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Are you a little frustrated with the rate at which your email list is growing?

You’re doing everything right: Publishing high quality content, producing great lead magnets and using the right type of subscribe form —but your email list is still growing at a snail’s pace. What’s the deal?

To increase opt-ins, you might consider looking into content upgrades.

We recently came across this technique and wanted to share it with you.

But first, we need to identify the problem.

Why isn’t my current subscribe magnet working?

Most businesses use some sort of free content offer (like an eBook) as their primary subscribe magnet. I’m sure you’ve read a blog post or two in your time that finished with an offer for a downloadable eBook, usually in a large call to action at the bottom of a blog post or in the sidebar.

But how often do you really give over your email address in return for that eBook?

In an article for Content Marketing Institute, Jay Acunzo shows how as more and more businesses produce eBooks and offer them in return for people’s email addresses, they have become less and less effective. He points to experiments he and his team ran that show the declining effectiveness of eBooks and the surprising results they saw from offering things like blueprints, project templates, excel spreadsheets, etc.

While offering a great eBook certainly does work, the issue is with relevancy.

Great eBooks take a long time to put together which means most businesses only have a library of a few of them, and when used as a call to action on a blog post, they don’t always line up well with the topic of the post.

That’s where the content upgrade technique comes in.

What is the content upgrade technique?

Content upgrades aren’t your average, one-size-fits-all eBooks or generalized content offers.

Instead, they are specific subscribe magnets created for each individual blog post that offer a bonus lesson or continued information that is directly related to the topic of the particular blog post.

For example, if I was writing a blog post titled ‘Using web fonts in email marketing campaigns’, the traditional approach would be to show an eBook that is loosely related to the subject and the interests of the person who might be reading it, such as ‘How to design the perfect email newsletter’.

However, the content upgrade technique says I need to create a content offer that is specific to the blog post, such as a downloadable poster showing which web fonts work in various email browsers.

The main difference between the two techniques is the relevancy of the offer. The traditional eBook is only loosely tied to the topic of the post; however, the content upgrade is a direct extension of the post’s topic and is highly relevant to the reader (who obviously cares a lot about web fonts in email).

Does the content upgrade technique really work?

Backlinko recently studied how adding a content upgrade would increase email subscribes. For their experiment, they crafted a blog post titled ‘Google’s 200 ranking factors: the complete list’.

While the post offered some great information, the real genius came from the content offer they made at the end.

200 different factors presented in a post (in no particular order) can be quite overwhelming, so in return for the reader’s email address, they offered a step by step, downloadable checklist that walked users through the process of making sure their sites adhered to the 200 different ranking factors.

The offer was both highly valuable in that it helped them make sense of the 200 factors, and was highly relevant in that it was a direct extension of post it was featured in.

The result? a 785% increase in subscribers.

By simply going the extra mile and creating an offer that was relevant to that specific post, they managed to significantly grow their email list. This one content offer is now providing 30% of their email subscribers on an ongoing basis.

How can I implement content upgrades?

You too can grow your email list by implementing content upgrades on your blog. Here’s how you can strategically implement these techniques.

1. Craft a unique resource directly related to the blog post

Next time you are writing a post for your blog, think about how you can could an offer a ‘content upgrade’ that is an extension of your post. Here are a few ideas:

  • If you have a long list of points in a blog post, shorten it down to the top 10 and then offer the rest as a downloadable PDF.
  • If you are writing about a topic a person will commonly need to refer to, create an infographic or poster that they can download (our CSS in Email poster is a great example of this).
  • If you are writing about a methodology or way of doing something, offer some downloadable templates or resources that will help the reader achieve the end result more quickly.

2. Add it to your blog post

Include a call to action to download the content upgrade within your blog post and link it to some sort of email capture form.

Tools like SumoMe allow you to display the form in a lightbox over the page while tools like Unbounce allow you to easily create a dedicated landing page for the offer.

Both integrate seamlessly with Campaign Monitor and make delivering the content and adding the reader to your email list a lot easier. In Backlinko’s case, they found a simple yellow box leading to an email capture form in a lightbox worked best for them:

3. Deliver the content upgrade

Use an email autoresponder to deliver the content upgrade to the reader. By delivering it via email as opposed to straight download off the web, you help ensure the reader enters a valid email address which helps you build a nice, clean email list.

If you are a Campaign Monitor customer, you can easily set up autoresponders for any of your lists or even particular segments of lists.

That’s it! 3 easy steps to implement content upgrade techniques.

In conclusion

If the rate at which you are building your email list is worrying you, we challenge you to deploy some content upgrade on your next blog post.

The key to success is making sure the content upgrade offer is a direct extension of the blog post it is being featured in so it’s highly relevant to the reader’s interests and has the best possible chance of driving the email subscribe.

We’d love to hear about your experiences— Are traditional subscribe magnets like eBooks working well for you? Have you tried more specific offers and had strong results?

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This blog provides general information and discussion about email marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.
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