Whether you’re a new blogger or a seasoned old hand, one of the best pieces of advice you will ever get is to start collecting your audiences email addresses as soon as you can. Collecting your readers’ email addresses isn’t about wanting to fill their inboxes with spam – in fact, far from it. In this guide I will show you how to use MailChimp to send a weekly RSS feed to your email subscribers.
The most successful bloggers know that their email subscriber list is one of the only things they truly own other than their website. You might have 30,000 Twitter or Facebook followers, but if those platforms shut down tomorrow those followers (and your chances of speaking to them) are gone too.
People who choose to sign up to your email subscriber list will usually do so because you’ve convinced them that you have something valuable to share with them. It doesn’t really matter what that is, if they’re interested in what you have to say they will sign up. So your emails to those subscribers should add extra value to what they’re already getting from your blog.
The trouble is, when you first start out even though you know you should be providing your followers with value, you might not have anything to give them yet. Your blog is in its infancy, you’ve barely got an opt-in freebie to get them signed up in the first place, and the chances of you knocking up valuable emails every week while keeping up with your posting schedule and 84 gazillion linkys a week are slim.
But you don’t want to ignore your subscribers, either. The likelihood if you do is that they’ll unsubscribe and forget about you as quickly as they found you. A great way to keep in contact with them while you get to grips with your new-found blogging schedule is to send them a weekly round up of posts they might have missed on your blog. This is called an RSS feed, and every blog has one (even though you might not know it).
So that your emails don’t come across as spammy, you can add a short, personalised, message to the emails you send out each week which should literally take no more than few minutes. The rest will already be set up and will go out automatically. To do this, I use MailChimp.
How to Use MailChimp to Send a Weekly Email.
After you’ve logged in to your MailChimp account, you should see this page.
To start sending out your weekly RSS feed, you need to create a campaign. Hit ‘Create Campaign’, choose the option to create an email, and from the options at the top of the pop up choose ‘automated’ and ‘share blog updates’. MailChimp will ask you to choose a list to send your emails to. If you haven’t already, you should have a standard list called something along the lines of Blog Subscribers. You might have separate lists for various different opt-ins, but I’ll cover that (and how to merge the lists) another time.
The first thing you need to do here is add the URL of your blog’s RSS feed. This sounds a lot more complicated than it actually is, I promise! For the majority of blogs, it’s as simple as adding
onto the end of your blog’s URL. For example, the RSS URL for this blog is
When Should I Send My Email?
All you need to do next is choose when to send your weekly update. There’s a bit more science to this than you’d imagine, and studies have shown that the best day to send out email campaigns is Tuesday. But to be completely honest, the general consensus is to send your emails around mid-morning during the standard working week, so as long as you’re not emailing people at 3am on Sundays, or 11pm on Wednesday, you should be fine.
For the purpose of this, I’ve chosen to send my email weekly, on a Tuesday at 10am. I’d recommend checking the box to resize RSS images, because it’ll give your email a clearer look if you have images that are different sizes on your blog, or that are bigger or smaller than your email template.
The next option MailChimp will give you is to choose who you want to send your email to from your list. But you’ve already done that, right? In theory, yes. You’ve chosen to send your email to all your blog subscribers, but at this point you can choose to narrow down your subscribers into segments or groups. You can group or segment pretty much any way you want; so you could choose to send emails only to subscribers who haven’t opened your last email, or only to subscribers who always open your emails.
My honest advice is this; if you’re starting a brand new email campaign for a fairly new blog, start with a blanket email that goes out to everyone. Over time, you can create new campaigns with tailored information for segments of your subscriber list. In the beginning of any new blog, you’re still working out what your audience wants and needs from you, and if you guess, the chnaces are you’ll get it wrong.
The next stage is usually the bit that looks the most scary to new bloggers. If you haven’t played around with merge tags yet, the email subject line in particular can be a bit baffling. So let’s break it down.
This is simply the name of your campaign. No one will see this other than you. As you progress and you have several email campaigns on the go, you’ll want this to be easily recognisable. I’d go with something as simple as ‘Weekly RSS Feed’.
When you receive an email, it has a subject line, a bit like a title for the email. That’s all this is. You want to write a catchy line that will grab your audience’s attention, in very much the same way you do for your blog posts. You can even update and change the subject line weekly if you want to.
Avoid wording like ‘weekly round-up’, or ‘this week’s posts’ – the chances are people won’t be interested and will delete your email without even opening it.
You can use merge tags in your email subject, which is a great way to personalise your emails. When someone signs up to your email list, they will give you various pieces of information. Very simply, you want their first name and email address. Each piece of info they give you has a merge tag. So if you wanted to put their first name in the email header, you would use;
which correlates to First Name (N.B. you can customise merge tags too, but let’s not get too techy yet!)
A good example of using a merge tag as an email header would look something like this;
“Aleena, did you get my freebie this week?!” from “*|FNAME|*, did you get my freebie this week?!”
When you use merge tags, MailChimp will automatically replace the tags with the information you have collected from your subscribers.
When you look at your email inbox, each email usually has an email subject, and then a snippet or preview of the actual email itself. If you don’t want the preview to simply be the first line of your email, then you can personalise it here.
Use either your blog name or your first name so that you are instantly recognised. People will just delete your emails if they don’t know who they’ve come from.
From Email Address
Your subscribers will be able to reply to the emails they receive from you, so I strongly suggest using your blog’s email address here.
Finally, I would always check the box on the right which says ‘Personalize the “To” field’. It will help your email appear far more personal than if your subscribers just see their email address. I actually can’t remember the last time I received an email from a business, blogger, or company that hadn’t been personalised to me.
There are some further options at the bottom of this page to share your email on your social feeds. You can post your email to Facebook and Twitter automatically on the day the email sends if you want to. But there a couple of things to consider with this.
Firstly, if you use any merge tags in your subject line, these aren’t going to carry over to social media. To get around this you can use conditional merge tags (I’ve provided an example below) but if you’re not confident with this then I don’t recommend it just yet.
Hello *|IF:FNAME|* *|FNAME|*! *|ELSE:|* Friend! *|END:IF|*
This will give you one of two things. For subscribers whose name you have, they will see;
Anyone else will see;
You will also want to consider if you actually want the content of your email to be commonly shared. If, for example, you’re offering your subscribers information or value that they can’t get elsewhere on your blog, then sharing it publicly takes away from the exclusivity of that. Share your subscriber sign up form instead 😉
Choosing a Layout
Now you’ve done all the technical stuff, the next bit is choosing a layout or theme for your email. All of the themes and layouts are totally customisable, so you can add your own branding, logo’s, headers and words to them. You can also drag and drop and move elements around. So by all means choose a layout or theme that you love, but don’t panic too much over it because you can change the way your email looks whenever you like.
Once you’ve chosen your layout or theme, you can start dong the fun bit of making it look the way you want to. Hovering over the pencil icon on any of the elements within your chosen template will allow you to edit them. You can then upload your own images and headers, and most importantly, your blog’s RSS feed.
It’s a good idea to add your blog’s URL to your header image. That way, if someone clicks on the header of your email, they’ll be directed straight to your site, and it helps your emails to feel more professional. When you add your image, just choose the option ‘link’ and add any link you like. You can do this for all images within MailChimp if you choose to.
On the right, you should see various content blocks that you can simply drag and drop onto your email design template. For the purposes of your RSS email, I’d say at a bare minimum you need some text, RSS Items, and some social follow icons. You can drag and drop these wherever you like, and rearrange them at any time by hovering over a content box and clicking and dragging the reorder icon in the top left.
When you add the social follow icons, make sure you change the URLs for each platform to point to your page or profile, otherwise your links either won’t do anything, or will send people to the platform’s home page. This content box starts with standard Facebook, Twitter and website buttons, but you can add other services like Instagram and Pinterest, too.
Once you’ve added your RSS feed items and are happy with the layout of your email, you can see what the email will look like when it’s sent out by clicking ‘Preview and Test’ in top right of the header bar. Choose option 1, and click ‘enable live merge tag info’ to see how your merge tag personalisation looks and check that it’s working. You can switch to mobile view to see what your email will look like on mobile, too.
You’re Ready to Send!
That’s it,your email is designed and ready to be sent to your list! Click ‘Next’ in the bottom right hand side of your screen and check that you’re happy with everything the way it is. MailChimp will alert you at this point that you haven’t set up Social Cards. If you’re not sharing your email on Twitter on Facebook when you send it out then you don’t need to worry about this. If you are, then click on the link and configure your cards.
Once you’re happy, click ‘Start RSS’ and your email will automatically be sent to your subscriber list every week on your chosen day.
You can edit your email whenever you like by heading to your campaign list, clicking on your campaign and then hitting the ‘Pause and Edit Campaign’ button in top right of your screen. It’s a good idea to update the text portion of your email weekly so that your emails aren’t repetitive and boring.
There you have it; how to use MailChimp to send a weekly RSS email to your subscribers. Once you have created your first campaign, you should be well on the way to getting to grips with sending more campaigns, and automating emails to segments of your list.