How We Used Content Upgrades to Increase Conversions by 400%

Learn how you can use the power of content upgrades to multiply the conversion rate of your email subscription forms

What if there was something that you could do that would quadruple your email signup rates?

Something simple and straightforward, that wouldn’t take very much time to put together.

You’d do it, right?


Well, there is a tactic that will accomplish this, and yet, most blogs either don’t use it, or do it wrong.

I know, because ours used to be one of them.

For years, we left untold opportunity on the table until finally realizing the incredible power of content upgrades done right.

Today, I’ll share what we’ve learned about content upgrades, and how you can use them to multiply the results of your email subscription forms.

What Are Content Upgrades?

We’ve all seen free bonuses offered in exchange for signing up to an email list.

Ebooks, checklists, free guides… these bonuses can take many forms.

We have a couple that we offer on our site, including our $0 to $100K Ebook.

That sort of opt-in bonus is usually called a lead magnet. It’s something that readers of this blog might find useful, though it doesn’t necessarily relate to the blog post they’re reading.

A content upgrade, on the other hand, is specific to the article in which it is offered.

For example, last year we published a blog post with 17 email scripts to grow your business.

The post contained the emails we use for everything from sales to customer onboarding.

But the emails were images.

You could read them, learn from them, be inspired by them, or even transcribe them yourself… but you couldn’t copy and paste them.

However, we created a content upgrade that offered the scripts in a format that could be copied and pasted; it was a simple PDF that took us about 40 minutes to put together and wire up in Sumo, our email capture tool.

That offer is a literal upgrade* *to the article.

Our typical opt-in forms convert anywhere from 1–3%, depending on where they appear.

With a lead magnet (a general one like the Ebook), that jumps to 4–6%.

But when we published that email script content upgrade (our very first one!), here’s what we saw:

The conversion rate was more than 20 percent!

Quadruple that of the lead magnets, and in many cases, 20x higher than our typical forms with no opt-in bonus.

Since then, we’ve seen even more dramatic results, with some content upgrades converting as high as 65 percent.

It’s been amazing to see, and has changed the way we look at building our email list.

Why Content Upgrades Work So Well

The reason content upgrades work well comes down to a truth that applies in nearly all marketing: personalization makes a difference.

The more personalized your offer⁠—whether you’re selling your product or newsletter subscription⁠—the more likely the reader will see what you’re offering as created just for them.

And if they’re already reading and getting value from an article, then your opt-in offer of an upgrade to that exact piece of content is a lot more personalized than a tangentially-related ebook or just about anything else.

The good news, though, is that content upgrades don’t have to take a long time to put together.

In fact, you can create them in only take a fraction of the time of creating the initial blog post.

Here’s how we do it:

How to Create Irresistible Content Upgrades

If a reader has come far enough to see your content upgrade offer, then your content has already done a good job of compelling them, and they’re probably interested in whatever it is that you’ve written about.

Now ask yourself a simple question: what can make this piece of content more valuable and actionable?

Is it additional ideas to execute on whatever you’ve taught them in the article?

Is it a checklist to ensure that they don’t forget anything as they put their learning into action?

Is it a template to help them overcome the obstacle of writing their own emails?

There’s no shortage of possibilities

Here are just a few of the different content upgrades we’ve published that have worked well for us:

On a post about building a strong customer service culture, we offer a list of discussion topics to help with the process of culture-building.

On a post about hiring remote customer support agents, we offer interview questions to assess and pick out the best candidates.

On a post about customer service metrics, we offer a template that can serve as a tracking and goal-setting doc.

We use Sumo to make this easy, as we can create a unique form for each upgrade that will only show on the article it’s assigned to:

For the actual development of the content upgrade, you don’t need to get fancy.

Many of our upgrades are simply shared Google Docs with the promised content, and we’ve gotten great feedback on them.

But you can certainly get more sophisticated with the design of these pieces. If you don’t have an in-house designer, try Upwork or Fiverr to have someone “pretty up” your content upgrade, or do it yourself in Canva.

For 12 more content upgrade ideas that you can choose from for your next post⁠—including ones that don’t require any design at all⁠—grab the list we’ve put together right here.

And yes, that’s a content upgrade on this post 🙂

How to Apply This to Your Business

Building an email list is hard work.

You have to publish great content, and no hacks like this will save content that doesn’t actually solve people’s problems.

But if your experience is like ours, then creating unique content upgrades will be a *very *easy way to dramatically change the results you see from your list-building efforts.

I hope that this post has convinced you to give content upgrades a try.

Grow Blog
Alex Turnbull

Alex is the CEO & Founder of Groove. He loves to help other entrepreneurs build startups by sharing his own experiences from the trenches.

Read all of Alex's articles

2 thoughts on “How We Used Content Upgrades to Increase Conversions by 400%

  1. Great advice as usual, Alex. Your article reminded me of something I read on Drift’s blog a few months ago – they went the other way and completely got rid of all their lead magnets. I know that every business and audience demands its own approach, but I’m curious what your take on their decision is. Here’s the article: Thanks!

  2. Interesting! One question though: how does it impact your usual readers? I mean, I used to get full value from your articles, and now, I have to give my email to the full value (which is fine).
    Can Sumo actually detect that you’ve already got my email, and give me access directly?
    I’m not annoyed, just curious.

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