Create an email list for WordPress with MailChimp

If you have a WordPress site with regularly updated content or if you sell a product or service you could benefit from an email list. An email list allows visitors to subscribe to your website and get an email whenever you post something new to the site or want to send new information to potential customers.

This post is going to cover setting up MailChimp on your WordPress site to send email alerts to subscribers when a new post is made on your website. 

There are other uses for MailChimp like product promotion, email mini courses, etc, but this is going to cover new post alerts. An email will be sent to your subscribers when a new post is created on your website.

MailChimp does take a bit of work to set up on WordPress. If you are looking for a very simple way to send email alerts for new posts and don’t need much customization check out the post Create an email list for WordPress with the Email Subscribers & Newsletters plugin. 

Why should you have an email list?

Besides being able to reach visitors or customers there are a few other reasons why having an email list is important.

  • You can reach people directly instead of posting your content to social media where the people you are trying to reach might not see it. Social media is pretty crowded so your message can easily get lost.
  • People generally are more careful with who the give their email addresses to compared to who they follow on social media. It’s also easier to forget about or ignore who you follow on social media than to do so with your inbox.
  • The email list is your’s, you own it. It’s not owned by Facebook or Twitter like their respective platforms are. Your social media account could be shut down for something like a policy violation and you instantly lose contact with your followers. That is not the case with an email list.
  • You can develop a better relationship with your customers or site visitors.  It gives them a more direct method of contact with you. It’s a great way to get feedback and develop better communication.
  • You can offer exclusive content or early access to products and services.

How do you create an email list?

You are going to need two things to get started with an email list. First, you will need a way to collect email addresses for the list. This is done with a sign-up form placed on your website. Next, you need a service to store and manage the list. This service will connect to your website and send an email to everyone on your list whenever you publish a new post on your WordPress site. The service we will be using is MailChimp.

What is MailChimp?

MailChimp is an email marketing platform that allows users to automate the sending of their email lists. With their free plan you can have a up to 2,000 contacts and send up to 12,000 emails per month. By signing up for the free plan and getting a free WordPress plugin you can easily add a signup widget to your site to collect email address and have them added to a MailChimp email list that will email everyone on that list whenever a new post is published on your website.

How to set up your MailChimp account and email list

First, set up a MailChimp account.

Once you have an account created login and click on Campaigns. MailChimp campaigns are the email messages you will be sending to your subscribers.  You could have a campaign for alerting subscribers about new posts and another campaign for selling items on your site or promoting new features of your site. The campaign you will be creating is for alerting subscribers when you have a new post on your website.

Create Campaign

The first step is to create a campaign.

MailChimp campaign page

Create an email

Next, create an email for the campaign.

MailChimp create an email

Automated (Create an Automation Email)

Creating an automation email will cause MailChimp to send your subscribers an email automatically when new posts are published on your site. You can also choose to have a specific email sent whenever  someone subscribes to your email list if you wanted to have a unique email welcoming new people to your list. That is a great way to introduce yourself and give them an idea of what to expect from your email list. For the purpose of this tutorial I will just be focusing on sending blog updates to subscribers.

MailChimp automation email

Share blog updates

From here you can change the name of your campaign if you wish. You will also select your list from the dropdown menu so that MailChimp knows who to send your blog updates to.

MailChimp share blog updates

RSS feed and send timing

For MailChimp to know when you post new content to your site you will need the RSS feed URL for your WordPress site. It should be yourdomain.com/feed/. Type your URL into your browser and add /feed/ to the end and you should see a page like the one below. That is your RSS feed information. If you see a page like the image below then you have the correct feed URL for your site. 

RSS feed example

MailChimp will try to find your RSS feed URL if  yourdomain.com/feed/ doesn’t work. Just type your website URL into the RSS feed URL box and MailChimp will try to find the correct URL.

From here you can also set the timing of your emails. This allows you to set the frequency, specific days and time the emails will be sent. If you choose to send the emails everyday they will only be sent if you have new posts on your website. If you publish a new post to your site the email notification will go out the following day at the time specified.

MailChimp rss timing and frequency

Select a portion of your list

Next you will select a portion of your list or the entire list to send your emails to. When you first create your MailChimp account, your email list will only have one subscriber, and that’s you. That’s why it will only show one subscriber and one recipient. Select Entire list. At this point you won’t have any groups, segments or pre-built segments.

MailChimp whole list

Tracking settings

After selecting your whole list to send emails to you can change your tracking settings if you like. This allows you to get some analytical information about your emails (Are they getting opened? What links inside the emails are getting clicked?). There is also the option of integrating Google Analytics, ClickTale or Salesforce with your email tracking. If you have an E-commerce site you can enable E-commerce link tracking to view information about purchases, conversions and sales originating from your email list.

MailChimp tracking settings

Campaign info

On the Campaign info you can change settings like campaign name, email subject, preview text, from name, from email address and personalize the “To” field. Personalizing the “To” field is a great idea because it uses the subscriber’s name instead of just their email address. Getting an email addressed to your name just feels more personal. MailChimp says it will reduce chances of the email being incorrectly marked as spam. Your emails won’t do any good if they go straight to the spam folder of your subscribers.

MailChimp campaign info

Select a template

Next you will choose a template for your emails. This will define the style and layout of the email that your subscribers will get. I chose the Simple Text template because it’s minimalist and to the point. But there are many options to chose from, you can pick a template and customize it to something that fits your needs. There is even an option to code your own if you want to create one with HTML and CSS.

MailChimp templates

Design your email template

There are tons of options for customizing your email template. Just drag and drop items from the right sidebar onto your template. You can add social media buttons, videos, images, custom code and many other components. I chose RSS Items because I want the email to contain the title of the post, an excerpt of the post and a link to the post.

MailChimp email template preview

Review your campaign settings

After designing your template you will review your campaign settings to make sure everything is correct.

MailChimp review campaign settings

Once you have verified the information is correct you will be taken to the campaign success page with a summary of your campaign.

MailChimp campaign success

Connect your MailChimp account to your WordPress site

The easiest way I have found to connect your MailChimp account to your WordPress site is with a plugin called MailChimp for WordPress by ibericode. It makes it very easy to connect your MailChimp account to your WordPress site.

First you need to install the plugin. Search for MailChimp for WordPress in the Add Plugins section of your WordPress dashboard.

MailChimp for WordPRess plugin

Get your API key

MailChimp API key field

To connect the plugin to your MailChimp account you will need an API key from MailChimp. Click the link within the MailChimp for WordPress general settings. 

Click Create API key.

MailChimp create API key

Once you have created an API key, copy it to your clipboard and paste it in the API key field of the plugin settings and Save Changes.

Go to the form section of the plugin and Add new form. Name the form and check the box to select the MailChimp list you want the form to subscribe users to.

MailChimp for WordPress new form

Add fields to your form

Customize the form by adding whatever field you like. By default the form will already have an email field and a submit button. If you selected Personalize the “To” field earlier in the campaign info settings make sure to add First Name to the form so you can capture your subscribers first name.

MailChimp for WordPress form fields
MailChimp widget configuration

Once the form is done you can customize the messages users see when they have successfully subscribed, already subscribed, entered an invalid email address, missed a required field or several other situations.

Add the widget to your sidebar

Go to the widget section of your WordPress dashboard, find the MailChimp Sign-Up Form widget and add it to the widget area of your choice. Specify the title you want to display on the widget and Save.

Done!

You now have MailChimp connected to your WordPress site and created an email sign-up form so that visitors to your site can subscribe to new posts and get email alerts when you post new content.


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