Can Your Readers Subscribe to Your Blog or Website?

I spend a lot of time reading blogs, looking for information to inspire me, encourage me, and inform me. I look at a lot of blogs. A lot of them.

It’s a lot of work and often takes time I should be using for something else. So when I find a blog I like, I subscribe. That way, I receive a notification every time the blogger posts new content. The notification comes right to my inbox. What could possibly be more convenient?

This week, I had time to look for new blogs. Some of them were of little interest to me, but there were several I wanted to subscribe to.

That’s where I ran into trouble.

Can Your Reader’s Subscribe to Your Blog?

Of all the blogs I wanted to follow, only three offered the option of an email subscription.

I could follow all the rest via RSS if I wanted to, but I didn’t want to. You see, I prefer the email notifications. RSS notifications in an online reader get lost in the shuffle.

And to be honest, when I’m online, I’m usually working. I forget to check RSS notifications and before long, I forget all about the blog, too.

What’s the point of all this?

The majority of the blogs I reviewed did not give me the option of subscribing by email. They lost me as a subscriber. That means they’re also losing other readers who prefer email subscriptions to ereaders and RSS.

Personally, I can’t afford to disregard those readers. I’ll bet you can’t either.

Are Email Subscriptions Really Necessary?

Long answer short, no. But they do provide something RSS doesn’t.

An email mailing list.

You see, when someone subscribes to your blog by RSS, you have a reader, but nothing else. There is no way for you to collect email addresses.

But with an email subscription, you build an email list, as well as a subscriber list. It becomes a different level of engagement between you and your reader.

How?

Trust

When I trust you enough to subscribe to your blog by email, that means I trust you enough to give you something of value to me. My email address. That means I really want to read what you have to say.

The people who trust you enough to give you their email addresses are also the most likely to buy whatever you have to sell. Market research has proven over and over again that your mailing list will result in a higher percentage of sales than any other form of social media. Sometimes exponentially higher.

That Sounds Like a Lot of Work

Adding an email subscription option to your blog or website is easy.

Sign up with a service provider like MailChimp, Constant Contact or any of a dozen others (I use MailChimp). Most providers offer basic accounts at no charge. Once you have an account set up, you create a mailing list, make a subscriber link, install it on your blog or website and–wa-la!–readers can subscribe! If you like doing technical things, you can probably get everything done in an afternoon.

The link to your subscriber signup form doesn’t have to be big and bold like this (although big and bold equals easy to see and that’s always a good thing). It can be a simple highlighted link.

The only thing it needs to be is present and visible.

Coffee Sack Button 01 Subscribe

Conclusion

If you’re serious about marketing your work, then you need to get serious about building an email mailing list and that means getting serious about giving your readers the option to sign up.

What about you? Have you been unable to subscribe by email to a blog you wanted to follow? Can readers subscribe to your blog by email if they want to?

How to Make a Signup Form with MailChimp

Welcome to the third in our series on preparing to build an email list with MailChimp. If you missed the first two posts in the series, you can read them here.

A Caveat

There are other subscription providers available. I’ve chosen to use MailChimp because it has the best combination of services and low cost (free!). It’s also very easy to set up and use, all of which is no doubt why it’s currently also the most popular.

Helping People Subscribe

So you’ve set up your free account and you’ve created a subscriber list. It’s time to create a signup form.

The signup form is the connection between new subscribers and you. Readers to your blog or web site will use this form to give you something better than gold: their names and email addresses.

Creating a signup form is a two-part process. First, we’ll create a form, then we’ll make a link from your blog or website to the signup form.

Creating the Signup Form

The signup form is the form new subscribers fill out when they want to subscribe to your blog or join your email newsletter mailing list. Click on the subscribe button below to see what our signup form looks like.

Coffee Sack Button 01 Subscribe

Signup forms are highly customizable. There are so many options available, I could do a month of posts describing all of them. For this demonstration, I’ll be showing you how to do a very basic signup form. It will include the subscriber’s name and email address. I’ll address some of the options and why you might want to consider them next week.

For now, lets get that basic form set up.

Step 1: Log into your MailChimp account.

Step 2: You will land on the dashboard page. If you don’t see the left sidebar, click on the group of three horizontal bars in the upper left corner (red arrow). That will reveal the sidebar.

How to Create a Signup Form with MailChimp Screen Shot 1

In the sidebar are several options. Click on “Lists” (green arrow, above).

Step 3: You’ll land on the Lists page, as shown below. If you have more than one list, click on the list for which you want to make a signup form.

How to Create a Signup Form with MailChimp Screen Shot 2

Step 4: You will land on the page for the mailing list you selected. It should look like this and should give you several options as shown below. Click on “Signup forms” (red arrow).

How to Create a Signup Form with MailChimp Screen Shot 3

Step 5: You will land on a page like this, which gives you three major categories for forms. Each one has advantages and disadvantages and you can use any one of them in most situations.

How to Create a Signup Form with MailChimp Screen Shot 4

The category I use most often is the General Forms category (yellow circle on the left). It’s easiest to use and works quite well with blogs. Click on the yellow circle or on the gray “Select” box beneath it.

Step 6: A page opens with a blank form and what looks like an overwhelming number of options on it.

How to Create a Signup Form with MailChimp Screen Shot 5

Don’t panic! It’s not difficult to set up a basic form and that is what I recommend. You can always go back and fine tune your form later if you want to. But first, the basics.

At the top of the page, under the Create Forms heading, is a gray box called Forms and response emails. The default selection is Signup form. This is what you want, so don’t do anything with this.

How to Create a Signup Form with MailChimp Screen Shot 6

Below that is a box labeled Signup form URL. You don’t have to do anything with this, either. It’s filled in automatically by MailChimp software. You will need the code that appears there, but we’ll be back for that later.

Next is the blank form itself. The red arrow marks three categories of options. The first is Build it. This is the category you want right now.

The second category is Design it and this is where you make changes to colors, type styles, and other features that customize your form. I’ve customized each of my forms to look like the blog to which they’re attached, but you don’t have to do that. Sprucing things up appeals to my artistic nature.

Third and last is Translate it. This is handy if you’re likely to have people from multiple languages using your forms or blogs or if you want to customize a form to speak a specific language other than English.

How to Create a Signup Form with MailChimp Screen Shot 7

For the moment, though, we want to concentrate on building a signup form. That option is selected by default.

Blank forms have four fields to fill in. Here’s a look at them. The only one that isn’t self-explanatory is the first one. You do not have to put anything in this box. You can, if you wish, add a brief message to your potential new subscriber, but it’s best to keep it simple.

How to Create a Signup Form with MailChimp Screen Shot 8

The other three boxes are for subscribers to fill in. You don’t need to do anything with those.

Your form is now ready. Remember that box I told you to remember? The Signup form URL? It’s the second line in the illustration below. It actually appears near the top of the signup form page.

How to Create a Signup Form with MailChimp Screen Shot 6

The code in this box is the URL for your signup form.  This code will be copied to your blog or website wherever you want to provide a link to your signup form. For now, however, you can copy the code and paste it into word processing or text document for safe keeping.

Creating the Link

This is the link to our signup form. Danielle did the artwork. Cool, isn’t it? We’ve installed it in what’s called a widget. A widget is a handy little tool that allows you to do all sorts of cool things from add a calendar, your Twitter feed, and other neat things to your blog. Widgets are usually found in sidebars and footers.  Some templates also have options for left or right side bars and a few have the option of putting a widget or two in the header.

Coffee Sack Button 01 Subscribe

Every page on your blog or website should ask your reader to do something. This “something” is called the “call to action.” You might ask them to buy your book or tweet your post. Or subscribe to your blog.

I have the subscription link at the upper right hand corner of all my blogs. That’s prime real estate in cyber world.

Here’s how to get your subscription link into this prime real estate.

Step 1: Sign into your WordPress account and navigate to the dashboard.

Step 2: From the dashboard, selected “Appearance” and click on “Widgets” in the drop down menu (red arrow).

wordpress link illustration 9

Step 3: Select a Widget You will land on the “Widgets” page. The list of available widgets is on the left. The list of available widget areas is on the right. I’m using the Hemingway Rewritten template and it comes with four possible widget areas. The sidebar and three footer areas. Your template may look different.

wordpress link illustration 10

There is a widget for text. Scroll down the page until you find it (red arrow).

wordpress mailchimp link illustration 1

Click on the text widget and drag it to the widget area where you want it to appear. It will open automatically, giving you the opportunity to set it up however you want it to appear. The default is shown in this screen shot.

wordpress mailchimp link illustration 2

Title: You can opt to leave this blank if you wish. Since I want readers to know exactly what this link is for, however, I title the widget as follows: Free Subscriptions via MailChimp.

The larger box is where you put whatever text you wish. The beauty of a text widget is that it’s very versatile. You can link to images, pages or posts on your blog or pages or posts on other blogs. Or to your MailChimp signup form.

The text you need to make the link linkable is:

<a href=”Signup form URL goes here” target=”blank” />Sign up for our email newsletter, RSS feeds or both.</a>

Feel free to copy the code above and paste into the large box on your text widget.

Signup form URL goes here. When you set up your signup form, there was a box titled “Signup form URL.” It’s marked with the red arrow below.

wordpress mailchimp link illustration 3

If you copied that code into a word processing document, now is the time to open that document. Highlight and copy the code (control-c)

Make sure the code is contained by quote marks. The quote marks tell your browser where readers should be taken when they click on the link.

Sign up for our email newsletter, RSS feeds or both. This is the text that will appear in the widget on your blog. Type whatever message you wish here. You have my permission to copy and use this text, if you wish.

Make sure that the text is between the “>” and “<”. That is a must, no matter what you write. Everything that is between those two symbols will become a clickable link.

This is how the code should look in your text widget.

wordpress mailchimp link illustration 4

Click the blue “Save” button.

Check your blog to see how the widget appears. Here’s how the signup form link looks in its most basic presentation.

wordpress mailchimp link illustration 5

To make sure the link is functioning, click on it. If your MailChimp signup form appears, congratulations!

Whenever I set up or change widgets (which I do frequently), I have a page on my blog open in another tab or window. I do this so I can see the changes as I make them without having to close and re-open either page. After each change I make to the widget, I click on the window that shows the blog page and refresh it. That shows me how the changes look and I can decide at once whether or not I like it.

Conclusion

Once your link is live and active, you’re all set. Readers can now sign up for your email newsletters or they can sign up to receive each new blog post in their inbox. You don’t have to do anything more than this.

But there are ways to make your signup form more useful to you and your subscribers. Remember, I mentioned the signup form we just set up is very basic. Subscribers have no options. Every subscriber will get every post you publish and every newsletter you email. You can enhance the signup form to give new subscribers many different options.

You can also pretty up your subscription link if you prefer.

We’ll talk about adding fields in the next post and changing the appearance of your signup form in the final post. I hope you’ll join me.

In the meantime, I invite you to subscribe to Indie Plot Twist by clicking here or on the link at the top of the side bar. Subscribing is the best way to make sure you never miss a post.

How to Create a List with MailChimp

Welcome back to my series on MailChimp. If you’re just joining me, I encourage you to take a moment to read the first post in the series, which tells you how to open a free account with MailChimp.

What’s the next step after opening a free account? MailChimp offers several options. Starting a campaign, creating a list, and building your audience. The most logical place to begin (for me anyway) was creating a list so that’s the next stop in the MailChimp course.

What’s A List and Why do I Need One?

For the purposes of this discussion, when I talk about lists, I’m talking about a list of subscribers. In the old days (pre-internet), they were called mailing lists.

The list you create is the list to which your newsletters will be sent. Once you have a sign up form on your blog or website, new subscribers will be added to the list automatically.

So while you can do a sign up form first or set up a newsletter first, you’ll need to create a list before either of those two things work.

How to Create a List with MailChimp

Step 1: Log into your MailChimp account.

Step 2: You will land on the dashboard page. Click on the gray “Create A List” button marked by the red arrow.
How to Create a List with MailChimp Screen Shot 1

Step 3: You will land on this page. Click on the black “Create List” button marked by the red arrow.
How to Create a List with MailChimp Screen Shot 2

Step 4: You will land on this page.
How to Create a List with MailChimp Screen Shot 3

Fill in each of the boxes.

List name: Name your list. Keep the name simple and informative. “Blog Subscribers,” for example. Even if you think you’ll only ever need one list, it’s advisable to name the list so you remember at a glance what it’s for. You never know when you may find a need for additional lists and there’s nothing more confusing than a list of lists with vague names. I have more than one list from more than one blog so I use names like “Author Blog Subscriptions” or “Horse Painter Blog Subscriptions” or “Book Giveaway List” (yes, you can do that).

List names are private, accessible only by you.

Default “from” email: Whenever you send out an email, recipients will see the email address you put here. This tells them who sent the email and gives them an email to respond to if they wish. I have more than one list for more than one blog. I use the email associated with each blog in this box.

Default “from” name: Same as above, but a personal name. Usually it will be your name. The name readers are most likely to recognize you by.

As I mentioned above, I have multiple lists from multiple blogs. My art readers know me as Carrie L. Lewis, so that’s the name I use on those lists. Readers of my author blog know me as Carrie Lynn Lewis, so that’s the name I use on that list.

Remind people how they got on your list: This is a short message that tells people how they got on your list. Something like “You are receiving this email because you subscribed to “name of blog’s” mailing list. It doesn’t need to be fancy, but it should reflect you. If you have more than one blog, this message should reflect the voice and tone of the blog to which it’s attached.

Contact information for this list: This section is filled in automatically with whatever information you used in your profile. If you want to change it, click on the light gray “edit” button.
How to Create a List with MailChimp Screen Shot 4

Notifications:
MailChimp offers three choices for how often you receive notifications. Notifications are notes in your inbox letting you know when people subscribe and unsubscribe from your mailing list. You can click all three, any combination, or none at all. The options are self-explanatory. If you don’t make any selections, you will not know when anyone subscribes or unsubscribes.
How to Create a List with MailChimp Screen Shot 5

Step 5: Done!
When everything is the way you want it, click the “Save” button. Congratulations! You have a list!

So what do you do next?

When you hit “save,” you’ll land on a page that lists all your lists. If this is your first list, it will look like this.
How to Create a List with MailChimp Screen Shot 6

From this page, you can view the stats for your campaigns, manage your subscribers, add subscribers, make signup forms, and change settings. Those items are in the menu bar under the name of the list, in this case, Thomas’ Mailing List. Since Thomas doesn’t yet have any subscribers, the “View subscribers” box shows a graphic of two pages.

You are going to do one of two things at this point. You will either add subscribers or make a signup form. We’ll create a sign up form in the next post, so let’s talk about adding subscribers first.

Adding Subscribers

Add Subscribers: If you have a mailing list somewhere else, you can import it into MailChimp. If you click on the “Add subscribers” button, a drop down menu will appear.

  • “Add a subscriber” allows you to manually type in a subscriber’s information and add them to your list.
  • “Import subscribers” allows you to import a mailing list from other locations or your computer.
    How to Create a List with MailChimp Screen Shot 7

While this is a quick and easy way to add people to your subscriber list, you do have to be very careful the people on your current list want to be on your new list. If you add someone who doesn’t want your new mailings, that’s called spam and MailChimp and others look down on that.

What I prefer to do is set up my signup form, then notify the subscribers on one email list that I have a new one, provide a link to the new signup form and give them the opportunity to signup for the new and improved mailing list.

You can also manually add subscribers one at a time by typing in the information they’ve provided. Again, you need to be absolutely certain the recipients want to be recipients.

Conclusion

Congratulations! Now you not only have an account with MailChimp; you have a list. The next step is creating a signup form. The sign-up form is what visitors to your blog will see, allowing them to join your mailing list. The signup form for Indie Plot Twist is the link at the top of the sidebar. Click there to see what our sign up form looks like. As mentioned, that will be the topic for the next post. Join us!

If you haven’t already subscribed to Indie Plot Twist, I invite you to do so now. Subscriptions are free and you can sign up for email newsletters (which are published once in a while), email notification of new content (every time a new post is published), or both. Just click here to get started. The entire process takes five minutes or less. Click through the process and you’ll have a good idea how it will work for your subscribers!

How to Set up Subscriptions Using MailChimp

This post marks the beginning of a three-part series on setting up your blog so readers can subscribe by email. In the first post, I’ll walk you through signing up for a free MailChimp account for your blog or website. In the following posts, we’ll talk about what to do afterward.

Why Subscriptions?

Despite the fact that many have pronounced email dead and some have gone so far as to bury it, email is still very much alive and well.

It is also the single best marketing tool you have, second only to word of mouth. People who value what you have to say or the products you have to offer enough to give you their names and email addresses are the people most likely to buy from you. If you have time for only one social media marketing tool, email should be your tool of choice.

That means building an email mailing list.

And that is not as difficult as it sounds.

Why MailChimp?

MailChimp is one of the top subscription and RSS (real simple syndication) feed services currently available, but it is by no means the only one. The free side of MailChimp provides everything most bloggers and online business owners need, but there is also a paid Premium service. The free service is valid for any user with 2,000 combined subscribers or less.

You can also use the same account for multiple blogs or websites. As I write this, I have three blogs on a single account. Each one has a separate subscriber list and separate email and RSS settings.

When I use the word “email”, I’m referring to email newsletters. When I use the word “RSS”, I’m referring to automatic notifications of new content on your blog or website. Both types of communications end up in your subscriber’s inbox, but the content is different.

The biggest reason I chose MailChimp is that it’s highly recommended and among the top services currently available. It’s also very easy to use.

Following are step-by-step instructions for using MailChimp to set up subscription forms for your blog or web site. I’m going to assume that you will be new to MailChimp and will start with the sign-up process.

Step 1: Go to MailChimp dot com

Go to MailChimp.com. You will land on a page similar to the one shown here. This is the landing page. Click on the red “Sign Up” button at the top, right of the browser window (red arrow).
Mailchimp signup screenshot 1

Step 2: Login Information

You will land on the page shown here.
Mailchimp signup screenshot 2

Type in the email you want to use for the account.

Type in the user name you want to use.

Type in a password. Notice that you have the option of showing your password as you type it. This option shows you the letters, numbers, and symbols you type instead of black dots. It’s very convenient for writing a password. When you have a password you like, you can also copy it and paste into a text document for future reference.

As you type in each box, tips on choosing user names and passwords appear beneath the box. Take a moment to review that information if you’re unsure how to choose a user name or password. You have to meet each of the conditions listed under the password box before your password will be accepted.

Make sure you make a note of your user name and password. It’s always a good idea to have a non-electronic record of this information for any account that requires a user name and password.

When you finish, click the gray “Create My Account” button at the bottom of the page.

Step 3: Activate Your Account

You will land on this page.
Mailchimp signup screenshot 3

The text inside the green box asks you to check your email for a verification email. The email will look something like this.
Mailchimp signup screenshot 4

Click on the “Activate Account” button marked by the red arrow.

Step 4: Confirm Humanity

This is the final step in the process. It confirms for MailChimp that you are, indeed, a real human being with a legitimate account instead of a computer robot trying send spam.
Mailchimp signup screenshot 5

Type the letters or numbers that appear in the box marked by the red arrow and click the “Confirm Signup” button at the bottom of the page.

Step 6: Let’s Get Started

You will land on a page that asks for information about who and where you are, who and what your business or organization is, and lets you personalize your account with things like a profile photo, connecting to your blog or website, and a number of other things.

Fill out the information and click the “Save and Get Started” button at the bottom of the page.
Mailchimp signup screenshot 6

Step 7: Done!

You’re now official! Congratulations!

You’ll land on a page that looks like the image below. The box marked with the red arrow is a two-part slide presentation with very basic information. I recommend that you take a moment and view the slide presentation.
Mailchimp signup screenshot 7

Once you’ve clicked through that, you’ll see your MailChimp home page, also known as the Dashboard. Everything you do from now on can be accessed through this dashboard.
Mailchimp signup screenshot 8

The options are “Create and send a campaign,” “Create a list,” and “Start building your audience.”

Each option has a link to step-by-step instructions and tutorials. It’s a good idea to take a look at those links before going any further.

You can also click on the three, horizontal white bars in the upper left-hand corner to see additional options.

Conclusion

And that’s all there is to setting up an account with MailChimp.

If you’re just getting started with blogging, I strongly recommend you take the time to set up a subscription account from the start. But it’s never too late to start. One of my blogs was nearly ten years old before I set up a MailChimp account. I was able to import all the email addresses I’d collected manually.

Next month, we’ll talk about setting up a subscriber signup form.

If you have questions in the meantime, please ask them! I’ll be happy to provide what answers I can.

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