How to Tie a Download to Your Opt-In Form

One of the questions we get a lot is about how to offer a bonus or download to people who sign up to an email list.

So what’s the best way to do this?

Not protecting your downloads: a common mistake

A lot of people still put the download on their thank-you page, so that after visitors fill out the web form, they can get the file directly on that page.

One justification I hear for this technique is that it makes things easier on the subscriber, by immediately giving them the file, rather than having them go check their inbox. And that’s true, it is the fastest way to get it in their hands.

But here’s the catch: if all I have to do is fill something in the form to get to the download, what’s stopping me from putting a fake address, like

Nothing at all. And while it may not seem like something that people do, the truth of the matter is that we see thousands of such bogus web form submissions every day.

Secure your download

So, you need to make sure that the people who are getting that download are actually subscribers. Here’s how you can tie a download to your opt-in form:

1. On your thank you page, instruct them to check their email and confirm their address (by clicking on the link that appears in the confirmation message).

2. You may want to refer to our pointers on helping subscribers verify.

3. Put the download on another page of your site, and redirect people there after confirming.

4. Include a link to that download page in your autoresponder message also, for subscribers who may have accidentally closed the download page after confirming.

Start giving content to those who deserve it

Now, not only are you providing that download/bonus to subscribers, you’re ensuring that you collect a valid email address for each of them.

And you’re giving them two chances to get the download. Say bye, bye, bye to freeloaders and hello to loyal subscribers!

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  1. Justin Premick

    9/7/2010 10:59 am


    Do you want people who download these different files to get the same emails from you? Or will you want to send different emails to people who downloaded different files?

    If you want everyone to get the same emails, I’d recommend sending them (after confirming) to a page where they can download any/all of those files. That’d be the simplest way, and would also enable them to check out other files that might interest them.

    If you want people to get different emails based on which file they downloaded, then you’ll want to set up a separate list for each file and corresponding emails.

  2. Martin John Price

    9/20/2010 12:32 am

    One issue I think that’s getting more prevalent is the fact that people are just giving stuff away without opt-in at all these days.

    Let me clarify. Certainly potential subscribers are aware of the fact that you’re going to mail them and possibly sell them something in the coming days and weeks of your marketing campaign…

    I am happy to give my stuff away without opt-in and if the quality is good enough they then come back to sign up for the juicy stuff… in theory.

    I said no opt-in but if your content is king then people will naturally subscribe IMHO.

  3. jalals

    1/18/2011 6:55 pm

    Hi, How can i protect my download/confirmation page.?

    When my visitors get a confimation page link, and they go to that page. They can see a download link.

    What if they copy paste that link and send to others? My pdf file will still be able to download since i am using a permanent link to download file.

    Is there any way i can secure my download page from non-subscribers?


  4. Rod

    9/27/2011 5:18 pm

    Thanks for shedding some light on how to implement a good email subscription strategy, that should turn out to be a win win situation.

  5. steve

    2/28/2012 7:46 pm

    Hi All, I want to employ this method of capturing contact details prior to downloading documents on my companies new website, so that i can further market to those subscribers.

    However my developer has just come back to me with this comment which I’m quite surprised at…..”in my humble and professional opinion (this type of form) is going to piss people off and damage your brand. Nobody does this besides companies who have either a unique product that nobody else has or people who don’t really want people to see what they have. This is very circa 1999 thinking – not to mention complicating the build and adding costs to your business with secure certificates on hosting etc. I won’t go into hiding content from SEO.”

    Are his comments substantiated in anyway? thoughts anyone?

  6. Amanda Gagnon

    2/29/2012 9:30 am

    Hi Steve,
    We’re certainly not recommending hiding your content from either your subscribers or SEO. We’re recommending providing your download on the confirmation page, instead of on the thank-you page, so your subscribers have finished the registration process before they get it. Sort of like a teacher giving out a good grade for a final draft of a paper instead of the rough draft. Nothing shady or hard to implement; just placing your download on one page instead of the other.
    – Amanda

  7. JC

    5/2/2012 10:46 pm

    Thanks for the tip – bogus emails are just too easy these days.

  8. Kenny

    7/1/2012 7:32 pm

    I think this can be made very easy indeed.
    Just make sure your web form clearly says that their free stuff will be emailed to them. In that way they would not be expecting to down load anything upon clicking the confirmation button.
    THEN, provide a second page on your site which comes up when the click the confirm button which says ‘Your free book/newsletter etc is on it’s way to your in box’, so they don’t have to email you asking for where to getthe free stuff.
    So by making it very clear on your landing page that the free stuff is to be emailed to them, then there will be no point in the prospect giving a fake email address because that would mean they won’t be able to get the free stuff.

  9. Paris Dimitriou

    9/2/2012 1:56 am

    My question here is whether with the methods you suggested, we control in any way the link to the PDF file. For example, if I forward the email I received to a friend or provide them the link, then they will be able to access the file right?

    I do not think we can do anything about that.

    What are your thoughts on this?

  10. Dilpreet BHatia

    8/27/2013 4:08 am

    I am currently using MailChimp and could not find any option to make the download secure. Does Aweber has wordpress plugin which can offer email collection and making the download happen.

  11. sarah lee

    9/17/2013 3:57 pm

    Hi there,

    Sorry if these are silly questions. I have recently done a marketing course. I was advised at first the easiest method is once the email is submitted, an automatic download. Now reading some of these comments I am not so sure.
    Is this the right thing to be doing?
    1. use the opt in page.
    2. then something like a stop page instructing to send check emails?
    3. once they have confirmed link, they get taken to a thank you were they can download product?
    is that about it?

    sorry, very new, appreciate the support.

    Thank you

    sarah lee

  12. Rachel Acquaviva

    11/12/2013 10:52 am

    Sarah, yes – that’s exactly it!