Wordpress

Create a Free Email Newsletter Service using WordPress

As you see now, more and more bloggers are adding weekly email newsletter service on their blog. A lot of their audience subscribe to the weekly newsletter because it summarizes the week worth of activities on the blog, and it has exclusive tips just for the subscribers. There are many email newsletter solutions like Aweber, one of the most recommended one, but they all charge money. The solution we are going to mention in here by no means can compare to the features provided by the premium service like Aweber, and it must not be considered as the better system. Our solution is rather to give bloggers an affordable and functional method to create newsletter by using the open source software that we all love, WordPress.

In this tutorial, we will be using WordPress and Feedburner with a few plugins to create a simple Email Newsletter Service for your WordPress blog. You can track the performance of your newsletter by checking how many subscribers you have, how many clicks each link gets and much more.

Note: The codes referenced in this article will vary across themes because each designer has their own style of coding. So look for something similar or along the line of that code. This is by no means an advanced tutorial, but HTML and CSS Knowledge is recommended.

Step 1 – Add a New Category

In the first step of this tutorial, you will need to create a new category for your posts in WordPress. You can create a new category by visiting Posts > Categories Tab in your WordPress admin panel. You can name the category anything you like. For the sake of example, we will call it Email Newsletter.

Add a New Category

One of the things that you need to make sure that you do is to note the category ID of this new category that you created. It will be very crucial that you know this ID. Through out this tutorial, we will be using the parameter [Replace with your Category Id] and where ever you see this tag, you must replace it with the category ID of this new category.

Here is you can find the category ID. Simply go to Posts > Categories. Bring your mouse over the category that you created and look at the status bar.

Add a New Category

So for example, the category ID of the category we created will be 10. Make sure that you replace each code that looks like this [Replace with your Category Id] with your category ID.

Step 2 – Excluding Category From the List

Usually blogs have a list of categories in their sidebar, header, archive pages, footer and other places depending on the design. What our goal is in step 2 is to exclude our Email Newsletter category from all these category lists. In other words, we are hiding our category, so it is not shown to normal viewers of the site because the material in this category is only for Newsletter Subscribers. You will need to look in your template and see where the category list is located most commonly sidebar.php. Locate the similar code:

1 <?php wp_list_categories('&title_li=<h2>Categories</h2>'); ?>

and Replace it with the one below:

1 <?php wp_list_categories('exclude=[Replace with your Category Id]&title_li=<h2>Categories</h2>'); ?>

Make sure you insert your category ID in this code. Some themes have the above code in other files as mentioned, so you must check where your categories are being displayed and replace it to the above one.

Now no user can see your category from the list, but there is a lot more that we have to do.

Step 3 – Exclude the Posts from Our Email Newsletter Category

All of the posts from Email Newsletter category is still visible to all site users. They can see it in RSS, Search pages, Homepage, and Archives. Instead of individually adding the code to each file, we will use the plugin called Advanced Category Excluder (ACE) which will make the job a lot faster and a lot easier for new WordPress users.

Advanced Category Excluder

When you are in the settings of ACE plugin, make sure you check your Newsletter category in all the boxes except for Single Posts.

The only code that you might have to change is in your template is in yoursingle.php and that is only if you have navigation like the default WordPress theme does where it lets the user go to Next post and Previous post. If your theme do have that then look in your single.php file for a code related to navigatoin and replace it with the one below:

1 <div class="navigation"><div class="alignleft"><?php previous_post_link('&laquo; %link', '%title', FALSE, '10') ?></div><div class="alignright"><?php next_post_link('&raquo; %link', '%title', FALSE, '10') ?></div></div>

Step 4 – Create a New Feed in FeedBurner

Your secret category has a feed of its own. If you are using the SEO Friendly URL Structure like we suggested, then your feed URL will look like:

http://www.yoursitename.com/category/category-slug/feed/

If you are using the default URL structure, your feed URL will look like:

http://www.yoursitename.com/?feed=rss2&cat=%5BReplace with your Category Id]

Once you have your URL, you must create a new feed (burn) in FeedBurner. If you do not have an account already, create an account and then enter your feed URL in a field that looks like the one below:

Burn Your Feeds in FeedBurner

Enter your URL and click Next. You will see a screen like one below:

Burn Your Feeds in FeedBurner

Enter the details and click Next and Your Feed is now setup. Now it is time to jump onto our next step where we will setup an email service.

Step 5 – Enabling Email Newsletter

Once you have your Feed setup, you will need to click on the Publicize tab and then click on the Email Subscription Tab in order to activate it. Like the screenshot below:

Activate Email Subscription in FeedBurner

Once you have activated the service, you will see a code that you can copy and paste in your theme file in order to display a form for users to insert their email and subscribe.

Activate Email Subscription in FeedBurner

You may customize the styling of the form to fit your needs. Place it where ever you like on your site, but it is wise to put it some where notable where people will actually see it and subscribe to it.

Step 6 – Must Have Full Text Feeds

Before you actually send out the newsletter, there is one WordPress setting that you must change in order to keep your readers happy. You must allow Full Text in your RSS Feeds, so your readers do not see an excerpt instead they see the whole article. That is the point of having a newsletter. To change this setting, you will need to go to Settings > Reading in your WP-Admin Panel and click on Full Text instead of Summary.

Full Text RSS Feed

Step 7 – Sending Newsletter

Now we are at the final step of this tutorial. To send a newsletter all you need to do is publish a post into your secret category. The way we have it setup, your WordPress blog will then report to FeedBurner that a new post is posted, and an email will be dispatched to all of your users at a delivery time of your choice. It will not be sent out instantly, so it gives you a chance to edit your entry before it goes out. To control what time the article is dispatched you can go into your FeedBurner admin area > Publicize Tab > Email Subscription > Delivery Options

Delivery Options

One of the ways if you want to send the Newsletter instantly is to change the delivery option after each post considering you are only making them weekly.

Conclusion

This method is no where near the capabilities that premium services like Aweber are capable of, but this is a functional method that can be used. Our method is affordable, and it gets the job done. But you must remember that a user can always choose to unsubscribe to your newsletter via email and subscribe via RSS once they know what is the URL to the feed is. There are other ways such as creating a whole new subdomain blog just for Email Newsletter which some users prefer. We recommend that you try this on a test account and then implement on your site if you like it.

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