Effortless email newsletters for bloggers, RSS-to-email campaign

We’re up to a lot at Creativity Loft.

Our “Minions, Mind Worms & Mind-Control Rays: An Author’s Mini Guide to Marketing, PR & World Domination” is available for pay-what-you-can pricing until December 1 and ONLY until December 1- after that you have to pay the full price of $2.99.

Later this week, we’ll be sharing a new product for you guys. Whew! It’s quite interesting. Please, stay tuned.

I’ve had a series of weeks from hell so I’m hoping (crossing fingers) this week is better.

Today’s blog post is very practical, less frou-frou, inspirational stuff. Don’t get me wrong, we love and embrace the frou-frou, but every now and then we want to give you guys something to actually do with all that energy and motivation we inspire. *grin*

We’re talking briefly about email marketing today. Specifically RSS-to-email campaigns.

RSS-to-email campaigns are a great way for bloggers (and creative people who blog) to:

a. update interested parties when they release new blog posts.

b. reach people where they live – via email.

c. spend LESS time crafting email newsletters with their blog’s content.

We’re trying to save you time here, people.

So here’s how to create an RSS-to-email campaign using, my favorite email marketing client, Mailchimp.

First of all, you should know that Mailchimp is a email marketing service provider that is free if you have less than 2000 email addresses on your opt-in list. I’m assuming I don’t have to explain “email marketing service provider” or “opt-in list” to people reading this. If this confuses you, PLEASE stay tuned for the resource coming later this week. It’ll help with this particular area of your business and more! *grin*

If you’re familiar with this concept, you’re probably wondering WHY to use Mailchimp over Feedburner or another service? Well, I prefer Mailchimp, from a branding perspective because you can customize the layout of your email with HTML code or predesigned templates.

So here we go.

How to create an RSS-to-email campaign using Mailchimp.

It’s important to note that you need to have a pre-existing opt-in list in Mailchimp at the ready before you can create the actual campaign.

Head over to Mailchimp.com and sign up for a free account and create a list. A “list” can just be with your single email address to start with, if you want to practice with just that. I suggest ALWAYS being on your own email distribution lists.

1. From your Mailchimp dashboard select “Create Campaign” and “RSS-driven campaign.”

2. Enter the address of your RSS feed from your website. Now, Mailchimp makes this easy for some people. In case you can’t find the RSS feed for your site (most of the time you can find this by looking for the handy RSS icon or text in the toolbar of your internet browser when you’re on your blog’s home page), you can simply list the address of your blog. For example. http://janescoolcrafts.com/blog or http://www.authorjoeblow.com/blog.

3. Select WHEN you want to send out your RSS-to-email campaign. Once a month? Once a week? Every day? Note. If you select every day, but only publish new content twice a week- Mailchimp will only send an email twice a week. They only send this email when there is new content.

Got it? Hit the “Next” button in Mailchimp to continue.

4. Select which list you want to send your RSS-to-email campaign to. NOTE: these people should have subscribed specifically to your blog feed in order to receive your blog updates.

Then select “Next.”

5. Put in your campaign information. A few things to note:

NAME YOUR CAMPAIGN – this is a title just for you, so you know what this campaign is in your admin section.

MESSAGE SUBJECT – You can make this whatever you want. Remember, unless you want to go in and edit this every time your RSS-to-email campaigns are scheduled to go out, I suggest using Mailchimps handy email merge tags to auto-populate content. Specifically, the subject.

For example. Putting “*|RSSITEM:TITLE|*” in the subject line area makes the subject of your email the title of your blog post. Does that make sense?

SEND TO TWITTER and INTEGRATE WITH FACEBOOK – You can auto tweet a link to the web version of this campaign to your Twitter account or Facebook profile or page.

It’s also a good idea to use the Google Analytics option to track results.

Good to go? Hit “Next.”

6. Design your email layout. The design of this email is entirely up to you. You can use one of Mailchimp’s templates, or you can create your own.

My suggestion: use a design with a main content area and a sidebar section. Customize the sidebar with links to your site, social media and any specific content that you want to promote.

While you CAN change this layout as often as you choose, it’s best to use sidebar content that’s ever-fresh or at least fresh for a while. Examples may be: For authors, links to your newest release or “about me” sections. for crafters, links to your online shops, etc.

Once you pick your design, you’ll then need to use Mailchimps merge tags to auto populate the content of your email campaign.

This can be a bit tricky and it helps if you already have a few blog posts published on your site, because then you can use the “popup preview” button to test your layout and options.

By default Mailchimp uses the

*|RSS:POSTS_HTML|*

tag to create your email content.

This particular merge tag, pulls in the following content from your blog post.

Title
Summary/Excerpt (text-only)
Link to go and view the full post on your blog
Link to view comments
Publish date
Author

If you want anything different from this, you’ll need to customize the content section using the aforementioned merge tags.

Hint: The “popup preview” button will be your best friend while you’re figuring out your layout.

Once you have it like you want, hit the “Next” button.

8. Review or edit the plain-text copy of your email then hit “Next.”

8. Review the summary of your campaign. Check the “Popup preview” option one more time. Send yourself a test message.

If all is well, schedule your campaign.

CONGRATS! You’re an RSS-to-email rockstar.

This is a very basic overview of what can be a very technical process, so take your time and play around with it, if it’s your first time doing this.

Any questions about any of this?

4 Comments

  1. Hi, we currently use Mailchimp to email our blog subscribers when we publish a new post.

    Does this approach allow for a realtime email? ie the email is sent as soon as the blog is published in the RSS stream?

    We need the email to go when we post – it drives a lot of traffic, and because its a financial markets blog it has to be close to realtime.

    Thanks

    1. Hi Andrew! Unfortunately no. For this particular service, the emails have to be scheduled in advance.

      Depending on the blog platform you use, there may be options built in to enable subscribers to receive auto updates via email. I don’t have any personal experience with services that auto send emails whenever a blog is published, so I can’t recommend one.

      On a related note, if you use social media for the blog, there are many options that auto-post the content to Twitter and Facebook – which has its advantages given the number of people now-a-days who learn important news via social media first! Sad, but true- I’m one of them… I suggest Twitterfeed (twitterfeed.com – can publish to Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and more). Do let me know if you find a service.

      Thanks,
      Tivi Jones

  2. Thanks. We’ll stick with our current Mailchimp process which is working pretty well. We tend to post manually to social networks – agree with your suggestion but given our volume at present we like the control we get with tweeting manually: we can tweak titles, hashtags, etc.

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