How to Generate Leads with Content Upgrades

How to generate leads

The Currency of the Internet

Pretty much everything is free on the internet.

One of the reasons you like it so much is because you can get a ton of value for just the price of your monthly contract. With millions of books, videos, podcasts, services and apps around for free, it’s no wonder people are hesitant to part with their money without trust and priming first.

So how can people built sustainable businesses by giving away so much good stuff for free?

Well, there are generally two ways.

1. They sell ads, you probably know this model well if you have ever used Google or Facebook.
2. They capture leads with the hope to sell you something in the future.

In this post, we will be focusing on the latter: Lead generation.

As you hungrily consume content around the internet, you may have run into something that looks like the below:

How to generate leads with free stuff

Although admittedly less of a real internet currency than Bitcoin, email addresses allow companies to personally communicate with each other and customers. A company with a significant list can market to it in segments, test responses, click rates and gather information about its subscribers. When the time eventually comes to ask them to part with their cash, it’s more likely to happen.

So now we’ve worked out a first step towards targeted internet marketing, how do you build your list and stock it full of people who are likely to be the most receptive? How to generate leads? One of our favorite methods is through content upgrades.

What is a Content Upgrade?

A content upgrade, or bonus content, is an extension to a piece of web content that adds value in exchange for an email address.

In the same way that a TV show or movie can end on a cliff-hanger, blog posts with extra content create an open loop the reader feels they must resolve by reading the related material – it is a FoMO tactic as well as a kind of gamification.

Calling it a bonus, like several places do, makes it seem like a game to complete. We know about bonuses in games. Bonus points, bonus levels, bonus rounds. Do a little extra to get a little extra. This will resonate with a lot of people, especially those who are competitively minded. A similar phenomenon comes from Vinay’s post How Playing Multiplayer Video Games Helped me Develop a Growth Mindset.

These are the different types of bonus content:

How to generate leads with Different Types of Content Upgrades

These are common forms of content upgrades, but anything that adds value to your content works. The best content upgrades are directly related to the blog post and offer more value on top.

Imagine walking into a shoe store and someone trying to sell you a used car. It’s probably not going to be as effective as if an employee would say “we’ve got this section on half off today, if you can give us your email address”.

When you’re putting content upgrades about copywriting on a blog post about upper-level management, you’re selling someone a car in a shoe store. Not only do you have to make content relevant, you also have to make it seem exciting.

Be Exclusive

Check out this example that explicitly states the information is not available on the blog:

Signup form to generate leads

A Quick Note on The Psychology At Work Here

One tactic used for getting people to enter their emails is to make it seem like the information they’re getting is a secret, a rare find available to only the few that enter their email in the box. Language like ‘insider’ reinforces that message.

Note how the confirm box doesn’t just say ‘OK’ or ‘Confirm’ – by getting the user to click ‘I’d love updates’ it sets them up to already love what they’re going to get. They just admitted they would love it, right? They don’t want to let themselves down by not enjoying what they get.

The Difference Between Content Upgrades and Lead Magnets

An important distinction to make is between content upgrades and lead magnets. While lead magnets are found on landing pages and sidebars offering the same content regardless of the context, content upgrades are relevant. If they didn’t upgrade the content they’d just be adding a layer of irrelevancy that is unlikely to be attractive to anyone.

Both lead magnets and content upgrades have their place, but it’s the latter we care about here.

How to Generate Leads with Process Street

We have our own unique version of content upgrades here at Process Street: content lock checklists. Here’s an example below:

Try to check off an item and you’ll be prompted to enter your email address. See other features and tips on our Checklists for Bloggers page. We provide the value in exchange for sending you a few emails – to readers who have been reeled in by the blog post, that seems like a great deal, especially if they think your emails are going to be valuable too. Win-win!

How Successful Blogs Use Content Upgrades


This is the real reason you’re here and what I bet you actually care about. Brian Dean from Backlinko claims to have boosted conversions by 785% in one day using content upgrades, and this figure is not too far-fetched considering the power of bonus content. Here’s a screenshot of Brian’s statistics:

lead generation rate statistics

Despite having over 50 opt-in forms around Backlinko, Brian added just two content upgrades that resulted in this huge burst of activity.


Another effort from BloggerJet owner Tim Soulo resulted in a 300% increase in conversions, this time over the course of a month instead of one day, possibly showing that the statistics carry more weight than the initial boost from Backlinko.

While Tim says that content upgrades can be ‘absolutely anything’, he actually means that they can come in any form, but must be relevant above all. Here are some examples of what Tim used to drive those conversions:

BloggerJet lead generation

Tim powers his content upgrades with a WordPress plugin he wrote himself, Content Upgrades Pro. This is one way you can do it, but Videofruit has an alternative method, detailed in this comprehensive guide. Now I’m going to show you how to generate leads and create your own content upgrades using Process Street.

Creating Content Upgrades in Process Street

For the purposes of this blog post I thought I’d whip up a how-to guide for Process Street users, showing all you good people how to create a unique kind of content upgrades.

From these statistics, we know content upgrades have the power to convert, and we’ve just found some ways to add them to your blog posts. Now we’re going to go a little deeper and look at how to use them for the best results.

You’ve got your content, you’ve got your upgrade – how do you combine them?

How to Generate Leads from your Content Upgrades

As you might expect, content upgrades on their own aren’t enough – there’s always something extra you can do.

Make it Obvious

Most of you haven’t done more than skim through this article, looking at the images and reading the headers. That means that even less of you made it this far. A 2008 study analysed almost 60,000 pieces of page-view data and found that only around 20% of words on a page get read by any one user.

An analysis of Slate by Chartbeat in 2013 revealed that around 50-60% of the words in a Slate article are scrolled past; the data was collected in You Won’t Finish This Article, a great post for anyone who wants to see the reality of internet reader attitudes.

Put the content upgrade in an obvious place. Don’t bury it in a single-word hyperlink. The yellow box is a web favorite and used by a variety of sites to great effect when generating leads. Here’s an example:

yellow box to generate leads

A post on the CrazyEgg blog by Devesh Khanal studied this above piece of content and found that its content upgrade converts 300% more when it occurs at the start and the end of the post. Why?

Only one-third of visitors will ever reach the bottom, even if they love the content enough to give over their email address.

Make it Relevant

As we’ve said before, if you don’t actually upgrade the content in any way, it’s a lead magnet. If you want to tap into the success experienced by people using content upgrades, then you’ve gotta do it right! Some made-up examples:

How to create stunning visuals with XYZ
Upgrade: Visual Designer Toolkit – The best stock photo sites and free programs

How to go to work every day feeling refreshed
Upgrade: Checklist for a slow & easy morning routine

10 ways to improve your site’s ranking without using ‘SEO hacks’
Upgrade: An eBook with 2-3 more articles about the subject or a few more ‘secret’ list items

Make it Valuable

We’re all on the internet because we’re looking for value. No one wastes time with crap content. If your upgrade is a sorry excuse for content, you’ll lose their email address off your list faster than they put it on.

One of the main constraints for providing the value as readers might want is time. You’ve already written a blog post, now the reader wants 4 eBooks, a video course and a PDF archive of your blog, too?

A way to approach this problem is to create the content upgrade first. Once you know what you’re using for the main bait, now you just write related blog posts to frame it, make it seem interesting and give it a home.

A good eBook or access to audio and video recordings are obviously time-consuming to make. No one’s saying you have to create these items for your readers, and the statistics about how many people actually read anything written on the internet might put you off. You can, however, make something concise.

A checklist, a printable, some statistics, or a single powerful tip. Something that caught my eye was the content upgrade on this BloggerJet post, What An Email Response From Rand Fishkin Taught Me About Influencer Outreach. All it offered was the subject line of the email the writer sent to Rand, and sure enough, I took the bait. The upgrade was just two words and a short explanation but I wasn’t disappointed. For me, it added value, for Tim it was a way to generate leads. For my brain, it closed that annoying gap that opens when you don’t have all the information.

Content upgrades play on the inquisitive nature of the human brain.

If someone hums the first part of a melody, your brain finishes it off. If someone stops mid-sentence you get restless waiting for the end. If someone offers you bonus content…

Make your First Content Upgrade Today

Sign up for Process Street to get started on your first content upgrade and start generating leads.

==> Click here to get started

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