How to create a simple freebie from blog content

Let me show you how you can create a simple freebie using your blog and MailChimp to grow your email list. This technique is often called a content upgrade.

Firstly I'll tell you what a content upgrade is if you don't know what that is! A content upgrade is something you can offer readers that complements your blog post and adds value. Your visitor will join your email list and get the free complimentary content.

It works like this:

  1. I read your blog post and find it provides a lot of value
  2. Within that blog post, you offer me extra content that I know will help me
  3. I give you my email address and you send me the bonus content!

That's a content upgrade and many people think you just can't do that with MailChimp and you can. And you can do it with the free version!

Now, this tutorial may look long but that's just because I want it to be super clear for you to follow. The fact is that once you do this once you just need to copy and paste to create more.

[**Please note that MailChimp has changed many things since this was posted. You may still find some concepts useful as the basics here still work, but you will have to locate tasks in new menus within the changed MailChimp interface]

create and track downloads from email signups with MailChimp and popup ally

How to create a simple freebie with the Free version of MailChimp (and track what your subscribers download)


Why track?

In this case, I'm going to show you how to track what each of your email subscribers downloads, and where on your website they joined your email list using the free version of MailChimp. First, you will create an email list for each of your downloads and track where. Within that list, you can track exactly where your subscriber downloaded that content.

Say you created a handy guide to awesomeness that people love. Of course!

You might want to offer that in many places on your website. Maybe you have it available in your website footer, your blog navigation and in blog posts where it complements the content you're blogging about. Now you'll be able to track where each subscriber downloaded that content and from that information, you know more about them and your audience.


If you decide to use the paid version of MailChimp you can do a lot more with the tracking feature I'm going to teach you how to use but it isn't necessary for what I am teaching you today.

Create a list and signup form for your new simple freebie

Create a list for your content upgrade and call it something intuitive like "Keys to effective meditation"

Then go to “Signup forms” -> "General forms" -> “Create forms” -> “Signup form” to create your form
Create your form with the fields you want to collect information



Add tracking!

  1. Add a new text field (choose “text” from right-side form options). You are creating an invisible place to collect the location information you want to track. In this case, where did people SIGNUP?
  2. Give this field the following options:
    Field Label: "SIGNUP"
    Field Tag: "SIGNUP"
    Visible: check this off
    Default Merge Tag Value: Give this a one-word intuitive description of WHERE you will be placing this form to collect subscribers and  content download like the name of your BLOG POST “7MeditationsForStress”
  3. Save your form

text1 mergefield

Link to your ThankYou Page

  1. Head over to the “Forms and response emails” drop-down and select “Confirmation thank you page” and paste the URL for your thank you page


Create your final welcome email with your simple freebie

  1. Under “Forms and response emails” click on “Final welcome email”
  2. Make sure you check off the box under the drop-down that says “send a final welcome email”
  3. Put whatever you want to say here in your welcome email and link to your download. To hook up your download do this:
  4. Type something to link to like download your free 7 Meditations For Stress Now!
  5. When you create the link choose “file” from the options. You will be taken to your uploaded files to choose one. You can upload a new one here as well, then choose it and the link will appear in the available box. Then click "INSERT".


Before you leave MailChimp, go to “Sign up forms” -> “Embedded forms” and copy the code.

embedform pastecode

Put the form on your website with PopupAlly (or any other email form plugin)!

I recommend PopupAlly because it's the most flexible email plugin I've worked with.  This plugin gives you a lot of control and if you want to use the tracking I am teaching you will need some control that not all email plugins give you. You don't need to use the tracking if you just want to simplify things now and just go for the content upgrade know how.

If that's all you want, use any email form plugin. MailChimp even has one.

Now install PopupAlly: go to your WordPress Plugins page and search for "PopupAlly" and install.

Here's how you paste the code into PopupAlly and create your content upgrade form!

Once PopupAlly is installed

Look for PopupAlly in the left side menu of WordPress and click on it.

Now you will create a new popup (all email forms are called popups in PopupAlly so don't worry this isn't going to be a popup!).  ***I'm using PopupAlly Pro -but the steps are the same!

In Display Settings

You start in the "Display Settings" (the gears icon on the top left).

  1. Give your new popup a meaningful name like "7MeditationsForStress-upgrade" by clicking on the little area (pencil icon)
  2. While you're still in "Display Settings" there are two tabs at the top once called "Popup" and the other "Embedded opt-in". Click on "Embedded opt-in"
  3. Check the box under "Make this opt-in a part of the page?"

pa-1 pa-2

In Style Settings

Go to the "Style Settings" (the paint pallet icon on the left under the gears).

  1. Paste in the MailChimp HTML code you copied from MailChimp, in the box that says "Sign Up HTML".
  2. Make sure that "Information Destination" is set to "email system with opt-in form"
  3. Customize your form ->Go to the "Popup Template" section and choose "Express yourself" as the template.
  4. Edit the "Background color", "Headline text", "Headline Style color" "Subscribe Button Text" & "Subscribe Button Color".
  5. Hide the name field if you have one in your form to make this nice and compact. Statistically, more people fill out forms that require only the email field. Check off the box here: "Hide Name Input Field"

pa-3 pa-5

Check how it looks on mobile in the "Style Settings" (the gear in the top of the left menu). You can click tabs for Desktop, Tablets, and Mobile Phones to see how your form looks on each.

Changing the "Popup Box Size" width, usually, fixes anything that looks odd here. You can always turn it off for mobile if you have a lot of text that you want to keep and it just looks odd on mobile. You can turn it off for mobile by going into the "Display Settings" (the paint pallet 2nd down on the left menu) and checking off the box under "How to stop showing this popup" next to "Disable on Mobile Devices".

Hit "Save Changes" that's the orange button at the bottom of the page!

You can edit more but these are the basics.

Go to your blog post and test out the form you've created!

Choose a spot in your blog that makes sense to offer your additional content and paste the short-code for your form created in PopupAlly there.

Grab your shortcode from the "Display Settings" in PopupAlly

grabshortcode grabshortcode2

The shortcode is always the same but the ID is specific for the form you've just created.

Now you can track where your subscribers came from!

Now that you have your form on your blog page with your content upgrade you can see who signed up for what with the hidden field you created. In MailChimp you will see all your downloads under your SIGNUP label. I used a different label for mine called "Signup from location", yours will say "SIGNUP".

In the example, below I can see who joined my list by downloading a freebie I called The Website Purpose Map, WPM for short. This is what it looks like in MailChimp:



Last but not least you can automatically copy subscribers from your content download lists to your main list by creating a quick Zap in This is an automation tool that will copy new subscribers from list "x" to list "y".    Here are instructions from Zappier how to setup a workflow that will copy subscribers from one list to another automatically.  It's easy.

Here are some of my current zaps. Have fun!



I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. There are many ways to increase your email signups. Content upgrades are just one way.  If you've got any questions don't hesitate to ask.


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