Every six-figure blogger knows the awesome power of a targeted email list. A well-maintained list can produce traffic – and income – almost on demand, and the cost of marketing to individual subscribers is virtually zero once you've acquired their details.
However, for an email list to provide solid results, you need to fill it with targeted subscribers. Growing your email list with just any-ol'-body who will sign up isn't going to get you the results you seek. You are simply going to be paying out of pocket for subscribers who couldn't care less about your content.
So, what's a blogger to do?
There are many ways to grow your email list, but one of the fastest, cheapest, and most effective is the technique known as the lead magnet.
What's a Lead Magnet?
A lead magnet is simply a piece of content that you give away free exclusively to those who sign up for your email list. Many sites have one or two more general lead magnets that appeal to a wide variety of their blog visitors. On my site, for example, I have a more general lead magnet for people looking for a work-at-home job and one for people for blogging advice. One or the other may not appeal to everyone because my categories cover a few different topics, but between the two I have most people covered.
What is a Content Upgrade?
“Content upgrades” are one of the latest trends in the blogging world. To put it simply, a content upgrade is a piece of content that acts as a highly-specific opt-in for readers and website visitors. While a content upgrade acts similarly to a traditional lead magnet, it is much more targeted to the user's needs, preferences, and experience with your blog.
Unlike a traditional opt-in, a content upgrade is offered only on specific posts. Rather than one generic free offer, a content upgrade allows you to tailor your free item to fit the content the reader is currently on. By offering some additional material that is relevant to the topic they're already researching, you can improve your chances of capturing a lead's contact information. An example of this on my site would be the Airtable Base template I offer in my tutorial. It isn't offered elsewhere on my site because it's targeted to that post.
Each content upgrade should supplement the material the visitor is already engaging with. Whether it takes the content deeper, supplies additional information, or offers a sheet that makes the material easier to understand, a content upgrade should play off what the reader is already learning. When you can catch them when they're already engaged, you can increase your chances of getting them to submit their name and email address.
When is a Content Upgrade Better Than a Generic Lead Magnet?
Bloggers have been using free opt-ins to grow email lists for years. While offering something for free is a great way to get people to subscribe, it isn't always enough to capture a mass amount of leads. Because you need to offer something generic to appeal to the variety of individuals who come to your website, you may be unable to make deep connections.
A content upgrade allows you to create super-specific pieces that appeal to various subsections of your target audience. By crafting various content upgrades to appeal to different stages of your buyer's journey, you can capture leads at different points in the buying process. This can grow your lead base and help you improve sales.
Content upgrades also help you attract more qualified leads. When a lead opts-in for a content upgrade, you're able to see what information they're specifically looking for. By segregating your lists based on how your audience signs up for your email list, you can send them more specific information. When you can better appeal to their unique needs, you have a higher chance of closing a sale.
How to Create a Content Upgrade
Creating content upgrades doesn't need to be difficult. However, if you want to get high returns from the content upgrades you design, you need to be strategic about it.
Here are a few steps you can follow to create impressive content upgrades for your most popular pieces. Bonus: If you aren't yet using lead magnets or opt-in freebies at all, this is one of the best ways to get started!
Step 1: Find Your Most Popular Content
When creating content upgrades, you don't want to create something for each blog post you publish. While this may be ideal, you probably don't have the time or the resources. Rather than spreading yourself too thin and creating mediocre pieces, it is best to focus on a couple of extremely strong content upgrades. You can fill in the gaps with one or two more general lead magnets.
Take a look at your most popular content. Because these bring in the most attention from your audience, you're more likely to convince readers to opt-in to an upgrade. Examine your Google Analytics to see which of your posts are the most popular with your target audience. These pieces should include upgrades.
Step 2: Brainstorm Upgrade Ideas
Your upgrades need to be enticing enough to get someone to submit their email address and name to your website, so you want to think long and hard about what you're going to create. Based on the main focus of your most popular content, develop a few ideas for what may supplement that material the best.
- Lead magnets and content upgrades can take various forms, but some of the most popular include:
- A cheat sheet, blueprint, or checklist for a popular task within your niche. It should be concise yet genuinely useful or educational.
- A report or PDF packed with facts and figures around a narrow topic, which can serve as a handy reference for interested readers.
- A collection of links to resources on a subject expertly curated to save the reader the task of research.
- A case study showing how the use of particular techniques or tools helped a real-world business.
- A tutorial video offering unique insights and tips on how to achieve a goal.
- Free trials or demos of software or services, or even fully fledged tools or apps if this makes economic sense.
- Straightforward discounts on products, services, or subscriptions, redeemable only by signing up for your list.
Step 3: Find the Gap You Need to Fill
You want your content upgrades to fill some gap you're currently leaving open with the pieces you have available online. However, to know what you need to create, you need to identify what you're not providing to your readers. Then, you need to consider what purpose each piece of new content could hold.
Take a moment to identify what problem your new content would solve. If it doesn't bring direct value to your target audience, then you're not going to see many new sign-ups. Additionally, you want to create something new for your website visitors. If a similar piece of content can be found for free somewhere on your site, users won't give you their email address. Make sure your content upgrade provides a unique value to your leads.
Step 4: Decide on the Appropriate Content Form
Now that you have an idea of what information you'd like to share in your content upgrade, you want to decide on the best form for delivering those details. While a downloadable eBook or a PDF may be the most obvious, you want to consider the best way for your target audience to absorb the information. In some cases, this may be through an email course, a webinar, or even a video.
Step 5: Create a Compelling Call to Action
The work doesn't end once your content upgrade has been created. Even if you have a great idea, you need to entice your audience to take the next step and opt-in for your download.
Your call to action should make it clear that the content upgrade is a continuation of the content the reader is already viewing. When the relationship between the original piece and the upgrade is clear, your audience member will be more likely to enter their email address. You should also feature your opt-in box at a few different points. At the very least, make sure the box is featured at the bottom of the post, letting readers know they can learn more by signing up.
If you're looking for new ways to grow your list of email subscribers, a content upgrade is a great way to entice your target audience to sign up. However, you can't throw together content and hope to grab attention. If you truly want to see results, follow these steps to create the perfect content upgrade to fit your target audience's needs.