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How to Send an Automated RSS Newsletter with MailChimp

updated on Oct 13, 2015
How to Send an Automated RSS Newsletter with MailChimp Sending regular newsletters is a good way to keep your subscribers well informed of the latest updates and staying connected with your blog. MailChimp provides great tools for completing the task, which requires no coding skills at all.

MailChimp comes with a feature named "RSS Campaign" which allows you to pull the RSS content of your blog feed into a campaign by using merge tags. As the campaign is automated, when there is a new post published and RSS feed updated, the new content is pulled into the campaign automatically and then sent to your subscribers on the scheduled time.

Therefore, once you have configured the campaign right, you no longer need to spend time editing and designing each newsletter. The specified subscribers can read your updates easily in their inboxes on a regular basis. This makes the life much easier especially when you are managing multiple blogs.

This post includes a step-by-step guide for creating and setting up an RSS campaign with MailChimp, along with some simple tips you may need to make your newsletters better.

Step 1: Create a Campaign

First of all, you have to log into MailChimp with an account. If you do not have one yet, you can follow this MailChimp tutorial to create a free account. Have had an account but cannot remember the username or password? That's OK because MailChimp offers an easy-to-understand system for recovering the login credentials.

Remember that if you have not created an email list, you will need to make one before creating an RSS campaign. For details steps, you can also refer to the above-mentioned tutorial.

When an email list is ready, you can go back to the dashboard and click on the "Create Campaign" button.

Create Campaign

Now you have 4 options for the campaign type. As we are discussing automated RSS campaign, you need to choose the last one.

RSS Campaign

Step 2: Connect to Your RSS Feed and Configure the Timing

The first task for setting up an RSS campaign is to enter the URL of your blog's feed to allow MailChimp to pull in content. For WordPress sites, the feed URL is usually http://yoursite.com/feed/. If you use services like Feedburner, you can also type the corresponding address, but we would suggest linking to the feed on your site directly because this is more effective for pulling new content.

RSS Feed URL

Next, you have to decide the frequency of your newsletters. There are several options available.
  • Daily – For this option, the campaign sends daily at the time specified by you. Also, you can control which days to send by using the checkboxes before each day in a week. For example, un-checking Sunday and Saturday means you only want newsletters to be sent on weekdays.
  • Weekly – You must select which day of the week and what time of the day to send the campaign.
  • Monthly – You must specify which day in a month and what time of the day to send newsletters.
Newsletter Timing and Frequency

If your blog is frequently updated, you can choose the weekly schedule, or you might need to send the campaign on a monthly basis. Basically we do not recommend the daily schedule as too many emails can be annoying.

After configuring these options, click on "Next" at the bottom right of the page and select an email list which you would like to send the campaign to.

Select an Email List

For the following campaign setup, you can give a name to your campaign and customize the tracking options as you want. Everything is to your own preference.

Step 3: Design the RSS Campaign

There are altogether two tasks in this step: choosing a template and making your own customizations.

Select a template

MailChimp offers a large number of pre-made templates. You can either choose a basic design or a stylish theme. The former gives you more customization options, while the latter is good for beginners who do not have enough skills. Besides, you can also select a template that has been used previously, or upload your own design with the "Code Your Own" option. The chances are endless.

Campaign Template

For both basic templates and well-designed themes, there are some special ones exclusively designed for RSS. To make things as simple as possible, we have selected an RSS specific theme categorized under "RSS-To-Email" as the example because this kind of themes has already included the basic coding.

RSS-To-Email Themes

In fact, if you choose a basic template, the later design is not hard, either. MailChimp has prepared some RSS content blocks like "RSS Header" and "RSS Items" which are pre-loaded with merge tags. But beginners would not choose this way.

Design your RSS campaign

This is the most important thing to do because the design applies to all the newsletters sent out by the campaign in the future. Fortunately, as the theme is already well-designed with necessary merge tags included, you do not need to spend much time exploring the content structure.

Still, you have enough freedom to design your own campaign. MailChimp offers many design options so you can customize the header, footer, images, background color, font size, text color, etc as you like.

Design Your RSS Campaign

In the pre-made design, you can see many merge tags such as *|RSSFEED:TITLE|* and *|RSSITEM:IMAGE|*. These tags instruct the system about what to pull from the blog feed. They are easy to understand and use. If you are not familiar with the merge tags, you can find several examples to learn their usage or read these detailed tutorials on MailChimp.

RSS Merge Tags

Designing and customizing the theme requires some time when you do it for the first time. You have to experiment much to ensure the design is professional enough. Also, remember to replace the default header text, footer and images with your own.

Step 4: Finish the Campaign

You are about to send out your newsletter. But before doing that, you have to do all of the following things.
  • Review your campaign with the checklist and fix any issue founded by the system.
  • Preview the campaign and test the display in multiple email clients.
  • Send a test email to another person (you friend or colleague) to make sure there is no design or content issue.
Review Campaign

When these tasks are completed, click on the "Start RSS" button on the bottom right of the page. Then in the popup confirmation window, click on "Start Campaign".

Confirm Campaign

Now the schedule is triggered. Based on your schedule, MailChimp may or may not send your first newsletter to the specified subscribers immediately.
  • For daily schedule, the updates in the past day are collected and sent to subscribers.
  • For weekly newsletter, MailChimp delivers the updates of the past week to subscribers.
  • For monthly newsletter, the recent posts of the past month are sent.
  • If you do not have new updates in the past day/week/month, no newsletter is sent until the feed is updated.
Within one hour, you can create an RSS campaign on MailChimp successfully. As the future newsletters are automated, you should no longer worry about subscribers missing your important updates. Once the timing and frequency are properly chosen, you shall soon see a growth of the email list.

If you want to acquire more skills to send better newsletters, this comprehensive email marketing guide should help.

Value the Reports of RSS Campaigns

MailChimp offers reports for each copy (newsletter) sent with your RSS campaign. These statistics are important because they can help you know more about your readers, such as what they are interested in, what they really need from your blog, and what their reading habits are. Based on the results, you can find good topics and optimize the timing and frequency of your future newsletters.

Detailed reports for each copy are available under the "Reports" tab in MailChimp dashboard. You should check them regularly – at least once per month.

Campaign Reports