How To 5x Your List With a Lead Magnet That Converts Like Crazy

Things change so fast in blogging.

New technologies, new strategies, new platforms, new forms of engagement.

But there’s one thing that doesn’t change: the importance of building an email list.

The Money Is In The List

It’s probably the oldest proverb of Internet marketing. But it’s just as true now as it was in 1999.

Why is a subscriber list so important?

Two reasons (there are more, but these 2 are enough):

Reason #1 – Pre-Qualified Leads

People who subscribe to your email list are pre-qualified as highly interested in what you have to offer.

They’ve already done 2 things that are key steps in your conversion funnel:

  • They visited your site
  • They clicked on your subscribe button

The statistics confirm this:

create a lead magnet

Reason #2 – Your Own Marketing Channel

Let’s say you’ve built your business on organic search or social media.

Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest could decide tomorrow they don’t like your content.

Entire businesses have gone down the drain because of a change in the Google algorithm.

But once you have your own email list, you’re safe. It’s your own private marketing channel, and no one can take it away from you.

What is a Lead Magnet?

But how do you get people to join your list?

By using a lead magnet (also known as an ‘opt-in bribe’). Simply put, a lead magnet is something you offer to your visitors in exchange for their email address.

When it’s done right, a lead magnet is an offer so powerful your target simply has to know what it says.

In this article, I’m going to show you how to create a highly effective lead magnet. I’ll show you:

  • The 7 key ingredients of a lead magnet that converts
  • The 9 most popular types of lead magnet.

The Key Ingredients of a Successful Lead Magnet

The folks at OptinMonster have listed 7 key characteristics of lead magnets that convert well.

These guys know what they’re talking about because their whole business is built around lead magnets:

  1. Solves a Real Problem – your lead magnet must address a real problem that your visitor faces (e.g. traffic, list building, copywriting etc)
  2. Promises a Quick Win – your lead magnet must hold out the promise of delivering one thing quickly
  3. Is Highly Specific – the more specific the better. Instead of ‘How To Improve Your Social Media Presence’ go for ‘How To Get 15K New Followers on Twitter in 14 Days’
  4. Easy to Consume – avoid lengthy reports, anything where the potential subscriber can see there’s a big upfront time investment. Instead go for Checklists, Swipe Files, and Cheat Sheets.
  5. High Value – your Lead Magnet must be of high value but also needs to be perceived as high value.
  6. Offers Immediate Gratification – in this day and age we want everything NOW! – your Lead Magnet must be something they can get immediate access to.
  7. Demonstrates Your Expertise – when the subscriber uses your Lead Magnet, it should leave them feeling that you are an authority on that topic. (This last point is less important than the other six since we are focusing on a potential subscriber who hasn’t yet signed up and hasn’t yet downloaded your lead magnet).

The 7 Most Popular Lead Magnets

You’re probably wondering by now, what are these lead magnets that convert so well?

There are 7 of them and here they are:

  • Checklists
  • Cheat Sheets
  • Templates
  • Swipe Files
  • Toolkits
  • Worksheets
  • PDF Versions

1. Checklists

Checklists, as the name implies, are simply a list of items with a check box against each item. It’s a list of tasks, often ordered in a certain way. They can be used in any industry and any niche. Here are some examples:

  • List of things to pack when going on vacation
  • List of things to do to promote a blog post
  • List of things to do to optimize a blog post for SEO

Checklists work well as lead magnets because they give the reader the main points on a single page.

grow your email list2. Cheat Sheets

Cheat sheets are like checklists, but instead of a list of tasks, they give you a list of tips or guidelines for achieving a particular result.

Cheat Sheets are appealing because they condense a topic into a few main points.

3. Templates

A template is a file that serves as a starting point for a new document. But in this context, it’s any standardized content containing blanks that the user fills in to customize the content. Examples are:

  • Influencer Outreach email templates
  • Facebook Ad templates

Templates are very popular because they give the user a head start and give them a proven foundation for doing something (emailing prospects, creating ads for Facebook).

Facebook marketing4. Swipe Files

A swipe file is a file where you collect examples of things you like. For example, I keep swipe files of:

  • Lead Magnets that I think are very effective
  • Author Bios that are fresh and original
  • About Pages that grab my attention

A swipe file might contain the 50 best headlines you’ve ever seen in an email campaign.

Swipe files work well as lead magnets because they’re real-life examples of things that have been tried and tested and work. And the user can implement them straight away.

Lead Magnet

5. Toolkits

These are also called ‘Resource Lists’. Toolkits are simply a list of all the tools and resources that you use to run your online business.

Toolkits work well as a lead magnet because potential subscribers are genuinely curious about the tools you use. They want to know how to save time or how to get better results – but there are so many competing products out there, they want to know what tools the experts are using.

creating lead magnets6. Worksheets

A Worksheet is usually geared towards a particular task. Typically, it asks questions and provides a space where the user can give a response. In other words, a Worksheet walks the reader through a process. Examples are:

  • How to set up an Adwords campaign
  • How to choose a niche for your blog

Worksheets work well where people feel they need to be ‘walked through’ a process.

create a lead magnet7. PDF Versions

These are simply a PDF version of your blog post. Of all lead magnets, they’re the easiest to create. Just add some nice formatting to your Word file, and hit ‘Save as PDF’.

PDF Versions work as lead magnets because if your article is full of useful tips, your readers want a hard copy they can refer to later. Also, when you offer a PDF version as a content upgrade, you can offer 2 or 3 extra tips that are not included in the original blog post.

boost blog traffic

How To Create Your Own Lead Magnet

The two most common mistakes in creating lead magnets are:

  1. Going too broad – e.g. ‘The Complete Guide To Successful Blogging’. This is better: ‘17 Ways To Promote Your Blog Post After You Press Publish’
  2. Going too big – e.g. offering a 147 page eBook. To your prospective lead that sounds like a lot of hard work and a big time investment. A 1-Page Cheat Sheet will get you many more optins.
MY PERSONAL RECOMMENDATION FOR YOU  The 7 Best Ways to Include Influencers in Your Content

Remember – the most effective lead magnets are easy to consume, 1 or 2 pages at most. That means you shouldn’t spend more than a couple of hours creating your lead magnet.

If you find yourself trying to create the perfect lead magnet, keep this in mind – any lead magnet is better than none!

If you’re not convinced that less is better, John Corcoran’s lead magnet is a 72-word email template:

lead magnets

When creating your lead magnet think about your audience’s pain points:

  • What do they have the most difficulty with?
  • What do they struggle with?

Use this formula to create your lead magnet:

I want [goal], but [obstacle]

For example:

  • I want to write blog posts in half the time but I don’t know how
  • I want to write a blog post every week but I’ve run out of ideas
  • I want to slash my household budget by 30% but I don’t know how

Delivering Your Lead Magnet

At this point, you need some software to get your lead magnet in front of your visitor.

Many of the major email service providers (AWeber, Constant Contact, GetResponse, MailerLite) now include pop-up optin forms. So that’s certainly an option if you have budget constraints.

However, these optin forms are fairly basic and you won’t get a whole library of different templates. You also won’t have analytics, or A/B testing to see how your optin performs.

Dedicated optin software is preferable if you want to maximize your optin rate.

I use Thrive Leads because I found it the easiest to set up.

But there are plenty of other options:

Lead Pages

  • Recurring fees – $25 p/month
  • WordPress plugin
  • Mobile responsive
  • A/B Testing
  • Optin templates
  • Integrates with all major email service providers

Optinmonster (Sue uses this one)

  • Recurring fees – $9 p/month
  • WordPress plugin
  • Exit-Intent® Technology
  • Page Level Targeting
  • Optin templates
  • A/B Testing
  • Integrates with all major email service providers
  • Mobile responsive

WP Subscribe Pro

  • One Time fee of $29
  • WordPress plugin
  • Optin templates
  • Includes Exit Intent
  • Integrates with all major email service providers
  • Mobile responsive

Thrive Leads

  • One Time fee of $67
  • WordPress plugin
  • Exit Intent technology
  • A/B Testing
  • Optin templates
  • Advanced targeting
  • Smart Analytics
  • Mobile responsive
  • Integrates with all major email service providers

Convert Plug

  • One Time Fee of $21
  • WordPress plugin
  • Exit Intent pop-ups
  • Optin templates
  • Real Time Analytics
  • Page Level Targeting
  • Mobile Specific Popups
  • Integrates with all major email service providers

WP Subscribe

  • Free
  • Integrates with MailChimp, AWeber, FeedBurner
  • Customizable text
  • Mobile responsive
  • No Exit Intent (Pro Version only)


  • Free
  • No pop-ups
  • Boxes (optin forms) slide or fade in, triggered by scroll percentage, reaching a certain page element, or X amount of time on the page
  • Customize boxes
  • Page Level Targeting
  • Exit Intent (premium only)
  • Time On Site (premium only)

The Three Golden Rules of Optin Forms

When you design your optin form, keep in mind these three Golden Rules of lead magnet optin forms:

Rule #1 – Words That Turn People Off

Don’t use ‘subscribe’ or ‘sign-up’ on your button.

Instead, use positive phrases such as ‘Get Instant Access’ or ‘Send Me My Cheat Sheet’.

Rule #2 – Less Information Is Better

The more information you ask for, the fewer optins you get – don’t ask for names, just an email address.

Rule #3 – Instant Gratification

Make your lead magnet accessible as soon as the button has been clicked.

Some people send a link to the lead magnet in an email once the person has confirmed their email address.

I have my optin forms configured so that the lead magnet loads in the next screen as soon as the visitor has pressed the button. I’m taking a gamble that the email address is valid, but I believe this approach is more in keeping with what people want and expect.

If you use this approach, you have the advantage of being able to say “Instant Access” on your optin form.

Where To Place Your Optin Offer

The more places you put your optin form, the quicker you’ll build your list.

Here are some of the most effective locations for your optin form:

  • Sidebar
  • Feature Box
  • Exit Intent pop-up
  • Slide-In
  • Landing Page
  • ‘About Me’ section of your social media pages (Facebook, Linked In, Twitter etc)

If you write guest posts, your guest post bio is another great place to put your optin form (or at least a link to it). For example:

“Rob Powell is on a mission to show beginning bloggers how to create content that builds traffic, backlinks, and authority. Download his formula for getting 147 Social Media Shares in just 24 Hours”.

Your Optin Headline

Your optin headline will be a key part of the success of your lead magnet.

Here are 5 popular formulas for creating optin headlines:

1. Toolkit / Checklist for [desired result/audience]

  • Toolkit for Dominating the Search Results
  • Checklist for Planning the Perfect Wedding
  • Toolkit for Writing Like a Pro

2. X Easy Ways to [desired result]

  • 27 Easy Ways to Boost Your Traffic
  • 17 Easy Ways to Save Money In The Kitchen
  • 21 Easy Ways to Get More Likes on Facebook

3. The [blank] Cheat Sheet

  • The Home Brewer’s Cheat Sheet
  • The Ultimate Wedding Planner’s Cheat Sheet
  • The Essential Body Builder’s Cheat Sheet

4. The Essential X: Top [things] that Every [audience] Needs

  • The Essential 7: Top Reports that Every Photographer Needs
  • The Essential 13: Items Every Pet Lover Needs
  • The Essential 21: Tips Every Dieter Needs to Know

5. X-Point Checklist for [blank]

  • 73-Point Checklist for Creating the Ultimate Kindle Book
  • 17-Point Checklist for Parents With Teenagers
  • 31-Point Checklist for Hiking In The Himalayas

Most of the plugins mentioned above allow you to do A/B split testing. This is a great way to test different headlines.

Just set up 2 competing headlines and after they’ve each had 100 impressions, you take the winner.

Then create another headline to compete with the winner. And so on. In no time at all, you’ll have an optin headline that converts like crazy!

Over To You

So now it’s over to you. I hope you use this information to build amazing lead magnets and high-converting optin forms.

When you start to see a daily trickle of email sign-ups, you’ll know you’re on the road to success.

Because an email list is the backbone of successful online business!

Had your own experiences with lead magnets and optin forms? If so, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below:

Rob Powell is on a mission to show beginning bloggers how to create content that builds traffic, back links, and authority. Download his FREE Swipe File: 117 Lead Magnet Ideas.

32 thoughts on “How To 5x Your List With a Lead Magnet That Converts Like Crazy”

  1. Hi Rob,

    Fancy seeing you here on Sue's blog again!

    Thanks for an awesome, practical, detailed and in every way, a fantastic blog post!!

    You're right when you say the money is in the list. And as bloggers, our email list is our greatest and most prized asset. Any blogger who doesn't have a strategy for building their list is limiting their ability to hack in this ever changing environment in which we operate.

    As anyone who has attempted to grow their list will testify, building an email list can be difficult.

    And the reason is simple.

    Our prospects are probably already on a hundred and one email lists, and are getting bombarded daily with advertising messages. So the last thing they want is to get more junk in their email inbox from yet another company or individual trying to sell them stuff!

    That’s why it’s so critical to understand the importance of creating a compelling offer, through the use of lead magnets. And as you rightly put it, the use of "amazing lead magnets and high-converting optin forms"!

    I consider myself a list grow strategist and help people build large lists that they can monetize, but I must say that I have picked up some really useful ideas and tips from your post. And by far, my greatest takeaway is The Three Golden Rules of Optin Forms. I particularly like Rule #1 – Avoiding words that turn people off.

    Thanks again for an amazing blog post.

    I'm off to share to share.

    Best regards,


    • Hi Pedro, great to see you here again! And thanks for your great comment! I agree, the words on the optin form can make all the difference ("Download Now" vs "Subscribe"). So glad you found it useful and thanks for the share! Best regards, Rob.

  2. Hey Ryan, thanks for your comment! That's an awesome result with your list, congratulations. I agree – guest posting is great for building your list. Thanks again! – Rob.

  3. Hello Rob,

    Nice to see you here on Sue's space ๐Ÿ™‚

    This looks like fantasy to come true. The e-mail list is something that we all bloggers are blessed with.

    If we know how to convert our e-mails into our further leads, then when can easily end up in making a lot of money.

    This post is like a Saviour to me, as I have always struggles to maintain my e-mail list and I always find it a lot of messy

    whenever I need to go with it. I always tend to get stuck in the middle.

    Thanks for the share


    • Hi Shantanu, thanks for your feedback. Really glad my article helped you with this topic. List building is definitely the golden goose, really worth doing! Best wishes, Rob.

  4. Hello


    Glad to read your post. All the points are effective to 5x mail list with a lead magnet. I have read the whole post and learned something new. E-mail is very effective way to build relationship with readers.

    In this post you finished my confusion how to use lead magnet to grow e-mail list.

    Best Wishes,

    Praveen verma

    • Hi Praveen, I'm really glad my article was helpful and that I was able to provide some clarity on how to use lead magnets. Thanks so much for your feedback. All the best with your list building! Best regards, Rob.

  5. Hey Rob!

    Love the valuable post on email marketing here!

    The 7 lead magnet ideas you have listed here are very helpful. You are making me bookmark this blog post.

    Once you have a little bit of traffic coming, you need to start testing with your email marketing tactics to get the best statistics. And at the end the best ROI – of course.

    Building your own email list through a blog is one of the best things you can build online. I really love the entire process and benefit of doing it.

    Thanks for sharing such valuable post man!

    Cheers! ๐Ÿ˜€

    • Hey Freddy, thanks for your comment. I'm glad it was helpful. Building your list is one of the keys to successful blogging or for any online business. I often see interviews where big name bloggers are asked what was their biggest mistake – they nearly all say something like: "Waiting a year before building my list". Sounds like you're going well with your list! Cheers, Rob ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Hi Mike, thanks for your comment. I've never used quizzes as a lead magnet but it's on my list of things to do. Quizzes work well as lead magnets because they're interactive and they give the user the feeling of being in a conversation. They also give a result that tells the user something about themselves, and that really appeals to people. So I think they're great. Ramit Sethi uses a quiz as a lead magnet: Best regards, Rob.

      • Thanks Rob, that's useful.

        What are the ethics around getting an email address from a lead magnet and then start using that address to send future content that the person hasn't asked for?

        • Hi Mike, the best thing to do is let the subscriber know that you'll be sending them further emails at intervals. If you do double-optin, the initial email containing the confirmation link could contain a short paragraph where you explain that they'll be receiving further emails from you every time you publish a new post, but no more than once a week (or whatever your frequency is). That way you have advised them before they subscribed, and then you're entirely ethical. Best regards, Rob.

  6. These are excellent tips. I haven't tried offering a swipe file but it's an excellent idea. I launched an ebook last week and offering a free chapter & a pre recorded webinar has allowed my list to skyrocket!

    • Hi Claire,

      Thanks for your comment, so glad you found it useful. It's great to hear you're building your list so fast!

      All the best,

    • Hi Emenike,

      That's fantastic, so glad my article was helpful. It's truly amazing to get feedback like this! I wish you all the very best in your list building!

      Best regards,


  7. Hi, Rob!

    It's one of the best blog posts I have ever read on the lead magnets. As far as my experience is concerned, I've tested a lead magnet and it worked for me.

    However, my lead magnet's success was due to a guest post that I wrote for a blog. So, I learned that it's not just about a good lead magnet, in fact, the platform matters as well. The result could have been different if I didn't use guest posting.

  8. Hey Hassan,

    That's awesome! Thanks for the comment. I agree with you, the effectiveness of a lead magnet depends very much on the platform or context in which you offer it. For example, I've found that content upgrades in guest posts (which I think is what you're referring to) have the highest conversion rate of all my lead magnets.

    All the best,


  9. Rob,

    I think the key is – as you said so eloquently – to offer something of tremendous value for absolutely nothing other than the email address. Whether it be a video library or an e-book or a checklist, it has to be very valuable to the person. I also really like the phrasing you chose to avoid "subscribe" or "opt in." I never would have thought about that! Very impressive post. Wishing you tons of success. ๐Ÿ™‚
    RDB Design recently posted What is Local SEO and Why is it Important for Your Business?My Profile

    • Thanks Bob, great comment! Two other good alternatives to 'Subscribe' and 'Join' are "Sounds Good!" and "Yes, Let's Do It!". As CTAs they're more upbeat and more inviting. Thanks again. To your success, Rob.

    • Hi Aditya,

      Glad you liked the article ๐Ÿ™‚

      Bloom is great, definitely one of the better lead capture tools. It's a smart and well organised dashboard (as you would expect from Elegant Themes). The only thing I don't like about Bloom is that the plugin organises your campaigns by type of optin form. I prefer to have my campaigns organised by Lead Magnet – in terms of tracking performance, that seems a more relevant criterion. But apart from that, it's a great lead capture tool. I use Thrive Leads and am very happy with it. I started off with Lead Pages but found the workflow too difficult to understand. A lot of people use OptinMonster, another great lead capture tool.

      Hope this helps.

      All the best,

  10. I use Thrive Leads and am very happy with it. I started off with Lead Pages but found the workflow too difficult to understand.

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