May 24, 2016 Blogging TipsHow to Set Up a Beautiful MailChimp RSS Campaign Is it just me or does it seem like every blogger and their mom now has an email newsletter? In the past few years, I’ve noticed that more and more bloggers are offering them and guess what? There’s a good reason for it! Being able to land in your readers’ inboxes creates a more personal relationship between the two of you, it allows you to keep them updated on the latest content and it also keeps your name in front of their eyes on a regular basis. We all want that — right?! But once you decide to make a newsletter, more hurdles start to pop up along the way. I’ll be the first to admit that figuring out the world of email newsletters can be a confusing one to navigate. Not only do you need to figure out how to collect those emails, but you’ll also need to figure out how to send out your most recent posts. Did this thought just pop into your head? “I don’t have a background in coding and it alls sounds totally impossible and confusing!” The good news is that you’re not alone in that thinking. If having a strong knowledge of coding, HTML and CSS was required to run a blog, there probably wouldn’t be very many of them. Luckily, for us, MailChimp takes the struggle out of the equation and actually makes it easy to set up an RSS-driven campaign. Oh, and you can set up your account and start emailing for free! If you’re still scratching your head wondering what An RSS campaign is, it’s an email that’s generated based off of your most recent content. An RSS-driven campaign sends subscribers an email whenever a new post goes live on your blog. So why an RSS-driven campaign? Like I mentioned earlier, keeping eyes on your site is super important for growth and landing in a reader’s inbox will constantly remind them of your site and likely drive more traffic! Plus, when you set up an RSS-driven campaign with MailChimp, you only set it up once and then let it go! There’s no weekly maintenance or anything. Who can complain about that?! Growing an email list is also important! Who knows, maybe someday you’ll start selling a product or offering a service. Wouldn’t it be nice if you already had a loyal following to sell that product or service to? Maybe you just want to send out a note to announce some big news! Either way, collecting those email addresses isn’t going to hurt you, so if you haven’t started, today’s the day! MailChimp makes the whole process super easy, but if you’re still nervous, that’s okay! Grab my hand, and let’s walk through it together! First thing’s first — if you haven’t created a list, we need to do that first. If you already have a list, you can jump down to the next section to guide you through setting up your RSS-driven campaign! Create a List 1. Set Up Your List First thing’s first, you have to have a list! Seems like a given, but if this post has inspired you start your newsletter for the first time, there’s a good chance you don’t have a list, so let’s set one up. Login to your Mailchimp account and click on ‘Lists’ from the menu bar. Then hit the Create List button, this will open a box and again, click Create List. Fill out your list details here! A few things to pay attention to here… 1. For your ‘Default From Email Address‘, make sure you use an email address that has the same domain name as your website. For example instead of email@example.com, use something like ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ — as spam regulations get tighter, emails that come from generic email addresses like Gmail are more likely to get blocked. You can set up an email like this through your website hosting. Once you’ve done this, you can have those emails pushed through to a gmail account — here’s an easy tutorial for any of you Bluehost. 2. You must include an address that will be added to the footer of every email. It is required by anti-spam laws and if you don’t include it, you run the risk of having your account shut down. If you don’t want to put your home address out there for the world to see, use a P.O. Box or a business address. Hit Save, and your list has been created! Boom, easy, right?! 2. Collect Emails The next step is collecting emails! Once you click through one your list within MailChimp, you’ll see a new set of options, on of them is ‘Sign Up Forms’, click on that to see your options. There’s several different methods here, so feel free to test them out. 1. General Forms: This is a free-standing MailChimp hosted sign up page. I recommend having this set up and saving the link so you can casually mention signing up for your list in any post and then link directly to the sign up page. 2. Embedded Forms: The one most people want! You can drop this into a sidebar widget so users can easily sign up from there! You can also use this code directly on a page if you want to create a custom subscribe page. 3. Subscriber Popup: You’ve seen these, they pop up after you’ve been on the site for a few seconds. Yes, the might seem annoying, but they work, like 300% better than a regular sign up form. If you decide to do this, make sure to have it pop-up 30-40 seconds after a reader has been on your site to not annoy them! 4. Form Integrations: These allow you to integrate a MailChimp sign up for with different social media platforms, etc. I actually haven’t tried any of these, but they could be cool, especially if you have a good social following on any of the offered platforms. There you have it, you’ve set up a list and now created a way for people to sign up, so let’s get on to the RSS feed set up! Setting up Your RSS Feed 1. Create the Campaign Under the campaigns tab, hit the button with the dropdown arrow titled ‘Create Campaign‘ and select the option titled ‘RSS Campaign‘. A new page will pop up and here is where you drop in all the details for your campaign. Drop in your feed URL or your blog URL (they’re good about finding your feed for you!). Then decide what time of the day and which days you want them to go out. If you select everyday, an email will only be sent if there’s a new post, so you don’t have to worry about any duplicate emails going out! If you post Monday-Friday, you can uncheck the weekends, or you can set it to go out just once a week — it’s up to you! If you set it to go out just once a week, it will compile all the posts that went live after the last email was sent. I also recommend checking the box to ‘resize images’ to fit into the template so your emails will look nice and clean! Once you’re finished, hit ‘Next’. On this page, select the list you want to send your emails to. If you only have one list, this is easy, but if you have more than one, select the list you want. FYI, you can only send campaigns to one list at a time. If you have your list broken into segments, you can pick those options here too. 2. Setup These settings are fairly simple, yay! The name of your campaign only shows up behind the scenes, so readers won’t see this. You could name it something like ‘New Post Emails’ or whatever you want to remind yourself of the purpose of this campaign. Next is the title — the default title uses merge tags to pull in timely information. You can change this up or you can ditch it completely and give your emails a unique subject line! (** If you want to change the title of your emails — or make any changes for that matter — you’ll need to pause the campaign, make changes and then re-start it!) Add your name — I use my actual name instead of my blog name because I find that to be more personal and has helped with my open rate. Lastly, add your email address and please make sure it’s not a Gmail account, but instead one with the same domain name as your site! For the tracking settings, I leave them at the default, but feel free to change these up to suit your needs. 3. Select a Template MailChimp has some basic templates for you to choose from, but for an RSS Feed, there are two templates already pre-designed for you that make things super simple! Scroll to the bottom and select either the RSS Feed with One Column or the RSS Feed with the Sidebar, my recommendation is the one column version simply because it looks cleaner, but it’s up to you. Once you select that, we’ll make it pretty! 4. Build Your Campaign If you pick the RSS Feed with One Column template, you’ll see this after you hit ‘Select’. You’ll notice that there’s a bunch of code looking stuff in there…. Huh? What’s that you say? I don’t speak code. This part looks scary, but not to fear! These codes are actually merge tags that tell MailChimp what to grab from your feed to pull into your email. The code that comes in here is a bit redundant, so let’s clean it up a bit so that your RSS campaign looks sharp. I removed the first chunk that included the RSS Title. That basically just pulls in your blog’s name and tagline, but if you’ve already dropped in your branding image to the top of the email, then this gets a bit repetitive. The next section is the merge tags that will actually pull in your blog content! If you want to remove any parts of this or make changes, click on the edit button for that section and then choose ‘Custom’ from the RSS Items Style dropdown. It will leave the code that’s there, but allow you to edit the code. You can also select from different options on the dropdown for different ways to display the RSS content. I removed the author section because I’m the only author for my site and didn’t think it was a necessity. I also added my blog’s logo to the top header area and a section in the footer for social media icons. The social follow buttons are already built-in, so all you have to do is drag and drop that into your template and drop in your URLS. 5. Style Your Campaign You’ve already added your logo, but MailChimp also let’s you easily style your template to match the branding of your own site. I always recommend picking similar fonts to what you already have on your site (if the same fonts are available, pick those!) and use the same colors. Keeping your newsletter cohesive will strengthen your brand and let your readers know it’s from you as soon as they open it! 6. Testing Once you’ve got your feed cleaned up and have styled it the way you like, it’s time to do a little testing! Like I mentioned, every blog theme is different, so it’s super important that you test your newsletter to make sure that it’s working properly before you send it out to all your readers! To quickly test your email, click on the ‘Preview and Test’ dropdown from the top right menu and select ‘Send a test email’. Drop in your email address and then go check your inbox to see what it looks like. You can’t see the full email in this screenshot, but you can see that my content is being pulled in and is displaying properly! Make sure to go through the whole email to make sure everything looks right. If necessary, make changes to your design or merge tags and test again until it looks right! After that, go back to MailChimp and hit the ‘Next’ button in the bottom right hand corner. If there are any errors, you’ll be made aware of them on this page, make sure those are fixed before you send. Once your newsletter is complete, it’s time to hit that ‘Start RSS’ button! And, there you have it! You’ve successfully set up a MailChimp RSS Campaign! TROUBLESHOOTING Occasionally things just don’t work — the downside of technology. This could be because of your theme or your RSS feed or some other issue. If you’re having issues with your images, you might try the plugin MB ImageChimp RSS Feed Enhancer or Featured Images in RSS with Size & Position. If nothing is pulling in at all, there might be an issue with your RSS feed’s merge tags — check to make sure you didn’t accidentally delete something important. Still having problems? MailChimp’s knowledge base can answer most questions, but if not, they have a helpful support team. If you can’t find the Chat button, it’s hidden a bit, so search for your issue, click on a subject and scroll to the bottom — there you’ll find the ‘Chat with Us’ button! Well, that’s it! Not as scary as you thought, right?! So, what are you waiting for? Go get your RSS campaign set up now! And if you have any comments or questions? Leave them below and I’ll do my best to answer!