Category Archives: Website 101

How to Jump Start Your RSS Feeds with MailChimp

mailchimo

Alright people, I spent hours last weekend trying to figure out how to get a better mailing list than plain ol’ Google Feedburner. Sure, Feedburner has some great options, but there is no ability to send custom emails, it looks weird, and I like to be different.

So, I did a little research on my options, and I found that there is an RSS-to-Email program that makes life easy for people like me and you who want to send newsletters, email campaigns, and RSS feeds.

MailChimp RSS Feeds for Beginners

 

It takes a few minutes of your time, but is super easy once you get it going.

1. First, decide who you want to send your RSS feeds through. Personally, I like how Feedburner manages this aspect, so I burned a feed through them for my MailChimp set-up.

This takes about two seconds. Simply go to their website, and find the bar that allows you to enter your domain name. It will look like this:

 

feedburner help

2. Set up your feed so it meets all of your desired specifications. First, it will ask if you want to burn the feed for your posts or comments. Unless you want to send emails to people with every single comment your site receives, go for the posts feed. Be sure to enter a custom feed URL if you can. That will make it easy to remember in the future. This rest of the customization can take a few minutes if you’ve never been through the Feedburner system before. Don’t worry – you don’t have to do it right now. It’ll be useful for you to check it out, though!

In a rush? Just click the Optimize tab, and set up those settings. These make your feed easy-to-read.

3. Grab that URL you created (mine is http://feeds.feedburner.com/FOSH) and head over to MailChimp. If you don’t have an account there already, it takes about 2 seconds and is totally free. Why MailChimp? It kicks everyone else’s butts, and I’ll swear by that.

4. Create a List. Call it “Mailing List” or something equally straightforward. Fill out all of the required info. Then, add yourself to the list to prevent any errors on the next step.

5. Then, click the “List” tab heading at the top of the screen until you see this screen. Click “Forms.”

6. You can either customize this form to your heart’s content, or leave it at the default gray-scale. Let’s do one tiny thing, though. Click “Radio Buttons,” and fill it out like this. Be sure to click the “Required” button.

7. Once everything is entered, click the blue “Convert to Groups” button. A pop-up like this will appear. Click the blue button again.

Now, you’ve added a special qualifier on your mailing list that will allow you to create RSS emails for each group of people. This is how to have two options of email updates so you won’t send too few or too many emails to anyone.

8. Once your list is set up, click the “Campaigns” tab at the top of the page. You’ll then see this screen:

 

9. Hover your mouse over the giant, red “Create Campaign” box and click “RSS-Driven.”

10. Paste your feed URL in the box. Beneath that, select the frequency at which you would like your emails to be sent. I’m going to show you how to set up two campaigns: one for daily updates, and one for weekly ones. This allows your readers to have a choice in the matter, which is much better than sending a ton of info at once.

Only want one frequency? Just set up one campaign.

11. Then, click the Recipients tab in the bar next to “RSS Feed.” Click on “Send to Segment.”

A screen will appear that allows you to select a variety of options. Since we’re working on the Daily RSS, we’ll look for that specific group of people.

12. Customize the boxes to look exactly like the image below, then click “Use Segment.”

13. Then, name your campaign (i.e. “RSS Daily”), and head on to the “Design” tab.  Now, you’ll need to determine the type of email you’d like to send out. This is where it gets pretty. First, let’s start off easy. Choose the “Basic Template” model.

14. Then, select the “RSS” button to see lists already made for this specific program (plus, this will keep you from messing with code). There are three options to choose from. Personally, I’ve been using the basic one. But, the other options will allow you to add a blurb about you or your website, which can be very useful.

15. Start decorating! The default uses a lot of black, which I don’t like. Just check out the tab headings and other features to get exactly what you want.

The best thing about this is that you don’t have to do a single thing to set up your RSS feed into this email campaign. All of those weird codes do that for you!

16. Make sure everything is filled out exactly as you’d like. If you used one of the formats that includes a sidebar, be sure to add a visual and a blurb.  Click on “Plain-Text” so you won’t see an error on the final page. Then, “Confirm.”

17. Now, you’re ready to push the big red button! Start your campaign! You can also preview everything before hand if you aren’t confident that your campaign is already awesome.

18. Let’s add the Weekly RSS update campaign now. This takes only a few seconds since everything else has already been done. Click the “Campaigns” tab, hover over the campaign name, and click “Replicate.”

19. It will take you to a different screen than we need. Click the “RSS Feed” tab as indicated below, then change the update frequency in the boxes below to match something like mine (you don’t have to use Tuesdays at 11:00 AM, but I do).

20. Click “Recipients” and change the segment group to those who answered “Weekly.”

21. Under the “Setup” heading, change the title of the campaign to “RSS Weekly,” then click “Confirm” if you don’t plan on making any more modifications. It won’t let you publish until you have someone on your mailing list, but when you do have someone scheduled for weekly updates, it’ll let you go! (Tip: Add one of your email addresses to set it up right away.)

22. The last step: click “Lists” under the main tab heading on the main screen. Click on “Forms” again, then “Share it.” Use any of those options to place your mailing list signup form across the web, from inserting the URL as text or adding the HTML to your sidebar.

From here, people can fill out your form. Those mailing lists are already set up to go without any modifications (well, you’ll have to turn on Weekly until you have someone on that list). Just paste, and let it do its own thing!

Did this help? Are your RSS-to-Email stresses gone or are you still confused? Let me know below!

+Rachael Cleveland

Killer Plugins: WordPress SEO by Yoast

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In my experience with WordPress, there are only a few plugins that every Tom, Dick, Harry, and Jane must have.

The number one: WordPress SEO by Yoast.

What is it?

Basically, SEO by Yoast is a plugin that helps clueless types like you and me make sure that every post and page are perfectly optimized for search engines.

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Must Have WordPress Plugins for Blogs

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When you’re first starting out, it can take quite a bit of time and many accidental mistakes before you learn the ropes. That’s the natural learning curve of trying anything new, and those mistakes you never meant to make usually teach you more than all of the little successes you find.

WordPress

WordPress (Photo credit: Adriano Gasparri)

Through my experiences and the establishment of probably too many new websites on WordPress.org, I’ve developed a list of plugins that I download immediately after I open a new site. There are many alternative ways of doing similar things but for me, these are my favorites and I recommend them to all newbies.

These are THE must have WordPress plugins for blogs:

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Soften Your Site With Rounded Corners

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It took me several weeks to figure out how to get rounded corners on Atahualpa for my websites because most online tutorials were rather confusing for someone as new to web design as I had been. Really, the process is quick and easy!

1. For Atahualpa, hover over the Appearance button on your dashboard.

2. Then, select “Atahualpa Theme Options.”

3. Select the 5th heading, “Style & configure LAYOUT.”

4. The 4th box, “Layout Container Style,” is where the action happens. Paste the following text into the edit bar:

border: solid 2px #cccccc;
padding: 10px; /*This effectively only affects top/bottom padding */
background: #ffffff;
-moz-border-radius:10px;
-khtml-border-radius: 10px;
-webkit-border-radius:10px;
border-radius: 10px;

Paste the code into the white area.

5. Scroll down, select “Save Changes,” and admire your work!

To modify the background color of the container (where your text is), change the #ffffff (which is white) to whichever color your prefer (here is a link to my favorite HTML color wheel!).

Want a different border? You can modify the very first line to say dashed or any other border type. The 2px modifies the thickness of the border and the #cccccc changes the color. You can mess with all of the numbers until you get a layout you feel comfortable with.

The best thing about Atahualpa is how easy it is to customize. The Atahualpa Theme Options menu allows you to do the work of hundreds of plugins without downloading any extra, unnecessary programs. I tried the Rounded Corners plugin, but I was able to make the same changes without the download. All you need is the above text and you’ll be set!

Did this help? Please let us know if you were able to complete your task with our tips!

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How to Ditch a Blog Title in WordPress

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Looking to remove your blog title on Atahualpa? Fortunately, you picked one of the easiest themes to modify! This means that it will take approximately 5 seconds for you to hide your title!

Why would you want to hide your title?

It may seem strange at first to get rid of your website’s title, but there are many different ways to communicate that information. Why use simple text when you can insert a logo or other image?  As your can see above, I opted to remove the blog title on Free Online Startup Help.  This gives the site more flow and it removes some of the visual junk that distracts visitors. On WordPress theme Atahualpa remove blog title in just a few short steps!

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How to Remove a Page Tab on WordPress Theme Atahualpa

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At the recommendation of Amy Andrews, I use the Atahualpa theme on WordPress for both of my sites. I have tried switching, but feel so confident in the tips and tricks to Atahualpa that it is just convenient to stick with it. Plus, Atahualpa is open to endless customizations. It is one of the best themes for website beginners and as it is what I use, there will be ample resources on how to modify Atahualpa to your own personal dimensions.

For those trying to remove certain page headings (i.e. hide a page title so you can limit the amount of tabs exposed), the process is very simple. 

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What is a Domain and How Can I Get One?

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A domain is the little step of existence you stake out in the vast internet wilderness. When and why do you need to buy one? Let’s see.

Who should register their own domain?

Domains are good for people who:

  • are interested in making an income-generating site.
  • have clearly staked out a business plan, if at least on a napkin over a hurried lunch.
  • want to sell goods or services online.
  • want to create a membership site for their group, club, organization, or other form of engagement.
  • want to share large quantities of photos, videos, or other materials. Continue reading