The Content Upgrade Strategy for Growing an Email List

The Content Upgrade Strategy(Big win and even bigger mistake in the last 30 days)

The content upgrade strategy. I’ve been hearing about it for a long time and I’ve been wanting to try it out on this blog. Well – I finally made that happen last month and I have some amazing results to share with you! Given my relatively low traffic numbers on Dumb Passive Income – I was (and continue to be) blown away by the results of implementing this simple strategy.

As you’ll see in my screenshots below, I had a pretty major win last month as a result of using the content upgrade strategy. And the results are ongoing. I’m still getting more daily email subscribers because of this one strategy in just one post. But I also made a huge mistake that resulted in me not possibly doubling those results. Keep reading – you’ll see what I mean…

What is The Content Upgrade Strategy?

The content upgrade strategy is where you simply offer the reader some sort of upgrade or bonus if they opt in to your email list after consuming some of your content. The upgrade could come in a variety of forms. Here are a few…

  • a PDF version of the post that the reader can easily print
  • a PDF document with more detailed information relevant to the post
  • a FREE eBook
  • a checklist or cheat sheet of items relevant to the post that will be useful to the reader
  • a link to a video which better explains what is written in the post
  • a FREE online course relevant to the post

These are just a few ideas. The options for what you can offer are almost limitless depending on your niche.

The Way It Works

Within your content, you should be delivering some sort of value. But it’s okay to hold back the very best piece of value and only offer that to people who are willing to opt in to your email list. Strategically tease your readers. Make it look like the only or the best way to deliver that piece of value is by email. Say something like, “I want to send you that spreadsheet right now – Just enter your email address here.” Or, “I’m going to send you that PDF right now – Enter your email address here.”

The upgrade or bonus should be something specific that the reader almost can’t live without after reading your post. And it should be a unique bonus that pertains to that post specifically (not a sitewide opt in bonus). Keep it simple if possible, but make it really enticing. Ask yourself – what piece of information or content would you REALLY like to have after reading that post. What would make me give away my email address that pertains to this piece of content?

Hint: Your readers will sometimes tell you what the bonus should be – which is exactly what happened in my case!

How My Readers Came Up With My Content Upgrade

I had been blogging about my experience selling retail arbitrage products via Amazon FBA. I wrote one post about how my wife and I got started, then also had updates in each of my monthly income reports thereafter. One question kept coming up in the comments and also via private emails. How do you find products to resell on Amazon?

Boom! There’s my content upgrade right there! A free guide that shows exactly how I find products to sell on Amazon and how I determine the likeliness that they will sell and the potential profitability.

In this case, I created my content upgrade before I even wrote the post that I used it in. You could do it the other way around too. Write the post then come up with the upgrade.

If you haven’t seen it yet, here is a link to the post that I published last month which included the content upgrade strategy – A Profitable Online Business – Amazon FBA. I already knew what my readers wanted, so I wrote a post which highlighted my results from selling on Amazon. I put the upgrade offer at the very end of the post in the form of a button which opens up a LeadBox (easily created that button and LeadBox within LeadPages).

Results from My First Content Upgrade Attempt

The following screenshots pretty much tell it all. This strategy works really well! This first screenshot is taken from my Reports tab within Aweber and shows my weekly subscribers over the past 52 weeks. As you can see, I averaged maybe 5 or 6 new weekly subscribers for most of the past year. Then look what happened when I implemented the content upgrade strategy!

Weekly New Subscribers

Try AWeber - First Month FREE


This next screenshot from my Aweber Reports shows my daily new subscribers from the past 30 days. Again, the results are apparent…

Daily New Subscribers

How I Deliver the Content Upgrade Bonus

First of all, I should tell you about the email service provider that I use (where I collect and store email addresses and send out autoresponder and broadcast emails). Aweber is the only service that I’ve ever used or tried. I’ve heard good things about some of their competitors too. But I’ve had a good experience using Aweber. It’s very easy to setup and use and their customer service has been phenomenal the few times that I contacted them with questions. Pricing isn’t bad either. Only $1 FREE to try it out for your first month and then monthly prices start at $19 and go up based on your number of subscribers.

Try AWeber - First Month FREE

Now down to the nitty gritty – how I deliver the content upgrade bonus material. It’s quite simple really, because I am a customer of LeadPages. Perhaps you’ve heard of them? Without a doubt, LeadPages is the market leader when it comes to conversions and building an email list. So, I took some advice that I learned from Clay (co-founder) at LeadPages. I used what is called the 2-step opt-in process.

Learn More About LeadPages

The 2-Step Opt-In Process

Just as its name describes, this process requires the user to complete 2 steps in order to opt in. Seems counter intuitive right? But this strategy works amazingly well.

  • Step 1 – user has to take action (click a button or link) to open up the page or box that has the opt-in form.
  • Step 2 – user enters email and hits the subscribe button. Because the user had to first take action in order to even see the opt-in form, they are far more likely to convert into a subscriber.

The LeadBox I am using for this particular content upgrade is currently converting at 49%! Half of the people that open up that lead box end up subscribing! By the way – creating those LeadBoxes is super simple within LeadPages. If you’ve never checked it out for yourself, take a look at the demos on the LeadPages sales page to see everything they have to offer and how easy it all is to use.

Delivering the Actual Bonus

Again, LeadPages makes this part super easy. All I had to do was upload my bonus (in this case a PDF file) then select the option within LeadPages to automatically send an email after someone opts-in. I can either send a custom email or have them automatically send one of my uploaded bonuses (called Lead Magnets) which I can select from a drop-down menu.

The following video is a quick demo that I recorded from within my LeadPages account. I show you exactly how I easily create and edit LeadBoxes, set up the bonus delivery and embed these 2-step opt-in LeadBoxes onto my site.

Or CLICK HERE to watch this video directly on YouTube.

Learn More About LeadPages

Somebody Wants the Bonus but They are Already On My List

This is the really cool part about using LeadPages! They don’t care whether a person is on my list or not. They send the Lead Magnet by email no matter what. By default, that person will be redirected to a page (in my case through Aweber) that tells them they are already subscribed to my list. But the bonus (Lead Magnet) is sent to their inbox regardless. And if they lose or accidentally delete the bonus material, they can come back and put in their email address and get it resent as many times as they want!

See how to deliver content upgrade bonuses without buying LeadPages 

My Big Mistake

So, I published that post on February 18th and witnessed first hand the amazing results and how well it worked to grow my email list. I then went about my business and wrote another post for my blog – an in depth review post about my experience using The Hoth. I finished the post not long before I had to leave for my day job and I anxiously hit the Publish button without taking the time to create a content upgrade. I had a pretty good idea too for a content upgrade – but knew it would take a good amount of time to create. I couldn’t wait. The post went live. A day or two after publishing that post, I emailed The Hoth and let them know about my review that I had written for their service. They thanked me and tweeted out the post. My traffic numbers stayed about the same as usual. Then a couple of days after that, I received another email from that contact at The Hoth. He informed me that he just sent out my review to an email list of about 6,000 people! Google Analytics Past 30 days - Dumb Passive Income I was elated! But at the same time, my very first thought was – CRAP! I don’t have a content upgrade on that post! I am potentially going to get a bunch of brand new readers on my blog today and my chances of capturing their email addresses is slim. I was at my day job when all of this happened, so there was no way I could try to quickly create a content upgrade. Sure enough, my traffic spiked that day. But my email opt-ins did not spike as a result. And I’m 100% certain they would have if I had taken the time to create and include a content upgrade for that post. Here is a screenshot showing my analytics for the past 30 days. Notice that my post that has had the biggest effect on growing my email list (the one with the content upgrade) is only my 5th most popular post in the last 30 days.  

Lesson Learned and an Obvious Strategy

We should always learn from our mistakes, right? I was very eager to publish my Hoth review post because it was scattered with affiliate links and I was certain it would create millions in affiliate commissions for me. I got ahead of myself and published it before creating a content upgrade and I’m certain I missed out on a bunch of new subscribers.

    • Lessson Learned: If I want to grow my email list, I should be creating content upgrades for almost every new post.


  • Obvious Strategy: Look at my analytics and see which of my old posts are still getting regular traffic. Update those posts and create content upgrades for them. Capture as many email addresses as possible!




I Don’t Call Myself Dumb for No Reason!

And here is the really dumb thing I am about to do. I have to leave for my day job in less than an hour. I’ve been working on this post for the past couple of days and can’t wait to hit Publish. I don’t have a content upgrade for it – which is really, really stupid considering everything I just wrote! I’m going to publish this post in a few minutes without a bonus offer. And I have a few ideas for things that I could offer as a bonus. But I want to hear from you first. What would you like me to create as a bonus offer for this post? What should the content upgrade be?

Update: 2 Days Later – Here is Your Bonus!

Special thanks to Joseph in the comments section for giving me a great idea for a content upgrade bonus for this post. Here is his request…

Hey! Why don't you show us how to setup a delivery system without spending a buck on LeadPages?Click To Tweet Fantastic idea! I realize that this post may have looked and sounded like one big sales pitch for LeadPages. Sorry about that. I get excited about awesome tools like LeadPages and I can’t help but promote the heck out of it. It really is a great resource that has made my life way easier when it comes to conversions and growing my email lists. I know it’s a little bit pricey – but it ends up paying for itself because it works! I completely understand that there are lots of you who are unable or unwilling to spend the money to get LeadPages right now. And you might want to try out this content upgrade strategy too. So here is the bonus for this post… I created an easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide that shows you exactly how to set up your own delivery system without buying LeadPages! Click the button below and grab the guide right now! FREE Guide – Content Upgrade Delivery System without LeadPages

Enjoy! To more conversions and bigger email lists…

Note: There are several links within this post that lead to either Aweber or LeadPages. These are affiliate links and I will receive a commission if you purchase either of these services after clicking through via one of my links. I really appreciate you if you do and thank you in advance!

Photo Credit

Image: “Chess Board BW” by Toby Fruge’ via Flickr

Matthew Allen
Matthew Allen
Matthew Allen is a full-time trucker, part-time blogger, and imaginary entrepreneur. He's probably not the only trucker who calls himself a dumbass. But, he is the only known trucker who is blogging about passive income."Might be crazy, but I ain't dumb!" ~ Crazy Cooter (also Matt's CB handle) 
Matthew Allen
Matthew Allen
Matthew Allen is a full-time trucker, part-time blogger, and imaginary entrepreneur. He's probably not the only trucker who calls himself a dumbass. But, he is the only known trucker who is blogging about passive income."Might be crazy, but I ain't dumb!" ~ Crazy Cooter (also Matt's CB handle) 

32 thoughts on “The Content Upgrade Strategy for Growing an Email List”

  1. Good stuff Matt! Great post with good headlines that keeps pulling the
    reader through the article. The subject of content upgrade is sweet.
    Create an irresistible lead magnet with just enough information gap and
    your readers will opt-in. Thanks again.

  2. Nice case study, and that is some spike in subscribers!

    I’ll have to try it out as well sometime. I suffer with the same anxiousness as you do though. When I finish a post, I just want to publish it without really thinking about how I can get the most out of it…

  3. Hey! Why don´t you show us how to setup a delivery system without spending a buck on LeadPages? For beginners, a simple system that works just fine without the rings and bells 🙂 Thanks

  4. Yeah Tom – I’ve never had posts waiting en cue scheduled to publish in the future. Not on my blogs anyway. I have to hit Publish as soon as I finish. In today’s case, I knew I wanted to get it out Thursday for sure because Friday, Saturday and Sunday are typically lower readership and engagement days. I wanted to complete a content upgrade for this one – but just didn’t have the time before work.

  5. That is a fantastic idea Joseph! I think I am going to use it. You’re my first response and I love the idea – so watch for it soon. I’ll get it ready and add it to the post as soon as I can.

    There is one problem with your request though. It really doesn’t get any simpler than using LeadPages. But I totally understand if people don’t want to spend the money on LeadPages yet – so I’ll show the easiest way that I know how without using LeadPages.

  6. Awesome article Matt. Thanks for letting us in on the little secret that’s becoming a huge trend these days. Many people don’t want to spend loads of money on a comprehensive system like LeadPages to do one simple job. The way you describe it is a real nice way of doing it.

    A friend of mine created a plugin to do this also. I’m currently testing it out on my own site and seeing decent results (I’ll admit, not amazing but I don’t have much traffic). The plugin is called Content Upgrades Pro (you owe me, Tim)

    Keep up the inspiring work Matt!

  7. Hello Matthew.. I have been following your blog and Stuart’s blog NicheHacks for quite some time now. I found an interesting opt-in technique you guys use (Alert/Attention yellow box). I first tried OptinLink (which Stuart recommended) but it broke my RSS feed. So I went ahead with LeadPages and the results have been phenomenal. Earlier I was getting 8-10 subscriptions on Aweber, and now I am getting 40+ each day. After reading your post, I am tempted to try lead magnet now as well. Thanks for sharing. Here is how I am using LeadBoxes – trumpexcel[dot]com

  8. Awesome post Matthew!

    I will be trying this out on my next article and I’ll let you know how it goes. Thanks for giving me some ideas!

    Thank you – josh

  9. Cool Josh. Yeah, definitely let me know how it goes. The trick is figuring out exactly what your readers will be willing to give you their email address for. Make the upgrade bonus something that they will really really want! And, you’re welcome!

  10. Hi Matthew,
    I just learned exactly the same mistake that you did. Spent an age working on an article about the cheese forum (my website is aimed at people who want to learn to make cheese) with a great content upgrade planned. When I finally finished it I was so pleased that I hit publish without the upgrade… and traffic came, and then went.
    Lesson learned: it is worth taking a bit more time for the upgrade before publishing!
    Keep up the great work!

  11. Yeah, for sure Adam! But it’s SO hard to not hit publish immediately after finishing a great post. It almost seems like you are losing out by having great content written but not published. Losing out on a day or two worth of traffic. But in the end – you and I both may have lost out on potential subscribers who might never make it back to our sites.

  12. Great idea with the content upgrades Matthew, looks like the upgrade is definitely something to give a try. What do you recommend for those who are sending out weekly e-mails or adding just traditional blog posts in between their upgrades?

  13. Not sure I understand your question Derek. Blog posts don’t go ‘between’ the upgrades. The content upgrade should be within the blog post itself and has nothing to do with weekly emails that you might be sending out.

  14. Ok, I get it now. I was a little froggy eyed when first reading. I was not sure if you were adding the content upgrade to EVERY post you sent out or just some of them. Great idea though Matthew. Thanks for the clarification.

  15. Yeah. Just some of them. I’ve gone back and added some content upgrades to a few of my older posts too – posts that continue to get consistent search traffic.

  16. Good idea, I think another good tactic to add to that is creating some type of link back to that old post in any new posts you sent out, for any new readers that may have missed it.

Comments are closed.

Get my updates in your inbox...

The Dumbass Newsletter

100% FREE! You may unsubscribe at any time.

Your email address is safe. I will never spam or share your email with anyone.