How to Use Free Content to Grow your Email Subscriber List

Many marketers and small businesses provide helpful free content on their blogs or through their newsletters. This free content provides value to their customers and potential customers while also demonstrating their knowledge and expertise. Gaining the trust of others by way of sharing this free knowledge will (ideally) eventually lead to new customers gained and more sales made.

We offer both types of free content as part of our business model. We blog right here a couples times a week, and also publish a monthly newsletter full of even juicier information than what we make publicly available in our blog posts.

This post shows you how to set up an email subscriber opt-in process through MailChimp, meaning you will provide some very useful downloadable content for free in exchange for a subscriber’s email address.

This is a two-part tutorial. Part 1 covers how to set up your MailChimp Email list and the series of forms that are involved with the sign-up process. Part 2 covers how to set up an image on your sidebar that is linked to your free downloadable content and email subscription optin.

How to Use Free Content to Grow Email Subscriber List

Part 1: How to Setup a MailChimp Email List & Related Forms

1. Sign into your MailChimp account and click to Create a New List. We suggest naming it something that you’ll easily identify as the list created for your free content download.

Create a New List of Email Subscribers in MailChimp

Complete all the required fields for your new list, then click Save. You’ll then be returned to your full list of email subscriber lists.

2. Click on the new list you just created. Then click on Signup Forms.

Create Forms for new MailChimp Subscriber List3. From the list of signup form types, select General Forms.

MailChimp General Forms4. The default form is your main Signup Form. This would be Step 1 in the process of a new subscriber joining any email list. Scroll down to design your signup form, and add/modify any fields as appropriate. Keep in mind this is what website visitors will first see after clicking the link on your website.

Design your MailChimp Signup Form


Customize the text and colors of your MailChimp signup form

5. After designing your MailChimp Signup Form, scroll back up the page and select Signup ‘Thank You’ Page from the drop-down menu. This is the page new subscribers view in their browser tab immediately upon submitting their email address to you.

MailChimp Signup Thank You Page

Make any desired design or text changes to this form. Provide clear information on what’s next in the process.

Customize your MailChimp Signup Thank You Page

6. Scroll back up to the list of available forms. This time select Opt-in Confirmation Email from the drop-down menu. This email is what your new subscriber will receive in their inboxes prompting them to confirm their subscription to your list.

Customize MailChimp Subscription Optin Confirmation Email

Modify your email subject line and form text, if desired.

7. Scroll back up and choose Confirmation ‘Thank You’ Page from the drop-down form menu.

Since you have your downloadable PDF hosted on our website, you technically could simply enter the direct URL for that hosted PDF into the field provided here. You can choose to do this instead of sending a Thank You email.

Add link to free downloadable content to your MailChimp Thank You page

This means that as soon as a new subscriber clicks on the Yes, subscribe me to the list button in the confirmation email they receive, a new browser tab will open where they can view and then download their free PDF.

Confirm double optin to receive a free download

However, many business owners would prefer to continue this process a bit further so the link to access the PDF is available in an email for your new subscriber. This can be especially preferable for mobile users as most people would prefer to download a PDF document to their computers.

You can customize this form to include that PDF link, or add more steps (and emails) to your process.

MailChimp subscription confirmed email form

Now that you have successfully set up your new MailChimp list and all the related forms, you can shift focus over to your website or wherever you’ll be hosting the subscription link.

Part 2: Promoting your Free Content on your Website

8. To grab the subscription link needed to add to your site, view the main Signup Form again. Copy the eepurl link located here.

Find the eepurl link for your MailChimp subscriber list

9. We’re going to place our free content download in the sidebar of our blog page. Preferably you should create an image to use for this as that would be more attention-grabbing than a simple text link. Upload that image to your media library before continuing.

10. From your WordPress dashboard, visit Appearances –> Widgets from the left sidebar. Click to add a new Text Widget. Give your widget whatever name you’d like. Next, you’ll need the eepurl link from Step 8 above and the direct URL to your uploaded image file (you can locate this by visiting your WordPress Media Library). Your MailChimp list URL replaces the red line, and the location URL of your hosted image will replace the green line.

clickable blog image

Both URLs are enclosed with “” marks.

Save your new text widget and view your blog. You should now see the image you created to promote your free content, and when clicked, you should be able to move through the email opt-in steps to subscribe to your list and receive the link to your downloadable PDF.

Promote free content download in your website sidebar

You can view new email subscriptions from your MailChimp dashboard.

New MailChimp Subscriber to your Free Download list

Now that it’s live on your site, make sure to test it our yourself!

1 Comment

  1. Pat Payne Millsap

    Very timely post, Liz. Thanks for the great information. I’ll be going through this process later this month and will let you know how it goes.


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