How to Set Up an RSS Driven Automated Weekly Newsletter on MailChimp

According to the Software Advice Survey, about 40% of B2B marketers feel that the leads they gain via their in-house email marketing are higher quality than leads from other sources. Not only is it important to draw readers to your blog, but you should be doing your best to sign them up for your mailing list so you can keep them coming back and convert them into customers.

We’ve covered many ways on this site to connect with your visitors, reduce your bounce rate and improve conversions. One way to connect is via an in-house mailing list.

If you’ve ever seen an unsolicited email in your inbox, you know how irritating it can be to get something you’ve never requested. Instead of wincing, you want your readers to be happy to see correspondence from you. The problem that comes into play is that most bloggers are so busy that they just don’t have time to create regular newsletters as well.

Enter MailChimp’s RSS Driven Automated Weekly Newsletter

I’m one of those bloggers who has a hard time getting out a monthly newsletter. On top of that, I blog and edit for multiple sites as well as my own. This means that the newsletter was getting pushed to the back burner. I would sometimes skip a month and when I sent out a newsletter I would have multiple subscribers unsubscribe.

Unfortunately, people weren’t hearing from me every week, so they either forgot they subscribed or they were no longer interested in a sporadic newsletter.

MailChimp has taken care of this problem for busy bloggers. Their RSS Driven newsletters can be set to automatically pull from your RSS feed. Once you create the initial template, all you have to do is post your regular blog posts and MailChimp will pull the new ones from your RSS feed and send to your readers whenever you want.

You can set the newsletter to go out daily, weekly or monthly. Personally, I recommend once a week. You don’t want to overwhelm your readers with too many emails, but you want to stay in front of them so they don’t forget about you. My Crabby Housewife news goes out every Friday morning. Other blogs, I’ve chosen different days based on when most of my traffic occurs for the week on average.

How to Set Up MailChimp RSS Driven Newsletter with Screenshots

Step 1: Login

If you don’t already have a MailChimp account, it is free for so many thousands of emails a month. If your list starts to grow,there are small fees, but they are commiserate with where your mailing list/sight is in growth. It is well worth the cost of the service for all the perks you get.

Step 2: Create Campaign

You are going to start by clicking on “Create Campaign” to set up your ongoing RSS-driven automated feed.

mailchimp create campaign screenshot

Start by clicking on the dark gray “Create Campaign” button in the upper right just under your dashboard.

mailchimp choose type of campaign screenshot

Notice in the screenshot above that you have 4 choices. Typically, you probably go with a regular campaign. This time, you are going to choose the fourth choice down – RSS-Driven Campaign.

If you’ve not used RSS-driven campaigns before, MailChimp will prompt you that they have an RSS to Email Guide. This guide is actually very useful to understanding the language needed to make any customizations. I’m going to share with you how to make a simple, image and excerpt driven collection of posts. If you want to customize behind that, the guide will come in handy.

Step 3: Link to RSS Feed and Set Schedule

mailchimp rss feed and timing screenshot

On the page shown in the screenshot above, you’ll plug in your RSS feed and schedule your campaign.

Typically, the WordPress RSS feed is http://yourblog.com/feed or http://yourblog.com/wp-rss2.php. If you use Feedburner or something similar, you may also be able to tap into that. Personally, I find linking directly to my feed on my site to be much more effective at pulling posts and staying current.

Next, you will decide how often you want to send out content. See the gray drop down boxes in the screenshot above?

You can choose to send your emails every day at the same time, weekly or monthly. If you choose to send every day, you can also send only on weekdays, etc. Just uncheck the blue boxes next to the days you do not want the email to go out.

Click “Save”. You will be asked which list you want to send the campaign to. Choose your list and click “Next”.

Step 4: Design Your Template

Set some basic information by naming your campaign (this is for your use, so I recommend something like “Weekly RSS Campaign for X List”. For now, leave the other settings to default. You can always change the greeting and tracking later on.

mailchimp design theme screenshot

Now, you’re going to design your template by selecting a basic layout. Of course, you can also choose a ready-made theme from the list of themes. Notice how I scrolled down in the templates section to some RSS specific themes. These are a good idea because the basic coding will be in place and all you’ll have to do is tweak it.

For the purposes of this tutorial, I chose the Basic RSS theme on the upper right. Below is a screenshot of what the template looks like before any editing is done on it.

mailchimp-rss-feed-template-basic-screenshot

 

Step 5: Customize the Template

Your first step should be to replace the section that says “Drop Image Here”. This should be something easily recognizable to the reader. Your logo, the header on your website, an image they’ve seen before, etc.

One place that a lot of people miss in the template is the very top of the template header that says “Use this area to offer a short preview of your email’s content.” This is just above the image. Make sure you edit this or remove it. Otherwise, it is obvious you worked from a template and missed this detail. It is a little thing, but it can make the difference in whether your newsletter is perceived as professional or not.

Step 6: Adding Images (optional)

If you’d like to add images to your email, there are a couple of things you’ll probably have to do. For some reason, when I added the coding to the template for images (more on how to do that in a minute), they still weren’t appearing. Finally, I had to install a separate plugin and then it worked perfectly.

I would try it without a plugin first as your experience may be different. Simply set the coding and send a test email to yourself to see if it is working. I installed MB ImageChimp RSS Feed Enhancer. You just install it and activate and you’re done. It worked perfectly for me. Your “mileage may vary” from mine.

Below is a screenshot of what my posts look like with images. There is also a summary of posts in text with links at the top of the email.

mailchimp email with images screenshot

Now, if you want to add the images to your template, you simply add this command where you want the image to appear:

*|RSSITEM:IMAGE|*

Here is how it appears in my template so you can see it in context with the other commands:

*|RSSITEM:TITLE|*

By *|RSSITEM:AUTHOR|* on *|RSSITEM:DATE|*
*|RSSITEM:IMAGE|**|RSSITEM:CONTENT|*
*|RSSITEM:TWITTER|* *|RSSITEM:LIKE|*

*|END:RSSITEMS|*

Step 7: Finalizing the Newsletter

Once you’re happy with the way your template looks (remember to send test emails and even have another person look it over to be sure everything is the way you want it), click Next.

In the page that loads, click on the blue button in the lower right corner that says “Start RSS Feed”. Your campaign will now send out to any subscribers on the next scheduled date.

Setting up your own RSS-driven automatic newsletter shouldn’t take more than 30-60 minutes and will save you untold hours in the future. You’ll never have to worry about a subscriber missing an important post and over time you’ll likely see your  list grow as people share the articles within it.