How To Setup ConvertKit – The Beginner’s Guide

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In December, I finally made the leap from Mailchimp, to Aweber, and over to ConvertKit (where I’ll happily stay). Since then, I’ve learned how to setup ConvertKit so that it is optimized for success.

But before I even dive into the deep end on explaining ConvertKit to you, I want to give you some background…

The Back Story

Before I even ever heard of ConvertKit, I was nobody.

No one knew who I was.

I was earning NOTHING from my blog (besides money from freelance clients I had secured).

I had zero people on my email list.

Well, I had about 60 people on my list (all from about 6 months of blogging – and I won’t even go into detail about how many of those subscribers were relatives or friends of mine…).

I knew that getting people to “subscribe” to your blog was a “good thing” but that about sums up my knowledge on email marketing.

So I plastered that sad “subscribe now” button all over my site (no wonder no one was subscribing). And then, when people subscribed, I didn’t send them any emails. No thank you emails, nothing! 

Oh, and can you guess what platform I was using for blog subscriptions?

Yep, it was Mailchimp. Good ‘ol Mailchimp.

At the time, Mailchimp was alluring because it was free!

As a broke blogger with little money to spare, free sounds good. Hell, free sounds great. The idea of investing in products and tools to help advance my blogging career was a foreign concept that just hadn’t “clicked” yet in my brain.

Then I learned of “freebies”.

People hate newsletters. Even if they love you, chances are they don’t want to receive your newsletters in their inbox. Newsletters are yuck.

But people LOVE free stuff. If you dangle a great freebie in front of them, they’ll drool over it and willingly pass you their email address so that they can get their hands on whatever it is that you’re offering. Freebies are just one among many ways you can grow your list like a weed.

GRAB YOUR COPY NOW

You see, freebies are this magical thing that turn your boring, stale “subscribe to receive my newsletter” form into an awesome, exciting “grab this freebie now” form. 

So, the term “opt in freebie” came into my blogging word bank and I got to work.

There are tons of different types of freebies you can offer to subscribers. Personally, the first freebie I ever offered was a 5-day email course on how to earn your first $1000 freelancing (no, I don’t still offer this – it’s not part of my niche anymore).

But, I quickly realized that Mailchimp wasn’t going to work any longer. First of all, some of my emails weren’t even delivering (um, what?!) and second of all, I hated the platform…. Every second of using it was torture.

So, I went shopping. I discovered Aweber and ConvertKit and debated between the two for a while.

Aweber beat out ConvertKit not for functionality, but only because of price.

$19 per month for Aweber was MUCH better than $29 per month for ConvertKit… (that sentiment was short lived, but I’ll get to that in a bit).

All I wanted was to deliver my 5-day email course freebie to new subscribers via automation. I was able to configure that easily enough with Aweber.

But I only stayed with Aweber for about 2 months.

The way they count “subscribers” is a little fishy. Also, their interface feels straight from 1999. It’s just not up to par with industry standards now.

And so I went shopping again. Except this time, I went with ConvertKit right off the bat. All of my blogging friends were on ConvertKit. Even one of my blogging idols, Pat Flynn recommends it (he also left Aweber for ConvertKit, actually). 

So I jumped, and I’m never looking back.

That brings us to today.

How I Use Convertkit Everyday as a Blogger

These days, I have about 5 different freebies and my email list now grows, on average, by about 20 subscribers per day.

Each of my freebies are advertised throughout my site using the WordPress ConvertKit plugin.

I also take advantage of ConvertKit’s landing pages to put my freebies on display as stand alone pages on my site.

ConvertKit sequences nurture my subscribers with value-stuffed emails that are automatically delivered to them on a set schedule (that I pre-configured) after they subscribe. These sequences also contain my automated sales-funnels (meaning, I make money on auto-pilot).

My weekly newsletters are delivered to subscribers using ConvertKit Broadcasts. Broadcasts are one-time emails that you send out to your list.

Finally, my favorite component of ConvertKit is their simple “if this, then that” automation.

With ConvertKit automation, I’m able to automatically filter subscribers from one email sequence to the next using simple rules (no manual work on my part at all!).

Automation also allows me to use “tags” to learn more about my subscribers.

For example, I can create an automation rule to add a “tag” to my subscribers who purchase one of my products. I can also use a “tag” to label my subscribers with certain interests (if they click on x link in my email, they’ll get tagged with “interest: SEO” – allowing me to understand that they are interested in SEO, cueing me to send them more SEO related content).

If you're a blogger, ConvertKit pretty much has it all (in a totally not confusing, easy to manage interface). 

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How to Setup ConvertKit

​I'm going to spend the remainder of this blog post taking you on a tour of ConvertKit and showing you how to setup ConvertKit to work with your blog. So let's get started with step one. 

STEP ONE: CREATE A FORM

A "form" is the actual thing displayed across your site that will prompt readers to subscribe - and then filter them over to your ConvertKit list. 

Forms can be embedded anywhere throughout your site (on sales pages, landing pages, blog posts… anywhere). You can display ConvertKit forms by installing the ConvertKit WordPress plugin on your site, or adding the code to your site (but we'll covert those details later).

1A. SELECT FORM

1B. SELECT THE STYLE OF YOUR FORM

You get to choose whatever style you like for your form. Currently, there are three options to choose from (and all are great!).

Once you've chosen the style of your ConvertKit form, click into “settings”.

1C. CONFIGURE THE SETTINGS OF YOUR FORM

A) Change the name of your form

B) Decide what should happen when people submit the form (should the form show a “success” message? Or should the subscriber be redirected to a thank you page? (I use thank you pages to advertise my products for sale and gift my subscribers with a unique coupon code – this is part of my sales funnel!).

C) Decide if you want to deliver an incentive​

The “incentive email” is how you will deliver your one-time freebies to subscribers (ebooks, file of stock photos, etc.). When someone opts into your form, the incentive email will automatically be sent to them in their inbox.

If you choose to send an incentive email, make sure "send incentive/double opt-in email" is checked (top of the page).

Configure your incentive email​

  • You’ll want to change the subject line to something like “your freebie is here”.
  • Then, you'll want to change the text on the button (just click into the button and start typing) to something like "click here to access your freebie". When subscribers click on the button, they'll be able to access their freebie.
  • Next, you'll need to choose how you want to deliver your freebie

How will your freebie be delivered? 

If you choose “URL”, your subscribers will be taken to a web page to download your freebie (meaning you’ll have to create that web page, and load your freebie there).

If you choose “incentive download”, subscribers just need to click the button and the freebie will automatically be downloaded. If you choose this option, you’ll need to upload your freebie right now to ConvertKit.

1D. DESIGN YOUR FORM

There are lots of different ways to design your form…

​You can change any template text that you see just by clicking into it and typing over the existing text (see A)

You can add a picture by clicking on the big image box in the middle (see B).

You can also change the accent color of the form​ and the text color (click on that magic wand in the top right hand corner of the screen). 

Click here to learn directly from the ConvertKit knowledge base how to customize your form.

Don't forget to click "save" when you are satisfied with your changes.

STEP TWO: CREATE A SEQUENCE

Once you’ve created your form, you’ll want to setup an email sequence.

An email sequence is an automated series of emails that will be delivered to your subscribers who are linked to it (we'll talk about linking and automation in a bit).

You can use an email sequence to deliver content for an email course, or you can use it to deliver educational messages to your subscribers as part of a sales funnel for your products.

2A. CLICK "SEQUENCES" ON THE TOP MENU >> +CREATE SEQUENCE

2B. NAME YOUR SEQUENCE

2C. SET UP YOUR SEQUENCE

Here's what your brand new, unedited sequence looks like. You'll need to edit it, of course!

The template sequence teaches you a bit of helpful information about creating a sequence. Give that a quick read and then delete all of that information so that you can replace it with your own email content. 

When you're ready, you can start adding your own emails to the sequence! I recommend writing out your emails in a separate word document or Google document. Then you can copy and paste them over to ConvertKit. 

1. Customize your emails to subscribers by clicking the "personalize" button

I always customize emails to subscribers because this feels more personal. Subscribers feel like you are actually talking directly to them.

The fallback allows you to customize emails, but it has a fallback in case someone only submitted their email address and not their first name. 

2. Decide when each email will be delivered

Choose what day you’d like each individual email to be sent.

According to the setting below, this email will be sent tomorrow (if the last email was sent today – hence 1 day after last email).

3. Add as many emails as you’d like to your sequence 

Just click "add email"

4. Add any Subscriber exclusions as necessary
By clicking the filter icon, you can easily exclude a subscriber from receiving this email based on a Tag, Segment, Date, and more. You can also do this for the entire sequence within the Sequence Settings. 

If I had promotional content for one of my online courses into an email, I usually will "filter" out anyone who has been tagged as a purchaser of that product. There is no reason for someone to receive a sales email for a product they already purchased! I love this feature in ConvertKit. ​

STEP THREE: CONNECT YOUR FORM TO YOUR SEQUENCE

Now that you have a form and a sequence, you need to make sure they are connected (so that when someone signs up through your form, they’ll automatically subscribe to the sequence and read your emails.

You can set this configuration up using the Automation capabilities within ConvertKit. It’s really simple!

ConvertKit uses “if this then that” rules to automate your account.

So, for example, IF Jane Doe subscribes to x form, THEN, Jane Doe gets subscribed to X sequence.

It looks like this:

I’ve also used ConvertKit for other sorts of automations.

1. When someone purchases my course, Bread & Butter Blogging, then a tag “Purchased:BBB” is added to their name. This allows me to easily filter them out of any promotional emails I may send (there’s no reason for them to get promotions for a course they already purchased!).

2. I’ve also used automation to add tags to people’s names depending on certain actions they take in the emails I send them.

For example, if someone clicked on a link to the Bread & Butter Blogging sales page in one of my emails, they received a tag “Viewed sales page for BBB”.

This allows me to gear really specific information to them, based on their interest in the course and them viewing the sales page.

Automation equips you with a lot of information about you your subscribers. You get to know your subscribers much better, enabling you to send really qualified and specific emails to the RIGHT people.

It’s fancy stuff – all super easy to configure.

ConvertKit’s automation and capabilities allow you to pretty much do anything you want. Yes, I’m paying more money per month… but damn, I’m getting all of my money’s worth.

STEP FOUR: DISPLAY YOUR FORM THROUGHOUT YOUR SITE

So, now that you have both a form and a sequence (and those two are connected), you’re ready to get all this good stuff out there into the world.

It’s time to display the form on your site!

When done correctly, you'll be able to display your form anywhere on your site and it will look something like this;

There are three ways to get a ConvertKit form onto your site:

  1. JAVASCRIPT - they give you the code
  2. HTML - they give you the code
  3. WORDPRESS PLUGIN - you download and install the plugin on your WordPress site​

I personally recommend including the form with the WordPress plugin, as it is the easiest method (especially for a beginner who isn’t familiar with code).

Simply download the WordPress plugin, and install it on your site (click here if you’re not sure how to upload a WordPress plugin and install it).

Once installed, you can edit the settings of the plugin by going to Settings >> ConvertKit in your WordPress dashboard.

You'll end up here and you'll need to fill in this information.

To find your API Key and API Secret, go over to your ConvertKit Account Settings. Copy and paste that information back over to WordPress and click save.

Under settings in WordPress, you get to choose a “default form”. This form that you choose will be the default form that will display across your site.

If you have more than one opt in freebie, you can choose a specific form to display on each page or post on your site. Just go into your specific page, scroll down to the ConvertKit widget section, choose your desired form, and update the page/post. 

Some things I love about ConvertKit

Like mentioned earlier, I've tested out three different email service providers and I love ConvertKit the best. It's not perfect (I'll explain what I mean shortly) but it does the job. Here are my favorite aspects of the product.

ConvertKit makes it easy to create landing pages ​

If I want to create a landing page for a freebie (and I do this ALL THE TIME), all I do is go into ConvertKit and design a landing page instead of a form. Then I follow the same process I outlined above. 

Here's how to display a ConvertKit landing page on your site: 

  1. create the landing page in ConvertKit
  2. Go over to WordPress (where you have the WordPress plugin installed)
  3. Create a new WordPress page 
  4. Scroll down to the ConvertKit widget and choose from the drop-down list the landing page that you just created in ConvertKit
  5. Save and publish the page (when you do, the ConvertKit landing page will display there!)

ConvertKit allows you to see the success of each form, sequence (and email within each sequence)

As a blogger, it's important to know what works and what doesn't. If I create an opt in freebie that people are constantly seeing on my site but don't opt into, then I know something needs to change. 

ConvertKit shows the percentage of conversions for each form. ​

​I can see here that 184 people have seen this freebie (this is a landing page). And of those 184 people, just about 46% of them decide to download the freebie. That's a great conversion rate! 

Some of my other opt-in freebies don'​t convert as well. So I can use this information to change the freebie or even just to change the way I advertise it to make it more alluring. 

But it gets even better than that. ConvertKit also shows you how successful your email sequences are. 

Here is a snapshot from one of my email sequences. I can see quick stats - how many people unsubscribed, what the open rate is and what the click rate is. ​

This information is gold. If one of my emails performs much worse than others, I can go in and edit that email so that it performs better. 

Some things I DON'T love about ConvertKit

I have to tell you, I hate when I see a blogger review a product without even one hint of discontent. It's not possible to be fully 100% in love with anything. Even in the happiest of marriages, there are still "bad days", right? So the same rings true for products. 

I've had my bad days with ConvertKit. 

There is no clear way to see reporting on one dashboard

If I see that 5 people unsubscribed from my list today, I have to go on a hunt (in each sequence) to see where the unsubscribe came from. There's no easy way to run a report for "today" to see subscribes and unsubscribes. It's not the end of the world - just an annoyance. 

Manually adding people to ConvertKit doesn't always set off automation triggers

For a while, I was using Sumo (for free) to display a bar at the bottom of my site for people to receive an invite to the Blogger Insights private Facebook group.

Once per day, I'd go through and add those new subscribers manually over to ConvertKit. I noticed after a little while that when I added them manually to a form, ConvertKit wasn't always triggering the necessary reaction (to subscribe them to a sequence). After a brief back and forth with the support team, they informed me that in order to get manual subscribers on a sequence, you have to manually add them to that sequence in addition to manually adding them to the form. Lesson learned! Again, this wasn't such a huge concern but just a minor annoyance. 

This isn't an issue for me any longer since I recently switched from Sumo to ConvertPlug. I only paid $21for ConvertPlug and it automatically integrates with ConvertKit, meaning no more manual work for me and ConvertKit automation works without a hitch.  Hooray!

Wrapping it up

I used to laugh when I heard people say things like "ConvertKit helped grow my blog email list by x %". 

I couldn't understand - how is it that a PRODUCT can really help grow your email list? 

But I get it now.

Prior to ConvertKit, I was using email service providers that didn't have the functionality and capacity to support the sort of things I needed to be able to do in order to grow my email list. It's not that ConvertKit did the work for me - there's no super secret magic sauce here. It's just that ConvertKit has the power to do what I need it to do for me... and that's where products like MailChimp really fail. 

Anyway, I hope you found this "how to setup ConvertKit" guide helpful. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments section!

Happy blogging, friends. 

Did you enjoy this blog post? Please consider sharing it. Photos courtesy of Styled Stock Library.

How To Setup ConvertKit – The Beginner’s Guide. Learn how to setup convertkit to grow your blog and your email list.

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