The (Actual) Complete Guide To Content Upgrades

Monetize Your List Take Yourself Pro

Wanna know how to see a massive spike in your email list numbers AND provide incredible value to the people joining your list? Of course you do! This is the ConvertKit blog you’re reading, after all.

I’ve got news for you: your list is going to grow slowly if all you’re offering your subscribers is to stay in touch with your weekly broadcasts. We live in an era of some killer content being offered up for free on YouTube, Periscope, blog content, and more. In order to grow your list, your audience, and your influence, you have to provide exceptional value and go the extra mile.

How exactly do you do that?

Content upgrades.

In fact, content upgrades have shifted opt ins for some real pros. Take Bryan Harris’ opt in conversions that are at 20-30% on blog posts with content upgrades or Brian Dean who increased his site-wide conversions 185%.

Now, my name’s not Brian, but I’ve seen some similar results on my own site too. Today I’m going to take you inside a little experiment I ran on my blog that I’m absolutely kicking myself for not doing sooner. Ready?

Step 1

Head to your Google Analytics account and login. (Don’t have Google Analytics yet? It’s easy to setup and totally free. And so many bloggers have it but don’t know they have it… so ask your designer if they installed Google Analytics for you when your site was built.)

The biggest trick of this step is to not get distracted by ALL THE INFO inside your Google Analytics account. Especially if you don’t consider yourself “techy”, the dashboard you’ll see when you log in can be overwhelming. We’ll cover more of the other details in your GA account later but for now we have a game plan so stay focused and head straight to the left hand side menu and choose Behavior > Site Content > All Pages.


What you need to know from Google Analytics for your content upgrades

This is where you’re living today. Check out those top 5 posts listed. They’re automagically ordered by the most visited page on top so now you have your top 5 most popular pages on your site.

Remove any pages that aren’t blog posts (in my case it’s the / page — home page — and the /simple-solutions/ page). Now you have your top 3 blog posts.

Step 2

Re-read your post. What additional information could you provide to really knock the socks off of the reader of that post? This is usually the hardest part – coming up with the content for your upgrade.

Often I hear “But I poured everything I know into this post! How could I possibly add more to it?” There are 10 top notch options for content upgrades you can consider. They are:

  • Tools and Resources List
  • Secret Podcast Episode
  • Checklist of the steps taken in the blog (pssst – I’ve got one of those for you at the end)
  • Additional Related Content
  • Downloadable PSD files or other design assets
  • One Month Free of your product or membership site
  • A Printable
  • Swipe Copy (people love swipe copy, FYI)
  • Transcripts for Audio or Video Recordings
  • Worksheets to support the post


And there are most certainly more. Think creatively and offer a content upgrade no one has ever seen. Maybe you’re just starting out and are in need of some client research. You could offer a content upgrade of your time – a 15 minute call with you or even entry into a contest to win a longer call. While it’s not exactly “content”, it’s a creative way to hear from your readers directly, learn more about them, and get them to engage with you and your content on a more regular basis.

Remember: we’re talking about adding value to the existing post here. So resist the urge to offer them an unrelated book you wrote years ago or give them a checklist that has nothing to do with the post you wrote. When you do that you aren’t adding value and your readers will be unhappy (and most likely quickly unsubscribe).

For my top post, 7 Don’ts of Facebook Groups, I chose to provide a PDF of my favorite FB groups for creative business owners. This is valuable to my readers since time is money and wading through group after group is exhausting. When you know the good ones to join, you can get right down to business making new friends and connections. I’ve been in the FB Group game for three years so I’ve seen them all and can share my experience as a content upgrade to this post.

sample of a content upgrade form in a blog post

Pick what you’ll offer for each of your top posts, jot it down, and then head on to Step 3.

Step 3

Create your upgrade.

Anything delivered in PDF format is easily created for free using Pages (on Mac) or Word (on PC) and saved as a PDF. Depending on the version you have, you might have to print as PDF if “save as” isn’t available. Give it a Google if you’re unsure. You can also use any number of other tools like Photoshop, InDesign, or even Canva to create PDFs.

Depending on the upgrade you choose, you might even deliver the content directly through email – no PDF required. Let’s say your upgrade is a free e-course that take place over 5 days. You can send all of the course details straight to the reader’s inbox via email – no PDF creation required.

Of course, if your content upgrade is an audio or video, you’ll want to use the right tool for you to create those offerings. No matter what, choose quality as this is one of those “early impression” kind of things. Think about it: your subscriber will (hopefully) eventually become a customer. Don’t you want to roll out the very best for your potential customers up front?

Step 4

Add your content upgrade to your opt in form. ConvertKit makes this easy in the Incentive Email. Customize your form so that it speaks directly to the content they’re getting and then hit save.

incentive email for a content upgrade


Head back over to your blog post on the editor side and carry on with Step 5….

Step 5

Drop the specific opt in form you built in Step 4 at the end of your blog post. If you’re using ConvertKit, our plugin makes this super simple as you can just choose your new form from the dropdown in the plugin area below your post.

You can also directly embed the form into another spot in your post using the shortcode associated with that post.


embed a form for a content upgrade with a shortcode from ConvertKit


Step 6

Insert details about your content upgrade directly in the body of the post. By adding a few sentences in that invite your reader to take action, you increase the chance of them noticing your content upgrade box and actually signing up.

Step 7

Update the images (and possibly any outdated content) on your chosen post.

My original post had an image that incorporated my old branding and it also wasn’t Pinterest friendly. Since Pinterest is one of my top referring sites, I updated the main image so it matched my current branding and was more “pinnable”.


In my blog post, one of the 7 Don’ts is actually no longer a feature with Facebook Groups so I added the note below to the post:


editors note in an old blog post

Step 8

Change the publication date to today (or whenever you’re publishing this week).


change the publication date on old blog posts for content upgrades

Step 9

Send your improved blog post out to your email list and share it on your favorite social media platforms. I shared the 7 Don’ts of Facebook Groups in my favorite Facebook Groups (obvi) and it paid off when it came to the next step.


FB groups email

Step 10

Watch your list grow!


list growth from a content upgrade in ConvertKit

Wash, rinse, and repeat Steps 1-10 until your blog is covered in content upgrades and all new ways to grow your email list.

The Missing Link

While it’s widely touted that content upgrades are a quick way to grow your list (we’re even saying that right here), there’s a secret next step most people don’t take advantage of to make the most of those new subscribers. And now the secret is all yours:

Continue to engage those subscribers on that specific topic.

Sounds simple enough but so many people miss this step. They go right to adding them to their list so they’re getting the regular emails and assuming that’s good enough.

Well, for some of your subscribers it will be enough. For your dedicated readers or the new avid fan who happened to take advantage of the content upgrade, it’s enough. But for the reader that subscribed for the specific content upgrade, you can take that relationship further and make the most of their interest in what you have to say.

Here’s what happened with my 7 Don’ts of Facebook Groups post:

I followed the steps above and built my content upgrade for that top post. Within hours, I saw a 600% increase in subscribers from my typical daily opt ins. HOURS!

Those new subscribers went onto a form and were tagged as “Interested: Facebook Groups”. They got their PDF download right away and then they started getting my weekly emails.

Just two weeks after putting the content upgrade on my site, I announced a workshop called Growing With Groups – 3 hours with me all about how to market your creative business with Facebook Groups. I sent a special email to those subscribers tagged from the content upgrade and later a separate email to my entire list.


email with workshop offer from content upgrade in ConvertKit

Thanks to my new targeted audience who was ready to hear more about Facebook Groups, I sold out that workshop in less than 48 hours.

Of course, you don’t have to offer a live workshop and trade dollars for hours (though the group format is always the best way to maximize your time in the dollars-for-hours game). You could offer a mini-course or a membership site or an e-book. The product world is your oyster and your content upgrades help you know you have an audience who is ready to devour what you create.

And what’s an epic post about content upgrades without a content upgrade attached to it, right?!

Enter your email address below to get the step by step checklist for this process (the same exact checklist I use for every content upgrade and pulled directly from my own project management software) so you can easily speed through your content upgrade creation.

Of course, content upgrade delivery, tagging those subscribers, and sending targeted information via email is all made easier through ConvertKit. Step inside your account (or open a new account complete with a 30 day money back guarantee) to see how easy sending up your next content upgrade can be.

What content will you be upgrading?

Post in the comments below sharing your blog post with your upgraded content or even your own results from the content upgrade experiment!

Get the Content Upgrade Checklist

Save yourself from the missed steps and trial + error and grab the same checklist we use on our own blog to make content upgrades easy.

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Val Geisler

Val is a yogi, mom, military wife, and avid podcast fan. She is ridiculously obsessed with sharing and creating content that actually makes a difference in the world, connecting with her fellow bloggers, and doing more with less effort. Val is based on Columbus, Ohio (O-H!) and can often be found oversharing on Instagram at @lovevalgeisler.

  • Great post. Thank-you! I just starting using ConvertKit and am super impressed. I created my first content upgrade last week: 20 Top Non-Gaming Sites For Kids in my post, and am now working on my second, an e-course called ‘Enjoy 7 Days of Praying for Your Husband’. Thanks for all you do to make this so much easier!

  • “600% increase”??? “sold out that workshop in less than 48 hours”??? [spoken in my best Keanu Reeves voice] Whoa.

    • It’s true! Give it a shot, @raypryor3:disqus!

      • Helena Alkhas

        @raypryor3:disqus It’s true! I was there with @ConvertKit:disqus <3

  • Excellent post. Some great stuff in here. (I’m just starting out so can’t afford Convertkit yet… however, definitely on my list. Heard about you guys through Pat Flynn.)

    • Awesome, @Mark Owen:disqus. And I’d argue that a well-planned content upgrade like this could help you afford ConvertKit sooner than you think. 🙂

      • That’s what I’m hoping. Going through a complete site/content overhaul at the moment… :O)

  • Fon James

    I recently started using content upgrades with my Podcast!! Now you have me wondering do I REALLY need Leadpages anymore? In addition to using it for my main niche lead challenge, I was using it for my content upgrades, but THIS article makes see that I can TOTALLY use ConvertKit!

    • Give it a try, @disqus_2XlQ99BJPR:disqus! You can always go back to LeadPages for your upgrades but a simple form works too. And content upgrades are an excellent way to use your podcast to grow your email list – way to go!

  • Listening Pig

    Really helpful post, thanks! I’m just about to do my first content upgrade so this was very timely!

  • Awesome blogpost! Love it and trying to utilise this myself now as well. I’ll need to create some more. But i’m getting there. Could you tell me what “Swipe Copy” means? I’ve never heard of it. I’ve googled it and think it is giving people things they can use straight away? Clarification would be amazing 🙂

    • Hi, Rik! Swipe copy is like a template or example of copy that you can copy, paste, and then change and adapt for your own audience and purpose. I hope that helps. 🙂

      • @rikroukens:disqus looks like @heather_ash:disqus has you covered and she’s right – it’s copy you can take as is and use or adapt for your own audience. Thanks for swinging by and reading!

  • Great post, Val! I’ve been wanting to create content upgrades, but I couldn’t figure out an easy way to do it…and I’ve been thinking about getting ConvertKit soon. So yay! This is awesome.

    I also want to mention that you can also save Google docs as pdf’s, so that’s another easy way to do it. 🙂

    • Hi @heather_ash:disqus! We’d love to have you in the family whenever you’re ready. And YES to Google Docs saved as PDFS! I actually used Canva to build that checklist – neat, huh?!

  • So . . . a content upgrade is really just a targeted lead magnet (i.e. freebie) to entice the reader to opt in?

    • You got it, @waynestiles:disqus! Specific content that relates back to the post they just read (or podcast they just listened to, etc.).

      • Awesome. So why would I (in step 9) send the post to my email list when the CTA of the content upgrade is to get them to join my list? They’re already on it.

        • @waynestiles:disqus – So you can tag them as “Interested in:” and reach out to those people specifically in a future email blast 🙂

      • Another useful way to do content upgrades if you’re short on time:

        Just make a PDF version of the contents of the post.

        One of our top posts wasn’t converting very well–around .5% with our standard lead magnet.

        I made the post itself into a PDF with a nice cover and offered that as a content “upgrade,” and it’s converting at nearly 3%!

        It defies logic. 🙂

        A “real” content upgrade is better, but this works in a pinch.

        • Totally true, @joshearl:disqus. Though, as you said, a real content upgrade is a better option. 🙂 Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!

  • Takara Nia

    My blog is so new that we’re not ready to do this yet, but I can’t wait until we are. This is awesome!

  • Is your “7 Dont’s” post/upgrade still available?
    I saw a broken link when I clicked.

  • Julie Cabezas

    Hey Val! You mention Pinterest as a great traffic source! What’s your favorite resource to learn about Pinterest? xoxo Julie

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