Welcome to the world of content upgrades…
In brief, it means offering more value to the visitor – say in the form of a relevant download – in exchange for their email address.
But content upgrades aren’t just for your blog…
Content upgrades also work when integrated into content published on other platforms across the web.
In fact, thanks to the often higher engagement levels you get on these other content platforms, this can be even more effective. Yet few if any are really doing this right now…
I’ll share more on this below!
But first, here’s quick summary of what you’ll learn here:
- What content upgrades are: What they are and how they benefit you (it’s not just for list building there are some other advantages I can practically guarantee you won’t be aware of)…
- The results to expect: I’ll share some of my own results, as well as those from other business owners (some of these you’ll find surprising)…
- How to create content upgrade bonuses: Some examples of bonuses you can offer as content upgrades, and vital things to think about when creating them so they bring you maximum advantage, even after someone has opted in your list…
- The mechanics: How to actually implement them on your blog – and on other content around the web – including how to deliver the content upgrades to new opt-ins. I’ll cover some easy ways to get you started… and, for the more advanced, not so easy (but more powerful!).
- Ramping up results: What you need to do long-term to optimize your results from content upgrades. (Do this right, and you could double or even triple their effectiveness.)
Comprehensive? I’d say so…
Let’s dive straight in.
What Are Content Upgrades?
The download offered above is an example of a content upgrade I’m using in this post.
Think of a content upgrade as a lead magnet that is specific and highly relevant to a particular piece of content.
The high relevancy means your opt-in conversion rate is likely to be far higher than for the more generic lead magnet.
Here’s a quick example.
Let’s say you’re in the weight loss niche. You’ve got a piece of content about how to lose weight by going on a juicing fast.
It presents some really useful information with three delicious juicing recipes people can use.
People coming to that page and reading the content are going to be interested in juicing fasts, right? That almost goes without saying…
Therefore, those visitors are going to be far more interested in a download that offers them a full week’s worth of juicing recipes in printable form – an upgrade on the content they’re looking at – than a more generic offer of say a free ebook on weight loss.
Sure, it means a bit more work creating them. But not much, once you’re used to doing them.
The important point is that by offering content upgrades in relation to your content, you get higher opt-in rates and build your list more quickly. There are other powerful advantages too. More on those in a sec…
Practically everyone I’ve observed using content upgrades for their content are using them:
- For content on their blog.
- On the basis of one content upgrade per blog post.
But there’s more to it than that. I’ve been testing the following couple of techniques as well. So far they are proving very effective.
(Related resource: see 9 other ways to convert traffic into leads).
Use More Than One Content Upgrade Per Blog Post
There’s no law saying you can only offer a single content upgrade for each piece of content. I’ve found it effective to offer multiple content upgrades.
That doesn’t mean I need to create more than one content upgrade each time I write a new post. Instead, it means reusing content upgrades I’ve created before where relevant and appropriate.
I’ll just offer a particular content upgrade to the reader, if it’s relevant to what I’m talking about at a particular point and would add value for them.
For example, in my previous post on publishing content on Medium:
- I mentioned a key change in online marketing, mainly relating to the rise of the Millennial generation. The post wasn’t about that particular topic, but I offered a content upgrade that helped explain the rise of the Millennials for readers who wanted more information about how it affected them.
- I offered a single page downloadable PDF that summarized the 15 tips I shared about publishing on Medium as a business.
Similarly, if I talk about keyword research in a post (which comes up quite a bit as you can imagine), I’ll mention our essential Keyword Research Guide that the reader can download. It’s a great way to offer additional value to the reader, while helping to build my list.
Using Content Upgrades Beyond Your Blog – In Repurposed Content
Just as I might link through to a particular content upgrade within a blog post, I can do the same when I repurpose the content and publish it elsewhere.
I’ve not seen anyone else really doing this, but if anything it can be more effective.
- The original blog post received a couple of comments and was shared a small handful of times. While these engagement metrics will increase in time as the blog grows*, its main current value is as a long-term content asset for the business, attracting traffic from search.
*For example, social referrals for the past three months have increased 45% on the previous three month period. Comments on the blog for the past six months have more than doubled on the previous six months.
- In clear contrast, within just 24 hours, the repurposed content on Pulse had been shared dozens of times, attracted several comments, and had been viewed hundreds of times.
By including a content upgrade within the LinkedIn Pulse post itself, I received a surge of new leads for my list.
For added benefit, I also linked back to posts on my blog that included content upgrades themselves.
The content was also published on other sites too, again incorporating content upgrades in some way, and leading to more leads coming through.
Here’s another example…
The following shows a SlideShare, repurposed from a post on creating effective blog titles. See how the presentation incorporates a couple of different content upgrades, as well as a more general lead magnet at the very end.
That’s three different opportunities throughout the presentation for the viewer to opt-in to my list.
Content Upgrades Build Your List
Yes, of course, this one’s obvious!
List building is likely to be the primary way you build and grow long-term profits from your blogging and related content marketing activities.
(For more info on blogging profitably, see my related post on how to blog for money).
However, content upgrades aren’t just about list building.
There are other advantages too that you may not have thought of. Here goes…
Content Upgrades Help Your SEO
Yes. Offering content upgrades on your page can help those pages to gain higher rankings.
Content upgrades mean you are providing more value and interest to the visitor.
The overall effect is that a higher proportion of visitors will stay on your page for longer. If a proportion are spending time opting in, that much is obvious.
Fewer therefore return straight back to the SERPs. This is one of the key metrics used to judge the value of your page to the visitor, and the relevancy of your content to their search query.
Content Upgrades Help Build Your Relationship With Your List
While content upgrades are traditionally seen as a way to get new leads onto your list, they are also a useful way to build your relationship with existing leads.
It’s another marketing touchpoint between you and the prospect. It helps to build trust, and build your own authority and credibility.
What’s more, the prospect remains in control. It’s not about you chasing them for the sale. It’s about you attracting them back with your content, and engaging further with them.
Because I always share new content on this blog with subscribers on my list, I’ve found that around 60% of people taking advantage of content upgrades are existing subscribers. That leaves the other 40% who are brand new leads.
All such engagements add value to the business.
What Results Can You Expect?
Based on my own results so far after a few months of testing – and based on current traffic levels alone – content upgrades look set to be responsible for the addition of hundreds of new leads to my list this year.
That’s leads coming from content upgrades both on the blog itself, and incorporated into repurposed content.
But it’s likely to actually be much higher. My initial results come from only just over a dozen content upgrades so far.
- Traffic to the blog will continue to grow. In fact, based on forecast traffic levels, my traffic goals, and increased levels of content repurposing, in a year or two it’s likely content upgrades will be delivering hundreds of new leads to my list every month.
- Over time, there will be a higher proportion of posts taking advantage of content upgrades:
- I’m continuing to add content upgrades to older posts. Each one might mean only a handful of new leads a month at present, but they add up over time.
- I’m adding content upgrades to most new posts as they’re created. With a weekly publishing schedule, that’s another 40 to 50 content upgrade opportunities over the course of the next twelve months. That’s triple what I have now from new posts alone.
- It’s also about conversion rates. On that exact topic, at the end of this post, I’ll show you a powerful way to ramp up results further…
So what about actual conversion rates?
Let me share some of my own data. Here’s an example.
For one of my posts, I’ve seen a 32% conversion rate for the content upgrade. That’s significant. But it’s not the full story.
The majority of those who opted in to the upgrade were actually existing subscribers, coming to the post following a regular email broadcast. (That’s still valuable though. It’s still building relationships.)
For completely new opt-in subscribers coming through the content upgrade, the conversion rate is 6.5%.
That’s still very good.
Another post converts at 4% at the time of writing, if you include those already on my list. For new subscribers only, it’s 3.4%.
Not too bad, but lots of room for improvement. (See the Ramping Up Results section below.)
As you can see, all posts convert at different levels.
Let’s take a look at data shared by other business owners who use content upgrades (I’d assume their numbers include opt-ins who are already on their list):
- Jeff Bullas reported a 344% increase in email conversions when comparing posts with and without content upgrades.
- Bryan Harris uses content upgrades as his #1 one method for building his email list:
Content upgrades turn your readers into subscribers better than any other single tactic out there. I normally experience 20-30% opt-in rates on these bonuses and some have been as high as 62%!
Bryan Harris, blog.videofruit.com
- Tim Soulo of BloggerJet reported a 300% increase in his email conversion rate, once he started using content upgrades.
- Even higher, Backlinko’s Brian Dean reported a 785% conversion boost in a single day via content upgrades.
In other words…
Content Upgrades Work!
The worst thing you could do is dismiss them or put them on the back burner. Instead, aim to incorporate content upgrades into your content creation activities as early as possible.
Otherwise you’re leaving a ton of leads – and of course potential profits – on the table, untapped.
How to Create Content Upgrade Bonuses
So we know they work.
They also require work. No surprise there.
I’ve earned my success the hard way—with sweat, tears, and dogged determination…if you’re looking for an elevator to success, you’ll never find one. Instead just put your head down and start climbing. You’ll be surprised at where you end up.
Jody Hedlund, award-winning author and blogger
But the good news is, by approaching it the right away, it’s not actually that time intensive.
Firstly, analyze your stats. Take advantage of low hanging fruit first and create content upgrades that get the most traffic and/or attract the most engagement.
As you start seeing results, this creates the motivation and momentum to do more. It’s rewarding seeing those additional leads start to come in!
Secondly, if you already have a high number of posts, think about content upgrades you could use across a number of different posts within say a particular category. For example, I’ve already mentioned a Keyword Research Guide I now use in this way.
This means you can boost the conversion rate on multiple posts with the minimum amount of effort.
The easiest and quickest content upgrades to create are PDF documents (rather than say software or video(s)). So create a document in Word, or within Google Drive, and save as a PDF.
The first one will generally take the longest to create. It can then usually act as a template for others.
Here are a few ideas of the type of content upgrade you could create:
- A single page download that summarizes the practical, take-away information shared in your content.
- A PDF version of the post.
- A cheat sheet. For example, if you were in the fitness niche, a cheat sheet might provide a 90-day training schedule. Or for the web design niche, it might provide attractive color code combinations.
There are plenty more. In fact, here’s a cheatsheet with 21 ideas for content upgrades you can get sent to your email. I can practically guarantee you’ll find several here you won’t have even thought of.
(See what I did there?!)
Make the content upgrade continue to work for you!
In creating the content upgrade, you can ensure it continues to deliver benefits to your site long after someone has actually opted in to obtain it.
Here are four tips you can put into action for your own content upgrades:
Include the domain name in the file name of the download. For example, here are some of mine:
When someone sees the file some weeks or months from now, they’ll remember where it was from and may return to the site.
Include your logo in the content upgrade. Again it serves as a reminder of where the person got the resource from and helps attract them back to the site.
Link back to the post
Add a link back to the post in question. This is often useful for the subscriber in case they want to return to the source, while benefiting your business with the repeat visitor.
I usually include a short-form version of the actual blog link, using the Pretty Link WordPress plugin. This makes it easier for someone who has printed out the content upgrade, and is typing the link in. This could be some weeks or months down the line.
Link to a further lead magnet
You may have a specific lead magnet and follow-up sequence that helps sell your product or service.
If so, offer this lead magnet:
- Within the download itself.
- In the initial email they get after they’ve opted in for the content upgrade.
- You could even include it on the thank you page after they’ve opted in, offering them the chance to opt-in to that as well.
The Mechanics: How to Implement Content Upgrades
Starting to offer content upgrades on your blog posts is relatively straightforward. Here are a few off-the-shelf options you can choose from:
- LeadPages – a popular option for implementing various opt-in mechanisms, and suitable for use with content upgrades. Monthly fee.
- Optinmonster – means you can set a popup for a particular WordPress category. So for any post in that category, the visitor would see the popup. This is useful if you have a content upgrade applicable across a number of posts. Monthly fee.
- Sumome – popular and powerful WordPress plugin that helps convert blog traffic into leads, amongst other features. Get started for free, but you’ll likely want to upgrade at some point which involves a monthly fee. For example, you can set a different Scroll Box on each page pages, offering a different content upgrade.
There’s also another option…
Your Own Bespoke Solution
I wanted a bit more than the off-the-shelf options provided, as good as they may be. So I opted for a bespoke solution.
Here’s what I needed:
- To be able to simply add a content upgrade link to both a post and within repurposed content, with nothing further required. In other words, super quick set-up.
- Have the opt-in squeeze page dynamically created.
- Once opted in, display the relevant download link immediately for subscribers who were already on my list, or otherwise ask them to confirm (I use double opt-in).
- Incentivize someone to share a particular post on Twitter by offering all the content upgrades on the blog once they’d signed up for one (more on this below). This has already resulted in several more shares.
- Provide opportunities for the new subscriber to follow vWriter on different social networks.
The solution I now use means that all I need to do, apart from create the content upgrade itself, is to add the details for each content upgrade into a database. The system then takes care of the rest.
It means I can for example easily integrate content upgrades into videos, SlideShares and textual content across a number of sites.
It’s not particularly complicated, and may cost a developer a few hundred dollars to set up a similar type of system for your own business.
I can also still use a tool like Sumome in addition if I want to, something I intend testing. More on testing below – important stuff! But first…
How to Deliver The Content Upgrade
With lots of different content upgrades available, you don’t want to have to set up a new autoresponder for each one to provide the download link. That would get fairly ugly, and time consuming to both set up and maintain in future.
Instead, the set up for each one needs to be as quick and simple as possible.
Here’s my own approach, simplified here:
- Have a single page that lists all the content upgrades I have available.
- Have a single autoresponder that directs new leads to this page.
So confirmed subscribers actually get the full download list, whether or not they share the post on Twitter. (Shhh!…)
Does that matter? Not really. It’s not perfect, but nor does it have to be.
The important question is…
Does it work? Yes.
Ramping Up Results
Want to become a content upgrade pro?
How about improving your conversion rates 100% to 300% or more?
In other words, by tripling your conversion rate, instead of say 10 new leads, you get 30. Or instead of 30, you get 90.
Over time, instead of a list of 10,000, you get 30,000.
It also triples your sales.
This stuff’s super important.
And all it involves are tiny changes that can have BIG results.
What am I talking about? You’ve probably already guessed…
If you don’t believe such improvements are possible, conversion rates for content upgrades vary widely, from say 2% to 20% or higher. All it takes to get from 2% to 20% is a different approach.
Simple changes to how you are offering content upgrades can make a dramatic difference to conversion rates.
Some tests may decrease response. That’s good, it’s still a result. You’ve learned something.
Other tests might only have a negligible or zero effect. No problem. Ignore, and carry on testing.
But other tests can make such a dramatic difference, you’ll be glad you tried it. It’s these winners you’re waiting for and that make the testing so worthwhile.
Here are some changes you might like to try:
- Placement on the page. Offering the content upgrade higher up the page will usually outperform an offer that’s further down.
- Multiple placements. Offer the content upgrade say once at the top, again somewhere in the middle, and towards the bottom. You don’t want to overdo it and detract from the value of the post. But get the balance right, and the more times you make the offer, the more leads you’re likely to attract.
- A change in wording. Similar to headlines on sales pages, simple changes to how you word something can make a huge difference.
- If you’re linking to a squeeze page, rather than say triggering a lightbox popup, test different layouts, a different headline, different buttons, and so on. Test lightbox popups in the same way, as permitted by whatever software solution you use.
- Test out a different content upgrade bonus. One bonus may be far more appealing than another. You don’t know until you try.
- Try out a different look and feel to the content upgrade offer. For example, a different style of surround and border; or none at all; or simply including the link and offer within a normal paragraph; and so on.
Also, as with any split testing, it’s often a combination of different tests that can result in the big improvements. While individual tests might lead to relatively minor improvements, with repeated testing these results start compounding.
For example, let’s say you currently have a 5% conversion rate on a post for your content upgrade, and you complete the following testing:
- Test A gives you a 10% improvement in your conversion rate. So you now have a 5.5% conversion rate. You test something else…
- Test B gives you a 50% improvement. You now have a 8.25% conversion rate. Again, you test something else…
- Test C gives you a 40% improvement. You now have a 11.55% conversion rate. Finally…
- Test D gives you a 30% improvement. Your conversion rate, once 5%, is now 15%.
In other words, when you add up the improvements from the individual tests, you get 10% + 50% + 40% + 30% = 130%.
But, thanks to the compounding results of these tests, you’ve leapt from 5% to 15%. That’s a three-fold increase, an overall improvement of 300%.
To get started:
- Start testing with post(s) that get the most traffic. With more data, you’ll get insights more quickly that you can then test out and benefit from across other posts.
- Make sure you have clear conversion rate data for the page in question, so you know what you’re testing against.
- Test out a change for a number of days until you have data that’s statistically significant.
- If you have a winner, treat that as your new control. Test something new and try to beat it.
- Continue the process.
A couple of further hints:
- If you’re testing out a squeeze page, use a tool like Experiments within Google Analytics to test out a couple versions of the page that run at the same time. Statistical relevance is automatically calculated for you, and you can set it to declare a winner when it’s e.g. 95% certain.
- If you’re using the Sumome plugin, the paid version of the tool facilitates A/B testing.
This post wouldn’t be complete without my own offer for a content upgrade.
So don’t forget, get the cheatsheet with 21 ideas for content upgrades you can start using today.