In the last article, we looked at using the RSS driven campaign in Mailchimp to automatically check your blog for new posts and email them out to your contacts. That’s all well and good if you want the emails to go out automatically, without you checking the content, but what if you only want to send a one off email? Or maybe you want to include some of your latest blog posts in the sidebar of your regular newsletter to clients? Perhaps you would just like greater control over the information that is sent out.
As well as using an RSS driven campaign, you can also include the feed merge tags in a standard Mailchimp email. It’s slightly more complicated, and sometimes requires some thinking about, but it’s worth the effort!
How to use the FEED tag
First of all, set up your campaign as you would normally, giving it a title, and choosing a template to work with. Your feed tags are added when you get to the content editor stage.
In the content editor, add a text item, into which you will add your blog content. Then in the content editing section, click the small arrow to expand the toolbar and show the ‘merge tags‘ option.
Place your cursor at the point where you want to add your blog content and then from the ‘merge tags‘ dropdown box select “RSS feed items” (Note: you will find this option right at the end of the list). You will see the feed tag is then added into your content as in the example below, with a dummy URL included.
The next step is to replace the example URL with the URL of your blog feed. The location of this can vary and so if you don’t already know it, you should check your blogging platform help section to find it.
TIP: I find the easiest way to find your feed URL is to look at the HTML source code. To view the source code, navigate to the web page you want to view the feed URL for and right click then choose ‘view page source’. Search the code for ‘rss’ using the find function and then examine the code to find the feed URL which should be preceded by the words ‘href=’
As you’ll see in the example below, the feed URL for our magazine is http://www.vapromag.co.uk/feed/
After replacing the URL, if you enter into preview mode you should see your posts being pulled through into your email – pretty cool, hey! This is the feed tag in it’s simplest format, but we can also modify it further to tell Mailchimp how many posts to pull through and set it to show the full content rather than an excerpt.
Elements of the FEED tag
There are three elements to the feed tag:
The URL: this is the URL for your feed as described above. In our example we are using http://www.vapromag.co.uk
The Count variable: Use the variable $count=1, to set the number of posts you want to display (where the number 1 would be replaced with the number of posts you want to show)
The Content variable: this can be set to show either just the title of your post, or the full post. If you want to show the standard title, plus author and a short excerpt then you can leave out this variable altogether.
- Use $content=full to show the full blog post
- Use $content=titles to show just the titles of you post
In the example here we are using the tag *|FEED:http://www.vapromag.co.uk/feed/ [$count=5,$content=titles]|*
As you can see from the screenshots below, what this is doing is telling Mailchimp to look at the VA Professional article feed www.vapromag.co.uk/feed, then display only the titles of the five most recent posts.
As well as this basic Feed tag, you can also control individual elements of the blog post and affect how they are displayed and formatted using the Feedblock Tag and we’ll look at this in a future article.