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:
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).
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!