Technically, an email subscription box can be set up with a super basic form that saves relevant information (like name, email address) to a database of some sort.

But then you would just have an inert list of emails, disconnected from an newsletter solution to send to it with.

To save time, we can take that basic form and send the email address off to a proper email newsletter service provider in one swoop. So let’s start by signing up to one first.

Sign up to MailChimp

Why MailChimp? It’s a high-quality service with pristine deliverability and is free up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month.

It’s also super popular, so there is no shortage of easy-to-use integrations with various products and services (like WordPress).

If you become successful enough to outgrow the free plan, paid plans start at $10 per month, or you can migrate your email list to another provider.

All you need to do is fill out your name, email address, and password on the MailChimp signup page.

Make a list

After logging into your newly created account, click the “Lists” link in the top navigation, and then click the “Create List” button.

  • Don’t get too fancy with the list name. People should be able to recognize it. Literally just “[Name of business] Newsletter” will be fine.
  • Especially when you’re just starting out, I would recommend the “from email address” lead directly to you. Newsletters are a great way to connect directly with an audience, and it hurts if it’s being sent from a “noreply” email. In any case, you’ll need to verify you can receive emails to this address before MailChimp will let you use it.
  • Don’t get too fancy with the “From name” either. Something like “[First name of human] from [Name of business]” will be fine.
  • A valid mailing address and phone number is required to comply with the CAN-SPAM Act. Make something up here, and risk your account getting shut down. MailChimp runs a tight ship.

You’ll also be asked if you want to receive notifications when people subscribe. I would recommend a daily summary, if anything. You don’t want to be distracted by one-by-one notifications all day long.

Create an API key

After creating your list, you will be able to set up standalone signup form pages, hosted by MailChimp, like this.

However, we want to use an easy-to-use WordPress plugin to embed a subscription form to our new list on our website, and to do that, you’ll need an API key.

The API key page is kind of hidden away in your MailChimp account area, but here is a shortcut URL:

Once there, click the “Create a Key” button, and copy the API key to save it to your clipboard.

We’ll need it handy for the next step.

Use the MailChimp for WP plugin

Install the MailChimp for WordPress plugin by ibericode. Not to be confused with the official MailChimp plugin, which despite being “official” is not very well made.

After installing and activating a plugin, you’ll see a new top level admin navigation item. Go to MailChimp for WP → Settings to type in your API key.

Then, go to MailChimp for WP → Forms to make a new form. Choose a title (something simple like “Subscribe” is fine) and check off the “[Name of business] Newsletter” list you made in the previous step (which WordPress can now see thanks to inputting the API key earlier).

See how all the pieces are falling into place?

After clicking the “Add new form” button, the plugin will build a basic form with an email address input field and a submit button. Literally the only things you need for an email subscription form.

We’re nearly done, but we still need to place it on the page.

Add the form to your WordPress site

After creating the form, you have a couple different options for placement out of the box: using a shortcode on a page, or placing a widget.

Shortcode on a page

Create a page (perhaps with the slug of /subscribe/) and take the shortcode you find on the form page.

Place the newly published “Subscribe” page somewhere in your menu.

Widget on every page

Assuming your theme is widgetized (which almost every modern theme should be) you can also use the MailChimp Sign-up Form widget.

Simply drag and drop where you want it to be. Using the widget is advantageous because the new form can be placed on every page directly, as opposed to funneling through a singular “Subscribe” page to get to it first.

Wrapping up

We will cover newsletter best practices more in-depth in a future article, but for now: don’t spam, don’t sell your lists, and mail your list somewhat consistently (even if you don’t have many subscribers).

We will also cover more advanced subscription form placement techniques in a future article, so stay tuned!

You can subscribe to our newsletter (see what I did there?) to stay up to date:

Posted by Leland Fiegel

A web developer with over a decade of experience. Leland is a big advocate of "owning your platform" and encourages it by writing about it at Own Your Platform. He also runs a WordPress theme shop called Themetry and a community forum for WordPress users called WP Chat.

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