Contactology’s Email Spam Checker. This is very similar to the Email Spam Test above, but the two tools can give different recommendations, so comparing their results can be interesting.
- Return Path’s Sender Score. If you did decide to use a WordPress plugin to manage your email marketing, then this is a good tool to check regularly. The Sender Score tool will take the domain name or IP address you’re mailing from and give you back some metrics on how it looks to the eyes of an email client’s spam filter. It’s a quick way to measure your email’s reputation.
- Send Forensics’ Email Deliverability Test. No matter which email service provider you use, this tool is worth checking for every email message you send. It gives you a detailed analysis, but also shows you how other recently-sent emails in your industry compare to yours.
- MXToolBox . This tool is more technical than other spam checkers, but if you’re having a problem, send your webmaster to this site. It might turn up something interesting.
HTML Creators, Converters, and CSS Optimizers
- Dialect’s Premailer. This is an elegant tool to clean up the HTML code in your email. It will switch most of it to CSS, which is better for email clients, and make suggestions that will improve how your email message renders.
- MailChimp’s HTML to Text Email Converter. Do you have an HTML email but also want to send a text version? This is the tool for you. You can format more than just emails with this.
- Da Button Factory. Not all email clients are set to automatically show images, so it’s critical your call-to-action buttons are viewable whether images are turned on or off. Enter the CSS button. This nifty tool lets you create buttons and export them either as PNG images or as CSS code. If you’ve ever spent an hour fighting with Photoshop to get a button made, you’ll love this.
Free Images and Image Shrinkers
When it comes to engaging people, images rule the web. The problem for emails on a budget is to find great images, and then to get them to be small enough that your emails don’t get blocked. These four resources make that easy.
- Web Resizer. This tool lets you shrink photos down to 70 percent of their original size with minimal loss of image quality. You can also do simple image edits like crop, resize, and add a border.
- Free Online Picture Resizer. This tool is similar to Web Resizer, but also lets you grab pictures from other websites. Be aware of copyrighted material when using this tool.
- “7 Libraries Of Sensational Photographs You Can Use For Free.” This article from BestsellerLabs.com lists enough free image resources to keep you busy for awhile.
- “The 15 Best Free Images Websites on the Internet.” This article from Pocket-lint.com has even more free image resources — enough to dress up your emails for months to come.
Landing Pages and Email Alternative Views
- Litmus Scope. Just in case someone can’t see your email correctly, it’s a good idea to include a link to a web page version of your message. Use this to create that web page in just a few clicks.
- Lander App Free Trial. Most email messages need landing pages. You can make beautiful landing pages for free with this tool, so long as you send no more than 500 people a month to each page. You can even connect your Google Analytics account to the pages.
Email Rendering Previewers
There have never been more ways to view an email. So look at least one of these tools and see how your message will look before you send your next newsletter out.
- Litmus’s Free Email Testing and Rendering Previews. This is currently the best tool to see how your email looks in 26 different email clients. It also checks for broken links and offers coding suggestions for optimal rendering. The preview does take 10 to 15 minutes to load once you’ve entered your email’s HTML.
- Email on Acid. This tool is similar to Litmus’s previewer, but in a nicer interface. Email on Acid also offers a paid feature called Mozify that lets subscribers see a pixelated version of your images even if their images are turned off. It’s not free, but it’s a nice tool. Also, check out the blog for email rendering tips that most blogs are afraid to talk about.
- Email Reach Free Trial. This is another rendering tool you can use for free — if you’re willing to give your email address. Email Reach boasts having the “world’s most reputable whitelist.” If you’re having problems with deliverability, you might want to test that assertion.
Did I miss any free email tools? Please let me know in the comments.