Content Upgrades: everything you need to know

What are Content Upgrades?

A great way to grow your list is with content upgrades. Content upgrades are in-content lead magnets that are related to the content you attach them to. It’s kind of like bonus content that adds value to the content your audience is already reading and interested in. To get the additional content your audience member will have to sign up for it because it’s gated. That means that it isn’t just instantly available — they have to request it through a form first.

The More Targeted The Offer The Better

When using in-content list building practices one of the things you must remember is that focus is everything. The more targeted they are the better they will help your audience and the more value they add. But the most important thing is, the more targeted the offer, the more likely they are to take advantage of the offer.

To create a highly targeted opt-in, offer here are some things to consider.

Know Your Audience

You hear this constantly because it’s so important, but it cannot be stated enough. Continuous study of your audience so that you can develop your ideal customer personas or avatars will help you not only create better products and services but lead magnets as well. Once you develop your ideal customer persona consider also making them for subsets of this audience so that you can laser target your audience even further.

For example, if your audience consists of divorced women who want to learn to get on with their life you may have subsets of this population. Some with kids, some without kids, some who filed and some who fought against, and so forth. If your products are right, you can dig deeper with your targeting.

Know Your Products & Services

Obviously if you created your own products, you know them inside and out. But if you’re not a product creator but instead promote other people’s products as an affiliate, it’s up to you to understand the products and how they really work beyond the sales page information.

The best way to do this is to buy and use the product. If you’re a super affiliate you may be able to contact the producer and get a free review copy. But otherwise, until you’re more known, you’ll need to buy the products so that you can know them just as well as you would know your own creation.

Determine Your Goals & Objectives

Before creating any type of content at all you need to know what the point is. Why are you creating this freebie? What content will the freebie go with? What do you want the audience to do or learn? And how do you want them to feel about the content they download after signing up for your list?

Remember: One Problem Means One Solution

Keep in mind that you need to create lead magnets and offers that focus on only one problem and one solution at a time. This is the best use of a lead magnet. Your audience wants the solution and they want it fast. They want it instantly, in fact. People aren’t very patient these days, so give them what they want.

Expand the Content

One way to create an effective lead magnet is to expand on the content in the blog post. So for example, let’s say you’ve created a recipe for roasted chicken. You’re making a lot of assumptions that they know how to carve the chicken. But what if you added a lead magnet to the recipe that would show them how to carve up chicken? How many people would want that extra information, grab it, and sign up for your email list?

Help Them Do Something

Another idea is to help your audience complete something that you’ve written a “how to” blog post about. For example, let’s say you wrote a blog post about How to Build a Basic Website with Self-Hosted WordPress. You may want to include an opt-in within the content that is a checklist that they can use to ensure that they don’t miss a step.

Choose the Right Blog Posts

Before you create your opt-in analyze your blog posts to find out which blog posts already get the most views and comments. Even though this opt-in may end up being a site-wide opt-in you want to reach the most active and engaged part of your audience by creating something for the most read posts on your website.

Know Where the Lead Magnet Should Be Placed

You want to know where you’re going to put it for maximum impact. You can put it in more than one place, of course, if it has something to do with other content and will fit in. But knowing where you want it will help you focus it better.

There are many types of content upgrades that you can create.

Let’s look at some examples.

Cheat Sheet

  • Help guide them through an action. For example, if you write a blog post about webinars you may include a cheat sheet of the things you need to do before, during, and after the webinar to make it more successful.

Check List

  • If you’ve provided a long blog post to your audience, you can help the information stick with a good checklist. That will help your audience follow your process and do what you have stated works.

Resource List

  • While a resource list is a great blog post idea, providing a download PDF version is even better. That way they can keep it on their computer and refer to it whenever they need it. You can make the resource list slightly different than the blog post as it can be a simple linkable list to the items you described fully in your blog post.


  • Anytime you create a video there is an opportunity to also provide a transcript. Some people prefer reading transcripts to watching videos. Give them that option any time you have video content of any kind.

Additional Videos

  • You may choose to put a clip of a video within a blog post, but offer the entire video via gated download. As you see, content upgrades can be in any type of format.

Recording of Webinar

  • If you have a webinar, offering the recording is a great way to get people on your list for those who missed the webinar. And it’s a great way to re-purpose webinar content.

Quick Start Guide

  • This is helpful information to help people get started with something quick. For example, if you have a yoga website you could offer a quick start guide to getting started with yoga.

An In-Depth Guide

  • You can also go deeper with the guide to make it more in-depth. For example, you may want to create a guide that teaches people how to get their first site up with WordPress or another builder.


  • A great way to offer a content upgrade is to provide an entire book about the topic that you’re blogging about.


  • These are always a great way to explain to your audience more about their problems and the solutions that you and others provide for those problems.


  • This works great on recipe sites, homeschooling sites, and even self-help sites. You can let people download and print all sorts of things like coloring books, exercise sheets and more.


  • Whether it’s math problems for homeschoolers or a quiz to ensure that your audience member understood the concepts you taught them in a blog post. Worksheets are very popular content upgrades.

Assignments / Homework

  • A great way to show your expertise is to teach something within content on your website and then give them assignments and homework to do.


  • Put transcripts of interviews on your blog as a blog post and offer the recorded interview as the content upgrade.

Case Studies

  • Any time you can provide a case study regardless of format that expands on the information you’re providing it makes for a great content upgrade.

Additional Points

  • Write a blog post about 20 ways to do something, then offer a content upgrade that is 101 ways to do the same thing.


  • Writing about how to do anything, you can also offer a content upgrade that is a 5, 7 or 30-day challenge. That challenge can be delivered via email, or you can use the email to invite them to a secret Facebook group.


  • This works for all sorts of things. So if you have good templates you use in your business, why not share them?

Product Teasers

  • Offer your audience sneak peaks of products and services that you offer.

Free Chapter

  • Did you write a book? Give away a free chapter.


  • Teach something more in-depth that you wrote about on your blog.

Swipe Files

  • If you use swipe files to help you get ideas for things, share them with your audience.


  • If the content you’ve posted full of data and other information, provide a downloadable spreadsheet that they can use to organize the information. For example, if you want to share keywords you can do it in a spreadsheet.

You can likely think of even more content upgrade ideas than these. Ideally, you want to include a content upgrade within every blog post that you publish.

#protip Include a content upgrade for every blog post you write, for maximum email list growth. #emailmarketing #contentstrategy Click To Tweet

Make It Useful But Incomplete

Just remember that when you are focused on list building the idea is to move everyone from everywhere to your email list. You want most of the in-depth content that you share to be either with your list members, within a content upgrade or opt-in offer, or one-on-one.

Don’t share everything in your blog posts. The trick is to share useful information, but leave out a crucial step or tool that you know they need. That step or tool is going to make a very compelling lead magnet. Let’s look back at our examples.

PDF Blog Posts

When you combine blog posts into a PDF file make it a habit to add extra information so that even if they read the blog post on the site, they’ll want to download the upgrade to get that added extra information that will help them.

Cheat Sheet

A cheat sheet is just a list of things that you don’t want them to forget. But you can make it even more useful by linking every single idea or tool within the cheat sheet so that you make it even more useful to them. Using your affiliate links is perfectly acceptable in this context too.


So for example, if you write a blog post about how to set up your WordPress blog, you can create an additional useful checklist to help guide them through the steps. This will allow you to point out and expand on any of the information you included in the post.

List of Resources

Anytime you write any type of content there is always more to the story that could use a fuller explanation. For example, if you wrote a blog post about hosting webinars, you could include a list of resources as your opt-in offer to help them host their own webinars successfully.


Sometimes nothing can explain things better than a video. If you have a recipe site, adding videos is a great way to get more views. But, why not make the video a content upgrade instead of adding it directly to the recipe post? This works great with super complex recipes that people really need to see the steps happening to get right. This will translate to many more email subscribers for you.


As said before, this is very popular with homeschool websites or coloring websites. Talk to your audience about a topic, but just go over the overview of the topic. Offer more in-depth guidance through a printable. This works great with knitting, sewing, or any type of craft where a printable with more in-depth instructions and examples as well as templates come in handy for your audience.

While sometimes you do want to write very in-depth blog posts, for the reason of adding more people to your email list it’s imperative that you leave a little something out so that your reader has more questions and needs the download to answer them. This will help you grow your list a lot faster as it creates, even more, entry points to your email list.

Creating Your First Content Upgrade From Scratch

By now you realize that content upgrades help you get more subscribers to your list by providing extra value to your audience. A content upgrade is content that goes deeper into the information or provides a simple way to organize the information you provide your audience when they download the gated content from your blog post or website. But, how do you create your first content upgrade from scratch?

Step #1: Analyze Your Content to Find Most Popular Blog Post

The most effective opt-in will be on pages that get a lot of views. Since the page already gets a lot of views that means the content is already popular. Your best course is to find out which post is your top post now. If you want to, you can pick the top three posts, go over them, update them if needed. While doing so, look for ways that you can add to or expand on the information in the post.

For example, if you wrote a blog post about How to Start Your Own Digital Retail Business there may be spots in the post that go over the info in a basic way that is a spot you can go deeper. For example, you might want to provide a resource list that gives your views and recommendations on the correct software to use. You may also want to create a checklist of steps to go through from A to Z on starting a digital retail store.

Step #2: Create the Content Upgrade

Every audience is slightly different, and you know your’s best. Will they prefer a PDF file or a video? Will they be fine with providing more than a name and email address to get it? Usually, the less information you can collect the more people will grab the freebie and sign up for your email list.

Once you know what you need to create, make an outline for it and create it. It’s likely you even have information you can use to create the opt-in already. It can be private label rights information, or you can create the information from scratch to match the blog post better. It’s totally up to you. But get something created. Keep it short and simple for this first one, such as an additional “how to” video, a checklist, cheat sheet or resource list.

The Product

The easiest way to create the freebie is to create something in Word and then turn it into a PDF file. You can make it look really professional using the software you already own, or you can hire someone to lay it out for you using software like in-design to make it really stand out. It’s up to you how you do it but for the most part, people are used to getting PDF documents as downloads.

Step #3: Create an Autoresponder List for the Audience that Downloads the Freebie

One step you don’t want to skip is creating the list for your freebie. How you do this will depend greatly on your system. Some systems you create an entirely new list, for others, you can tag the people who grab this freebie to send them to a particular list. You may need to learn more about your system to get specific instructions.

Step #4: Write an email sequence for your new list

Create 3 to 5 emails for the autoresponder series that recipients of your download get and load them into your system. Consider what your goal is for creating the freebie and publishing the blog post in the first place. What do you, ultimately, want the audience to do?

Your first email in this new sequence should be one that sends your new subscriber their download again. And it should introduce you to your new audience, so that they have a better idea of who you are and why you write.

Next, answer some common questions they might have about your free offer. Or show them how to use it effectively. Offer some more value about your offer, so that they get the most out of it.

Then, share a story about yourself and why you created the offer in the first place. The more you can emotionally connect with your audience, the more likely they will stay on your list long term.

Finally, use your sequence to offer more value by directing your audience to your paid products or services that can help them even more.

Step#5: Create a Form or Landing Page for the Freebie

You need to have email marketing software like,,, or This is what allows you to create the form that you use to collect an email address to add to your list.

Depending again, on the technology you’re using you’ll do this slightly different. You may need to create a landing page, or you may be able to do it all through your landing page or email software. But you need a place to collect the email addresses.

Normally this will require you to either copy the code from your email software and paste into your website, or you’ll integrate your landing page software with your email software to accomplish this. This is how your audience will sign up for your email list and then receive the freebie.

The Easy way

One way is to add a form at the bottom of every blog post. The idea is that if someone reads all the way to the bottom of a blog post they are interested and will likely also be interested in an offer.

This type of offer is considered a site-wide offer even though it appears at the bottom of each post. Although you can, if desired put a different opt-in at the bottom of each post you create based on the category that you use.

Step #6: Create a Download Page for the Lead Magnet

Now you need a place for your audience to download their freebie after they provide the information. Again, how this looks and is accomplished depends on your technology. With some technology like or combined with, your subscribers can be sent directly to the freebie after signing up.

You’ll need to create at least one landing page for the opt-in offer, the thank you / download page. You can do this easily by simply creating another page on your website that is not added to the menu and is not indexed for search. You can also accomplish it with specialized landing page software that works with the email marketing software such as, or Or check your email marketing software. MailChimp, and others have landing page ability too.

The Technology

You may need a plugin that helps automate some of the processes, especially if you have numerous opt-ins created that you can add to a blog post based on the category that the blog post appears in. This can make it a lot simpler and faster, though you don’t have to have it. There are several such as Thrive Leads put out by and

Step #7: Add Freebie to Download Page

Once you’ve created the infrastructure for your freebie, now you can add the freebie to your download page via a link or the technology that you use.

For some, they may need to opt-in to the subscription before the system sends a thank you note with the link to the download page. You can upload the freebie directly to your website server or you can use a system such as Amazon S3 to host the freebie for you.

With other setups, the freebie is uploaded to a server on your landing page software. How you do this depends on the technology you have, and on how much traffic you believe you’ll get. It’s usually advisable to host it on a third party that can handle high levels of traffic.

Don’t forget your paid products!

Remember that your download page is also valuable real-estate to market other paid products or affiliate products that people who are getting this item might also want. You can put that right below the download button for the freebie.

Step #8: Add the Link to The Freebie within the Content of the Blog Post

Once you have all that set up, now you can grab the link to the landing page you created for your freebie (or form page) and just add the link to some anchor text on the blog post. It is advisable that you create something that will make it more visible such as using an image with text that stands out for the freebie. And some email marketing software will let you embed forms right in your post.

Use images.

Pointing out the freebie is the best way to ensure people find it and subscribe. If your call to action is not clear people may not click the link if it’s just on top of the text so, do what you can to highlight and call attention to the offer.

These steps will be, more or less, the same, depending on the technology you use. For example, if you use technology from or for your landing page some of your steps will be different as these types of systems helps you create the pages for the freebie all at one time. Otherwise, you create each page separately on your system in a manual way.

Content Upgrades are Easy, Once You Get the Hang of It

Creating highly targeted offers requires that you understand your audience and you understand your products and services. Knowing this information helps you develop better lead magnets because they all have a reason for existing. Eventually, you’ll get so good at thinking about list building and lead magnets it’ll come more natural with each type of product you create.

Putting together content upgrades will become a matter of habit. But just like everything else with blogging, there’s a learning curve involved. You can always (and you should) change your content upgrades frequently, especially as you learn more and improve your skills.

If you need help creating content upgrades or setting up the opt-ins, contact me!

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2 thoughts on “Content Upgrades: everything you need to know”

  1. This post is an absolute gold mine! I struggle so much with this and now I have so many great ideas thanks to your advice. I honestly never even fathomed of going back and adding an opt in on a post that I already know generates traffic. Thanks so much.

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