Blogging experts love to emphasize how all-important your email newsletter is.
And it’s true: collecting emails lets you establish and nurture long-term relationships with your readers. A one-on-one conversation in their email inbox is much more personal than a public tweet or Facebook update.
But where are you supposed to find the time to write them?
Maybe you’ve been delaying setting up your email newsletter because you don’t have the time, or just don’t know what to write.
In the meantime, you’re missing out on collecting the emails of all your interested visitors. Instead they’re leaving your website and forgetting all about you.
If you’re stuck wondering what to send your email subscribers, or just can’t find the time to invest, why not just send your readers your new blog posts via email?
By setting up an automatic email newsletter that sends out your blog posts, you can start building your email list without investing a ton of time in creating new content.
This tutorial will walk you through exactly how to set up an email newsletter using MailChimp’s RSS-to-email feature, which will automatically send out an email with your latest blog posts on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.
I’ve been a MailChimp fan for years, and I always recommend them. Here’s why:
- It’s free if you have under 2,000 subscribers
- It’s easy and intuitive to use
- You get great actionable analytics on open and click rates
- There are lots of extra features like headline testers, bounce management, list cleaning, spam filter check, etc.
- They have excellent customer support
- Seriously, just check out their branding. It’s awesome.
MailChimp also has a lot of other email newsletter features such as autoresponders, list segmentation, etc. So if you do decide to take your email newsletter in another direction in the future, you can do so with MailChimp.
Now, MailChimp isn’t the only choice out there. If you already use a different email service, you can check to see if they offer an automatic RSS-to-email feature as well.
How to set up MailChimp’s RSS-to-email
Sign up for MailChimp & set up your list
First, if you don’t have a MailChimp account, you’ll need to sign up for one. Just go to MailChimp and click the big orange signup button on the top right of the screen:
Fill out the quick form to sign up:
Once your account is set up, you can get started by setting up an email list to send your RSS-to-email newsletter to. From your dashboard, click on “Lists” on the main menu, then the “Create List” button on the top right. Just fill out the form:
…and click “Save.”
Now you’ll want to grab some signup forms to add to your website. To do this manually without a WordPress plugin, click “Lists” in the main menu, and click the arrow next to the Stats button:
Click “Signup Forms” to see your options:
We’ll choose embedded forms. You can customize your form fields, and then grab the code to paste on your site:
If you’d like to have more styling options, perform A/B testing, or use lightboxes, slide-ins, premium content upgrades, or other fancy forms, you’ll probably want to use a list-building plugin for WordPress that integrates with MailChimp, such as Bloom, OptinMonster, or Thrive Leads.
Now that your list is set up, you’re ready to create your RSS-to-email campaign!
Create Your RSS-to-email campaign
From your account dashboard, click the arrow next to the “Create Campaign” button to bring up this list of options:
Click “RSS-Driven Campaign” to get started.
Here you can enter your RSS feed URL.
What is RSS? Basically, RSS is a type of automatic notification whenever a website’s content is updated. You can check out Wikipedia for a more involved explanation. Luckily, you don’t need to do anything to create your RSS feed, since WordPress generates several for you automatically. Your feeds are accessible via a URL.
For this tutorial, we’ll use the URL: http://yoursite.com/feed/
(This URL will work if you have permalinks set up on your site. If it’s not working, you can check out other WordPress feed URLs on the official WordPress Codex. You can also just enter your blog URL and let MailChimp find the RSS feed for you.)
After entering your RSS feed, you can decide on when you want your newsletter to be sent. It will only be sent if you’ve posted new content, so don’t worry about MailChimp sending duplicate emails if you choose to send emails daily but don’t actually post every day.
On the bottom of the screen, you’ll see a progress bar that lists every step of the process. You can click on a previous step to go back and make changes.
To move to the next step, click “Next” on the bottom right.
In the next step, you’ll choose the recipients of your emails. Go ahead and select the list we just set up, and click “Next.”
Now you’ll see a bunch of options for setting up your newsletter:
You can choose an internal name for your campaign, your email subject line, the sender’s name and email address, and tracking and social media options.
You’ll see that MailChimp uses what’s called “merge tags” to pull in all the bits of data from your RSS feed. Every bit of data — your blog’s name, the post title, date, author, and permalink, and more — can be pulled from your blog using merge tags. You can check out a full list of MailChimp’s RSS merge tags and explanations on their site (but you don’t have to, unless you want to customize your emails further).
Once you’re done choosing your options, click “Next” to choose and customize your template design.
You could use any template and add your RSS merge tags yourself, but to make it easier, you can choose from a couple of templates designed specifically for RSS-to-email campaigns with all the merge tags already entered. Just scroll down a bit to find them:
In the next step, you can customize the template using MailChimp’s drag-and-drop editor:
All the merge tag gobbledygook makes it a bit difficult to visualize the final result! But you can use MailChimp’s preview and testing tools to see what your email will look like:
The preview will show both desktop and mobile versions, since every template is designed to be responsive for any size screen.
Once you’re done designing your email, click “Next” to go to the final step, which is a nice checklist of your settings:
Oops, I always forget to change that teaser text! Thanks for reminding me, MailChimp.
Once that’s taken care of, you’re all set to go!
You might want to send yourself a test email before officially starting your campaign. If the test email looks good, just click the “Start RSS” button on the bottom right, and you’ve got yourself an automatic, hands-free email newsletter!
Having an automated newsletter can be a huge time-saver.
It’s one less thing to worry about when it comes to managing your website.
But, the reality is that you may find better results from writing your emails manually.