16 min read

Beehiiv vs Substack: Pick the right newsletter tool

Substack vs beehiiv comparison featured image

If you are here, you are still undecided about choosing between beehiiv and Substack for your newsletter tool.

So, today I'll help you decide.

You'll learn about which tool is better for SEO, growth, customization, and monetizing your content.

I'm Tiago Silva, and what you are about to read is based on my experience of being a creator since 2020. The goal is to give you the best info to help you pick the right tool for your newsletter, while I write about something I enjoy.

Let's go!


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Affiliate Disclaimer: This page contains affiliate links. My content is supported by readers like you. So if you buy after clicking on a link, I get a commission without costing you extra. ๐Ÿ˜Š

Beehiiv vs Substack summary

Beehiiv and Substack have some similarities, like:

  • Built-in monetization options via memberships.
  • Newsletter platform with an integrated blog;
  • You can use them without coding skills;
  • Generous free plan;

But similarities basically stop there, and an ocean of differences starts.

The main differences between beehiiv and Substack are that Substack takes 10% of the revenue from each membership, and beehiiv has better tools for pro users.

Beehiiv is my recommendation for creators who want to monetize their newsletter with memberships and ads while growing their newsletter fast and having good SEO and monetization options.

So, beehiiv is the better solution for users looking at their newsletter like a business.

On the other hand, Substack is my recommendation for creators who want to publish different types of content in the same place, want to chat with subscribers, and like the social features Substack is developing.

Best overall
beehiiv
  • Content creation: 8.9
  • Customization: 6.8
  • SEO: 7.8
  • Growth: 10
  • Management: 9.5
  • Monetization: 7.8
  • Overall Rating: 9.5
Free forever plan
Substack
  • Content creation: 5.2
  • Customization: 4.3
  • SEO: 7.5
  • Growth: 4.8
  • Management: 9.0
  • Monetization: 4.8
  • Overall Rating: 6.7
๐Ÿ’ก
These ratings are based on a formula that considers feature existence (options), how they work (ease of use), and their importance (weight). The formula is based on what I consider more important in a way that's easy to understand strengths and weaknesses.

Beehiiv overview

Beehiiv is a newsletter tool with blogging capabilities. This means you can use it to publish different content in the same place.

Beehiiv is a no-code solution for creators who want to focus on writing without having to deal with technical configuration and is probably the best Substack alternative available.

Things I like about beehiiv:

  • Nothing to install;
  • Free plan (up to 2,500 subscribers);
  • 0% membership fees;
  • Do everything without code;
  • Works as blog + newsletter;
  • Good email analytics;
  • Amazing newsletter design customization;
  • Multiple newsletters in the same account;
  • Referral program;
  • Integrations;

Things I don't like about beehiiv:

  • The free plan is extremely limited;
  • Average website customization;
  • Custom domain only on paid plans;

Substack overview

Substack is mainly a newsletter tool, but they are trying to become a place to publish all kinds of content like a blog, podcast, chat with subscribers, and they even have a Twitter "clone" called Notes.

Since the platform was created in 2017, it has significantly impacted media by popularizing paid newsletters.

Substack is one of the main reasons for newsletters becoming so popular again, as they made monetizing content easy.

Things I like about Substack:

  • Free forever plan;
  • Do everything without code;
  • Good safety record;
  • Publish different types of content (newsletter, blog, podcast, and more);
  • Easy to use.

Things I don't like about Substack:

  • 10% in membership fees;
  • Bad SEO;
  • Custom domain costs $50;
  • No integrations;
  • No email sequences;
  • Awful customization;
  • Complicated content guidelines (you have to follow their rules or risk getting banned).


Keep up with tech for your blog and newsletter


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Content Creation

Now, I'll explore the process of creating content with each tool.

Content Creation Experience on beehiiv

The content creation on beehiiv is great. The editor is clean, easy to use and works well.

beehiiv's text editor to write posts and newsletters.
beehiiv's text editor to create content.

Clicking on the plus icon from within the editor gives you access to features like:

  • Recommend other newsletters;
  • Paywall the rest of the post;
  • Text formatting;
  • Custom HTML;
  • AI writer;
  • Buttons;
  • Polls;

On the right sidebar, you can find all the other customization options for the post, including SEO settings, post-delivery type, and a preview of how the content will appear on the website.

Beehiiv even allows saving a page as a template, which will save you time if you create content in a repeatable format. Isn't that awesome?!

Content Creation Experience on Substack

Content creation on Substack is simple.

And this comes with some Pros & Cons...

The editor has a minimalist layout with few settings at the top and nothing else on the way.

This makes it pleasant to look at and won't distract you when writing.

Substack editor to write posts and publish content.
Substack editor where you can write the newsletter.

This is a dream for beginners because it's easy to learn and use. But advanced users will struggle!

For example, adding custom HTML on Substack is a pain as you can only do it with Google Tag Manager.

This isn't optimal from a privacy perspective and is too complicated for a thing that should be available by default.

And for me, this is a big turn-off about writing on Substack. As a creator, I need the ability to add custom HTML, CSS, and inject JavaScript into some of my posts.

Here's why this is necessary:

Custom HTML embedding forms, making tables, and writing code for sponsored tags.

On Substack, you can't add nofollow or sponsored tags to links.

This is an SEO problem!

๐Ÿ“Œ
It's baffling how many people risk a Google penalty by not using affiliate and sponsor links appropriately. Most haven't suffered any penalties, but they are bound to happen, and then they'll blame a Google update because of it.

At some point, you'll want to use custom HTML. But guess what!? Substack is limited, and it will be infuriating that you can't do something because of this.

Other important things missing on Substack are:

  • Exclusive email content;
  • Content toggles;
  • Saving content as reusable blocks.

Content Creation Category winner

Beehiiv is the clear winner when it comes to content creation.

Beehiiv wins because they have almost everything we need as creators.

On the other side, Substack stagnated feature development for their text editor. I don't remember any significant additions since early 2021 when creating posts.

Customization

Next comes customization and design.

Customization on beehiiv

Beehiiv's customization summary:

  • Newsletter templates: No;
  • Newsletter customization options: Great and easy to use;
  • Website themes: Yes, but still limited;
  • Possibility to buy a theme from a 3rd-party or create one with custom code: Not possible.

Beehiiv is polarizing when it comes to customization.

On the newsletter side, beehiiv is the most customizable platform for newsletters I know without writing code.

You can customize everything about the aspect of your newsletter in minutes. And I love this!

Page with settings to customize newsletter on beehiiv.
Newsletter customization on beehiiv.

But, when it comes to website customization, options are still a bit limiting.

In July 2023, beehiiv released massive improvements to website customization, which was a step in the right direction.

So, expect great customization on the newsletter and only okay options for the website.

Customization on Substack

Substack's customization summary:

  • Newsletter templates: No;
  • Newsletter customization options: Basically none;
  • Website themes: Yes, but very limited;
  • Possibility to buy a theme from a 3rd-party or create one with a custom code: Only the Tripoli theme from Aspire Themes is available.

Substack's customization is limited.

All newsletters and blogs look the same.

That's boring!

You'll instantly recognize it's Substack.

This makes it hard to build a recognizable brand.

For the Substack website, there are only 3 layout options.

And this is an improvement because they had only 1 for a long time.

So, you can't build or buy themes for Substack (apart from 1 exception).

This means you have to use one of the options they give you. And allowing only changes in the background color and font.

Overall, Substack is very limited when it comes to customization.

Substack customization options.
Subtack site customization options.

Customization winner

Beehiiv is the clear winner when it comes to customization. Their newsletter customization is second to none.

This gives beehiiv an advantage over Substack, offering "cookie-cutter" limited customization for both the website and newsletter.

Pricing

Now comes the cost of each tool.

Beehiiv's pricing

Beehiiv pricing summary:

  • Free plan: Yes, up to 2500 subscribers;
  • Cheaper paid plan: $42 (paid annually);

Beehiiv prices are reasonable with a generous free plan. And with 0% fees!

Most free plans are capped at 1,000 subscribers, but beehiiv allows up to 2,500 subs in the free plan.

Pricing page on beehiiv's website.
Pricing page on beehiiv's website.

But to enable custom domains and paid memberships, you'll have to upgrade to one of their paid plans.

I'm not a fan of the custom domain being associated with a paid plan because small newsletters won't be able to afford it.

This is a case of winning on one side with a generous free plan and losing on the SEO side unless you upgrade.

Beehiiv's "Grow" plan starts at $42/month and gives team members and the API access.

The "Scale" plan ($84/month) unlocks multiple newsletters and the referral program, AI writer and a lot more.

For anyone that makes money with their newsletter, beehiiv is a good deal. Plain and simple!

On top of that, beehiiv has so many features for a lower price than if you used most of their competitors.

Substack's Pricing

Substack pricing summary:

  • Free plan: Yes, Substack has free forever plan;
  • Cheaper paid plan: 10% of the revenue charged via memberships;

Substack is free to use with a revenue-sharing model. This means you only have to pay for it if you charge memberships.

But when you charge memberships, they will keep 10%, and you 90% (minus Stripe fees).

Page showing the pricing information for Substack.
Pricing information for Substack.

But this model is problematic.

On one side, you can use Substack for free forever! If you don't charge memberships, you don't have to pay.

Lots of writers use Substack this way. And they make money by embedding sponsored content in their posts.

On the other side, Substack will keep 10% of what readers pay you.

This fee sounds reasonable for what the platform offers, but there isn't a limit on how much you pay for Substack.

Because of this, creators look for Substack alternatives that are much cheaper.

Let's see an example. Imagine readers pay you $50 per year. This is how much Substack keeps:

Number of subscribers Your revenue Substack's fees
100 subscribers $4,500 $500
250 subscribers $11,250 $1,250
500 subscribers $22,500 $2,500
1,000 subscribers $45,000 $5,000
2,500 subscribers $112,500 $ 12,500
5,000 subscribers $225,000 $25,000

I consider these fees outrageous!

You get the same service, the same platform, and the same benefits.

I know it's normal for platforms to have usage-based pricing, but Substack goes from being lenient with their forever-free plan to taxing the success of their writers without offering too much in return.

So, I ask you to consider if it makes sense to pay these fees.

Pricing category winner

The winner of this category will depend on who is reading.

I personally don't like Substack's revenue-sharing model.

But I can't ignore that they offer a forever-free plan many people have used for years.

However, when you have around 5k paying subscribers, Substack can be 25 times more expensive than beehiiv.

So, for someone treating their newsletter as a business, beehiiv is the better decision because it will be cheaper.

But for beginners and hobby projects, Substack is the cheaper option.

Monetization

Now, I'll analyze the options to make money with each platform.

Monetization on beehiiv

Monetization options on beehiiv:

  • Memberships: Yes
  • Display ads (Programmatic advertisement like Adsense): Yes (Adsense only, I think);
  • e-Commerce / Digital products: No;
  • Sponsorships/ Marketplace ads: Yes
  • Donations/ Tips: No;
  • Manual embed ads on content: Yes;
  • Affiliate marketing: Yes.
A list of beehiiv newsletters offering money to other newsletters for referring them new subscribers.
Boosts is a way of a newsletter make money by recommending subscribers to another newsletter in using beehiiv.

Beehiiv is very good when it comes to making money and offers creators lots of options.

Memberships and ads are probably the bread and butter of many creators.

I want to highlight the Ad Network as a great revenue option.

With this, beehiiv does the heavy lifting of finding sponsors for you, and they take a percentage of the revenue for the work done.

This means you can focus on writing, and beehiiv will bring you sponsors and money.

This is pretty cool and makes beehiiv one of the best platforms for monetization! And they also have other monetization options like Boosts.

Monetization on Substack

Monetization options on Substack:

  • Memberships: Yes
  • Display ads (Programmatic advertisement like Adsense): No;
  • e-Commerce / Digital products: No;
  • Sponsorships/ Marketplace ads: No;
  • Donations/ Tips: No;
  • Manual embed ads on content: Yes;
  • Affiliate marketing: Yes.
Page on Substack to connect a Stripe account.
Monetization settings on Substack to connect to Stripe

Substack is designed for you to "only" monetize with paid memberships.

However, most writers on Substack accept advertisements and put them in the body of the post. But this is a workaround and not a feature.

If you link to the sponsors without disclosing the link relationship, you're going against Google guidelines.

I say this because Substack doesn't allow you to create nofollow or sponsored links. Unfortunately, you'll risk a Google penalty with those links.

Monetization category winner

Beehiiv has better options for monetizing.

Both platforms are similar regarding paid memberships as the main route for creators to earn money.

Regarding ads, beehiiv is superior because of its native ad network.

Yes, there are workarounds to put ads on Substack, but you can also use those workarounds on beehiiv.

This means beehiiv can do everything that Substack can when it comes to monetization and a lot more.

SEO

Now, I want to analyze the search engine optimization (SEO) of beehiiv and Substack.

Beehiiv's SEO

Important SEO features checklist for beehiiv:

  • Custom domain: Yes, you can use a custom domain;
  • HTTPS: Yes;
  • URL slug customization: Yes
  • Meta description customization: Yes;
  • Sitemap: Yes;
  • Canonical tags: Yes;
  • Redirects: No;
  • Robots.txt: Yes;
  • Website speed: Yes, beehiiv has good results in speed tests;

Beehiiv is good when it comes to SEO and is well-optimized by default. So, you don't need to install plugins or do anything fancy!

Their platform has most of the things I consider essential in a way that even a complete beginner can get good results.

Speed test for a website using beehiiv using GTmetrix.
GTmetrix speed test results for a website using beehiiv.

However, if you are a Pro user and want to have control over every SEO feature like you would on Ghost or WordPress, let me stop you right there!

There are some more advanced SEO things missing on beehiiv, like:

  • Ability to create redirects;
  • Customize canonical tags (all links are self-referencing canonicals);
  • Edit the robots.txt and sitemap files;
  • No index pages (only possible to do on a site level).

Overall, you will be more than fine with beehiiv when it comes to SEO.

Subastack's SEO

Important SEO features checklist for Substack:

  • Custom domain: Yes;
  • HTTPS: Yes;
  • URL slug customization: Yes;
  • Meta description: Yes;
  • Sitemap: Yes;
  • Canonical tags: Yes;
  • Redirects: No;
  • Robots.txt: Yes;
  • Website speed: Yes, website speed is good;

On paper, Substack's SEO looks okay and enough to find success.

But the reality is far different...

Substack has important SEO features like robots.txt file, XML sitemap, and schema markup.

Speed test for a website using Substack using GTmetrix.
GTmetrix speed test results for a website using Substack.

However, Substack's SEO pitfalls hurt their real users a lot. This means it's extremely hard to get traffic coming from search engines.

So, discoverability has been a known problem for a long time for Substack.

And there have been many things written about it online. One example was given by Casey Newton:

โ€œThe only way a Substack grows is through tweets. I am like 85% serious when I say this.โ€

To illustrate how bad is Substack's SEO, I have a question for you:
Have you seen a Substack publication on Google results without using the word "Substack" in the search?

I never saw or remember seeing one!

This might sound like anecdotal evidence, but I've been doing research on publishing tools for creators since 2021, so this doesn't look good for Substack users.

SEO Category winner

Beehiiv is better than Substack for SEO for a small margin (on paper).

I love that Beehiiv keeps improving its weak spots regarding SEO and is now a competent platform.

On the other side, Substack looks okay when it comes to features, but the real-world results are below average for SEO.

Writers have complained about this over the years. Yet, I haven't seen Substack improve on this.

So, I give the advantage to beehiiv as the gap is likely to keep growing in their favor.

Growth

Let's see how beehiiv and Substack compare when it comes to growth tools.

Beehiiv Growth tools

Beehiiv's most important Growth tools checklist:

  • Plugins/integrations: Yes;
  • Automated email sequences: Yes;
  • Referral program: Yes;
  • Subscriber segmentation: Yes;
  • Custom sending domain: No;
  • A/B testing (titles): Yes;
  • RSS feed: Yes;

Beehiiv's main focus is on growing newsletters, so I would expect them to perform well here.

And that's exactly what happens!

Beehiiv allows integrations, which you can use to connect them to tools like Zapier and Make to automate a lot of processes.

Magic links page on beehiiv dashboard.
A magic link lets people signup to a beehiiv newsletter with 1 click.

Also, Beehiiv has newsletter recommendations where different publications can recommend each other and grow together.

This lets people subscribe with 1-click, making it a breeze.

So, I have to say I'm impressed with the things beehiiv is evolving while some competitors have had the same flaws for years (cough Substack cough).

Substack Growth tools

Substack's most important Growth tools checklist:

  • Plugins/integrations: No;
  • Automated email sequences: No;
  • Referral program: No;
  • Subscriber segmentation: Limited (only segments between free and paid);
  • Custom sending domain: No;
  • A/B testing (titles): No;
  • RSS feed: Yes;

Growing a Substack publication is the biggest problem since forever...

And when you look at the things I consider important to growth, you can understand why.

Substack doesn't have email automation, no integrations, and no A/B testing email titles.

However, to counter these flaws, Substack created an internal discovery tool from its homepage.

But, Substack is incentivized to list the most popular newsletters with the most subscribers.

This creates a funnel effect by directing new readers toward prominent publications, making them even more popular.

This makes sense from a business point of view because when a writer makes more money, Substack also makes more money. So, this is an incentive for them to push big players.

In 2022, Substack also released newsletter recommendations. This means that one newsletter can recommend another newsletter to its subscribers.

The recommendations create a network effect where some creators can work together to recommend each other's work to grow together.

Growth Category winner

Beehiiv is miles ahead of Substack in the growth category.

You can see several case studies of newsletters growing really fast on beehiiv on their blog.

And when we look at beehiiv and Substack from a technical point of view, the difference is like day and night.

Beehiiv keeps improving almost every week and has fixed most of its flaws. While Substack looks like a stagnated platform from a tech POV.

Things like email automation and segmentation are essential, and there is no excuse for Substack not to have this after several years.

So, beehiiv is the clear winner when it comes to growth. You can use the button below to create a beehiiv account today.

Final Thoughts

Across this comparison, it became clear that beehiiv is superior to Substack in most categories.

Substack has a respectable reputation and has existed for a longer time. They made newsletters cool again and became the standard for non-technical users to start writing online.

However, this "ease of use" and lack of options come at the cost of not having some essential features. This hurts advanced users and professionals the most.

Primarily when those flaws exist for several years!

On the other side, beehiiv was created in 2021 and has become one of the most complete newsletter tools for creators.

Beehiiv has improved on many limitations that Substack has had for years without fixing. And developed a lot more things that Substack users can only dream of.

This has become one of the reasons I see people compliment them on Twitter over and over again.

So, it's obvious why I rate beehiiv higher than Substack.

The only reasons to pick Substack over beehiiv are:

  • You don't have any money to pay for a beehiiv paid plan at the moment;
  • You want to publish different types of content on the same platform (podcast, newsletter, etc.) and see Substack as the perfect place to publish everything you need and be easy to talk with subscribers.

In every other scenario, you will be much better off going with beehiiv. It's not even close!

Click on the button below and start your beehiiv account today (remember they have a free plan).

Best overall
beehiiv
  • Content creation: 8.9
  • Customization: 6.8
  • SEO: 7.8
  • Growth: 10
  • Management: 9.5
  • Monetization: 7.8
  • Overall Rating: 9.5
Free forever plan
Substack
  • Content creation: 5.2
  • Customization: 4.3
  • SEO: 7.5
  • Growth: 4.8
  • Management: 9.0
  • Monetization: 4.8
  • Overall Rating: 6.7