For most of my audience, the idea of offering an opt-in offer, lead magnet, or ethical bribe (whatever you want to call it) to encourage people to join your email list is old news.

You know that people aren’t likely to be enticed just by the thought of an “email newsletter” any more (that’s soooo 2004…).

So, when the offer of a simple newsletter stopped working, marketers evolved their tactics. They started offering ebooks, courses, checklists, and videos — basically a piece of premium content in exchange for a reader’s email address.

This has become common practice now. Everybody and her dog offers a lead magnet, and it’s become harder and harder to impress potential subscribers. Entrepreneurs have to create something really special to get readers excited about it.

And that’s OK. I’m not suggesting you do away with your lead magnet altogether. But I am suggesting that it’s not enough. You need to upgrade your strategy — with content upgrades.

What are Content Upgrades?

A content upgrade is a lead magnet that is specifically tailored to the piece of content you’re reading.

My main lead magnet (the one that I offer in the most places) is the Perfect Blog Post Template. It’s in my sidebar, in my HelloBar, and linked in a few blog posts.

This year, I’ve had 924 people (as of this writing) opt in for that lead magnet. Not bad, right?

Check this out:

content upgrade opt-ins

The graph is a little squished, but that number in the top right corner doesn’t lie.

Even if we subtract the Perfect Blog Post Template from this total, I’ve generated more than three times as many opt-ins by offering multiple content upgrades.

Each of the different colors on this graph represents a different content upgrade I’ve offered over the last year or so. (And yes, I have a lot.)

Note: This graph doesn’t take into account when people opt-in for multiple downloads, so the number includes duplicates.

Ready to start creating your own content upgrades?

Why do content upgrades work?

Content upgrades work so well because they are tailored to exactly what your reader needs exactly when she needs it.

Let’s pretend I have managed to drive a lot of traffic to this particular blog post — doesn’t matter how. That’s great! I have all these new visitors interested in reading about lead magnets and content upgrades!

If I then offer them the opportunity to download my lead magnet, the Perfect Blog Post Template, how many of them do you think will take me up on it?

Well, the standard conversion rate for most websites is way less than 5% (closer to 1% average, actually).

That means if I managed to drive 2,000 brand new visitors to this blog post, only between 20 and 100 of them would opt-in.

Those sort of numbers mean I am putting myself on an almost never-ending hamster wheel of having to drive more and more traffic.

But what if I could improve that conversion rate?

What if, instead of offering a generic lead magnet to all those new visitors, I made a very specific offer for something that goes right along with what they just finished reading about? In this case, a content upgrade checklist, let’s say.

Brian Dean, who as far as I can tell coined the term “content upgrade,” has research which has shown that most people see at least a 3x increase in conversions (sometimes more!) when they implement content upgrades.

So suddenly, my measly 1–5% conversion rate jumps to 3–15%. For that same 2,000 visitors I managed to attract, I’m now getting between 60 and 300 opt ins!

My own numbers bear this out. Without driving a lot more traffic, my conversion rates have increased about 300%.

Basically, we’re playing on human nature: Humans want instant gratification. If they’re interested in what you’re blogging about enough to read your entire blog, they’re going to be primed to want to take action. And if you offer them an easy way to take action (like, say, downloading a free checklist), they’re much more likely to want to do it.

What makes a good content upgrade?

  1. It should upgrade your content.
    Sounds pretty obvious, but the idea here is that it is adding value to content you’re already offering. What’s awesome is that very simple things can add value. Creating an easily printable version of your blog post or presenting the same info in a different format is sometimes even enough.
  2. It shouldn’t take too much of your time to produce.
    A content upgrade is NOT: a new ecourse, a 40-page ebook, an expensive infographic, a video series, etc. The best content upgrades take less than 30 minutes of your time to create. (If you already HAVE those expansive lead magnets, you can certainly offer them when appropriate, but you shouldn’t be creating NEW ones for every post.)
  3. It should be actionable and consumable in 10 minutes or less.
    This is a good rule of thumb: Your readers should be able to download it and consume (read) or put it to use (fill out a worksheet) in 10 minutes or less. Anything longer than that and people start to think they don’t have time or won’t actually use it — and they won’t opt-in.

As an example, some of my most popular lead magnets of all time are:

  • The MAGIC content formula cheat sheet
  • The brand voice Codebook template
  • Blogger’s legal checklist
  • Grow your list checklist
  • Launch content checklist

All of these are maybe 2 pages at most. They are simple to use and easily consumable.

The hidden benefits of content upgrades

Content Upgrades: How and why to use multiple opt-in offers on your website.

Everybody likes getting more leads, but there are also some hidden benefits to using content upgrades as part of your lead generation process.

  • Test new content.
    One of the most important things you can do with lead magnets is test new content ideas on your audience to see what they respond best to — before you commit the time and energy to creating a new product. I’ve been consistently surprised by which lead magnets are most popular, and it guides my content and product creation.
  • Segment your list.
    If you set up your email provider properly, you can create separate sub-lists for each of your content upgrades. This is very handy for knowing which people on your list might be interested in which offer. For example, if you opt-in to download the content upgrade in this post, you will very likely get a very specific email from me in a couple of weeks inviting you to a workshop on doing content upgrades. (Just sayin’!)
  • Pre-produce products.
    Once you have enough content upgrades, you can easily upgrade them again into a product that you can sell. I had the brilliant idea for a life coach client of mine that she should create journal prompts on pretty printable pages for her content upgrades — then, eventually bundle them into an entire journal that she could sell.

Are you convinced that you should be adding content upgrades to your blog strategy yet? If so, be sure to download the content upgrade content upgrade (so meta!) below and keep it handy for your next blog post!