Building your Email List with WordPress & MailChimp

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In this series of articles, I’m going to walk you through setting up MailChimp and WordPress to work together to build your email list. For this series I’m going to assume that you are an administrator of a WordPress based blog site (self-hosted or WordPress.com), have a Mailchimp account established and an Audience list created.

This post walks you through setting up an RSS Feed automated email in Mailchimp to notify subscribers of new blog posts. In subsequent posts we’ll add the Mailchimp subscriber form to your WordPress site, and connect MailChimp for further email fun.

Why Have an Email List?

Let’s say you are a Tarot reader and provide long distance readings by email, direct message or Zoom video conference:

You could save time with an email onboarding system that explains what Tarot is to you, how you work with it and instruct your client how best to phrase their questions or prepare for their reading. Keeping your name in front of clients could be especially useful if your readings are scheduled days or weeks in advance.

With their permission to add them to a list, every email address you collect from a client is an opportunity to retain that client and maintain a relationship with them. As long as you are adding value to their inbox with updates regarding your schedule and availability, workshops you may be offering or classes you may be teaching, you can inform or educate your client how to remain a paying client with you.

Conversely, an existing newsletter subscriber that loves your inspirational tarot blog posts may love to know about your upcoming online Tarot webinar.

Having an email list ensures you can reach your audience in a way that social media cannot – directly. And with Mailchimp’s Forever Free Plan you can have up to 2,000 subscribers (total) and send up to 12,000 emails per month!

A Note about Mailchimp’s Audiences

The first step is to create an actual list, which Mailchimp calls “Audience.” This article assumes you already have one, whether it has subscribers or not.

Creating ONE Audience and using tags and segments to filter who gets what type of email is a great way to organize your list. If you have two Audiences and the same person subscribes to both, that single subscriber counts as two – don’t do that! Remember: One list to rule them all!

Segmentation also saves you time and energy should you move away from Mailchimp to a service like ConvertKit when your list starts to really grow.

Next, be sure to set up the aesthetic details of your Audience sign up form’s pages and emails.

The Sign Up Form – Sequence and Branding

Because it is not clear part of the Audience setup, this is a step I see many lists I’ve subscribed too, skip. Don’t! Go that extra mile for your audience and craft brand-specific messaging for every stage of the sign-up process, from subscription to unsubscribe.

Hidden under Manage Audience > Sign up forms; Select “Form Builder” and under “Forms and response emails” you’ll see a dropdown list of options. Go through each one of the options and customize it as you see fit to match your brand message.

Free Download

Join the list and receive this free checklist: Mailchimp Customizable Pages & Emails.

Now, let’s create the campaign that pulls our latest published blog posts into an email that gets sent to all these beautiful subscribers of ours.

Setting Up the Automated Email List

Create Campaign

When you click “Create Campaign” you’ll be given several options. For this tutorial, select the top of the list choice, “Email” .

Automated Email

Notifying your subscribers of new blog posts is an automated feature with Mailchimp. Select the tab “Automated” and the option “Share blog updates”.

Name the Campaign & Audience

Name your campaign something that relates to what the email will be, such as “Blog Update(s) and select the desired Audience you want to send it to.

Feeding Time

If you self-host WordPress your RSS feed will be http://yourdomain.com/feed/

If you are using Automattic hosted WordPress.com account, your feed will be at http://yourblogname.wordpress.com/feed/

When scheduling, select a time you feel your audience is most likely to read over your emails. Mailchimp will send an email at that time only if there is new content. Haven’t published since the last email? No worries – your subscribers will not receive an empty email!

Campaign Details

Be sure to read over everything on this page and choose the options that best suit your blog, business and/or goals.

RSS Tags

Be sure to check out Mailchimp’s own documentation about RSS tags.

Designing the Email

Between Campaign Details and Designing, selecting the template of your choice. I prefer to keep things simple and generally choose the 1 Column option, pictured here.

Regardless of template, you’re going to click and drag the RSS Header and RSS Items content blocks into your email design.

These RSS features will pull your blog’s details and place them plainly into your email.

RSS Header

RSSFEED:TITLEWebsite Title
RSSFEED:DESCRIPTIONBlog Description
RSSFEED:DATEDate Email will be sent
MC:TOCA list of blog titles that are new since the last email was sent. If you wrote three new blog posts since your last campaign was sent, you will see three titles here.

The RSS Header Tags I Use

*|RSSFEED:TITLE|*

*|RSSFEED:DESCRIPTION|*

In the *|RSSFEED:DATE|* edition:
*|MC:TOC|*

RSS Items

RSSITEM:TITLEBlog Post Title
RSSITEM:DATEBlog Post Date
RSSITEM:CONTENTBlog Post Excerpt. If you set an Excerpt, it will take this information. Otherwise, it will take the first few sentences of your blog post and display those.

I don’t recommend showing the full post in the email. Send your subscriber to your website!

The RSS Items I Use

*|RSSITEMS:|*
*|RSSITEM:TITLE|*

*|RSSITEM:DATE|*

*|RSSITEM:CONTENT|*

Read in browser  »


*|END:RSSITEMS|*

Preview & Test & Repeat

Not sure what your email is going to look like or what content is being pulled in from your website?

Preview and Test > Enter Preview Mode will give you a live view of what your finished email will look like. You can go back and forth until you are satisfied.

Still worried? Send yourself a test email to put aside any butterflies.

One Last Check

When you are satisfied with your email, click through the last page until you see green checkmarks!

Mailchimp will let you know if your email is not technically ready and ask you to amend any issues before your newsletter can be sent or scheduled.

Done and Done

When you see the rocking chimp hand, you are all scheduled and can now concentrate on blogging!

Your subscribers will now receive a scheduled notice and overview of your most recent blog posts.

Whew.

Once you’ve done all that. Take a breather, enjoy a cup of coffee and come back next week when we will add a sign up form to your site to start collecting email addresses.

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