How the Heck Do You Use ConvertKit–The Best Email Marketing Software for Bloggers Ever!

19 min read

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A detailed tutorial of ConvertKit -- one of the most popular email marketing platforms for bloggers and small business owners -- on how to build an email list and send newsletters - The Side Blogger #emaillist #emailmarketing #newsletter #blogging #blogger #subscriber
After you buy a domain and hosting, the next thing I suggest you spend your money on is a fabulous email marketing platform. And for bloggers, that fabulous platform is ConvertKit, hands down!

OK, let me backtrack a little because I think I packed a little too much in that intro…

Let me start at the beginning.

All blogs start somewhere. Do you NEED a custom domain? Do you NEED a self-hosted, WordPress blog? Do you NEED ConvertKit?

These are all very legit questions, and based on who you talk to, you might get very different answers. But I can only tell you what I know.

And what I know is this:

As a serious (and smart) blogger, you should know that how you brand yourself is important. That’s where getting a custom domain and a platform (self-hosted WordPress) where you can REALLY create a branded experience come into play. If you’re strapped for cash, sure, start a blog on a free platform with a free domain, but your goal should be to invest in a custom domain and hosting as soon as possible.

So, basically, you’re looking at 60-70 bucks of initial overhead, if you purchase your domain from NameCheap [affiliate] and hosting from SiteGround [affiliate], which is what I recommend for all new (and veteran) bloggers for their domain and hosting.

So there, that’s the very first expense for any new blogger.

But right after that, the next investment should be an email marketing platform. In fact, unless you’re dead broke, I suggest you invest in it from Day-1, the same time you purchase your domain and hosting.

And here’s why.

An email list is important for a blogger. This list indicates a lot of things: are you attracting the right audience? Is your audience happy with your content? Do they find your content useful? Do they like your tone of voice?

An email list also comes in handy when you’re trying to branch out. Most often, a blogger seriously wanting to make money off of their blog would end up creating a product. Maybe an ebook, or a course, or digital goods… but who do you sell it to?

You see, people do not like to give money to those they’re not familiar with. But with an email list, you have the opportunity to build a relationship with your audience. You get to know them, they get to know you. And when the time comes to sell your product, those in your email list are the ones who’re most likely to purchase from you.

Now that sounds great, but what the heck is ConvertKit and why should I invest in it? — I’m glad you asked!


What is ConvertKit and Why Should You Invest in It

In short, ConvertKit [affiliate] is an email marketing/newsletter platform. You can use it to collect emails and send periodic newsletters to these email subscribers.

But the real questions is this: WHY ConvertKit and not any of the other platforms that are way cheaper… FREE in fact?

Here’s why.

Way back in the days, before I switched to ConvertKit, I used MailChimp and MailerLite. Both free platforms for up to 1K subscribers. Sounds amazing, right?

Only, it isn’t!

Being free also means they only offer limited features and functionalities. But more than that, these platforms are super clunky! So much so that just the tediousness of it all kept me from seriously trying to grow my email list. Because the strategies I have had to implement to grow my list would have brought me to tears had I tried them with these free (at first) platforms.

When I signed up for a ConvertKit trial account, I wasn’t sure if I was going to actually convert or not (pun intended). TSB was still very much a toddler and I was making zero money off it. So, to invest $29 every month (the starter price of ConvertKit) would mean taking even more loss.

I was skeptical, but it didn’t take long to realize why it was such a popular email marketing platform with other bloggers and small business owners.

ConvertKit makes email marketing EASY! That’s why!

You see, ConvertKit is not only powerful, but it is also extremely user-friendly. In fact, I believe ConvertKit CEO Nathan Barry came up with the UX and functionalities specifically with content marketers such as bloggers in mind. No wonder it’s perfect for us!

The ease of it all made it almost fun to create content upgrades and opt-in forms and set up rules and automations. All of these takes only minutes in ConvertKit while some of the other, cheaper platforms make it way harder and tedious and time-consuming, which essentially deters one from even trying. Especially if the blogger happens to be a side-blogger like me with a hundred and twenty-five other obligations to take care of.

Seriously, guys, ConvertKit [affiliate] changed the game for me! A lot of bloggers will say that getting even a couple of hundred subscribers is lucky for a lot of bloggers in their first year of blogging. And here I am, at month-10 of starting TSB at the time of writing this post, with well over 900 email subscribers. I very much suspect that by the time I hit year-1 in a couple of months, I’ll have way more than 1K subscribers! And that’s all thanks to ConvertKit. All while being a side-blogger no less!

So today, I’m going to show you the technical side of using ConevrtKit to set up an opt-in form and welcome email, adding the form to your WordPress site, and finally sending a newsletter to your subscribers.

If you wish to learn more about the strategies for growing your email list, please read this blog post instead: How to Grow Your Email List as a Newbie Blogger

Some Features That Make ConvertKit Great for Bloggers

If you’ve read the post I linked above, you’ll know that one of my list building strategies is to provide lots of content upgrades. Whenever possible, I try to make it easy for my readers to take action by providing them with checklists, workbooks, and often templates that my readers (YOU!) can easily customize and use for yourself. This means that I have different opt-in forms for different people who sign up from different posts for different content upgrades.

If not thought out properly, this can get out of hand pretty fast. But like I said, ConvertKit was MADE for bloggers! They’ve designed a platform that’s especially great for bloggers like me who offer different content upgrades on different posts.

However, I also do not want to end up with having a ton of different lists… this makes it tedious when it comes the time to send newsletters. Typically, I send newsletters to my entire list, regardless of whichever form people signed up with.

To make this process simple, ConvertKit maintains ONE big list of all the subscribers ever! But if you want to keep track of who signed up with which form/for which content upgrade, all you have to do is set up a rule or visual automation to “tag” subscribers based on their opt-in form.

This way, when it comes time to send out an email list, I just choose “All Subscribers” and voila! But If I have a specific newsletter or content upgrade that I want to send to a certain group of people who perhaps signed up from a particular blog post via a particular form, then I choose to send only to that group by selecting that specific “tag”.

Easy peasy. And if this sounds confusing to you, rest assured, I’ll be going over all that shortly.

Who ConvertKit is Not For

As a blogger, I love ConvertKit. However, I do realize that not all platform is the same, and each has its own sets of pros and cons.

I do not recommend ConvertKit to those who wish to use an email marketing platform outside of their blogging needs. If your email marketing needs are outside of blogging and content marketing, such as selling products, or selling courses or doing anything that requires complex systems like upselling and superior trackings, I suggest you use a different platform.

I’ve had the opportunity to try out Constant Contact [affiliate], and it’s a lot more powerful platform with features that cater to not just bloggers, but also business owners who offer products and services and require a more complex system.

As much as I love ConvertKit, it’s really just meant for bloggers in my personal opinion.

Another downside (or upside, depending on how you look at it) of ConvertKit is that you cannot really customize the templates. ConvertKit has a very simple layout and looks very much like any regular email. I happen to like it since it gives a more personal feel, and that’s perfect for bloggers. But not necessarily for other types of business owners. If you’re someone who loves to send custom designed, fancier emails, thenΒ  I’d definitely suggest Constant Contact to you over ConvertKit.

ConvertKit On-Boarding

1. The first step to start building your email list is to sign up for an email marketing platform. Which in our case is ConvertKit [affiliate].

2. Once you’re on the home-page, you’ll see a button that says “Try for Free”. Click on it, and it should ask you whether you’re migrating from another platform or if you’re starting a brand new list. Choose whichever applies to you. Based on your selection, ConvertKit will walk you through a set of questions after which you’ll be prompted to provide email, password and set up your account.

ConvertKit offers 14-day FREE trial period to all new customers.
You can either choose to migrate your email list from some other platform to ConvertKit, or start a brand new list on ConvertKit.

Once you’ve signed up, you’ll come to this screen:

You can check out different help documentation shown in the right panel.

You can learn about ConvertKit and its various functionalities on this page. Feel free to check them out, but in this blog post, I’ll walk you through the common features and functionalities that you’ll likely be using as a new blogger. So, read on!

3. Once your account is created, make sure to verify email. You should receive an email, just click the link on that email to verify.

4. Once you’re here, I want you to go straight to your account setting page. At the top right, click on your icon/avatar, and a drop down will pop up. Choose “Account Settings” from here, which will take you to the page where you’ll set up your account information — an important step.

Set up your account information as soon as you’ve created your account.

5. The most important information in the “Account Info” page is the Subscriber Consent Options for GDPR Compliance. I’d suggest you select the second or the third option based on your location. GDPR consent is mandatory in the UK, EU region, so if you’re from there, you must select the second option. If you’re from a country where it’s not mandatory yet, you may select the third option. I do not suggest you select the first where it says not to show it to anyone.

You can also choose a company name on this page. If you’re a blogger, likely you’ll add your blog’s name. Or, if you have a company or LLC, you can add your business name here.

6. Next, go to “Your Profile” on the left, and fill out the appropriate information.

7. In the next tab “Email” you’ll be setting up some crucial information. First, set up which email address your emails will be sent from. If you’ve signed up using your domain email, then you should be good to go. But if not, I suggest you add your domain email, by clicking on “Add From Address”.Β 

Make sure to add your domain email for sending all emails.

Leave the “Default Time to Send Emails” to its default settings. Usually, when you’re sending out an email you can choose when to send it. So whatever you have here is somewhat redundant.

Make sure to fill out the Address section. You’re required by law to provide a physical address. If you do not want people to see your home address (unless you have a business address), you can always sign up for a PO Box.

8. In the next “Billing” tab, you can fill out your Billing information now or at the end of your trial period.

9. Finally, in the “Team” tab, you can add another person if you have team members, or if you’re flying solo like me, you can just skip that step.

Now that your account is set up, you’re free to start using ConvertKit to collect emails or sending emails.

How to Create an Opt-in Form

It all starts with a form on ConvertKit. If you’ve used other platforms, you may be used to starting with a list. However, ConvertKit starts the process with a form. That is how it distinguishes different “lists”, because no matter which form anyone signs up with, every subscriber is automatically added to one big master list. I love this! This makes life so much simpler!

1. To create a form, click on “Forms” in the top menu, and then click on “New Form” button in the next page, as shown below.

Create a new form to start collecting emails.

2. Now, choose whether you want to create a form or a landing page. We won’t be looking at creating a landing page on this post, we’ll only look at creating forms. So, click on “Form”.

Click on “Form” box to create a new form.

3. Now you’ll be asked to choose among the three format options available. Personally, I do not like slide-in forms, I only use popups (Modal) and inline forms. No matter whichever form you choose, the setup is practically identical. So, for the sake of demonstration, we’ll pick Modal, which is used for popup forms. If you’re following along this tutorial, I advise you do the same. Even if you do not end up using a popup, to learn some of the basics of ConvertKit forms, I suggest looking at this format first.

You can use the exact steps to create an inline form. The Modal/Popup forms have a couple of extra steps which I’ll point out as we go.

Select Modal for the sake of this tutorial.

4. Now, you’ll be asked to choose a template. For the purpose of this tutorial, we’ll work with the “Pine” template. It’s the one I personally like and use all across The Side Blogger.

Choose the “Pine” template to work with.

5. Once you choose the form template, you’ll be taken to the actual form where you can edit the form, the text, the style (colors, borders, images, etc.) Click on any of the text on the form to edit it with your own message. Click on the black image to open the image panel on the right, and then choose an image from your computer. Further customization options such as form colors are available by clicking on the magic wand icon as shown below.

Edit the text by clicking on it and the image by clicking on the empty image placeholder. Further customization options are available by clicking on the magic wand.

6. Click on the gear icon to open the settings where you’ll edit the form functionalities. You can choose to show a success message on the same page where people sign up, or you can redirect them to another page. Personally, I want them to stay on the same page, so I keep this option to its default state. You can add a customized success message in the text field provided below.

Next, you can choose when the pop-up will show. You can choose exit intent (not my favorite, it’s too sensitive and shows even when you’re not necessarily exiting a page, but just moving your mouse around), or after a certain length of the page has been scrolled, or after the visitor has spent some time on the page. The last two options are my favorite. Sometimes I choose 15 or 20% scroll or 5-7 seconds delay.

Another handy option that ConvertKit provides is the option to open the popup on click. Choose the entire section under “Trigger this modal with a link…” (see image) and paste it where you want the link to appear. You can use CSS to show this as a button and open the modal when someone clicks on the button. Remember to edit the text that says “Your link text” (this is your hyperlinked text).

Next, you can choose if you wish the popup to show only on desktop or mobile devices. Doing nothing will open it on all devices. I suggest you choose to open popups only on desktops. Popups on mobile devices can be very annoying, thus, degrading user experience.

Finally, choose how often the popup shows. If you leave it unchanged, it will show every time someone comes to this page. Sometimes this can be annoying. I usually choose 1 or 2 days. That way, when people cross out of the form, they do not see the form again for specified days.

Note: For inline forms, you do not have the display options as they’re shown inline at all times.

Choose the form settings by clicking the gear icon.

7. Click on the mail icon to open the incentive option. Here you can set what happens when someone opts in using your form. You can either send a confirmation email (default), which is what I recommend. You can automatically confirm them, but I don’t recommend it. Providing your subscribers with the option to confirm often takes care of spam signups.

Next, you can choose what to do after subscribers confirm their sign up. You can send them to a custom link (advised; you can just create a new page in your website and send them to that page), or you can leave it to default which redirects confirmed subscribers to ConvertKit’s default confirmation page. A custom page makes the experience more personal, so I strongly advise you to do that.

Alternately, you can make it so that once they confirm their subscription, they’re able to download some kind of content upgrade (usually a pdf or other kind of document). This is handy if you’re offering a content upgrade.

Click on the mail icon to set the options for when people opt in to your form.

8. Clicking on the double gears will open up some advanced settings. Usually, I leave them to their default state.

9. Save the form by clicking the “Save” button on top right. After that, click on the “Embed” tab to get the embed code. This is the code that you will use to embed the form in your website.

Click on the mail icon to set the options for when people opt in to your form.

10. When you get to the embed code page, the first option shown to you is the javascript option — my preferred method for embedding a form. Copy this code. This is what you’ll use on your website. I do not use HTML typically as it can get messy. Typically for forms, you do not really need the “Share” and the “Unbounce” options. So leave them be.

Another option to note is the WordPress option. You see, ConvertKit [affiliate] has a WordPress plugin which allows you to enter a shortcode. I’ll go over the plugin shortly, but know that I have had issues with the ConvertKit plugin where the plugin wasn’t timely updated to had some issue… the last thing you or I want is to add a plugin, and then have it stop working until ConvertKit team comes up with a fix. I strongly suggest you continue to use the javaScript to embed all your forms.

To embed a popup (or an inline form), simply copy the code, and then go to your WordPress dashboard (assuming you’re using my preferred blogging platform — WordPress). Inside the WordPress dashboard, go to the page where you want the form to appear. In the text editor, make sure the editor is in the “text” mode.

IMPORTANT: For a Popup/Modal form, you can place the JavaScript anywhere inside your text editor. However, if it is an inline form, the form will appear where you paste the code.

Make sure the save the form. Then click on “Embed” to grab your JavaScript embed code.
Make sure to paste the JavaScript when your text-editor is in “Text’ mode.

How to Set Up Sequences and Tags

The previous section takes care of setting up a form and embedding it to your blog/website. As long as you’ve successfully taken care of that much, you’ll be able to start collecting emails.

Now, often it is better to set up a sequence. You know how sometimes when you opt-in for a newsletter and you automatically receive some introductory email(s)? I’m not talking about the confirmation email, but the ones that come after. Those are usually set up in a sequence. Some other platforms have other names for this, but in ConvertKit, then is called a “sequence”.

A sequence can be useful for introducing yourself and what you do to your subscribers or share other vital information. For example, I have a sequence that I send to ALL of my new subscribers. It has the link and password to my library of freebies that all my subscribers have access to. I send this information as part of an introductory sequence.

You may choose to have one or more than one emails in your sequence. Aside from sending vital information, you can also use a sequence to create a short email course as an opt-in freebie. I love how easy it is in ConvertKit.

Let me now show you how to set up a sequence.

How to Set Up a Sequence

1. Go to the “Sequences” tab, and then click on “New Sequence”. Now, name your sequence (something indicative of what the sequence is about; you can change the name later if you wish), then click on “Create Sequence”.

2. In the next page, you’ll be able to create an email (or a series of emails if you have more than one email in your sequence). Once you’ve drafted an email, make sure of the following:

  • Click on the pencil icon next to “when to send”, and edit to reflect when the sequence goes out. May choose to send it a day later, or two days later, or immediately by setting it to zero days.
  • After you’ve set the time to send your sequence, make sure to change the status from “Draft” to “Published”.

3. Now, feel free to add more emails to your sequence, if you have more, by clicking “+ Add Email” button. In each email, set the time to send the email and make sure to change the status from “draft” to “published”.

4. Make sure to save all your emails and setting by clicking the “Save” button on top right.

How to Add a Sequence to a Form

Often, you will want to attach a sequence to a form. Usually, this part is automated. For example, Let’s say you have an opt-in form. When people subscribe to this form, you want to send a series of three emails spanned over the next three days, each email a day apart. You can create this using a sequence. Once you create a sequence as specified above, you’ll have to attach it to a form, so that anybody who opts in using the form, is automatically set to receive the sequence.

You can do this in ConvertKit in two ways. You can either create a visual automation, or you can set up some rules.

Personally, I like the visual automation option as it gives you a “visual” of exactly what is happening. The rules can often seem a bit cluttered especially when you have a lot of these forms and sequences set up.

1. To attach a sequence to a form, click on the “Automations” tab and then click on “New Automation”.

2. Give the automation a recognizable name (top left), make it “live” (top right, or do this later after setting up the automation, either way, it is fine), then click “Create Automation”.

3. You’ll be prompted to choose when the automation starts. In this case, when someone opts in through a form. Click “Joins a Form” option. Next, choose from the drop-down the form you’re attaching the sequence to. Then click on “add event”.

4. Once you add an event, you’ll be able to see a ‘visualization” of what’s happening. You’ll see two “plus” signs. The horizontal plus signs will be executed simultaneously, and the vertical ones will be executed in the next level. For example, if we want the following: “after reader#1 joins a form, they will be added to the sequence”, we want to add the sequence using the vertical plus. So, for the purpose of this demonstration, click on the plus sign below the form.

5. After clicking on the plus sign, choose the “Action” box, and then choose the kind of action you want to perform. Choose “Email Sequence” for what you want your subscriber to be added to.

This will open up a dropdown, allowing you to choose which sequence you’ll be adding your subscriber to. After you’ve chosen the correct sequence, click “Add Action”.

And for our demonstration, that is all we have to do.

The Same Action for Multiple Events

The horizontal “plus” comes in handy when you’re trying to add one action to multiple events. For example, let’s say you have two separate forms, and you wish for subscribers joining through both of those forms to be added to a sequence. You can use the horizontal plus to add multiple events, and then add one action to all of them.

A detailed demonstration of all of the different options available goes beyond the scope of this post, as it is aimed to get the beginner blogger up to speed. If you have more complex needs, feel free to play around with different options available until you’re comfortable using them.

Using a Tag

A tag can be useful if you wish to further segment your list. I won’t go into details of using tags, but I wanted to point out that you can add a tag to subscribers joining a sequence or a form in the same way that you attached a sequence to a form. Play around with the automation options until you’re familiar with all the different possibilities per your needs.

What I’ve shown so far is enough for a beginner blogger. As your blog grows, you may find yourself needing to utilize some of the other options available. But for now, this should help you get started with ConvertKit.

How to Send Newsletters

Sending newsletters with ConvertKit [affiliate] is straight-forward. What I appreciate about ConvertKit is that they do not have all the bells and whistles like you do with some other platforms.

Now some of you may like those bells and whistles. Personally, I like the simple interface that makes the emails look more personal and less salesy.

To send a newsletter,

1. Click on the “Broadcasts” tab, then click on “New Broadcast”.

Click on the “Broadcasts” tab to send a newsletter to your subscribers.

2. By default, a broadcast is set to be sent to all subscribers. You can select if you’d rather send it to a select group. You can choose subscribers based on if they’ve subscribed to a specific form, or a sequence, or a tag. For the purpose of this demonstration, I’ll leave it to the default “All Subscribers”. Click on the “Next Step” button on bottom-right.

3. Next, type up your email. Make sure to edit the subject line to reflect what your email is about. Once done, click “Next step”.

[Pro-tip: To give your email a more personal feel, use subscriber’s first names to address them. To automatically add the first name, type {{subscriber.first_name}}]

4. Here you can see what your email will look like. Once satisfied with your email, you can either send the email immediately to your subscribers, or you can schedule when you want to send out the newsletter.

Send newsletter immediately or schedule to be sent out at a later date and time.

The ConvertKit Plugin for WordPress

Using a ConvertKit plugin helps you add a shortcode instead of JavaScript for adding forms. They also have some options such as adding a default form to all your posts and pages.

It’s pretty straight forward to set up, however, I do not use the plugin because of past issues I’ve had to deal with. There were times when the plugin hadn’t updated, or a new update wasn’t tested properly, causing my forms to break.

The JavaScript always works like a charm, so I’ve opted to use them at all times, and I advise you do the same.

Well, that’s is all for now, and I hope this guide will help you set up your ConvertKit [affiliate] forms and sequences as you start building your email list. If you have questions or concerns, feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to address them.

As always, thanks for reading!

A detailed tutorial of ConvertKit -- one of the most popular email marketing platforms for bloggers and small business owners -- on how to build an email list and send newsletters - The Side Blogger #emaillist #emailmarketing #newsletter #blogging #blogger #subscriber

A step by step guide to using ConvertKit - one of the best email marketing platforms for bloggers- to build an email list and send newsletters - The Side Blogger #emaillist #emailmarketing #blog #blogging #bloggerEverything you need to know about using ConvertKit for all your email marketing needs. Convertkit is by fat the VERY BEST email marketing software for bloggers! - The Side Blogger #blog #blogging #blogger #emaillist #emailmarketingA complete tutorial for how to use ConvertKit to create email opt-in forms, collect emails, create automations, and send newsletters. - The Side Blogger #emaillist #emailmarketing #convertkit #tutorial #blogger #blogging #blogA step by step guide to using ConvertKit - the best email marketing software for bloggers - to build and grow a thriving email list: A complete tutorial
14 thoughts on “How the Heck Do You Use ConvertKit–The Best Email Marketing Software for Bloggers Ever!”
  1. Thanks a lot Maliha! But now I’m a little confused and don’t know what’s better to choose. I want to focus on my digital products (printable designs), not on my blog (although I’d like blogging too!). Is it better to choose constant contact?

    1. Which email list platform you choose has to do with the features you want, your budget, and your personal preference for aesthetics and user experience. I like ConvertKit because it has all the features I want (unlimited landing pages, beautiful forms, a standalone e-commerce solution for digital product sellers, paid subscriptions, etc.) and I love the simplicity of the platform unlike some others out there. I’d recommend you to check out the different email list platforms out there. Most offer a free version, or at least a free trial, that you can take advantage of. Sign up for a few, check out the features, and see which one you feel most comfortable using. Good luck!

  2. Hey Maliha, as a new blogger this whole mail-list stuff really confuses me but your post was so helpful πŸ™‚ Just wondering if you’d mind sharing what template the form is in your footer? I’d like to add a similar looking one to mine – at the moment it is with contact form 7 but have no idea how to use that πŸ™‚ Thanks so much!!!

    1. Hi Lana, glad this post was useful to you. I’m using ConvertKit’s native forms. This post has step by step tutorial for how to set up ConvertKit forms, so please refer to the instructions above πŸ™‚ Thanks again for the kind words; appreciate it.

  3. This is a wonderfully detailed post that walks you through ConvertKit so you actually feel like you can do it! Even before signing up for ConvertKit (which I know new bloggers may be unsure if the cost is worth it). Thank you for sharing!

  4. Amazingly helpful! I am setting up my first blog and have been banging my head against a wall trying to get things to work! This post has been a lifesaver – thank you πŸ™‚

  5. This is so timely. I’m relaunching my blog and recently decided to switch from Mailchimp to ConvertKit. This will be a great resource for me starting out with the platform. Thanks so much for sharing.
    Judy @sensibledove

    1. Thanks Judy, I’m glad this was helpful. Let me know if you have questions when you’re setting things up. And also, congrats on the re-launch!

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