I was reading Sarah’s excellent blog post about finding your own way through mailing list freebies, and I got to thinking: This is something I help people with… a lot. 

For some reason, the mechanics of how everything flows together- from collecting an email address to sending the free giveaway- escapes most of us.

Today, I’m going to share the way that I recommend handling email freebies. I’ll be using Aweber as my example, but the technique is very similar for Mailchimp, Madmimi, etc.

Here’s how we want things to end up:

First, someone signs up for your list on your website through some kind of web form, like this one:

[ois skin=”About Page Form”]

They should be directed to a custom thank-you page that explains what they need to do next, which is to check their email and click the confirmation link.

After they click the link, they should be directed to a page on your website where your freebie “lives”.

Easy, right? Let’s get to it.

What you’ll need

  • An Aweber account (you can try one for a month for under a buck)
  • Your freebie: Something to give away to your subscribers, like a PDF, video, etc.
  • A dedicated page on your site for the freebie that’s hidden from the navigation

Step 1: Set up your freebie page

Remember, this is the page that your new subscriber hits after they confirm their email address, so make sure to thank them for taking that extra step, and make it super easy for them to download the freebie!

I typically break the page up into three sections

Thank you for signing up

Review the freebie features/benefits

Present the freebie (download link, embedded video, etc)

I like to host this file on DropBox in my public folder, rather than with my hosting provider. Why? If I get a front page Lifehacker feature and 10,000 people hit my site at once for the freebie, my site is gonna go d-o-w-n. Hosting the file on DropBox helps keep things speedy. It never hurts to think big.

Okay, so you’ve got your page all written and published? Great, copy that URL and follow me…

Step 2: Configure your list

Here’s the tricky part- you need to tell Aweber where to send subscribers after they confirm their email address. This is called the “Success Page”, and you set it up in the overall settings for your list (not in the web form settings).

1. Sign into your Aweber account, and choose List Settings from the My Lists menu. Then, choose the list you want to set up in the drop-down menu (in my case, I’m working with the Email Ninja Kit list)

list settings

2. Click onto step 3 in the list setup wizard (called “Confirmed Opt-In”).

step 3

3. This is important: Write a custom message in the “Your Custom Message” field that explains what they need to do  and what they’re going to get in return. Nothing stinks more than getting a generic unpersonalized message after signing up for a list.

Custom message

4. Scroll down- this is even more important. Put the URL of your custom page (that contains the freebie) into the “Confirmation Success URL” field. This tells Aweber where to send your subscriber after they confirm (to your freebie page).


Don’t forget to click save.

If you want to see mine you’re just going to have to sign up for the Email Ninja Kit.

Step 3: Test it out

I’d highly recommend signing up for your own list to make sure everything works correctly before you put it out there. Nothing pisses people off more than not being able to get the free thing that they were promised.

Frequently Asked Questions

My email list provider allows me to attach files to messages. Why not just attach the freebie to the confirmation email?

Two reasons- First, spam filters are very sensitive to attachments from unknown senders. So including an attachment on your first message is a one way ticket to the bulk mail folder. Second, we want your subscribers to get used to clicking through. This is just a fancy way of saying that you want your subscribers to be familiar with (and willing to) visit your website when you send them an email. If they don’t, then what’s the point of having their email anyway?

What about [insert mailing list provider here]?

Here are some links to help articles that describe part of this process for Mailchimp, Madmimi, and iContact.

Why Aweber?

It just works. Aweber is geared directly towards online businesses- allowing you to continue sending subscribers messages (like a course) over the course of days or weeks. They also have myriad customizable opt-in forms (unlike mailchimp’s one option).  And, when you can’t figure something out, Aweber support is more then happy to speak with you on the phone if you so desire.  I’ve been with them for close to two years, and have no plans of changing.

Do you have your freebie in order?

The sooner you give people a reason to sign up for your mailing list, the sooner you’ll be building your email list.

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