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Content Upgrade Case Study: How We Got 28.83% More Email Subscribers (in 30 Days)

  • List Building

Content upgrades. You know they work. You’ve read countless posts about content upgrade ideas and how to create them…

But do they work for YOU?

We’ve experimented a lot with our content upgrade strategy in recent years. And we’ve learned A LOT. In fact, after one recent tweak, we got 28.83% more email subscribers (in 30 days).

Crazy.

In today’s case study, I’ll share our entire content upgrade strategy, from iteration #1 to what we’re doing now. What worked. The mistakes we made. What we’ve learned. The lot.

So, if you’re thinking about using content upgrades but don’t know where to begin, this post is for you.

Let’s get started.

Free Downloadable Bonus

Get Access to Our Private Vault of Marketing Resources

Look, I get it. Offering a content upgrade for a post about content upgrades is meta. But I don’t want to leave you empty-handed before leaving this post…

So, to ensure I’m keeping my word with everything I write about below, I’m sharing all our best marketing resources … as a content upgrade.

Here’s a preview of what’s inside:

  • The 41 Best E-Commerce Emails We’ve Ever Seen (2018 Update)
  • 100+ Growth Marketing Ideas You Need to Steal (Ranked for Your Convenience)
  • Casper’s $750+ Million Marketing Toolkit (Our Favorite)
  • Our Content Relaunch Framework (The Same Framework We Used to Increase Our Organic Traffic by 290.67% in 3 Weeks)
  • Our Marketing Department-in-a-Drive (Our Most Important Checklists and Processes)

 

Plus 17+ other resources (and counting).

How We Got 28.83% More Subscribers (in 30 Days)

Before explaining our new content upgrade strategy, I want to share the results we achieved.

Since implementing the fourth iteration of our content upgrades strategy, we got 28.83% more emails subscribers 30 days after making the change.

And best of all…

We increased our blog’s conversion rate by 11.46%.

One of the reasons we made the change was because we wanted to track how users engaged with our content upgrades. (More on that later.)

For instance, with the new iteration, we can track several key metrics in Google Analytics, including average session duration and even free trial signups. Here’s a screenshot of the above two weeks after adding an optin to our content upgrade page.

So, now that we’ve covered our results, let’s take a look at why we made the change, to begin with.

Has This Ever Happened to You?

As with everything marketing related, optimization is key.

Unfortunately, many marketers either forget to optimize existing efforts or downplay them to make time for new strategies.

This is NOT sustainable.

After all, optimizing existing efforts is necessary if you want to scale your business. But brainstorming and implementing new strategies is time-consuming and requires a lot of resources.

This becomes even more evident when your business grows. Existing strategies become outdated, or simply fall short as your business grows.

And that’s why we needed to change our content upgrade strategy … again.

It’s important to say that what we did worked at the time. But as our blog grew, we realized that our existing strategy wasn’t scalable.

We knew we needed to change something, but we didn’t know what to do.

Our content upgrade strategy went through several iterations, each with its own challenges.

Let’s look at each briefly.

Iteration #1

When we first started using content upgrades on our blog, we were—to put it gently—inexperienced.

We saw all the big players like Brian Dean and Neil Patel using them. So, we wanted to jump on the bandwagon and use them, too.

(If everyone is doing it, it must be working, right?)

We set out on our mission and created individual content upgrades for each new post we wrote (and for our existing posts, too).

As you can imagine, this was extremely time-consuming and over time, we rushed creating content upgrades to meet publishing deadlines…

Our conversion rates were fairly good, but we didn’t feel like our content upgrades reflected our best work—which is even worse than experiencing low conversion rates.

Plus, we knew that it wasn’t realistic to create a content upgrade for each post we wrote; we were wasting too much time on work that didn’t reflect our best work.

No one wants that. So, we changed our content upgrade strategy.

This is where our evergreen lead magnets came into play.

Iteration #2

If you’ve read our post on evergreen lead magnets, you know what an evergreen lead magnet is, but if you’ve haven’t, here’s Sam’s definition:

An evergreen lead magnet is a content upgrade that (1) offers immediate value to the user, (2) invites repeated usage, and (3) is regularly updated to ensure it’s the most up-to-date resource it can be.

Evergreen content upgrades solved the problem we had with not being able to always create new content upgrades for each post.

Best of all, if we DID need to create a new content upgrade (such as for our post on abandoned cart emails), we created one that we knew could be used in future content as well.

Clever, right?

Each blog post linked to a content upgrade that triggered a SleekBox where readers could opt in for the content upgrade. We then customized that SleekBox in terms of copy and design to match the specific post.

Here’s an example of what that looked like:

The problem, though, was as our blog grew, so did the number of SleekBoxes in our dashboard.

This made it harder to manage as we wasted time creating new SleekBoxes, writing new copy and more.

More, we limited the content we created based on whether we could create an evergreen lead magnet for it.

For instance, if we wanted to write about, say, order confirmation emails, we’d scrap the idea if we didn’t have enough email examples for a swipe file. (As you can imagine, a lot of good keyword opportunities were lost because of this.)

Needless to say, this wasn’t where we wanted to be with our content. We want our content to be based on what our readers want, and not what’s convenient for us to write about.

This brings me to the third iteration of our content upgrade strategy.

Iteration #3

To narrow down our number of SleekBoxes, we decided to have content upgrades for each category we wrote on, including:

  1. Conversion rate optimization
  2. Email marketing
  3. List building
  4. Growth marketing

Most blog posts fall under one of the above categories, and thus has a relevant content upgrade.

We now had only four SleekBoxes (one for each category) that we could use for ANY blog post.

That meant that every time Sam, Emil, or I wrote an article on, say, email marketing, we could just link to our evergreen lead magnet on email marketing. That way, the lead magnet was highly relevant to the post, and we didn’t have to spend time creating new content upgrades every week.

But, then, there was the problem with being able to write about topics that fell outside the above four categories.

To remedy that problem, we chose not limit ourselves to the four categories, and accept that some content needs content-specific content upgrades (like our posts on Casper’s marketing, and abandoned cart emails).

So, now, we have a few resources that work well for content on broader topics. Plus, we have unique resources for the posts that fall outside of those categories.

Everyone’s happy now, right?

Wrong.

The bigger problem was we realized that we couldn’t track how readers engaged with our content upgrades. This was due to the fact that we sent readers directly to the content upgrade in Google Drive when they opted in.

Here’s an example of what that looked like:

We, therefore, had no idea whether users returned to the resource, whether they returned to it, and more.

We had a call-to-action to start a free trial at the end of the content upgrade, and we could track which content upgrades drove free trials. But we couldn’t track where that user came from (medium/source) or which post they read.

This brings me to the fourth iteration, which is also our current strategy—and it works (for now!)

Our New Content Upgrade Strategy

For our new strategy, we needed to find a way to track how users engaged with our content upgrades.

To do that, we added ALL our content upgrades to a page on our site and now use that as kind of an “Ultimate Evergreen Lead Magnet.”

Whenever a visitor opts in to receive a content upgrade, they get a welcome email with a link to this secret page on our site (you can opt in to get access here).

Then they can click any of the content upgrades on the page to get access to each one.

This new resource library offers A LOT of value and is hard for visitors to ignore—making it a must-have resource.

But the new strategy does more than offer value. In fact, there are three reasons we decided to go with this strategy.

Reason #1

With all our blog posts linking to this one page on the site, we only need one SleekBox.

So, now, we no longer have hundreds of SleekBoxes to manage; we have one that triggers in all blog posts.

Here’s what that looks like (hint: you’ll see it in action if you click the content upgrade for this post):

This makes it a lot easier for us to run experiments and improve the conversion rate for this particular SleekBox.

But having one SleekBox for all blog posts doesn’t mean we’re not creating content-specific content upgrades anymore. But it does mean when you opt in for one specific content upgrade, you get 22+ content upgrades as an added bonus. (Who doesn’t want that?)

Part of the reason our blog gets so much traffic and converts well is that we put a lot of effort into the content upgrades we offer in each post. So, we’ll never stop creating unique content upgrades. Ever.

Reason #2

The second reason we chose this strategy is so we can track how users engage with our content upgrades.

By linking to our resource library through an email, we can now attribute all users, measure engagement, score leads, and more.

We send all our emails through HubSpot, enabling us to track different metrics.

Here’s an excerpt from the email we send:

With HubSpot, we can now track the number of opens each content upgrade gets—and how many times they return to the page.

More, with Google Analytics, we can now track engagement on the resource page itself.

This helps us prioritize which content upgrades to promote in our emails, our paid advertising, and more.

If you don’t have the budget to implement a system like Hubspot, there are alternatives. For instance, you could create a resource center where users log in to access the content.

Here’s a good example from Frank Kern:

When you create an account, you can log in to a page to access the resources you opted in for.

Reason #3

All good things come in three, right?

At least our new strategy does.

Aside from tracking engagement and reducing our workload creating SleekBoxes, we now use our new content upgrades for more than lead generation.

For instance, we use them in our paid advertising to drive traffic to our site and retarget prospects.

Here’s an example:

But there’s more.

We have a lot of knowledge and experience that we don’t just want to share with our readers, but also with our customers.

We want our customers to have access to all the resources they need to grow their business (one of them being our product, of course ;-).

Our content upgrades include several templates, swipe files, processes and more—giving our readers a TON of value.

Sharing this information across multiple channels and audiences saves us a lot of time and resources.

So, the takeaway, here, is to create content you can repurpose on other platforms.

Free Downloadable Bonus

Get Access to Our Private Vault of Marketing Resources

Look, I get it. Offering a content upgrade for a post about content upgrades is meta. But I don’t want to leave you empty-handed before leaving this post…

So, to ensure I’m keeping my word with everything I write about below, I’m sharing all our best marketing resources … as a content upgrade.

Here’s a preview of what’s inside:

  • The 41 Best E-Commerce Emails We’ve Ever Seen (2018 Update)
  • 100+ Growth Marketing Ideas You Need to Steal (Ranked for Your Convenience)
  • Casper’s $750+ Million Marketing Toolkit (Our Favorite)
  • Our Content Relaunch Framework (The Same Framework We Used to Increase Our Organic Traffic by 290.67% in 3 Weeks)
  • Our Marketing Department-in-a-Drive (Our Most Important Checklists and Processes)

 

Plus 17+ other resources (and counting).

Conclusion

Content upgrades aren’t for everyone. They take time to get right, and you need to update them regularly so they stay relevant.

They also have to make sense for your business. You don’t always need a blog to benefit from content upgrades. Think about where on your site and on what page it makes sense to use them.

Lastly, you need to make sure that your content upgrades offer enough value to your audience so they’ll want to give you their email address in exchange for it.

Have you used content upgrades on your site? What are your experiences? Leave a comment below.

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