How to Setup a Free Email Newsletter with MailChimp – for WordPress

A newsletter is one of the most powerful tools in a marketer’s arsenal — and here’s why:

  • An email database is an on-demand source of traffic — be it a new article, product announcement or a sponsored post, you’ll always have access to a community of people who are genuinely interested in your content. With just a few clicks, you can instantly reach out to thousands (or more) of subscribers.
  • Email newsletters easily trump social media: While a Facebook Page or Twitter handle is great, most folk simply aren’t alerted to social media posts. An email list, on the other hand, is both personalized and has much, much better reach and engagement.
  • The larger and the more targeted your email list, the better authority you can demand in your niche. Simply put: It’s an asset no one can take away (not even Google!).

Countless marketers have stressed the importance of building an email list and all of them have one thing in common: They only regret not building theirs sooner!

Today we’re going to learn how to set up a free newsletter in WordPress using MailChimp (without doubt one of the very best email marketing systems available today). By the end of this tutorial, you’ll be able to:

  • create a newsletter in MailChimp and integrate it into WordPress
  • create highly customized newsletter designs with MailChimp’s editor
  • start building your email list at absolutely zero cost.

Here’s what we’re going to do:

  • sign up for MailChimp
  • create a sample newsletter with MailChimp’s design tool
  • integrate the newsletter into WordPress with and without using a plugin.

Let’s get started!

Signing up to MailChimp’s Free Newsletter Service

MailChimp Homepage

Signing up is a pretty straightforward process, simply head to MailChimp, click on Sign Up Free and follow the on-screen instructions. You may get a simple image captcha as an anti-spam measure.

screenshot depicting the captcha verification process during MailChimp signup

First off, you need to enter your email, username and a secure password.

screenshot depicting how to configure new MailChimp account -- step 2 -- entering email details

Enter your name. This will be used as the default sender name in your email marketing campaigns.

screenshot depicting step 1 of 5 in configuring a new MailChimp account -- step 1 -- adding your name

On the next page, fill in your business’s name and website. Don’t worry if you don’t have a website — you can use a Facebook or Twitter page.

Screenshot depicting step 2 of 5 in configuring a new MailChimp account -- step 2 -- Adding your Business Details

In this step, you do need to add your business address to comply with some anti-spam laws. If you’re a freelancer working from home or a co-working space, or even Starbucks, you simply need a physical address where MailChimp can send you letters.Screenshot depicting step 3 of 5 in configuring a new MailChimp account -- step 3 -- Adding your Physical Mailing Address

The next step links MailChimp to your existing ecommerce platform. For the purpose of this tutorial, we’ve kept it simple. If you have WooCommerce installed on your WordPress site, you can always try this out. However, I’d recommend doing it after you’re familiar with MailChimp.

Screenshot depicting step 4 of 5 in configuring a new MailChimp account -- step 4 -- Declaring if you sell products or services online

In the final step, you can link your Facebook/Twitter to your MailChimp account to share your newsletter subscriptions.

Screenshot depicting optional step 5 of 5 in configuring a new MailChimp account -- step 5 -- Connecting your Facebook and Twitter pages

A newsletter subscription screen, where you can opt to subscribe to MailChimp’s highly recommended newsletters, will also come up.

Screenshot depicting optional step of subscribing to MailChimp tips

How to Create a Free Mailing List with MailChimp

Now that we’ve signed up and configured our basic account in MailChimp, it’s time for us to get started with building a newsletter.

  • First off, we need to create a list. Lists are where you store your contacts (we call them subscribers). You can also split a list into overlapping sub-lists or groups, and set up different campaigns for each.
  • Campaigns are the emails themselves. You design email(s) for a campaign to send out to your list.

How to Create an Email List in MailChimp

Screenshot depicting how to create new list in MailChimp. Step 1 -- Locate the option

After configuring the new account, you’ll be redirected to the MailChimp dashboard. Click on Create a List to proceed.

Screenshot depicting how to create new list in MailChimp. Step 2 -- Select "create list"

This is your Lists page — select Create List to get started. The screenshot below is pretty long, and contains a preview of almost all of the options available when creating a new list. They’re pretty self-explanatory, but there are a couple of points that are worth sharing:

  • The sender’s name and the tone of the ’email subscription reminder’ copy play an important role in your brand’s image. Plan the copy accordingly. It’s always better to have a fun/casual tone (much like MailChimp’s own branding), as this helps people to relate to your brand.
  • In the initial days of setting up a campaign, it’s always preferable to receive all subscription notifications.

Screenshot depicting how to create new list in MailChimp. Step 3 -- configuring list details

Hit Save to create the mailing list. That’s it — congratulations on setting up your new mailing list!

screenshot depicting success message once the has been successfully created

Take a note of this screenshot (2), we’ll revisit this when we’re configuring MailChimp in WordPress.

How to Create a Newsletter Campaign in MailChimp

Now that you’ve created a list, it’s time to create your first campaign. To get started, click on the Campaigns tab from the top menu. As you can see, no campaign has been created yet. Click on Create Campaign.

screenshot depicting how to create a new newsletter campaign in MailChimp. step 1. locating the option.

For the campaign type, let’s use a Regular Campaign for our tutorial.

screenshot depicting how to create a new newsletter campaign in MailChimp. step 2. selecting the campaign type.

In the next part, MailChimp asks you to select the audience of the campaign. In the beginning, you’ll just want to send the email to a test group, so select the last option — Paste emails to build a segment — and type out a few test (working) email addresses. Click Next to proceed to the next step.

screenshot depicting how to create a new newsletter campaign in MailChimp. step 3. choosing the entire or part of the email list

Under Campaign info plan the email subject and the sender’s name carefully. The subject plays a major role in brand identity and affects the open rate of your newsletter. You can also use merge tags to personalize your email.

screenshot depicting how to create a new newsletter campaign in MailChimp. step 4. configuring the campaign information.

For example, the *|FNAME|* merge tag is a placeholder that’s replaced with the receiver’s actual name. If not set, it will revert to a default name.

  • Suppose the subject line is: Hey *|FNAME|*, check out these End of Season Sale Items!
  • The actual email will read Hey Sourav! Check out these End of Season Sale Items!
  • If the first name isn’t available for a particular email, it will read: Hey Buddy! Check out these End of Season Sale Items!

Personalizing newsletters significantly impacts the open rate.

The following steps are pretty straightforward: You simply select a template from a variety of categorized collections.

screenshot depicting how to create a new newsletter campaign in MailChimp. step 5. choosing the campaign type.

You can then customize the email using MailChimp’s awesome drag-and-drop newsletter design tool. All the designs are 100% responsive, so you don’t have to worry about how your email will look on a mobile device, and you can also get a live preview of your designs by selecting the Preview and Test option on the top menu.

screenshot depicting how to create a new newsletter campaign in MailChimp. step 6. designing the email.

Once done, select Next to proceed to the confirmation screen. In this stage, ensure all the items are set to a green tick. Pay attention to the yellow warnings and resolve them before sending the newsletter.

screenshot depicting how to create a new newsletter campaign in MailChimp. step 7. reviewing the campaign settings before sending.

Once you’re doubly sure, hit Send Now to start the campaign.

screenshot depicting how to create a new newsletter campaign in MailChimp. step 8. sending the campaign.

Voila! Your campaign was successfully sent.

screenshot depicting how to create a new newsletter campaign in MailChimp. step 9. campaign sent notification.

How to Set up MailChimp in WordPress

So far, we’ve covered how to:

  • create and configure a new MailChimp account from scratch
  • create a new email list
  • design and send out a newsletter campaign.

Now, let’s see how to add a newsletter subscription or signup box in WordPress. There are two primary ways to do it.

  • Method 1: The first way is very simple — you only have to copy a piece of code from MailChimp and paste it into a WordPress HTML/text widget. You can place that widget anywhere, but most people place it in the sidebar, which is where you get the classic ‘newsletter subscription box in the sidebar’.
  • Method 2: The second method involves using an awesome plugin called MailChimp for WordPress that has a bunch of great features such as shortcode integration, comment and registration form integration, and much more.

Method 1: Setting up MailChimp with the WordPress Sidebar Widget

Log in to your MailChimp account, navigate to the Lists tab and select Embedded Forms.

screenshot depicting how to create a signup form for an email list in MailChimp -- step 1 -- selecting the correct option

The following screenshot lists all of the options in the embeddable form, and you can design it to suit your brand’s colours. Once you’re happy with the preview, copy the code from the textbox below.

screenshot depicting how to create a signup form for an email list in MailChimp -- step 2 -- designing a simple form using the classic form builder

Launch your WordPress dashboard and navigate to Appearance > Widgets.

screenshot showing the WordPress widgets screen

Drag and drop the Text widget to the widgetized area (the most common one being the sidebar) and paste the code in there. Hit Save and open your WordPress site.

screenshot showing the widget configuration for adding a MailChimp signup form

You should see the MailChimp Subscription box in your sidebar menu as shown in the screenshot below:

screenshot showing the live signup form created from the WordPress widget

Method 2: Configuring MailChimp for WordPress Plugin

banner of the MailChimp for WordPress plugin

While MailChimp has a lot of WordPress-specific integrations available, this plugin is by far one of the best on the market — we’ll take a short tutorial to try out its various cool features. Installing the plugin is a breeze: Head over to WP Dashboard > Plugins > Add New and you’re set.

screenshot showing how to install MailChimp for WordPress plugin -- step 1. searching for the plugin in wordpress

Click on Activate Plugin to get the ball rolling.

screenshot depicting the plugin activation.

As soon as you activate the plugin, a message comes up asking you to add your MailChimp API key. This step grants the plugin access to your MailChimp account — all of your lists, campaigns and other settings will be imported without any configuration.

screenshot depicting the plugin was successfully activated

Follow the link to get your API key. (Open a new tab and ensure you’re logged in to your MailChimp account before you proceed.)

screenshot depicting the plugin settings

You’ll be redirected to your MailChimp account. Select Create a Key.

screenshot of the MailChimp API generation page

Copy and paste the API key into the plugin’s settings page, and hit Save Changes.

screenshot of pasting the API key in the MailChimp for WordPress plugin

You should get a green signal as shown below. Notice how all of your existing lists are imported to the plugin.

screenshot depicting the successful connection of the plugin with mailchimp

How to Create a New Signup Form

The MailChimp for WordPress plugin lets you create a new signup form to be placed anywhere on your site. To create a new signup form, go to WordPress Dashboard > MailChimp for WordPress > Signup Forms.

screenshot showing how to create a newsletter signup form using MailChimp for WordPress plugin. step 1. enter the form name.

Enter the name of the form and select the list of which it would be a part. In our tutorial, we’ve selected the Unboxed Phones Daily Newsletter list, which means anyone who subscribes using this form is added to that list.

screenshot showing how to create a newsletter signup form using MailChimp for WordPress plugin. step 2. configure the signup form and copy the shortcode.

On the next page, you can design the form according to your requirements. A unique shortcode of this particular signup form is also available. When we use this shortcode in a WordPress post or a page, the newsletter is shown in its place — check out the example below:

screenshot showing how to create a newsletter signup form using MailChimp for WordPress plugin. step 3. use the shortcode in a post.

The same post, when viewed live:

screenshot of the newsletter signup form created by a shortcode using MailChimp for WordPress plugin.

Adding a Subscription Option to the Comment and Registration Form in MailChimp for WordPress

MailChimp for WordPress also allows you to add the the newsletter subscription option to your comment and registration form via Integrations.

screenshot listing the integration featured in the MailChimp for WordPress plugin

To enable the Custom Form integration, head to WP Dashboard > MailChimp for WP > Integrations > Custom Form Integration. Simply enable the integration and you’re good to go with the default options.

screenshot showing how to add a newsletter signup option in comment section in WordPress using MailChimp plugin

This would be the result:

screenshot showing newsletter signup option in WordPress comment form

Similarly, we can enable the settings for Registration Form Integration:

screenshot showing how to add a newsletter signup option in registration form in WordPress using MailChimp plugin

And the result would be:

screenshot showing newsletter signup option in WordPress registration form

Pricing

screenshot of the MailChimp pricing policy

The free tier of MailChimp allows you to send 12,000 emails per month to a maximum of 2,000 subscribers, which is a pretty generous quota if you ask me. However, you’re not allowed to use affiliate emails, such as products or services that you don’t directly sell.

screenshot listing the MailChimp integrations for wordpress

Final Thoughts

When it comes to email marketing, MailChimp is one of the premier players. With a rock-solid infrastructure, host of additional products and intuitive interface, MailChimp makes it easy for anyone to get started with a newsletter campaigns in minutes. Coupled with the power and simplicity of WordPress, MailChimp is a game-changer.

If you haven’t started sending out your own email newsletter yet, get to it today!

Using MailChimp with WordPress? Thoughts?

By Sourav Kundu

A technology enthusiast in general, Sourav enjoys learning and writing about WordPress, and is interested in marketing, psychology and all things digital. He can be reached on Twitter.
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