Growing your email list can be hard. And sometimes, it seems like everyone else has cracked the code except you.
If that’s how you’re feeling, then it’s time to try a content upgrade.
A content upgrade is additional content related to the free content you’re sharing. It’s designed to supplement the information in the free content and make it even more valuable to the reader.
The best part? Content upgrades are an incredibly powerful way to grow your email list.
In fact, one study by Brian Dean found that content upgrades can increase conversions by 785%.
Content upgrades work well because they’re highly relevant to the free content people are already reading. And when something is relevant and valuable, people are more likely to want it.
So if you’re looking for a way to grow your email list quickly, then content upgrades are definitely worth trying.
And if you’re looking for some inspiration, then you’ve come to the right place. Below are 29 content upgrade ideas that you can use to grow your email list quickly.
This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission if you make a purchase using this link. For more information, see my full disclaimer here.
What Is a Content Upgrade and Why Should You Use One
Let’s start by defining the term “content upgrade.”
A content upgrade is a lead magnet in the form of bonus content that is relevant to your core content (i.e., blog post, podcast episode, YouTube video, etc.). For example, if you have a blog post about tips for improving your memory, a content upgrade could be a PDF with memory exercises.
Content upgrades are effective because they provide additional value to the reader in exchange for a small ask – their email address.
Think about it from the reader’s perspective. If you’re reading an article and there’s a content upgrade that looks relevant and valuable, why wouldn’t you want it?
Content upgrades are an excellent way to grow your email list because they provide value to the reader while also being highly targeted. That means that people who sign up for your content upgrade are more likely to be interested in what you have to say.
And when people are interested in what you have to say, they’re more likely to buy from you.
29 Content Upgrade Ideas
Ebooks are a widespread form of content upgrade. In fact, one study found that 27.7% of marketers use ebooks as lead magnets.
Ebooks are an awesome way to provide value to your readers because they can be packed with information on a particular topic. For instance, if you have a blog post about social media marketing, your ebook could be a comprehensive guide to social media marketing.
And since ebooks are in PDF format, they’re easy for people to download and read on their own time.
Ebooks can be long or short. But I would recommend you keep it on the short side. If it’s too long, you run the risk of overwhelming your reader. After all, the goal is to get them to sign up for your email list and then wow them with your freebie, so they become a paying customer. A long ebook may sit on their hard drive collecting dust.
Here’s an example of a short ebook I created about time management. It’s only 20 pages long, with step-by-step content, so it’s easy to digest.
2. Resource Lists
Resource lists are content upgrades that provide people with a list of tools, websites, or other resources that they can use to achieve a specific goal.
For example, a resource list of productivity tools could be a great content upgrade if you have a blog post about productivity hacks.
Not only are resource lists valuable, but they’re also relatively easy to create. You can just compile a list of recommended resources and turn it into a PDF.
Templates are content upgrades that provide people with a pre-made template that they can use to achieve a specific goal. As a subscriber, I love to sign up for templates!
An example of this could be a blog post about how to be successful on Pinterest. Graphics, of course, are a critical component of an effective Pinterest strategy. So your content upgrade could be a set of Canva templates that people can use to create their own Pinterest graphics.
This is valuable because it takes out all the guesswork for the reader. They simply need to download the template and then fill it in with their own information.
If you’re not sure how to create a template, you can always hire a designer on Fiverr or Upwork to help you out.
Checklists are another excellent content upgrade idea. They provide value because they help people get specific results.
To give you an idea, if you have a blog post about how to start a business, a checklist of the steps people need to take could be a fantastic content upgrade.
Checklists are also super easy to create. You can simply take the actionable steps from your blog post and turn them into a checklist.
I created this checklist to go in a post about how to boost your productivity with a project plan.
5. Audio Files
Audio files can be any type of content converted to audio format. For example, that might mean an audio version of your blog post. Or the audio version of a webinar or video.
This is valuable because some people prefer to listen to content rather than read or watch. And it’s also convenient for people who are always on the go and don’t have time to sit down and read a blog post or watch a video.
You can create an audio file using a simple tool like Audacity or hire someone on Fiverr to do it for you.
6. Video Courses
Video courses are content upgrades that provide people with a series of videos on a particular topic.
For example, you could create a short video course on how to cook healthy meals on a budget. This would be valuable to people because it would provide them with a step-by-step guide they can follow.
A successful video course will have high-quality videos that are easy to follow. You don’t want your videos to be too long or too short. And you want to make sure that each video builds on the last.
If you’re already creating paid video courses, you can use the same platform to host your free content upgrade. I use (and recommend) ThriveCart Learn for hosting courses. It’s easy to use and (at the time I’m writing this) has a one-time fee for lifetime access.
7. Quick-Start Guides
Quick-start guides are content upgrades that provide people with a step-by-step guide to achieving a specific goal.
For instance, if you have a blog post about budgeting, your quick-start guide could take the reader through all the steps they need to take to create a budget that works for their household.
Quick-start guides are valuable because they provide a ton of value in a condensed format. And people love quick and easy solutions. The key to a successful quick-start guide is simplifying the process so people can get started right away.
This is a quick-start guide I created for a blog post about repurposing content.
Giveaways are a less common but terrific way to grow your email list quickly. And they don’t have to be big or expensive.
For example, you could do a giveaway for a free month of your membership or a free ebook. You could even collaborate with a few other businesses to do a bigger giveaway.
To ensure that your giveaway is successful, make sure that the prize is something that people actually want. And you also want to make sure that you promote the giveaway properly.
Gleam and KingSumo are both popular tools for running giveaways.
9. Free Tools
This one is a little outside the box. But if you have (or can create) a free tool that will help your audience do something, it can be a great content upgrade.
One example I’ve seen is this time calculator to help online business owners figure out what their hourly rate should be.
If you don’t have the time or skillset to create a tool, you could hire someone on Fiverr to do it for you.
10. Create a Quiz
Quizzes are super popular, and people love to take them! So why not create a quiz as a content upgrade?
For example, you could create a quiz to help people figure out their productivity style. Or you could create a quiz to help people find their perfect skincare routine.
I use a tool called Interact to create my quizzes. Interact makes it easy to create and embed the quiz on your website. It will even calculate the results.
Here’s an example of a quiz I created with Interact to help business owners find out if they need a digital detox.
11. Access to Exclusive Content
If you have content that’s only available to paying customers, you could use it as a content upgrade.
Say that you have a membership site with exclusive content; you could offer a free piece of that content to incentivize people to sign up for your email list.
Exclusive content could also be something like an interview with an expert or a behind-the-scenes look at your business.
12. Case Studies
Case studies are an in-depth look at how you or your business helped solve a problem for a customer.
They provide valuable insights and can be used to show off your expertise. People love them because they want to know the secret to your success.
For a case study to be compelling, it should usually explain why the customer or client was struggling in the first place. Then it should show how your product or service helped them achieve a transformation.
13. Email Courses
Another easy content upgrade idea is to offer a free email course. Email courses are a series of emails that people can sign up for. Each email contains valuable content and builds on the last.
Most email courses are 5-10 emails sent out daily or every other day. They’re easy to deliver because you can use your email service provider. Set the course up as an email series that’s automatically delivered when someone signs up. (ConvertKit makes this process super-easy.)
This is one example of one of my email courses. It’s 5-days of tips on how to boost your business.
Webinars are a popular content upgrade because they show off your expertise and allow you to connect with your audience on a deeper level.
During a webinar, you can share valuable information, answer questions, and build relationships with your audience. You can also use them to promote your products or services.
To deliver a webinar, you’ll need a platform like Zoom or GoToWebinar.
A mini-toolkit is a great way to provide your audience with the tools they need to solve a problem.
Let’s say you have a blog post about healthy eating. You could create a toolkit that includes a menu planner, a printable grocery list, and other resources to help people implement what they’ve learned.
Toolkits are helpful and easy to deliver. You can simply put all the resources into one PDF or create a shareable Google doc.
Worksheets effectively provide your audience with something they can use to take action on what they’ve learned.
For instance, if you have a blog post about time management, you could create a worksheet that helps people map out their day. Or, if you have a post about goal setting, you could create a worksheet that helps people identify their goals.
Worksheets are easy to create. Simply brainstorm a few questions that will help your subscriber take action. Then type up the questions and add spaces for people to write their answers. Canva is a great tool for creating worksheets.
This is an illustration of a set of worksheets from my post on how to create a 90-day plan.
17. Stock Images
If you’re a photographer or graphic designer, you can offer a collection of free stock images as a content upgrade. This is a great way to show off your work and get your name out there.
People love free stock images because they can be used for so many things, like social media posts, blog graphics, and even email headers.
To deliver this content upgrade, you can create a ZIP file of the images or put them all in a Google Drive folder.
18. Google Analytics Dashboard
If you’re a data nerd like me, you probably love looking at your Google Analytics dashboard. But I know not everyone feels the same way.
A Google Analytics dashboard is a cool (and unusual) content upgrade for those who find looking at data overwhelming. It’s an easy way to give people the information they need without them having to wade through all the data themselves.
19. Cheat Sheet
A cheat sheet is another type of content upgrade that can be really effective. Think of it as a quick reference guide to the most important points in your blog post. Or a quick-reference list that extends the content of the post.
Let’s say you’re a fitness blogger with a post about yoga for hip flexibility. You could create a cheat sheet with photos and short descriptions of the various poses.
This content upgrade idea is perfect for posts that are heavy on information or data.
You can even combine cheat sheets with other formats for a meatier lead magnet. Here’s an example of cheat sheet / worksheet combo that I created about how to promote your blog posts.
20. A PDF Version of Your Blog Post
This is one of the easiest content upgrades to create and is surprisingly effective.
People love getting a PDF version of blog posts because it’s easy to read and refer back to later. And you can create one easily by exporting your blog post from Word or Google Docs as a PDF.
Transcripts are a great content upgrade if you have a podcast or YouTube channel. They provide valuable content for those who prefer to read instead of listen or watch.
To create transcripts, you can either type them out yourself or use a service like Rev.com or Otter.ai.
Ready to get started? Here are some free Canva templates that you can use to create your own content ugprades.
A spreadsheet is a valuable content upgrade if you want to help people organize data. This could be a list of resources, a budget tracker, or anything else that would be helpful to your audience.
For example, if you’re a wedding planner, you could create a spreadsheet with a list of vendors in various categories. Or if you’re a personal finance blogger, you could create a budget tracker spreadsheet.
Here’s an example of one of my spreadsheets that I share with subscribers. It’s a profit & loss spreadsheet that goes with a post about organizing business finances.
23. Private Facebook Group
A private Facebook group is an outstanding way to build a community around your brand. It’s also a fantastic content upgrade because it’s exclusive, and people have to opt in to join.
This content upgrade idea is perfect for coaches, consultants, and course creators who want to give their audience a place to ask questions, get support, and connect with others.
Another way to quickly create a content upgrade is to interview an expert in your field.
Find someone well-known, like an author, speaker, blogger, or podcast host. Then ask them questions for a 15 to 30-minute interview.
Record the interview electronically and give it to your new subscriber as an audio or video file.
25. Behind-the-Scenes Content
People love getting a behind-the-scenes look at how things are made or the processes you use. This can be an especially good way to build excitement for a launch.
Say that you’re launching a new product; you could give your email subscribers a behind-the-scenes look at the product development process. Or, if you’re launching a new course, you could give them a sneak peek of the content.
You could create an exclusive video or audio file or a sample written lesson to deliver as a content upgrade.
26. Free Challenge
A free challenge is a great way to provide value and get people to take action.
A challenge is a series of tasks that people need to complete over a certain period, like 7 days.
Challenges can be conducted via email or in a popup Facebook group. They usually include a mix of content (videos, blog posts, worksheets, etc.) and actionable tasks.
This content upgrade idea is perfect for coaches, consultants, and course creators who want to help their audience achieve a specific goal.
A planner is a great content upgrade if you want to get people to take action. This could be a daily, weekly, or monthly planner.
You can create planners for any topic. For example, if you’re a travel blogger, you could create a vacation planner.
Or, if you’re a gardening blogger, you could create a daily or weekly planner that helps people care for their houseplants.
Discounts are a great way to entice people to subscribe to your email list, plus they’re super-easy to offer.
Create a coupon code that your new subscriber can use to get a discount on your products or services.
For example, if you sell courses, you could offer a discount on your course price. Or if you sell coaching services, you could offer a discount on your first month of coaching.
29. Swipe Files
Swipe files are one of my favorites. They’re simply a collection of resources your subscriber will find helpful or inspirational.
For example, if your target audience is freelance writers, you could put together a swipe file of emails that you’ve used to pitch your services to prospective clients.
Side note: if you’re not keeping swipe files for your own use, you should. I talk about how swipe files are a great email marketing resource here.
There are so many different types of content upgrades you can create, and the ones I’ve listed here are just a few examples.
If you’re not sure where to start, try thinking about the topic of your blog post and brainstorming a few questions that will help your subscriber take action. Or consider creating a cheat sheet, planner, or swipe file. The possibilities are endless!
Don’t forget to grab these free Canva templates that you can use to create your own content ugprades!