Content Upgrades: Want To Triple Your List?

Welcome to the 2nd of three blog posts in the List Building Series.

If you didn’t catch the first post in the series, click over and read it now. “Why List Building Needs To Be Your #1 Priority”.

Another great way to grow your list is with content upgrades. Content upgrades are in-content lead magnets that are related to the content you attach them to.

It’s like bonus content for a blog post that adds value to the content your target audience is already reading and interested in. To get the additional content your audience member will have to sign up for it specifically.

There are many types of content upgrades that you can create. Let’s look at some examples.

types of content upgrades

  • Cheat Sheet 

Help guide them through an action. For example, if you write a blog post about webinars you may include a cheat sheet of the things you need to do before, during, and after the webinar to make it more successful.

  • Check List 

If you’ve provided a long blog post to your audience, you can help the information stick with a good checklist that will help your audience follow your process and do what you have stated works.

  • Resource List

While a resource list is a great blog post idea, providing a download PDF version is even better. That way they can keep it on their computer and refer to it whenever they need it. You can make the resource list slightly different from the blog post as it can be a simple linkable list to the items you described fully in your blog post.

  • Transcripts

Anytime you create a video there is an opportunity to also provide a transcript. Some people prefer reading transcripts to watching videos. Give them that option any time you have video content of any kind.

  • Additional Videos

You may choose to put a clip of a video within a blog post, but offer the entire video via a gated download. As you see, content upgrades can be in any type of format.

  • Recording of Webinar

If you have a webinar, offering the recording is a great way to get people on your list for those who missed the webinar. It’s a great way to re-purpose webinar content.

  • Quick Start Guide

This is helpful information to help people get started with something quick. For example, if you have a yoga website you could offer a quick start guide to getting started with yoga.

  • An In-Depth Guide

 You can also go deeper with the guide to make it more in-depth. For example, you may want to create a guide that teaches people how to get their first site up with WordPress.

  • eReport

You’re familiar with reports, and it’s still a great way to offer a content upgrade.

  • eBook 

Same with an eBook, it’s a great way to offer a content upgrade to provide an entire book about the topic that you’re blogging about.

  • White Paper 

These are always a great way to explain to your audience more about their problems and the solutions that you and others provide for those problems. It’s more of a business-to-business way of doing a content upgrade.

  • Printable

This works great on recipe sites, homeschooling sites, and even self-help sites. You can let people download and print all sorts of things like coloring books, exercise sheets and more.

  • Worksheets 

Whether it’s math problems for home-schooled kids or a quiz to ensure that your audience member understood the concepts you taught them in a blog post. Worksheets are popular content upgrades.

  • Assignments / Homework 

A great way to show your expertise is to teach something within content on your website and then give them an assignment or homework to do.

  • Interviews

Put transcripts of interviews on your blog as a blog post and offer the recorded interview as the content upgrade.

  • Case Studies

Any time you can provide a case study regardless of format that expands on the information you’re providing it makes for a great content upgrade.

  • Additional Points 

Write a blog post about 20 ways to do something, then offer a content upgrade that is 101 ways to do the same thing.

  • Challenges 

Writing about how to do anything, you can also offer a content upgrade that is a 30-day challenge. That challenge can be delivered via email, or you can use the email to invite them to a secret Facebook group.

  • Templates

This works for many things. If you have good templates, you use in your business why not share them?

  • Product Teasers 

Offer your audience sneak peeks of products and services that you offer.

  • Free Chapter

Did you write a book? Give away a free chapter.

  • eCourse

Teach something more in-depth you wrote about on your blog.

  • Swipe Files

If you use swipe files to help you get ideas for things, share them with your audience.

  • Spreadsheets

If the content you’ve posted is full of data and other information, provide a downloadable spreadsheet that they can use to organize the information. For example, if you want to share keywords, you can do it in a spreadsheet.

You can likely think of even more content upgrade ideas than these. Ideally, you want to include a content upgrade within the content of every blog post that you publish. (But one a month will work!)

Creating Your First Content Upgrade From Scratch

create a content upgrade

By now you realize that content upgrades help you get more subscribers to your list by providing extra value to your audience. So, just how do you create your first content upgrade?

Analyze Your Content to Find Your Most Popular Blog Post

The most effective opt-in will be on pages that get a lot of views. Since the page already gets a lot of views that means the content is already popular. Your best course is to find out which post is your top post now. If you want to, you can pick the top three posts, go over them, update them if needed. While doing so, look for ways you can add to or expand on the information in the post.

For example, if you wrote a blog post about How to Start Your Own Digital Retail Business there may be spots in the post that go over the info in a basic way that is a spot you can go deeper. For example, you might want to provide a resource list that gives your views and recommendations on the correct software to use. You may also want to create a checklist of steps to go through from A to Z on starting a digital retail store.

Decide the Best Way to Offer a Gated Opt-in Depending on Your Audience

Every audience is slightly different, and you know yours the best. Will they prefer a PDF file or a video? Will they be fine with providing more than a name and email address to get it? Usually, the less information you can collect the more people will grab the freebie and sign up for your email list.

Create the Opt-in

Once you know what you need to create, make an outline of it and create it. It’s likely you even have information you can use to create the opt-in already. It can be private label rights information, or you can create the information from scratch to match the blog post better. It’s totally up to you. But get something created. Keep it short and simple for this first one, such as an additional “how to” video, a checklist, cheat sheet or resource list.

Create an Autoresponder List for The Audience That Downloads the Freebie

One step you don’t want to skip is creating the list for your freebie. How you do this will depend greatly on your system. Some systems you create an entirely new list, for others, you can tag the people who grab this freebie to send them to a particular list. You may need to learn more about your system to get specific instructions.

Create 1 to 3 emails for the autoresponder series that recipients of your download get and load them into your system. Consider what your goal is for creating the freebie and publishing the blog post in the first place. What do you, ultimately, want the audience to do?

Create a Form or Landing Page for the Freebie

Depending again, on the technology you’re using you’ll do this slightly different. You may need to create a landing page, or you may be able to do it all through your landing page or email software. But you need a place to collect the email addresses.

Normally this will require you to either copy the code from your email software and paste into your website, or you’ll integrate your landing page software with your email software to accomplish this. This is how your audience will sign up for your email list and then receive the freebie.

Create a Download Page for the Lead Magnet

Now you need a place for your audience to download their freebie after they provide the information. Again, how this looks and is done depends on your technology. With some technology like ConvertKit or Drip combined with Leadpages, your subscribers can be sent directly to the freebie after signing up.

For some, they may need to opt-in to the subscription before the system sends a thank you note with the link to the download page. Either way, you’ll create a download page for your freebie. You can upload the freebie directly to your media library in the back-end of your WordPress site.

Add Freebie to Download Page

Once you’ve created the infrastructure for your freebie, now you can add the freebie to your download page via a link or the technology that you use. Remember that your download page is also valuable real-estate to market other paid products or affiliate products that people who are getting this item might also want. You can put that right below the download button for the freebie.

Add the Link to The Freebie within the Content of the Blog Post

Once you have all that set up, now you can grab the link to the landing page you created for your freebie (or form page) and just add the link to some anchor text on the blog post. You should create something that will make it more visible such as using an image with text that stands out for the freebie.

Pointing out the freebie is the best way to ensure people find it and subscribe. If your call to action is not clear, people may not click the link if it’s just on top of the text, so do what you can to highlight and call attention to the offer.

These steps will be, about the same,, depending on the technology you use. For example, if you use technology from LeadPages or ConvertKit for your landing page, some of your steps will be different as these types of systems help you create the pages for the freebie all at one time. Otherwise, you create each page separately on your system manually.

Planning Content For Content Upgrades

As you move forward with your business, you probably want to plan content for content upgrades so that it works seamlessly in your overall content marketing planning.

You can do this in two simple ways that will make a lot of sense to you and show you how you can re-purpose content to create amazing information and value for your audience plus offer the right in-content opt-ins to build your email list fast.

We will go over two ways to do this.

  • Create a blog post series first comprising 3 to 5 blog posts about one topic. You’ll offer the entire content from the series as the upgrade offer as a PDF file.
  • Start with the content upgrade offer first such as a short report, eBook, or webinar recording you already have. What you’ll do is take that info and brainstorm future blog posts that will be a good fit for this upgrade offer.

So, let’s get started!

blog post series

Create a Blog Post Series

You may wonder why anyone would want to download the entire blog post series in one PDF file, but people do like to do that because most of the time a blog post series takes a few weeks to be published so instead of digging through your blog they like the option of downloading it all in one easy to read report.

Outline the Series – The best way to prepare for success is to create an outline for the series and each blog post. That way you ensure that you stick to each topic for each individual post and make each one complete but also ensure that each post builds on the other before it and mentions what comes after it.

Write Each Individual Post – Now you have the overall outline you can write the posts. You can write them all at once, or you can write them each week. For speed’s sake, I suggest you consider writing them in one or two sittings. It makes it easier to stay on the topic. You can write them all into one document then easily cut and paste to add to your blog. If you outsource the blog posts the writer can do them all at once usually at a more reasonable rate than one at a time.

Schedule the Posts – Once you complete a post you can schedule it even if you’re not done with the freebie. If you finish everything first, then you can add the freebie to each post now instead of later. There are pros and cons of doing it both ways but the best way to do it is the way you’ll get it done. Don’t shoot for perfection, shoot for just done!

Compile Blog Posts into One Report – If you wrote each separately, compile them all into one document. If you wrote them into one document, then all you need to do is add some transition words between each post to make it flow.

Upgrade It – To make the freebie more valuable to yourself and your audience, take the opportunity to make it look great. You can make it in Word, then transfer it to a PDF file. Some people like to use Canva to make it pretty. Create a cover for it and add graphics inside to make the things you say stand out even more. Don’t forget to keep your affiliate links in the report, too. It’s fine to add an upsell to the end of the report if you want to and invite them to follow you on social media.

Create the Components of the Freebie – Create your landing page, sign up form, download page and so forth. Also, remember to create emails for the people who sign up such as a thank you for signing up email and other educational and promotional emails just for the people who grab this freebie.

Attach the Freebie CTA to Each Blog Post in the Series – Once the freebie is done, go back to each blog post and add in the call to action for the freebie on each blog post in the series. You can even add this freebie to other posts that fit the criteria and cover similar topics. Make the CTA stand out so they don’t miss it.

You can write each blog post on the fly, on a daily or weekly basis or you can write all the blog posts in one sitting so you’ll have the entire series done before you publish it along with the freebie. It doesn’t matter how you do it – just do it and follow your plan.

Now, look at the second way you can do this.

Starting With Your Content Upgrade

Sometimes, you may already have good freebies you’d like to provide to your audience to get them on your email list. If you have webinar recordings, reports, eBooks, checklists, cheat sheets and other information already created that you can use, go for it!

When you start with the opt-in. you must think backward from the above by creating blog posts around the freebie that you have and attaching the freebie CTA to each blog post you create.

You should still outline the blog posts, publish them in a series, set up all the pages and information that allows your audience to get the freebie content just like you did in the steps above. The only difference is, you’re starting with the freebie and designing content to go around the freebie.

Whichever way you do it remember that done is better than not done! Let go of the idea of perfection.

Whichever way you do it remember that done is better than not done! Let go of the idea of perfection.Click To Tweet

Sure, you want the content to add value, but no one is perfect. You can always fix issues later. More than likely, it’s a lot better than you think it is, anyway.

If your information is targeted toward your audience and created to add value to your audience while solving their pain points you’ve got a winner.

And, next week, be sure to catch the 3rd and last post in the series, “More Ways To Use Freebie Opt-In Lead Magnets“.

48 thoughts on “Content Upgrades: Want To Triple Your List?”

  1. Hey Sue,

    Glad to have received your mail today. I actually read your first post in the series and I see you are taking it to greater depth.

    One of the main problems most bloggers face has been how to create some attractive offer to attract leads. While this still remains a pain, I think you've given some really brilliant ideas. This will help build supper targeted lists.

    I have 1 Content Upgrade list and that has the highest open and CTR. For now, it's not as big as others but it has the best in terms of performance.

    I strongly believe in the power of this strategy and I'm working towards it.

    Thanks for continuing the series.
    Enstine Muki recently posted Email Marketing Platform ~ Marlerlite for bloggers and small businesses!My Profile

    • Love that comment, Enstine! It so helps beginners to see experienced bloggers, like yourself, doing the same things.

      Have a great weekend.

  2. Hey Sue!

    This is a smart way to get more out of your content. It is a good idea to offer content upgrades to your reader. You have to give them a good incentive to subscribe and that starts with the value you offer them.

    The content upgrade is basically something of value that is like an "extra bonus" for the reader. If you do it correctly and really learn more about what your reader would love to learn more about – you can have really good conversion rates and increase the number of subscribers you get per blog post.

    Thank you for sharing all of your tips on this topic, Sue!

    This is very helpful info I must admit! 🙂

    Have a wonderful weekend! 😀
    Freddy G. Cabrera recently posted How To Be More Productive Working From Home (13 Productivity Hacks)My Profile

  3. Informative blog… writing such useful and informative content must be a piece of cake for you by now 🙂

    Thanks a lot for making it so easy in simple words for a new blogger like me!

    Appreciate it 🙂

  4. Hi Sue,

    Content upgrade is what I am also doing this year again. Analyzing what type of content attract the readers and then use that content to build pillar articles infographics, ebooks or webinars are definitely something that every blogger should do.

    To build an email list it is good to use leadpages and forms on blog. I like the idea of keeping the link within the post also, so that people can subscribe.

    Ultimately when we create something more valuable for the readers, we not just get more traffic but also gain loyal subscribers.

    thanks for sharing.
    Gaurav Kumar recently posted Meet JK Rowling to Help You Stay Away from the Cheap EssaysMy Profile

  5. Hi Sue

    What a tonic your post was … really valuable useful content – thank you 🙂

    I'm going through my back log of emails …

    and unsubscribing ruthlessly from all the "me-too" ones.

    I loved the way the ended this post with "solving pain points and adding value"…

    which is exactly what you have done for me this evening – thank you 🙂

    I will not be unsubscribing 🙂


    Liz 🙂

  6. Hello Sue,

    Wonderful and very informative post. Content upgrades are very important to attract targeted visitors to your blog. I haven't started any blog post series but willing to do so in this year. I hope, I am able to manage it. Thanks for sharing these helpful tips here.

    Have a Great Day 🙂


  7. Hey,

    Sue, Firstly I have Only One Word For this post and that word is"best". When I started to read this excellent post, Sue trusts me I spent lots of time to complete this article. But Sue, when I read the full post, I feel Like I am getting some New Knowledge and I feels good. Sue I know if I spend lots of time to read them, so I just imagine how long time you devote to write this article. Indeed You are doing work hard, and you write such a great post.

    Thank you for sharing the awesome post.
    Praveen recently posted Instant kadhai paneer recipe step by step tutorial in Hindi | Restaurant Style kadai paneerMy Profile

  8. I really like the idea of content upgrades since many people might not arrive on a blog at the ‘home’ page where the main lead magnet can be found. Instead, many site visitors come directly to a specific blog page post that they were googling a topic about. I like how this helps grow subscribers no matter where they land on the blog. By offering a very tailored optin freebie specifically related to the blog topic, the reader will be more likely to have a specific interest in the optin offer because it directly relates to the topic they were searching at that moment.

    I am learning so much from you and your blog, Sue! Thank you 🙂

    • I SO appreciate your comment and compliment, Stephanie! You are spot-on about the tailored freebies. They work every time.


  9. Hey Sue,

    Glad to see the post.

    One of the main problems most bloggers face has been how to create some attractive offer to attract leads. While this still remains a pain in everyone's mind, I think you’ve given some really brilliant ideas. This will help build super targeted lists.

    Thanks for the post!

  10. Took time to read it completely but it was worth reading. Have been using some steps but not completely. Will improve it further.

  11. Thanks for this! I recently did my first content upgrade: and got 1 new subscriber! Definitely need to work on my strategy. This is great as you've got so many ideas for upgrades. Thanks again.

    • Good for you, Emma! We all start out there and work our way up, right?

      Thanks for commenting and letting me know,

  12. Great post Sue,

    Email marketing remains one of the best form of marketing on the internet today, and that is the reason why any marketer who’s not building an email list is often seen as an unserious fellow.

    You can get traffic via the search engines, but it takes time to come, you can also get referral traffic via the social media like Facebook and Twitter, but again, such traffic sources is not fully dependable. This is because it’s just like building a house in someone’s land of which the owner of the land can wake up one day and demolish your house.

    But when you have an active email list, it becomes your own asset which you can use anyhow you like, including sending quality traffic to your site at your own disposal.

    Now, talking about Content Upgrade, it’s indeed one of the best and most effective ways of building a list. I remember when it was first introduced, it was the talk of the day back then to the extent that Tim Soulo had to create a service that’s specifically for setting up Content Upgrades (

    There are also other great tools that makes this easier like the ones you mentioned here.

    Thanks for sharing Sue.

    • Great points, Anil. I always appreciate you taking the time to both read and comment!

      What other tools do you recommend?



  13. Couldn’t have read this post at a more perfect time. Updating my content is next on my list. Truly valuable information- as always, Sue! Thank you!

  14. Hi Sue,

    I'm really enjoying your articles. This one on Content Upgrades really hit the mark and is full of great ideas. It came in just as I was working on a long post that needed an upgrade element. It's about measuring social media ROI… and may be of interest to your audience as well!

    Thanks for your emails and other info. All very helpful.

  15. I like that Sue. I agree that putting the steps in action then learning from your mistakes is better than standing still. This will allow you to see what works and how you can do better the next go around. The more action you take, the better you will get is what you’ve taught me!

  16. Wow! This is super amazing, Sue.

    With a little hack here and there, one can design a new list building content without stressing out. That is to say that almost every content on my blog can be upgraded and used as a lead magnet for growing my list.

    Thanks for sharing.


  17. Sue,

    Once again this is killer info. I plan on referring to it often and using it. I’ve been giving away a 200+ page book on blogging at my site. Actually, I have found that doing that is a mistake on 2 levels.

    1) Everyone is doing the FREE eBook thing and…
    2) A book of that size is intimidating. j

    So, I’ve been sitting around wondering what I should do next and you have supplied that for me.

    Thanks so much, my friend!

    God Bless!

  18. I am definitely going to put this into practice for myself and some clients. This sounds like a great way to provide extra incentive to drive readers and audience members to provide their details for your list.

    Thanks for the research and time it takes behind these posts Sue!

  19. Great article, Thanks for sharing such an informational read. You really covered all the important topics in target upgradation. But I really like this point "Analyze Your Content to Find Your Most Popular Blog Post". This line is informing us about how we can select the most popular blog and then upgrade it. Many of the people do not know which blog to upgrade; they just upgrade any of the blogs, which does not help them.

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