May 03, 2013

Improving Your WordPress Site's Transactional EmailTransactional email are the emails that a WordPress site sends out to its users in response to some action they have taken. Newsletters and other promotional emails are considered to be bulk mail rather than transactional mail. Transactional email includes responses to users submitting their email addresses, commenting or getting a reply to a comment, registering on a site, and various other automatic responses. It’s one of the most important ways that a site communicates with its visitors.

Most bloggers put a lot of work into getting their bulk email looking good. The newsletter is one of the major marketing tools for a lot of sites. However, they don’t tend to give such careful attention to their transactional email; they rely on the standard WordPress functionality for notifications, which, while adequate, can lead to missed marketing and engagement opportunities.

Customizing transactional email to add a bit of personality is a powerful step towards making a site appear professional and giving it a cohesive brand message. Transactional emails can also be used to publicize calls to action or marketing messages for premium content and other monetization strategies, as well as to just make users aware of content on the site that they may not have previously come across.

Transactional email can also include the same sort of analytics tags that bulk email often does. There’s not much point shooting emails into the dark without some idea of whether they are received at the other end, whether any links included are used, and so on. It can also be useful to split test transactional emails for effectiveness. There are various services that will enable more comprehensive transactional email control and monitoring. One of the most popular that has simple integration with WordPress is Mandrill


Many bloggers are already using MailChimp for their bulk mail. Mandrill is the transactional email solution from the same company. Mandrill implements a number of filtering, tracking, and templating features that bloggers and site owners can use to make their emails look good and ensure they’re delivered to the right people.

For example, imagine you have a landing site with a contact form that submits its results to a particular email address. You don’t want to respond with a formulaic WordPress “Thanks For Getting In Touch Email” but rather with something relevant to content of the landing page. Mandrill will apply templates and analytics relevant to that landing page, so you can respond with the right message, and track the results.

Mandrill is free for up to 12 thousand emails per month, and 12 cents per thousand up to a million after that.

WPMandrill is a plugin which helps with integrating the Mandrill service into a WordPress blog. It completely replaces the wp_mail function and substitutes Mandrill’s own API, which gives considerably more control and flexibility over how emails are sent and tracked.

If you’re already using MailChimp for your bulk mail, it makes sense to go with Mandrill for transactional mail. There are alternatives, PostMark in particular offers a comparable range of features and is worth taking a look at. There are several third party WordPress plugins available for Postmark, but they aren’t a feature-rich as the official Mandrill plugin.

If improving your transactional email infrastructure has affected your conversion rates and customer retention, feel free to join the conversation in the comments below.


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