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