Content upgrades: the special key to list building

Jan 19, 2018 by
Content upgrades: the special key to list building

If you’ve read any of the popular internet marketing blogs or talked to marketers in person, you’ve probably heard that an engaged email list is your best asset for driving revenue.

Unlike other marketing tactics such as PPC advertising, it costs nothing (other than your autoresponder subscription) to send an email to your list.

In order to acquire email addresses from people who visit your site, most people offer lead magnets. A lead magnet is a free giveaway, such as an mp3 file or ebook, that can be delivered in exchange for contact information. While lead magnets are certainly useful, you can take things a step further by offering content upgrades.

Unlike a generalised lead magnet, a content upgrade can be delivered opportunistically. Basically, a content upgrade is a lead magnet with context. If you’ve written a post about influencer marketing, you could deliver a downloadable content upgrade at the end of the post which gives a checklist of action steps you need to take in order to acquire influencers to promote your brand. Because your visitors are already reading about influencer marketing, it makes sense to give them a content upgrade pertaining to that topic rather than a general digital marketing lead magnet.

Brian Dean, founder of Backlinko, praises the utility of content upgrades. He states:

It’s a simple strategy that instantly increased my conversion rate from .54%. to 4.82%.

Getting started

AnalyticsIn order to start collecting more email addresses, consult Google Analytics and determine which are your most popular blog posts. Click on the ‘Behaviour’ tab and then ‘All Pages’ (make sure you have a wide enough date range selected). You can then see which of your posts are receiving the most visitors.

Next, it’s time to start thinking how you can deliver an additional content upgrade in order to give your readers some added value (and capture their details).

As a word of caution, please only build content upgrades for evergreen content. If you’ve got a post which pertains to a specific event that will become obsolete soon, it’s not worth building a content upgrade since you’ll expect traffic to decline over time. Here are some useful ideas for content upgrades.

A pdf document of the blog post

This idea sounds too simple to be effective, but it definitely works. If you’ve created a high value blog post with lots of actionable tips, it makes sense that people would want to download it to their hard drive and print it out to refer back to. Converting your blog post to a PDF document is very easy and can help you start turning your readers into email subscribers. Beacon is an excellent tool for creating content upgrades – simply input your content, use the simple interface and create your own beautiful PDF document in minutes.


If you include video content in your blogs, you may want to offer a downloadable transcript as a content upgrade. This can be particularly useful if you’ve got a video or audio interview with a niche expert and you want to give people a written download that they can reference. People like to consume media in different ways – some people enjoy watching a video while others would prefer to read the same content in a PDF document.


Business blogger Amy Porterfield provides downloadable checklists for her most popular blog posts – you can see an example here. If you’re imparting actionable tips, it helps for people to have the condensed steps in order so that they can take action without having to sift through all the less relevant information in the original post.


Content upgrades are not a magic tool for increasing traffic. They only work if you already have a healthy inflow of visitors to your site and you want to get them on your mailing list. Before you start deploying content upgrades, embrace the slow grind of publishing high quality content that your readers will keep returning back for.