How I Increased My Email Conversion Rate By 300% Using Content Upgrades

conversion-Post_ImageDo you love case studies?

I bet you do!

You get the detailed instructions on executing a certain strategy and the exact numbers that you can expect from doing it.

What can be more valuable than that?

These days I never take any advice seriously unless it?s backed up with real data.

I?ve learned a ton of highly actionable tactics by reading case studies and I guess it?s time to share one of my own.

How Collecting Emails Helps Your Business

Imagine that you want to sell your car. It?s in a perfect condition and your price is a lot lower than it?s actual market value.

Do you think you can persuade a random stranger to buy it?


He doesn?t know you, and the fact that your deal looks so sweet would only make him more suspicious.

If someone you don't know offers you to buy a car of your dreams. Would you buy it?

Someone you don’t know offers you to buy a car of your dreams for cheap… Would you buy it right there?

But what if you try to sell it to one of your friends? Do you think you can persuade him to take it?


Your friend knows you well and when you offer him a good deal he knows that it?s exactly what you say it is.

Well, your email list is a magic wand that can turn a random stranger into a friend within just a few weeks.

You should not pitch your products and services to people on their very first visit to your blog. They don?t know you yet and they have no reason to trust you.

Take their email address instead and keep in touch by sending regular updates with something valuable.

Allow them to get to know you better. Prove them that you’re not the kind of person who will ruin his reputation for the sake of earning a few bucks. And once you decide to offer them something – they will go for it.

Your email list is a very powerful thing, and that’s why you have to spend all your efforts on converting your first time visitors into email subscribers.

My 300% Bump In Conversion Rate

2% – that was my sitewide conversion rate in January 2015. Which is pretty pathetic.

Let me show you how I counted it.

I had only 48 opt-ins in January:


…which came as a result of 2300 people visiting my blog:


Now let?s look at the month of February.

I managed to get 539 opt-ins (not bad, huh?):


…and I obvously had a lot more traffic:


It?s easy to calculate that my email conversion rate for the month of February was 6% ( 539 / 8892 * 100% = 6% ), which is 300% bigger than in my previous month.

And here goes my dirty secret?

Content Upgrades

In case you’re not already familiar with content upgrades strategy, take a look at the following article:

I?ve shared a screenshot of my outreach email to Rand Fishkin and mentioned that I?ve used a cocky email subject to get his attention.

But I didn’t share that subject in my article.

I told my readers that I can only share it with them if they give me their email address.

Like this:

Want to know which email subject I’ve used to get Rand’s attention? :) [content_upgrade id=5328]Click here to get it (along with my comments)![/content_upgrade]

If you click on a link in that yellow box, you’ll get a popup box asking for your email address:


Once you submit your email address to that box you will get a link to a PDF document, where I share that email subject and give you a few extra tips on writing catchy email subjects that get noticed.

If you’re my email subscriber already, clicking on that link will forward you directly to the PDF, without showing you popup email form and having you put your email there.

This tactic is known as ?content upgrades? or ?content-specific bonuses?.

Some bloggers get absolutely insane conversion rates by using content upgrades in their articles.

Here?s a quote from Bryan Harris:

[tweet_dis]Content upgrades turn your readers into subscribers better than any other single tactic out there.[/tweet_dis] I normally experience 20-30% opt-in rates on these bonuses and some have been as high as 62%!

These numbers are totally insane and honestly I haven?t had THIS kind of success yet.

My best converting article right now is the one I?ve just shared with you and it has a conversion rate of 8% (which is still quite solid actually):

This was my best conversion rate so far, but I'm sure I can easily do better!

This was my best conversion rate so far, but I’m sure I can easily do better!

I have created a cool content upgrade for this article as well.

But I won’t reveal it to you just yet…

How To ?Sell? Your Content Upgrade

So what can be used as a content upgrade?

Absolutely anything!

Here are just a few examples from my latest articles:

Article: 3 Easy Outreach Hacks To Make Influential People Notice You
Bonus: A very basic ebook with 2 words that you should never use in your outreach emails.

Article: Why 100 True Followers Is Really All You Need
Bonus: An ebook with 15 tools for Twitter Marketing.

Article: What An Email Response From Rand Fishkin Taught Me About Influencer Outreach
Bonus: Subject line of my email to Rand and a few tips on writing them.

Article: How To Write Content Strategically: The Guide To Getting Traffic, Subscribers & Sales With Your Articles
Bonus #1: The PDF version of my ?Strategic Writing? checklist.
Bonus #2: The contact information of my illustrator on Fiverr.
Bonus #3: My cheat sheet with headline formulas.

It doesn?t really matter what you use as your content upgrade as long as you know how to persuade your readers that they should take it.

The funny thing is that I?ve put a lot of effort into bonuses for my Strategic Writing Guide, but it has a lower conversion rate than the “outreach email to Rand” post, where I’ve spent no more than 20 minutes to create a bonus.

One of the reasons why that specific bonus converts so well is because it’s based on a proven psychological pricnicple called “the information gap“.

I shared the my outreach email with the readers but I didn’t share it’s last piece – the email subject. That created a fair amount of curiosity that was itching them.


So next time you’ll be writing your article think if you can create an information gap and hide that piece of extra knowledge behind the email form.

By the way, I promised you there will be a cool content upgrade in this article.

Well, remember that quote by Bryan Harris where he says that one of his articles has a 60% conversion rate?

I’ve reached out to him and asked to show me that article. He gave me the link and now I no longer have any doubts about his insane conversion rate.

So what I’m offering you is a link to this highly converting article along with my detailed breakdown of what makes it work so well.

Sounds good?

BONUS CONTENT: Get my breakdown of a simple article that has an insane 60% conversion rate. [content_upgrade id=5451]Click here to grab it![/content_upgrade]

How To Setup Content Upgrades On Your Blog

Here at BloggerJet I?m using my own plugin – Content Upgrades PRO.

Let me show you how I?ve used it to create a content upgrade for this article.

Step #1: Create a new ?upgrade?

Basically I need to create a popup email form that promotes my upgrade:

Click on that image if you want to view it full size

Click on that image if you want to view it full size

The plugin has live preview that instantly shows me how my popup will look like:


Step #2: Configure how it works

There are two types of people who will opt-in to get your content upgrade:

1. People who are in your email list already – the plugin can immediately forward them to a page containing the bonus.

2. People who are not in your email list yet – after they submit their email address, MailChimp will send them an email with a confirmation link that they have to click.

You should tell the plugin to forward these people to a page that will instruct them to open their inbox and confirm subscribtion (here’s mine).

click to see full size screenshot

Step #3: Put the content upgrade into the article

I simply grab the shortcode of that content upgrade and paste it in my article anywhere I want, like this:


But it looks like a simple text link, and many people won?t notice it.

Here, try it:

[content_upgrade id=5451]Click here to and you’ll get a popup email form![/content_upgrade]  
So I need to emphasize it with a ?fancy box?. My plugin has a shortcode for that too.

So the resulting code looks like this:


And it gives me this pretty thing:

[fancy_box id=”4″]BONUS: [content_upgrade id=5451]Click here to and you’ll get a popup email form![/content_upgrade][/fancy_box]

Step #4: Add my bonus to the ?thanks for subscribing? page

Ok, but how do people get their bonus after they subscribe to my email list?

All my new subscribers eventually land on my “Thanks For Subscribing” page that I have specified in MailChimp.

And this is where I put all my “subscriber-only” bonuses.

Speaking of this specific bonus – it’s a simple PDF file that you can download once you land on my “Thanks For Subscribing” page.

So this was my basic setup!

Actually the Content Upgrades PRO plugin is a lot more sophisticated than that, but I guess I’ll save all these extra tricks for my future articles.

Time To Pump Your Conversion Rate

So did the idea of content upgrades resonate with you?

If you ask me – this completely changed the way I approach blogging.

Right now I’m on a quest to add content upgrades to all of my most popular articles, which should improve my sitewide conversion rate even further.

Let’s see if I can push it from 6% to 10% till the end of the month.

What about you? Did you try content upgrades already? Do you like the results?

Tim Soulo is the Chief Marketing Officer and Product Advisor at Ahrefs, a leading tool trusted by hundreds of thousands of SEOs and marketers worldwide. His SEO-related data research studies have been cited by media giants, including Inc, TechCrunch, and VentureBeat. He's also a regular speaker at some of the largest industry conferences around the globe, such as PubCon (US), BrightonSEO (UK), and the Digital Marketers Australia Conference (AU).