The 7 Laws of Creating Content Upgrades People Beg For

“Content upgrades are all about making it easier for your reader to execute on your article’s strategies.” ~ James Scherer,

Go ahead and take a wild guess at the number of blog posts published every day.

The answer is 2M. Yeh, 2 million blog posts are written and published every single day. Just to give you some context for the enormity of this figure, here are some mind-blowing statistics about content consumption in general:

  • The average reader spends around 15 seconds reading the article they land on. In fact, 55% of people spend less than 15 seconds actively engaged on a page.
  • Only 20% of readers will finish an article they started reading.
  • The average visitor will only read 25% of an article.
  • Readers spend about twice the time with long-form news content on their mobile phones as with short-form.
  • 43% of people admit to skimming blog posts. (HubSpot, 2016)

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m by no means advocating for less content. On the contrary, I believe the success of any profitable online business lies in its ability to produce amazing content that stands out and garners high engagement. But how do you get yourself noticed in such a ridiculously saturated marketing channel with an audience that suffers from content fatigue? By giving your readers more valuable stuff than they could ever expect.

Essentially, content upgrades are free, high-value “bonuses” that you create for your readers to help them act on the advice you share in the article. They’re called upgrades because these additional pieces of content elevate people’s reading experience to a more hands-on approach and come as “extras” in addition to the value of your post. Let’s say it’s like buying an alarm clock and receiving batteries as a free complimentary gift “on the house”. Yes, you could get the batteries somewhere else, but that would be such a hassle, wouldn’t it?  

Typically, readers can access and download content upgrades by sharing their email address, making these bonuses a fantastic list building tool. We are quite used to seeing content upgrade offers at the end of an article, but, in fact, the bonus material can be included at the beginning of and throughout the article.

As post-specific, bite-sized lead magnets, content upgrades are one of the most effective ways to build an email list. But what makes a desirable content upgrade? The key factor in producing enticing bonus material is to keep it uber relevant to your article. There’s nothing wrong with offering something simple like a checklist, a cheat sheet, a template or workbook, as long as it’s seen as a value-add and would make executing on the article’s strategies easier.

Even though it’s unrealistic to expect all the visitors to finish reading your articles (no matter how well written they are), you can pack them with additional offers to grow your email list and make the most of the traffic you get.

And here’s everything you need to know about creating content upgrades that will send your readers into a downloading frenzy.

Remove friction from user to the desired outcome

We’re used to seeing lead magnets promoted on dedicated landing pages, in sidebar banners and pop-ups. Marketers often go to elaborate lengths to create visually striking pages in an effort to entice visitors to enter their personal information and email address to download or access whatever’s on offer. There are several steps involved in this kind of conversion path, significantly increasing the likelihood of drop-offs.

What’s different about content upgrades is that they’re much simpler-looking and more accessible offers that have an explosive effect on conversion rates. Brian Dean of Backlinko saw a 785% increase in conversions in one day by adding a content upgrade to one of his high-performing blog posts.  

Thanks to its simplistic design, content upgrade stands out just enough to draw the reader’s attention but still looks like a part of the blog post. They’re often designed to look like infoboxes with a peach-coloured background and a simple frame.

Here’s what Teamgate used for his super successful test:


And after entering your email address, a very straightforward link to content upgrade would come up:

Content upgrade offers don’t need to be flashy sales messages. Keep the fancy stuff to a bare minimum, and you’ll start seeing the benefits very soon.

It must be valuable and relevant to context, audience, and even month

This may come as a surprise, but no one wants your 10-page whitepaper on marketing trends. Maybe it’s a great piece of content, but if I landed on your site looking for information on Instagram ads, it’s unlikely I’d be tempted to download a generic paper.

Content upgrades are so effective at boosting conversions because they are created specifically for that particular blog post, which means you catch people in the right state of mind and provide an actionable solution to their problem. If your content upgrade offer is a perfect fit for what the reader is looking for, sharing their email address will seem like a small price to pay.

You should also think about tailoring your content upgrade to the type of audience that will be consuming your article. This can determine the format, style and length of your content upgrade. For instance, if you’re writing for the creative crowd, you’ll need to keep the design side of the piece in mind as well as sharpen your copy. If the article is aimed at top-tier managers, you’ll know that you need to keep it brief and to the point — a checklist or a summary would perform best.

Depending on the industry you’re in, there might be potential to harness seasonality or a certain time of year, too. Christmas period is a great time for eCommerce blogs to churn out content about discounts, shopping tips, and gift guides. Fitness blogs are thriving in spring and summer, when most people are concerned with improving their looks. January is the month of New year’s resolutions, when everyone’s looking for quick hacks and tricks that could lead to achieving their goals much faster.

When creating content upgrades, don’t ignore the bigger picture but keep the content highly focused on adding value to the post and making your readers’ life easier.

People are sold by their emotions instead of you telling them to get it

As mentioned above, in order for your content magnets to be effective, the piece of information you offer should solve a problem and make your target audience’s life easier. You must offer something of value to them in order for them to give up their email, so focus on their emotions. Use strong storytelling in order to convince and persuade your audience. For example, intertwine your content magnet (i.e. eBook) in your post, rather than creating a flashy pop-up. This proves to your audience that you are trustworthy and, in turn, makes them more inclined to come back for more. Case studies are also great for establishing that kind of relationship with your audience.

Another way to secure your audience’s trust is by including testimonials on your website or even post. Consumers find the reviews and opinions of other customers to be more trustworthy than the brand’s promise. Ensure you talk about the benefits of joining your mailing list – eBooks, cheat sheets, discount codes etc, but do so in the words of your already existing happy customers. Include links/action buttons under each testimonial (even if they’re old) in order to make the content instantly available for your audience.

Create case studies where you highlight the success stories of your customers in order to create credibility and build trust with your audience. Case Studies are long and in order for them to be successful the content within it must be of great value to the consumer. Use it to answer questions and doubts about your brand, mostly focus on the success of your already existing consumers.

Remember, people love free stuff, so ensure that you make your offers clearly visible and easily accessible to your audience.

Research shows that using scarcity and making it exclusive makes people want it more

It’s been known for a while now that scarcity can significantly increase the perceived value of a product or service. The fear of not getting something because it sells out drives people to make impulsive decisions and act much faster.

While not particularly relevant for digital offers (you would be hard-pressed to advertise a content upgrade as ‘low in stock’), you can take advantage of the urgency factor to prompt visitors to act immediately. For example, you can achieve more conversions by adding a countdown timer to your offer or stating a “available until” date. This will give your visitors an additional reason to quickly get in with the content upgrade. To get off to an easy start, check out Fomo, a one-click plugin that creates urgency by displaying key customer behaviors in real time.

Images Source: Fomo

Exclusivity is a huge catalyst of sales for many of the luxury brands. People want what’s rare and exclusive. They want to be among the selected few that get what others could only dream about. If you know how to harness exclusivity, your conversions will skyrocket.

Buffer compiled a list of 12 phrases that imply exclusivity and could be used in the copy of your offer: members only, login required, class full, membership now closed, ask for an invitation, apply to be one of our beta testers, exclusive offers, become an insider, be one of the few, get it before everybody else, be the first to hear about it, only available to subscribers.

By highlighting the exclusivity of your content upgrades, you’ll encourage people to join your mailing list (which is what you want!).

Make it problem-focused and provide an actionable solution

Images Source: Pexels

When you start looking into your Google Analytics reports to find the most popular articles, you will be able to quickly identify the topics that your readers are most interested in. The best part about creating a content upgrade is that you know the subject is relevant and interesting to your audience. All you need to do then is figure out how to enhance the blog post with a piece of actionable content. Essentially, a content upgrade is the ‘how’ part of the proposed solution.

One of the best tips is to take your time to review all reader comments under your high-traffic articles. Chances are, your readers have already told you what kind of content upgrade would have the highest value. Maybe it’s a transcript, if you’re posting videos, or a spreadsheet template, if you did a step-by-step piece on creating an editorial calendar. Whatever your readers want, though, it shouldn’t take you too long to produce.

Content upgrade is only effective when it’s useful and packed with exclusive tips and hacks. It should be action-oriented and aim to help readers to apply what they’ve learned from your blog post.

Provide tangible result and instant gratification

When someone’s hunting for a solution to a problem, they want it solved immediately. Technology has spoilt us to the point where there is an app for everything and we can access the information, products and services we need in a few seconds.

Something as vague as “join our mailing list to receive awesome tips and tricks every month” will put most people off because it sounds impersonal and does not promise instant gratification. Focus on crafting compelling CTA copy for your content upgrades to ensure the benefits are communicated clearly.

Targeting people’s desire for instant access to products, experiences and solutions is a shortcut to boosting conversions and growing your email list fast. But be sure you can deliver the content upgrade as fast as you promise because people hate waiting to receive something.

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Use social proof

Social proof is a tactic used to increase conversation by easing the mind of worried consumers. Nearly 70% of customers read product reviews before making a purchase and customer reviews are 12 times more trusted than manufacturer’s sales copy. Consumers basically seek 3rd party approval of the product or service they are about to purchase before they commit to buy. The power of social proof is undeniable. This is why almost all big companies display consumer testimonials on their website, and so should you. Ensure that testimonials are displayed clearly and in the right format. Whether you decide to have a separate customer review page or you display them right under the product or service (star ratings/comments) ensure it is the right format for your business. Studies have shown that testimonials can increase conversions on sales pages by as much as 34%, so make sure you are making the most out of your testimonials.

Another great way to ease your audience and capture their attention is by letting them know how many people have downloaded a piece of content or bought your product or service. Use your statistics to bring credibility to your brand and your content. The numbers will act as 3rd party approval of your offer and the higher the number, the more likely that next visitor will trust it.

If your service or product has been mentioned in the media, let your audience know. Take excerpts, if possible, from any mentions of your product or service in the media (i.e., articles, reviews, podcasts) and paste them on your homepage. Make sure they are concise and clearly visible. The simplest and probably most convenient way of showing that is by having a ‘Featured In’ section on your homepage followed by a handful of recognizable items. Media mentions is another great way to naturally incorporate your content upgrades into your posts and website.


So, the key points to take away for your killer content upgrades are: ensure you are providing enticing and valuable material. Eliminate the noise and keep it simple – make your content upgrades a part of your post and watch your mailing list grow. Content upgrades are only effective at boosting conversions when they are specifically created for that particular post – so make sure you are paying attention at who you’re talking to. Make use of social proof to increase credibility and desire and don’t forget the fear of missing out. The real kind and the the tool FOMO, which helps you boost your product and service by creating the sense of scarcity around your product or service. Nothing worse than missing out on a great deal, huh?


Abe Dearmer

Abe has a vast experience running multiple SaaS companies and is an expert on all things Sales, Marketing and SEO.

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