Why should bloggers be concerned about email marketing? Well, as it turns out, there are great opportunities for increasing audience engagement when bloggers introduce email as an option for content delivery.
People have different preferences when it comes to consuming information. Some want to come to your site directly and browse your latest posts. Others prefer skimming your content via RSS without ever visiting your site. But there’s another group of people who want to read your blog in their email clients. It’s true! They may not have many sites they care enough about to warrant a feed reader, or they just prefer getting email to visiting your blog. Whatever the reason, an email newsletter is a nice option to offer your readers. That way, they can engage with you in the way that suits them best.
Aside from promoting your regular blog content, there are other ways you can use email to engage your audience and track the effectiveness of your communications. You could send exclusive content to your mailing list, like special articles or sales. You could inform them about updates and news that may be outside the scope of your typical blog postings, or new items for sale in your online store. The bottom line is this: When people sign up to receive updates from you, they’re saying, “I’m interested in what you have to say.” You may not know how engaged your average reader is. You don’t know who’s reading your RSS feed, or how devoutly they’re reading it. But you know that people who give you their email addresses are indicating a certain level of commitment. And with a service like MailChimp, you know who those people are, and you can actually track their engagement by how often they open your emails, what they click and what they share with their friends.
Oh, and did we mention that MailChimp is completely free for lists of up to 2000 subscribers? Yep, totally free. No credit card, no expiring trial, no hidden fees or commitments. You get access to our amazing features, including free reports, list management, easily customizable templates, lots of integrations, and support for any questions along the way.
This guide will explain everything MailChimp offers for bloggers. If you have questions or concerns that aren’t addressed here, please feel free to contact our support staff at mailchimp.com/support. We’re happy to help.
Build Your Mailing List
You can easily add a signup form to your blog with plugins for WordPress, TypePad, Moveable Type, Expression Engine, and Drupal. Go to connect.mailchimp.com for downloads, descriptions, and installation instructions.
If you don’t use one of the services above or would like to customize your signup form to put on your website, you can easily create a form in the MailChimp application. Design your form so it fits your brand, matches your newsletter, and collects all the information you will need from your subscribers. Then add the form to your blog or Facebook page to collect subscribers or tweet a link to your sign-up form from your Twitter account. You can find more information about custom forms here: http://mailchimp.com/features/custom-forms/
If you’d rather keep your readers on your own site than direct them to an external landing page to sign up for your newsletter, use our embed code to create a customized signup form on your website. The embed code provides more customization options than the signup form. Creating the code is easy, and it’ll make signing up for your newsletter easier for your fans. You can learn more about customizing your sign up forms and the embed code options here: http://kb.mailchimp.com/article/tips-for-customizing-your-signup-forms
Frequently asked questions
Can my subscribers choose how often they want to receive my emails?
Yes. With MailChimp’s groups feature, you can allow your readers to choose their frequency (daily, weekly, monthly) or select specific interests they’d like to be emailed about, such as classes, live appearances or updates to your online store. Then you can segment your list to make sure your readers are getting exactly what they want.
Does MailChimp offer any form integrations?
MailChimp integrates with WuFoo and FormSpring, two online services that make creating forms fun and easy. You can use these services to create all kinds of forms, from registrations to surveys, but they’re handy for signup forms, too. Check out our integrations page for more info.
How do I add a signup form to a hosted blog on WordPress.com?
Import a List
There’s a good chance you’re moving your newsletters over to MailChimp from another service, like Feedburner. If that’s the case, you’ll want to move your email subscriber list over, too. This article in the Knowledge Base details how to import your list from another CRM, database, application, or your computer: http://kb.mailchimp.com/article/how-do-i-create-and-import-my-list
I hear rumors that Feedburner is going away. Can I use MailChimp as a Feedburner replacement?
Right now, MailChimp does not offer the same RSS management and activity stats that you can get from Feedburner or another RSS-feed management service. However, you can use MailChimp to send out automatic emails based on your blog updates with our RSS-to-email feature without having to start a new list from scratch. If you’re already collecting email subscribers on your blog via Feedburner, you can import your list in just a few quick steps. Check out this blog post for step-by-step instructions: http://blog.mailchimp.com/moving-your-subscriber-list-from-feedburner-to-mailchimp/
Set Up an RSS-to-Email Campaign
RSS stands for “really simple syndication,” and it’s a great way for people to follow updates to your blog without having to check in routinely to see if you’ve posted anything. It’s an excellent tool, but many people prefer to receive updates in their inboxes instead. We think email and RSS work beautifully together, and we recommend that bloggers allow their readers to choose how they consume new content. MailChimp’s RSS-to-Email campaigns provide an easy solution for automatically sending your new content via email. Here’s more information on what it is how to create one: http://mailchimp.com/features/rss-to-email/
Frequently asked questions
My RSS feed isn’t working. Am I doing something wrong?
Our application generally cooperates well with RSS feeds, but every once in a while, our customers have issues with their feeds not working correctly. Check to make sure you’ve added the correct URL for your feed (especially if you’re having problems when you just add your blog’s URL).
Will my old posts be emailed out in my first campaign?
No, we won’t start sending email until new content is added to your feed.
Will my campaign go out if I haven’t posted anything?
No, we only send campaigns when there’s new content in your feed. So if you’ve got your campaign set to go daily, but you didn’t post anything today, a campaign will not go out tomorrow.
How can I update, edit and pause my RSS-to-Email campaigns?
To update your campaign, go to Campaigns from the dashboard. In the left column beneath Create campaign, you’ll see folders containing all your campaigns. Navigate to the RSS-to-Email folder, and you’ll see a list of all your campaigns. Click the one you want to update, and the parent—the template for your all your emails—will be the top item in the folder. Click Edit email to make changes.
Customize With Merge Tags
Merge tags are pieces of code you can place in your email to add content dynamically. Instead of using copy-and-paste or manually entering information, drop a merge tag into your email and the information will be added for you. For example, add *|MC:SHARE|* to your email, and MailChimp will add links to social-networking sites so your readers can share your campaign.
Merge tags are especially helpful for RSS-to-email campaigns because after you add them to your template and format, you never have to worry about your campaign again. MailChimp will do all the work of collecting new content, formatting with merge tags, and sending at your specified times. That way, you can spend more time focusing on your blog.
Here’s a sample of merge tags MailChimp offers for RSS-to-email campaigns. For more, check out our merge tag cheat sheet.
RSS-to-email: basic merge tags
*|RSS:POSTS_HTML|* or *|RSS:POSTS|*
Creates a progressively generated set of all of your posts in HTML format
Creates a progressively generated set of all of your posts in text format
Displays the full content of your posts in HTML format, if available
Show links for the five most recently published entries before the posts in the email
Adds a dynamically generated table of contents
Note: This tag adds items to the TOC that use the “Title” style. For RSS-to-email campaigns, this tag doesn’t work with the default *|RSS:POSTS_HTML|* tag. Instead, use the individual items tags, and give *|RSSITEM:TITLE|* the “Title” style. That way, the title of each post in your email will be included in the table of contents.
Here are a couple examples of how you can add merge tags to MailChimp’s templates to create custom RSS-to-Email newsletters:
When you create an RSS-to-Email campaign, your template is automatically populated with the *|RSS:POSTS_HTML|*.
When you preview or send the campaign, this is how the content looks when the merge tag brings it in:
Design Your Newsletter
MailChimp offers a few different options when it comes to designing and customizing your campaigns.
If you would prefer to take the guesswork out of newsletter design, we offer a wide variety of free, pre-designed or basic templates. Some of them are even specifically designed for RSS-to-Email campaigns.
If you’re a designer and want to code your own HTML template, we’ve exposed our template language. Our extensive HTML Email Template Reference may also be worth your time, if you'd like to really dig in.
If you’re looking for a quick, intuitive way to design your campaigns, we’ve got a drag-and-drop editor. You can drag and drop photos and content blocks, adjust your layout, and even edit your photos inside the MailChimp template editor. It works for RSS-to-email and A/B testing, too, and all of the newsletters that are created with the drag-and-drop editor are automatically optimized for mobile, so all of your hard work will look great on all screen sizes.
Here’s an example of what it looks like to build an RSS-to-Email newsletter in the drag-and-drop editor. Note all the different RSS content block options and RSS merge tags that are used, including feed title, post title, content, date, and author.
When you preview and send the email, you’ll see your design populated with all the content from your feed. You can move the merge tags around, add more or delete some of them, or you can create your own template from scratch.
Socialize Your Campaigns
Social-networking sites give you excellent opportunities to promote your blog and connect with your readers, but they won’t replace email marketing any time soon. In fact, social media and email complement each other nicely. MailChimp analyzed more than a billion emails to track the inclusion of links to Twitter and Facebook, and the data showed an 84% increase in campaigns that included links to Twitter, and a 66% increase in campaigns that featured Facebook.
Social media is great for networking, quick updates, and linking to articles, while email campaigns are better for delivering content and providing in-depth updates. As a blogger, you want an engaged audience—a blend of social media and email marketing will give your fans several ways of following your posts. Most importantly, it ensures that they’ll follow you in their preferred way.
Social Share button
The simplest way to get social with your email marketing is sending out a link to your campaign on social networks like Facebook and Twitter.
After sending a campaign you want to share, click Social share beside the sent campaign in the Campaigns dashboard. You’ll see a screen where you can share your campaign on various social networks like Twitter and Facebook. Choose your networks and you’re all set.
Social Share merge tag
In addition to sharing your own campaign, MailChimp lets you offer your fans a way to share your campaigns. When you place the *|MC:SHARE|* merge tag in your template, MailChimp will add links to more than 20 social networks. If you want to limit the networks in the social share merge tag, you can use *|SHARE:SITENAME1,SITENAME2|* to specify which sites are included. For example, *|SHARE:Facebook,Twitter,Digg|*. There are also Social Share and Social Follow content blocks available in the drag-and-drop editor.
If you know you want to tweet an email campaign before you send it, MailChimp will do it for you as soon as you send the campaign. Just integrate your account with Twitter and check Auto-tweet campaign when you are setting up your campaign.
MailChimp will automatically send a tweet with your subject line and a link to the online version of your email. And don’t worry about having your tweet cut short—we’ll shorten the link using our EepURL tool.
Auto-post to Facebook
MailChimp will share your campaigns with your Facebook fans too.
First you have to connect your MailChimp and Facebook accounts. Go to Account > Integrations > Facebook > Install Application, and enter your Facebook info.
Then check the Auto-post to Facebook box (find it on the Tracking, Authentication and More form).
MailChimp will automatically share a link to the online version of your campaign with your subject line. It’ll show up in your Facebook news feed, so all your friends and fans can check out your campaign (and then pass it along to their friends).
Facebook like merge tag
Our Facebook Like merge tag allows your readers to “Like” your campaign and share it with all their Facebook friends. Place this merge tag anywhere in your campaign:
And it’ll turn into a handy little image that says “Like”.
When a reader clicks Like, they’ll go to your campaign archive page, which will then show up in their Facebook feed for all their friends to see.
Tumblr and Google+
If you or your followers are active on Tumblr or Google+, we’ve got merge tags for those social networks too.
Our Tumblr merge tag allows your readers to share your newsletters on their Tumblr blogs, just like any other content.
And we also have a Google +1 merge tag, which allows your readers to recommend your newsletters in their Google+ circles.
Instagram and Pinterest
If you’re one of the more than 27 million worldwide users who “share your life with friends through a series of pictures,” you’ll want to check out our Instagram integration. And if you are one of the many folks who “organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web,” our Pinterest integration is worth investigating.
Track and Report
For a lot of email marketers, the best part of sending email newsletters is looking at the stats after a campaign goes out—it’s kind of like checking out your blog comments. How many people opened your newsletter? How many clicked? What did they click? What didn’t they click? Did they like the content?
Once you’ve sent a campaign, it’s time to sit back, relax, and wait for your stats to come in. MailChimp offers insightful tracking and reporting. Review this information for every campaign you send—it’s full of clues and feedback that will help make your newsletters better and better. Just like when you receive feedback on your blog, you make adjustments or keep doing what you’re doing accordingly.
MailChimp's standard reports use neat, easy-to-read graphs, tables, and maps to show you things like opens, clicks, bounties, and unsubscribes. To access your reports, go to the Reports tab in your MailChimp dashboard and click View report next to the desired campaign.
We even offer maps that show you where your readers live.
And which links they are clicking on the most.
MailChimp’s Social Stats allow you to watch your campaigns as they make their way around Facebook and Twitter. To find out how many people Like or retweet your campaigns, click Reports in your MailChimp dashboard. Select your desired campaign and click Social Stats.
Tracking Likes and tweets
The Like stats are located under Facebook Activity and organized by subscriber. You can see how many times each subscriber liked your campaign and how many other Likes they generated. Good to know!
We even track comments and analyze their sentiments with our Facebook Comments feature.
Twitter stats are located in the same place as Facebook stats: Click the Reports tab in your MailChimp dashboard, and you’ll see a list of all your campaigns. Select a campaign and click Social Stats.
Under Twitter Activity, you’ll see how many times your campaign has been tweeted and retweeted, who did the tweeting and a timeline of all tweets. Only tweets that include the automatically generated EepURL for your campaign are included in this report, so you might have even more tweets than you think.
Merge Tag Reference Guide
Merge tags for RSS feeds
ABOUT THE RSS FEED
The title of the RSS feed
The publish date of the feed
The URL for the feed as a whole
The feed description, if provided
INDIVIDUAL ITEMS IN THE RSS FEED
*|RSSITEMS:|* and *|END:RSSITEMS|*
Creates the beginning and ending flags for each RSS item. The stuff between gets replicated for each RSS item in the feed. For each item, these tags are available:
The title of the RSS item
The URL for the RSS item
The publish date of the RSS item
The name of the author for the RSS item, if provided
The URL for comments, if provided
A comma-separated list of the categories for the RSS item
A short summary of the RSS item content in HTML format
A short summary of the RSS item content in plain-text format
The full content for the RSS item in HTML format, if provided
The full content for the RSS item in plain-text format, if provided
A link to any attached file (like a podcast) with an icon, file name, and file size
The URL for any attached file (like a podcast)
A link to the external “source” of this item, if one is provided
SOCIAL MERGE TAGS
Inserts Twitter avatar, follower count, and five most-recent tweets
Shows profile information and follow link without the latest tweets list
Shows your “XX” latest tweets, so *|TWITTER:TWEETS3|* will show the latest 3 tweets instead of 5
Inserts links that allow your readers to share your campaign on social-sharing sites. See the Social Sharing section if you want to customize what sites are included in your email
MORE MERGE TAGS FOR BLOGGERS
The current date displayed as month/day/year
Add links in your email to translate the content from “EMAILLANG” to several other languages using Google Translate. EMAILLANG must be the code for one of the languages we support
For more information and a list of all merge tags, visit mailchimp.com/merge.
Here are some more tools and integrations MailChimp offers that may be a good fit for your blog:
Analytics360 for WordPress
MailChimp’s Analytics360 plugin allows you to pull Google Analytics and MailChimp data directly into your dashboard, so you can access analytics tools without leaving WordPress.
In order for the plugin to work correctly, you need to run a WordPress.org blog, not a WordPress.com blog. The difference is that you download and install the .org blog on your own server, whereas the .com blog is a free, hosted blog. Plugins don’t generally work for .com blogs, so this is just for .org users. You should also have Google Analytics installed on your blog for Analytics360 to work.
You can find Analytics360 plugin at wordpress.org, and you can learn more about the plugin on our website. Once you’ve downloaded and installed it, you’ll see it available on your dashboard. You just need to authorize your MailChimp and Google Analytics accounts the first time you run the plugin, then you can click on Analytics360 and you’ll have access to all your data right in your WordPress dashboard.
Yahoo Pipes is a tool that allows users to build data mash-ups from different sources on the web. We highlight it in this context because there’s a practical use for it when creating RSS-to-Email campaigns.
Say you want to create an RSS-to-Email campaign, but you don’t want every post from your blog in the campaign. You’d like to leave our posts from a certain author or posts about a certain topic. Maybe you just want to include posts from a certain author, or you want to mash up more than one feed and then filter the results. Yahoo Pipes allows you to do that.
Collecting new subscribers on your blog is easy thanks to MailChimp’s signup forms, but what about when you’re out meeting people at conferences or festivals? With Chimpadeedoo, you can sign up new readers using your iPad or Android tablet without an internet connection. Simply make a custom form for your device, let users sign themselves up, then sync with your MailChimp account when you’re back online.
If you’re an Instagram user, you already know how fun it is to take and share great pictures. InstaChimp allows you to share your photos with your email subscribers, even if they’re not on Instagram. Use InstaChimp’s templates to create simple newsletters and showcase your best shots. Whether you’re sharing photos of products, your children, or your latest project, InstaChimp makes it easy to connect your Instagram and MailChimp accounts.
If you would like to include your blog posts in a newsletter without using RSS-to-email, or would like to curate blog content from multiple blogs, Flash Issue might be a good integration for you. Flash Issue allows you to pull in content from specific RSS feeds by dragging and dropping within the integration. Save yourself time while still creating a custom newsletter and sharing all the hard work you put into your blog posts.
Education and support
Bloggers always seem to have email newsletters on the top of their to-do list, but starting one can seem daunting or time consuming. We understand and want to make the process as painless as possible by offering a ton of educational materials to answer all of your questions. Type a keyword or question into the search bar on the top of the MailChimp site, and you’ll be directed to a list of blog post, Knowledge Base articles, features pages, demo videos, and guides (like this one!) Click on the Resources or Support tabs for a more manual search.
If you need one-on-one attention with your MailChimp account, you can live chat or email with our friendly in-house support team, or ask questions via Twitter by tweeting @mailchimp. Thanks for reading!