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Using MailChimp To Build An Email List

Avatar for John Locke

John Locke is a SEO consultant from Sacramento, CA. He helps manufacturing businesses rank higher through his web agency, Lockedown SEO.

In yesterday’s post, we went over why it is important to start building your email list. We talked about how email converts better than search and social media, and is a marketing platform that is nearly ubiquitous.

Today, we’ll go over how to get started building that list for free with MailChimp.

Why MailChimp? There are other email list-building services out there — Aweber, Campaign Monitor, Constant Contact and Mad Mimi, just to name a few. But most of these charge you a monthly fee to start, even at the lowest levels. MailChimp allows you to send up to 12,000 emails to 2,000 subscribers before asking you to upgrade.

If you need to send more than 12,000 total email newsletters a month, you can upgrade to a paid plan. These let you send unlimited email newsletters, with pricing based on the number of subscribers you have.

There are numerous add-ons that come with paid plans, but the free plan is very robust, and getting started is the most important thing here.

Signing Up With MailChimp

Go to and sign up. You’ll be prompted for a username, email, and password. After you signup, you’ll receive a confirmation link via email.

MailChimp Login / Signup

After confirming your account, you’ll have a chance to fill out your profile information. The information about your company name and address will be included in email footers to comply with federal email regulations. A valid contact address must be included in any business email. Bricks and mortar businesses will have no problems with this. Home-based businesses wishing to retain their privacy may rent a mailbox from the post office or UPS Store and include that address instead.

The MailChimp Dashboard

From the dashboard you can create settings for a new list, and import existing emails from another list.

MailChimp Dashboard

Two fields to pay attention to are the Default From Email and Remind People How They Got On Your List. It looks more professional and trustworthy to send newsletters from an email address on your own domain. If you need help setting up an email account on your domain, ask for help from your web developer.

MailChimp Newsletter Settings

Reminding subscribers how they got on your list will deter them from subscribing. Many people sign up to receive emails, but then forget that they did. This message will be included at the bottom of your email newsletter.

Importing Existing Lists

If you have an existing list of email subscribers that you have collected from another web service, you can import them into your new MailChimp list. It is very important that you only import email addresses of people that have already opted in. If you add people from a list of scraped email addresses, you run the risk of being labelled a spammer and having your account flagged.

MailChimp Import Subscribers

Managing Subscribers

On the Subscribers screen, you can view, add, delete, or unsubscribe your list members. By clicking on a subscriber, you can see details like what Time Zone they signed up in, how they signed up, and how often they open your emails. The star rating for subscribers increases as they open more of your emails, signifying their level of interest.

Creating Signup Forms

Before creating a signup form, you’ll have to verify your email domain. This is to reduce spam by bot accounts. Under Settings > Campaign Defaults > Default “From” Email, click Verify Domain. You’ll see a pop-up modal that asks to send a confirmation code to the email address your newsletter will send from. Enter the verification code you receive on the popup and click Verify.

You can always access your signup forms in your account, by going to Lists > Signup Forms.

General Forms is where you can control the basic design of your automated emails. You will also see a Signup Form URL — a shortened URL which is your basic signup form. There are also quick links to share this signup URL on Facebook or Twitter.

MailChimp General Forms

Embedded Forms are the most common method of collecting email subscribers. Good places for embed codes are in a page sidebar, at the end of a blog post, in a top of the page call to action, or in a page footer.

Embed codes can be placed directly in a WordPress sidebar text widget, and styled with CSS.

MailChimp Embedded Form

The Subscriber popup form builder lets you design an embeddable form for your website. When you are done making changes, hit Publish, to get the embed code, click View Code.

MailChimp Subscriber Popup

Create A Campaign

Campaigns are the newsletters that you send to your list. There are four basic types to choose from: Regular, Plain Text, A/B Testing, and RSS Feed.

A regular campaign sends both a HTML and plain-text version of your campaign. To run a Regular Campaign, you’ll need to select a Template. If this sounds complicated, don’t worry. There are pre-set templates in a variety of styles, as well as drag and drop templates. You also have the option to code your own template and upload it. (This is more common for larger businesses, smaller businesses — not so much).

Regular Templates MailChimp

Plain text campaigns are just like regular campaigns, just minus the HTML version. (Just words, no images).

If you publish on your blog regularly, and RSS feed campaign might be a good way to go. This simply sends your list your posts at a set time the day after you publish them. This is what I send out 98% of the time.

A/B campaigns allow you to test variables like different headlines or time of day to test effectiveness. These work best when you have a large list to test against. If you’re just starting to build an email list, this option isn’t something you need to worry about just yet.

Incentives For Email Signups

You can simply ask people to sign up for your email newsletter, but you’ll get more signups if you offer something valuable in return. Offers like free PDFs, white papers, or e-books are great incentives for people to sign up.

There are two ways you can send new subscribers a file such as a PDF. The first is to go to Lists > Signup Forms > General Forms, and select Forms and Response Emails > Final Welcome Email. Edit the email by adding text, highlighting it and add a link. Upload the file you want the link to point to. You can store up to 10GB of files on the MailChimp servers.

The second method is to upgrade to a paid account and set up an Automated Workflow. Automated workflows work similarly, but offer more flexibility. Automated workflows trigger by certain events, like when a user signs up to your newsletter. You can set up one email or a series of emails that send to any new subscribers. Paid plans start at $10 a month, and are based on how many subscribers are on your list.


There’s a lot that you can do with your email newsletter without spending a lot of money. It’s a great way to educate your customers, market to people interested in your product, and establish yourself as a leader in your industry.

More from this series:

Part One: Why You Need To Build An Email List — Today.

Part Three: Plugins That Integrate MailChimp With WordPress.

Avatar for John Locke

John Locke is a SEO consultant from Sacramento, CA. He helps manufacturing businesses rank higher through his web agency, Lockedown SEO.

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