RSS-to-Email Newsletter Integration: What is it and how can it help me market my business?The amount of time and effort you put into keeping your website updated with fresh news and content is impressive. But do you ever wonder if your efforts are in vain?

You might be asking yourself questions like:

  • How do I know people are seeing new events I’ve published to my website?
  • How can I make sure my prospects are aware of the sale I’m running?
  • What’s the fastest and easiest way to get important news out to my organization members?
  • Can I trust my employees are aware of the company announcements posted on our website?

If you’re smart, you’re probably putting together weekly, monthly or quarterly email newsletters to issue important information to your followers and are asking questions like, “What can I do to make my process for delivering content to my audience more efficient?

And if you aren’t doing anything other than updating your website, well, maybe you’re unaware of just how effective email marketing is.

Not only is it estimated to bring in $44 for every $1 spent, it’s the most direct way to reach and interact with your audiences. And believe it or not, 72% of consumers prefer email as their source of communication from businesses, and 61% actually enjoy receiving weekly email and would like them to come more frequently according to Constant Contact.

Or maybe you’re wishing you had the time to send out an email newsletter but can’t seem to manage both that and updating your website too. We’ve found a simple solution to save you time and still get the marketing you need delivering content to your audiences effectively and efficiently.

It’s called RSS-to-email integration, or email newsletter integration.

Ummm, so….what is email newsletter integration?

Basically, it’s a way of automating your email newsletters using the updates you make to your website, and it’s been deemed in this office as one of the coolest things, like…ever.

It all started with super smart humans (or monkeys, we’re still not quite sure) who at some point recognized the pain business owners experience manually assembling their email newsletters to get word out about their products or services. We imagine this recognition lead them to think, “Hey, what if we could create an automated email system that pulled in the content from websites and automatically added them to an email campaign so humans don’t have to do it anymore?!”

These smart humans (or monkeys…) are known as MailChimp. And they materialized this idea into a feature they provide called RSS-to-Email.

You should have seen the ridiculously elaborate dance party we broke into when we discovered this magical capability. It’s possible someone was injured while attempting a fancy break dance move. But it’s okay! It was the just the intern, who was ironically the one putting together our email newsletter manually each week. And now that we don’t need her to do that anymore, she’s free to make our coffee without risking further injury…

Only joking, guys. No one was injured. But GOBS of time did open up on our intern’s calendar once she no longer had to assemble our newsletters. And no, we don’t make her get our coffee.

We make her clean and file.

How does email newsletter integration work?

The magic begins with your website’s RSS file.

If you feature a blog on your website, the site will have what’s called an RSS file (Real Simple Syndication). The file is essentially a text output of the content on your blog, a file that automatically refreshes as you publish to your blog.

It’s possible right now you’re thinking, “I don’t have a blog, so I can’t do this automation thing you speak of.” Just keep reading. You’ll see where I’m going with this, I promise.

If you’ve got a section on your website you update regularly and a rock star for a web developer, he probably set it up the section to work the same way a blog does, because doing it that way makes it so much easier to update. What this means is every update you make to your site, whether adding events, blog posts, announcements or specials, it’s probably being added to your RSS file.

The magic continues with MailChimp.

So, you’ve got this lovely RSS file stuffed full of information you’re longing to get out to your prospects, organization members or employees. Whatever the case, the integration works the same.

The explanation of what RSS files are exactly and how you can use them is a lengthy one, but you can essentially tell your RSS feed what to include and to automatically integrate into your email newsletters using MailChimp’s RSS campaign feature.

Whoa, right? I know! You’re probably halfway through a conversation with your web developer right now trying to set this up, aren’t you? If so, first off, congratulations for being able to read and carry on a conversation at the same time. And secondly, slow your roll just a bit. I mean, we dig your excitement, there are just a few steps to take in order capture the full magic for yourself. So keep calm and read on.

How can I harness the magic for myself?

It doesn’t matter if you’re adding a special or an announcement to your site, whatever the case, as long as the updates you’re making to your site can be pulled into your RSS feed, the structure for building your automated emails is generally the same. Your web developer should be able to help you with setting it all up.

Access to your website’s RSS file.

You can check first at www.yourdomainname.com/rss/ to see if that’s where your RSS feed lives. It could also be at www.yourdomainname.com/feed/, so give that a try too. If you’re still not sure, get with your web developer to see how he can get you the access you need. And if touching the RSS file scares the living daylights out of you, let your web developer take care of it for you. Just outline to them what you want to include in your emails.

Sign up for a MailChimp account.

This part’s easy: go to MailChimp and get started with a free account. You can use the email newsletter integration feature with any plan you choose, even the standard free package. There’s like, a button. And you click it. And you add your information. It’s that simple.

Add to your website in such a way your RSS feed will pick it up.

When you go to add new website updates and blog posts, make sure you’re adding them in such a way that your RSS feed can pick them up. Otherwise your updates won’t end up in your email.

RSS Resources

Website code + starting a new service + creating a new process = potential insanity.

No need to go off the deep end, though. We’ve included a handful of useful resources to guide you through integrating your email newsletter with your website.

  • RSS-to-Email Feature in MailChimp
    This page provides a general overview of the MailChimp feature you can use to automatically share your website updates automatically via email.
  • Share Your Blog Posts with MailChimp
    Here’s a step-by-step guide for using an RSS campaign to email your latest news, updates and blog posts to your subscribed contacts.
  • All the Merge Tags Cheat Sheet
    Here you’ll find all of the merge tags MailChimp offers for pulling all kinds of dynamic information into your emails. Grab a snack, hit the bathroom and then get comfy–there’s a ton of juicy stuff in here.
  • Featured Images in RSS & MailChimp Email
    If you’re on WordPress, images aren’t going to be pulled into your email automatically the way the text is pulled. We use a plugin called Featured Images in RSS Feeds. Check it out. Cause pictures make things look pretty.

Additional useful resources for RSS tags:

Who else offers this capability?

While MailChimp is our personal go-to for RSS to email integration, there are plenty of other services out there that can handle your e-newsletter automation depending on your online marketing platforms and goals.

  • Campaign Monitor similarly lets you convert your latest blog posts into email content automatically; however they don’t offer a free plan whereas MailChimp does.
  • ActiveCampaign does this too with what they call “dynamic content features” and includes a feature allowing you to pull in content to your email with just a URL.
  • Zoho offers recurring RSS campaign capabilities as well and even offers a “pay as you use” option versus a monthly subscription, though if you plan on automating you should probably plan on paying each month or your emails won’t deliver!
  • Constant Contact allows you to manually pull in your RSS feed and format it to your heart’s content.  However, be warned: it doesn’t compile and send automatically each month like well…you guessed it…MailChimp.

And for the record, no, MailChimp did not pay us to write this article, they just do it better than the other guys. Don’t believe me? Try Googling it.

Which one is best for you ultimately depends on your marketing goals, budget, and on what plays nicely with your current email marketing platform and practices.

Ya gotta keep it integrated. (Hey, come out and play!)

According to Campaign Monitor, automated email messages average a 70.5% higher open rate and 152% higher click through rate than the “business as usual” marketing messages, and automated email campaigns account for 21% of overall email marketing revenue.

My point? Get out there and play in Automation land, starting with RSS to email integration for your website. Aside from my lame Offspring reference above, I promise my advice is legit: it’ll save you so much time, which in turn will save you money and stress.

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