How I Increased My Email Conversions By 344%

July 26, 2015

Tactic that increased email conversions - image of a box upgrad

If you’re trying to build an audience, you need a laser-like focus on one thing:

Increasing email conversions from your blog content.

Someone’s inbox is sacred. You can talk to them away from the noise of the internet, in a place they are comfortable.

A place where they trust you.

Email marketing is the single most effective way to get repeat traffic, build a loyal fanbase, and get your readers to take action.

It blows social media out of the water in engagement and is a hell of a lot cheaper than paying for attention on Google and Facebook.

So the question is – What’s the most effective way to boost your email conversions?

The answer is content upgrades.

Today I’m going to walk through a step-by-step case study of implementing 4 content upgrades over the past 2 months on

I’ll show you:

  • What a content upgrade is,
  • How to make an irresistible content upgrade,
  • How well they worked on this blog (conversion rates before and after),
  • How we chose which articles to prioritize,
  • Why you’re in a better position than Jeff to take advantage of this technique.

Ready? Let’s get started.

What is a content upgrade?

A content upgrade, coined by Brian Dean of Backlinko, is a post-specific bonus given away in exchange for an email address in the post itself.

Before you say, “Oh, I already give away a free ebook/report/video/course/thing-a-ma-bob,” note the words I italicized: this is not a sitewide, generic opt-in bribe.

For example on the sidebar of this blog, Jeff is offering his ’8 key steps to blogging mastery book’. That’s not a content upgrade, because it’s offered site-wide and is not post-specific.

Instead, here’s one of the posts we added a content upgrade to, the 2015 digital marketing strategy:

15_Step_Guideline_To_Create_Your_2015_Digital_Marketing_Strategy - email conversions from content upgrades example

Right at the end of the intro, you see this note, formatted slightly differently to stand out from the main text:

Email conversions from content upgrade example from Jeff Bullas

When you click on the link, a LeadBox from LeadPages pops up:

LeadBoxes from Jeff Bullas example - email conversions

When a reader opts-in, they’re sent the content upgrade for this post and added to the list.

That’s it!

But the magic is in what the bonus is.

How to make an irresistible content upgrade

Everything magical about content upgrades is in the specificity.

Let’s look at exactly what we offered in this 2015 strategy post.

First, we turned the post into a checklist of the 15 steps, so it’s easy to actually use the strategies in the post and start ticking off action items one by one.

Checklists are a great way to make posts actionable, so they’re useful for your readers. And for you, the blogger, they don’t require coming up with new content.

Just reduce your posts down into specific action steps.

Here’s the first page of the checklist:

Checklist screenshot for email conversions and content upgrades example

Next, we noticed a few of the tips in the post were about Facebook marketing.

Facebook marketing for email conversions example

So a bonus on Facebook marketing makes sense. But instead of coming up with brand new content, we knew Jeff had a ton of content on Facebook already, so we found a way to leverage it.

We took his post 10 Powerful Tips to Increase Fan Engagement on Facebook, and turned that into a checklist, and added it to the bonus for this post:

Checklist screenshot for email conversions and content upgrades example 2

Honestly, that would probably have been enough.

But we added one more bonus in because we already had it made: a checklist of how to rank higher in Google (It’s still relevant because one of the tips in the post was about SEO).

SEO tips - email conversions from content upgrades example

So if you’re the reader, you’re reading a post on 15 tips for a digital marketing strategy in 2015, that includes 3 tips on Facebook marketing and one tip on SEO. You see an offer for a free checklist of action steps for all 15 strategies, and how to increase engagement on Facebook, and rank higher in Google.

How compelling is that?

Certainly a lot more compelling than a generic ask to “subscribe to my newsletter” and still more compelling than an ebook that is offered sitewide.

Like I said, it’s all in how specific the bonus is to the post.

That’s what makes the email conversions so high.

How high? Let’s take a look…

Actual conversion rates from Jeff’s Blog

In total, we implemented 4 content upgrades in the past 2 months.

Here’s how well they converted compared to the other top “regular” 20 posts that didn’t have a content upgrade:

Conversion rate example for email conversions from content upgrades

Note: For the conversion optimization nerds out there, although this wasn’t a formal A/B test (we are comparing conversions across different posts), the results had 99.99% significance (p value Site Content > All Pages in Google Analytics.

Pages - Google_Analytics - email conversions from content upgrades example

It should already organize your top pages by page views. Just be careful to select 3 or 6 months instead of 30 days so it doesn’t give too much weight to recent posts with a temporary traffic spike. is obviously popular, so when we did this for Jeff there were a bunch of options of posts with a ton of traffic.

Pages_-_Google_Analytics email conversions from content upgrades example 2

Choosing which to upgrade requires Step 2.

Step 2: Prioritize in-depth posts

Content upgrades work best on really in depth posts. The more depth the better. And, in my experience, how-to posts — the ones that teach people a process or technique — are the best.

That’s because there’s really no reason to opt-in to get more information if the information you already got was basic, or worse, trite.

You know those “top 10 diet tips of the spring” articles on the front page of Yahoo? Would you really opt-in to get 10 more tips like “Eat avocados! They’re delicious and healthy!”

I wouldn’t.

On the other hand, if you’re reading an in depth guide on the Paleo diet with step by step diet and workout plans, and the author is offering recipes and printable take-to-the-gym cheatsheets, would you opt-in? Probably!

We saw this trend play out in our 4 content upgrades on Jeff’s blog.

Here are their email conversion rates:

Post examples for Jeff Bullas email conversions from content upgrades example

The two highest converting posts were the ones with the most how-to advice: building your marketing strategy for 2015 and ranking higher in Google.

They helped readers achieve a goal.

The two lowest converting posts were lists of facts (or photos) for reference, and, unsurprisingly, they didn’t do as well.

So, if you already have a bunch of posts: focus on building upgrades for your most in depth posts first.

New blogs: Why you’re at an advantage for email conversions

What about new blogs? What if you’re just starting and don’t have a lot of posts with decent traffic.

Well, you’re actually at an advantage in terms of creating extremely high converting posts:

Focus your time writing in depth how-to style posts in your niche.

Not only will that help get shares and links for traffic (because the content will be naturally better), but it’ll help you create obscenely high converting content upgrades.

Make content upgrades in 5 minutes (Checklists)

“This all sounds great, but I don’t have the time to make more content after I’ve written my blog post.”

I hear this all the time.

In fact, you might be thinking that right now. Don’t stress. You don’t need to make super elaborate content to get the benefit of content upgrades.

You just need to think of small items of value that help your readers take the first step on the advice you’re giving.

That can be a short screencast, links with more info, 10 example ideas, or, one of my favorites: A checklist of the advice in the post.

Checklists are a huge win-win for content upgrades.

Win for the reader: The reader wants to take action, but isn’t sure where to start. A checklist helps them with super clear, actionable steps.

Win for you: You don’t have to write a ton more content, simply summarize your content into a step by step list.

To help you quickly make checklists that look good, I’ve assembled a bonus area where I’m giving away 3 checklist templates, in PowerPoint, so you can customize them as much as you like.

Click on the images to get to the bonus area:

Content Upgrades Jeff Bullas - email conversions

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