12 Irresistible Content Upgrades: Real-Life Inspiration for Bloggers with a Business

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One year ago, we revealed a new strategy we and the most successful bloggers we knew were using to get up to 30% of blog traffic to opt into their email lists: the content upgrade.

What’s a content upgrade?

A content upgrade is a lead magnet (also known as an “opt-in bribe”) created specifically to be given away as a free download on an individual blog post in exchange for a visitor’s email address. It “upgrades” your post by offering additional information or simply presenting the post topic in a different way.

Since then, we’ve seen tons of bloggers pick up this strategy and run with it, to great success.

Which makes a lot of sense when you think about it: you couldn’t ask for a hotter lead than someone who’s already immersed in your content. Offering an upgrade to that content is a natural way to extend the conversation and deepen the relationship between you and your reader.

What better reason for them to join your email list than the promise of getting even more of what they came to your site for?

When people first hear about content upgrades, they often wonder: how can I create something like this for my blog? If you’re at a loss for ideas now, that’s definitely going to change by the end of this post. We’re going to look at 12 ultra-engaging content upgrades that have popped up in the year since we debuted this tactic on the blog.

Plus, we’ve created a free bonus (yes, it’s a content upgrade itself!) for you to download and consult any time you’re brainstorming about creating a content upgrade for your next post. It gives you 25 different content upgrade ideas, along with the kinds of posts you should use them with. Click below to get it now:

Get the Guide: "25 Content Upgrades to Build Your Blog"

If you have LeadPages™, you don’t need to download this template – it’s already available to you inside your LeadPages account. Just log in and you’ll see how super easy it is to customize this page in seconds with no technical knowledge or skills, make it mobile responsive, integrate it with your email service provider or CRM, run A/B split tests, and publish it to Facebook, WordPress, or your own server.

Before we pore over these examples, I should address another question that frequently comes up: once I’ve created a content upgrade, how do I get it into the hands of my readers?

That one’s easy: you use a LeadBox™. LeadBoxes® are simple, super customizable opt-in forms you can add to any blog or website. Blog readers trigger them when they click a button, an image, a text link, or another page element of your choice. Once they enter their email address, they can automatically download the content upgrade from their email via the LeadPages® lead-magnet delivery system. Check out your membership options and lock in unlimited LeadBoxes® here.

Ready for a major dose of blogging inspiration? Let’s take a peek at some excellent content upgrades.


1. Bryan Harris, VideoFruit

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The blog post: How we used a Post-Launch Sequence to add $40,684 in sales

The content upgrade: pre-launch swipe file

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Why it works: Here Bryan Harris uses a style of content upgrade I like to call “the other half.” Bryan’s post is about a post-launch engagement sequence, and with his content upgrade he completes the other half of the picture: what happened before the launch. His LeadBox™ is the bridge between two related topics.

The swipe file is meaty, a three-part package that readers could potentially use for practical guidance right away. And yet a lead magnet like this doesn’t need to take long to create. By definition, a swipe file consists of work you’ve already done. Making it useful for readers could be as simple as typing up your notes, pulling together existing copy and images, and turning it into a PDF document.


2. Brian Dean, Backlinko

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The blog post: SEO Strategy Case Study: 963% More Organic Traffic

The content upgrade: strategy checklist

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Why it works: This is another example of a highly useful but easy to create content upgrade. To create a checklist from a strategy-driven post, simply highlight all the actionable information in your post and present it concisely in checklist form so readers can track their progress through the process you’ve shared.

You can leave it at that and still create something valuable. If you’re feeling more ambitious, take Brian’s PDF as a model. In addition to listing concrete steps with checkboxes, he provides lots of context for each step and other kinds of resources such as reference links and screenshots—and wraps the whole thing in appealing, colorful design.

Just remember: there are lots of points in between a bare-bones to-do list and an example as polished as Brian’s. Find the spot on that spectrum that matches your skill set and plan your checklist accordingly.


3. Pat Flynn, The Smart Passive Income Blog

A slide from Pat Flynn's deck
A slide from Pat Flynn’s deck

The blog post: How to Create an Awesome Slide Presentation

The content upgrade: slide deck from video post

Why it works: Everyone’s probably had the experience of pausing a video to take notes, look something up, or simply figure out exactly what’s going on onscreen. As an upgrade to this video post, Pat Flynn lets viewers take things at their own pace by offering the slide deck seen (at much higher speed) in the video.

It’s a ridiculously easy way to give blog readers something extra—after all, the slides already exist. And it’s an especially effective content upgrade for this post in particular. Since the topic is how to create great slide presentations, readers will be especially interested in closely studying how Pat created his.


4. Amy Porterfield

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The blog post: The FIRST Action You Should Take Before Starting a New Project

The content upgrade: tech tutorial screencast

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Why it works: It’s hard to truly grasp a new tech skill—like Amy’s method of project planning via Dropbox folders—until you actually see it done and can follow along yourself. In the post, Amy tells us about this strategy she’s discovered, and in the upgrade she lets us see it in action.

Are there any little tech tricks that you’re always showing coworkers, friends, or family members? If you use those skills in your business or on your blog, consider whether they could add extra value to an action-oriented post and share them via screencast. Bonus: for this kind of video, you don’t even have to dress up for the camera.


5. Robert Kilonzo, Omnistar

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The blog post: 6 Ways Customer Reviews Give Value to E-Commerce Brands

The content upgrade: marketing guide

Why it works: I call this the “bigger picture” genre of content upgrade. It discusses the strategies in the blog post (how to use customer reviews in your e-commerce marketing) in the context of a larger topic (how to market your e-commerce store).

If you don’t have time to create a new content upgrade for every post you write, aim to create “bigger picture” resources that give a broad view of a topic you write about frequently. Then you’ll be able to offer it as a lead magnet the next time the subject rolls around. You can even update it regularly and position it as a “new and expanded edition” each time you add a chapter or refresh your information.


6. Neil Patel

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The blog post: The Step-by-Step Guide on Improving Your Google Rankings Without Getting Penalized

The content upgrade: worksheet

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Why it works: There are some people who will automatically give a silent “tl;dr” to just about any piece of writing on the internet that uses paragraphs and requires more than a couple clicks of the scroll bar. That’s not the only group of visitors who can benefit from this kind of content upgrade, but it does give you a way to capture people who’ll never stick around to see the comments section. Along with anyone else who’s really serious about implementing your advice (who probably happen to be your hottest leads).

Neil’s worksheet is written in ultra-clear, straightforward language. For example:

Check site health: Use PixelGroove’s Google penalty checker tool to see if your site received any penalty or not. Input your URL and click “check.”

You don’t need to overthink your writing in a worksheet like this—simply telling people exactly what to do can be the most helpful thing of all.

Get the Guide: "25 Content Upgrades to Build Your Blog"

If you have LeadPages™, you don’t need to download this template – it’s already available to you inside your LeadPages account. Just log in and you’ll see how super easy it is to customize this page in seconds with no technical knowledge or skills, make it mobile responsive, integrate it with your email service provider or CRM, run A/B split tests, and publish it to Facebook, WordPress, or your own server.


7. Derek Halpern, Social Triggers

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The blog post: How to Email Influential People—and Get Responses Fast

The content upgrade: email scripts

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Why it works: This is a prime example of why it pays to take a modular approach to your content. Derek could have easily followed this video-centric post with a full text explanation of his email strategy, but instead he realized he could pull out one valuable asset and use it as his content upgrade.

And it’s a compelling one. When you’re about to try something new, there’s nothing quite as reassuring as working from a proven script. If you’re an artisan of email or a fearless initiator of phone calls, consider sharing the templates you use with your audience.


8. Megan Minns


The blog post: A Typical Day in the Life of a Side Hustler

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The content upgrade: schedule planner

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Why it works: Sometimes, readers aren’t necessarily looking for more information at the end of a post. They’re looking for motivation. Without a lot of additional text or design work, you can create a planning sheet to help them put your advice into practice.

This content upgrade works especially well in this post because Megan explains how she herself uses this kind of schedule planner to map out her own busy days. If you’re at a point in your blogging career where you’ve attracted a regular audience, you probably have many readers who will enjoy getting a glimpse of your day-to-day life.


9. Jacob Share, JobMob

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The blog post: Job Search and Design: Everything You Need to Know

The content upgrade: compilation of real-world results

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Why it works: On a post about whether it’s worth adding graphic design to your job-search arsenal, Israeli career blogger Jacob Share adds authority and practical guidance to his opinions with a content upgrade featuring lots of real-world results. In the content upgrade, he consults a variety of people about their experience working with freelance designers and distills their stories into actionable tips.

Aside from the novel content, I want to point out the novel form of this resource. Jacob delivers his content upgrade as a link to a view-only Google document. He’s able to add features such as graphics and a hyperlinked table of contents without having to master another publishing platform, host a new document somewhere, or even generate a PDF.


10. Will Blunt, Blogger Sidekick

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The blog post: How to Create a Buyer Persona for Your Blog

The content upgrade: planning worksheet

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Why it works: We’ve covered a few different kinds of worksheets already, but Will’s functions a little differently: it’s crucial to the strategy oitlined in the post. Will refers to filling it out repeatedly (as in the screenshot above), and while you could learn from the post without downloading the content upgrade, at some point you’d wonder: why am I making this hard on myself?

Will posts screenshots of the worksheet along the way, but he’s canny about it: they’re large enough to show off the color and complexity, but too small to make out all the details. They function as a sort of amuse-bouche before the second course that’s served upon opt-in.


11. Bonnie & Clyde Premium Pet Goods

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The blog post: 4 Ways to Boost Your Dog’s Immune System

The content upgrade: list of tools

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Why it works: Lists like this can get a little bit meta: bloggers blogging about bloggers blogging about how to blog about . . . I think that’s because because business-minded bloggers are naturally the earliest adopters of new content marketing techniques—they have an eagle eye for strategies they can use and pass on to their audience.

But I wouldn’t want to imply by omission that content upgrades can only work if you’re selling info products. They can generate leads for even the most tangible businesses, such as pet supplies. Bonnie & Clyde Premium Pet Goods educates dog owners on the canine immune system while discussing one of their products in this blog post, then uses a beautifully designed button and LeadBox™ to offer a list of 7 tools to make your pup even healthier and shinier.

Both the post and the content upgrade keep an admirable balance between content and product promotion—you’ll come away knowing where you can get your puppy vitamins but also about many more resources that Bonnie & Clyde don’t sell. This strategy makes it likelier that new subscribers will keep returning for content.


12. Kevin J. Duncan, Be a Better Blogger

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The blog post: 20 Ways to Kill Engagement and Stop Those Pesky Blog Comments

The content upgrade: “flip side” tip sheet

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Why it works: Some kinds of blog posts may not seem to lend themselves to a content upgrade. What if you’re writing an op-ed? A review? A humor piece?

It may take a little more thought to find the perfect content-upgrade match for posts like these, but you may be surprised by the possibilities if you do a little brainstorming. Take Kevin’s post for an example, based on the Opposite Day premise that bloggers hate getting comments and should try to prevent them by any means possible.

The post is fun and may feel lightweight at first, but there’s plenty of serious advice tucked inside—which Kevin pulls out and repackages in his content upgrade. This PDF is the straight-faced version of his tips on engaging readers, though it maintains a consistently playful feel in its colorful images and snappy copy.

Kevin’s approach is unique to his post (as the best content upgrades are), but you can adapt the strategy to other kinds of content. If your post consists of best practices, consider creating a content upgrade spelling out what not to do, or vice versa.

Not so hard, right?

If you haven’t used the content upgrade strategy on your own blog yet, I have a challenge for you. Go back to your most recent big post and run through the list of content upgrade ideas we’ve collected here. I’m betting you’ll think of several ways you can use that post as the starting point for a new content upgrade—maybe even one you can use with one of your next posts. (If you’re still not inspired, post a link in the comments and we can do some collective brainstorming.)

And before you go, make sure to download our free guide of 25 reader-approved content upgrade ideas:

Get the Guide: "25 Content Upgrades to Build Your Blog"

If you have LeadPages™, you don’t need to download this template – it’s already available to you inside your LeadPages account. Just log in and you’ll see how super easy it is to customize this page in seconds with no technical knowledge or skills, make it mobile responsive, integrate it with your email service provider or CRM, run A/B split tests, and publish it to Facebook, WordPress, or your own server.


Are you using content upgrades on your blog? What kind of content do you think makes for the most valuable lead magnets? Tell us in the comments!

  • Hi Daphne,

    How awesome! Thank you for including Be A Better Blogger and my “20 Ways to Kill Engagement and Stop Those Pesky Blog Comments” post in your excellent roundup, Daphne.

    You just made my day. 🙂

    -Kevin

    • Daphne Sidor

      Thanks for the inspiration, Kevin!

  • Susie

    Do you have code so I can have a better looking button my site? (similar to the one you, Pat Flynn and Amy portferfield use? Mine is pretty ugly and boring and I know it can be spruced up.

    • Daphne Sidor

      Hey, Susie! For this post, the button is actually just an image one of our designers created, which we linked to the LeadBox. The same thing appears to be the case with Pat’s and Amy’s buttons. Most “fancier” buttons do require a little bit of design work, but you might want to explore a free design tool like Canva: https://www.canva.com/about—I'd bet this would be enough to create some interesting buttons.

      Some of our other posts use buttons that are actually custom-coded into our WordPress interface, so unfortunately I don’t have a handy snippet of code to give you there, either. But have you seen this post where you can download 100+ buttons that our designers have created? http://blog.leadpages.net/call-to-action-buttons/ They are just images, so you can’t change the text, but with more than 100 of them, you may find some good candidates for your site.

  • Alp Turan

    This is great! Thanks Daphne! (Do you know what I’d really love to see? A check-list outlining these 12 techniques, which one can download upon signing up to LeadPages 😉 )

    • Daphne Sidor

      I know, it felt a little wrong to not include a content upgrade on a post about content upgrades. 😉 However, I wouldn’t be surprised if a resource of just this kind attached itself to this post very soon . . .

    • Daphne Sidor

      Hey, Alp, just popping back in to say: your wish is my command! I also threw in a bunch more content upgrade techniques on top of the ones in this post. Go ahead and click one of the blue buttons above to download the PDF.

      • Alp Turan

        Wonderful work, Daphne! Printed and pinned 😉

  • Thank you, Daphne! GREAT info and all in a nutshell. VERY helpful! 🙂

    • Daphne Sidor

      Aw shucks. Thanks for reading, Kelly!

  • Doug Landers

    Thanks for the awesome post Daphne! You’ve inspired me to make a content upgrade for one of my latest posts about how to initiate self-love, that includes a morning routine to start one’s day in the right frame of mind to do so.

    • Daphne Sidor

      That sounds like an excellent content upgrade, Doug! If you feel like it, come back and drop a link to the post here when you’ve set it up.

  • Bonnie and Clyde Pet Goods

    Thanks a lot for the mention Daphne! Love the post and LeadPages. Cheers 🙂

    • Daphne Sidor

      Really great work, B&C! Love Doc Pugman up there especially.

  • A trackback from this roundup just alerted me about it. Cool! Nice to be in such terrific company, many of whom I follow and learn from regularly like Neil, Brian and Bryan.

    Daphne- you made a good point about the ease of use of Google Docs for creating the upgrades, and there are other reasons I chose to cloud-host my upgrades
    a) Future-proofing: I can continually update & improve an upgrade as long as the user hasn’t yet downloaded it
    b) Better User Experience: users can choose which download format they prefer among Docs’ choices, or just to view online and not to download at all
    c) Tracking: albeit very barebones tracking, for now. When viewing a shared Doc, you can see if anyone else if viewing it simultaneously. In More Actions > Details > Activity tab, you can also see if any Docs user copied it their own Google Drive. There also used to a way (Document Stats) to see how many views a shared Doc has had but Google removed it.

    • Daphne Sidor

      That’s awesome, Jacob—thanks for dropping in to expand on your thought process behind using Google Docs. Great thinking.