How to Create a Newsletter - Free Script

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This tutorial will show you how to install and host a free newsletter script on your web server that will allow you to create and send text emails.  There is some setup required.

The following script simply sends a text email out to your subscriber list.

In order to use the script, you must have your own domain name and have full access to a CGI bin. If you are not sure you have access to a CGI bin then you can ask your web hosting company. 

Note: If you do not have access to a CGI bin and/or want an easier newsletter to setup, read this article.


First you need to get a copy of the script.  I've pasted the code on this site so you won't have to download and unzip it.

1) Go here to view the code and copy it by selecting it with your mouse, right clicking, and choosing "Copy."   Make sure you only copy where instructed.

2) Open Notepad (or any other PLAIN TEXT editor) on your PC. 

3) Paste the entire code into the document. 

Important!   DO NOT paste the code into programs like Microsoft Word or Microsoft Works.  Make sure you paste it into a PLAIN TEXT editor so the symbols are not altered in any way.

4) Now save the file as mailmachine.cgi.  Be sure that when you're saving it, you select "All Files" from the bottom of the "Save As" menu so you're not saving it as a txt file.  Make sure you add the .cgi to the end of the filename.  Don't just name it "mailmachine".  Make sure it's saved as mailmachine.cgi.  

If you don't change the drop-down to "All Files" it will save it as mailmachine.txt.cgi.  The script won't work if it's named incorrectly.

Customizing the Newsletter Script

Now you have a copy of the newsletter script on your PC and you're ready to start editing it.  This file is the entire script so won't need any additional files to make your newsletter work.  All you need to do is define certain variables.

Near the beginning of the file you'll see some instructions.  It also includes the HTML code you need to paste into your site so people can start subscribing to your newsletter via your web site.

But before you can upload the mailmachine.cgi file to your server, you need to edit a few things. Right after the installation instructions, the script will ask you to define a few variables:

Make sure you do NOT remove the quotes, slashes, dollar signs, or any other symbols.  Just edit the text.

$mailprog = '/usr/sbin/sendmail'; - You may not need to change this variable. If you're not sure of the path to your server's mail program ask your web hosting company.

$admin_email="your_email\@yourdomain.com"; - Enter the email address this newsletter will be sent from. Don't remove the \ from the address.  This is necessary for the script to work.

$list_name="Name of Newsletter Here"; - The name of your newsletter goes here.

$adminpass="Your_Password_Here"; - Create a password for your list.

$file = "list_of_email_addresses.txt"; - This is the name of the text file where all your email addresses will be saved.  Make sure that this blank text file is uploaded to your cgi bin.  Just create a blank file in Notepad or Wordpad and save it as whatever.txt.  Then upload this blank file to your cgi bin. Be sure to change the name in the script to match the name that you used to save the file.

If you already have a list of subscribers, make sure they are in a .txt file with all email addresses listed one per line.

After you've defined all your variables, you're ready to upload the mailmachine.cgi file to your cgi bin and run the script so you can create your newsletter.

The script asks you to CHMOD (change permission) a few files. If you need help with uploading files and CHMOD-ing, view the WSFTP tutorial.  You may also want to ask your web hoster for help with this.

To send your newsletter and manage your subscribers, simply point your browser to:

http://www.your_domain.com/cgi-bin/mailmachine.cgi?admin  

Enter the password you set on the script and you should see the newsletter control panel.  Here you'll be able to send your newsletter, view your archives, see the email addresses subscribed to your list, and you'll even be able to manually add and subtract people. 

If you receive errors, the script is not configured properly.  Make sure you've defined all the variables correctly and if you're not sure about certain server paths, check with your web hosting company.  Again, if you need help CHMOD-ing files (changing permissions), see the WSFTP tutorial.

* The mailmachine script was written by MikesWorld.net, who owns all rights.  2 Create a Website is only a distributor.

Note: The above method is a very old way of sending newsletters and probably not the most secure since CGI scripts can be vulnerable to being hacked. It's really best to use the option below.

AWeber - Another Newsletter Option

At first I used to use the newsletter script described above.  It worked well for me, but now I use Aweber to send my newsletters and autoresponders and I am kicking myself for not signing up with them much sooner.

First, Their Autoresponder....

Aweber became known for their sequential autoresponder - a script that automatically sends out emails at intervals that you specify.  There's no setup required like the script above and it's much easier to use.

This feature is so cool.  You can send one email as soon as someone subscribes, then automatically send another 4 days later, the next one in 7 days and so on...

You can set the emails to send at whatever interval you'd like and they give you an unlimited amount of autoresponders to use.  The flexibility is great.

Autoresponders are great tools to help you follow-up with your existing customers and it's also the best way to keep that "buzz" in potential customer's ears so they don't forget about you.

If used properly, they can drastically increase your sales due to the fact that most people do not purchase on their first exposure.  They need reassurance and they also need to know that you are a credible seller.

In order to help build that credibility and establish a relationship with your visitors, you can use an autoresponder to keep in touch with them. It's an absolute MUST if you have a business related website.

Use Aweber to Send Your Newsletter Too!

You can also send newsletters to your list of subscribers that receive your autoresponder, or make a totally separate list just for your regular newsletter.

Here's what else you can do...
 

  • Collect demographic information when people subscribe so you can target your newsletter and autoresponder to a certain group of people (zip code, state, age, gender, etc.).

     

  • View reports to keep track of click-thru rates, open rate, unsubscribers, and more. 

     

  • Export your subscriber list to an Excel document at any time so you'll have a backup on your own PC.

What I like best is that everything is handled on their end and it's super easy to use and setup.  You don't have to install any scripts like you do with the mailmachine script described above.  

The entire process is browser based and you manage your account at their website with your login and password.

All you do is compose your newsletters and autoresponders and save them to your online account. They run all the technical behind-the-scene operations.  They even keep track of all your past newsletters in case you need them.  The reporting feature is awesome.

Probably the best perk of all is the personalization.  The fact that I can call my subscribers by their first name makes such a difference.  I even receive emails from people asking me to call them by their nickname instead because they think I'm really typing a personalized email to each and every person.

Your subscribers will really feel that you are talking with them one on one, and this is very important for establishing a relationship with them.

Don't you prefer to receive emails that address you by your first name rather than just "Dear member"?  I sure do.

My response rate has tripled since I began using Aweber.  I had really underestimated the effectiveness of sending follow up emails. 

For years I had been reading how this is the only way to keep in touch with customers (and potential customers), but I was being stubborn and ignored the advice.

I hope you don't make the same mistake. ;)

Try Aweber for 30 days and see how you like them.

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