WordPress Subscriptions – What Are They?
WordPress subscriptions allow a website’s users to receive notification of blog posts automatically via email. This is a completely free and unique service available to all Jetpack users.
If you’re not familiar with Jetpack, you can read more about it right here.
For an example of how it works, if you look at my sidebar on the right, you’ll see a button that says Subscribe. Also, if you look in my footer (at the bottom of the page), you’ll see a box that says Subscribe to My Blog.
If a user (like you) types an email address into that field and then clicks Subscribe, that user will be notified of all my blog posts automatically.
How To Set Up WordPress Subscriptions
It’s easy to set up your subscription service for your WordPress website. And remember, it’s completely free. And the number of subscribers you’re allowed is unlimited. This is unheard of with any other subscription service.
Before you can set up your subscription service, you’ll need to install Jetpack. Jetpack is a WordPress plugin that brings the power of the WordPress.com cloud to your website. It will literally supercharge your WordPress website.
Once you’ve installed Jetpack, you’ll see a Jetpack link in your WordPress dashboard on the left side of your screen. Hover over it and click on Settings.
Then click on Discussion at the top of the page. Look down the page a bit and you’ll see Subscriptions. I recommend turning on all three options.
The first option simply turns on subscriptions for your blog. You must turn this one on for subscriptions to work.
The follow blog option ensures that when your site’s visitors post a comment, they’ll see a checkbox that says Notify me of new posts by email. If they check it, they will be subscribed to your blog and will receive automatic notifications of all your posts via email. Check this feature out in the comments section at the end of this post.
The comment form is a perfect place to have this reminder because your site’s visitors are already engaged in your content if they’re thinking of posting a comment. Why not remind them to subscribe?
The last option, Show a “follow comments” option in the comment form, places a checkbox in your comment form suggesting that folks subscribe to that particular post’s comments conversation. This is an ultra-cool feature, and it’s something that most subscription services can’t (or won’t) do. A reader might not want to receive notifications of every post on your blog, but they might want notifications if someone responds to their comment! If you sign up for MailChimp or Mad Mimi or some other paid subscription service, you won’t have this option.
Be sure to check out these features in action on this website.
Adding WordPress Subscriptions Opt-in Forms To Your Site (Using Widgets)
You won’t want to rely solely on the aforementioned checkboxes to gain subscribers. You’ll want to place opt-in forms in prominent locations throughout your site.
I’m not a big fan of popups, but many folks will integrate their opt-in form into a popup so their visitors are spammed. Annoying. But I hear it’s effective.
On this website, you’ll see only two opt-in forms. One is in my footer. The other is on my Subscribe page. But I also place a prominent Subscribe button in my sidebar that’s a different color so it will be noticed by my site’s visitors.
Subscribe to my blog and see how the process works.
To place a Jetpack opt-in form on your website (in your sidebar or footer), hover over Appearance on the left of your dashboard, and then click on Widgets.
Now you’ll see the Widgets page. Click on the Blog Subscriptions widget, found in the list of available widgets, and drag it over to your sidebar or your footer.
On this website, my WordPress subscriptions widget has been placed in the footer. Check it out (and don’t forget to subscribe).
Adding WordPress Subscriptions Opt-in Forms To Your Posts and Pages
You may want to place your opt-in form directly into a page or post (not in your sidebar or footer in a widget). This is accomplished using shortcode. Simply past the following shortcode wherever you want your subscription form to show up.
You don’t need to do anything else. Anyone subscribing will now get an automatic email notification of each and every one of your posts.
Styling Your WordPress Subscriptions Widget
The subscriptions widget has some styling options. Expand the widget to see the available options. Experiment with the different options to get the look you want.
The Widget Title is what will appear as the title of your widget. The Optional Text field is a message that will make it more obvious to your visitors how your subscription form works. The Subscribe Placeholder field is the text that will appear directly in the form field.
The Success Message field displays what you want your subscribers to see right after they’re subscribed. Be sure you have a message in this box otherwise your subscribers won’t get any immediate notification that they’ve subscribed. I don’t have a message here because I prefer my form to redirect to a thank you page upon submission. If you want to know how to accomplish this, contact me.
Here’s what my completed form looks like.
If placing your form directly into a page or post using the shortcode described above, you can use additional shortcode to further customize your form. For more information on customizing your Jetpack subscription form, check out this article.
Jetpack Subscriptions vs Mad Mimi, MailChimp, Etc.
Jetpack subscriptions for WordPress are different than the vast majority of email marketing solutions.
Using WordPress subscriptions via Jetpack allows your site’s visitors to subscribe to your content in a variety of ways. They can sign up with their email address and receive notification of your blog posts via email. They can also sign up with their WordPress.com accounts! This is not a feature offered by any other service.
Jetpack subscriptions also allow your visitors to subscribe to specific comment conversations and be notified every time someone adds a new comment to that specific conversation.
With Jetpack subscriptions, there are no limits to the number of subscribers you can have. Most email marketing solutions have a free entry-level plan but once you pass a certain number of subscribers, you must pay a monthly fee. And then when you surpass another number, the monthly fee goes up (significantly so).
Jetpack has some disappointing weaknesses. You cannot send mass emails to all your subscribers. You cannot edit your subscriber list (i.e., you have no ability to remove spam emails, etc.). You cannot style your automatic notification emails or use your own logo. Your subscribers get the standard Jetpack-styled email. Drip campaigns are not an option.
Who Should Use Jetpack Subscriptions?
If you’re really serious about email marketing, and you’re interested in setting up drip campaigns (very useful things, mind you, for those with enough time to set them up), you’ll need a solution other than Jetpack subscriptions. And if you want control over your list and the ability to send mass emails (e.g., newsletters) to all your subscribers, start looking for alternatives.
Jetpack is perfect for those who, like me, are too busy to bother with email marketing. I’m a full-time teacher and I blog on the side. I barely have enough time to write as much as I do.
I tried Mad Mimi for a while. I really liked their service, but I never got around to setting up a drip campaign. I never once sent out a newsletter. I did style my notification email and brand it with my logo, but in the long run, the cost versus the benefit wasn’t worth it for me.
For those just starting out, Jetpack is a powerful and easy way to add a subscription service to your WordPress website. And in the future, if you find you can’t live with its limitations, you can simply export your email list to a .csv file and upload it to the email marketing service of your choice.
Need Any Help With Your WordPress Website?
Remember, you won’t find any popups, ads or marketing ploys on this website because I really despise such things. However, you will find useful tutorials, actionable advice and free support for your WordPress website.