Emailing Blog Posts with a MailChimp RSS Campaign

mailchimp monkey walking

No internet marketing strategy is complete without email campaigns. Sending regular branded emails to a subscriber with top quality content will build recognition and loyalty like almost nothing else online.

A great way to do this is with AWeber. But you can do it for free with with MailChimp if you have less than 2,000 subscribers.

It is possible to sign up with MailChimp and add a sign-up form to your blog in seconds.

MailChimp (and other email providers) will shut down your account if too many people complain because they can’t remember subscribing. It is really important to send your subscribers regular content and a great way of doing this is to email every blog post you write.

RSS and WordPress

RSS stands for Real Simple Syndication and is a standardized format used to publish frequently updated works. Every blog has an RSS feed, if you go to your main blog page and type “/feed” after the URL the browser will output the RSS feed. In order to set up your RSS feed correctly in WordPress, go Settings > Reading, by “For each article in a feed, show” make sure you have the radio button on “Full text”. I think it’s best to give your subscribers the full blog post by email.

MailChimp RSS to Email Campaign Set Up

This is my video tutorial on how to set up a campaign to send out your blog posts with MailChimp.

Create an RSS-driven campaign

rss driven campaign mailchimp

Once signed in to MailChimp, select RSS-driven campaign from the drop-down menu when hovering over the Create Campaign button. You are immediately asked for the RSS Feed URL.

If you don’t want to send all your blog posts to your email subscribers, you could create a new category in WordPress and enter the feed of that category. You can enter multiple category feeds or multiple feeds from different sites if you wish by using ChimpFeedr or Yahoo Pipes to aggregate the feeds into one URL.

Choose a time of day (I prefer 9am GMT) for the email to be sent out, meaning your subscribers (in Europe and the US) will receive the post the morning after you publish it.

You can then choose the list to which the blog post email is sent (if you are new to MailChimp, you will only have one).

Make it personal

campaign form mailchimp

The emails that you send out to your list should be as personal as possible – almost as if you are sending an email to a friend or colleague – so your campaign information should reflect this. Here you are introduced to MailChimp merge tags (of which more later).

  • name your campaign this is just for your benefit to identify the campaign
  • message subject* this is the subject line of the email that your subscribers will receive. The default merge tags give the name of your blog plus the date. You could leave this as it is or change it to a permanent “Latest from my blog”, for example
  • from name* I would make this your full name
  • reply-to email * I would make this your personal email
  • personalize the “To:” field info check this to make the email addressed personally – for example, the merge tags *|FNAME|* *|LNAME|* will show “To: Bob Smith” instead of “To: bob@example.com”.

Here you can also specify how the visits from these emails are recorded in Google Analytics which is very useful. You can also auto-tweet and auto-post to Facebook, if you wish.

Styling and creating your email

MailChimp being MailChimp, they have a host of pre-designed templates to choose from. I prefer to ignore these and choose the Basic (500px) template and style it up in the next phase.

A very user-friendly interface follows where you can add your logo and match colors and branding from your website. But it is very important to enter some merge tags in here to make sure the email actually sends out your blog posts.

One option is just to enter the following default RSS merge tag into the text edit area of the email editor.

*|RSS:POSTS_HTML|*

But unfortunately, this does not give you full control of the way the blog post is reproduced in the email and it does not send the full content of the blog post which I don’t like. So I use the following merge tags to deliver the title and full content:

*|RSSITEM:TITLE|*
*|RSSITEM:CONTENT_FULL|*

But even this isn’t perfect as I would like the user to be able to click on the title and go to the blog post to leave a comment. So, with *|RSSITEM:TITLE|* selected click the link icon at the top of the text editor, and in the resulting pop-up box enter the “URL” *|RSSITEM:URL|* making sure the protocol is “<other>” rather than “http://”. Here is an image of possible uses of the MailChimp merge tags:

editing rss email mailchimp

That (apart from adapting the plain text version and starting the campaign) is more or less it. Creating an RSS-driven campaign may not sound like the most glamorous thing you’ve ever done but, once set up, it is an amazingly powerful marketing instrument that can run on auto-pilot driving traffic to your website and interest to your brand.

MailChimp RSS to email tutorial

Here is a tutorial from MailChimp’s blog about how to set up an RSS campaign.

Why not use Feedburner to do this?

You can, of course, use Feedburner to get subscribers and receive your feed. But the primary benefit of using AWeber or MailChimp to send you blog posts by email is your ability to send other emails to your list. This is a huge benefit as you may want to send your subscribers specific messages later on.

And there are many, many other features (for example the ability to brand and design your email exactly how you want it) that also make this a better idea.

What about you?

Do you send your blog posts out as emails? Which service do you use to do this?

I wrote this blog post because Andrew Kelsall – a blogging buddy of mine for longer than I care to remember – asked a question in a comment on another post. If you would like me to write a blog post about any specific topic, don’t be afraid to ask!

Comments

  1. says

    Haha! Great Rob. I think I’ll definitely be taking a look at this post and vid again sometime soon. I have it penciled in my next month; it’s about time I got my mailing list sorted.

    I’m working on customising another theme at the moment which is wigitised, so I’ll be using the MailChimp widget when its set up :)

  2. says

    Just about the right time.. I’ve decided to go for Mailchimp on my new blog from start due to the newletter flexibility thing. On my older blog, I often have to give away my free downloads to everyone since feedburner makes it impossible to get partial.. Have spend quite some time reading up as much as i can on using MC and this post is surely gonna help. I enjoyed reading from my phone.

    • says

      That’s great, Ikenna, glad to hear you’re doing a newsletter on your new blog because it really is a fantastic way to connect to your audience.

  3. says

    Hi Rob,

    Recently created MailChimp account and set up RSS for one of my blog. I configured it to send one email per week. It was ufff because I did not know the merge tags are required on body. You can guess what emails are fired. Hahaaa..

    So had to Google for ‘how to’ got your post. You did it great job and explained very clearly. Going to edit my campaign.

    Thanks.

    • says

      That’s great, Suresh, I made exactly the same mistake with MailChimp myself. I kept sending empty emails! But, as you say, as soon as you work out that you use these merge tags in the body of the email it starts to work out. Thanks for the comment, my friend.

  4. Gautami says

    Hi Rob,

    Thank you very much for the detailed post. I’m creating my first mailchimp rss campaign and i was stuck with Item Title styling. Using *|RSSITEM:TITLE|* & *|RSSITEM:CONTENT_FULL|* instead of POSTS_HTML solved it, however now I lost the Content Structure. Looks like a trade off.. If I don’t use POSTS_HTML, |*MC:TOC*| only returns the feed name. Is there any way that i could get the TOC while using *|RSSITEM:TITLE|* & *|RSSITEM:CONTENT_FULL|* ?

    • says

      Hi Gautami, as you are wanting a content structure and a TOC, does this mean you are posting more than one post a day? I should have made it clear that this has only been tested on blogs that never post more than one a day. As the RSS mails get sent out daily, there is never any need for content structure. However, I’m sure there is a way of doing what you want by playing around with the merge tags. Please let us know how you get on.

  5. says

    Hi Rob,

    Great post…helped me a lot. Perhaps I can return the favour by answering Gautami’s question? You can get multiple items in an email by wrapping the RSSITEM tags between *|RSSITEMS:|* and *|END:RSSITEMS|* tags. That will pick up all the items since the last campaign and not just the latest one.

    Also, you might find it useful to set the *|RSSITEM:TITLE|* style to TOC_Title so that all the post headings also appear in the Table of Contents (should you have one). Incidently, if you’re feed title is appearing in the table of contents then this is the likely cause. To resolve, simply remove the style from the RSSFEED:TITLE tag.

    Hope this helps

    Colman

    • says

      Thank you so much for this fantastic detail, Colman. Really appreciated. I hope Gautami is still subscribed to this discussion so he can benefit from this. Thanks a lot and I hope to see you here again!

  6. Lilly Rehberger says

    Thanks Rob! My MailChimp’s RSS driven campaign title now links correctly to my wordpress post.

    But my post content links become broken somewhere when the campaign goes out, e.g., links in the post pointing to another page on my blog –> http://www.myblog.com/page becomes http://../page – it loses the blog address somewhere. Any ideas you can share would be greatly appreciated!

    • says

      Hello, Lilly. Silly question: are the links working in the actual posts themselves?

      Otherwise, I can’t see a good reason for this. If you contact MailChimp support they’ll definitely help you with this one as they’ll go into the the actual email and see why it’s happening. But with the shortcode *|RSSITEM:CONTENT_FULL|* the links should come out as normal.

      Please let me know.

    • says

      Lilly – I am having the same issue. Have you had any luck with mail chimp? I am starting to suspect it has something to do with the way WordPress shortens the links.

      Thanks!

      Steph

      • says

        Stephanie, I don’t think WordPress does anything to the links you put into your blog posts. And the blog posts are pulled-in “as is” to MailChimp so if they’re OK in the posts they should be OK in the emails. Are you sure they are the full absolute URLs in the posts?

  7. says

    Rob, let me just say that I am so damn glad that we are in each other’s circles on Google+, I swear this is like the 3rd time I’ve searched for something MailChimp related and your blog came up with the exact answer I needed.

    Very much appreciated!

    • says

      That’s great, Gregory, Google+ is really going to be a fantastic networking tool. I was surprised how well my MailChimp articles did in Google. I’m going to be doing some Aweber ones soon. By the way, I think we’re both on the Viperchill forum as well. :)

  8. MC says

    “Do you send your blog posts out as emails? Which service do you use to do this?”

    This might be a dumb (but sincere) question but, Don’t all WordPress themes have a built-in widget option where anyone can sign up to receive all posts by email? So I’m not sure I understand why MailChimp would be needed for the same purpose(?)

    • says

      Good question, MC. It’s true you can mail your latest post to subscribers via the free service at Feedburner. But that’s all you can do. If you wanted to email your subscribers you can’t. With MailChimp or Aweber or any of these other email services you can email your subscribers what you want when you want – no need to worry about the emails going into spam folders, no need to worry about blacklisting or anything.

  9. says

    Thats all fine, but how on earth do you retrieve the feature image and display it/style it correctly for each RSSITEM? RSSITEM:IMAGE does not work, and if you use a template, you can change an image placeholder properties to use an RSS merge tag…. serious limitation on mailchimps behalf….

  10. says

    When I send my new blog posts via Mailchimp campaign, it isn’t as glamorous as the version I have up on http://dealwagger.blogspot.com. Is there any way to send out the blog to my subscribers as it actually looks through blogspot.com? Sorry is this was already answered, just very confused!

  11. says

    Hi Rob,

    do you happen to know how to have the latest posts title in the subject of the email that is sent out? Feedburner offers this (with mutiple posts you can have something like ‘[POST-TITLE] + 3 Other Great posts’ or similar) but I don’t see how this can be done with Mail Chimp.

    MOst of the blogs I’ve subscribed to (I guess which use Aweber) that I end up clicking through are those with catchy post titles that draw my attention. A generic ‘Latest Posts’ subject heading doesn’t do it for me…

    thanks,
    Alan

  12. says

    Rob, this was extremely informative and you made it very easy. It’s exactly what I was looking for, and I’ve set it up on my business consultation site. Thanks much!
    ~Tracy

  13. Esther says

    Hi. Thanks for the great article–it was really helpful! I have one question, though. I’ve been using MailChimp, and love being able to personalize it! My problem: it only shows the most recent post! When I post three blog posts in a day, I’d like for all my subscribers to get all three blog posts! Not just the most recent. Here’s what I have for my html:
    *|RSSITEMS:|*
    *|RSSITEM:TITLE|*
    *|RSSITEM:CONTENT_FULL|*
    *|END:RSSITEMS|*

    Am I doing something wrong? A response would be very appreciated! I’d like my readers to get it all!

    Thanks in advance,
    Esther

  14. says

    Thank you so much, you are my hero. For days I have been battling with mailchimp settings I was sending out blank emails with no info everything was a mess, I didn’t understand merge tags. I watched your video and within 5 minutes its working perfectly. Thank you again so much.

    Emma.

  15. Fahad says

    Hello Rob, I just configured the mailchimp for rss. I did not know that how to make title link clickable. But now, I know it. Thank you.

    My other concern is that, how I can insert a few lines of my blog post below the clickable title link of my latest blog post.

    Fahad

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