Which Email Service is Right for your Business or Blog

There are so many mistakes I made when I started my site. One of them was not starting to build my subscriber base. My site had been live a little over two years before I started one! Yes, two years! So I’m essentially two years behind on building my subscriber list and have been missing out several of the benefits of having one.

The main reason I didn’t start a subscriber list was I didn’t know how beneficial it would be for my site. The ultimate benefit of a subscriber list is you have a group of people who have raised their hand to say they want to be contacted by you. They are open to receiving offers for products and services from you. Additionally a subscriber list allows you to
  • Directly communicate with your audience
  • Drive more engaged traffic to your site
  • Have control over what messages and content you share and to whom
  • Keep subscribers up-to-date

Tips for choosing an email service perfect for your blog or business | arelaxedgal.com

(This post includes affiliate links. Read my affiliate disclosure for more info.)

To capture, manage and use a subscriber list you need to have an Email Service Provider or ESP. Finding an ESP can be overwhelming as there are many options out there. So knowing how you want to use your subscriber list and what you need an ESP to do is helpful in choosing one.

When looking at the different options for an ESP here are some things to consider

What types of emails do you want to send?
RSS feeds of your latest posts or newsletters?

How much can you afford at the moment?
Can you afford to pay a monthly fee or do you need start out with a free service?

Do you want to use your subscriber list to make sales?
Are you planning to use affiliate links in your emails or sell your own products or services?

How much effort can or do you want to put into creating emails?
Some email providers have drag-and-drop options for building your emails. Others may require more HTML coding which may be something you want to truly customize your emails.

How much flexibility do you need for growth?
If you plan to grow your subscriber list, it's helpful to use and Email Service Provider who can grow with you.

Do you want to track email performance?
Some Email Service Providers have analytic capabilities built in and/or will connect to your Google Analytics.

Do you want to segment your subscribers?
If you have a blog with more than one topic you may want to segment your subscribers and send those segments different content and offers.

After determining how you want to use your subscriber list and what you need an ESP to do the next step is to select one.

From blogging Facebook groups and other blog posts I’ve read, the top Email Service Providers for small businesses and bloggers are ConvertKit, MailChimp and MailerLite.

ConvertKit

Claims to be an email marketing tool specifically for bloggers.

Cost

ConvertKit is the more pricier of the three, but that’s probably because of the features it has. Plans start at $29 a month for up to 1,000 subscribers.


ConvertKit email service provider costs | arelaxedgal.com

Features

Opt-in forms and landing pages
You get multiple ways to capture subscribers. Responsive opt-in forms, landing pages. A bonus for people using WordPress is there’s a plugin that allows you to select a form you’d like to use and easily add it to your blog post. So you can different opt-ins depending on the topic of your blog post.

You can create customized landing pages that can be used for digital product offerings or signs up for email courses.

Email series or sequences
You can set up email series which ConvertKit calls sequences.

Automation
With ConvertKit you can send automated emails that are triggered based on actions that your subscribers take.

Subscriber segmentation
Subscribers can be segmented using tags. This is helpful so you can communicate to certain subscribers when needed.

Analytics
You can see stats on how different opt-ins are doing and where your subscribers are coming from.

MailChimp

Overall it seems to be geared more for eCommerce businesses.

Cost

Free for up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month. The downside to the free plan is that you get limited features with the free plan. After that, pricing for plans varies depending on your number of subscribers and features you want access to.


MailChimp email service provider costs | arelaxedgal.com

Features

Opt-in forms and landing pages
Custom forms that can be embedded or pop-up can be created. But there is no free landing page feature.

Automation
You can send automated emails based on different actions subscribers take. Such as signing up for your subscriber list, when they make a purchase or have been inactive for a while.

Subscriber segmentation
From what I hear and read there isn’t any. Additionally you are paying for every subscriber on your lists. So if someone is subscribed to multiple lists you are paying for that subscriber multiple times.

Analytics
MailChimp provides pretty robust analytics. You can monitor track overall performance and subscriber activity using interactive graphs.

MailerLite

Seems like it’s built with the email marketer in mind.

Cost

MailerLite has a free plan called the Forever Free Plan. It’s like having an unlimited free trial. With the Forever Free Plan you can have up to 1,000 unique subscribers and send unlimited emails each month.

Paid plans start at $10 for up to 2,500 unique subscribers and goes up $10-15 a month depending on the number of subscribers. You can pay monthly or annually

The great thing about the Forever Free plan is you get all the same features as the paid plans. The only difference is the number of unique subscribers you can have.

Costs for MailerLite email service provider | arelaxedgal.com

Features

Opt-in forms and landing pages
You can chose from an embeddable form, a button or a landing page for your opt-in form.

Email series or sequences
This feature is a newer one for MailerLite and I love it! Before you could just create trigger emails or Autoresponders. Meaning when someone subscribed they would get an email because of that action. What you couldn’t do was set up a series or sequence of emails.

Email series/sequences, called Automation Workflows in MailerLite, are easy to set up with the drag-and-drop interface. When creating an Automation Workflow you don’t have to create the emails from scratch. Instead you can use the existing free email MailerLite templates or you can pull in emails you’ve created for other Automation Workflows.

Automation
Automated emails are now created using the Automation Workflow feature. With this you can setup multiple email series or workflows based on actions or inaction from your subscribers.

Subscriber segmentation
Subscriber lists can be segmented based on several factors so you have choices depending on what your goals are.

Analytics
The MailerLite dashboard contains a snapshot of your analytics. There you can see
  • How many unique subscribers you’ve gained during the current and previous months
  • Your current MailerLite plan including how many emails you’ve sent during the month
  • The opens, clicks, unsubscribes and spam complaints for the campaigns you’ve sent out

If you’d like to dig deeper you can see full analytics for each email campaign or automation workflow. As well as your different subscriber segments and activity for each subscriber.

Other features include
  • Easy and multiple ways to create emails: You can leverage pre-existing email templates and customize them for your brand. Or you can create emails from scratch using the drag-and-drop editor or coding your own email
  • Auto resends: Resend emails that weren’t open or had any links clicked
  • A/B testing: Test headlines and emails to learn what works for your subscribers and what doesn’t

Choosing an email serivce for your blog or business subscriber list | arelaxedgal.com

Which service I use and recommend

I use MailerLite. I can’t even remember how I found MailerLite. It could have been from another blogger or an online search. Whichever way I’m glad I did. Once I admitted to myself I needed to start a subscriber list I started to see what my options where.

Convertkit looked great, but it was too expensive for me since my site wasn’t bringing in any money and I wasn’t planning on selling digital products.

I’d used MailChimp before for something else and hated it. The interface was clunky and I couldn’t figure out who to create and send emails without jumping through hoops.

That wasn’t the case when I first tried out MailerLite. With MailerLite I found the following benefits
  • An intuitive and easy to use interface
  • Reasonable fees including the Forever Free Plan that I am currently using
  • Multiple form options for capturing subscribers
  • MailerLite provides you room to grow your subscriber list so you don’t have to change ESPs
  • Emails can be easily created using drag-and-drop or the Custom HTML Builder
  • MailerLite has several helpful training videos
  • There are many free, modern looking templates you can use as a starting point or just pure inspiration
  • Mobile and desktop versions are created for each email
  • The customer service is awesome! It’s 24/7 and the customer service reps are quick to respond and very helpful

On the flip side opt-in forms have to be manually added to posts unlike ConvertKit. And an email address through a website domain is needed to send emails. So a Gmail or Yahoo email address can’t be used.

If you’re thinking about starting a subscriber list I recommend giving MailerLite a try.

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10 of the Best Summer Hair and Beauty Tips

For those of us who like to wear makeup and style our hair it can sometimes feel like the summer weather is working against us. The dry air and hot sunshine tends to dry out my hair and skin quicker than normal. And the humidity can ruin a good makeup look with no effort at all.

With the first official day of summer a few weeks away I’ve started looking for great tips that can help me summer-proof my makeup and hair. Here are best of the best -  here's my list of 10 summer beauty tips.

10 of the best summer hair and beauty tips | arelaxedgal.com

Who doesn’t needs waterproof makeup in the summer?

The heat from the summer sun drys out my skin, so I have a few tricks for keeping it moisturized.

When packing for the beach I use this list of beach beauty essentials under $20.

I always keep my eyes open for beauty hacks and these are perfect for summer.


When summer rolls around we tend to spend more time at the beach. Here’s how I make sure my hair is ready for the beach trip.

Love this infographic that quickly shows how to switch up your makeup for summer.

I do most of my traveling during the summer so I shared my tips for how I maintain my relaxed hair on those trips.

10 of the best summer hair and beauty tips | arelaxedgal.com

I like to change up parts of my beauty routine when the seasons change, so this list of 10 beauty products for summer is perfect.

Here are eight great shampoos for summer hair care

Love some great nail ideas that are perfect for summer manicures and pedicures

I’d love to hear about your favorite summer beauty tips and hacks. Please share in the comments below.

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Free U.S. Museums to visit on Your Next Vacation

When I vacation, whether stateside or abroad, I like to visit historical sites. They can be straight up museums or my all time favorite, old homes. This could be because learning about history is something I like to do. Or because museums can help you learn more about the city, state or country you’re visiting.

While I like visiting museums many of them charge an admission fee which can eat into your vacation or travel budget. So sometimes adding a free local attraction or two your vacation itinerary can be helpful.

If you’re planning a vacation and want to save a little money while taking in the sites, here’s a list of 10 free museums you can visit.

10 free historical museums to visit on your next vacation. | arelaxedgal.com 

Pioneer Park

Fairbanks, Alaska
http://old.fnsb.us/pioneerpark/visitor_information/visitor_information.htm

At the 44 acre park located in Fairbanks, Alaska are many different attractions that showcase the history of Fairbanks. In addition to multiple museums, attractions include shows, restaurants, shops and even several outdoor activities.

Peterson Air & Space Museum

Peterson AFB, Colorado
http://petemuseum.org/

I think the history of transportation is so fascinating. To see where we started and where we are now, especially air travel. The Peterson Air & Space Museum takes you from the status of flight in the 1920s to the modern space age. Free admission to this museum is 9:00 AM - 4:00 pm Tuesday through Saturday.

Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site Visitors Center

Little Rock, Arkansas
https://www.nps.gov/chsc/index.htm

Part of the historic site of the first integrated high school, I visited this museum during a trip to Memphis, TN. While I was mainly there to tour the Little Rock Central High School, I had time to thoroughly look at the exhibits in the free museum in the visitor's center. The exhibits give you a really good view of what the Little Rock Nine went through and the reaction from the local community.

Free historical museums to visit in the United State | arelaxedgal.com

New England Civil War Museum & Library

Rockville, Connecticut
https://www.newenglandcivilwarmuseum.com/

If you have an interest in the Civil War this museum shares the contribution that Connecticut made to it. Whenever I hear anything about the Civil War I don’t recall hearing anything about Connecticut so this is a museum I would be interested in visiting should I be in the Rockville area.

Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site

Atlanta, Georgia
https://www.nps.gov/malu/index.htm

Learn more about Martin Luther King JR. the leader of the Civil Rights Movement. This museum includes a tour of MLK’s childhood home and other related historic sites and exhibits.

Museum of Biblical History

Collierville, Tennessee
http://www.biblical-museum.org/index.htm

I had never heard of this museum before. Located in Collierville, Tennessee this museum displays the history and cultural context of the Bible. Some past exhibits have been about ancient Egypt and the Nativity.

The Alamo

San Antonio, Texas
http://thealamo.org/index.html

The Alamo is a Spanish mission that was turned into a fort and used in the historic 1836 battle at the Alamo. There you can learn more about the battle and how it sparked the fight for Texas independence from Mexico.

Blenko Glass Company

Milton, West Virginia
http://www.blenko.com/visit-us.html

Opened in 2000, this museum displays the history of the Blenko Glass Company. One of the cool things is you can see how they blow glass. I’ve only seen videos of this fascinating process, so I can only imagine what it would look like in-person.

The Knott House Museum

Tallahassee, Florida
http://www.museumoffloridahistory.com/about/sites/

I have to admit, museums that are in old houses are my favorite type of museums. It’s odd, but I find it fascinating to see how people use to live back in the day. To see, and critique, their design styles. The Knott house has a lot of history including being the place the Emancipation Proclamation was read in Florida.

Kohler Factory Tour

Kohler, Wisconsin
http://www.us.kohler.com/us/Industry-in-Action-Factory-Tours/content/CNT400040.htm

If you like Kohler’s products why not see how they’re made? Kohler gives free factory tours every weekday morning. This isn’t a tour for children though as you have to be at least 14 years old.


This is just a sprinkle of the many great museums that exist in the United States. What museums would you recommend?

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My 15 Favorite Hair Products and Tools

Have you ever opened your bathroom vanity, looked at all the hair products stored in it and wonder “How did I get here?” I have.

Once I started my healthy hair journey I had to sit down to really figure out what products and tools I needed to care for my hair. I admit, when I first created the list, it was really long. There were so many products and tools that I used when I started my hair journey. There were multiple shampoos, conditioners and oils.

Over the years I’ve shorten that list to 15 key hair products and tools that I couldn’t live without.

15 of my favorite hair products and tools | arelaxedgal.com
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7 Things I did to Grow My Blog Traffic & Readers

I’ve been trying to make my monthly blog traffic reports more interesting and helpful by sharing things that I’ve done to improve my blog and the results. So far this year I’ve shared how I plan content for my blog and social channels, what tactics I’m using to grow my social following and engagement, and how I’ve been able to decrease my blog’s bounce rate.

7 things I did to grow my blog | arelaxedgal.com

Well April was a mixed bag of results and I realized I didn’t have any new learnings or tips to share. Until I compared my April 2016 analytics to April 2017. Boy! What a difference a year makes. Just about everything increased or improved. Here are the highlights:
  • My pageviews increased over 200%
  • The number of pages viewed per session increased 14.87%
  • My social following increased over 300%
  • My organic traffic increased 299%


(This post includes affiliate links. Read my disclosure about the use of affiliate links.)

So how did I do it? Multiple tactics and strategies were used, but when I really examined what helped me achieve this growth it all boils down to seven things.

1. I do what works for me

There are many bloggers out there providing advice on how to grow and manage blogs. Most of the advice I’ve read is based on that bloggers own experience. Now don’t get me wrong, I have no issue with bloggers providing advice.I think it’s great directional information to have. In fact I do it myself. What I have learned over the years though is another bloggers’ experience isn’t going to be my experience.

Just because something worked for other bloggers doesn’t mean it will work for me. In fact, several of the things I’ve done are the opposite of what many other bloggers say you should do to grow your blog.

I kept a broader niche - I went from having a really narrow niche to going more broad and having a lifestyle blog. By doing that I’ve been able to attract a greater pool of readers and followers

I use BoardBooster instead of Tailwind for Pinterest - I chose BoardBooster because of their looping feature and the overall lower cost. Since I started using BoardBooster, I’ve seen pretty steady growth in my Pinterest followers, saves and repins.

I’ve stayed on the Blogger Platform instead of moving to WordPress - this decision was made based on monetary cost., but I haven’t felt hindered by using Blogger.

2. I invest my time

Maintaining and growing a blog takes time. It can become a part-time or full-time job. For me A Relaxed Gal has become like a part-time job. I spend several hours each evening when I come home from work writing posts, designing graphics, creating images, engaging with other bloggers, responding to my readers and promoting my content. Not only do I work during the evenings, but also on the weekends.

While all of this has been a lot of hard work and many hours, it has been worth it. I’ve been able to see my social followers grow and my content read and shared more and more. I’ve also received several emails and comments from readers sharing how my blog has helped them.

3. I invest my money

Not only have I invested my time into growing my blog, but also some of my money. While it hasn’t been a lot and I’ve made some of it back, it has a put a little dent in my personal budget each month.

Currently I’ve invested money in
  • A custom domain from GoDaddy
  • BoardBooster to manage my content promotion on Pinterest
  • SocialPilot to manage content promotion on Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter

So far all of these investments have been worth it and all have contributed in some way to my blog growth.

4. I created and maintained a visual brand

When I started my blog I did it a little haphazardly. I didn’t put any real effort into creating a visual brand for my blog. So there was no consistency in the overall mood and tone my blog was conveying. Everything from the name, colors, images and graphics used didn’t establish any brand consistency.

A few years later when I rebranded my blog I created a brand board to determine the design elements I would use to create a look and feel that was bright, memorable, fun and authentic. After implementing my new visual brand I started noticing more returning visitors.


5. I pay attention to my analytics

I use Google Analytics to measure the overall performance and health of my site. With the data I can get from Google Analytics I’m able to learn more about my audience which helps with generating content ideas and knowing where to focus my content promotion efforts.

6. I’m particular about where I promote my blog

One of the great things about blogging is there are many channels I can use to promote my blog. The bad news is there are many channels I can use to promote my blog. Because of this I found I was spreading myself too thin trying to use as many of the available channels I could. As a result I was seeing minimal to no positive results from most of those channels.

So not too long ago I decided to do something about it. I decided to cut some channels out and only focus on the ones my audience seemed to be using. My promotion efforts have now shifted to my Facebook Page, some Facebook groups, Twitter, Pinterest and engaging with other bloggers. By putting my focus here I’ve been able to grow and nurture those channels which in turn is helping to grow and nurture my blog.

7. I’ve had patience

A big part of blogging is being patient. Not everyone will see exploding growth in a month or two. If it were that simple it wouldn’t be as fun!

7 tips for growing blog traffic and readers | arelaxedgal.com 

How I’m Doing with My 2017 Goals

1. Fully optimize arelaxedgal.com site for SEO by the end of Q1

Done, though I’m still seeing some posts with high bounce rates. I’m talking 100% bounce. I’ve started going back through those posts to see if there are any other updates I can make.

Despite having some outliers I’m pretty pleased with the amount of organic traffic I’m getting. So out of curiosity I compared Jan - April 2016 to Jan - April 2017 to see what the change in my organic traffic has been year-over-year. I was blown away.

In 2016 about 9% of my traffic came from organic traffic. This year it’s about 29%! This is an increase of over 200%. I’ll be even more blown away if the year-over-year increase was even greater by the end of the year.

2. Retain readers on my site

April was a little bit of an inverse of March. My number of new visitors increased by close to 8%. My bounce rate increased by about 3% and the number of pages per session decreased slightly as well. Nothing alarming, but I’ll be keeping an eye on these stats in May to see if it’s my new norm.

3. Grow my social followers and increase engagement

April was a so-so month for gaining social followers. For my Pinterest account I saw a small increase of total saves and a decrease in clicks. My Twitter profile saw a decrease in profile visits and mentions. So pretty much a mixed bag.

4. Grow my email subscriber list to at least 1,000 by 12/31

In April I spent a few days working on my email list. and was able to grow my subscriber list by 21 after
  • Revising the language in my subscriber forms so they are more specific about what subscribers will get when they sign up
  • Creating workflows for my content upgrades

I also created a free mini-email course on decreasing a blog bounce rate. I haven’t had any signups yet, but that’s mostly because I haven’t really pushed or promoted the course. Once I do I hope that it will help me increase my email sign ups even more.

5. Do a least one paid post a quarter

I’ve had a few brands reach out to me about sponsored posts. I’m working on getting more information from them to see what the post would entail and the payment. Hopefully one of these will pan out into something viable for the quarter.

6. Create an image library of at least 24 images by year end

In April I added two more images to my library bringing me to a total of 12 images in my library ahead of schedule.

What have you done this year to grow your blog?

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© 2014-2017 A Relaxed Gal. All Rights Reserved. All of the content on this site is for informational purposes only. I am not a hair care, blogging, beauty or financial advisor or life professional. All opinions are from my own personal experience.

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