You know that building your email list is the best way to stay in touch with website visitors and convert them into customers and loyal fans.

If your email conversion rates are disappointingly low, and your freebie offer isn’t building your list as fast as you thought it would, then content upgrades might be just the tactic you need.

In the past few years, the content upgrade has become a hugely popular strategy used by many top bloggers, and many of them have seen their conversion rates more than triple. Here’s how you can do the same.

What Are Content Upgrades?

A content upgrade is a way to offer extra content as a reward to new email subscribers.

Unlike the traditional freebie as bait for your email list, the content upgrade goes a step further: it’s a freebie that’s specifically related to an individual blog post, and only offered on that page as an “upgrade” to the post.

The freebie offered might be a worksheet or checklist, a complementary video that goes into more detail on the blog post, or a continuation or longer version of your blog post – anything your readers might find useful. A visitor can only access it in exchange for their email address.

Why Content Upgrades Are Such a Powerful Tool

What makes content upgrades better than just using a freebie?

For one thing, you can create much more targeted freebies to offer. If you’re just offering one freebie across your whole website, it’s probably not going to apply to all your visitors. But if your freebie is directly related to a blog post your visitor just read, you know it’s going to appeal to them.

Also, with content upgrades you can appeal to people who prefer different formats. Even if your readers love the topic of your free ebook, they may prefer to watch a video or listen to audio, or could really use something more practical, like a checklist or template.

Content upgrades also have a huge advantage over pop-ups: they’re much less likely to annoy or anger your visitors by disrupting their use of your site.

So What’s the Downside?

You already have a lot of content creation on your plate: blog posts, social media updates, email newsletters, etc. You may not have the time or energy to create a content upgrade in addition to writing your blog posts. And if you already outsource your blog, then ordering content upgrades on top of blog posts could hike up the price out of your budget.

You may not have the time to create content upgrades for every post, but if you have just a couple of hours, you can still turn your most popular blog posts into email subscription machines.

Examples of Content Upgrade Successes

Bloggers across the web have seen remarkable results by implementing content upgrades. Here are just a few examples.

Blogger Jet

Tim Soulo of Blogger Jet saw a 300% increase in email conversions by implementing content upgrades. He went from gaining only 48 subscribers in one month, to 539 the next after he set up his first upgrade. Now he offers short ebooks, PDF checklists, and even an example email subject line on his blog posts.

Blogger Jet’s Tim Soulo was able to increase his conversions by 300% with content upgrades.

Blogger Jet’s Tim Soulo was able to increase his conversions by 300% with content upgrades.


Bryan Harris at VideoFruit found that of all the tactics he tried, content upgrades were the best way to turn his readers into subscribers. On each blog post where he offered a content upgrade, conversion rates were as high as 30-60%. In comparison, his optimized pop-up forms only saw 6-8% conversion rates.


Devesh Khanal shares on CrazyEgg how he implemented content upgrades for a client, offering readers a simple PDF checklist that took less than an hour to create. It resulted in a 492% increase in conversions on that page.


Brian Dean at Backlinko also created a quick checklist to offer on a single blog post, and saw a 785% increase in conversions on that page. Though he has over 50 opt-in forms in total on his website, this single content upgrade now counts for 30% of all his new email subscribers.

Tools to Offer Content Upgrades

Content Upgrades PRO

LeadBoxes makes it easy to insert double opt-in forms into any blog post.

LeadBoxes makes it easy to insert double opt-in forms into any blog post.

This WordPress plugin was created by Blogger Jet’s Tim Soulo. It integrates with MailChimp, Aweber, GetResponse and Ontraport and allows you to easily create unique double opt-in content upgrades for all your blog posts. You can also create a custom email for each content upgrade to deliver the right bonus to your subscribers automatically. Pricing starts at $37 per single-site license, and there’s also a limited free version.

Optin Lock

Optin Lock is a list-building plugin for WordPress that allows you to lock content behind an opt-in form. Once visitors sign up, they can see the rest of your blog post, or download your bonus content. It can also be used to create other opt-in forms and pop-ups. Optin Lock integrates with AWeber, iContact, MailChimp, GetResponse, Mad Mimi and Interspire Email Marketer. It starts at $49 for a license with one year of support and updates.


LeadPages has a feature called LeadBoxes that generates a bit of code you can add to any post to create a double opt-in form. It can also automatically deliver your bonus content via email to new subscribers for you.

How to Set Up Your Content Upgrade

Step 1: Choose your blog post

In order to maximize your chances to get the most new subscribers, you’ll want to choose a post that already has high traffic.

You can identify your high-traffic posts easily with Google Analytics. Just set your timeframe in the upper right corner, and then navigate to Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages to see which pages on your site get the most traffic.

Step 2: Create your upgrade

If the blog post you’ve identified is on the longer side, you might choose to create an ebook or PDF out of it and use that as a content upgrade, and shorten the blog post itself. For example, if you wrote a list with 20 items, you could shorten the list in your blog post to 7 items and offer the complete list as a content upgrade.

Or, you can create something extra to complement the post, such as:

  • PDF checklist or template (easy to create in Google Docs, then export as a PDF)
  • List of relevant links or resources
  • Short video or screencast
  • Audio version of the post

Step 3: Set up your delivery

If you’re not using one of the tools listed above, then listing your freebies for download on your “Thanks For Subscribing” page is an easy way to allow your new subscribers to access them.

First, create the page on your website, and note the URL.

You can customize your new subscriber thank you page in Mailchimp by choosing your email list and navigating to Signup Forms > General Forms. On the forms and response emails drop-down menu, choose “Signup thank you page.” At the bottom of the page, there’s a field that says “Instead of showing this thank you page, send subscribers to another URL.” Enter your thank-you page URL there.

In AWeber, you can click “Signup Forms” in the main menu, then choose the signup form you’d like to edit. Click the “Settings” button at the top, then click on the “Thank You Page” drop-down box and choose “Custom Page” to enter your own URL.

Step 4: Implement the upgrade

Use one of the plugins or tools listed above, or just use a regular subscription opt-in form or link to your signup form. Add it to your chosen post, and you’re all set to jumpstart your conversions!

Published by KeriLynn Engel

KeriLynn Engel is a freelance writer for hire specializing in web content & blogging for small businesses & startups. She’s a huge fan of WordPress, women’s history, Star Trek, and general geekery.

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