Last Updated: July 29, 2017

Steal This Strategy That Increased My Email List Growth by 296%

Note: I created a free checklist to help you implement everything in this article on your own site. Don’t leave without it.

Want to dramatically improve the opt-in rate on your site to maximize your existing traffic? Want to then see exponential email list growth as your traffic increases? I have one simple strategy/technique that will make this happen for you.

Before we get to it, let’s take a quick look at why email marketing is so important for your business…

You get it now, right? Sure, email marketing is declining in effectiveness as more and more people are being inundated with emails. Email software is getting better at marking specific emails as promotional, which hurts your open rates and engagement. But look at the numbers, it’s still the best channel.

A 296% increase in list growth at Rebooted Body with less traffic.

At Rebooted Body, our email list is imperative to our success. Early this year we saw a pretty significant decline in traffic as two of our top ranked articles saw a big decline in organic search traffic.

The topics those articles covered aren’t as relevant anymore and search traffic is naturally declining based on the decline in searches.

With the decline in search traffic came a significant decline in opt-ins. With the decline in opt-ins came a decline in sales. You get the picture – it sucked.

I scrambled to figure out a plan. Of course, we needed more traffic. But growing traffic organically takes time and time is not something we had a lot of given the decline in sales.

What we needed was an email list growth strategy. We needed to better capitalize on the traffic we were already getting.

Looking at the numbers now, I kick myself for not doing this sooner. I waited around hoping that the organic traffic would recover. Months went by and the business took a big hit from the declines.

It wasn’t until May that I finally buckled down and implemented a new strategy. The results speak for themselves…

Now consider the numbers we will get as traffic starts to grow! This is a powerful strategy.

Email list growth is meaningless if the opt-ins aren’t your target market.

Let’s be very clear on something. You’re running a business, which means vanity metrics are meaningless. Having 10,000 targeted people on an email list is better than having 100,000 if those 100,000 are random people that don’t care about what you sell.

There are a lot of dumb ways to grow your email list. Ignore them. The strategy I’m going to share with you is going to bring you more targeted leads if done correctly. And targeted leads are all you should care about.

The old-school content marketing opt-in strategy…

The strategy I’m going to tell you about assumes that you are publishing articles on your site (a form of content marketing). Most people are already doing this. If you aren’t, I’d recommend you start (read: How to Become a Prolific Content Creator).

The old-school strategy is to put an email opt-in form at the bottom of all your articles. This opt-in form will include a call to action that’s either centered around joining a newsletter or giving away some sort of guide or “bribe.”

If you use this strategy on your site, you’re likely to see conversion rates from .01% to 1.5%. Most sites are going to be in the 1% or less group, even if you’re writing killer articles.

This isn’t a bad strategy by any means and I’d still recommend you use it. What I’m going to ask you do, though, is make one big change on specific articles.

See, the old-school strategy doesn’t convert very well because it makes the same offer on all articles. It’s generic.

A better strategy is to make article-specific offers. This can be a hard concept to understand at first because the article you’ve written usually contains everything you wanted to say.

How could you possibly create something that people would want to download when they’ve already read the article? Let me explain…

The “Content Upgrade Strategy” for growing your email list by skyrocketing conversion rates on articles…

We’re going to take something you’re probably already doing and make one simple change. This change, if done well, can jump your conversion rate from around 1% to up to 5% (or more, as we’ll discuss).

Take a look at my Convertkit dashboard…

email list conversion rates

As you can see, there are two forms that are converting at 20% and 30% respectively. I will touch on those separately because they are implemented in a different way than the others.

What you’re looking at are “content upgrade” forms. These are specific opt-in offers tailored to specific articles on my site.

Remember, typical offers convert around 1%. The worst-performing content upgrade on my site is converting at 3.2%. That’s a 3x improvement.

Pay no attention to the actual number of opt-ins. The number of opt-ins you get is relative to the traffic the article gets. The conversion rate is what is important. Once you find an offer that converts, you can always find ways to increase the traffic (and then the number of opt-ins).

What is a content upgrade (and sample ideas)?

A content upgrade is a downloadable companion guide specific to a single piece of content on your site. Here are some examples…

  • Cheat sheet (what I primarily use).
  • Checklist or quick-start guide.
  • List of resources to follow-up with.
  • Audio recording or bonus audio.
  • Transcript (for the primary audio or video).
  • Printable (poster, infographic, etc.)
  • Challenge, free course, or email series.
  • Assignment or worksheet.
  • Template files (for example, a photography preset).
  • Scripts, formulas, and swipe files.
  • Spreadsheets (like I offered here).
  • A webinar recording.

Remember, all these things must be tailored to the specific article you’re making the offer on. So, on my article on ketogenic eating, I offered a Ketosis Cheat Sheet.

Rather than asking people to join our newsletter at the bottom of that article and grabbing 1% or less of that article’s traffic, I offered a cheat sheet that’s grabbing 3.9% of that article’s traffic.

Instead of generating 350 opt-ins from that article, I’ve generated 1355. That’s 40 opt-ins for every 1000 visits instead of 10. And that’s going to continue to happen month after month after month.

Why does it work so well? Because someone who has an interest in that article topic is much more likely to opt-in for something related to that specific topic rather than opting in for something only tangentially related or completely unrelated.

Content upgrades are about much more than opt-ins.

One of the best things about a content upgrade strategy is that they segue right into sales.

First, all your content upgrades should contain a call-to-action for a paid product (if you have one that makes sense) or coaching. This becomes the next logical step for the lead.

Second, you should use your content upgrades to segment people on your email list. At Rebooted Body we have two main tracks that we funnel people into: weight loss/fitness, and mindset/psychology.

If they show interest in a content upgrade that has to do with weight loss and fitness, they get put into a sales funnel that speaks to that need/interest. If they show interest in a content upgrade that has to do with mindset/psychology, they get put into a separate funnel for that.

Having separate funnels and segmenting your list will increase your sales conversions. Content upgrades give you an easy way to do that (assuming you have an email marketing system that supports tagging, sequences, and automatons, like Convertkit).

Don’t try to make a content upgrade for every article.

At Rebooted Body, we have over 150 in-depth articles all aimed at our target market. If you look at our metrics, though, you’ll realize that the bulk of our traffic comes from about 10 well-performing articles that rank well on Google.

The same is probably true of your site. You have a bunch of articles, but only one or a few are attracting significant organic traffic.

It doesn’t make sense to make content upgrades for all your articles. Some articles just don’t perform. It’s too much work for little payoff.

When I implemented this strategy at Rebooted Body, I made content upgrades only for the top-performing articles. That’s why the results were immediate.

If you don’t have any articles getting organic traffic (perhaps because your site is newer), you can use other engagement metrics. If you realize that every time you share a specific article on social media it gets a lot of attention or comments, that’s a potential winner. Once you make the content upgrade for that article, pay to drive traffic to it and watch the conversions roll in.

How to install a content upgrade strategy on your own site.

There are some challenges with this content upgrade strategy.

  • How do you display a unique opt-in offer on certain articles while displaying a default offer on all others?
  • How do you track stats to see which offers are performing and which aren’t?
  • How do you easily deliver the content upgrade?
  • How do you segment people into different funnels based on the upgrade they opted in for?
  • How do you make sure people who opt in for multiple offers don’t get inundated with emails?

I’m going to go point by point, but I’ll tell you right off the bat that Convertkit makes this stupid simple.

How do you display a unique opt-in offer on certain articles while displaying a default offer on all others?

Remember, you’re not creating a content upgrade for every article. So what about the articles that won’t have them? For those, you’ll want an old-school default offer like “join my newsletter” or “download this free guide.”

Convertkit has a free WordPress plugin (hopefully your site is built on WordPress and not something like Squarespace – see WordPress vs Squarespace) that takes care of this seamlessly. The first step is to create your default form offer in ConvertKit. I’ll show you how I have it setup for Six Figure Grind…

That’s what the unstyled form looks like in Convertkit. Next, you tell the Convertkit plugin what you want your default form to be…

After adding a little CSS (you don’t have to know how to code but it helps if you want your forms to look a specific way), the default form displays automatically at the bottom of every article…

Now, you create your content upgrade forms in Convertkit the same way you created your default form. Once they’re ready, switch over to WordPress and click “edit” on the posts you want to add them to.

When editing a post in WordPress, you’ll see a Convertkit box below the post editor. This box is added by the Convertkit plugin. It’s what allows you to choose which form displays on that article. If you don’t change it, it will display the default form. Or, you can select any specific form you’d like…

Once you publish your changes, you’ll see that the form has changed on the front end…

Whenever you create a new content upgrade, just create the form in Convertkit and “call it” to a specific article using the Convertkit plugin in WordPress. Done!

How do you track stats to see which offers are performing and which aren’t?

Again, Convertkit does this for you automatically. Since you’re creating a separate form for each opt-in offer, Convertkit will display the stats for each form on your dashboard.

How do you easily deliver the content upgrade?

This is a huge problem for a lot of email systems. For some systems, if someone is already a contact, they won’t be able to opt-in for any of your offers. They will be told they’re already on the list.

For other systems, you’ll need to:
  1. Upload your content upgrade to a server.
  2. Create a landing page on your site with a download button for the content upgrade that links to the file you uploaded.
  3. Put people on a welcome sequence for the content upgrade they chose.
  4. Program the sequence to send them an email with a link to a landing page on your site when they opt-in.
  5. Send people to that page when they click the link.
  6. Move them from that sequence to one of your other sequences (such as a sales sequence).
Here’s how it works with Convertkit.

In the form you created, Convertkit allows you to upload your downloadable file…

When someone opt-ins, Convertkit will send them a confirmation email. The button in the confirmation email doubles as a download button.

Then, in the automations area, you simply tell Convertkit what to do with someone after they opt-in through that specific form. If you want to tag them, you can. If you want to sequence them, you can.


Put people on a welcome sequence for the content upgrade they chose.

If you want to put people in a specific sequence based on the form they opted into, you don’t even need to do the extra step of creating automations. Convertkit allows you to do this directly through the form settings…

It doesn’t get any easier than this.

How do you make sure people who opt in for multiple offers don’t get inundated with emails?

Again, this depends on the system you choose. I’ve worked with many email marketing systems that make this extremely complicated. Converkit makes it easy.

Let’s say you have two main sales sequences and someone fills out multiple forms on your site. Your email marketing system tries to put them in both sequences, which means they’ll be getting multiple emails per day.

In Convertkit’s sequence settings, you can simply set one sequence to not run if lead is already in another sequence…

As you can see, you can also exclude people from receiving a sequence based on other factors like forms they’ve filled out (such as a “client” tag to exclude clients from receiving sales emails), tags they have on their profile, or even custom segments.

What’s the deal with your offers that are converting at 20-30%?

If you scroll back up and look at the screenshot of my content upgrades, you’ll see two that stand out. They convert at 20% and 30%.

Those are content upgrades, but I’m using them differently. They have dedicated landing pages and I link to those landing pages within the content of specific articles.

There’s one landing page for our Real Food Playbook and another for our Daily Fitness Practice workbook. So traffic is sent there from all over and because they have dedicated pages, the conversion rate is very high (and I’ve seen higher from other people who use this method).

If your article strategy isn’t on point, content upgrades won’t work.

This strategy isn’t magic. There’s a lot that goes into making this successful besides implementing the strategy itself…

  1. You must write great articles that people want to read and engage with.
  2. You must do keyword research and SEO to make sure your articles gain traction in search engines.
  3. You must put together a compelling and useful content upgrade.

Regardless of where you’re at in your journey, I would encourage everyone to experiment with this strategy. Even if you have to pay to drive traffic, having a strong conversion rate will make it worth it.

Hey! Before you go, make sure you grab my content upgrade checklist so you can start implementing this strategy on your site without missing any of the pieces…

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