Content Upgrades – A Very Effective Way to Grow Your Email Subscriber List

Content Upgrades – A Very Effective Way to Grow Your Email Subscriber List Featured Image

After analyzing more than 500 million shopping experiences, Monetate’s Ecommerce Quarterly report showed that email continues to beat both search and social media combined when it comes to conversions.

Another study by McKinsey and Company revealed that email conversion rate outperforms social media conversion rates by up to 40 times.

The money is indeed in the list.

Once you’re convinced on the value of email marketing, though, how do you go about procuring subscribers?

The most common methods businesses use are: email opt-in pages, pop-ups, or opt-in forms placed in strategic locations on a site/blog.

However, there’s a more effective way to grow your email subscriber list with active and targeted subscribers.

Quadruple Your Email List Growth With Content Upgrades

A “content upgrade” is an incentive that complements a particular piece of content on your site. Essentially, it pushes readers to take a particular action, or implement advice they just learned.

It could be in the form of a checklist to help implement certain suggestions in an article, a video featuring a case study related to an article, or the PDF version of a massive article. The content upgrade could even be some incentive targeted to a particular piece of content, with the aim being to “upgrade” readers to the next level after they finish reading your content.

Instead of having a site-wide incentive aimed at getting visitors to your website to subscribe, irrespective of their interest or what page they are on, you or a content marketing agency can create specialized incentive content to accompany specific content on your website, thus ensuring an increase in sign-ups and subscriber value since readers are getting exactly what they need.

For example, if you own a real estate website that has content on best practices for investing in real estate, you can accompany it with a “checklist” for effective real estate investing. Another article on the same real estate website about buying homes would be accompanied by a different checklist for buying the perfect home.

While both readers are on a real estate blog, their goals are different; one wants a home, the other wants to invest as a business model.

Content upgrades make it easy to cater differently to both audiences and increase sign-ups and targeting in the process.

By having something super relevant to the resource content or blog the readers just read, you are increasing their chances of signing up while making sure they are automatically segmented.

Here are some key benefits:

Content upgrades increase sign-ups. Since the offer is super-targeted to the content the reader just finished, the likelihood of signing up is higher. One of the case studies we’ll be featuring shows how someone instantly increased sign-ups by 793 percent solely through content upgrades.

Content upgrades increase sales and revenue. Recent data from Jupiter Research reveals that personalized and targeted emails drive 18 times more revenue than broadcast emails.

Ensuring that specialized and personalized content upgrades accompany different content helps you segment and target subscribers from the get go; someone who wants home buying tips gets different emails and offers compared to someone who wants real estate investment tips, although they both subscribed on the same real estate blog.

Content upgrades are easy to create. Instead of worrying about creating a 50- to 100-page e-book as an incentive to get people to subscribe, your content upgrade could be something really simple, such as a checklist, a spreadsheet to help people implement a suggestion in your content, a PDF version of your content, or some other “mini content” that complements your main content.

3 Case Studies That Prove the Power of Content Upgrades

Here are three case studies that effectively demonstrate the power of content upgrades.

Case Study #1: A 793 Percent Increase in Conversions

What would a 793 percent increase in conversions do for your business?

This was exactly what happened to Brian Dean, founder of Backlinko. By implementing content upgrades on his blog, he instantly increased his conversion rate from 0.54 percent to 4.82 percent in one article, a 793 percent increase that, according to him, now accounts for 30 percent of total subscribers from his blog.

Brian had several popular articles on his blog, and an article he published on Google’s 200 ranking factors was doing especially well; however, he was only able to convert 0.54 percent of visitors to that post to email subscribers.

By creating a checklist designed to help readers implement some of the suggestions in that article as a content upgrade, and by properly highlighting the checklist in his article, Brian increased his conversion rate to 4.82 percent.

He had a total of 54 opt-in forms carefully placed on his blog, yet this simple implementation of content upgrades on an already popular article led to a massive increase in subscriptions.

Case Study #2: A 491 Percent Increase in Conversions

Eric Siu published an article on his Growth Everywhere blog that did really well; the article was about rising early and it was published a few years back, but it kept getting consistent traffic from Google.

At best, the article had an email sign-up conversion rate of 0.95 percent from the general opt-in form available on his blog.

In an attempt to improve conversions, Eric offered a “Rising Early Checklist” as a content upgrade to people who read that post; the result was an instant increase in conversion rates from 0.95 percent to 5.61 percent; that was a 492.04 percent increase from something that took very little effort to make.

Case Study #3: 2,000 Extra Subscribers in 4 Months

Bamidele Onibalusi of Writers in Charge published three articles listing websites that pay writers, and the articles performed really well, garnering hundreds of thousands of views over a few years.

In an attempt to increase email sign-ups, he converted the most recent version of his articles into PDF form and offered it as a content upgrade across all three articles.

Within a month of implementing content upgrades in the three articles, he got 700 extra subscribers; in four months, he got a little over 2,000 extra subscribers, showing that content upgrades are not just a good source of subscribers, but also consistent.

Tips for Utilizing Content Upgrades

Here are some tips for effectively utilizing content upgrades to boost your email list growth:

  1. Let it complement a piece of content/resource: The potency of content upgrades lie in the relevancy; each upgrade is unique and relevant to content the reader just read, and it is not just a general incentive offered to everybody reading your site irrespective of what page they’re on.
  2. Don’t ignore old content getting consistent traffic: All three case studies featured in this article showed that the content upgrades were implemented on old, forgotten content.

You probably have a page, or piece of content, on your website that keeps getting consistent traffic from Google or other sources. Create content upgrades to accompany these old articles — your content upgrade could even just be an update to the outdated article, but make it stand out.

  1. Your content upgrade must be presented in a unique way: Your content upgrade must not blend with your original content, otherwise the upgrade won’t be noticed.

Instead, present your upgrade in a sort of alert box that stands out to the user; ensure the color doesn’t blend with your design, and try to make it bolder if possible. You can also use images.

Making your content upgrade stand out has been proven to significantly increase your email list.

  1. Feature it several times in your content: Data has shown that promoting a content upgrade twice in an article, especially first at the beginning of the article, can lead to 315 percent more conversions compared to if you just promote it at the end of your article.

Try to hint at, or even reference, your content upgrade at the beginning of your content, maybe after your introduction, and then beneath the content as well.


Having just one or two incentives on your site to encourage people to sign up to your email subscriber list is bad for conversions. First, it will result in low conversion rates and unqualified subscribers. Secondly, it doesn’t really segment your subscribers.

Content upgrades fix this, resulting in not just an increase in subscribers but ensuring that your subscribers are qualified right from the start.

So review your conversion strategy and determine what content you have that is perfect for an “upgrade.” You’ll see your email subscription list growing faster than before.

Schedule Your 1-On-1 Conversion Optimization Strategy Consultation Now

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