Why We Moved to MailChimp

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. 🙂

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. 🙂

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. 🙂

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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16 Comments

  1. I just went through the same process of moving RSS subscribers on my wife’s blog from Jetpack to Mailchimp.

    Do you keep this is a separate list from your main email newsletter list? If you do, won’t Mailchimp charge you twice for some names if they are on both lists?

    I tried to get around this by using a separate group within my main list but I couldn’t figure out how to do this without an annoying checkbox in the signup form. Mailchimp won’t allow you to generate separate signup form code for a group within a list.

    I LOVE the auto-responder idea for the RSS subscribers. Genius. I may also switch to a full post in the email instead of the excerpt. I have to think about that one more.

    Have you had anyone complain about the Mailchimp email ending up in junk or promotions when they didn’t have that problem with Feedburner?

    Thanks Bjork.

    1. Thanks Donnie.

      We don’t have a main email list for Pinch of Yum, and I run the Food Blogger Pro email list off of AWeber, so we haven’t run into that issue before.

      Yeah, we’ve had a handful of people ask about the emails and why they aren’t receiving them, but overall the transition has been really smooth. I’m not too concerned with people not receiving the emails because the open rate is pretty good, which lets me know that most people must be receiving the email in their inbox okay.

      1. I have in the past on my old frugal blog, with both building my Facebook page and e-mail subscribe list and both with great results. First, I only did a Facebook page “like” popup. I had a designer customize it so it matched the website, instead of just a generic Facebook popup. It would popup automatically, and you can have it set to only pop up so often. I believe I had mine set for 14 days per IP address. My Facebook page grew pretty quickly by just adding that. If they were already logged in Facebook, as most people are, they just press the “like” button and that’s it. Eventually, I switched to an e-mail subscribe pop up box and had really good results with that as well. I never did both at once though. I’d like to try that in the future though; a Facebook pop up when a visitor first visits the website, and an exit pop up for e-mail subscribing. There is a WP plugin, I believe it is Optin Monster, where you can have it set for double opt in to happen during the pop up instead of having to go to the e-mail and clicking “subscribe now.” I’ve read great results on that plugin and e-mail opt in rates because of the double opt in feature alone.

        1. Nice!

          The hardest thing for me is knowing that popups really turn a lot of people off, but on the other hand I know that they work. I wish there was a way to find out how many people don’t come back because of popups. I’m guessing in actually it’s not that many, but it would be nice to know for sure. 🙂

          1. That’s true. Personally, I haven’t avoided websites that have popups unless they pop up every single time I am on that website. Typically it’s those ones that are overly spammy.

            I have read in the past that you can set up a Facebook App where when someone “likes” your Facebook page, they are then offered a chance to subscribe by e-mail while still being logged in on Facebook. If I remember correctly, there was even an option where if you had a contest going on, the “like” would count and it would open the contest page. I can’t recall what it was called, but I thought that was an interesting concept as well.

  2. I just switched over last week and trying to a handle on it. Thanks for the post – it is very encouraging!

  3. This was so very helpful! I just moved my RSS list to mailchimp and had one more question for you. By moving the list to mailchimp, will my already subscribers from feedburner now get 2 emails every time I update on my blog? One from feedburner and one from mailchimp. Do I have to shut down feedburner to avoid this and wouldn’t this shut down all RSS feed options? Or does mailchimp cancel out the generic feedburner updates? Your response would be very helpful! Thank you!

    1. Great question Cami. Yes – you’ll need to close out your feedburner list so your readers don’t get two emails each day.

  4. If you use a recipe plugin like EasyRecipe or YumPrint, is there a way to incorporate the pre-formatted recipe into your MailChimp emails?

  5. Hi Bjork! I’m commenting on an old post here, but I have a question about using mailchimp. I am just organizing it all right now, and I noticed you have to provide your address and they say it sends out with each post. I’m not super comfortable providing my home address to a bunch of subscribers, do you know if there is any way around this?