Why We Moved to MailChimp

Bjork

by Bjork on May 21, 2014 in Growing Your Food Blog

Bjork's To Do List

This to-do item was on my list for about a year:

Move Pinch of Yum RSS Email off of Feedburner.

It was one of those to-do items that becomes nearly invisible. Kind of like that stray box in the basement that still isn’t unpacked five years after moving. You know it’s there, you think of taking care of it when you see it, but somehow it never gets done.

In April I decided to (finally) dedicate some time and take care of this before it moved into the “forever forgotten” area on my list. I’m happy to report that I can now cross “Move Pinch of Yum RSS Email off of Feedburner” off of my to-do list.

I wanted to report back to the Food Blogger Pro readers about the process in case you had a similar to-do on your list. I’ll explain RSS email subscriptions, talk about the issues I had with Feedburner, share how we made the move to MailChimp, and (most importantly) share some ideas around utilizing an RSS email list to help you build a thriving and profitable blog.

If you’d like to sign up for MailChimp you can use the FBP affiliate link here. We won’t use an affiliate link in any other places in order to keep this post nice and clean. smile

RSS Email List vs. Autoresponder Email List

There are two primary types of email lists:

  1. RSS Email List
  2. Autoresponder/Broadcast Email List

RSS stands for Rich Site Summary (some people call it Really Simple Syndication). RSS is a way of formatting content (like a blog) so it can be easily distributed in other places. You can click here to see what the Food Blogger Pro blog RSS feed looks like in it’s raw form.

Here’s what happens when someone signs up for an RSS email list (we’ll use MailChimp as the email marketing service provider in our examples):

  1. The visitor enters their email address in a sign up form on your blog.
  2. That email address is saved into an email list with MailChimp.
  3. MailChimp “watches” your RSS feed. When you publish a new post MailChimp sees that new post and sends it in an email to your subscribers.

Here’s what happens when someone signs up for an autoresponder/broadcast email list (the big difference is in step 3):

 

  1. The visitor enters their email address in a sign up form on your blog.
  2. That email address is saved into an email list with MailChimp.
  3. After signing up the subscriber is started on your autoresponder series. They are sent pre-written emails on a pre-set schedule. You need to write and schedule these autoresponder emails ahead of time.
  4. Whenever you’d like you can send out a broadcast email to these subscribers. A broadcast email isn’t taken from your blog’s RSS feed or the autoresponder series. It’s composed within MailChimp (or your email marketing service) and sent out to your list right away.

 

The Problem with Feedburner

Feedburner is owned by Google. Some might think this is a good thing, but Google has been known to quickly and unexpectedly abandon their services. This has been the case with Feedburner.

It’s a virtual ghost town.

They’ve stopped using the Twitter account, they’ve closed out the API, and they’ve canceled once popular features like AdSense for Feeds. I’m not saying that Feedburner is going to completely disappear, but it’s certainly not going to be improved upon.

Does Feedburner still work? You bet.

Are there helpful customer service agents and new features being added on a consistent basis? Far from it.

The other issue with Feedburner is that it can only act as an RSS email service. There isn’t a way that you can use autoresponder or broadcast emails to communicate with your email list.

In essence, the problem with Feedburner is that it’s been abandoned by Google and it doesn’t have the ability to create an autoresponder or broadcast email.

Why MailChimp?

The primary reason we decided to use MailChimp was because it came highly recommended by some blogger friends that I really respect. I was also interested in comparing it to the other services that I’ve used or currently use (including AWeber, Campaign Monitor, and iContact).

Huge thumbs up so far. The user interface and customer service = awesome.

While the customer service and interface are nice, the primary win in switching to MailChimp is that we’ll be able integrate autoresponder and broadcast elements into our RSS email list. This makes it more of a hybrid email list, as it’ll primarily be an RSS email list, but it’ll also have a few non-RSS emails that will go out to subscribers.

I’ll be talking more about this at the end of the post.

The Process - Feedburner to MailChimp

There were two main steps we had to take in order to move the RSS email list to MailChimp. The first step was transitioning the list. The second step was setting up the RSS subscription. Both steps were fairly simple, but they did take a little bit of time to complete (it took me about 2 hours total).

1. Transitioning the list

If you’ve never setup an RSS email list before then you can skip this step and just create a brand new list.

If you’re looking to transition your list from one email marketing service (like Feedburner) to another then this step is for you. I used the MailChimp post titled Moving Your Subscriber List From FeedBurner to MailChimp

After following the steps in that tutorial you should see your new list in MailChimp:

MailChimp Lists

2. Setting up the RSS subscription

After importing your list you’ll need to create an RSS campaign.

Note: In this step you’ll need your blog’s RSS URL. If your blog is on WordPress then you can easily find your RSS URL by going to yourblogname.com/feed.

I followed the steps in the How can I create an RSS-Driven Campaign? post on MailChimp to setup our RSS campaign.

In the setup process you’ll need to customize your template. Here’s a screenshot of the template we’re currently using for Pinch of Yum:

Pinch of Yum MailChimp Email Template

Why Full Feed?

If you subscribe to the Pinch of Yum RSS email list then you’ll notice that we send out the complete post without forcing people to click a “read more” link.

We send the RSS email like this for a couple reasons:

  1. It’s a better experience for the subscriber.
  2. It has the potential to create more income for your blog (not less like most people think).

The first one is self explanatory, but the second one isn’t. Here are my thoughts with #2:

  1. More people will open your emails if you send out the full post.
  2. If you effectively use affiliate marketing in your posts (and mention your own products if you have them) then RSS subscribers will be exposed to those links and will be more likely to purchase those products.

Everyone wins. smile

Autoresponders and Broadcasts Emails in an RSS Email List

So what’s the benefit of autoresponders and broadcast emails with an email list?

Two things:

 

  1. Repurposing existing content.
  2. Building trust and connection.

 

1. Repurposing existing content

When someone comes to Pinch of Yum for the first time they view an average of 1.5 pages. That means there are 579 other pages that they haven’t seen. If that person signs up for the email list then it’s highly likely that they’ll also enjoy the other posts on the blog.

That’s why we’ve created an autoresponder email that highlights fan favorite recipes on Pinch of Yum. This email goes out 10 days after the subscriber has signed up for the list. It’s beneficial to the subscriber as it helps them find the posts that readers have loved the most, and it’s beneficial to us because it brings people back to the blog.

2. Building trust and connection

Although we purchase things with money, the most important currency online is trust. Without it you’ll go broke.

Including some genuine, authentic, and helpful autoresponders in an email list will help you establish trust with your readers. For instance, you could setup an autoresponder that explains to subscribers what they can expect from you now that they’ve signed up for your email list.

Another good example of building trust is creating an autoresponder email that goes out after a certain amount of time that offers the subscriber something for free. If you’re a food blogger this free product could be a meal planning guide, a printable list of your favorite recipes, a guide for how you keep a clean kitchen, or 1,000 other ideas that I don’t have space to list here. smile

Key Takeaways and Final Thoughts

  1. Your email list is important. Be sure to give it the time it deserves.
  2. Build your list with an email marketing service that you pay for. This ensures continued improvements and customer service to help troubleshoot problems.
  3. Use your email list to establish trust and connection with your subscribers.

How about you? How do you use your email list to grow for food blog? I'd love to hear your thoughts!


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