The Secret To Creating Irresistible Content Upgrades That Increase Email Subscribers And Add Value

The Secret To Creating Irresistible Content Upgrades That Increase Email Subscribers And Add Value |
NOTE: This content may be out of date. There are plenty of solid takeaways that stand the test of time, but some strategies and ideas may not be relevant any longer. This blog is no longer actively maintained nor supported. The author has moved onto different things present [ here ]. Thank you.


Another email list growth strategy.

The third one she found on Twitter... Today.

Why are they all the same? 

Lofty promises veiled with translucent steps to get you there. 

So, she emptied her email inbox of all the "extra information" she didn't need at that moment. She exited from all the social media tabs she'd left open, and put her phone on "Airplane Mode".

Let's find some clarity in all this noise, she thought.

What can I create that will help close the visitor-to-subscriber decision-making gap for readers?

She grabbed a piece of clean printer paper from her desk drawer and focused on what, exactly, she was doing with her website and content strategy.

She created a simple, bulleted list that started with:

  • consistently posts long-form content every week—Check

  • content is reader-focused and highly beneficial—Check

  • uses lots of examples, proof, and imagery—Check

  • consistently shares 6 days a week on all the right social channels—Check

  • engages with other bloggers and industry leaders—Check

  • engages with audience and email subscribers consistently—Check

What am I doing wrong? She thought.

Reading this list, there was no possible way that her email opt-in rate was so low. She was getting decent enough traffic to her website and blog, but a very limited amount of visitors were taking the next step with her.

She couldn't understand why. With a sidebar opt-in, homepage opt-in, footer, in-blog links, and on and on opt-in offers–they were barely converting 1 out of every 80 visitors into email subscribers.

This happens to most new bloggers.

Whether or not you'd like to admit that this has ever happened to you, you're reading this because you know to make that next launch profitable, increase product sales, or generate more service-based leads, you know that you need more target email subscribers.

But how can you start with strength?

Let's call our intro-post Heroine, Lucille.

Lucille grabbed another fresh piece of printer paper and drew three large, intersecting circles on it.

At the top of the first circle she wrote: Content

At the top of the second circle she wrote: Value

At the bottom of the sub-level circle she wrote: Acquisition

And where they all intersected, she'd compile her findings from each.

Using her bulleted list and a little more digging through her saved customer emails, blog post comments, social messages, and blog metrics, she filled each large circle to the brim with ideas.

What could she do to make her blog posts even better?

What could she do to make her overall content even more valuable?

What could she do to encourage more visitors to come to her blog to up her chances of securing more qualified email subscribers?


(Did you guess it before Lucille did?)

Aww, yeah. I know you did.

Ding, ding, ding!

Content Upgrades.

We have a winner!

We're going to ditch poor Lucille here (I know, I'm mean) so we can pipe ahead and get as much raw value out of the following info as possible.

Okay, so you may be wondering what the heck a content upgrade actually is:

According to Pat Flynn of,

A content upgrade is simply bonus content that people can get access to in exchange for their email address.

With this, you might be thinking, "Well, I've given my readers a TON of free, valuable info. Why spend another 30 minutes or more creating a 'bonus' they may never use?"

I get that. I do.

And what I've found is that people tend to appreciate more of what you're offering when they can take something away from it. Literally.

In fact, since I've removed the sidebar from my blog and, instead, included content upgrades in all of my posts starting January of 2016:

  • my email opt-in rate doubled in less than 4 weeks.

  • I've received 47% higher email responses from subscribers and visitors praising my recent blog posts.

  • I now have more, valuable content to use in promoting my blog and online store.

Whether or not you're "convinced" that content upgrades are a great contributor to your online growth, I'm sharing the 6 most common questions I've received about them and how they can double your email opt-in rate in one month or less.

I'm positive by the end, you'll not only know how to create simple, useful content upgrades for each of your posts—I'm going to teach you a special strategy to create them in 15 minutes or less.


Let's do this:

Q1. Why Have Content Upgrades?

Content upgrades are a great way to build a niche-focused email list at a 785% higher rate per day, according to Brian Dean of

And in my experience of including content upgrades in at least 1-2 posts out of 4-5 a month (now every post), these simple lead magnets will do 1 of 4 (or all) things for your business:

  • They will increase engagement with your blog post

  • They will increase your amount of email subscribers

  • They will encourage non-readers to use some form your content to their preference

  • They will reveal authority and build trust (which also increases page views—more pages viewed, per visitor)

In any or all cases, content upgrades allow your reader to engage with content you create in some way. Plus, it adds a lot more value to what you're writing.

When I say "niche-focused" in this post, I mean that the people willing to hand you their email addresses for your freebie are drawn to a specific offer.

With that, using the right email automation tool (like ConvertKit), you can segment your subscribers into categories (or Tags) automatically.

That way you're able to consistently deliver content that interests those people.

For example, a few days ago I finally decided to implement this technique using ConvertKit's Tags and Automations. 

Here's an example of automatically segmenting your email list using a tool like ConvertKit. You're able to set up your email opt-in forms (in this case, all content upgrades and lead magnets) and segment your subscribers by interests?the form they opted in from. Click through to check out more on Content Upgrades to increase your email subscribers and content value.

When someone subscribes to, let's say my #4DayGoals landing page, the new subscriber is automatically tagged with "Goals, Improvement, Advancement". 

If they wanted the free action-planning chapter, they're interested in growing their business from the core. (My favorite type of entrepreneur! Totally landed that accidental rhyme.)

So, in the future I can gear specific emails toward helping them advance and improve their business.

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Q2. Which Content Upgrades Work Well At Converting?

Every niche will vary a bit, however, there are 5 main types of content upgrades that convert more visitors into email subscribers better than others:

    •    Checklists
    •    Resource Lists
    •    Templates
    •    Worksheets
    •    Mini-Workbooks

Why do they convert better?

They're freaking valuable.

Examples of high-converting content upgrades (free bonus content in exchange for an email address). Click through to check out the entire Q&A plus a free Content Upgrade Worksheet!

People like me (Type-A, Template-needing folk) salivate over checklists and templates. We create these items for ourselves to ensure that what we're using them for will be consistently incredible.

Worksheets support your content with that little extra "Bang for your... email address?".

They guide the process and leave your reader with additional awesomeness (branded and linked to the original blog and other resources) to download, use and reuse, and share—hence the important of those back-linking links to the original blog post URL.

Resource lists. Really, what growth-desiring professional doesn't love to know exactly what niche leaders are using to run their businesses like masterpreneurs(?).

And mini-workbooks, although far more complicated and time-consuming to create, really prove to your target reader that you give a big 'ole crap about them.

Q3. What Do I Use To Collect And Store The Email Addresses?

There are several different tools you can use to collect emails.

Depending on your budget, you can start with MailChimp which is free (although there's no automation for the free version) for up to 2,000 emails sent a month. Or as little as $10 per month.

In a side note, I had to switch from MailChimp due to emails not being delivered, among other reasons...

So, I switched to ConvertKit and won't ever look back. Depending on where you are in your business, their pricing model starts at $29/month and you do need some technical coding skills (or the desire to learn) to design your email templates.

Plus, the initial time building automations, email sequences, funnels and more.

But, once it's all set up, it's good to go. And when I say "good to go", I mean good to frigging soar! It's a super-versatile tool you should check out.

Another solid option which is a little less pricey is AWeber.

But, if you're looking for a fully developed, robust, feature-rich experience, try something like Infusionsoft or Maropost.

Each offer built-in forms that you can design and embed on your website to collect your emails addresses, store them, and build your email broadcasts and automation through.

Using a Code Block within Squarespace 7 to add my pre-designed CSS modal pop-ups through ConvertKit

Using a Code Block within Squarespace 7 to add my pre-designed CSS modal pop-ups through ConvertKit

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Q4. Where Do I Put Them On My Site?

Places you'll want to include your content upgrades are:

On Blog Post Lead-In Images

This is the best and most prominent place to advertise your content upgrade, depending on how your website is designed.

For example, I quit using a sidebar in my blog due to how distracting I found them to be on other people's websites. After doing so, my bounce rate dropped from 32.6% to 18.8%, according to Google Analytics.

So, with a change like that, the most prominent place to introduce the content upgrade was on the post's lead image.

Here's a few examples of how other craft-masters introduce content upgrades on their blog post images.

Examples of how incredible industry leaders introduce content upgrades in their blog post lead images. Click through to get the whole post! + a free Content Upgrade Worksheet!

In The Sidebar Of The Blog Post

Unlike the standard sidebar opt-in that is the same on every blog page, companies like CoSchedule use their sidebar for post-specific lead capture.

Example of a customized email lead magnet that follows the reader down the post. Click through to see more content upgrade email capture lures you can use in your blog! (Plus a free Content Upgrade Worksheet)

This blog post sidebar opt-in follows the visitor down the page.

It's a fantastic way to boost subscriptions. If you can code it, or find the right tool to make a "sticky sidebar opt-in form" (I believe WordPress may have a plug-in) and it's something you'd like to try for your own blog, a sticky sidebar opt-in can be quite beneficial to your email subscription numbers. 

Or an annoyance to your visitors.

Knowing your target reader well is a good way to avoid that.


In The Header Of Your Blog Post

Although these 3 examples are site-wide email opt-in bribes, they're great ways to increase email subscribers using your content upgrade or main offer as "bait".

What's called a "Feature Box", this form of email opt-in ensures that every visitor sees your main offer. Or, in this case, your customized blog post's content upgrade.

Examples of great Feature Boxes used to collect new visitor email addresses. Click through to check out more ways to increase your email subscribers. Plus, a free Content Upgrade Worksheet!

Within The Blog Post

And (drumroll, please) as the topper, be sure to include 1-2 or more buttons, links, or full images within each blog post for the content upgrade.

Here are some examples of ways you can collect emails within your blog posts:

Examples of how you can add opt-in forms for your content upgrades into your blog posts. Click through to get more ideas + a free Content Upgrades Worksheet!

Q5. How Do I Advertise Them?

Content upgrades can be used over all of your social channels.

Popular content can be repurposed and reformatted into focal landing pages that you can use as social conversion pages like this one here, or in PPC advertising.

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But, since I like to keep things organic, the best places to advertise your content upgrade are in the blog post lead image shared on Pinterest and Google Plus.

Why mention them and only them?

Because both social channels are indexed by Google search. 

And Pinterest, itself, is a search engine for images. Awesome, right?

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With that said, here are some examples of how content upgrades are featured or included on Pinterest:

A few examples of how Pinterest can be used to feature your latest content upgrade. Click through to see more ways to create and promote your own content upgrades! And don't forget your free worksheet �

Q6. How Do I Create Them?

There are several different tools you can use to create content upgrades. 

To name a few:

I love Pages because it's simple to use and I can add reusable templates to my document template chooser which cuts creation time in half. Plus, Pages came with my MacBook Pro so that's nice.

Here's a quick video of how I put together a new template and create a new content upgrade along with it:

Q7. How Can I Make The Most Of Content Upgrades Right Now?

Pick your most popular 5 to 10 existing blog posts and brainstorm content upgrade ideas that'll suit them best.

Think about what will add the most value to the post and for the reader.

For example, a post on "7 Steps To Creating Magnetic Blog Posts That Your Audience Adores" could benefit from a 7-point checklist or a worksheet breaking down each step so your subscriber can have a reusable walkthrough.

The main goal you should focus on is getting templates made for each type of content upgrade you'll regularly create.

Once you've got templates created, what would normally take 25 minutes or more to an hour could take less than 15 minutes.

And the return on those extra 15 minutes is beyond worth your time investment.

Examples of "My Templates" for Content Upgrades, Lead Magnets, and more in Apple iWork Pages by Sara Eatherton-Goff of


You don't have to create a new content upgrade for every single blog post to get the most out of them.


I know, right?

I created a few "generalized" content upgrades that I could reuse again and again within several different blog posts.

They're not customized to the content itself, however, it's valid and applicable to the blog posts they're "recycled" in.

These generalized upgrades came in handy, especially when I was adding content upgrades to all of my previous posts so they'd be ready for new visitors.

Also, make the reusable content upgrades modal code or embed links easily accessible in a Note on your computer or whichever way you best store quick-grab content.

Here's what my list looks like:

Example of my Apple Notes, at-the-ready JavaScript codes so I can easily load the modal button/pop-ups from ConvertKit onto whatever area I need them on my website. Click through to get more tips in creating your content upgrades.

Maybe you want to start creating a few generalized upgrades, or maybe you'll take those first 5 to 10 popular blog posts and create customized content upgrades (and varying templates) to make your upgrade-making journey that much simpler.

Regardless, you know what you need to do to double your opt-in rate in 4 weeks or less.

Now, it's time to take action.

Help your visitors make the decision to join your email list or pass on the offer. Earn more targeted subscribers with your niche-specific bonuses.

So, where will you start?

Let me know on Twitter below or shoot me an email with your thoughts.

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