Email marketing is still one of the most effective forms of online marketing, and something that I use weekly to grow my agency and generate revenue. They say the money is in the list, and that is a very accurate statement. When you build a list of target customer that are actually interested in what you are selling, it allows you to place offers in front of them at any time without additional marketing costs, aside from what it cost you to originally acquire them.

There are several different ways to build your list, all of which cost money. For example, you can drive traffic from paid Facebook posts to a landing page offer and hope the visitor is enticed enough to hand over his or her email in exchange for whatever you are using as the bribe.

But, what about maximizing the number of email subscribers you add daily from your organic search traffic? That would allow you to build your list without an additional cost. Now, nothing is free, as the SEO required to boost rankings and attract organic traffic costs money. The goal is to leverage what you are already doing and spending money on to build your list, and when you implement content upgrades you can easily 10X your email list building rate.

Most people will try to leverage blog post traffic by placing an opt-in offer in the sidebar, or via a popup lightbox or slide-in. These can capture some emails, sure, but not at the frequency content upgrades can! By using these, you can make every single blog post a list building tool.

Let’s dive right into this strategy, and break down what a Content Upgrade it is and why it works so well..


Content Upgrade: Explanation

A content upgrade is something that is integrated within a blog post that expands on the topic, and its goal is to entice the readers enough to give you his or her email address in exchange for the offer. These can be eBooks, case studies, webinars, audio files, etc. It can honestly be anything that is highly relevant to the current blog post they are reading.

Now, you might be saying, “Why is this different than offering an eBook on every page?” While that can work to some degree, it’s typically a very broad topic range. With content upgrades, you are putting an offer right in front of your visitors that is directly related to what they are reading, which drastically increases the odds of them converting.

It’s more involved than just throwing together one general content bribe and hoping enough of your visitors are interested in it. Sure, it will get you some email subscribers, but if you want to 10X your list building speed, you really need to offer multiple content upgrades laser targeted to each blog post.



Start with Your Most Popular Blog Posts

Since creating content upgrades takes time, and they are blog post specific, you will want to start with your most popular posts first. You want to identify the posts that are currently receiving the highest traffic numbers. Dive into your Google Analytics data and go a bit deeper than just total number of visits.

For example, if you have a post that is receiving about 1,000 visitors a day with the average time on the page 30 seconds, and then have a post that is receiving 500 visitors a day but they are staying 3 minutes, what one is the better post to pair a content upgrade with?

The one with the longer average visit, because that means the visitors are enjoying the post and they will be much more likely to want additional information in the form of a content upgrade. You are clearly providing value on a post like that, so they will be very likely to hand over their email address. You could easily add 50+ emails a day just from one post like this with the right upgrade offer.


Determine the Perfect Upgrade Offer for Each Post

I have seen some people try to use this strategy and they just created an eBook on the same topic of the post. That is the wrong approach. As mentioned, this method takes some work and strategic thinking.

Your audience also dictates what type of offer will work the best. If you are dealing with an older crowd, you want to keep it very simple. eBooks are great for them, or any kind of presentation or case study. Something they can download and physically read in PDF form.

If you are dealing with Millennials, then podcasts or video content would be best, as they love to consume content in these formats. The key to high conversion rates is the right offer paired with the right audience. If your posts are pulling in the right kind of traffic, then you just need the perfect upgrade offer to see a high conversion rate. You are going to have to test a bit, but never limit yourself to just one specific content format for your offers.


Focus on Solving Problems Related to Each Blog Post

Too many people throw together guides, downloads and upgrades that are simply glorified advertisements. Nobody wants to feel like they are being sold, because if they do, they will quickly unsubscribe from your list and never engage with your business again. Doing nothing at all is better than trying to pass off a promotional download upgrade as something of value.

Whatever you are offering should be created around solving the problem that led the person to land on that particular blog post in the first place. Let me give you an example related to an SEO agency.

If I had a blog post titled, “How to Build High Metric Authority Links” then everyone coming from Google is looking to find out how to acquire the best links. If I created a video course that showed how to get a handful of DA80+ links for free, how do you think people would respond to that? I can promise that more than half of the people that saw the offer would jump on it. It helps them solve the problem they are having: securing good links.



Pick an Appealing Content Upgrade Format

There are so many formats that you can pick from, and it’s a good idea to test several to determine what your audience likes better in general, as well as testing different offers on the same blog post. Some of the most common content upgrade formats are:


  • eBooks


  • Case Studies


  • Podcasts


  • Video Courses


  • Webinars


  • How-to Guides


  • Expert Interviews


Consider your audience’s age and the industry when coming up with different formats to use. If you have additional ones to share make sure you leave them in the comments below.


Have Your Content Upgrade Offers Professionally Created

Ok, this is one part of this that many fail to see the value in. In an effort to save money, they attempt to make their upgrades themselves and they turn out very amateurish. Even though you get the email address before they access the download, a poorly designed piece of content is going to push them away.

Many will unsubscribe after the first email simply because they think of the low quality they received and have no interest in your company. The content you put out there is a direct reflection of your business. If you are giving out a video series that looks like it was recorded in a dumpty apartment with a potato then your business is going to appear to be a joke.

You can get almost anything done on sites like or From eBooks to professionally recorded instructional videos and elaborate case studies, there are talented freelancers that will deliver content that looks amazing for just a few hundred dollars.

Consider the outcome of a good piece of content. If a single content upgrade is going to attract an extra 10 emails a day (3,650 per year) isn’t it worth spending some money on it? You will still generate emails for pennies!


DIY the Production if You Are on a Budget

Ok, not everyone has the funds to hire a professional to create their content upgrades. If you are going to do it yourself, at least ensure that it’s the highest possible quality you can do without breaking the bank.

You could make an eBook in no time by cranking out a Word document and converting it to a PDF. You would be very limited in terms of styling and it would look cheap. Take the time to learn Photoshop and create higher quality documents.

Even if you are doing something like recording videos, take the time to make sure they look professional. You don’t even need to spend money. Rather than shooting in your living room, convert your bedroom to a studio for the shoot. Use a white bed sheet for the backdrop and set up lighting so you get the highest quality video.

There are three steps to creating a content upgrade:


  • Create an Outline: You need the outline before you attempt to make it look good. After all, the content is where the value comes from. The design just makes it presentable.


  • Design the Product: You will need to have some knowledge, or at least have some good programs like Photoshop at your disposal. Sites like also have a lot of free image tools you can use.


  • Design a Product Image: You will always want to include a product image in your call-to-action. People like to “see” what they are going to get. This is something you can do yourself or just use Fiverr and get product images designed for $5.


Design Calls-to-Action Specific to Each Blog Post

You need to have a well-designed call-to-action placed within each blog post. You might even want to put it in your content multiple times if you are posting long-form content to ensure people see the offer.

A lot of people that do this correctly design a large rectangle with a very hard to miss opt-in and button to claim the offer. I would advise against using standard opt-in templates because thousands of websites use the same ones. Spend $50 and have a developer make you call-to-action templates that match the look and feel of your website, yet are impossible to miss. This allows you to edit almost all parts, making them very blog specific for each offer.


Create an Automated Delivery & Lead Nurturing System

The entire point of creating these is to collect more emails. You will want to automate the entire process, from download to lead nurturing. This can really take off, so doing this manually is out of the question.

There are several download manager plugins available, some paid and many free. This allows you to host them on your website, yet protect them from being accessible unless they complete the opt-in process.

Then, you will want to set up an autoresponder, unless you are just funneling all of your emails into a newsletter account. Since this strategy can generate a lot of emails, I would highly suggest setting up an automated sequence that markets 24/7 without you having to lift a finger. You can always manually email the list, but the goal is to collect as many emails and convert as many into money.


Monitor Your Current Traffic Sources & Analyze Email Opt-In Rates

Once you start using content upgrades, you need to stay on top of them to determine what works and what contributes to the largest email opt-in spikes. Segment everything, from traffic sources to whether or not the subscriber came from the content upgrade or an additional opt-in avenue on the page.

Just like you optimize any other aspect of a website, this is no different. Spit test, try new things and don’t be afraid to clip losing efforts and start from scratch. You aren’t going to win every time, but with continued testing you will start to see a major spike in subscribers.



Final Thoughts

I can promise you that your email list will generate more revenue than any other options, including social media, in terms of ROI. When you run Facebook ads or Google AdWords, you are paying for every single visitor that clicks through to your offer, regardless of whether they buy or not.

When you build a list, you are able to market to the same person over and over, often creating repeat customers, and the only hard cost is the initial cost of getting them to join your list.

Content upgrades take a little time to put together, but they help you build your list 10X faster. So, why don’t many companies take advantage of this strategy? It’s simple: they are lazy.

Everyone is obsessed with finding shortcuts, but I can tell you from first-hand experience that there are no shortcuts when you are building a real company.

If you have any specific questions related to content upgrades or the steps outlined above, drop them in the comments below. I will do my best to answer you as quickly as possible and help you implement this strategy into your own business.

Tommy McDonald

Tommy is an SEO professional with years of experience running highly successful SEO companies, founded SerpLogic after noticing there was a major void when it came to options for SEO agencies needing a reliable and professional one-stop outsource solution.You can read all about me in the “About” page here on our blog!

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