Content Upgrades are the New Gold Standard for Lead Capture

content upgrade

The notion of getting someone to your website, landing page or content of some sort and enticing them to exchange their email address and other contact information to get something they are looking for is pretty much standard marketing fare these days.

The idea of bait for lead capture has certainly evolved, though. There was a time when all you needed was a lead capture form and message that asked people to sign up to capture an email, but then people got very tired of all the email this generated.

Smart marketers realized that they needed to offer something valuable in exchange – an ebook, webinar or free trial of some sort.

Even so visitors started getting harder to convert as more and more sites featured pop-up, slide in and scrolling calls to sign up and download.

Today, and who knows how long really, marketers have tapped the seemingly insatiable hunger for useful, actionable, educational content and are employing highly targeted “content upgrades” to effectively convert visiting traffic to lead funnels like never before.

The basic idea behind a content upgrade is this – Write a really great, useful blog post and then when people show up to read it offer them an “upgrade” to the content in the form of a checklist, video, or case study relevant to the topic in exchange for  content details.

Less content, more value

Brian Dean of Backlinko told me that when he discovered the power of the content upgrade he started producing content less frequently while focusing on creating posts so full of great content they couldn’t be ignored. He then married these posts with a content upgrade that ensured a large percentage of the traffic these posts received (sometimes from the thousands of shares and links from other sites) also turned into leads for his various SEO offerings. (Listen to Brian on a recent Duct Tape Marketing Podcast.)

In this post on Dean’s site Google’s 200 Ranking Factors: The Complete List you’ll find a link to download a handy checklist of the top factors. Dean claims that the addition of this checklist increased conversion on this post by 785%. Not too shabby.

I do think there’s a move towards less content, but better content and the content upgrade philosophy plays right into this. The days of writing wispy daily posts may be coming to an end – at least for highly competitive industries.

Precisely segmented visitors

Another important factor to the multi-variant content upgrade is that it helps you segment visitor interest.

Very few people are that interested in the generic ebook or report you wrote several years ago, but they are terribly interested in how to do that one specific thing they searched for – all the better that you now have the ability to know what they are looking for and tailor your response to that specific need.

Think about the implications for this when it comes to email marketing follow-up. You now have a much more focused idea about what your subscribers care most about and tailor your follow-up with this knowledge and even use it to create more complete products and courses based on this interest.

Better automation and follow-up

One of the drivers of this form of lead capture is better automation technology. The days of one size fits all pop-up boxes are over. My current favorite toolset Thrive Leads offers WordPress users what amounts to a Swiss Army Knife of various form creation options.

The Thrive Leads plugin allows you to create up to a dozen variations of inline forms, light boxes, welcome mats, and slide in two-step sign up forms. Every form can be executed on a single page or post, and every type of capture campaign can be tested against variations.

This type of powerful form creation coupled with lead nurturing campaigns using a tool like Infusionsoft makes the content upgrade an almost unfair competitive advantage.

Developing content upgrades

I wrote a post some time ago on something called Facebook Dark Posts. Google smiled on this post and shows it whenever someone goes out there searching for this trending topic.

If I happened to have a course or ebook on Facebook I could easily capture highly targeted leads by adding a content upgrade to that page.

One of the quickest ways to identify great candidates for immediate content upgrade opportunities is to look through your analytics and find your most popular content today and consider ways to personalize a content upgrade for these posts.

You can find your most popular pages in Google Analytics by going to Behavior –> Site Content –> Landing Pages

Another great ploy is to use a tool like BuzzSumo to identify some of the most shared content online based on the keyword phrases that relate to your business or ideal client.

My guess is you can easily identify a post that is getting tons of shares that you might be able to both up the game on and create a content upgrade for.

My guess is that in the example above for Backlinko Brian found a post for the top 100 factors and created the top 200 post that kicked that already great post in the rear – add a content upgrade and watch your list explode!

Landing page pioneer Lead Pages has long been a promoter of the simple content upgrade for conversion. Here’s a great post with 21 examples of content upgrades to get your mind humming. (Pay close attention to the content upgrade offer you’ll get on this page too.)

What’s a good upgrade?

You don’t have to overthink the package for a content upgrade. In many cases what you’re looking to do is simplify information not make it more complex. People want relevant snacks more than the full manual.

  • One of the easiest content upgrades is a checklist based on a how to post. People like checklists and they are easy to create.
  • Take a 100 factors kind of post and reveal the top 10 in detail in an upgrade. (Similar to Backlinko post above)
  • Create a list of tools related to a particular type of advice – I could easily add the top 10 tools to use in creating content upgrades to this post on content upgrades
  • Compile a list of links from around the web telling people how to do something based on the tool they use – set up lead nurturing in Infusionsoft, Act-On, Aweber, etc. – the best part is you don’t have to create all of the tutorials you just have to find them.
  • Create or compile a swipe file – if you are telling people how to get influencers to write about their business, share exact scripts and emails they might use as an upgrade.
  • Offer a screencast showing readers exactly how to do what you’ve written about in your post.
    Partner with a tool provider – write a post talking about how to do something and contact one or more provider of a tool for actually doing it and let people enter for a chance to get this tool for free.
  • People love templates – if you write a post giving advice offer to share a template, completed example or form they can use to do what you’ve suggested.

I think it’s time to make content upgrades a big part of your content marketing and lead capture game plan.

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John Jantsch

John Jantsch is a marketing consultant, speaker and author of Duct Tape Marketing, Duct Tape Selling, The Commitment Engine and The Referral Engine and the founder of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.
  • Jason Tromblay

    I’ve been banging my head using full blown squeeze pages on a few new campaigns at work. I like this approach of inline opt-in as an “upgrade” and will test soon!

    • I think this is a great mindset for planning your content too!

  • Stephanie Burns

    This is awesome! Thank you for the tip!

    • You bet – be sure to share what you work out!

  • Phillips Hayden

    Awesome Post John
    Your articles and the visual substance you distribute are evergreen and exceedingly rousing. I thoroughly concur with your point as segment wise target is the key of prime conversion and content upgrade plays a key role in it. The scope has recently evolved to the new ways of presentation such as free trial. Real marketers uses various methodology to grab attention. Your blog gives a clear resolution on the value of effective content, targeting visitor segment, development in automation technology for lead capture via integration such as hybrid email marketing solution & effective upgrades on contents & its development.