Today, I’m going to walk you through installing two WordPress plugins. The first is Yoast SEO, which is great at helping you manage SEO for your posts. The second is MailChimp for WordPress, which connects your WordPress blog to MailChimp, making it easy for people to sign up for your newsletter.
What is SEO?
For those of you who don’t remember what SEO is, it’s search engine optimization. This sounds a lot more complicated than it really is. Basically, it means taking into account the needs of one of your important visitors: the search engine. When a search engine like Google looks at your site, it expects different things than a human user. The same basic SEO practices apply to Google and other, less-used search engines. The Yoast SEO plugin is good at helping you think about good formatting for SEO. It offers free and paid versions.
What is MailChimp?
MailChimp is a spammer — I mean, bulk email provider. While the most common use for this type of system is sending out advertisements to people who begrudgingly signed up to a company’s sales list to get a discount of some sort, it’s also very useful for desirable and informational newsletters. If you want to have a newsletter, it’s important to sign up for one of these services, since they manage subscriptions, block lists and a variety of other things that could get you into trouble if you didn’t maintain them properly. The MailChimp plugin is free and helps you connect your WordPress site to the MailChimp service.
Let’s install these WordPress plugins
First, login to the admin of your WordPress site. Once there, click on “Plugins” in the left sidebar. At the top of that screen, click the “Add new” button. (You can also get there by hovering over “Plugins” in the sidebar and selecting the “Add new” item.)
Type “yoast” in the search box. You should see “Yoast SEO” as the first result. Click on the “Install Now” button. And once that is finished, click “Activate”.
Yoast SEO is now installed and has probably already announced some SEO problems it wants you to deal with. We’ll look at that later.
Next, click on “Plugins” again and navigate to “Add new”. In the search box, type “mailchimp”. Again, the first entry should be what we’re looking for: “MailChimp for WordPress”. Click “Install Now”, then when that’s finished, “Activate”.
Configuring the MailChimp plugin
Unlike the Yoast SEO plugin, this doesn’t do anything out of the box. You need to connect it to your MailChimp account. If you don’t already have one, head on over to https://mailchimp.com/ and sign up. It’s free. You’ll have to prove you’re not a robot with a silly button. Then fill in your information. If you’re new to MailChimp, it might be useful to sign up for their getting started newsletter that they offer on one of the sign up pages.
Part of the sign-up process has you create your first list. Verify you have a list before continuing to the WordPress setup.
In your WordPress dashboard, navigate to the plugins page. Find the MailChimp plugin and click on the settings link. On that page, you’ll see a link: “Get your API key here”. Click that.
This link will take you to MailChimp. If you’re already logged in, you’ll find yourself on a page with information about their API. Scroll down and click the button: “Create A Key”.
Scroll down and you’ll see the key you’ve just created. Highlight everything in the “API key” field and copy it.
Navigate back to your WordPress dashboard and paste the key you copied into the field.
Click “Save Changes”.
You are now connected to MailChimp.
But we’re not quite done. While you’re on the MailChimp settings page, look for the “MailChimp for WP” section in your left sidebar. Click the “Form” link.
Enter a title for the sign-up form. You should see your lists from MailChimp on the page. Check the box of which list you want your users to sign up to using this form, then click “Add new form”.
The next page may look confusing, but if you are only interested in collecting email addresses, you shouldn’t have to do anything on this page except scroll to the bottom and click “Save changes”.
Now you have a sign-up form. The last step is putting it somewhere on your site. Navigate to Appearance->Widgets from your left sidebar.
You’ll see a widget called “MailChimp Sign-Up Form” amongst the other widgets. On the right side of the page, you’ll see an assortment of sections you can put widgets. Sidebar, footers (e.g. Footer 1, Footer 2, etc) and headers are commonly available, depending on your theme. Decide which section works best for you and drag the MailChimp widget to that section.
Give it a title and save.
Browse to your site and look for it in the section you chose. You should see a sign-up form.