14 Content Upgrades for Building a Blog’s Email List


If you want to get someone to sign up for your email list, then offering them something for free is a great enticement.

The only problem is that “free” isn’t always free. Asking someone for any piece of personal information, including an email address, eliminates “free” from the equation.

But calling this a “trade of information” or a “non-monetary transaction of data” just doesn’t have the same ring to it as a “free download” does it?

The best email incentives and content upgrades for an email address or website provide visitors with instant access to premium content. Call it whatever you wish, it is an effective method of creating results when you’re using a list-building strategy.

So what are the best email incentives and content upgrades to use?

#1. The Cheat Sheet

We all want to be able to do our jobs better, faster, and in the easiest way possible. If you’ve developed an easy method of completing a task that has provided you with a number of benefits, then there’s a good chance your site visitors will find it to be valuable as well.

There are three key benefits to using a cheat sheet as your incentive or upgrade.

  • It is easy to create. A cheat sheet is really just a checklist with instructions. Most are only going to be a page or two in length. That will save you a lot of time and effort when comparted to other incentive options, such as an ebook.
  • It creates fast results. With a cheat sheet, your visitors can immediately test the value of what you’ve offered. This instant gratification can speed up their progress through your sales funnel.
  • It verifies success. People can see with certainty that they’ve had success in using your incentive or upgrade. When success is experienced, those visitors want to share it with their personal networks, expanding the outreach of your effort through that sharing.

The best part about this option is that it can be included on virtually every post on your site or blog. This allows you to constantly show visitors that you’re concerned about the value they’re receiving and encourages them to create the instant access that is needed to obtain the item.

#2. Video or Audio Interviews

Modern vehicles have a USB slot in them so that you can play your favorite music OR podcasts. Many people also spend 30-60 minutes in their vehicle every day on their commute to work. By offering them an incentive or upgrade that includes an audio interview, you’ll give them an accessible way to consume your content during time they may consider to be wasted right now.

Maybe audio interviews or podcasts aren’t your thing, but you’re a wiz with a camera. Video interviews can provide the same results (though you won’t want to watch a video while driving to work!).

Some people learn better through visual methods. Others learn better through audio methods. By offering different forms of content, you’ll be able to offer an information-packed high-quality download that can be an ongoing valuable incentive for your visitors.

There is a catch to this option though. Many sites offer this incentive, but only use it to give people a prolonged sales pitch. It’s like listening to an old-school infomercial about the Snackmaster. People want information and research with these incentives and upgrades. Not more reasons why you think they should purchase your stuff.

An added benefit: You don’t have to limit yourself to just one video or audio product. You can offer an interview series, provide how-to videos in addition to your interview, or even go through a screencast if you prefer a certain level of anonymity. As long as your sound and video quality is consistent and of a high quality, many will find this upgrade option to be very valuable.

#3. Your List of Resources

Authenticity is the name of the game today when you’re working online. If you want people to take you seriously, then you need to take your research seriously.

Unfortunately, if you do things in the right way, the sheer number of links and references that you may have for your content may be long enough to form their own post.

Which means you have a unique incentive or upgrade that can be offered. If your content requires a heavy focus on the resources you use or the tools that are available, then consider creating a master list that is separate from the reference hyperlinks you may be using in-text.

The benefit of this upgrade is that it allows visitors to verify your research or methods on their own time. They don’t have to look up each tool you might use on their own. By creating a list that takes people to each third-party site that you reference or use, you can encourage their own creativity.

#4. A Quick Start Guide

Simplify it.

There are a number of good ideas that are offered in every industry today. The only problem is that the ideas are somewhat complicated. If you’re not familiar with the processes involved, you might not know what to do.

Technical content should always be posted online. The keyword value of technical content cannot be overstated. On those posts, however, consider offering an upgrade or incentive that is a Quick Start Guide for the average person.

Such a guide will allow every visitor to try out your ideas or concepts to experience its value on a first-hand basis.

These guides can also teach specific skills that visitors could implement right away, such as setting up an eBay or Etsy store.

Many times the first barrier is the most difficult to cross. If you can help someone cross that barrier, then you’ll form a relationship that could result in a very loyal customer over time.

And if a Quick Start Guide isn’t good enough, offering a full step-by-step guide will provide the same results.

#5. Case Studies

If you’ve got a website (and the assumption is that you do since you’re looking for email incentives and content upgrades), then you’ve tested that site in some way already. Maybe you’ve tested advertising options or content formatting methods. Your documentation from these tests are a case study that could be a fantastic incentive to join your email marketing list or website membership.

The best part about using a case study is that they are naturally inspiring. Case studies always provide a positive outcome. You’ll also likely experience these benefits if you use this option as an upgrade or incentive.

  • It offers visitors a unique learning opportunity that came from your direct experience.
  • It shows how you tackled a specific problem, outlining the steps that were needed, allowing the reader to duplicate your success.
  • It can provide people with skill-building steps that can help make them an independent operator within their industry of choice.

Case studies will only work when you have the data to back up your conclusions. The best case studies are typically verified by an independent third-party as well. This incentive takes a little more time, energy, and money to produce than some of the others, but it is an investment that is often worth making.

#6. Reports

Most people are an expert in at least one subject area. That expertise came from extensive research and educational opportunities within that subject. If you funnel that expertise into a report which analyzes a specific subject in great detail, then it can become a very valuable resources to download.

No subject area is off-limits. You’ll often find reports used as an incentive in marketing, sales, and education, but even your outstanding annual review of which video games are the best to play after the kids go to bed has value to a niche market.

When you provide reports as an incentive, you’re also proving to your industry that you’ve got what it takes to be considered an expert in your field.

There’s an added benefit to having reports as your incentive or upgrade. When a summary of the report is included on a landing page, it becomes a potential SEO benefit as well. That’s because a report has a nature value to it – assuming it is on the topic your site is all about.

#7. Automated Email Courses

This option is very popular because it feels like a gift that just keeps on giving. When a site visitor can receive 7 days of insights from you directly in their inbox, it is a chance for them to learn a new skill. They can improve their life in some way. They can solve a problem.

And most of the time, the emails are just 250 words or less.

Email courses can be designed in advance so the entire incentive is automated. You can even setup the campaign with an email marketing platform like AWeber to track its effectiveness.

You can expand upon this type of upgrade at any time as well. One effective method of upgrading an automated email course is to include links to videos on YouTube or another platform that expand upon the idea offered. This way the visitor can receive in-depth training opportunities at a minimal cost to themselves while you get to establish your role as an industry expert.

#8. Printables

Although many of our email incentives and content upgrades tend to focus on our online activities, sometimes it is nice to embrace our off-line lives. That is what this option can provide.

Downloads that are printable give visitors the chance to use your information during off-line opportunities. Anything that is related to your site can potentially be a printable download to offer.

You can combine other ideas from this list of the best email incentives and content upgrades to make them printable as well. Checklists, instructional manuals, and manifestos are all printable opportunities.

Thanks to improved home printing technologies, there are a plethora of additional printable ideas you could offer in a variety of industries now too.

  • Photographers could offer a free download of one of their images that could be printed and framed by a site visitor at home.
  • Motivational quotes could be offered based on subject matter, the individual who made the quote, and other categories to encourage more search results.
  • Coloring pages for a family or children’s website can encourage art skill development while having a new picture to color.

#9. Challenges

Humans are generally competitive by nature. If one person can achieve something, then anyone can do it. By offering visitors a small challenge to embrace, then you can promote a better life while at the same time encouraging the development of a community around your site.

You can also use this type of upgrade to promote contests and other promotions. For example: a nutritional site could issue a 30-day fitness challenge and offer a reward to those who perform specific tasks or reach a specific goal.

To get the most out of this upgrade option, you’ll want to consider these structural elements.

  • Include a hashtag that can help everyone who is partaking in your challenge to find each other online.
  • There must be some level of ongoing value that is offered throughout the entire challenge. Offering a single email, but demanding 30 days of compliance with a challenge, is an unreasonable expectation.
  • Setup reminders that can be used through your site to help people make it to the end of your challenge in a successful way.

What a challenge ultimately provides is a legitimate opportunity for an individual to improve themselves in some way. If they are successful, then you will have a loyal customer. If not, then you gave them the opportunity to try and you might still have a loyal customer.

#10. Live Personal Sessions

Reading information or listening to your advice can be a good way to learn a new skill. The only problem is that if questions come up, there really isn’t a way for someone to find the answer they need. That’s why offering live personal sessions as an incentive or upgrade can be a very powerful tool.

The amount of time it takes to offer live question and answer sessions can be somewhat extensive, especially if you have thousands of people joining your lists. In the end, however, every session you schedule is a chance to build a loyal relationship to your brand and business.

Make it so that any question is welcomed. You can send them information to schedule the live personal session at their convenience. Thanks to platforms like GoToMeeting, you can hold these sessions for a no- or low-cost as well.

#11. Content eBooks

If you have a blog that you’ve been publishing on a regular basis, then you’ve got a lot of content that is ready for consumption. After a year or two of publishing, new visitors may find it difficult to find your older posts. This is where a content ebook can really be a great incentive or upgrade option.

It takes virtually no work to put together. All you need to do is put your best blog posts into a small file of about 7,500 words. This makes it large enough to be considered a bonus, but small enough where the product doesn’t feel overwhelming. Then anyone who wants to easily access the best of your older content can do so at their convenience.

#12. Templates

A template makes life easier.

They come in many different forms, which means you’ve got several incentive opportunities with this option. From budgets to emails to WordPress, you can show your visitors through your template how you’ve found success. The template can then encourage the visitor to duplicate that success in their own way.

Templates are also an effective resource for people who might need to accomplish a specific task, but not really know how to do so. If someone is new to blogging, for example, and they wanted to contact someone about doing an interview, a letter template could help them put together a professional letter that looks and feels confident.

One additional variation: Scripts can also be a template. Sometimes you just don’t know what to say. By having a script available to help someone with their own sales, marketing, or interviewing techniques, they can get to work right away while experiencing the value you are directly offering.

One more variation: Formulas are another template option if you need to have more of a flexible framework.

#13. Free Trials

This one is pretty simple. If you have a product or service to sell, such as a membership site, then offer visitors a free trial of your product. This lets them experience the full product you have to offer on a limited basis. If they like it, they’ll join up. If not, then you still promoted your own brand and business to them for an extended period of time.

A free trial can also be a bit of a teaser if you don’t want to extend a full membership. Let’s say that you offer webinars on your site. A teaser would allow someone to join one of your sessions for free to see if the structure of the webinar works for them. If you feel that one session isn’t good enough, you could give away an entire course if you wish.

#14. Infographics

If you want to put in as much information as possible into a single graphic download, then an infographic is the way to go.

Think of an infographic as a visual blog post. It offers multiple key points, verifiable statistics, and creates a call to action. At the same time, people can visualize and respond better than just by reading alone.

You don’t have to be a graphic designer to create your own infographics either. Resources such as Easel, Visage, and Canva can help you to build your own with a minimal time investment. 99Designs is another option for those who may want a low-cost professional design for a brand new infographic.

There is always a balance that can be found. You’ll spend more for something that is of professional quality, but your outcome is virtually guaranteed. You can also do everything on your own and invest only your sweat equity.

The best email incentives and content upgrades must be reflective of your goals and the content you have already published. It is a very effective way to establish expertise within your niche, create customer loyalty, and prove the value of everything you have to offer.

There are many different options that could be beneficial to your site. You don’t have to choose just one either. As long as you are offering something that offers instant access and it has value, then even if it is not technically “free,” the cost of a signup will seem minimal compared to the rewards you can provide each visitor who signs up.

Here are the secret tactics I used to build my website traffic to over 2 million monthly visitors and grow my email list to over 100,000 subscribers:
9 Secrets to Increasing Website Visitors and Email Subscribers