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Substack burst onto the digital creation scene in 2017. Career journalists and casual bloggers alike quickly adopted this email marketing service, and now creators publish thousands of newsletters every day to over 500,000 paying readers.  

There’s still some confusion over what Substack is and how to use Substack to build subscriptions, however. 

Is the platform a good fit for your niche? Substack can be a great tool to combine with a website to bring quality content to your users and build your email marketing.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

What Substack Is

How To Use Substack for Email Marketing

WordPress Alternatives to Substack

Final Thoughts: What Substack Is and How To Use It for Email Marketing

What Substack Is

Substack official logo

Substack is an email subscription creation tool that was founded in 2017 as a way to let writers connect directly with their audience. It’s grown quickly since then, but not without its share of payment and political controversy

The platform has a simple-to-use email creator that lets writers insert links and images and write about whatever subject they desire.

You can create free or premium newsletters starting at $5/month per subscriber. While there is no upfront cost to publishing your newsletter, Substack takes a 10% cut, while the payment processor Stripe takes another 2.9% + 30 cents. 

While Substack does offer some website creation tools, there are limited means of customization, especially for search engine optimization (SEO) and marketing outside the platform.

How To Use Substack for Email Marketing

When using Substack for email marketing, first decide whether a free or paid subscription plan is better for your brand.

Free Substack Newsletters

A free newsletter is a good idea for reaching the largest possible audience. You can send it to potential customers, include links to coupon codes or other offers to boost sales, and add additional calls to action (CTAs) linking back to your website.

If you chose to start as a free newsletter, you could always change to a paid plan later or use both.

Paid Options on Substack

Paid subscription emails on Substack start at $5/month and go up to $75/month. You can publish as often as you wish, but subscribers will take the pricing and content you offer into account before paying.

Paid newsletters on the platform tend to come from established voices with expertise or celebrity status within their niche. Some newsletters are opinion pieces, others are journalistic, and others are collections of fiction. 

Using paid newsletters is a good option for premium content that goes into more detail than other information featured for free on your blog. If your brand is highly personal, this could also work well, but it’s unlikely that people will pay $7 a month for sale information.

WordPress Alternatives to Substack

Substack takes a significant 13% + 30 cent chunk of your profit. While this may not seem like much, if you set your paid subscription at the $5 minimum, it works out to 95 cents of every subscription going to Substack and Stripe. 

Ghost is a popular open-source alternative that charges a flat monthly fee vs. a percentage. If you have at least ten subscribers, it works out to be cheaper than Substack. 

Another point to keep in mind is that Substack isn’t SEO-optimized for individual newsletters. Having a website empowers you to target subscribers better and go beyond the reach of text and images. 

With that in mind, the alternatives that are just as easy to use with WordPress include MailOptin, Newsletter Glue, and MailerLite (which starts with free plans).

Diversifying your web presence is essential for visibility and connecting with users. While a Substack newsletter can be an excellent tool to use, it works best if combined with a solid social media presence and landing page for more direct communication.

Final Thoughts: What Substack Is and How To Use It for Email Marketing

Substack is an excellent tool for the renaissance of email marketing, but its easy-to-use system comes with a price. 

While the ability to publish content for free is great for new writers with a small audience, you still lose significantly more money to Substack than many alternative platforms after building a subscriber base. The limited customization is also a sticking point for creators who have made their brand over multiple platforms.

Your goals will be different depending on if you run a personal blog, business, or something in between. So, having a flexible email newsletter that lets you personalize lists, offer sales, and work with multiple plugins will empower you to create a subscription base that grows with you.

Undoubtedly, an existing WordPress website can be a great place to start building your email list

Take an extra step to ensure your email marketing efforts pay off by using Bluehost’s WordPress hosting services

  • Tiffani Anderson

    Tiffani is a Content and SEO Manager for the Bluehost brand. With over 10 years experience across all facets of content and brand marketing, she strives to combine concepts from brand marketing with engaging content through the lens of SEO.

    University of North Texas
    Previous Experience
    Content Marketing, SEO, Social Media
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