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How to Email Your Blog Updates Like a ProBlogger

This guest pst is by Martyn Chamberlin of Two Hour Blogger.

“When you work with words … words are your work.”—Don Knotts

I assume you know a lot about blogging.

You know how to set up a blog, you know how to write. You know how to tweet and share.

Most importantly, you know how to build your email list.

Maybe you’re not as fanatical as I am. Maybe you haven’t hidden your RSS feed. Maybe you offer alternatives to email. But you understand the best results come from your emails. You baby your list.

email

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The email list is important … but what are you doing with it? You’re sending your blog broadcasts to it? How are you doing it?

I’ve got a sneaking suspicion you aren’t doing it right. Don’t take it personally—some of my most brilliant clients weren’t either. It’s not your fault. No one’s ever told you how, that’s all.

Are you handling your email subscriptions in Feedburner?

When people subscribe to your blog via email, where’s that email address going? I hope it’s not going into Feedburner.

See, Feedburner is pretty lousy when it comes to email marketing.

  • You can’t easily customize the subject line
  • You can’t customize the design
  • You can’t utilize auto-responders
  • You can’t know who’s subscribing in real time
  • You can’t know the open rates
  • You can’t completely control when the broadcast goes out

Maybe you’re thinking, “I don’t care that much. Feedburner’s free. This is deep and scary, and I’m not going to worry about it. I’ll just blog.”

Let me remind you that your blog’s success hinges on how effectively you master email marketing.

This is important. Quit using Feedburner.

What are the other options?

I’ve worked with a lot of email marketing tools, but the best are MailChimp and AWeber. There are other options out there, but I recommend one of these two.

Which one should you chose? Mailchimp’s free for the first 500 subscribers while AWeber costs from from the start. They’re both excellent tools, but if you can possibly afford it, go with AWeber. It’s slightly better, and after all, ProBlogger uses AWeber.

Once you migrate your list to one of these services, you’re ready to send emails. Whenever you publish a blog post, you want to send it to your list.

You can always do it manually, of course. Whenever you publish content, you can copy and paste the article from your WordPress dashboard and blast it away. While it’s fun doing it this way for about two months, it starts getting old after a while. Really old. Trust me.

Here’s a better way

Unfortunately, this is where most bloggers run into trouble. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you’ll frustrate yourself.

Luckily, I’ve done the heavy lifting for you. After successfully implementing this for myself and clients, I’ve put this article together for you. You’ll be rocking with the big boys in no time flat. I’ll even help you in comments if you get stuck. Deal?

Step 1: Prepare thyself

If you haven’t done so already, you’ll want to burn a feed for your blog at Feedburner.com.

Okay, I told you to quit using Feedburner. You’re probably confused.

While Feedburner is lousy at email marketing, it’s a great tool for creating a feed URL. You’ll use this feed’s URL in your email campaign, so this step is important. Since Google owns Feedburner, you only need a free Google account to use this service.

You may have already created a Feedburner feed and don’t know what the feed URL is. Log into Feedburner and click the grey RSS icon to the left of the feed title. The link it sends you to is your feed URL.

Make sure your feed URL shows the full content version of your posts. If you only see excerpts on this page, it means your email subscribers will only get excerpts in their inbox (usually a bad idea).

To change your blog’s feed to full content, log into WordPress and head over to Settings > Reading Settings. Make sure you’ve selected Full text instead of Summary. It can take Feedburner up to fifteen minutes to recognize these changes, so be patient if you don’t see immediate results. (Yes, I’ve learned this the hard way!)

If you’re using MailChimp …

  1. Log in.
  2. Click the large, orange button in the left column titled Create campaign. A drop-down menu will appear. Select RSS-driven campaign.
  3. This will take you to a page where you enter your RSS Feed URL. Paste your Feedburner URL and hit next.
  4. Select the list you want to send your campaign to. Hit next.
  5. In the Message Subject field, paste this:

    *|RSSITEM:TITLE|*

    That pulls the title of your latest blog post into the email subject line. Fill out the other details and hit Next.

  6. Select your template and edit the body copy. The default prose says “Heading 1 Heading 2″ etc. After deleting all this, select the Source tab and paste the following:

    <a href="*|RSSITEM:URL|*">*|RSSITEM:TITLE|*</a><br /><br /> *|RSSITEM:CONTENT_FULL|*<br /> <a href="*|RSSITEM:URL|*">Click here to leave a comment</a>

    This funny-looking code dynamically pulls the the content from your latest blog post into the email. To see the magic in action, just hit the preview button to view how it will look in your inbox. Nifty, isn’t it?

    Hit Next.

  7. Finalize your plain-text version. Hit next.
  8. You’re now looking at your entire setup with all the glamorous details. Scroll to the bottom of the page and hit the orange “start RSS campaign” button. You’re all set!

If you’re using AWeber…

  1. Log into AWeber
  2. Hover over the Messages tab and click Blog Broadcast.
  3. This sends you to a page with a green button that says Create a New Blog Broadcast. Click it.
  4. Chose the list you want to use and prepare your email template. I recommend keeping the design as simple as possible, but you’re welcome to customize it to your heart’s content.
  5. In the RSS feed URL, paste your feed URL you got from Feedburner.
  6. In the subject line, paste this:

    {!rss_itemblock}{!rss_item_title}{!rss_itemblockend}

  7. In the HTML message, paste this:

    {!rss_itemblock} <p style="font-weight: bold; font-size: 30px; margin-bottom: 0px"><a href="{!rss_item_link}">{!rss_item_title}</a></p><span>{!rss_item_content}</span><br /> <h2><a href="{!rss_item_link}">Click here to leave a comment</a>.</h2> {!rss_itemblockend}

    Be sure you’re on the Source tab when pasting this content. It won’t work in the design tab.

  8. Hit the save button and you’re off!

Let’s wrap it up

In case you’ve wondered how the pro bloggers do it, now you know. It’s not that difficult, but no one tells you how to do it. Funny, isn’t it?

Let’s face it—getting your email campaign off the ground can be tricky. I remember when I first started doing this stuff, I had so many questions and I couldn’t talk to anyone (for free).

But today, it’s different. If you have any questions, I’ll answer them in comments. Let’s get started!

Martyn Chamberlin is a full-time web guy who blogs about the importance of web design and builds web sites that enhance great blogging. Learn what it takes to succeed online and join the growing number of passionate writers becoming better bloggers.

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Comments

  1. This is pretty nifty. I’m going to check my Mailchimp settings and make sure everything is set up right. Hopefully I’ll be able to sign up for AWebber soon since I’ve heard good things about it.

    • Martyn says:

      After using both extensively, I’ve got to say that AWeber is more enjoyable and gives better results. Time to switch!

  2. Cristi Pavel says:

    Is it ok to use mail-subscribing from mailchimp and feedburner (showing just the introduction to the post in order to make the subscriber read from your site) in the same time?

    I’ve looked a bit to the mailchimp offer, and there was a package called “forever free” with the limit of 2000 subscribers, not 500.

    • Gregory C. says:

      MailChimp has changed up it’s terms on the “forever free” plan, but I’m pretty sure that you are correct and it is 2000 subscribers. Although for everyone that hasn’t signed up for it yet, you can’t use the autoresponder service for free.

      In all honesty, I would do just as the post describes and send blog updates from MailChimp, they have an RSS option that will send out your posts automatically.

      Keep the Feedburner feed open for people that want to subscribe by Google Reader and the likes, but turn off the email subscription option, this will give readers only one option to get email updates: your MailChimp list, which is much more effective.

      Just my 2 cents.

    • Martyn says:

      Looks like I was wrong, Cristi. Gregory’s right – it’s free for the first 2,000 subscribers.

      And yes, you can show just an excerpt in your emails. That works too.

      • damn.. i wanted to jump on and say it’s 2,000 but folks have beaten me to it! perhaps try and get this updated, because I noticed this reading via my RSS subscription :-)

  3. Eddie Gear says:

    I use mailchimp. However I guess Aweber does not have the option to send our RSS.

    • Martyn says:

      Hey Eddie, you can use AWeber to send your RSS. The “If you’re using AWeber…” section explains how to do that.

  4. Haroun Kola says:

    Why do you need feedburner for the feed URL and not just the http://example.com/feed if you’re using WordPress. That’s what I do.

  5. ferdian says:

    Great tips, particularly about staff and motivating them. Happy employees will always make a better work environment for everyone!

  6. Himanshu says:

    will consider these email marketing tools. right now i am using the default feedburner

  7. Joe says:

    Nice post Martyn! What if we post on our blog once a week or so. Do you think I should manually send an email about each blog post for a better effect? Instead of it getting sent out automatically?

    • Martyn says:

      Joe, if you’re looking for the best results than yes, email manually. You’ll get better open and click rates.

      It’s definitely more work but often worth it.

  8. Great advice, thanks so much. Is there a way of cutting the feed so that only half of the post appears and you have to jump to the website to read the rest?

  9. P.s should say I want to show more than an excerpt, as in, I want the first pic and maybe the first two pars?

    • Martyn says:

      If you’re using Mailchimp, you can either use *|RSSITEM:CONTENT|* which strips out the image and formatting, or else you can send a non-RSS-driven, copy-and-paste campaign (it’s more time consuming but you’ll have more control).

      If you’re using AWeber, it’s easier: set up a blog broadcast that goes out manually, and delete the content before you hit send.

      Make sense?

  10. Very helpful post, Martyn. It would have taken be a long time to figure out how to get MailChimp sending my RSS content correctly without your showing me.

  11. Getting emails sent automatically is always the way to go. Who wants to send a manual email once per week? Not me

    For the person above who said you can’t, it is possible to send autorespnders with the free MailChimp version.

    • Martyn says:

      For the person above who said you can’t, it is possible to send autorespnders with the free MailChimp version.

      Thanks for clarifying that, Joseph! I’ve quit using MailChimp and I was wondering about that myself, heh.

  12. Harrison Li says:

    Loved your attractive title ahaa, oh and what happend to “This guest pst is by Martyn Chamberlin of Two Hour Blogger.“?

    I reckon sending manual updates is the way to go, but not the full version of the post, just a teaser of it like how Social Triggers does it.

    • Martyn says:

      Haha I guess the Problogger labs were a bit sleepy when they wrote that sentence.

      Careful with the excerpt idea. I’ve talked with Derek about it, and you’ll notice he doesn’t do it every time. I did a quick poll with my readers and they much prefer the full email. It saves a click for them.

  13. Jeff Goins says:

    Helpful, challenging stuff. You’re making me reconsider how I do my email delivery!

  14. hey brilliant post.. have you ever thought about building your list through mobile ads?

  15. Atish says:

    This type of email marketing tip is helpful for me as well as all the newbies like me. thanks Sir.

  16. I have thought about putting an email subscription on my blog, but then I wondered if it is really beneficial to me since readers have no incentive to actually visit my blog if they get the full post in their email. Wouldn’t it result in reducing blog traffic?

    • Martyn says:

      Full content reduces traffic, no doubt about it.

      But it turns out, readers prefer the full content in their emails. It’s one click less for them.

      I like to please my readers. It’s about the journey – the tribe. Who cares about blog traffic? Changing the world is way cooler. :D

  17. This is interesting. I’ve always assumed that it’s best to send an excerpt so that the reader has to visit your site, thereby boosting your traffic. Sometimes, we get so caught up in getting the results we want that we forget about what our readers want. I’ll be making this change shortly.

  18. Lauren says:

    Ok, I’m about to sound dense for a moment. What if your readers don’t know the difference or benefits of using feedburner as opposed to Aweber or Mailchimp? Is this something beneficial to them? I just want to honestly know how my traffic will be affected if I switched to a service like Aweber.

    • Martyn says:

      Lauren, your readers will scarcely know the difference. Of course, they’ll notice:

      The emails look nicer
      The system is more reliable
      They get their eBook immediately, instead of patiently waiting

      But that’s all they’ll know. ;)

      • Lauren says:

        Thanks Martyn. I toyed with the idea of using Aweber a few months ago, but since I’m not trying to sell a product, I didn’t know if it was worth it. Although, the website itself is a product, so I guess I’m starting to the see the light in this area.

        • Martyn says:

          It’s only $19/mo, which is nothing in the context of traditional business. Can you imagine how much they paid for direct response marketing back in Ogilvy’s day?

          To me it’s totally worth it.

  19. Dan King says:

    This is all great stuff! I’ve been reconsidering how I do email, and this really helps me get my strategy in the right place. Right now I’m using just Feedburner, but will set up one of the other accounts right away.

    The one question I have is regarding moving the current Feedburner email subscribers over to one of the other platforms. I know technically how to do it, but is there any protocol I should be aware of as it relates to subscribing people automatically to the new list (and unsubscribing them from the old)?

  20. Amy Warden says:

    I use MailChimp to send newsletters to my Preferred Customers. I doubt they will appreciate getting my blog posts in addition to the newsletters, however. Do I set up a separate list and sign-up form just for blog readers?

    • Martyn says:

      That’s how Darren does it here at Problogger. If you’re certain your list won’t appreciate both types of content, then you’ll probably need to create a new list.

  21. rakesh kumar says:

    I am little bit doubtful how a new blogger can gain successful these tools when he/she does not have a lots of subscriber list. I think unless until you have a long list of subscriber it is better to use feedburner.

    • Martyn says:

      If your budget is the concern, use MailChimp. It’s free (for the first two thousand subscribers).

      Even if you only have 20 emails on your list, you’ll get better results than Feedburner. There’s a lot more flexibility and analytics at your finger tips, and you can adjust accordingly.

      It’s all about optimizing your online endeavors, Rakesh. ;)

  22. Thanks for the run down Martyn, I’m about to launch my new website and will be choosing between Aweber or Mail Chimp, I always seem to hear Aweber is preferred but is there any specific reason why it would be?

    Thanks,
    Jamie

    • Martyn says:

      Jamie, AWeber is just … better. Here’s stuff AWeber does that Mailchimp doesn’t:

      AWeber shows you email addresses of people who’ve received the confirmation email but haven’t clicked the link
      AWeber emails come from the same email address each time, which means readers can add the address to their “safe sender” list
      AWeber allows you to send broadcasts out as soon as published – not limited to a 24 hour cycle
      AWeber allows you to custom the email more

      Plus, AWeber just has a better, more professional user interface.

  23. Mr. Frugal says:

    Very helpful. Thanks for explaining this.

    I definitely prefer to subscribe via email. I use Google Reader, but there’s little urgency to check it. Email is right in my face so I always read if I’m interested in the topic.

  24. Great post. Question though. My email subscribers signed up for my newsletter, not necessarily my blog. If I start doing this, wouldn’t it be spam. I blog five days a week. If I send out a newsletter too, won’t their inboxes be too packed?

  25. Great post. Question though. My email subscribers signed up for my newsletter, not necessarily my blog. If I start doing this, wouldn’t it be spam. I blog five days a week. If I send out a newsletter too, won’t their inboxes be too packed?

  26. Joyce says:

    Just curious… (and kinda thinking aloud); does anyone have experience using this technique with Infusionsoft?

  27. Caleb says:

    So all this time I thought my subscribers were getting my blog broadasts, but they wereNOT bcause I didn’t have it set on SOURCE..

    Iin the words of Homer Simpson, Doh!!

    Now all I need to figure is how to get the video in my posts to dislay in my broadcasts..

  28. WOW this post is GREAT. Thanks so much.
    I have already done all you have said above with Mail Chimp but I have one question: what do I now do with Feed Burner? How do I stop the feed going to all the people in the FB list or does MC just take over? I gues what i am trying to say is will my subscribers get 2 mails now?
    Thanks

    • Martyn says:

      You have to manually pause your Feedburner email campagin. Otherwise, they will get two emails. ;)

  29. Alli says:

    Still confused…… I set up the mailchimp blog alert today and that works (yay) But I don’t know how to set up the subscribe to MC from my blog. At the moment there is a plugin on the blog with rss and subscribe options. Still really new at this…..

  30. I have a food blog and use Mail Chimp. I’m very happy with the service but I’m wondering how often to send RSS updates. I post almost daily and feel that sending daily emails may be a bit much for my subscribers. How do other people feel about this?

  31. buy flexeril says:

    Thank you for this information! I used it for my diploma thesis =)

  32. John Rowley says:

    I really appreciate all the information you share on a regular basis.
    I am using Aweber and I followed your directions to a T but I must be doing something wrong.
    When I hit preview, this is what I see:
    {!rss_itemblock}

    {!rss_item_title}
    {!rss_item_content}
    Click here to leave a comment.
    {!rss_itemblockend}

    I am afraid to save and have that go out to everyone. :-)

    Also should we use the scheduler in Aweber or does the html we pasted in schedule it on a regular basis.

    Thanks for your help!!

    John