First off, I feel compelled to link back to Kristen Lamb’s recent and timely post about how to approach people for reviews, guest posts, or interviews without making us want to claw your eyes out. The request I got last night pretty well broke all the rules. Except for not spelling my name wrong. But that’s just a Writer’s Service Announcement, not actually what I want to talk about today.
So I have written in the past about why I am still using WordPress.com and domain forwarding rather than actually doing the self-hosted version of WordPress. I’d link to it but I can’t seem to remember when I made the post.
(Edited: I’m back on self-hosted in 2015, but this is still accurate stuff).
In a nutshell:
- It’s cheaper
- I like being hooked in to their Possibly Related Posts feature
- It’s very low maintenance
There are a few downsides:
- There are limits on what widgets you can use (where with self hosted the sky’s the limit)
- It doesn’t allow any kind of outside subscription form (like for a newsletter)
Up to now I’ve used Vertical Response for my rare updates. It allows you to buy credits and pay as you go instead of subscribing (although that’s an option too), which was a good thing with a small number of subscribers and infrequent mailing. I’ve been really happy with them except that I can’t use their sign up form code in WordPress. I recently signed up for Beth Revis’s newsletter and noticed she used Mail Chimp. For the heck of it I checked it out. Mail Chimp has a totally FREE option (a fantastic thing when you are on a shoestring budget) and, more importantly for me, they have an option to generate a link directly to the sign up form rather than forcing you to embed assorted code.
Why is this important? Well, because this year (or maybe last year), WordPress.com rolled out many themes with a custom menu option that allows you to rearrange your pages and tabs and add links in those menus to outside websites. I had already employed this so that my food blog and the ROW80 blog showed up in my menu up top, but Mail Chimp enabled me to link to the sign up form. How did I do this?
1) I went through Mail Chimp’s handy dandy little wizard to design my form. It’s got lots of templates that can be tweaked with color, font, fields, etc. To add some extra legitimacy (in case people are freaked out that the link takes them away from my site), I created a smaller version of my blog header to go at the top of the sign up form, trying to visually link the two.
2) From there I went into my WordPress dashboard to the Menus option under Appearance. Then I copied the direct link to the sign up form from Mail Chimp and pasted it into the Custom Links box on the Menus page.
3) From there it is a matter of dragging it around in the menu tree until it’s where you want it.
4) I also went to the Mail Chimp page where it generates the code they intend for you to use on your website for sign up. Except instead of copying the code, I took a screen shot of the preview of the form. This I placed as an image up there in the top right of my sidebar. It’s kind of fooling folks who try to click in the email field because the image is linked to the main sign up form page. This way I have two chances to catch subscribers–in the sidebar and in the top menu bar.
That’s it! Now everything it automated and I get an email from Mail Chimp whenever anybody new signs up (you can turn that off if you don’t wanna know). Easy peasy. There may be other mail services that also allow a direct link to a sign up form, but Mail Chimp is the first one I found that fit my other needs.