Adding a MailChimp Newsletter Signup Form to Your WordPress Theme

blow-your-own-hornLast week I wrote a geeky article I hope makes it easier to choose a WordPress theme (short version: it’s about look and feel, not how it works.)

Since the origin of this series of posts was a conversation about your newsletter being the most important marketing tool you have, this week, we’ll go over the basics of adding a MailChimp newsletter signup form to your WordPress site. (There are other newsletter tools. I think MailChimp has the right balance of power and simplicity. The concepts here apply adding any code to your WordPress site to varying degrees, so you can mentally stretch them to include other newsletter tools if that’s your preference.)

Overview:

  1. Create a MailChimp account
  2. Get the code for your signup form
  3. Put the signup form on your site
  4. Marketing bonus: make them click to get to the signup

Create a MailChimp Account

They say “Sign up in 30 seconds. No credit card required.” It’s free for up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month. If you have 2,000 subscribers and your list grew organically without chemical fertilizers, you can make a living as an author, so this could potentially be free forever.

You need a MailChimp account because this is where your list lives. These folks are not signing up for your website, they are signing up for a completely different entity, your newsletter. They can subscribe to your blog, too, but this is not that.

Don’t be confused by the fact that MailChimp offers a WordPress plugin. It’s just an easy way to add the signup form to your site; it does not create your list or MailChimp account.

Once you have an account you’ll create a list (though that’s a misnomer; it’s a placeholder for the list, because when you create it, there’s no one on it.)

Signup Form

Each list has a unique signup form. Don’t create more than one list without doing loads of research on how lists work and what “segments” are. Beyond the scope of this conversation, but if you really want to know, ask.

Under “Lists” you’ll find your list, and next to it, a dropdown where you can choose “Signup Forms” (catching a feel for MailChimp’s intuitive thinking? It’s a very “follow your nose” kind of tool.) From there, choose “Embedded Forms” because we’re going to “embed” it into our site (that’s the geek term for putting someone else’s code into your site; like you embed a YouTube video.)

Here is where the paradox of choice rears its ugly head. So, so many options. What to do? Which is right? What are these settings?

Ignore them. Yes, unless you know precisely what something is leave it alone. For instance, the text at the top of the form; they’re words something like “Sign up for my newsletter” — if you want to change that, change it. You know what words are, and you know the words to extend your invitation.

But “Disable all JavaScript” or whatever? Don’t go all click-happy and think you need to come up with a suitable and meaningful answer for every checkbox and dropdown on the page. In general, the default settings are defaults for a reason. Don’t change anything without a very good reason. You have been warned.

Right below the form is a window with some code in it. Click in that box. It will highlight all the code automatically. I find this feature repulsive, since I know how to select text in a form field, but watcha gonna do, eh?

CTRL+C or however you normally copy stuff.

And now we’re off to your website.

Put the Signup Form on Your Site

Okay, some of this should have been done before we started. Because you want to create a page called “Newsletter” on your site. Okay, call it whatever you want, but I’m telling you, creative as I am, rebel that I am, I still just name the page “Newsletter” because in the long run it means what it says and saves all kinds of fuss and grief. Again, you have been warned.

Once you have a page called “Newsletter” THIS IS IMPORTANT AND YOU HAD BETTER BE PAYING ATTENTION RIGHT HERE OR THERE WILL BE CRYING SO LISTEN UP in the top right corner of the composing window (the box where you write your posts and pages) are two little tabs:

Visual and Text

SWITCH TO THE ‘TEXT’ TAB BEFORE YOU PASTE CODE INTO YOUR SITE

Did you catch that? Pasting code into the Visual tab will be a pointless exercise in frustration and is probably one of only 3 points you really needed from this article (the first was the pointlessness of the MailChimp plugin without a MailChimp account.)

Personally, I think every WordPress user should put on their Big Kid pants and work in the Text/Code window. The process is identical to working in the Visual window, except it has eleventyleven advantages. It will take you nine minutes to get used to seeing <b>this is bold</b> instead of this is bold and I promise, your brain won’t break. But this is just an old man crankyrant; feel free to work however you work best.

Ready?

Paste.

(That’s probably CTRL+V but might be some Mac thing I always forget since my Mac died a few years ago and yes I still cry about it at night.)

Publish the page. That’s right, press the button, Max.

Now go look at it. Purty, ain’t it?

Test it. Fill it out and go through the process.

Every step is adjustable. MailChimp can tell you how; their tutorials are excellent. Or, if you prefer world class support via email, their least expensive paid version is $10/month and well worth it for the extras you get.

Marketing Bonus

Research suggests that when people click a link in your sidebar and go to a page to sign up for your newsletter, you get more signups than when you just put this form in a widget in the sidebar.

An extra step leads to more signups. I don’t get it, but I’m sure Dan Ariely has an explanation.

In your sidebar, put a widget titled something like “Get My Newsletter” (obvious is good sometimes) and have it say something like “Click here to sign up for my newsletter” (again, while ‘click here’ is the stupidest thing you can write on the internet, a bit like saying ‘after you poke the food with the fork, shove it into yer pie hole’ but there you have it: obvious works) and link to your newsletter page.

Bonus to the Bonus

SumoMe has tools like their Welcome Mat and Scroll Box which prompt folks to sign up, making sure this important step isn’t missed. If you truly believe signing up for your newsletter is the most important thing folks can do at your site, don’t be shy about saying so. These particular tools are far less intrusive than many I’ve seen. Free and adjustable. Give ’em a look.

Questions?

Once again, if there’s anything I’ve missed, use that comments form below and let’s talk.

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