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Guide to using Mailchimp and your WordPress site together

This post describes how to link your WordPress site with a service called MailChimp. MailChimp is an online tool that helps you manage your list of contacts and send nice-looking emails to them. We presuppose that you have a WordPress site with OIT. Read our WordPress “Getting Started” guide if you would like one.

In this article:

If you run into trouble with any of the steps, let us know!

Big picture

Why do it?

Using MailChimp and WordPress together allows you to send updates, alerts, and news to your subscribers by email — just by posting to your WordPress site. This setup works well for faculty, teams, programs, and counties who have semi-regular updates to communicate. It prevents having to manually send emails, lay out PDFs, or do much design work at all.

Maybe best, MailChimp allows you to track how many people opened and clicked on your content! Those numbers count as direct engagement, not just media circulation.

How do subscribers sign up?

In order to get new contacts, you’ll simply “embed” a sign-up form on your site.

In order to get your existing contacts entered into MailChimp, send them a link and ask them to subscribe. OIT can help create the link if you need help.

And of course, you should encourage folks to sign up whenever you give a talk, or do a training, or otherwise come into contact with interested folks.

We strongly recommend against subscribing people to MailChimp without their knowledge. It can lead to you being marked as a spammer and prevented from sending emails.

What will subscription emails look like?

Your emails can look as fancy as you want, but some of the best are very straightforward: Your site’s name in a top banner. Then an excerpt from each post you’ve written with a link to read more.

The 4 steps to set it up

1. Create a MailChimp account and give us permission to help manage it

2. Create the email “template” in MailChimp and hook it to your WordPress site.

Overwhelmed already? Just let us know and we’ll be glad to help. We’ll set it up for you. Otherwise, read on…

  • Log in to your MailChimp account.
  • Please go to Mailchimp’s RSS-to-Email article and click the “Turn on RSS-to-Email” button
  • Under “Share blog updates”, type in your newsletter campaign’s name, and select audience, click “Begin”
  • In the “RSS feed URL” field just enter your WordPress site’s basic URL.
  • Select how frequently updates should be sent. We recommend sending new content once a week, at most.
  • Continue through the steps until you reach the “Template” section. Select the template OIT has imported for you (“Extension – RSS Version” or “Extension / 4-H – RSS Version”).
  • In the “Design” section, replace the default newsletter header graphic with your own. We recommend you create one using Canva for Teams. In Canva for Teams, you’ll find the newsletter header templates in the Newsletters > E-Newsletters and Mailchimp folder.
  • Update the social media icon links in the footer to point to your socials, or remove icons if you don’t have that particular social media account.
  • Make sure your email is branded with the appropriate logo in the footer. If your template is not using the correct logo, please let us know.
  • Click “Preview and Test” from the site navigation, then “Enter Preview Mode.” This will allow you to see what your newsletter looks like when people receive an email on desktop or on their phone. Click the “X” to leave the preview.
  • Click the “Next” button. If you don’t see any issues and you’re ready, then click “Start RSS.”

There are some optional steps you can take.

  • Add a sidebar to the template.
  • Add information about your team, county, or program to your email.
  • There are tons more options, and MailChimp makes it easy to learn!

3. Put a subscription form on your WordPress site

4. Write some posts!

  • Post frequently! Make sure your subscribers come to expect emails on a regular basis.
  • Use excerpts and featured images! You can make sure that your posts look great in the subscription email by including an excerpt and featured image for each post. Make sure the excerpt is catchy! Make sure the image is good!