Opt-ins. Freebies. Premium content. Lead magnets. Pink spoons. Content upgrades.
Whatever you want to call them, they're key to growing your email list. They're the piece that gives your readers something in exchange for their email address. Instead of telling someone, “hey! I have a newsletter! I kind of don't really know what that means but I've been told I need a newsletter, and I think you should definitely sign up for it!” you're saying, “hey, you're reading a post about dinosaurs. Want to download 17 interesting facts about dinosaurs?” then you're able to provide something you know (or can reasonably guess) your audience wants in exchange for an email address.
You'll grow your list so much faster once you incorporate a content upgrade.
And from reading things about how to do this online, people would have you believe they're pretty hard to create.
In fact, you can set up a content upgrade on your blog this afternoon if you're so inclined. Certainly by the end of the week.
So, let's do it!
How to Set up a Content Upgrade on Your Blog
1. Create an Awesome Piece of Content
This is where people spend too much time. Notice how I didn't say “create the world's best piece of content” — just create an awesome piece? That's so we can keep focused on what we're trying to accomplish here: we want more people on our email list. The value of your content upgrade doesn't have to be measured by its weight in gold; in fact, that's often the wrong way to go about things.
Let me tell you a story from my days at an inbound marketing firm. We provided inbound marketing to companies who needed help with their web presence. Companies signed up for different packages, and what we called “premium content” was a critical part of this. We'd spend weeks writing just the right thing, then we'd pay a designer to make it look like something you'd want to print in glossy format because it was so pretty.
We did this internally, too. I was in charge of our company's blog, and one day, I was going through our most popular posts. I realized there was one post that got traffic every day, even though it had been published several months before that. A lightbulb went off.
I could spiffy up this post, republish it, and add a relevant piece of premium content there!
I didn't need a designer. I didn't even have to write anything. In fact, the post was about important key performance indicators for salespeople (I checked, the link is live!), so I spent a few hours making a spreadsheet with those KPIs.
That piece of premium content quickly became one of the most popular downloads on our site at the time.
My point is, you don't have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to coming up with a great content upgrade. In fact, according to HubSpot, the premier inbound marketing all-in-one solution, the more content upgrades you have, the more people sign up for your email list.
So don't get caught up in perfection. Take a look at your top ten most popular posts (according to both Google and Pinterest), and figure out how to make something that complements those posts.
Here are some content upgrades on For-Profit Blogging that you can take a look at to get your creative juices flowing:
- The Ultimate Guide to Pinterest Traffic
- 5 Tips to Kickstart Your Pinterest Strategy*
- 10 Things You Must Do Before Launching Your Podcast
- Your Website is a Theme Park
- The Ultimate List of Free Stock Images (there's a PDF version of this post that I offer to all new subscribers)
*Interestingly, this download outperforms the “Ultimate Guide to Pinterest Traffic” download somewhere on the order of 5:1. To me, that's entirely counterintuitive. Why give up your email address for five tips, when you can have 57? But it just goes to show that you don't need to pour every available brain cell into a project like this. Just figure something out and create it!
Make your download visually pleasing. Remember, if and when someone opens your PDF, what they see is a direct reflection on you. Take the time to make it look good.
2. Upload it to Your Site
Did you know: the WordPress media library is a good place to store PDFs as well? It is. Once you're finished, upload your content to your site, and copy the location of your file. If you organize your files by month, now might be a good time to change that. Why?
Because if the path is “/wp-content/uploads/02/2016/awesomepdf.pdf” then you can't replace it as easily as you could if your path were simply “/wp-content/uploads/awesomepdf.pdf,” and if you're anything like me, you'll want to adjust your file occasionally.
Check Your Settings
Go to Settings–>Media and scroll to the bottom. Make sure the box that says “Organize into month and date” is unchecked. Hit save. This will make updating and replacing your content (more on that in a later step) easier.
Add a “Thank You for Downloading” Page on your Website
This is optional, but an inbound marketing best practice. Sure, you run the risk of someone finding your thank-you page without giving up their email address, but those people a) are rare, and b) were probably not going to be long-term subscribers anyway. So, create a page without sidebars (use the “landing” format if your theme allows it), add a download button, say thanks for downloading, and link to your content.
If you notice, you'll have a lot of white space on that page.
Send people to other content upgrades or killer content elsewhere on your site. If they trusted you enough to give you their email address, they're going to stick around and read more. Or maybe not. But they're certainly more likely to than someone who hasn't given you their email address.
Hold onto this URL. We'll need it in the next step.
3. Connect it to Your Email Provider
I'll go through the steps of connecting your content upgrade to an email service using ConvertKit as my example, though of course, it's entirely possible to set this up in Aweber or MailChimp or whatever you like best. (Although I love ConvertKit more than I've loved software in a very long time, so I'll stick with it!)
- Sign in to ConvertKit.
- Create a new form. I prefer creating forms and sticking them into my WordPress pages, but they offer full landing pages as well, so play around with it. Do what works for you!
- Select a style. Again, your preferences may vary, but I like the one in the middle (the “full” style) when I'm creating content upgrades:
- Make it compelling. Don't keep the boring ol' text there. Remember, a content upgrade is about so much more than joining the newsletter. Make the headline compelling for your reader. Let's make one for Anne, for fun. One of her most popular posts is “Weddings: What to Register for if You Have Everything” (which she wrote for me after telling me that yes, honey, you do too need a wedding registry so suck it up). It's a long and awesome post that gets a bunch of traffic. That makes it perfect for a content upgrade. Here's what Anne's form looks like after about ten minutes of work (including finding the right image):
- I changed the colors to match the colors in Anne's logo, I added a title, an image, and paraphrased what she said to me when I didn't want to register for my wedding. Also, importantly, I changed the text on the button. The default ConvertKit gives you is “subscribe” but that's a side effect. Change it to “download” so it's much more evident to your reader what they'll get.
- Edit Settings. Change the name of your form so you can find it later (and so you can figure out which forms are doing better than others). If you want, add people to an email sequence you've already created. If you don't have one of those, skip it for now. We're working on creating a content upgrade!
- Incentive Email. Here's where things get fun. Remember way back in step two when I said to keep the URL of your thank-you page handy? Input that here:
- Change the URL to your thank-you page, and click “auto-confirm new members.” Change the language of the email, since now they don't have to confirm. Thank them for downloading. In fact, copy the text from your thank-you page and paste it here!
- Go through the rest of the settings and play with it until you're happy. Set a timer. Don't let yourself play too long, we have more steps to accomplish!
4. Create an Ad Linking to Your Content Upgrade
My sidebar looks like this (adding a screenshot because I've been thinking long and hard about removing my sidebar altogether, and I want this post to be relevant if and when I decide to do so):
Those are ads I created that link to my content upgrades.
If you're using ConvertKit, you can download their WordPress plugin to include your form at the bottom of your relevant posts. My Pinterest form is at the bottom of all posts in the Pinterest category.
5. Add a Link to your Content Upgrade to Relevant Posts
I have a sneaking suspicion that we see so many ads online that these ads really don't do much of anything.
However, I do think these in-post ads that I've recently added convert well:
Which could partially explain why five Pinterest tips outperforms 57. See, this blog is not scientific. Too many variables change at once, leaving me with only my gut to help me draw conclusions.
But these are easy to make.
They do require you to get a little comfortable with your blog's style sheet.
Ack! Terrifying, I know.
Follow this tutorial to add content boxes to your style sheet, then, somewhere in your post, add:
<div class=”content-box-yellow”>Want to ramp up your Pinterest game? Download <a href=”http://stackingbenjamins.com/earn/pinterest-tips”>these five Pinterest tips</a> that'll help you step up your game in no time at all.</div>
in the Text side (if you add it to the Visual editor, WordPress will assume you're making a mistake and strip things).
Only, you know, swap out the text and the link unless you want to help promote my content upgrade!
Because this is a manual process, it's a bit more time-consuming to go through every post in a category and add the link. I've done it, but it seems cumbersome (which might be why people don't go to the effort of creating content upgrades in the first place!). I've thought of trying to figure out a way to have a rotating content box organized by category, but I haven't figured that out yet. I'll update you if I get there.
6. Watch Your Email List Grow
That's it! You've added a content upgrade! It's on your site, it's connected to your email service, you created a sidebar ad for it, and it's in your relevant posts. Now, all you need to do is sit back and wait for your email signups to grow.
And they will.
7. Check Your Content Upgrade Periodically for Relevance
The content upgrade I am constantly updating is the free stock image PDF. That's one of my most popular posts, and the post gets updated all the time because more and more people are coming up with awesome creative content stock images! Since the post gets updated, the PDF also needs updating.
That's why I talked earlier in this post about not organizing your media by date.
See, if the file path is the same, then the links, wherever they are (on the site, on ConvertKit, wherever!), it's very easy to update simply by naming the PDF exactly what it was named before, and saving over it.
Make a point to make sure the advice you're giving is still relevant. We check ours here often because some of our advice is based on a different social network (like Pinterest) and the good advice of six months ago is the harmful advice of today.
Okay, now it's your turn.
Create a content upgrade for your blog within three days of reading this.
Then, shout at me to tell me you've done it (or comment below!) so I can see your awesome content upgrade and sign up for your mailing list.
You got this.