MailChimp Basics for Beginners
I think it's safe to say that a lot of tutorials showing you how to set up MailChimp assume you already know your way around the platform, but I come into contact with bloggers daily who just don't even know where to start, so we're going back to MailChimp basics today.
MailChimp is by far one of the most popular email marketing platforms for bloggers and creative business owners, and there's so much more to the platform than meets the eye. The versatility of the platform, however, can make some of the simplest tasks feel daunting. Have no fear! I'm going to help you tackle all those basic tasks with ease so you can actually start growing your email list and sending emails!
The basic MailChimp tasks we're going to cover today include: account set-up, locating & using your API key, creating custom sign-up forms, creating your first list, and adding MailChimp to your blog.
Ready? I know you are. Let's jump in.
MAILCHIMP ACCOUNT SET-UP
Now, I am going to assume that you have already signed up for MailChimp and entered your basic information. Let's make sure your account set up properly before you start creating forms and templates.
Using the drop-down navigation in the upper right corner, choose "Account". You'll be taken to your account overview and will then see more navigation options just below your account name.
Head to Settings --> Details first.
- Account name: This can be your name, your blog's name, or whatever makes sense for you.
- Time zone: Be sure this is correct because it will affect your email scheduling.
- Your industry: Typically blogs fall under "Social Networks & Online Communities". This matters because it helps you gauge your statistics against other MailChimp users in your industry when viewing reports.
Next, head to Settings --> Contact Information.
Verify or update:
- Email address
- Primary Contact Information: Be sure you are using a valid mailing address in here so you are abiding by CAN-SPAM laws. Simply putting "Atlanta, GA" is not good enough. If you're not comfortable putting your home address here, get a PO Box.
After you create your MailChimp list(s), this is also where you can see the details for each of your lists, such as the reminder message subscribers see in each email.
Next, head to Extras --> API Keys.
If you don't have an API key for your MailChimp account yet, you will need to create one before integrating with any plugins. You can create as many as you want but truly only need one. Take note of how to find your API key because you'll need it later when we set up your sign-up form on your blog.
Finally, click on Integrations.
Here you'll see a long list of third-party apps that integrate with MailChimp. You'll notice Facebook is on this list, and I do encourage you to integrate with Facebook because this allows you to put a sign-up form directly on your Facebook page. Facebook fans can sign up without ever leaving your Facebook page. However, you'll need to set up your custom sign-up form first.
MAILCHIMP LISTS & FORMS
Before you can create a form, you have to have a list, so let's start there.
Along the top left of your MailChimp screen, you'll see several menu options. Choose "Lists" to get started. Next, click the "Create List" button.
- List Name: This is something only you will see, so name it something recognizable. If it's for your blog, perhaps name it something like "Blog Master List".
- Default from email address: This will be the email address subscribers see in their inbox. **TIP** MailChimp is cracking down on users sending emails from Gmail email addresses. While you can update this on individual campaigns, it's easier to update it here and be done with it.
- Default from name: Your subscribers will see this as well, so make it something they will instantly recognize. For example, I send emails from "Kirsten Thompson at Sweet Tea, LLC".
- Remind people how they signed up for your list: This notice appears in the footer of your emails in case people forget they signed up for your list. It helps prevent people from marking your emails as spam. Keep it simple. Something like this will work: "You are receiving this email because you opted in using a sign-up form or registration page on the blog [insert blog URL here]."
- Contact information: If you set this up properly in your settings earlier, you're golden.
- Notifications: Choose how often you wish to be notified of new subscribers or unsubscribes. **TIP** Do yourself a solid and leave the unsubscribe notification box UNchecked. Nobody needs that kind of negativity in their life. *wink*
Save this information and you officially have your first list! WOOT! That's progress, baby!
Now when you click on "Lists" in the top menu bar, you'll see your fancy new list sitting there just waiting for subscribers to join. You'll also notice that, at a glance, you'll be able to see your average open and click rates, as well as the total number of subscribers.
To the far right of your list name, you'll see a gray box that says "Stats" and a little carrot that opens a drop-down menu. Click to open this menu and choose "Signup Forms" from the list.
Before we start customizing your forms, let me give you a brief overview of the types of forms and what they mean:
- General: This is always where you begin. This is home to all of the different forms MailChimp provides and where you go to customize each one.
- Embedded: After customizing your forms, embedded forms provide you with the HTML code you can add to your blog.
- Subscriber Popup: This is a very basic MailChimp popup and I do NOT recommend using it. Use THIS ONE instead.
- Form Integrations: This is where you go if you are on SquareSpace or if you wish to create a Twitter card.
For simplicity's sake, we're sticking to General and Embedded forms today.
On this page you'll see a drop-down menu that, when clicked, lists dozens of different MailChimp forms, all of which can be customized. Be sure "signup form" is the one selected first.
You'll also notice this is the location of your signup form's URL. Use this to share your form as a text link or on social media.
Now let's customize this form. You'll see three tabs under your signup form URL - Build It, Design It, and Translate It. Initially, your form will look very plain, similar to this:
Build It tab:
The first thing you need to decide is what information you want to gather from subscribers. I suggest keeping it simple - First Name & Email Address.
The fields can be rearranged by dragging and dropping them into the correct order, so go ahead and drag the First Name field to the top with the Email Address field directly underneath it.
Next, click on the Last Name field. A gray +/- button will appear. Click the minus symbol and type "DELETE" when prompted to delete this field.
Now you can add a branded image to the top of your form. Your blog header resized to around 600px wide should work well.
**NOTE** Whatever image you add to the heading of your signup form is automatically added to the heading of all of the other MailChimp forms. Hooray! Less work for you!
Also be sure to add a bit of text under your image thanking subscribers for signing up.
Design It tab:
The Design It tab allows you to change the colors and fonts of your form.
I recommend keeping the background white, but you can change the button colors to match your branding. Click around on each option and customize it however you see fit.
Translate It tab:
If your blog is written in any language other than English, you can translate your forms to match the language on your blog here.
Other Forms to Take a Peek At:
Confirmation "Thank You" Page: This is the final form new subscribers will see after confirming their subscription. You can do a couple things here.
- Update the text on this form to include a text link to your opt-in offer, if you have one, a link back to your blog, or any other information you want to provide to new subscribers.
- Instead of using this form, create a Thank You page on your blog. Add the URL of the Thank You page in the space provided.
"Goodbye" Email: When people unsubscribe (and you know they will), use this as an opportunity to connect on other social media channels. Update this text to share a friendly message and an invitation with links to join you on social media.
Forward to a Friend Email: You want your email content to be so valuable that subscribers forward it to their friends. This is the email those friends will receive, so update the text with a warm welcome and any relevant links.
**NOTE** Do NOT remove the first sentence that contains the hyperlinked text, as that will remove the email campaign that has been forwarded to the friend.
You have several options for embedded forms: Classic, Super Slim, Horizontal, Naked, and Advanced. You really only need to worry about the Classic embedded form.
The Classic Embedded form is the HTML that is used to create the General Signup form you just customized, and it's how you will add it to your blog (unless you use certain plug-ins).
You can change or hide the form title (defaults to "Subscribe to our mailing list.") and preview the form.
When using this code to add the form to your blog, I recommend copying it and pasting it into the Notepad app on your computer rather than Word. Word tends to make HTML code a bit wonky.
ADDING MAILCHIMP TO YOUR BLOG
Hooray! You're done with the basic MailChimp setup! Now it's time to add that form to your blog so you can start growing your email list!
SIGN-UP FORM LOCATIONS:
You want to make it easy for readers to find your sign-up form and actually subscribe. At the very least, put your form in the following locations:
- Blog sidebar
- Post and/or page footer
- About or Start Here page
Remember that embedded form code we just saw? Paste it in this HTML box. Repeat this for each sign-up form location.
You have a lot of options within Wordpress, but for simplicity's sake, we're only going to cover three of them - Direct embedding the form, Genesis eNews Extended plug-in, and MailChimp for Wordpress plug-in.
Navigate within your Wordpress dashboard to Appearance --> Widgets. Simply drag a text widget to the desired location, then paste the embedded form code from MailChimp into this widget.
Genesis eNews Extended:
Genesis eNews Extended is a plug-in for Wordpress users who have the Genesis Framework. To add your MailChimp form to your blog using this plug-in, start by copying the embedded form code from MailChimp and pasting it into the Notepad app on your computer. You'll only be using a piece of this code.
After dropping the eNews Extended plug-in into it's desired location, add the title (for example: Join the community!), any text before the form (like mention of your opt-in offer), and any text after your form.
Next, go to where you've pasted all the embedded form code and find the line that looks like this:
Copy just that line of code and paste it in the eNews plug-in field called "form action".
In the Email Field, type EMAIL and in the First Name Field, if you are asking for first names on your MailChimp form, type FNAME. Then save and you're all set.
MailChimp for Wordpress Plug-In:
This plug-in allows you to create forms and add them to your Wordpress blog using a shortcode, rather than that huge chunk of embedded form code.
After installing the plug-in, you'll be asked for your API key? (Remember I showed you earlier where to find that?) Go into MailChimp and copy your API key, then paste it into the designated space in the plug-in, then save. You'll then see your lists(s).
Next, go to Forms within the plug-in in Wordpress. You'll be able to name your form, and directly under your form name, you'll see four tabs - Fields, Messages, Settings, and Appearance.
Start with Settings, particularly if you have more than one list. You'll need to be sure the correct list is checked so all the proper fields appear on the form builder. You also want to be sure that the double opt-in is marked "yes".
Then go to Fields. You can add a bit of text before any of the form fields giving readers a bit of direction, mentioning your opt-in offer, or whatever you want to say. Then use the buttons to add fields in order:
- First Name
- Email Address
Don't forget that submit button! Save your form, then copy the shortcode to add this form anywhere on your blog.
At this point, you should have your MailChimp account all set up, your list made, sign-up forms customized, and everything installed on your blog. Congrats!
Now you need to design your template and send out that first email - it's not as scary as you think.