Having a mailing list is a important aspect to operating a website that is often overlooked. Engaging your audience via email is great way to bring visitors back to your website for a new promotion or updated content. If you have recently looked into setting up a mailing list you’ll know they can be rather pricey even on the entry level tiers. In addition to the list fees you will still have the technical challenge to automate having visitors of your website join your mailing list. Fortunately Mailchimp.com offers not only a free plan for 2,000 subscribers but also their API makes it easy to connect with WordPress. In this walkthrough I will show how to setup a Mailchimp API key and integrate it within WordPress so your website visitors can easily join your Mailchimp mailing list.
How to Setup Mailchimp API Keys
A Mailchimp API key is free regardless of the plan you are using. To get your API key just login to your Mailchimp account and then click the pulldown menu next to your Avatar and select Profile. This will take you to a new screen where you can configure various aspects of your account including API keys.
On the profile page click the Extras menu and then select API keys.
When you land on the API key page you should see a key already created. You can create multiple keys as well as deactivate any old or unused ones. The key is simply a long string of letters and numbers that uniquely identifies your account. You should treat this key as confidential data because it allows programmatic access to your Mailchimp account. Do not publicly share your key with anyone. Select the text in the API key box and copy it temporarily into Notepad. You will need to enter it in the steps that follow.
How to Configure Mailchimp for WordPress Plugin
Now that you’ve obtained an API key open a browser and login to the WordPress Dashboard for your website. Click on the Plugins menu. Click Add Plugin, and then search for Mailchimp for WordPress. This is a free plugin that will be used to integrate your Mailchimp account with your site. Once installed click Activate.
After Mailchimp for WordPress has been activated click on the plugin settings. Enter the Mailchimp API key you copied earlier and click Save Settings. Once the API key is validated you should see a green status bar like below indicating that the plugin has been connected with your account.
On the same settings page you should now see the name of your Mailchimp mailing list. Clicking on that name will show the data fields defined within the mailing list at Mailchimp.com. In the example below I’m using Email address, First Name, & Last Name. These fields are important to note for the next step where you will use the plugin to design a new WordPress form that will be used to capture the same data fields and seamlessly submit it to Mailchimp.
Configure a Mailchimp for WordPress Form
Within the Mailchimp for WordPress plugin settings click on the Form menu option. This will open a form design screen like below. Click the necessary fields under Form Fields to match the same fields defined in your Mailchimp mailing list. The design window will show you a preview of how the completed form will appear. Readjust as needed to suit your needs. Click the Settings tab to configure some advanced features such as requiring people who submit the form to double opt-in or redirect form submissions to a separate thank you page. When the form design is complete just click Save Changes. Copy the shortcode at the top of the form. This will be used in the next step when you hook the new form into a WordPress page or post.
Open a new WordPress page (or post) where you want the mailing list signup form to be displayed. Copy the shortcode for the form you just created in the previous step into the body of the page. Save the page and then click Publish. Once the page has been published the new mailing list signup form will be publicly accessible and ready for action.
Now that the new signup form has been published your website visitors can automatically join your Mailchimp mailing list just by submitting the form with their information.
What is Double Opt-In?
Double opt-in refers to an extra confirmation step that can be leveraged with mailing lists to ensure the owner of the email address in question really wants to join a mailing list. This is a win-win scenario for both mailing list owner and mailing list subscriber. It benefits the list owner because they know with certainty that their subscribers really want to be on the list and the email address has been validated i.e no fat-finger typos. It benefits the subscriber too because it prevents someone else who may know your address from abusing it without your consent. You will only join the mailing list by your own actions.
In the picture below you can see the double opt-in confirmation message that was configured in the previous steps. Clicking yes will complete the signup process and allow me to receive future emails from this mailing list. But if on the other hand I have second thoughts I can just delete this message and never hear from them again.
Having a mailing list is a great way to engage your audience and Mailchimp makes it easy to get started with 2,000 free subscribers. The Mailchimp for WordPress plugin is also free and straightforward to integrate with your WordPress website. Thanks for reading!