In this review, you will learn more about beehiiv, a simple and no-code platform for sending newsletters.
And their goal is to be the "most creator-friendly" newsletter platform. So let's see how beehiiv wants to achieve it.
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What is beehiiv?
beehiiv is a hosted newsletter platform for creators.
It works as a hybrid of a blog and newsletter all in the same place.
beehiiv is the creation of former Morning Brew employees, and the platform launched a private beta version in July of 2021. They are also backed by venture capital firm Litquidity Capital.
beehiiv main features
This is a list of the main features of beehiiv:
- Public archive (website);
- Free plan;
- Analytics on the dashboard;
- Importing of content and subscribers;
- Exporting of content and subscribers;
- Integrations (public API and Zapier);
- Offers and trials to newsletter;
- Customization of newsletter layout;
- Team members;
- Multiple newsletters in the same account;
- Embed forms for other sites;
- Send posts by email only without publishing on the site;
- Referral program.
How is the process of creating an account
Creating an account is straightforward and takes 2 minutes.
Then you will see a pop-up describing the setup process of your account. And this consists of 5 steps, which are optional if you want to do them later.
The first one is the publication details, which includes:
- The publication name;
- One-line description;
- The sender name;
- The web URL;
- Pick up to 3 tags for the newsletter.
Next, you can upload a logo. Followed by the color customization you want to use.
The 4th step is importing existing subscribers.
And the last step is importing the content from your current newsletter.
Next, let's talk about beehiiv strengths and reasons to use them.
With beehiiv, you can charge subscriptions to your newsletter with 0% fees.
That's right, beehiiv won't charge you a commission as Substack does. This way, you keep all the revenue (minus payment processing fees, but those are a standard at this point).
In practice, this makes beehiiv more creator-friendly because you know upfront how much you will pay to the platform.
Also, you get the same service from them independently of how much money you earn. So, it makes sense to not share revenue with beehiiv.
One of the features of beehiiv is having a public archive. This allows you to combine a blog with a newsletter in the same place.
And this centralization tends to reduce costs, going back and forth with information and keeping readers coming back to your site, even if you only have a newsletter.
Also, this can bring organic traffic from search engines. So, having a public archive for a newsletter is a significant positive aspect.
Generous free plan
beehiiv says they want to be the "most creator-friendly" newsletter platform, and their free plan is a good starting point for back that statement.
So, you can create an account and use beehiiv for free if your newsletter has less than 2500 subscribers. This number is generous because most competitors cap free at 1000 subscribers.
And after that, the cheapest paid plan starts at $29/month. This means you have some time to build a respectable audience before you have to pay.
I usually see people make the same complaint with tools for blogs and newsletters: the lack of analytics.
But that won't happen with beehiiv because it has analytics built into the platform.
For starters, the first page when you log in to your account is a dashboard with an overview of information.
The overview contains:
- Active subscribers number;
- Average open rate;
- Average click rate;
- Active subscribers information;
- Signups from the past week;
- Subscription breakdown between free and paid members.
This means you will have the more relevant information of the last 30 days and a variation in percentage to the previous period. Primarily, click tracking is crucial as it's growing in importance as an engagement metric.
Importing/ exporting of data
Another cool feature of beehiiv is importing members and content from other platforms.
Further, they have 2 methods to importing posts:
- automatically from a URL;
- with a ZIP file containing posts.
These are the instructions you can find on the importing page:
We recommend using an RSS feed—which requires you to only provide the URL of your previous webpage below. However, to ensure we're able to transfer all of your existing content, we ask that you do two things prior to proceeding:
Make sure in your settings that your RSS feed is enabled and is set to include "full content," not just a "summary"
If you have content behind a paywall, you remove that paywall temporarily prior to using this import tool
If for some reason the import tool does not work with your existing provider, you have the option to download your content and upload the zip file below as well. Each platform should have documentation explaining how to download and export your existing content.
Alternatively, please feel free to reach out to support and we'll be happy to help with this process.»
But things don't stop here. As you own the copyrights of what you create in beehiiv, they give you the option to export your content from the platform if you decide to move on.
beehiiv is still a young platform but nails one thing: allowing integrations.
This means you have access to Zapier and Make integrations if you want. This makes beehiiv better than Substack at dealing with integrations.
I love that they allow integrations via API. This way you can create more than one API keys. There's a big security benefit to this as you should create an API key for every integration. And if one day you stop using that integration, you can delete the key to avoid sharing data with that platform.
Another example is if you have given an API key to create and integration is compromised, you can delete the key to stop the vulnerability.
beehiiv allows complete control of the newsletter aspect. This means you can customize fonts, colors, spacing, and everything in between.
You can also modify the welcome email sent to your subscribers.
The modifications to the theme are done quickly with sliders that allow you to preview the changes in real-time. Although, they could improve if there was a undo changes button. At the moment, you need to go back manually, but this is time-consuming and boring.
Do you work with other people? Don't worry. You can give them access without having to share your password.
Before telling you the 4 types of team members that exist, it's important to say that beehiiv allows more than one newsletter in the same account. That's why you will see mention of "same publication" and "all publications" as these referrers the newsletters an account can have.
In beehiiv there are 4 levels of team members:
- Publication Member: can view data, create and edit posts to the selected publication;
- Publication Admin: everything a Publication Member does, plus access to the settings and can invite new members to the same publication;
- Company Member: can view data, create and edit posts of all publications;
- Company Admin: everything a Company Member does, plus access to the settings, and invite new members to all publications.
Multiple newsletters in the same account
With beehiiv, you can have more than one newsletter in the same account. This isn't a common feature to newsletter platforms, but I've also discussed it in the Buttondown review.
This is useful for advanced users with different interests who want to expand to more newsletters without creating separate accounts.
However, as this is something for advanced users, you need to subscribe to the Pro plan starting at $49 per month to access this feature.
Embed forms for other websites
To grow your newsletter, it's a good idea to put subscription forms on other websites.
And considering what I'll tell you later about beehiiv search engine optimization, these forms are more needed than one thinks.
The process is easy. You go to "Settings", "Subscribe Forms", and finally click on "Create New Form".
Then you put the form title, fill in the information, and pick the colors. beehiiv will generate 3 options:
- Fixed width;
- Slim Embed.
The good part of these forms is they don't require code. The bad part is you don't have complete control of the layout as you can only pick from the 3 options.
When it comes to publishing posts, beehiiv offers flexibility. And this will leave you with 3 options:
- Publish only to the website;
- Send posts only by email without publishing;
- Publish and send.
So, you can publish a post on the site without sharing by email. And the opposite is also possible: sending a newsletter-only post.
This is a use case for publishing posts for all members and sending newsletters only to paying subscribers.
Intuitive and clean layout
beehiiv is a no-code newsletter platform. This means you don't need to use or know the code for using it. And this simplicity is visible everywhere on the product.
The layout is clean of the dashboard is clean. There aren't many buttons, but things are still easy to find.
As for the editor, it is clean and isn't distracting.
All this to say, using beehiiv is easy. Moreover, the platform looks modern and pleasant to use.
One of the main features promoted in the beehiiv website is a built-in referral program for newsletters.
The logic behind this is that the founders used referral programs to help Morning Brew grow exponentially. So, you can also use that power of word of mouth and viral publishing to grow your newsletter.
However, it's important to note that this referral program doesn't come cheap as you need to upgrade to the $99 per month plan. But this makes sense as you need a reasonably sized audience for the program to work.
Like all platforms, beehiiv has limitations, so let's address them.
Awful search engine optimization
When it comes to SEO, beehiiv has significant flaws. And for that reason, I told before that subscription forms are vital for writers.
First, I couldn't find a sitemap for publications using beehiiv. This is helpful for search engines to see all the pages but isn't mandatory to have.
However, a flagrant flaw is the absence of robots.txt. And this file is critical. In short, it tells search engines what pages should be excluded from consideration to appear on search results.
Also, there isn't a way to add sponsored links on posts. And if you do sponsored content or use affiliate links, you have to disclose them.
Another fundamental feature is missing URL customization. This is important to give a descriptive slug of the page.
I couldn't find metadata customization or schema markup on posts to finalize the SEO offenses.
Limited layout options for the site
Next, you'll learn about the customization of the website.
In this case, beehiiv won't give you many options. Zero. Literally none. And this is the opposite of customizing what you can do for the newsletter.
To give you some context, Substack is very limited, and even there, you now have 3 layout options to pick from. This way, you see how narrow you will be to customize the website.
Frustrating editor for writing
I've lightly complimented the editor when telling it looks good. But, when it comes to functionality, things are different.
First, the editor is annoying. I say this because it creates a new line when you click between lines. The annoyance is that you can't disable it, and you only need one click to activate this "feature".
But the worst part is the lack of a custom HTML block. Custom HTML is helpful to create sponsored links, for example.
And finally, it doesn't support Markdown. Again, this isn't a massive complaint. But I love to write in Markdown. And the flexibility to pick between rich text and Markdown is worth having.
Custom domain only available on Pro plan
For activating a custom domain, you must upgrade to a Pro plan ($49 per month).
My complaint? This is expensive as hell. And this is out of reach for creators at the start of their journey.
For SEO purposes having a custom domain is crucial, and putting this bar so high means you will work for a long time without building some domain authority.
And what happens if you downgrade from the Pro plan? Does one lose access to a custom domain? It's something I'll look further to investigate.
So, sadly this isn't "creator-friendly".
No email automation or segmentation
Next, let me tell you that if you're looking for email automation, you better look elsewhere because beehiiv doesn't allow you to build email sequences.
Another limitation is segmentation. With beehiiv, you can only segment based on free or paying members. This means you cannot add tags to subs to give granular sending options.
Lack of code injection
In beehiiv, you don't have the option to add code to the header or footer of the site. This is useful for a myriad of reasons.
One of them is allowing to use of 3rd-party analytics tools other than Google Analytics. And with the growing popularity of cookie-less analytics like Plausible or Fathom, this is a downside if you want to get more information about the source of the visitor or time on the page.
Another use for code injection could be adding comments to the post. Unfortunately, like Ghost, beehiiv doesn't have a native comment system.
There are many cases where code injection is valuable, so this is a significant limitation in beehiiv.
Why use beehiiv for a newsletter?
You should consider using beehiiv for a newsletter for the following reasons:
- It's easy to start an account and send a newsletter;
- It doesn't require any coding knowledge;
- Their free plan is very generous, allowing 2500 subscribers to a free newsletter;
- You keep your website and newsletter centralized in the same place;
- It provides integration with other tools;
- Lots of customization options for the newsletter aspect;
- Ability to add team members to your account;
- Built-in newsletter analytics;
- And a referral program.
Do I recommend beehiiv?
So, after all, this do I recommend using beehiiv? No, not yet.
As you can see, they have a lot of exciting things for a young platform. But their SEO is awful. I'm mean really, really bad, as you could read before.
So, what are the consequences of this? First, you cannot expect to find success via search engines to grow organically. And this makes beehiiv like Substack: a pain to grow. This means it will work well for famous writers or writers with a considerable subscriber number to justify not worrying about SEO.
Additionally, there are content guidelines to what you can post on beehiiv. I didn't mention it in the limitations above because I didn't find anything of concern in their terms of service, but they exist. Nevertheless, I know very well that using hosted platforms like beehiiv or Substack is a risk for the long-term of your content.
That's why I prefer to not use hosted platforms and use a custom domain. This way I'll have full control of my website's destiny. I say this because it's heartbreaking to put a lot of effort into something to then get banned by platforms and start from scratch.
And considering all this, I would not recommend using beehiiv just yet.
Competition is healthy, and I like the existence of another Substack alternative. And beehiiv nails the part of being easy to use by everyone. However, when looking at my checklist to evaluate newsletter tools to what I consider important, beehiiv gets an F.
This rating is fixable if the company really wants to be better than Substack and an excellent newsletter platform to be adopted in mass.
When looking at the near future, there are rumors about an ads marketplace for newsletters. Yet, this isn't a released feature, and we have to wait for it.
Even if I dislike using hosted platforms, beehiiv is promising and will improve in the coming months. But in your place, I would wait until they improve their SEO.
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