How to use MailChimp to send WordPress blog posts by email
Allowing people to receive your latest WordPress blog posts by email is a great way to build a following. Forget about RSS, Twitter etc. Some people just like to read the latest articles from your website using good old-fashioned email. Email marketing tools have always been a great way to share updates with your users and notify them of the latest trends and here is a list of the best email marketing services.
Today, I’m going to tell you how to use MailChimp to send WordPress blog posts by email. You can do it without any coding experience. And you don’t even need to install any plugins, as everything you need is already built into MailChimp and WordPress!
You’ll learn how to email new blog posts to subscribers – either globally or specific categories only. I’ll also share some handy tips on how to take your blog posts by email to a new level. For example, I’ll tell you how to create a private members-only blog and email it to approved members only.
Let’s get started.
Should I use MailChimp to send new blog posts?
First, let’s talk through the different ways to send new blog posts via email.
There are several plugins which allow you to send ‘new post’ emails directly from your WordPress website – JetPack Subscriptions and Subscribe2 being some of the main players. This is all well and good, but in my opinion neither of these options are very professional or user-friendly. For example:
- JetPack Subscriptions can’t be branded and allows your visitors to subscribe to your sites and other WordPress blogs under a single account. This may not be appropriate for a corporate blog.
- Subscribe2 requires a lot of custom development to look professional. The ‘Manage My Subscriptions’ page is in the WordPress admin rather than on the front end of your website. This isn’t appropriate for most websites.
Another problem with sending bulk emails directly from your WordPress website is that your emails are more likely to be spammed. You can add features such as SMTP mail to increase email deliverability. However, WordPress is not a specialist email platform. Some WordPress hosting companies such as WP Engine (our recommended host) don’t even allow you to send mass emails directly from your website. This is because it uses a lot of server resources and can slow down your website.
Dedicated mailing list platforms
An alternative option is to use a specialist mailing list provider to email your subscribers when you publish a new WordPress blog post. Their servers are configured to maximise deliverability so your emails are less likely to be flagged as spam. They also have built-in features to help you comply with data protection legislation. And you also get professional options for email templates that aren’t available with most WordPress plugins.
MailChimp is the world’s leading mailing list provider, and is free until you have 2,000 subscribers. This article explains how to use MailChimp to send WordPress blog posts by email. The basic method described in this tutorial will work for wordpress.com or self-hosted wordpress.org sites.
Step 1 – Prepare your WordPress blog
Get your RSS feed URL
WordPress automatically generates an RSS feed listing all your blog posts. This is all you need to integrate MailChimp with your WordPress website.
If you want your MailChimp emails to display all the posts that you add to your website then your RSS feed will be https://your-domain.com/feed/ (e.g. the RSS feed for this website is https://barn2.co.uk/feed/).
If you want to email your subscribers when you add posts to a specific blog category then the RSS feed will be the URL for your blog category followed by feed/ (e.g. https://barn2.co.uk/category/wordpress-web-design-blog/feed/).
Find the URL for your RSS feed and save it in a handy place, as you’ll need to paste this into MailChimp later.
Important note: The trailing slash / is compulsory, and MailChimp will only recognize your RSS feed if you add it as https://barn2.co.uk/feed/ rather than https://barn2.co.uk/feed.
Displaying WordPress featured images in your MailChimp emails
By default, any images that you insert into the main content area of your WordPress posts will appear in your MailChimp emails. However featured images will not, because WordPress doesn’t output them into the RSS feed.
There’s a handy plugin called Featured Images in RSS and MailChimp Email (what a mouthful!). This outputs the featured images into your RSS feed so that they are pulled through into your MailChimp emails.
Simply install and activate the plugin, go to Settings > Featured Images in RSS Feeds in the WordPress Admin, and configure the 2 settings. For best results, I recommend selecting the ‘Medium’ or ‘Large’ image size and ‘Image Centred Above Text’ for the position.
The plugin uses the image sizes that you have set in Settings > Media so you can change the size of your Medium or Large image size. Make sure your chosen image size is smaller than 600 pixels – if it’s bigger than this, it won’t fit into the available space in your emails (annoyingly, MailChimp won’t make the images fit automatically).
Can I display other WordPress content types instead of blog posts?
Yes! WordPress posts and ALL custom post type come with RSS feeds that you can use to send alerts via MailChimp. You can use exactly the same method to send email notifications for new events, projects, e-commerce products and more.
Check out our separate article about how to send ‘New product’ alerts from your WooCommerce store.
Step 2 – Set up MailChimp to send your ‘new post’ emails
Create a MailChimp account
First, go to mailchimp.com and create an account. It’s free to set up and you will only ever have to pay anything to MailChimp if you have particularly high numbers of emails or subscribers (view their pricing page to see if this will apply to you).
Create an Audience
Go to the Audience section of your MailChimp account and create a new audience (previously called ‘list’ in MailChimp – they changed it in 2019). This is where all your subscribers will be stored.
Follow the instructions to set up and configure a new audience.
Import your subscribers
If you have existing subscribers that you wish to import to MailChimp, create a CSV file containing the data for your subscribers. There should be 1 column for each field – for example column 1 would include your subscribers’ email addresses (1 per row), column 2 would be their first names and column 3 would contain their last names, if these are the fields you wish to store. (If you don’t know how to create a CSV file, create an Excel spreadsheet with all your contacts, go to File > Save As and choose the ‘.csv’ file type.)
Go to the Audience section of your MailChimp account and click on your audience. Click ‘Import subscribers’ from the ‘Add subscribers’ dropdown list. Follow the instructions to upload your CSV file. MailChimp will ask you to match the columns in the CSV file with the fields for your MailChimp audience, then you can go ahead with the import. MailChimp will tell you if there are any problems with the data.
Note: Your subscribers will NOT receive an email to tell them that they have been imported into your MailChimp audience.
Create a campaign
A ‘Campaign’ is basically any email that is sent by MailChimp to your subscribers. The next step is to create an RSS-Driven Campaign which will automatically send your new blog posts to your subscribers.
- Go to the Campaigns section of your MailChimp account
- Click the Create Campaign button in the top right corner
- On the ‘What do you want to create?’ screen, select Create an Email
- On the next screen, go to the Automated tab and click Share blog updates. (This is the new way to send an RSS-driven campaign in MailChimp, and isn’t easy to find!)
- Name your campaign and select which audience it will send to, then click Begin
- RSS Feed and Send Timing screen:
- Add the RSS feed URL which you copied in Step 1 – e.g. https://your-domain.com/feed
- Choose how often the emails will be sent and click Next
- On the To which audience shall we send? screen, select the audience you created in Step 2 and click Next
- On the Campaign info screen, fill in all the information (email subject, From name etc.) and click Next
Select any Template and then click through to the Design tab.
Create a dynamic email subject line
You can use MailChimp merge tags in the subject line, for example to include the title of your latest post.
For example, we use MailChimp to send our own Barn2 blog posts and tutorials by email each week. The subject line is ‘*|RSSITEM:TITLE|*’ & More! For example, if our latest post is called How to use MailChimp to send WordPress blog posts by email then the subject of the weekly RSS email would be ‘How to use MailChimp to send WordPress blog posts by email’ & More!
Now design your MailChimp RSS email
Now you get to design the email that will be sent to your subscribers whenever you add a new blog post. This is fairly self-explanatory although you’ll need to spend some time familiarising yourself with it. Here are some tips:
- To automatically include your new blog posts in the email, you need to add the RSS Header and/or RSS Items content block into your email. Find this in the Content section of the Design tab. The RSS Header element will add the title and description of your RDD feed and isn’t essential. The RSS Items block will add the title, content and a link to each new post on your WordPress website, so this is essential!
- It’s fine for you to add your own text before and after the RSS merge tags – for example an introduction to the email. But don’t edit anything within the *| |* merge tags. If you want to edit or remove any of the merge tags then you can read more about them at https://kb.mailchimp.com/merge-tags/rss-blog/rss-merge-tags. If the merge tags look scary and too technical for you then just ignore them and don’t make any changes to the sections that contain them, then you won’t risk breaking anything
- MailChimp will let you make various design changes to the email using the Style tab. This includes changing the background colour, fonts, spacing, link colour etc. Use these to style the email to match your brand, as well as uploading your logo to the header of the email.
- Once you have finished designing your email, click Preview and Test at the top of the screen. Enter Preview Mode lets you view how the email will look on mobiles and full-sized screens. Send a Test Email lets you send a test email to yourself. Test your email in both of these ways before sending anything to your subscribers.
- Once you’re completely happy with your email, click Next at the bottom right of the screen.
- On the next screen, check there are no errors. If everything looks good, click Start RSS.
Now your email is set up and will start being sent to your subscribers at the frequency you have selected. The email will only be sent when you have added new blog posts to your website, otherwise nothing will be sent.
Step 3 – Add a MailChimp signup form to your WordPress blog
Now everything is in place, you need to create a signup form so that readers can subscribe to your blog by email. The best way to do this is usually to add a ‘Receive blog posts by email’ form to the right hand column of your blog or website. You can see this in action in the sidebar of this page.
There are lots of WordPress MailChimp plugins that will add a signup form for you. I recommend ChimpMate Pro which is a popular option. It’s simple to set up, has great reviews and there’s a free version as well as the premium version with extra features.
There are many other ways to build your MailChimp mailing list and I won’t go into them all here. For example you can automatically subscribe people who comment on your blog posts, purchase in your e-commerce online shop, submit your contact form, etc. Plan the best way to grow your mailing list as part of your overall online marketing strategy.
Step 4 – Start blogging!
Everything is now in place. Regularly add new posts to your WordPress website and MailChimp will take care of the rest.
MailChimp will automatically check when new posts are available in your RSS feed, and will email your subscribers at the specified time. Make sure you subscribe to your own list so that you receive the emails yourself. This allows you to spot any problems and make improvements over time.
Bonus tip #1 – Email new blog posts to members only
So far, I’ve assumed that your WordPress blog is private and everyone can access it. But what if you want to mark part or all of your blog private and members-only? What if you only want to send the emails to members?
Fortunately, that’s easy too. Here’s how to do it:
- Install our WordPress Password Protected Categories plugin. Use it to password protect any or all of your blog categories.
- Use the instructions in Step 1, above, to get the RSS feed URL of the category (or categories) you wish to email to members.
- Follow the instructions in Step 2, above, to create a MailChimp Campaign to email new blog posts in the private category. Add the password to one of the static sections of the email (outside of your RSS merge tags), with instructions to use it to unlock the private blog. You may wish to create a Group or Segment within your MailChimp Audience for your private blog members, and set the Campaign to only send to this Group/Segment.
- Finally, decide how members will sign up for the private blog. If they have already joined your organisation separately then you can simply import them to MailChimp. Alternatively, you may wish to use a plugin such as Gravity Forms to create a MailChimp signup form that links with PayPal, so members have to pay to sign up.
Bonus tip #2 – List blog posts in an easy-to-find table
Once you’ve been blogging for a while (and emailing your new posts via MailChimp, of course!), your blog might start getting harder to navigate. This is inevitable because most blogs are listed in reverse date order, so older posts easily drop off the bottom – never to be seen again. It’s a shame because unless your posts are very time-specific, they can continue providing value well into the future.
The solution is to use the Posts Table Pro plugin to list your posts in a more searchable, sortable format with extra features such as search box and filters. Your blog readers can easily use these tools to find posts about their topics they’re interested, regardless of when they were published. It’s the perfect way to revive old blog posts.
You’ll basically be creating a WordPress blog index, which lists all your posts in an easy-to-navigate table. For example, Journey with Omraam found that their blog was getting difficult to navigate as it grew. They list large numbers of blog posts in a table with instant search above.
You can also add filters above the table of blog posts. This makes things even easier for your blog readers, as they can filter to find posts by category, tag, or any custom taxonomy:
This helps to keep your blog posts active and relevant, well after they were first emailed to your MailChimp subscribers.
As you can see, there are lots of ways to integrate your WordPress blog with MailChimp – and you don’t even need a MailChimp plugin!
And if your requirements are more complex, then you can combine this method with other WordPress plugins to add extra features. For example, you can add fancy MailChimp signup forms or even make parts of your blog private so that only existing members can read them and receive the emails!