How to use content upgrades to grow your blog subscribers

NEXT-LEVEL-CONTENT-MARKETING

Content marketing is built on beautiful principles.

Instead of interrupting people’s day to day lives with TV adverts, skyline-blocking billboards and glossy magazine ads, content marketers create useful resources for their customers and for each other. A strange mix of copywriting and journalism, content marketing has the moral edge over traditional marketing because the public don’t go out of their way to expose themselves to adverts, but they do voluntarily read content.

In case I’m interrupting your busy schedule, you can scroll down to the bottom of this post for the key takeaways.

Modern marketing vs. outdated advertising

A personable, well-kept blog with useful, targeted content is a more interactive (and cost-effective) way of getting your prospects to know, like and trust you than a billboard on the highway. Unlike a billboard, it offers something of value for free, an opportunity to speak freely with the author and, thanks to the nature of the format, is detailed.

A billboard with 2,000 words would not only be illegible, it would be totally ineffective. Short-form advertising like billboards is engineered to catch your attention for a few seconds, store snippets of information in your brain and slowly whittle away at your subconscious each time you see it, priming you for the moment where you decide based on a problem you’re facing. You know all about how Joey’s Salad Shack has the lowest prices in Wilmington, Ohio, and hey — it just so happens I need some cheap salad today, and it’s only off the next exit.

Traditional advertisements help prospects know, like and trust through repeated exposure and by establishing products as home brands. It mostly works for impulsive shoppers who make buying decisions in the car, so is not well suited for more expensive products with recurring billing like SaaS.

Web content plays the long game and builds a receptive audience by offering value before sale, not after. This foundation of authoritative, informative and personable writing is how we build relationships in an age where we no longer need to use intrusive advertising.

So how can we take this principle to the next level?

Content upgrades

upgrade

I’m sure you’ve noticed how many bloggers have yellow boxes in their articles, offering downloadable content as an extension to what you happen to be reading in exchange for your email address, these boxes are called content upgrades. Backlinko, aka Brian Dean uses them, Tim Soulo of Bloggerjet is another evangelist, and both have written detailed case studies about how effective it can be. While it can add to your workload, statistics like ‘increased conversion rate by 300%’ and ‘increased conversions by 785%’ make it all seem worthwhile, right?

So, how is it done? Let’s look at some of the ways to build it into your content marketing system.

1. Extend your content

If you’ve already written a high-traffic post that ranks well, it’s time to put it to work for you. Go back and see if you can extend its value by offering an update, 5 more tips, a checklist version or even just a downloadable PDF.

Examples of posts with content upgrades:

Amy Porterfield – Should You Narrow Your Niche?
Content upgrade: PDF worksheet that expands upon the podcast episode.

BloggerJet – How I Increased My Email Conversion Rate By 300% Using Content Upgrades
Content upgrade: How Tim Soulo grabbed Rand Fishkin’s attention with an email subject line

The Blog Loft – How to Craft an Editorial Calendar that Works for You
Content upgrade: Downloadable 12 Month editorial calendar

2. Extend curated content

When curating content it’s important that you’re also offering an insight. The basic idea of curation is that you’re using content that already exists and adding value, so why not take this to the extreme by offering a content upgrade? Here are some ways you could do this:

  • A condensed version of the post, like a PDF summary or easily digestible notes.
  • A review, or your own angle
  • A case study where you implemented someone else’s research
  • A checklist the reader can go through to take action on the new knowledge

All of these are viable ways to boost your email subscribers massively, and save you a lot of time because the great, valuable content is already out there.

3. Get smart with content upgrade tools

The fast-evolving landscape of the internet means we need to constantly develop new tools to survive. Although a generic lead magnet box was enough in the past, for content upgrades non-specificity does not cut it. Yellow boxes, custom opt-in forms for every different blog post and content locked checklists are all ways you can use to your advantage.

Content Upgrades Pro

content upgrades pro yellow boxContent upgrades pioneer Tim Soulo was dissatisfied with the lack of quality tools for creating content upgrades, so, like many entrepreneurs, he made his own. With a variety of ‘fancy boxes’ — not just yellow ones — and behind-the-scenes functionality, like integration with Mailchimp and AWeber, Content Upgrades Pro is a solid, cost effective ($39) choice.

Buy Content Upgrades Pro here.

LeadBoxes

contentupgrade2

Included in the standard ($25/month) LeadPages package, LeadBoxes is a fully-customizable popup plugin you can modify on a page-by-page basis to create unique content upgrades for each post. While it’s not strictly a content upgrades tool and designed mostly for creating lead magnets, LeadBoxes is perfect for existing LeadPages customers looking to start making a real effort building their email list.

Sign up to LeadPages here.

Process Street

Content-Locked-Checklist

Process Street has a lot more under the hood than you’d first expect. While mostly a tool for businesses for managing workflows and assigning recurring checklist, bloggers can use it to create step-by-step checklist guides and embed them on their blogs. What makes it a great tool for content upgrades is that you can integrate it with your email campaign software (Mailchimp, for example) and lock the content until the user inputs their email address. After that, they’re free to add the checklist to their Process Street account, download it or print it out.

Read more about how Process Street optimizes checklists for bloggers.

Scoop.it

scoop.it
Content upgrades can only exist if you have content to upgrade in the first place. Scoop.it offer a content curation service that helps you source the best content out there and become a social media influencer. Curating the content of others is the perfect way to build relationships, influence and your brand. Optimizing your curated content with content upgrades is a no-brainer — gather high quality subscribers and generate leads without spending all your time writing original content.

Sign up for Scoop.it here.

Key takeaways

  • Content marketing is a much more effective way to build trust for companies selling high-priced subscription services than traditional intrusive advertising.
  • Web content helps prospects know, like and trust your brand by offering something for nothing.
  • A way to optimize your content marketing efforts is by using content upgrades: bonus content that adds value to the original post, accessible only by users who input their email address (PDFs, checklists, 5 more top tips, etc).
  • Brian Dean and Tim Soulo have seen increases of 785% and 300% respectively by using content upgrades.
  • There are dedicated tools out there to help you build content upgrades into your business system, and some to help you source for curation. These include Content Upgrades Pro, LeadPages, Process Street and Scoop.it.

If you want a whole set of tips to generate leads with content marketing such as ways to repurpose your content into other forms, insights on which format you should focus on, techniques to measure the results and other data points, download the eBook “How to generate leads through Content Marketing“.

how to generate leads through content marketing CTA Download ebook

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About Vinay Patankar

Youngest Cisco engineer in Australia at age 16. Background in IT, Finance and Software Recruitment. 4th Internet Company. Founded affiliate marketing company with teams in 3 countries (USA, Philippines, India) that did $1 million in revenue in less than 3 years. Launched Start Up (collaborative video iPhone app) that failed and shut down in Jan 13. Strengths in sales, marketing, traffic, product & UX.