Mailchimp: A Beginner’s Guide for Bloggers Pt1

MailChimp For Beginner Bloggers Part One

Email marketing is daunting for several reasons; you are putting yourself out there, direct to your followers and into their sacred email boxes.

However, the other reason, which I want to talk about today, is…. how to send out your marketing campaigns. The back end; the technical bit that many of us slightly dread.

I know when I first signed up with Mailchimp I had a good idea about exactly what I wanted to do with my emails. I had signed up to a number of blog subscriptions in the past and I knew that I wanted my newsletters to work the same way.

ie when someone signed up for my list I wanted a welcome email to go straight out to them.

So simple, right? However, when I came to put these plans into action I realized that I had no idea how to actually do this.

  1. How do I create a signup sheet?
  2. How do I automatically send a welcome email out?
  3. How to I send out free downloads?

These were but a few questions that I had to work out. If you are starting an email list and have any of these questions then welcome, this blog series is for you!

In today’s post I am going to talk through:

  • Setting Up Your MailChimp Account
  • Compliance With Anti-Spam Legislation
  • How To Create a Subscriber List
  • How To Create a Sign-Up Form and
  • How To Add a Your Free Download to Giveaway

Now I warn you guys, this is a bit epic. I wanted to provide you with step by step instructions on exactly how you set this up, so I highly suggest an appropriate amount of caffeine before you start!

OK, you’ve had your health warning let’s begin.

How to send a newsletter; how to use Mailchimp for beginners

Why MailChimp?

Before we get into it, a brief note on MailChimp. This post is really about getting into the nitty gritty of setting up emails, so I’m not going to go in to too much detail on the comparative merits of email providers here. Suffice to say that if you are reading this then you are well aware of the incredible importance of your email list.

That being the case you know that you need something ultra reliable. This is something that MailChimp or Aweber can do you for. If you have been using free email newsletters with WordPress or using a Feedburner plugin not only is it likely your emails aren’t great works of art (entirely not your fault) but also you may be running into issues with SPAM and low delivery rates among other things.

If you Google around you will find many studies that indicate using a third-party mailing service will help increase your delivery rate for your emails. Plus, once they are there, MailChimp will let you create some really wonderful templates so that your emails look super pretty.

Of course, the main draw back is the cost. The more complex functions like AB testing will involve a monthly subscription.

However, the functions that I am about to show you today come within MailChimp’s free services, which remain free up to 2000 subscribers.

Update: MailChimp has recently announced that automation will now be included in it’s free plan. This is very exciting news at automation is a feature that many bloggers and small businesses rely on heavily. 

So, without further ado, let’s get you signed up.

Sign Up

Let us start from the very beginning. Signing up to MailChimp.

Hop on over to MailChimp and click the encouraging orange button that tells you to sign up. You will be taken to the screen below and asked to enter your initial details. This is pretty straight forward, except for the fact that MailChimp has that annoying requirement of having a password with a ‘special character’.

Welcome To MailChimp. How to set up your mailchimp from start to finish


After you have entered your details and clicked activate, MailChimp will direct you to check your emails. This is pretty instantaneous so go check your email box for the email from MailChimp. It will have a big, unmissable ‘Activation’ button for you to click to get your account up and running.

MailChimp will take you to a page and check you are not a robot. How discriminatory of them! This is the end of the line for you my robotic friends, sorry.

Get Started with MailChimp. Setting up your account.OK so this is where you get properly started setting up your account. Firstly just enter your details, first and last name. MailChimp will also want to know more about your organization to ‘improve’ your experience.

Further down the page comes the really important stuff. MailChimp will want the address of your organization in order to comply with spam laws.

This is super crucial so I’m just going to take a moment to walk you through what these spam laws mean for you. The main reason you should be concerned with the CAN-SPAM Act is that you can be potentially fined up to $16, 000 per email for violations.

I don’t say this to scare you but just so you appreciate that they really mean business with this thing, so it is best to err on the side of caution when applying. Even if you are just sending out a email promoting your blog, it still counts as a ‘commerce’ email if it:

“advertises or promotes a commercial product or service, including content on a website operated for a commercial purpose.”

I seriously recommend giving the compliance guide a read but I’ve summarized a few of the most relevant points for you below:

  • Where relevant disclose your email as an advert.
  • All your emails must include an unsubscribe option. Further to that, once a reader unsubscribes, no more emails are allowed to them. One of the great things about MailChimp is that it will automatically include an unsubscribe option in your template, so you don’t have to think about including it. Also, when someone unsubscribes MailChimp will remove them from your list so you don’t have to think about them again.
  • No misleading information in your subject line or your name. Now I’m sure none of you are thinking of doing this but just be aware.
  • You must get the permission of the person in order to add them to your mailing list. I’m sure this is super obvious to you, and good practice in any case, but it does sometimes happen. For example, if you get given a business card at a blog event, you might think it’s OK to add that person to your list. However, if someone gives you a business card, it doesn’t necessarily mean they want to become a subscriber. If nothing else, it is just good manners to check!
  • And finally, the reason why I have included this CAN-SPAM information at this particular juncture, is that you must include your location by a physical address in your emails. I say this because as you come to the screen above it is tempting to put a ‘not-so-truthful’ address in. I mean, who wants to disclose their address to the internet? Totally fair point.

When to add your address to MailChimp and comply with anti-spam lawsIf you don’t have a business address and you are working from home then I seriously recommend getting a PO Box address. They usually are only a few pounds/ dollars a month and are a seriously good investment for your blog.

The good news is that MailChimp is set up to make sure it is super difficult to violate any of these spam laws when sending emails from their client. It will frequently point out, recommend and sometimes automatically work to make sure everything is compliant.

The moral of the story is don’t stress but just keep an eye on things.

Moving on…

MailChimp will also want your industry for analytical reasons. When you start sending emails it will compare how well they are doing to other, similar campaigns in your industry.

In order to help complete your email templates MailChimp will also want you to plug in your website URL. Don’t worry if you are still working on setting up your website, MailChimp will also accept a social media profile, such as Twitter or Facebook.

If you don’t have either of these, then you should at least get on and reserve your blog or business name on one social media site anyway.

Next just pop in your timezone and a profile pic. You can opt in to MailChimp emails as well if you want, they do send some useful stuff so it might be worth doing. You can always unsubscribe later.

Next MailChimp will bring you through to your Dashboard! When you first come to this screen MailChimp will point out your account button and search bar before leaving you to it.

SO where do we begin?

How To Create a List

The first thing you will want to do is to create a list to add your subscribers to.  The second option, helpfully entitled, ‘Create a list’ is where you want to go. Getting Started With MailChimp How To Create a ListThis will take you to a screen where all your lists will be shown. For now, of course, it is blank. At the top right on the page will be the ‘create list’ button, click it.

The next screen will bring up more forms to fill in. The first one will ask you to name the list. Keep in mind that your subscribers will be able to see the name of this list, so name it something appropriate. I know the ‘The Blog’s Newsletter’ is tempting to start with, but try to name it something enticing so people will be excited to be included on it. Club, community, collective are all fun, inclusive c words that you might like to try. If your newsletter has a particular theme, then this would be a great way to name it; The Daily Inspiration, Publishing News etc.

How to create an emailing list in MailChimpNext is your default ‘from’ email. This is the email that your subscribers can see and reply to, so if you have a business email then this is the place to put it.

As with any email, the sender’s name will pop up in your subscriber’s email box. So for default ‘from’ name you will want to put something your subscribers will recognize.  Personally, I think it’s a good idea to put your name and your blog or business.

I think it is important to include your name because it makes it more personal and less like spamming emails from big companies. However, I think it is a good idea to mention your blog name as well to help people realize who it is from. For example, I often receive emails from blogs I’ve subscribed to, with just the person’s name in the ‘from’ column and have no idea what blog it relates to. Which makes me less likely to open it.

However, that is just my personal preference. As with all things marketing related it is best to run tests where you use different variables of the ‘from’ name to find out which one works best.

Lastly, you will want to remind people how they signed up to your list. This will appear in small-ish writing at the bottom of your email. If they signed up for a particular freebie or course to join your list you might mention that to jog people’s memories.

After this just check the box for how often you want MailChimp to keep in touch about your list and click save.

You will be taken through to a blank, but hopefully not for long, subscriber page.

So, how do we get some names on this page?

Creating A Sign Up Form

There are two ways to navigate to the ‘Forms’ section of MailChimp.

First, if you have been following along and have just created your first list then the screen you will be taken to will look like this.

MailChimp how to set up a sign up form for your list

As you can see there are two links to the signup forms on this screen. As you have no names on the list MailChimp will encourage you to create a sign up form. Alternatively, if you click on a list and If you have a few names already, you can still get to the sign up list form by clicking the ‘Signup forms’ button in the options above.

Alternatively, if have have an existing list, you can go straight to the ‘create sign up form’ section from the main menu by selecting the ‘List’ option from the menu at the top of the page, as indicated below.

MailChimp how to set up a sign up form for your list

Once you are back in your ‘Lists’ section you can find the option to create ‘sign up forms’ MailChimp how to navigate to create a listby clicking the downward arrow next to the list you want to create the form for, as shown above.

From the drop down menu you can select the second option (as shown on the left), Signup forms, which will take you straight to the signup form screen.

Once you have clicked Signup Forms you will be taken to the screen which displays all of the different categories of form that are available in MailChimp.

We will be covering the embedded forms, popup forms and integration methods in next week’s lesson. To begin with you should start with the option ‘General Forms’.



General Forms

How to create a sign up form in mailchimp

The first option on the page is ‘General Forms’ and if you are just starting out with MailChimp then this is a good place to start. Here are the forms that you will use over and over again.

The most important of which are your initial signup form, ‘thank you’ page and final welcome email. We will go into detail on each of these forms in a moment.

First of all, we start with creating your signup form.

When you click on ‘General forms’ button you will be taken to the screen below and signup form will already be selected in the drop down box for you.

How to create a signup form

Below the drop down box you have the option to let your subscribers pick plan text or HTML.

Whether you include this is totally up to you. However when your subscribers click to sign up it is an extra box they will have to click. When presenting your signup form I would recommend including as few boxes to tick and fill in as possible, in order to ensure that people will follow through with signing up.

Below that you will see a box with  ‘signup form URL’. This is important as this is the link you will need to give your subscribers to take them to your signup sheet. We will talk about that in a moment, first you need to design your form.

So, at the bottom of screen you will see the standard sign up sheet of MailChimp. You can use it as is but that would be very boring and it doesn’t really present a lot of encouragement to your potential subscribers to actually sign up.

The first option which is automatically selected is: Build

MailChimp Tutorial. How to design a sign up form.

In this section you can add the information boxes to your list, depending on what information you want to collect. MailChimp gives you a huge amount of choice here, from date of birth to website address. While this may come in handy in other areas, when it comes to your signup list you want to keep it as straight forward as possible.

Most bloggers agree that even including the ‘last name’ box can decrease the number of conversions. Some would recommend only asking for an email address and forgetting the name altogether. Again, this is something you can test when you start to get subscribers coming in.

For now I recommend that you get rid of the last name option and stick to gathering email address and maybe the first name.

In the box at the top MailChimp will encourage you to add a message. Insert a little note to reassure your subscribers about what they will be receiving when they sign up. Just a line or two should be fine.

Now the fun part: Design It

The next option along from building your form is designing and there are quite a lot of different options here.

Let’s start with Page. You get three customization options on the page.

Background: You can change the style of your background, that’s the area in grey below.

Header: The title you used to name your list. In this example it is: Author News.

Outer Wrapper: The outer wrapper is the box that surrounds your header title. If you want to highlight your title then you can change the colour of it’s background. However, you can also leave it with ‘none’ if you want the background the same colour as the rest of the form, we’ve left ours on ‘none’ in the example.

Additionally, if you hover your cursor over your ‘header’ a little option will appear for you to edit, remove or insert image.

How to design forms in MailChimp

If you want to really brand your form I recommend using an image in your header. For example your logo or your blog name in your branded colours.

Here’s what ours looks like:

Creative and Coffee's Signup Form

Body Options

Within the body of the form you get the option to change the following:

MailChimp font altering sign up formThe foreground: This is the background colour of your box, which is white in the examples above.

Default text: This is where you can alter the setting for the text in your signup form. The options are pretty straight forward and allow you to change line height, font family, size and colour. Padding indicates the amount of room around the text that you want.

Link Style: The colour you want your links to appear. Links are commonly blue but you can change this to whatever colour your like, just make sure it appears clearly on the page.

Finally, the last option is Forms and you can change the following:

Buttons: The colour of your buttons. Shocking I know. As you can see we have changed our button to green in the example above.

Buttons Hovered: This is the colour the buttons will go when someone places their cursor over the button. Make sure that the text on the button is still visible.

Field Labels: You can alter the colour, font etc of the type for your field labels. These are the titles for your field boxes such as ‘Last Name’ and ‘Email Address’

Field Text: You can alter the text and size etc of the fonts that appear inside the boxes. ie the person’s details that they enter.

Required: If you have made any fields a required field then this will change the colour of the little star that will appear next to that field. I recommend keeping a bright, standard colour like red or orange.

Required Legend: These are the instructions that will appear along with your required field, ie you must insert your email address. You can choose to hide the instructions with this option.

Help Text: Change the colour of the help text that displays when a subscriber clicks on a field (ie put your email in here)

Errors: Change the colour and style of the error text. ie you have entered an invalid email

Aaaaaand you are done!

Once you have your form looking the way you want it, you will probably look around for a save button for ages. Don’t worry I did that too, there isn’t one.

MailChimp updates your changes as you make them.

So how do you share your beautiful creation with the world? Do you remember that URL that we said we’d come back to?

URL to share your sign up form

This is the link that you can use to direct people to your signup form.

So if you were to write in your blog post:

click here to sign up.

You would code something like this:

Click <a href=””>here</a href>

Now, you probably want to be a little bit fancier than that. We really want to entice people to sign up to our mailing list so we can get all our fabulous posts out to them.

And what could be more enticing than a big button. Absolutely nothing…probably.

To create your button you can code one from scratch, but that’s a bit boring when you can just use the shortcodes plugin to create one on WordPress.

So, if you are using short codes for your button, your code would look something like this:

su_button url=”” style=”flat” background=”#081c3d” size=”8″] Sign Up[/su_button

In practice you would have the code surrounded by [ ] brackets but I’ve taken them off in this example so WordPress doesn’t turn it into an actual button!

And your button would look a little something like this:

[su_button url=”” style=”flat” background=”#93c7c0″ size=”11″ wide=”yes” center=”yes” radius=”0″] JOIN THE IDEA DISLTERY COURSE[/su_button]


or, alternately you could create an image in Photoshop or Picmonkey and insert your URL that way.

The Story of Creative and CoffeeSo for example, by clicking on our image of the Creative and Coffee story you will be taken to our sign up form.

If you are inserting it into a WordPress post, simply click > Add Media to insert your picture, click on the image and select the pencil ‘edit’ icon.

Under the title ‘display settings’ you can the select ‘Custom URL’ from the drop down box. Then just copy and paste your sign up sheet URL into the box.

Alternatively, if you want to have the image in your sidebar you can you use the HTML widget to insert the image


<a href=“”>

<img src=“signup.gif” alt=“HTML tutorial” style=“width:42px;height:42px;border:0;”>


The first line is your link URL. The second line is your image, ‘img src’ indicates the file name of the image you want to use, ‘alt’ is the name you want to call it and then ‘style’ is for imputing the size of your image.

And there you have it, a shiny new link to your beautiful signup form!

Now as I mentioned above, there are a couple other forms you can create in general forms. You can design them in the same way as we have done above so I’m just going to run quickly through the ones you are mostly likely to want to use and what they are for.

You can access them from the drop down box beneath ‘Forms and response emails’

Forms selection for MailChimp

SignUp Thank You Page

This is the page that your subscribers will be taken to once they have signed up. This is the default form that MailChimp will conjure up for them (minus the purple, the standard is white):

The Subscribers Thank You Page In MailChimp

This is pretty boring in terms of content but there are a few things I would like to recommend at this juncture.

First, you might notice that under the ‘Built it’ option is a box with the caption ‘Instead of showing this thank you page, send you subscribers to another URL’. This does what it says on the tin really. After signing up to your list you can opt to take your readers to another page, instead of this little thank you box.

What I would recommend is taking advantage of this and directing your subscribers to a landing page. Specifically, a landing page that thanks them for signing up and then encourages them to share your site on social media. For example, if they have joined you to download a copy of your new eBook, ask them to share the fact they have just downloaded your eBook.

You can make this effortless for your reader by adding a ‘click to tweet‘ button with a pre written tweet.

This Guide To MailChimp is a total lifesaver! Share it on Twitter 😉Click To Tweet

Anyway, if you have got something like Leadpages then creating this sort of landing page is super easy. However, if you have Squarespace or WordPress then you can create your own landing page yourself as well.

Opt-In Confirmation Email

Once your subscriber has entered their details MailChimp will send them out this form, for them to confirm that they do actually want to be subscribed to your list. We’ve all had them and chances are the recipient will barely glance at this email before hitting ‘yes’. If they have Gmail, they actually have the option of agreeing to the subscription without even opening the email.

MailChimp Tutorial

So really nothing much is required here but making it a bit prettier and adding your branding so your reader knows who the email is from.

Final “Welcome Email”

Final Welcome Email
Again, exceptionally boring.

This is the email that is sent out after your reader has confirmed their subscription.

However, if you have offered downloadable content then this is the perfect email to give up the goods.

So how do you add a link to downloadable content into your email?

Come this way friends….

Adding a Downloadable Freebie to Your Emails

Hover over your text and click ‘edit’ as it appears. You will be taken to edit your writing.

How to create a free download with MailChimp

Type whatever message you would like to welcome your subscribers to the list and direct them to download your giveaway.

In this example we are using our eBook ‘5 Ways to Grow Your Blog’ as the free giveaway.

How to create a free download with MailChimp

Within your text, select the phrase that you want to become the link. Make it nice and bold so it’s easy for your readers to find and click to download. We’ve just used DOWNLOAD in this example, but you want might want to insert an image to use as a button if you want to add the extra level of professionalism.

Once you’ve selected your image or text, select the link button as shown above and click it.

This will bring up the following screen, which will ask you what you want to link to. Now, if you find it easy to organize your files by having them all in, say, your Dropbox you can choose to link to a web address and direct readers to your drop box file.  Equally, if you have your file saved in your WordPress library you can link to that URL as well.

How to create a free download with MailChimp

Alternatively you can select ‘File’ and you will be taken to MailChimp’s own file management system.

As you can see from the picture below this is where any images you have uploaded will be displayed. To add your free download file simply click the upload button on the top right.

How to create a free download with MailChimpYou can either drag and drop the file straight into MailChimp or select it from your computer files.

How to create a free download with MailChimp

Once it has downloaded simply click insert and your link will be created. Done!


You have just set up your first list, created your first sign up form and let your subscribers download a free gift to thank them for becoming members.

That’s pretty damn exciting! Well done for making it this far!

I figured that you guys could probably use a rest before carrying on, as well as having a play around and becoming more familiar with the MailChimp platform. I know it can seem like a bit of an illogical set-up when you first start but it becomes a lot easier the more you use it!

Anyway many of you are thinking, well this is well and good but after today’s tutorial I know how to set up a welcome email but I don’t have any subscribers to send it to! Don’t worry friends, this is what we will be covering in part 2!

Here’s a little look at the agenda:

  • How to embed a MailChimp SignUp form straight into your website
  • How to set up a Campaign (ie create and send emails)
  • How to use MailChimp with your RSS feed
  • + lots more!

When you are ready to move on to part two, just click here and continue on your MailChimp journey!

I hope you guys found this useful, if you have questions feel free to drop them below or send me an email!

If you loved the series as much as I enjoyed writing it, I’d be totally thrilled if you would share it with your friends! 

How to send a newsletter; how to use Mailchimp for beginners