Ways to automate your newsletter and blog on Webflow
Keep the design control offered by Webflow, while gaining seamless newsletter/blog cross-posting similar to Ghost or Substack.
Why do this?
Webflow has become the default website builder for startups and Saas companies. Over half of YC-backed startups now use it, and for good reason, it's fantastic for landing page-centric sites.
However, the writing experience for blogging and content marketing is poor compared to an old school blog on Wordpress. And there hasn't been good email newsletter integration, like you find in indie creator tools Ghost, Substack, and Revue.
Luckily there's now 3rd party add-ons and workarounds for newsletters and blogging with Webflow, which can give you the best of both worlds.
Here's the 3 options for creating an integrated email and content publishing system on Webflow in 2022:
Option 1: Audienceful
Audienceful (shameless plug) is the first email marketing tool with native Webflow integration. It's been described as "...if Notion could publish to Webflow."
It allows you to cross-post content to both a company newsletter and Webflow site at the same time, and feels like using a notes app.
- Native Webflow publishing. Audienceful is the only option on this list with native Webflow integration. This means you can connect your site to Audienceful and start publishing to any Webflow collection.
- Full email marketing features. Audienceful is a full email marketing suite with support for multiple audiences, tags, custom fields, surveys, segmentation, and more.
- Writer-friendly UI. Audienceful feels very much like writing in Notion or Ghost, instead of a clunky website CMS or old school email builder.
- Easy setup. Adding Audienceful to your Webflow site takes less than 30 seconds to setup.
- In active development. Our team is still working on features like a full automation builder (but moving fast!), so you'll need separate tools for more advanced user onboarding and trial nuture flows for the next few months.
- Only free for up to 1k email subscribers. Audienceful is only free for up to 1,000 subscribers, however once your email list surpasses that number, it is still cheaper than using an expensive legacy ESP like Mailchimp or Constant contact.
Option 2: Put a Ghost blog on a subdomain
You could host a Ghost (or Substack) instance on a subdomain for your website, and run both Webflow and Ghost at the same time.
While it's a hassle to run two different websites, by bypassing Webflow altogether for your blog, this provides you with an integrated blog/newsletter. However this method has some major downsides for SEO and visitor experience.
- Great for paid newsletter creators. Ghost is designed with paid newsletter creators in mind, so they offer specific functionality for newsletter subscriptions that would otherwise require outside tools.
- Writer-friendly UI. Similar to Audienceful, Ghost has a very writer-friendly UI for composing content.
- Juggling two websites is a hassle. Ghost is a totally different platform so your Webflow site and Ghost blog won't talk to each other. You'll have to maintain two separate sites and log into two different systems anytime you want to change things.
- Subdomains are worse for SEO. This is a controversial topic since Google claims there's no difference, but recent studies show Google's algorithm isn't as sophisticated as claimed. SEMrush found subdomains dramatically hurt organic SEO compared to putting your blog on yoursite.com/blog.
- It's a poor user experience. Your main site and Ghost blog are going to feel totally different. When clicking on your blog, visitors will feel like they're being taken to a different site (because they are).
- Ghost lacks marketing features. While Ghost is fantastic for paid newsletter writers, it wasn't designed for companies with email marketing needs. There's little in the way of segmentation, multiple audiences, custom fields, surveys, drip sequences, or even full control over branding.
- No free plan. Ghost has no free plan, and you have to give a credit card to do a 14 day trial.
Option 3: RSS/Zapier + traditional ESP
Of the 3 options, this one is the least flexible, and we wouldn't recommend it unless you have a very specific use case with minimal formatting and few images, as it is prone to breaking.
This option requires you still write and publish everything from Webflow's editor, which is tedious to use compared to the above options.
However, if you aren't picky about formatting; and all you want to do is send the exact same content to both web and email, this can be a fully automated option.
- Can be set-and-forget-it: if your use case is narrow enough (you never want to send different content to web vs. email), and your content is simple enough, this option can allow you to be completely hands off.
- Hard to setup and fragile to maintain. Most email tools have RSS support, but typically it's an afterthought since their biggest customers are ecommerce brands sending "email campaigns," not newsletter content. Getting everything to work properly and fixing it when it breaks can be time consuming.
- Have to use an expensive old school ESP. Most traditional email marketing tools were built decades ago, are insanely complex, and are designed for big companies with dedicated email marketing teams.
- Can't adjust content for each platform. We've found we rarely want the exact same thing published to both web and email. On web, you want to optimize for keywords/SEO. In email, you want to optimize for brevity and open rates. With this setup you can't do something as simple as change a headline for email vs. the blog.
- Zapier/RSS often mangles complex formatting. We absolutely love Zapier for passing raw data between apps (like database entries, etc). However Zapier wasn't designed for complex, formatted data like the content of a blog post (which are full of headings, links, bold tags, lists, italic, embeds, etc).
So what do we use?
We've tried all of the above at previous startups...and our frustration with existing options is basically the whole reason we built Audienceful.
So, no surprise, we use our own tool for all email marketing and content, since it's the only way to get native Webflow publishing.
In fact, it's how we published this post you're reading right now (we also cross-posted to our newsletter, so you may be reading it in email).
We also use Audienceful to publish all of our Help Docs, Changelog Updates, Tutorials, Job Listings, Press Releases, and more to Webflow collections. It's turned our website into a content machine. This allows us to avoid sending visitors to multiple platforms on different subdomains like most software companies do on their websites, turbocharging our SEO efforts.