Without a content upgrade, every time someone reads your post, something terrible happens…
It doesn’t matter how much traffic you get. It doesn’t matter how many shares or comments. Unless that traffic is converting, it’s worthless.
Content upgrades are like patching holes in a leaky pipe – it stops the water (aka your traffic) from escaping forever. It converts visitors into leads, who can then turn into customers and profits.
In this post, I’m going to explain what a content upgrade is, how to use content upgrades to capture more leads, and best practices when creating your own content upgrade.
Oh, and I have a special bonus for those of you who make it to the end of this post, as well! So, stay tuned!
Now then, let’s get started.
What is a Content Upgrade?
The premise behind a content upgrade, as we’ve previously explained on the Duct Tape Marketing Blog, is this:
“Write a really great, useful blog post and then when people show up to read it offer them an “upgrade” to the content in the form of a checklist, video, or case study relevant to the topic in exchange for content details.”
It’s essentially a very specific extra piece of content you offer your audience in exchange for their email. Other types of content upgrades include:
- Cheat sheets
- Loads more…
For example, one of the content upgrades on my blog looks like this:
With a great content upgrade, not only can you capture leads, but you can also:
- Segment those leads based on which upgrade they opted into.
- Gain insight into what your customers are interested in.
Content Upgrade Best Practices
When it comes to actually creating your content upgrade, there are a few things to keep in mind to make it a success:
Make it relevant to the article.
While generic, site-wide lead magnets (like an eBook on your general topic) can work to capture emails, a specific upgrade to the exact blog post a user is currently reading will convert much better.
For example, if you’re writing about how to lose 5 lbs in a month, a site-wide lead magnet might be an eBook on healthy eating or fitness. However, a relevant content upgrade would be a cheat sheet or checklist to taking action on the exact steps you outlined in that article.
Make it valuable.
Don’t just give away some crappy PDF that took you five minutes to create (although great content doesn’t need to take forever). Ask yourself: Would you be happy or excited about getting this as an upgrade? If not, you may need to rethink your strategy.
That said, keep it simple – you don’t need to give away a 400-page eBook that very few people will ever read. It’s natural to think that more content means more value, but people want shortcuts. Give them a ton of value in as few words as possible.
Make it pretty.
Sure, you can send a simple word document that looks like a normal book. However, just as formatting a blog post is important to increase readability and engagement, so too should you make your upgrades look nice.
Besides, it’s often just a matter of taking an extra 20-30 minutes to spruce it up. It’s that little extra bit that helps you stand out from the crowd.
Deciding What to Actually Give Away
You know you need something valuable to give away. But, how do you come up with an idea for a content upgrade?
First, find your most popular posts.
Head over to your Google Analytics page. From there, head to Behavior -> Site Content -> Landing Pages.
As you can see from the screenshot, my detailed post on content marketing was the most popular page on my site. What’s yours?
Start with that.
Once you’ve discovered your most popular post, it’s time to come up with an awesome resource that compliments it.
For example, I created an eBook on content marketing to give away alongside my popular post. It’s since converted at roughly 12%.
Here are a few ideas you can create:
- An interview with an expert on your post’s topic.
- Bonus tips & tricks.
- A downloadable PDF version of the article (so they can read it on-the-go).
- A visual guide to your post (such as an infographic).
- A video tutorial that expands upon one section of your post.
- A free product guide or hands-on review (excellent for eCommerce sites).
Pro Tip: Make your content upgrade stand out. Use SumoMe to create a free welcome mat or exit-intent pop up for the upgrade. Create a banner. Add an inline text box. Make it a different color and try different copy to see what works best.
How to Create a Content Upgrade
Creating the actual content upgrade is fairly simple. You can do it with Microsoft Office, G Suite, or iWork. Depending on the upgrade, you’ll use different tools.
If you’re creating an eBook, for example, I would take these steps:
- Draft it up in a word document to get your thoughts together and make it sound good.
- Transfer it to a PowerPoint to make it look pretty. (I set the size of the slides to 7.5 in. by 12 in. for the ebook shown below. HubSpot has a ton of eBook powerpoint templates you can use if you’re not much of a designer.)
- Convert your file to a PDF and upload it to your WordPress backend.
- Use a tool like SumoMe or LeadBoxes to create a popup to capture emails whenever someone clicks your linked text or button.
- Create an automation email that sends the content upgrade (via a link to the file you uploaded to WordPress) to your new leads using a tool like MailChimp, Drip, or Aweber.
It’s as simple as that! The process is basically the same for most of your content upgrades. If you have a spreadsheet, you can skip a few steps, but most things will require PDF conversions.
Here’s an example – When creating my eBook on The Building Blocks of Content Marketing, it looked like this:
A Few Tips From the Experts
Here are some extra words of wisdom from a few digital marketing experts:
Sam Hurley: Ranked No. 1 Digital Marketer by Webinale
“I’ve worked on campaigns where simple, one- or two-field gates (meaning only asking for an email or name and email) were inserted into blog content by adding a contextual CTA in-between paragraphs. It’s a VERY quick and painless way to build an email list.
There’s also the option of squeeze pages; existing to extract information from visitors in return for another download or offer of some kind. These are typically reserved for ‘epic’ content pieces with high perceived value.
The opportunity with gated content (especially squeeze pages) is the fact you can gradually build up detailed profiles of each subscriber using marketing automation software (which has the intelligence to progressively auto-fill fields on various CTAs or forms within your website). These profiles can then be scored over time using a lead scoring matrix, based on their propensity to buy from you.
The bottom line? Tasteful gated content is critical to building a database of people who may become customers in future. Those who take the time and energy to hand you any of their details are already one step closer to your brand. Give plenty away for ‘free’, but nudge your audience to help you out, too.
I’ve applied this method on my one-page website which now has 1300+ signups without any direct promotion, aside from the odd tweet! 100% of my content is published on other websites and most of it is gate-free.”
Sujan Patel: A Marketer Who’s Worked With Forbes, Inc. and the WSJ
“Content upgrades are a very effective way of growing an email list but only when done right. I recommend only adding content upgrades to your best content – meaning highest traffic, time on site and engagement.
I also recommend starting with a minimum viable product content upgrade by creating a simple banner and a PDF version of the site. You can use Snappa.io to create a custom banner image and Sumome or Optinmonster to deliver the PDF. When you start seeing results it’s time to get serious and invest real resources into content upgrades.
I used this exact process on my highest performing content in early 2016 and it’s converted users at 8% ever since.”
Bringing It All Together
Content upgrades are the secret sauce to content marketing. Without them, it just wouldn’t work as well. They make capturing leads so much easier.
Just follow the steps – find your best content, create a high-quality addition, then add it using one of the tools I mentioned.
Oh, and don’t worry, I didn’t forget about the bonus I promised you!
Just for readers of the Duct Tape Marketing blog, I’ve created an exclusive video of myself going through the steps in this article and creating a content upgrade, right in front of your very eyes – all in just 8 minutes. Click here to get the video right now!
About the Author
Bill Widmer is a content marketing consultant and freelance writer. With over four years’ experience creating and promoting content, he’s learned the ins and outs of what works (and what doesn’t). He’s also a Twitter junkie – follow him @TheBillWidmer.