Email marketing secrets: Use your RSS feed for instant content

Wouldn’t it be great if you could get content into your email newsletter without lifting a finger? Wouldn’t it be even better if you could automatically create and send newsletters with fresh content without having to put the newsletter together yourself every time?

If you have a website and publish blog content on a regular, basis you can easily accomplish these “automations.” The key is knowing how to take advantage of your RSS feed.

What is RSS?

RSS stands for “rich site summary” or “really simple syndication” and it’s a way for people or other websites can receive new content from you automatically. Frankly, I don’t think RSS feeds are as popular with users as they were a few years ago, but they’re still around.

Your browser may have an RSS “reader” built into it. Some people use third-party RSS readers. These allow you to “subscribe” to the blogs you’re really interested in and then receive a “digest” version of recent articles with links to the full articles.

With my little primer on RSS feeds out of the way, let’s look at how they can be leveraged in your email marketing campaigns.

RSS feed-driven emails

To put it simply, many email marketing services – such as MailChimp, Constant Contact, and others – have built-in ways to grab content from your RSS feed and automatically put it into emails.

MailChimp and Zoho give you the ability to automatically create and send emails when you publish new content via your RSS feed. The screen shots below show you the main screens for setting this up in MailChimp.

When you navigate in MailChimp to the “create campaign” screen, you are presented with a drop-down menu that allows you to set the type of campaign you wish to create. You’ll find RSS at the bottom of the menu.

Next, you need to input the URL of your RSS feed and select the days you want the email to be distributed. It will only create a new email when it finds new content on your RSS feed, so if you check the boxes for every day of the week but don’t create new content every day, it won’t send emails with old content out to your email list.

You’ll go through various setup steps such as defining your subject line and then be taken to the overall design of the email. The block containing the code for pulling in your RSS feed will be preloaded, but you can add other elements, perhaps your mission statement or other content that you don’t need to change very often.

Be sure you test your email before allowing it to go live/

Adding RSS content to your emails

Constant Contact doesn’t offer full campaigns based solely on RSS feeds, but it does have a feature that allows you to pull in content from your RSS feed. This can save you the hassle of cutting and pasting content and creating links from blogs.

You simply add a content block to your email, open it for editing and then – from the “Insert” options on the left – select “Blog Content.” Next, you enter the URL of your RSS feed. When that is done, Constant Contact gives you a list of recently published blogs; select the ones you want to be featured in your newsletter.

The advantages of RSS email

Using the MailChimp and Zoho features that allow you to use articles published on your RSS feed as both the trigger and content for an email send can be a great marketing tool. I suspect that you have a box and button on your blog that lets people “subscribe” to all the content published on your blog. However, very few visitors (even fans) subscribe to blogs today. For one thing, you’ve already asked people for their email addresses, why would they give it to you a second time to subscribe to your blog?

Being able to send emails driven by your blog posts accomplishes the same thing as gaining a “subscriber” to your blog and help you publish newsletters more frequently with fewer hassles.

Finally, there are, of course, many more email service providers than the ones I’ve mentioned here. If you don’t use MailChimp, Zoho, or Constant Contact, search your provider to see if it offers similar RSS-based features.