Creating Exponential Value with Content Upgrades

Email subscribers can be elusive creatures. You work hard to produce great blog content, you add sign-up forms in the proper places, you even create an awesome opt-in offer to set the bait....but alas, your email list isn't growing as quickly as you had hoped. Never fear, my dear blogging buddy! Content Upgrades are here!

Content upgrades can exponentially grow your email list while providing exponential value to your blog readers. Learn how & why to set them up PLUS register for an exclusive course to dive even deeper into content upgrades.

Ok, truthfully, content upgrades have been here a while. They aren't anything new or mind-blowing, but I've heard from countless bloggers who either (A) have no idea what a content upgrade is, much less how to utilize them for blog & business growth or (B) have an understanding of what content upgrades are but don't know how they relate to their blog content.

Let's start with the basics.


Think of a content upgrade as a special bonus you give to your blog readers in exchange for their email address. "But that's an opt-in offer, and I have that!" you shout! Ok, great, but a content upgrade is a blog-post-specific opt-in offer.

I'll break it down for you. Over on my family blog, Sweet Tea & Saving Grace, I have an 8-week meal plan printable as my main opt-in offer. Everybody and their mom gets that when they sign up for my list. This is what my main sign-up form looks like on that blog:

sweet tea form

On one of my most popular posts, however, I have a bonus! I shared how I create a monthly meal plan, and as a content upgrade, readers can get 41 free recipe cards plus a template to make more at home. Here's what that looks like within the blog post:


Does that make sense? Ok good. Let's move on.


Regardless of your blog's niche, content upgrades can exponentially grow your email list if done properly. If you have never used content upgrades before, I recommend starting with one of your most popular blog posts.

Check your Google Analytics and determine your most popular blog posts to date - pick your top 3-5 and write them down. Ask yourself this question:

How can I add even more value to this blog post?

Referring back to my original real-life example of my Monthly Meal Plan blog post, I initially added links to the bottom of that blog post for every reader to download the recipe cards. This was long before I knew what content upgrades were and how valuable they could be for my email list.

I also didn't realize how popular that blog post would go on to be. When I decided to begin implementing content upgrades into my marketing strategy, I realized this one blog post was repeatedly at the top of the list month after month. As of today, that one post has seen over 100,000 pageviews since it was published.

meal plan analytics

I published that blog post on August 14, 2014, but didn't add the recipe cards as a content upgrade until October 27, 2015. As of today, with absolutely NO extra marketing or promotion, on a post that is now FOURTEEN months old, I've had 157 subscribers added to my list on that one content upgrade alone. Just think of the growth I would have experienced had I created this content upgrade when I initially published that post!


Absolutely not! Content upgrades can be as simple or elaborate as you want to make them. The key component is VALUE. You want to add VALUE to your blog post for your readers.

How about a few ideas to get you started?

  • Resource Guide: A one-page branded PDF with images & links to the resources or tools mentioned in your post
  • Transcription: If you share video or audio content, offer a typed transcription, or show notes, as a content upgrade
  • Free Chapter or Course: Promotional blog posts introducing a new product or service can benefit from offering a free book chapter or mini course option. (This is a great way to begin a sales funnel as well!)
  • Short Notes/Field Guide: If you've written an epic blog post (like my 5700+ word post about monetization from last week), you can create a mini version as a free printable.
  • Pocket Guide: Similar to a Resource Guide, this can be printed and cut down to be kept in a wallet or on a key ring for handy reference. You might see photographers offer these.
  • Bonus Material: Continue the blog post discussion in a subscriber-only PDF that contains even more valuable material than what was in the blog post itself.
  • Free Samples: Think about what services you can monetize and offer a free sample as a content upgrade when publishing a blog post related to your field of expertise. A free 15-minute consultation by a business coach, perhaps? Free stock photography? Free social media logo design? This is a great way to gain new clients and expand your business reach.


To create & deliver content upgrades, you'll need to have access to an email service provider. (I'm a MailChimp girl.) Whatever you're flavor, ideally you should be able to set up automated emails.

My other favorite resource? LeadPages. Y'all, I don't know what I did before I started using LeadPages. And no, I don't even have an affiliate link to use - I just think they rock and make it SO EASY to work my email magic.

Now of course, there are other programs out there for you to explore before deciding which one is right for you, but for my money, LeadPages does everything I need, works seamlessly with MailChimp, and allows me to customize & fully brand every LeadBox and LeadPage I create.


Ok cool! If you are using MailChimp, you'll need to start by creating a hidden text field on your sign-up form, then creating the matching segment for that field. Referring back to the Monthly Meal Plan content upgrade, here is what that looks like inside of MailChimp:


Be sure you leave the "Visible" box unchecked, name your new merge tag, and type "yes" in the default merge tag value field, then save.


After creating the corresponding segment, you will be able to see it in your list of segments for that list.

Now that you have an established segment for that specific content upgrade, simply create an automated email, or series of emails, in which you will deliver your content upgrade to new subscribers, or current subscribers who also select this content upgrade.

After MailChimp is all set up, you'll create the actual form in LeadPages.

Set your integration settings by choosing your email server (in my case, MailChimp), and the list you want to use. For this particular content upgrade, I used my list for Sweet Tea & Saving Grace.

At the bottom of the list of form fields, be sure to click "Show Advanced Options" to open up the list fields you have in your account.

You will need to be sure to check the box next to the hidden field you created for this particular content upgrade in MailChimp. As you can see, the hidden field called "Monthly Meal Plan" is checked. This tells LeadPages to automatically drop everyone who uses this sign-up form into the Monthly Meal Plan segment of my list, which triggers the automated workflow I created to deliver the content upgrade.

After designing your LeadBox, simply give it a name (I recommend naming it the same thing as your hidden field), save, and publish.

You will be given the option to use a pop-up, embed the LeadBox with the HTML code provided, or have the box pop up as the reader exits.


My recommendation is to copy the HTML code and paste it into your computers notepad so you can tweak it just a bit.

Create your own graphic image for your content upgrade (like I did for the Monthly Meal Plan), and add that image to your blog post wherever you want the content upgrade option to appear. Switch from "visual" to "text" editor and add the code above & below your image like this:


You're basically making a sandwich. Your image is the meat in the middle, with LeadBox code as the top & bottom buns. When you wrap your image in that code, your image is now clickable to your LeadBox, allowing readers to get your content upgrade.

Pretty cool, huh? I think so.