Everybody's talking about content upgrades. They're all the rage. They're hot.
They're the cat's pajamas! They're the bees' knees! They're the duck's quack!
So what the heck is a content upgrade? And how do you create them if you're not made of time and money?
The Old Way: One Freebie To Rule Them All
In the old days, to incentivize people to get on your mailing list, you had one main freebie. At the end of every post, or linked to within a post, or in a sidebar ad, or in a popup, there would be one advertised freebie. Ideally, it would be so tantalizing, people would hand over their email addresses like frat boys at a strip club.
(The analogy has flaws, I'll admit, but I couldn't figure out another way to incorporate frat boys and strip clubs.)
So you had your 50 Ways To Be Totally Awesome (or whatever) and you linked to it liberally and, in theory, people would see it and want it and sign up to get it.
The New Way: Like Tom Cruise In Minority Report
Unfortunately, there's a downside to One Freebie To Rule Them All. What if a visitor doesn't want it?
You get all kinds of traffic to all kinds of pages on all different topics. Winnie from Wichita just isn't interested in 50 Ways to Be Totally Awesome. But she is interested in whatever she's reading right now. What to do?
Enter: The Content Upgrade
The content upgrade is a small piece of (usually downloadable) content that enhances the specific content they're consuming. It's customized to what they're reading right now. Like the dystopian future presented in The Minority Report, the content upgrade knows what you like, and it offers you more.
Example: You run an information site about getting more dates. Your main freebie is 27 Ways To Not Be Such An Doofus On Dates With Pretty Women. It's converting pretty well. You're happy enough with your signups.
You write a blog post about 10 things to do before a big date. Normally, at the bottom of your post, you'd have an ad for your standard 27 Ways freebie. But you want to kick it up a notch, so you make an extra little piece of content, made specifically to go with this post. Things like:
Something bigger! “Want 20 more things to do before a big date?”
A takeaway! “Want to download a printable flowchart of this cheat sheet?”
A supplement! “Want 10 things to do after your big date?”
The idea is that if they liked the post, they'll like the content upgrade.
So should you use content upgrades?
In general, yes. Content upgrades are cool. But if you have a lot of content on your site, or you just like drinking margaritas instead of working, you're probably saying, “Wow, Naomi, that sure seems like a lot of work.”
Yeah. It sure does.
Therefore, I give you…
4 SIMPLER ways to handle content upgrades
If you don't want to make an upgraded version of EVERY SINGLE DAMN BLOG POST EVER, here are some simpler alternatives.
1. Have more than one freebie.
Instead of having One Freebie To Rule Them All, have three or four smaller freebies on specific sub-topics. Our Don Juan up there could have one about dates, one about confidence, one about communicating with women, and one about sex.
Then, instead of promoting his big 27 Ways ebook everywhere, he customizes the freebie he offers based on the subject of each blog post. Sex posts get the sex freebie, psychology posts get the confidence freebie, and so on.
Still a lot of work, but you do it once and you're done. This works best for sites that have definable, discrete content themes.
2. Upgrade high traffic content only.
If you have a few pieces of content that get the bulk of your traffic, consider creating upgrades for only those pieces. The posts that get the most traffic over time get customized fancy pantsery. The rest get the same freebie ad they always got.
(FYI: If you're doing this, make sure you're analyzing most popular over time, not just what's popular this month.)
3. Create a mini-library.
This is similar to number 1. Make a number of small freebies, but instead of selecting customized ads each piece, you just dump it all in a library. I sign up, I get everything.
In this case, you write ONE ad to reference the contents of the whole library. “Sign up for our mailing list and get access to the entire Be A Hot Dude resource library, including reference sheets on how to get ready for dates, how to text a woman, the 10 places to never go on a first date, and more.”
This way you don't have to get all custom and stuff. Make one ad and you're done. (Try to include a picture to indicate multiple items in the library. It makes a difference.)
4. Decrease your quality threshold.
If you think content upgrades are a good idea for your site, and you feel like you should be using them for most of your posts, you can always just drop the quality bar.
There are people out there using seriously intense content for their upgrades. The downside of seriously intense content is that… it's seriously intense. But it doesn't have to be that way.
You could just create a checklist, flowchart, summary of key points, or whatever. Negotiate a volume discount with a young and earnest PDF designer, and create the same kind of upgrade for all of your major content pieces. Aaaaah. Much faster.
Content upgrades are cool, but they shouldn't wreck your life.
Use one of the methods above and content upgrades become a lot easier.
(Then you get to go back to your margaritas with less of that pesky work getting in the way.)