How to Set Up Category-Specific Opt-In Forms

I want to give you some detailed ways to actually set up the category-specific opt-in forms for the lead magnet strategy that I wrote about last week. It’s all well and good to understand the ideas, but sometimes the implementation can get tricky.

Following are three different ideas on how to set these opt-in forms up on a WordPress website for each blog post category. As is typical with WordPress, you can do it for free if you want to put in the time and/or feel comfortable with a little code. Or to save time, you can pay for a solution that does what you need, and probably a whole lot more.

How to set up category-specific opt-in forms on your WordPress website

High-level set up for category-specific opt-in form

No matter what method you use, you will need the following:

  • A WordPress blog with a few categories set up
  • A lead magnet for each post category (fyi, it’s okay to start with one and add as you can)
  • An email marketing platform like ActiveCampaign or MailChimp that is set up with a way to segment your list of subscribers. (tags, groups, even separate lists)
  • Method for lead magnet delivery (via email, via page)

And the very basic steps:

  1. You will add your opt-in form to the blog post page.
  2. Then you’ll integrate that opt-in form with your email marketing platform.
  3. During that integration set up, you will specify what the email software should do with the info that the form sends to it. Typically, that will be the name of the list and the name of the segment your new subscriber should be added to.
  4. And finally, you’ll have to deliver the lead magnet. You could do this via the first email sent out from the email marketing platform. You could also have the software redirect your new subscriber to a page with the lead magnet.

Now, here are some ways to get that done! (as was pointed out to me, these are NOT the only ways to do this, but I believe they’re the top 3 that would interest busy, business-owning moms who aren’t coders)

1| Manual set up for category-specific opt-in form

Pros: free, as flexible as you want to make it

Cons: takes more time because you have to add an opt-in form every time you write a post, may be hard to build

There are so many ways to add optin forms for your lead magnets manually, that it is impossible to talk about them all (just as it’s impossible to talk through every paid solution below!). When I say manual, what I mean is that you set up a form on each post or page where you want it to appear. You might be able to use a saved template or a short code, but you have to place it yourself. 

Email marketing company form building

I’m going to assume that you use an email marketing platform if you’re reading about adding opt-ins to your website! I’m talking about platforms like Active Campaign and MailChimp. Most of the email marketing platforms will have a way to build opt-in forms with their tools. 

The downside of using the forms provided by you email marketing platform is that you won’t be able to customize them as much as you could with other methods. They may even be branded with the email marketing company’s logo.

Once you have your form built, the email marketing company will give you a way to add it to your site, and should have clear instructions on how to do so. What I’ve seen most often is a shortcode. 

If you’re using the WordPress Gutenberg editor for your blog posts, you will just select a “shortcode” block and add the little bit of text, including the brackets to that block.

Page builder form building

If you’re already using software that can create forms (or has them in a library), then you can use those to gain a little more freedom with your opt-in forms.

You can use a form builder like GravityForms, which has many different addon plugins that help you integrate with your email marketing platform. 

Or, if you use a page builder, such as Beaver Builder or Elementor, it will likely have a sign-up or opt-in form that you can use and customize. Most will also integrate with the major email marketing platforms.

You will still have to add the form to your pages and posts manually however. The good news is that you can save these opt-in forms as templates and can add them pretty easily, without having to rebuild them.

2| Dynamic opt-in forms in your sidebar widgets based on category

The JetPack plugin allows you to show and hide different widgets in your widget areas with the Widget Visibility Module. And, you can hide and show the widget based on post category. The beauty of this solution is that once it’s set up, you don’t have to remember to place a form on every page. Your site will handle that for you.

So you would need to create a number of opt-in forms with JetPack’s Subscription Widget module. First, create one umbrella form to use when you’re not using a category-specific form, and then a form for each category you want to target.

Then, you would adjust the visibility rules for each opt-in form. Show each category-specific form when category = [your target category]. 

For the umbrella form you need to cover all the pages and posts that don’t have one of those target categories. Select hide in the visibility rules and create separate rule for each of the targeted categories. For example, Hide when category = [target a], category = [target b], category = [target c].

Example from JetPack’s own site:

from JetPack,

I wouldn’t use JetPack only for this, because it’s one of those plugins that does a bazillion different things. But, if you’re already using it, or see that you can use many of its modules, then JetPack could be a great solution.

3| Specific software meant for building opt-in forms

Opt-in software can be pricey but it can add so much flexibility and automation that I find it to be well worth it. You do need to make sure that it will offer the features you want, particularly, displaying based on blog post category.

There are many choices here, but my preference is for OptinMonster. OptinMonster lets me set up an opt-in form, and then display it automatically at the end of every blog post with a particular category. Another choice I’m investigating right now is Hustle, which also can automatically add a form to a post based on category. 

With these plugins, you create your opt-in forms with their software, and then specify where the forms should display in your WordPress admin area.

This is by far the easiest and fastest way to create and display category-specific opt-in forms. And if you’re like most business-owning moms, time is at a premium!

Next Steps

So, if content upgrades seem like just too much, give category-specific lead magnets and opt-in forms a try. Start with one of your more popular blog categories to see if you can improve your email sign up rates. 

Featured Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

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