Hosting Tutorial & Guide

A Beginners' Guide to Content Upgrades – Increase Your Email Subscribers Easily

updated on Nov 11, 2015
A Beginners' Guide to Content Upgrades – Increase Your Email Subscribers Easily Content upgrades are a relatively new but effective technique that helps build an email list and boost conversions. It has been adopted by some leading blogs already, but most other bloggers are still hesitating due to a lack of deep knowledge or the fear for additional workload.

If you are new to this technique but very curious about it, then this post is for you. In below, we will introduce what a content upgrade is, and offer a detailed tutorial about how to implement a content upgrade on your site. Some helpful tools and tips are also suggested.

What Is a Content Upgrade?

A content upgrade is a bonus resource which your readers can access (download, for example) in exchange for their contact details – an email address, in most cases. Content upgrades are not shared site-wide, but instead, they are post-specific, exclusive to the readers of a post and working as a piece of complementary information. The concept was first introduced by Clay Collins, the co-founder of LeadPages.

There are many types of content upgrades, and below are some of the most widely used ones.
  • A PDF file that works as a downloadable version of your post or offers additional resources and tools related to the post topic.
  • A checklist, an eBook, or a worksheet.
  • A how-to tutorial or a start guide.
  • A straight-forward video tutorial or a video interview with an expert in the topic.
  • A downloadable freebie, such as a free icon, template or landing page design.
Content upgrades are usually put at the end of a post with a download button, link, or a clickable image, so that those readers who have finished the post and desire more information will be likely to give away their email addresses for quick access to the complementary content they need. When someone clicks on the download link, a popup will appear asking him/her to enter the email address to access the downloadable material.

Content Upgrade Example

Many pioneers, such as Backlinko, have made great success by supplying content upgrades – double, triple or even higher conversions for individual blog posts. So if you rely much on the email list to make profits online, you can certainly have a try on this technique.

But you should always remember that the additional content must be really relevant to the original post which it is included in. For example, for a post about Google ranking factors, you'd better provide a detailed checklist or some practical SEO strategies that the readers will find helpful.

The largest downside of content upgrades, however, is the additional workload. You need to take much time to make investigations on your site, find useful extra resources, and finally work out a helpful material. But all success requires hardworking, right? Personally speaking, we will suggest every blogger to have a try.

How to Implement Content Upgrades to Gain More Subscribers?

Talks are much easier than deeds. In fact, implementing a content upgrade requires some efforts and the use of necessary tools. The detailed steps can be learned in below.

Step 1: Select a popular post on your blog

You are not about to add content upgrades to every post. Instead, you need to find out the posts with the highest traffic and then select one or several of them as the target because such posts have the most potential to generate email subscriptions. Also, doing so allows you to focus more on the clear goals without wasting time and resource on the less useful posts.

To find out the most popular pages on your blog, you can log into your Google Analytics account and go to Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages. There you can get a list of the most viewed pages. We'd suggest you to start with the #1 on the list unless the topic of it is too simple to be discussed further.

Google Analytics Landing Pages

Step 2: Craft a content upgrade resource

Before creating the content, you must decide what to offer for your readers. There are many choices – an eBook, a PDF file, a video tutorial, an interview, etc. Among all the choices, a PDF version of the post and a downloadable file with some additional tips are the easiest.

If you are not so clear about the decision, the comments of the selected post may help. You can read through every comment and see what the readers want from you. Some kind readers might also give you some suggestions on the content or the structure. Concluding those ideas will surely help you to make up your mind.

Once you have made the decision, you can start crafting the content upgrade. You must be careful when doing this because the new subscribers' first impression on your blog will largely depend on the quality of the content upgrade they receive. If the content does not look as good as what they expect, it's possible that they will look for a way to opt out immediately. What you should think is not only about how to gain subscribers, but also about how to keep them.

There are some standards for a good content upgrade. At a minimum level, it must be:
  • Relevant. This is the #1 rule that you must follow. You should never ever offer anything that has nothing to do with the post. Imagine that you walk into a shoe shop but the salesperson asks you "Would you like to take a look at this coat?". The feel is terrible, right?
  • Valuable. Content upgrades should be very related to the original post and can offer some information that really help. For example, if the post analyzes why a WordPress site loads slowly, you can offer a PDF with practical advice for speeding up WordPress or several effective case studies. In short, the content upgrade has to be informational, and can show the readers a clear edge of downloading it.
  • Visually pleasant. If you want to impress the readers, you'd better apply a template to the content upgrade especially in the case that the resource is a PDF file. Do not just let it be plain words which make readers easily get tired of. Proper color schemes and formatting will leave a much better impression and bring more chances for the subscribers to look forward to your next newsletter.
A well crafted and high quality resource will undoubtedly lead to a higher conversion rate in the long run.

Craft a Content Upgrade Resource

Step 3: Add the content upgrade to your blog

Usually, content upgrades adopt two-step opt-in to collect subscribers while giving away the free resource. With this method, you put a clickable image, a download button or a block with a download link on the page instead of a signup form, and only when the image/button/link is clicked, will the opt-in box pops up. This helps you leave readers an impression of giving instead of taking.

Making a good popup manually is a little bit hard, so you will need a tool which can help you present the content upgrade like a pro. Below are the best choices.
  • LeadPages – LeadPages includes a feature named LeadBoxes which is designed for adding popups for content upgrades. Beautiful templates are available. More importantly, LeadPages is integrated with multiple email service providers including MailChimp, Aweber and iContact. The price of this tool starts from $25/mo.
  • OptinMonster – Creating a professional popup opt-in form with OptinMonster can take less than 5 minutes. The click-and-go process does not require any coding knowledge. The price starts at $9/mo.
Both of LeadPages and OptinMonster have easy-to-understand getting-started tutorials, so you can rest assured that there is no obstacle when using them.

Extra tip: yellow box

If you would like to use a content block to display the download link, we would suggest using a yellow box around the text which has been proved to bring more attentions and subscriptions.

Yellow Box

To make such a box, you will have to work around some simple coding. Firstly, you need to create a shortcode by adding the code below to the functions.php file of your theme, so that you can add yellow boxes more easily in the future.

Yellow Box Shortcode

After the code is added, you can make a yellow box simply by using the following shortcode.

[yellowbox]Add the text here[/yellowbox]