I recommend that you start a newsletter list as soon as you start blogging. Don’t worry about dragging that subscribe widget across into your sidebar. That will subscribe readers to your blog through WordPress and even though you can access their emails, you can’t export them to a spreadsheet. And that makes it super difficult when, down the track, you eventually want to set up a newsletter because you have to import them one by one into your newsletter provider or leave them where they are and they miss out on your special newsletter offers etc. They will still be alerted when you post, but that’s all. When I eventually decided to set up MailChimp, I had subscribers in all sorts of places and that made it so difficult. That’s why I recommend, right from the start, setting up a newsletter list and there being no other way for people to subscribe. That way you have them all in one place.
It is free until you get to 2,000 subscribers so what have you to lose at this stage?
How to register for MailChimp
1. Go to MailChimp and sign up – top right corner.
2. On the screen where it says, Thanks for signing up, go to the last line and click on getting started guide so you can have a look around while you are waiting for an email from them.
3. When that email comes, click on Activate Account.
4. Enter the CAPTCHA and click Confirm Signup.
The steps to set up a MailChimp newsletter list
1. On the next screen, fill in your name and email address and answer the 4 questions below.
2. Continue onto the next part where you must fill in an address for the footer of the email. That is required by law. For organisation, write the name of your website. Choose your own time zone even if your audience is elsewhere because it will be easier to decide when to release your newsletters that way. At least it is easier for me.
3. Upload a photo of yourself 300px x 300px (optional) and tick the last box if you want to receive MailChimp’s getting started emails.
4. You will now come to your dashboard and you will have to get familiar with it because everything you need is here.
5. Even though you have Create and send a campaign at the top, the first thing to do is Create a list so click on it over on the right in the grey box.
6. On the next screen, click on the dark grey box at the top right with Create List on it. Even if you have no subscribers yet, you still have to create a place for them to be gathered when they do start subscribing.
7. On the next screen, make up a name – maybe your blog name plus newsletter. Whatever you want to name this newsletter list is fine. It is to distinguish it from any other list you might want to create later. But for now make one list.
8. Next fill in your email address, then perhaps put your blog name in the Default “from” name field.
9. Click in the Remind people how they got on your list and 2 suggestions of what to write in there appear below.
10. Below that field your address will appear – you filled it in before. You can change that now if you want.
11. And lastly choose one of the three options below. If you get lots of subscriptions, the daily summary might be appropriate. If you get only a few, maybe you want to be notified every time someone subscribes. Click Save.
12. While you are going through this process, MailChimp will throw up suggestions and explanations in little boxes. Take note and then dismiss them.
How to import subscribers
1. On the next screen, it will say that you have no subscribers in your list – yet.
2. So this is the moment to import your subscribers if you already have some by clicking on Import subscribers.
3. Here you have plenty of choices depending on where your subscribers are. You are most likely to have some names on an Excel spreadsheet because you dragged them one by one off the WordPress subscribers list or from your Feedburner. If not, get them onto an Excel spreadsheet with 3 columns (see below). First column has all their email addresses, the second column has their first names, the third column has their last names. The names only matter if you are going to use their names in your newsletters – you can choose not to. If you have been collecting names haphazardly then you probably don’t have all the names or perhaps only their first names. If you do want to use the names you have, then write the word “there” for the missing first names and a comma for the missing last name. That will result in the greeting Hi there, for those with no names.
4. Here is how it will look – I made these up, by the way.
5. If you want to choose Import from CSV file, then save your Excel spreadsheet as a CSV file from the dropdown box under the file name when you go Save as. It will now be in a form you can import into Mailchimp.
6. You might find it simpler to copy the data on your Excel spreadsheet, in which case choose Copy/Paste from Excel (see the second box in the image above) instead and a box will open for you to paste into. Now you have subscribers.
But what if you have no subscribers? Don’t worry – they will come. Move on to the next step.
How to create a form for your blog
1. Beside Import subscribers, you will find setup a signup form (see 3 images above). Click on it.
2. You will be confronted by three circles. I suggest you click on the middle one, Embedded forms. You can explore the others another time. We are getting the basics done so that you can start collecting email addresses.
3. Have a look at the 4 choices, Classic, Super Slim, Naked and Advanced to get a feel for what you prefer but I am going to guide you through the Super Slim one because that is what I often use. It collects only email addresses without names. If you want their names too then choose Classic. I would stay away from the other two at this stage though. So back to Super Slim. Click on it.
4. On the left, you make your choices and you can see the preview on the right. By the way, you have to click out of the field before you see the change. It is perfectly okay just the way it is but you might want to personalize the message. Don’t get carried away though. It has to be instantly recognizable as a subscription form.
5. Scroll down a bit and you will see a box filled with code. This is what you want. Copy it to a Word doc. and save it to your computer so it is always on hand.
Now you sit back and wait for the email alerts that someone has subscribed, and your list will start growing. That’s all you need for now. I will cover a campaign next time.
What if you get interrupted halfway through the process?
If you go out of MailChimp before finishing because you get called to dinner or something, next time you come in to finish what you started, click on Lists on the left and your one list will show up on the right.
Go over to the far right and click on the Stats drop down and you will find the Sign up forms again and also the Import function to import your current subscribers from elsewhere.
Or instead of using the Stats dropdown, click on the name of your list and it will take you back to the screen where you have the choice to Import subscribers or setup a signup form. Soon you will be able to find your way around with your eyes shut – well, almost.