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Content Upgrades: How to Increase Optins with Content-Specific Bonuses

Content Upgrades

Content is king.

But you already knew that, didn’t you?

That’s why you’ve invested in keyword research and written content that improves your Google Search Quality Rating, right?

Of course, you have.

If you’re like most high-performing business owners, you know just how important content marketing is in today’s Google-driven world.

With it, you can generate 3x as many leads than you can from traditional outbound marketing at a fraction of the cost.

But without it…

…you’ll struggle to get noticed in today’s crowded marketplace andinstead, sink to the deeper recesses of Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs).

The rationale behind original, high-value content, is to capture and convert inbound traffic and convert visitors into highly-qualified leads for your business.

But there’s a problem:

Traditional methods of capturing email addresses aren’t as effective as they once were.

In the past, you could invite visitors to, “Join my newsletter” or, “Subscribe for updates” and enjoy the lion’s share of email subscribers because few had the money—or the know-how—to build opt-ins on their site.

But, today, adding a signup form is easier than ever. And because so many people are using them, we’ve developed “opt-in blindness”: we’re exposed to so many opt-ins, we’ve become desensitized to them (including those that are relevant to our interests).  

 The truth is, in today’s noisy marketplace, you need to go a step further, and for your content to convert well, you need to use content upgrades.

Before we get into why content upgrades are so powerful when it comes to increasing email signups (and in the long-term, revenue), we need to answer an important question…

What is a Content Upgrade?

According to Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income,

A content upgrade is simply bonus content that people can get access to in exchange for their email address. Unlike traditional “site-wide” lead magnets, however, content upgrades are unique to the specific content that people are already reading or listening to on your site.

Brian Dean from Backlinko, coined the term after noticing other influencers like Bryan Harris from Videofruit increasing their opt-ins using, “content-specific bonuses”:

Bryan Harris

When he repeated Bryan’s process, his results were remarkable: he increased his conversions from 54%. to 4.82%. in one day (that’s a 785% improvement!)

Brian Dean

And he’s not alone, either:

GrowAndConvert implemented content upgrades to four high-traffic posts on JeffBullas.com.

The result?

After two months, the articles with content upgrades converted 344% more than those without.

Jeff Bullas

Now, I know what you might be thinking…

“But Josh, they’re marketers. I’m in [INSERT NON-MARKETING INDUSTRY HERE]. Content upgrades won’t work for me.”

Here’s the thing:

While content upgrades are popular with marketers, they work just as well, if not better, for business owners in niche markets.


Because far fewer people are doing them.

This puts you at a tremendous advantage.

If you’re still not convinced, check out the following three case-studies from non-marketing related industries that have used content upgrades and boosted their opt-in rates.

Case Study #1: RecruitLoop.com

RecruitLoop is an Australian-based recruitment company that specializes in automating and outsourcing the recruitment process for employers.

Unlike other recruitment agencies that still rely on traditional lead generation strategies, RecruitLoop uses content marketing to generate inbound interest in their business (check out the number of social shares for this article in particular):

RecruitLoop Social Shares

For one of their more popular pieces, “75 Behavioural Interview Questions To Select The Best Candidate,” they added a free PDF checklist as a content upgrade:

RecruitLoop Content Upgrade

While we can’t be certain how many opt-ins this piece is receiving, it is one of their most popular articles and is no doubt contributing to their 20,000+ email list:


Case Study #2 YouthPitching.com

Steven Ellis is the founder of Youth Pitching: a website that helps youth baseball players “throw harder, pitch smarter and reach the next level faster while reducing the risk of injury.”

One of Steven’s most popular articles, “13 Steps To Powerful Youth Pitching Mechanics”, is about how to develop high-velocity pitching mechanics and better control while reducing stress to the arm.

Ellis ranks #2 on Google for the long-tail keyword, “proper pitching mechanics”…

Proper Pitching Mechanics

…and similar to RecruitLoop, Steven added a PDF checklist as a “great little print out for your coaching binder”:

Youth Pitching

Notice here, that it’s not just the content upgrade that’s effective; it’s the copy you use to “pitch” it. Any opportunity to add convenience to the reader adds more value.

Case Study #3 DIYHomeBuilder.org

So far, we’ve looked at a “white-collar” industry (recruitment) and a non-collar industry (baseball coaching). But what about “blue-collar” industries like plumbing, engineering, and construction? Do content upgrades work for them, too?


Just check out DIYHomeBuilder:

DIY Home Builder Home

Priding itself on its ultimate guides, DIYHomeBuilder features a content upgrade on its guide for construction loans (note the persuasive copy it uses in the call-to-action):

DIY Home Builder [1].png

As you’ve seen, it doesn’t matter what market you’re in, content upgrades will help you convert more visitors into subscribers (and eventually subscribers into customers).

By now I’m guessing you’re ready to learn how to create your own, right?

I thought you’d never ask…

How to Create a Content Upgrade

While much has been written about how to create content upgrades with Leadpages, little has been written on how to create them with Leadpage’s more affordable competitor: SumoMe.

More than 423,777 websites (and counting) are powered by SumoMe and for good reason:

They’re one of the best software providers for building an email list.

And best of all…

…they’re free.

While the feature we’re going to look at is a paid feature, it’s worth giving their one-month free trial a go so you can see the results for yourself.

If you’re new to SumoMe, read their instruction guide (installation takes less than 37 seconds). If you’re already a SumoMe user, read on…

Step 1. Identify your most popular content

Login to your Google Analytics dashboard and click, “Behavior” > “Site Content” > “All Pages”. Here’s an example provided by Social Media Examiner:

Social Media Examiner

Choose a blog post you can expand on with a content upgrade. For example, if you’re a realtor and you have an article called, “10 Ways to Buy a House at Auction”, you could offer a PDF that offers 10additional ways that weren’t mentioned in the post. Remember, the more value you offer the reader, the more likely there are to opt-in.

Step 2. Create a bonus resource for that post

One of the biggest barriers to creating content upgrades is time.

As Devesh Khanal writes,

To do [content upgrades] well, it takes time, and to do it at scale it can be oppressively time-consuming.

The thing to remember, though, is not all content upgrades are created equal.

Some, like an infographic, take time to create (especially if you’re not a creative and have to outsource it), but others, as we’ve seen, can be as simple as a PDF checklist or even a PDF of the article itself.

Neil Patel does this for nearly every post he publishes:

Neil Patel

If you’re interested in more content upgrade ideas, read OptinMonster’s “30 Content Upgrade Ideas to Grow Your Email List.”

Step 3. Set up a click trigger in SumoMe

If you’ve ever clicked on a link in a call-out box, you might have seen a popup like this:


With LeadPages, this is known as a “Lead Box”. The idea is simple: if you click on a link, you’re more likely to follow-through and enter your email address (read: foot-in-the-door technique).

SumoMe has an identical feature called a “click trigger.”

Here’s how to create one:

Note: make sure you have created a campaign in SumoMe, first. If you don’t know how to do that it, read this article.

i. Login to SumoMe on your website:


ii. Click “List Builder” > “Click Triggers” > “Add New Code”:

Add New Code

iii. Name your click trigger and choose a campaign you want to have triggered upon the click (e.g. your weekly newsletter):


iv. Copy the “Inline Trigger Code”:

Inline Click Trigger

v. Go to your popular page, click “Text” and paste it above your main H2 tag:


vi. Test your click trigger to ensure it works:


Of course, that’s only the beginning. There’s more you can do to increase conversions (changing the color of the call-to-action, rewording the headline, adding a call-out box to the call-to-action, etc.). Just remember to continue iterating after you’ve created your content upgrade. This is when you discover what works best for your audience.


The future of online marketing is creating valuable content. This much is true. But content, alone, won’t bring in more leads for your business. To really capitalize on your existing traffic, you need to create content upgrades.

As you’ve seen, it doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, how big your marketing budget is, or what you’re offering: content upgrades can produce enormous returns on investmentif you invest time in creating them.

The money is in the list, remember. Make sure you’re investing in it.

What have your experiences been with using content upgrades? Have you noticed a difference in your conversions? Leave a comment below.

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Written by

Josh Denning, founder of Authority Factory, helps high-achieving business owners generate more traffic, create more authority and capture and close more clients for their business. To learn a scalable and predictable approach to growing revenue, visit: http://www.onlinemeetingnow.com/register/?id=r8vh2pasjo

Comments 5

6 October 2016 Reply

Love this article, josh and I’m in the process of planning content upgrades going into 2017. Very timely. My question around this is always: Do I have to have separate lists for all these different content upgrades on my backend, which in my case is Aweber? Seems overwhelming to keep track and to manage – and also, is it okay to then send your weekly newsletter to all of these lists on an ongoing basis? Or do you recommend inviting them to join the list or not? What has been your experience?

6 October 2016 Reply

Hey Maria,

Thank you and great question 🙂

I have had that same experience with Aweber when I was using them several years ago, so, I absolutely know how you feel. When using Aweber alone, you will, unfortunately, need to separate the lists for every content upgrade and it makes it very difficult to manage..

I recommend checking out: AWProTools https://awprotools.com/ which is a low-cost plug-in, that essentially turns Awebber into an Infusionsoft little brother.. It will allow you to segment, and automatically subscribe users to other lists, after they’ve received the content upgrade.

You would effectively, just, create one web form and one or two emails for each content upgrade; then after they recieve these, AWProTools, could then unsubscribe them from “content upgrade-XYZ list” and auto resubscribe them, to say, a welcome and wow sequence, and when that finishes, move them to your ongoing newsletter sequence. Wow that, was a mouthfull, I hope it was clear enough…

This could all be handled with automation in the background using AWProTools, and save you from going in manually and managing the chaos, without something like AWProTools, really only services like convert kit, Ontraport and of course Infusionsoft make it possible to manage using content upgrades easily..

Hope that helps, good luck and let me know how you go… 🙂


11 October 2016 Reply


LOVE it, and thanks for the mention 🙂 We’ve actually got a story coming out on the blog next week (10/17) talking about what content upgrades work the best from our experimentation. I think it’ll really help y’all out with what conversion rate expectations to have from which content upgrades.

11 October 2016 Reply

Hi Sean,

Thank-you for commenting, I’m a huge fan of SumoMe for sure…

When the piece comes out, please send it over and we’ll add it in to assist the audience with further reading…

Anything to boost conversion helps!


19 December 2016 Reply

Thanks for Sharing

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