In a previous post I showed you how to make the most of your website’s RSS feed.
In this post I want to show you how to create a free newsletter.
You’ll use Mailchimp, the world’s finest newsletter provider, along with your site’s RSS.
Your newsletter will send out an email on Monday mornings, but only if you’ve written one or more blog posts.
Your newsletter will lack the polish of a handcrafted newsletter, but you’ll have only content to worry about, not delivery. This is a big deal. The more content you post to your website, the more reason you give people to visit your site.
Mailchimp’s free plan allows you 2,000 newsletter subscribers.
That’s a good number of free subscribers. By the time you exceed that number, you’ll be able to afford the Mailchimp paid plan.
Create a Mailchimp account
Enter your details.
For the purpose of this post I’ve created a test account. We’ll set up a newsletter from scratch.
Once you’ve added your details, check your email inbox for an activation email.
You might need to log in again.
Once you’re logged in, Mailchimp might greet you with a setup page, depending on how he feels. If he does, add your details.
A note on adding details to your Mailchimp account: be thorough. Add EVERYTHING. Don’t mess around with email. If you don’t look trustworthy, you make it easy for people to think you’re a spammer. Some email services filter spam. It’s hard, if not impossible, to recover from having been marked a spammer.
If Mailchimp doesn’t open a setup page, visit your profile page by doing the following…
On the next page you’re greeted with your profile page. Add all your details here.
Your Mailchimp account is ready. Let’s take a closer look at the system.
If you’re new to newsletter systems, you’ll think Mailchimp’s a gorilla. Let’s break down the monkey into its components.
You can’t send a newsletter if you don’t have a subscriber list. Mailchimp lists are where you’ll find your subscriber info, such as their email addresses.
You’re allowed multiple lists within one account. This is handy if you run two or more newsletters and want to keep subscribers separate.
I’ll share with you in a future post how to grow your subscriber base. Subscribe to receive updates.
A campaign is what you send to subscribers. Mailchimp allows you to create two types of campaigns, email or advert. (We’re not going to look at advertising.)
You can create four types of email campaigns:
- A/B Test
We’re creating an automated newsletter.
Templates allow you to change the look of your Mailchimp newsletters. You can style your newsletter, unless it’s a plain text newsletter, to look gorgeous. You can save your own templates too.
You can add some styles to an automated newsletter, but it doesn’t allow for the same amount of style as a standard email.
That’s OK. We want people to click through to the website to read our blog posts. If we get people to do that, we’re happy.
Mailchimp’s automation options allow you to send a series of emails triggered by
a specific date, event, or subscriber’s activity.
We won’t be looking at these options.
Mailchimp shares stats, like how many emails were opened, and by whom.
If you upgrade to Mailchimp Pro they give you access to advanced reporting.
We’re happy with standard reporting for now.
Let’s get going with our Mailchimp auto-newsletter.
Create a list
This is the heart of your newsletter centre. This list contains the details of your subscribers.
Your list is empty. You don’t have any subscribers.
Add a subscriber manually
You can add subscribers manually, but this could get you into trouble.
But let’s add a subscriber to illustrate how it’s done. Let’s say your better half has agreed to receiving your newsletter.
Set up an automatic campaign
Now we’ll set up the email template. It’s a free newsletter built from your RSS feed, so you set it up once and leave it. The Mailchimp monkey does his thing to deliver your newsletter on time. Your job is to keep adding content to your blog.
Let’s do this…
Mailchimp allows you to segment your lists. We’ll keep it simple. We’ll send the campaign to everyone in your list.
On the next page you’ll notice a bunch of extra options. For instance, connect your Facebook account to post to Facebook automatically. Be aware that auto-posting functionality is available through your WordPress dashboard too. You don’t want auto-posting set up to post the same thing twice in quick succession. My advice is to do your auto-posting, if at all, from the WordPress dashboard.
The ‘Personalize the “To” field’ is a must-have. It makes your newsletter seem personal, as if you wrote it for the reader alone.
On the next page you choose your template.
On the next page you set up your template. Again, this is a matter of personal taste. But I’ll share with you the information I use in my automated newsletter.
This page has two panes. On the left is a preview of the newsletter, featuring editable (or removable) sections. On the right are elements you can add to the newsletter.
To edit a section, hover over it in the preview pane on the left.
Let’s add an image to the top of the newsletter. For branding.
I’ve created a GORGEOUS heading image in a high tech photo manipulation program. Took me months to complete. I’ll upload it here…
Next we’ll add an intro paragraph.
Copy the following bit of text / code.
Paste the code into the blank text box. You’ll need to change the link and name of your accommodation establishment. You can make other changes too.
The first line in that code says, “If there’s a name, say, ‘Hi’, followed by the subscriber’s name. If there’s no name, say, ‘Hi there’.” You can edit the rest of the message, or remove it.
Next we’ll change the main body text to pull in your RSS feed.
For this we use Mailchimp’s built in shortcodes. Some examples:
- *|RSSFEED:TITLE|* = Your RSS feed’s title
- *|FNAME|* = The recipient of your newsletter’s name (if they supplied their name)
Copy the following code.
This block tells your newsletter to display your latest RSS feed items. At the top is the title, then content, then the article’s featured image, then a link that clicks through to the original article.
Let’s edit your social and website links below the content.
In the right hand pane you’ll notice services such as Twitter and Facebook. You can add and remove services here. You can even place a link to your website.
Let’s add a block of share buttons.
Let’s add LinkedIn as a sharing option.
That’s your automatic newsletter, set up and ready to go.
Send a test email
Let’s send a test email to see what it looks like.
Open your email client and find the email that Mailchimp sent. If it’s not in your inbox, check your spam folder.
You’ll notice that the email text starts with “Hi << Test First Name >>”
A real recipient will see their own name there.
Your email newsletter is ready.
The next page displays an overview of all your settings.
For your newsletter to work, you need to add blog posts to your website. Mailchimp takes care of creating and sending the newsletter.
In one of my next blog posts I’ll share with you how to gather email addresses. There are many ways, both free and paid.
I’ll show you how to use your website and Facebook to drive newsletter signups.
Mailchimp + your RSS feed offers you a wonderful way to send out content to people who want to hear from you.
Why’s this important?
We want to increase your direct bookings and decrease your OTA commission. Creating an automatic newsletter forms part of the strategy.
The beauty of an automated newsletter is that you don’t have to do double duty to get news out. You set up your newsletter and keep adding content to your blog. Mailchimp takes care of delivering that news to subscribers.
Visit Mailchimp and sign up for their service.