Managing large mailing lists from your WordPress site

There isn’t much that cannot be done with WordPress. There are plugins for just about everything. There are multiple options for creating and maintaining a mailing list and sending out newsletters to your subscribers.

However, sending out newsletters directly from your WordPress site may not be the best solution if you have a large mailing list (let’s say, more than 1,000 addresses).

Why not send newsletters directly from my WordPress site?

There are two reasons why sending a large number of emails directly from your WordPress site may not be an ideal solution:

  • Typically, in order to send out a newsletter to each subscriber, one call to the WordPress function wp_mail() must be made for each subscriber. This requires quite a bit of processing and may slow down access to your site while the newsletter is being sent. If there are many subscribers, the slowdown may last long enough to be very noticeable to your users.
  • If your WordPress site is hosted on a shared server (and many are), your emails are sent from the shared server’s IP address. That means that your reputation as a sender depends on the reputation of the other sites hosted on the same server. And a bad reputation can lead to your emails being classified as spam by the destination server, so that your subscribers may not even receive your emails.

So, what’s the alternative?

You can avoid both problems listed above by using a full-service mailing list management service, such as MailChimp or Aweber.

These services take care of mailing list subscriptions, un-subscriptions, bounces (undeliverable addresses), etc. The only thing you need to do is to paste their signup form into one of your WordPress pages.

Unfortunately, these full service providers tend to be rather expensive, as we will see below.

Is there a cheaper way?

Yes! (It would have been unfair if I had made you read this far without having a better solution to share with you.)

You can get the benefits of managing your mailing list on your own website, using a WordPress plugin, while also using a high quality, but inexpensive, mail delivery service.

Mailgun is such a service. It doesn’t come with ready-made subscriber management functions, but you don’t need those if you have a WordPress plugin that performs those functions for you. All you need is a reliable way to deliver emails to many addresses without putting extra load on your server, and that’s exactly what Mailgun is good at.

What does it cost?

Monthly cost for sending 4 newsletter per month to the given number of subscribers:

2,500 subscribers$29.99$29$8
10,000 subscribers$74.99$60$32
15,000 subscribers$129$149$43
25,000 subscribers$189$149$75
Advertised pricing as of June 2020

Note that this comparison doesn’t show the whole picture. MailChimp and AWeber bill you for the size of your mailing list, regardless of whether you send few newsletters or a great many (up to a certain maximum), whereas Mailgun cost depends on the number of emails sent above the amount included with the chosen plan. This may make a significant difference if you don’t always send the same number of newsletters every month.

So how does this speed up my newsletters?

That’s a good question.

Just sending one email at a time through Mailgun is probably not any faster that sending one email at a time through the standard wp_mail() function.

But Mailgun has a “Batch Send” API that allows you to send an email to up to 1,000 addresses in a single API call. For 25,000 subscribers, that’s 25 API calls instead of 25,000 calls. Quite a difference.

OK, but how do I integrate Mailgun with WordPress?

Although Mailgun doesn’t offer any ready-made solutions for sending emails though the Batch Send API, there are WordPress plugins that do. All you need are these two plugins:

1. The Newsletter Plugin

  • This is one of the most widely used WordPress plugins for managing mailing lists. This is a free plugin, and you can enhance its functionality by getting a Premium subscription.

2. Superfast Mailgun for the Newsletter plugin

  • This is an add-on for the Newsletter plugin that makes it possible to send newsletters through the Mailgun Batch Send API.
  • The free version of this add-on lets you send 1,200 emails per hour. Depending on your current situation, that may already be a lot faster than what you can achieve now.
  • But for large mailing lists (more than a thousand subscribers), I recommend Superfast Mailgun Pro, which lets you send up to 120,000 emails per hour and includes some very useful additional features.

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