Using MailChimp On Your WordPress Website To Increase Readership

Posted on July 9, 2014 by in Tips & Tricks 44 Comments

Using MailChimp On Your WordPress Website To Increase Readership
Blog / Tips & Tricks / Using MailChimp On Your WordPress Website To Increase Readership

When you speak to Internet marketers many will tell you, “the money is in the list.” What they’re saying is that your blogging and business efforts should be focused on building your e-mail newsletter list.

While you may think that blogging and social media is enough, and e-mails can be annoying to some users, experience tells us the contrary. If you want to increase your readership, you need to work at capturing leads, which, in the online world, is equal to capturing e-mail addresses. Legally, of course (Canada, for example, is cracking down hard on spam these days).

Why do this?

We’ll tell you:

Not everyone is going to buy your product or service the first time they land on your site.

Sometimes they need time to decide.

So it’s your job to remind them that you exist, and that you have something of value for them.

Let’s stop here for a minute. How do you show them you have something of value? I’ll tell you how not to do it: Do not ever (like, never) try to send them promotional e-mails that talk about your product. There may be a time and place for those types of messages, but it’s not supposed to be regular.

That’s just talking about you.

Here we need to apply a very important principle in marketing; it’s called the “What’s In It For Me?” concept. You always need to remember that your audience only cares about themselves and their needs.

Your need is to sell more product. That’s not their need. You need to make it worth their while to read your e-mails. So don’t write about your need. Write about their need.

What is their need? Well, they have problems to solve. So you want to show that, as it relates to your industry and niche, you are the person that knows how to solve all those problems. The more you build your credibility by showing how much you know, the more valuable your product or service will start to seem. This is relationship and trust building, and it is essential in any sales process.

That’s what brings us to using MailChimp on your WordPress site for increasing your readership. WordPress is great for all kinds of e-marketing, whether selling a product with e-commerce or simply for blogging. Either way you’ll want to consider a newsletter to help get more traffic to your site.

The important thing to know before we start is that MailChimp is only one e-mail newsletter tool. There are many others. There’s Aweber and Constant Contact for example, which are also popular.

MailChimp is a great way to start your e-mail newsletter list because it’s not only free up to a certain limit of subscribers, it’s also relatively easy to use, while still giving you some great features to help your e-marketing efforts.

Here are some ways you can use MailChimp on your WordPress site specifically:

1) Hard code a sign up form onto your site in an HTML area

This is the method I use on my clients’ sites a lot. It allows for a lot of control over styling and duplication later on, if we want the sign up form to show up in different places, or look the same but lead to different lists in different areas.

The key here is to know that you will need to start this process from your MailChimp account and dashboard, not from WordPress. So you need to sign up for that first, and also learn how to create a list in MailChimp. It will also be useful to understand the difference between lists and groups in MailChimp, for better organization and segmentation later on, when your e-mail marketing needs become more advanced.

You will also need to learn from MailChimp how to customize the form fields that you want to appear on your site. For example, do you want to collect “First Name” and “Last Name,” or just “Name”? Do you need to collect other information when people sign up for your list?

Important to note: the more fields you add to your form, the fewer people you can expect to sign up. This is serious! Also read this. Like really, you need to stop right now and read the articles at those links.

After you’ve learned how to use MailChimp…

You will need some technical ability to do the next steps. So while this may be the ideal solution for custom-built web designs, it may not be the greatest for the DIY website builders out there who don’t have knowledge of CSS or HTML.

BUT – MailChimp actually does offer you some copy-and-paste options that would still work for newbies.

In your MailChimp account, you want to first click on a list name, and then look for the option to create forms for your website. You specifically want the “embedded forms” option, because we are going to get people to sign up for your list directly on your site.

Here you’re going to have options such as “Classic” form or “Super Slim.” We want “Naked” form. This is essentially going to strip all styling and JavaScript from your form to get it down to its most basic elements.

MailChimp is going to generate some code for you to copy and paste onto your site, and that code can change a little depending on what you check or uncheck in the settings (which are beyond the scope of this article – again, you’ll need to learn MailChimp before attempting to do any of this if you’re confused right now).

That code, believe it or not, can be made to look like your site’s design and branding. But first you need to copy and paste it into either a text widget or another HTML area in WordPress (usually this is going to be in a text widget to have it appear, say, in your sidebar, or footer).

Now, we style…

What you want to look for in this copy-and-paste code are the areas that say “id” or “class.” These are controlling the ‘look’ of your form. MailChimp lists all of these CSS “hooks” on their website.

When you find what you want to style, you will need to add these ids and classes to your theme’s style sheet.

Let’s explain.

Below is a sample of a MailChimp “Naked” form that has been pasted into a WordPress text widget. Some of the ids and classes have been boxed in red, to help you see where they are:


Notice how it starts with an id called “mc_embed_signup”? That’s what we’re going to use in our CSS file to define specific styles of how we want this area to look. For example, here is some CSS that has been added to a WordPress site using the above MailChimp form:


In the screenshot above, there is a red box around instances of a CSS class named “footer-widgets.” This is because this site specifically needed these styles to show up only in the footer widgets, and not anywhere else. These are theme-specific styles, and won’t apply to all sites.

The above screenshot is only an example of how to style a MailChimp form. You can try some of these examples, or tweak them to make your own. What we ended up with on this site, after adding more styles, is a form in a footer widget that looks like this:


If we hadn’t styled it, it would have looked like a generic form, using the colors, fonts, borders and styles that your theme’s style sheet has pre-defined for all its forms.

If we had picked “Super Slim” or “Classic” form when grabbing our embed code from MailChimp, the form may have looked like a generic MailChimp form, using the colors, fonts, borders and styles that MailChimp’s CSS file pre-defined.

Again, you do need to know HTML and CSS to be able to do this, but there is another way, which brings us to our next option…

2) Use a plugin, it’s easier

If you read MailChimp’s site, and are looking for a way to integrate your sign up form on your WordPress site, they will lead you to this plugin page. It doesn’t have the greatest rating, but the good thing is that MailChimp is behind it. So there’s that. As opposed to them not being behind it…which wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.

For example, AppSumo makes a newsletter subscription plugin that can work with MailChimp too. And Danny van Kooten’s MailChimp Plugin has a way better rating, which is usually a good indication of how well it’s been made.

Ideally, in principle, you want to avoid plugin usage on a WordPress site when there’s the option to manually hard code or integrate a function. The reason? Plugins can cause all kinds of problems down the road. Your site might be fine today, but the next time an update is released for anything running on your site (software, themes, etc.), you may suddenly find yourself in a pickle, not understanding why things don’t work the way they used to.

We’re not saying these plugins, or any plugins are bad. We’re just saying things happen, and they’re not always controllable or predictable. That is especially true when you have many different bells and whistles running on your site, which may not all be compatible with each other.

So if you use a MailChimp or newsletter plugin and it fails on you, you’ll need to go back to trying method 1 in this article, that’s all.

(Side note: site breakages due to updates are the reason you’ll want to keep regular backups, such as by using VaultPress).

3) Link to a sign up form hosted on the MailChimp site

This is the least recommended way of gathering subscribers, since you are technically asking people to leave your site to be able to subscribe. What you want to do is integrate into your site as much as possible the sign up process, so you can control what content and branding your users are seeing. Plus it takes less steps for the user that way.

However, if you are looking for a super simple way of allowing people to sign up for your MailChimp list through your WordPress site, check out these instructions. Aside from those instructions, you will simply need to know how to create links on your site.

4) Use the Divi theme!

Yes aside from all the other ways the Divi theme makes website building easy on you, it also helps you create MailChimp sign up forms really easily. All included, out of the box, as a feature of the theme. So if you’re using Divi, ignore all of the above and just go check out this tutorial on how it works.

5) But wait, what about those popup forms I keep hearing about?

Aaahhh. When you landed on our site you may have noticed something like this, encouraging you to sign up for our e-mail list:


Yup, we do that. And you might be thinking, “oh but those are so annnnoooying! I haaate those!”

Well you shouldn’t.

They work, and the reason smart e-marketers keep using them is because they increase subscriptions, which increases readership on your blog.

So the trick is to offer value when you use the popup method. There are also some other techniques, like not using the word “Submit” on the submit button. And making sure it doesn’t popup over and over again, cuz that sure would be annoying.

Let’s get this going on WordPress with MailChimp, shall we?

So the first thing you want to do is scratch the advice given above in method 1 about using the “Naked” form. You are going to need the “Classic” form and make sure in the settings boxes you have checked “enable evil popup mode.”

This is going to automatically make the popup sign up form appear on your site, after you’ve embedded the code into an HTML area or text widget in WordPress.

Can you still custom style this form? Yes, you can!

You can use the “General forms” area of your MailChimp list settings to design your form the way you want it to look, or, for even more control, you can follow the guidelines given above. It would be helpful to know how to remove the inline CSS from the code first though. You may also need to move (or completely remove), part of your copy-and-paste code into the <head> of your site. MailChimp actually puts a note in the code to tell you which part should be moved:



If you are not familiar with how to add things to the head of your site using your chosen WordPress theme, this may be a difficult step for you, and you’ll either need to do more research, ask your theme’s forums, or hire useful help.

Or, you can just use a tool that does all the fancy footwork for you

Yes, there are external tools outside of the MailChimp dashboard you can use to achieve the popup effect, or even just to make your opt-in message more prominent for potential subscribers. We found a post on KissMetrics that does an excellent job of listing 67 of those tools, so we thought, why re-invent the wheel? Just head on over there and check out that post!

And, if I may interject, I am a huge fan of the Interrupt plugin by AppSumo. Not only can it be made aesthetically pleasing, it makes a lot of sense to me as a user, because it’s easy to get rid of it, and isn’t intrusive after I’ve already tried to get myself to concentrate on something else. Oh, and it’s pretty easy to set up too.

AppSumo also makes SumoMe for WordPress and MailChimp, which is a plugin focused on list building as well. And boy, does AppSumo know about list building

Now I’ve got MailChimp on my site, what’s next?

Thank you for initiating our conclusion! Lol, just joking.

Well, actually, this is the conclusion.

To be honest, list building is a big topic, and that’s why I’ve been linking to resources throughout this article to help you get a grasp on how some of the greatest Internet marketers are doing it.

Getting your MailChimp form on your WordPress site is really step 2 to the entire process. Step 1 is understanding how e-mail marketing works for businesses. It’s not what most people think it is. So I strongly encourage you to click through all the links in this article, and then Google more articles on e-mail marketing. Seriously, you need to do that.

But don’t ignore e-mail marketing, and don’t skip putting a newsletter sign up form on your site. When you finally tap into the results e-mail marketing can give you, you’ll only regret not starting your list building efforts sooner. So get crackin’!

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  1. Thanks for the review.
    Question and a comment.
    Question: Why did you just feature Mailchimp? There are other options such as VerticalResponse, and probably numerous others I don’t know of. Is Mailchimp “better” for some un-mentioned reason. (Or a sponsor…)
    Comment: Those annoooooying pop-ups, like Elegant themes which you show in your article, are truly annoying. Elegant themes especially so because it pops up every time even though I already subscribe. These may boost subscribers, I don’t know, but they look tacky and I think that can reflect negatively on you and your company. I would never use them. Sorry.
    Thanks again for the story.

    • The popup only appears once every couple weeks, so if it’s appearing frequently it is because your cookies are being cleared.

      Actually, I think it’s a big mistake not to use these techniques on your blog. We give away free content every day – it’s something that takes us a ton of time and money (as it does for most online publications). To top it off, we do not put any ads or affiliate content on our site. This blog is 100% pure and free. A semi-monthly popup encouraging people who are enjoying this free content to subscribe is a very reasonable thing to ask, and a very small “price” to pay.

      In our case, these popups are the difference between ~800 new subscribers per month and ~15,000 new subscribers per month (a ~20x difference). A popup that appears once every 2 weeks gets 20x the subscribers as a conventional subscribe box that appears on every single page! (something to think about) If you are putting a lot of time and effort into creating free content for your visitors, then I would highly encourage you to ask them to subscribe in an actionable way 🙂

      • Actually, those popups may work for your site but EVERY single client of mine has asked that a popup be triggered by a link that a user has clicked. They HATE the uninvited popup. They will be in the middle of reading something and the bloody thing is there.

    • Hi Ernest, MailChimp is only one option, and that was clearly mentioned in this article. We also stated why it’s a great option if you are starting out. Feel free to share others that you think are valuable and work well for your content marketing efforts. MailChimp is not a sponsor at all. I have my own reasons for using it with clients, but in all honestly I think the e-mail newsletter system you use should be based off your goals and needs. If you need all the features of Aweber, for instance, then go for it. But if you are not going to use all those advanced bells and whistles, then it’s probably best to stay conservative. Different people have different e-mail marketing needs.

  2. Great article, thanks for sharing!

    Yesterday I actually started fiddling about with MailChimp and getting the right form style working, but somhow lost focus. After reading your article I’ll definitely finish the job and start building my list.

    By the way I agree with Ernest about the ET popups. Although they look quite nice, I find it really annoyingthat I get reminded to sign up even though I already did about 7 months ago. Maybe that deserves some attention.

    Other than that great story and tips!

    • The popup only appears every couple weeks, and if you subscribe, it does not show up at all. However, the only tool we have to limit it’s display are cookies. Once you clear your cookies, the popup will display again.

      • Well something is wrong then, Nick, because I´m actually subscribed (and I read this blog every working day) and the popups keep showing up every now and then.

        • As I said, once you clear your cookies there is no way for us to know that you subscribed. The popups only appear once every couple weeks when your cookies are not cleared.

          • Hi Nick first, let me tell you how much i appreciate your posts on this blog ! very useful !

            but the guys above are right. i’m an elegant customer, and i never clear my coockies (except when i miss the empty cache button and click on the cookies one by mistake and it’s not every day !! lol, but each time i click on the newsletter or on the rss feed , and come here to read the article, i have the popup. EVERY TIME. and i must tell you that it’s very very annoying. sometimes i’m thinking of unsubcribing from it, but it would not change anything, i’ll have the same issue with the RSS feed. i’m using firefox. i didn’t worked on my website since monday, but i visited your blog several time since then, and the pop up appears each time. the result of the use of this pop up is by the way very impressive and interesting

        • Just to throw my anecdotal evidence into the mix: I see the popup every time I come to your blog, and I only come through the newsletter – to which I am subscribed.

          15,000 new subscribers a month is crazy impressive.

          • I don’t see the pop up even when I come via the newsletter except when I logged in to the members area and click readme file of a theme.

  3. While mailchimp lacks many of the advanced features of other autoresponders like Aweber or infusionsoft, it is a great choice for most small businesses because of the price (free in most cases) and simplicity of use. I think many people will benefit from this article. I will probably end up sharing this with some clients of mine as well.

    Thanks Joyce!

    • Your welcome Adam, and thanks for your comment!

  4. Great post! It’s pretty funny that this came out today, this morning I was looking for some good plugins to use outside of the divi theme. I use Mailchimp myself and it’s awesome. My blog is 2 months old and i’m already able to send very professional looking e-mail newsletters that are better than a lot of big bloggers that I see. I decided to test a popup plugin and it’s live on my site now, so hopefully that converts more. I still feel a little bad about using it, but the results from them don’t lie. Thanks for the list of plugins to use!

    • That’s great let us know how it goes. If you are brand new to list building it may take a while to see real results and metrics (because the numbers will be so small to start off with), but keep at it, it’s probably the most valuable thing you can do for your business.

  5. What do you suggest e-mails (and general content) be about if you are selling merchandise, such as clothing? I have my list segmented by interests: sales, pop up shops/ events, new arrivals, all.

    • Hi Breanne, this is a very specific circumstance and I think the best thing is to consult a marketing consultant or to maybe start an online discussion about it. Maybe look up stats about what works best in your industry? Or better yet, ask your current subscribers what they’d like.

      I really don’t recommend your content be mostly sales and certainly not something promoting only you, unless that’s what they signed up for.

  6. I’m using Divi and I’d like to use the subscribe module. Is there any way to add a checkbox for a disclaimer? In Germany, users have to opt in in oder to sign up for newsletters (and use contact forms for that matter!). Is there something you guys can come up with that allows European websites to comply with this legal issue?

    • If I were you I would use the double opt-in function within MailChimp. So after they hit “subscribe” on your site, they will get an email basically saying “are you sure?” and that is the double opt-in. So if they click a link that says they for sure want to be on the list, you should be safe.

      • Hi Joyce, thank you!

    • Hi Tanya

      MailChimp are pretty hot on spamming and “doing things the right way”, so you’re pretty much covered by their usage agreement anyway.

      They have a whole host of free resources on marketing and as Joyce says, they cover the opt-in process for you as a matter of course by sending your potential subscriber an email which they have to confirm their agreement to before signing up.

      I’d recommend trying it out as the FREE version gives you a fair few subscribers and analytical features. 🙂

  7. Well written post.
    I do agree with the above commenters. The pop-ups are annoying and I think there is a bug. I know my cookies are not cleared until I do or expire, since the other websites work just fine. And everytime I visit ET, I get the pop-ups.

    I also subscribe to the blog, and I still get them. This is just info. Your content is top notch.

  8. I think people are getting used to popups now, attitudes are changing and personally i don’t really mind them as i believe the author has a right to try and get something in return for the efforts they put into publishing useful solutions.

  9. Hey there is there any FREE pop up plugin which I could use for Divi? thanx JyotiMa

    • We are planning a post that goes over some of the best free and paid popup plugins. Stay tuned 🙂

      • Waiting for it 🙂

      • Ui you are the best! Sometimes the blogs come in perfect timing like I need them…

  10. Dear Joyce,
    Thanks for a great article.

    Like the way you dig into the topic and peel layer by layer and advise along the way.
    I read far most of the articles coming from Elegant Themes, though as others mention here please keep the ethical lines clear (for all the blue-eyed readers, like me!). Make the separation from business, commission based ‘advise’ and angles and pure sharing of skill and know-how, clear.

    To me, at least, set the integrity and reliability of elegant themes as hard coded and not a plug in that might not follow updates 🙂

    Thanks, All the best Peter

  11. Useful article for any developer and beginner. Thanks for share

  12. Great post. I have been using Mailchimp for last few months and it’s awesome. I can send professional looking newsletters, to all my readers. Thanks for the share.

  13. Do you have a plugin that you recommend for sending an email notification via MailChimp when a new blog post is published?

  14. I have to agree about hating the pop-ups. I’ve been subscribed (to both the newsletter and an ET membership) for years, and I see it every time. I understand that it’s due to cookies, but it’s still really annoying.

    Whether that’s a good strategy depends on the primary purpose of your web site. If your main goal is to get new people to sign up for your mailing list, it’s a great way to do that. But if you also use your web site to build your relationships with people who are already in your circle, pop-ups will undermine that. There’s a trade-off.

  15. Thank you for this post. I’ve set up a mailchimp account, as you said, it was very easy to do, and already sent a test newsletter to a very small email list.

    I also use Constant Contact for another website, so maybe the learning curve wasn’t as steep; but I think that mailchimp is very powerful, and they have many templates those of us who are not computer specialists.

    Best regards, Jack

  16. thanks for this post, there is the possibility to use the mailchimp embedded form, with the Divi CSS?

  17. Hey great article guys! Quick question though, which plugin do you guys use here on the blog for pop ups?

    Also, Divi needs to have a quick way to customize the required fields on the subscribe module. I don’t need the names just the email

  18. Thanks for this article. I just finished reading the one on pop up plugins. While it has great information I love the fact that you mention Mail Chimp offers the “enable evil popup mode” which means to me, one less plugin to upload since Mail Chimp is already enabled on my Divi site. Cool!

  19. I use mail chimp so it’s great to see the divi integration – just one issue! How do I remove the ‘last name’ field from the subscribe form? I’ve removed it from the form in mail chimp but it’s still showing on the site.

    • The theme does not come with this option I am afraid, but it would be possible with some customization. If you open a ticket in the support forums we may be able to point you in the right direction.

  20. I am doing a site for someone else and using mailchimp with wordpress. When someone gets her emailed newsletter, when you click on the author name it goes to a “404 page” – I can see the link on the name is not correct but where do I fix that? In wordpress or mailchimp? Help please if you can!

    Thank you……

  21. Mailchimp’s wordpress plugin also make the process easy to use mailchimp with wordpress.

  22. This is a great article as always, but I have a question. I have some issues with Mailchimp popup code. It doesn’t work. I’d want to put a code in functions.php of my child themes. What kind of code should I use?

    Thank you so much,

  23. Were you avoiding the entire CSS that produced the result in your screenshot? That’s what brought me here! So, why paste just some in a screenshot?

    I’m trying to get the CSS that’ll help me have the style of the newsletter form like in your screenshot, then customize it to my site’s look and feel.

    Can you provide that? I know this comment comes 1 year after, but just in case? Thanks.

  24. I’m trying to integrate MailChimp subscriber Popup on my website because it can built a list hopefully. Thank you for mentioning useful plugin sources and now it’s easy for me to navigate and work on it. Thank You!

  25. The Optin email module in Divi is a great addition, but I don’t see an option for placing the email opt-in form anywhere in the footer, only in the page modules. Is there a way to use the module for a slim signup in the footer?

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