MailChimp for WordPress – the beginner’s guide to building your first email list

You’ve started a blog, and now you want to connect with your audience on a whole new level. You want readers to be able to leave email addresses so that you can contact them occasionally. Whether you want to send a newsletter, promote products or contact subscribers with anything else in mind, you will first have to store their email addresses in some way. Of course, you won’t have to manually write the info in a notebook or open a new Excel file to keep track of subscribers. There are much more sophisticated solutions out there.

If you are just beginning with MailChimp, we suggest that you continue reading the article, but if you want more control over opt-ins and emails, you should take a look at OptIn Ninja which gets you tons of customization options.

Since it’s one of the most popular email marketing services, you have probably heard of MailChimp. People told you it’s easy to create lists, add forms and grow your email lists but sometimes it is hard to do that first step into the unknown. Yes, with MailChimp for WordPress it is really easy to start with email marketing and we’re here to help you build your first list, connect it to a form and get that first email address which will bring out a smile to your face.

Open a MailChimp account

First things first. Before you can start implementing forms and lists into your WordPress website, you will have to prepare everything. Just like with the most online services, you will have to create an account. MailChimp is free to use if you have less than 2000 subscribers, so you don’t have to worry about the account for now.

Create a new account

Create new MailChimp account

  1. Go to MailChimp website
  2. Click on the Sign Up Free button
  3. Fill in your email address, username, and password
  4. Click on the Get Started button
  5. Wait for the confirmation email and open it
  6. Click on the Activate Now button
  7. Confirm Signup
  8. Fill in the details about yourself

Your MailChimp account is now ready for use. It is finally time to start working on your email list.

Create your first list

Create MailChimp List

Before MailChimp can store your email addresses, it will need a list to work with. You can have more than one list so you can work on different things. For example, you can separate subscribers for different websites you manage. Or, you can have one newsletter list and use another one for people who subscribed to news about a particular product. For starters, let’s stick with just one list which you’ll be able to use in MailChimp for WordPress plugin.

  1. On top of the screen, select Lists
  2. Click on the Create List button
  3. Fill in the details (use inline help to learn more about each field)
  4. Click on the Save button

If you have written in all the details, your new list is now ready to receive subscribers! In case you already have a list of subscribers that you’ve built with some other service or maybe a list you’ve manually managed, this is also the place to import contacts into the list.

Let’s work with MailChimp for WordPress plugin

Although MailChimp lets you create forms directly from their website, there’s a much easier and more convenient way of controlling the forms. MailChimp for WordPress is a free plugin which will connect to your MC account and let you work with it directly from your WordPress backend.

The plugin will help you create user-friendly and responsive signup forms which you can embed practically anywhere you want. Once you customize the form to your likings, you will be able to put it in your posts, pages, widgets, headers, and footers or anywhere else you want. MailChimp for WordPress gives you the complete control over the form position.

Another great thing is that the plugin works with most of other forms and plugins. What this mean is that you get to include a signup checkbox to your comments, check out lists or contact forms, to name a few.

MailChimp for WordPress is one of the most popular free WordPress plugins for the job. Currently, it counts more than 700,000 happy users who have been growing their email lists with the fantastic plugin.

It’s worth to know that the plugin is regularly updated and that there are more 600 five-stars ratings.

Install MailChimp for WordPress

OK, now that you got to know the plugin, it is time to get it up and running. Just like with any other WordPress plugin, it’s easy and quick to get it on your site.

  1. Navigate to Plugins -> Add New
  2. Search for MailChimp for WordPress
  3. Install and activate the plugin

Create the API key

As you might have guessed, you need to connect your MailChimp account somehow with the plugin you just installed. To do so, you will need an API key which you can quickly create from your MailChimp account.

  1. Go to MailChimp API settings
  2. Click on the Create A Key button
  3. Copy the key which looks something like this: 20db0a2fe4e1abf41f9a3fd3cc920b1b-us12
  4. Go back to the WordPress dashboard
  5. Navigate to MailChimp for WordPress -> MailChimp
  6. Paste your API key
  7. Click on the Save Changes button

After saving changes, you should see a confirmation of successful connection. Please wait for several seconds until the plugin fetches all the lists you may have in your MailChimp account. Now you’re officially done with connecting your account to the plugin, and you can start working on your first form. It wasn’t that difficult, was it?

Create your first form

Before you can show the subscription form to your visitors, you will need to set up and customize one. As we already told you, you can create a form from your MailChimp account, but everything’s quite easier with the help of this plugin – that’s why you installed in the first place. So, how to create a form?

  1. Navigate to MailChimp for WordPress -> Forms
  2. Give your form a name and select a list where you will store subscribers (the one you created previously)
  3. Click Add new form button

This is where the fun begins because you get to customize your form finally. User Interface is very simple, and you shouldn’t have any problems navigating through the settings. Let’s see the settings which are organized in tabs.

MailChimp for WordPress form options

  • Fields – From this tab, you get to add different fields to your form. You can add the email address, first name, last name, submit button, list choice, and form action fields. As you insert the fields, you will be able to see how the code changes on the bottom of the screen. If you know the basics of HTML & CSS, you can directly modify the form by typing the code.
  • Messages – This tab allows you to set up custom messages for your form. You can personalize messages that will tell subscribers when they are successfully subscribed, unsubscribed, if they missed a field, and so on.
  • Settings – Here you can change some basic settings regarding your form. Switch the list you are using, choose if you want to use double opt-in or if you want to update existing subscribers’ data. Additionally, you can decide to hide form fields after a user subscribes and redirect a user to any URL after subscription.
  • Appearance – Choose the style of your form. You can select several color options, use the basic form style or load the style based on your current theme.

At any time during form customization, you can click the preview button which will show you how the form looks like at current development stage. This will help you to build your first form just like you want it.

Put the form into action

MailChimp for WordPress form preview

Once you complete the customization and you’re ready to use the form, it is time to place it on your site. Luckily, the MailChimp for WordPress plugin creates a shortcode which you can get any time by clicking the Get shortcode button found on top of the screen.

The shortcode will look something like this: [mc4wp_form id=”707″]

All you have to do now is to copy and paste the shortcode in a post, page or a text widget.


If you want to integrate MailChimp for WordPress with other form plugins, you can quite easily do that from the plugin’s settings.

  1. Go to MailChimp for WordPress -> Integrations
  2. Choose comment, registration form or select a plugin from the list
  3. Select options from the new settings window and save changes

If the plugin you want to show MailChimp subscription checkbox isn’t on the list, you will have to copy the code by choosing Custom option manually.

That’s it! You have successfully created your first MailChimp form, and you are ready to get your first subscribers. Before getting that first email, you should test the form by filling it out yourself.

Take note that MailChimp usually uses double opt-in. That means you will have to confirm subscription once you receive the email.

Also, that means that subscribers won’t appear on the list until they confirm the email. So, if you have tested the form, go to your inbox, open the email you received and click on the confirm button. After a few minutes, you can go to your MailChimp account to see that the first subscriber is actually on the list.

Although it takes some time before you create your first MailChimp form, soon you will see that the plugin is quite simple. That’s why you get to upgrade it to MailChimp for WordPress PRO if you want more options.

But if you want even more control over your subscription forms and opt-ins, we suggest that you take a look at OptIn Ninja which we reviewed some time ago. Also, make sure to check the best plugins for generating leads.

How do you like using MailChimp for WordPress?

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