Content Upgrades and Lead Magnets: How to Create and Deploy


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Welcome back to our live case study. We are showing how to increase the numbers of leads from your organic search results.

If you watched our first video, then you saw how one little trick generates a ton of leads for our site (yay!).

To summarize: we took a piece of content that was receiving a lot of organic search traffic and offered a downloadable PPT file to visitors. This download complements the original article, and can be obtained through buttons at the top and bottom of the page.

This button gets clicked by ~50% of visits from organic search. 56% of the people who click the button fill out the form to download. This gives us an effective conversion rate of ~25% from organic search traffic.

Over the course of a month, it generates well over 100 email opt ins from this one page in organic search results.

Reporting Stream Results

Our video study explores whether this is a one-off result or a repeatable process.

Can we simply add a download button to an existing blog post and yield hundreds of leads each month?

I am not sure, but it’s worth a shot, right?

So in our first video we determined which page to improve. We decided on the #1 traffic driving post. This post talks about cleaning up your Google Analytics account.

This page gets over 2,000 visits a month from organic search, yet it has a low page value of $.02. This is because the page has no call to action. It’s just an informational article.

8 Steps Low Page Value

Our theory is that we can improve the page value significantly by offering a content upgrade. It’s doubtful we will reach a 25% conversion rate, but even 5% can lead to a hundred leads a month.

Settling on terminology

First of all, I wanted to start off by defining what I am talking about when I say “downloadable content.” There are several terms that mean the same thing (more or less).

You may have heard about the concept of a “content upgrade.” This is where you give your blog visitors a premium version of your content in exchange for their email address.

For example, you might offer a downloadable guide. This guide offers more depth to the article you have written on your blog.

This is what we are doing in our case study here. We are taking a post about Google Analytics and offering an in-depth strategy guide that complements the original post. You’ll see this in action shortly.

Another term you may have heard is ”Lead Magnet.” I consider this term very similar to a content upgrade. This is the term that LeadPages uses in their software.

When someone opts in to your list in order to receive downloadable content, LeadPages emails the content to them automatically. I often use this term to avoid confusion, because LeadPages is the software that I use to accomplish this task.

There is another term you might recognize, and that is “opt-in bribe.” This is similar to the terms above, but with a more nefarious connotation. I don’t like this term, because I only want people to opt-in if they find the content to be worthwhile. There should be no need to bribe them.

For this case study, you will find me using the terms content upgrade and lead magnet interchangeably.

Objectives of downloadable content

Now that we have established our terminology, let’s talk about the strategy behind delivering “upgraded content”.

It all comes down to two things.

1) Search traffic is generally worthless if everyone bounces after one visit. It may help with branding, but it doesn’t produce measurable return on your search investment.

2) Google finds your article useful enough to rank highly in search and a user takes the time to click. This makes them more qualified than any other audience you have available.

Think about it – you are catching a person at a point where they want answers. They had a question that was bothering them. They raised their hand and asked Google for an answer. Google told them that you were the answer, and you (hopefully) delivered.

If you deliver as promised, that person is far more likely to trust you for other objectives as well.

But if you don’t ask, they will forget who you are within a click or two. 

In that sense, our objective becomes simple. We want to offer supplemental value above and beyond that of the article receiving search traffic.

We can achieve this by offering content upgrade on the same topic (i.e. a more in depth guide).

Or it can be a complimentary guide (i.e. an Google AdWords guide on a Google Analytics page).

It can also be a high-level guide about the subject of your article. In our case, we are offering a web analytics strategy document.

Here are my general rules for what makes a good content upgrade/lead magnet:

  • User perceives enough value to give email address
  • User receives the value they expect from the download (upon delivery)
  • User gives a real address to receive the content (no bob@bob.com)
  • Your content helps you create a long term relationship with the user
  • This method decreases the bounce rate from organic search traffic
  • Because a bounced organic visitor wastes resources
  • Puts your brand into the physical world (if printed)
  • Positive brand association for years to come

Over the 10 years I worked at an agency, there are countless times where content upgrades did all the above. There are times where PDFs got printed, distributed and placed on cubicle walls.

Content marketing efforts of others transcended the physical limitations of the web. They became a living piece of our agency.

That is so much cooler than worrying about where you rank for a keyword.

Creating downloadable content (the exact process I use for my PDF guides)

First of all, a reality check.

It’s hard to create good downloadable free content

And I sort of hate it.

And it often takes longer to create than the post itself.

But you know what? It is a key to achieving 10x better results than other marketers.

Think about it.

[rant]

Have you ever invested in SEO? What have been your results? Some consultant telling you that they are building links and submitting to directories? Someone regurgitating guidelines about Google search, content and other lines about black and white animals (like Pandas and Penguins)?

The line about how Google is “screwing” them in the results because of algorithm changes. Or paid search. Or (not provided) keywords.

The line about how it takes 6-12 months to see results from their actions?

The reality that you just wasted 6 months and tens of thousands of dollars to get “free traffic”?

I hate to say it, but SEO sucks for most people because of greed and ignorance. Greed in getting something for “free” from Google. Ignorance in thinking they aren’t the only ones trying to game the system.

Yet here I am on pace to get 1,200+ leads a year from one piece of content. I have done no SEO for that article, and it ranks in spite of itself. I am not an SEO, and I will not “do SEO” for you either.

[/rant]

Sorry, but I am a little passionate about this topic.

Content upgrades are important, but they take a lot of work. You may avoid this work because you should be focused on search rankings.

I think that if you are already receiving search traffic, this should be your #1 focus.

Say that it takes 6 hours to write an article that gets the attention of search engines.

Say it will take another 12-16 hours to create a worthy content upgrade that draws leads.

Say that over time your 6 hour article ranks in search engines and draws 1,000 visits a month. Say that 1 of those visitors takes action on your site. You spent 6 hours to generate a lead a month. 30 minutes per lead per year.

That’s not terrible, but you would soon be out of business if that was your only lead source.

Now say that your content upgrade gave you 10 or 100 leads a month from the same 1,000 visitors. You are talking 120-1,200 leads per year for the same content (1-10% conversion rate)! Worst case, you spend 20 hours to generate 120 leads in a year. That is 10 minutes of work per lead over the course of the year.

Which is a better investment of your time?

Obviously it is better to create the content upgrade, even if you hate it and it takes twice as long to get done.

Even better, you can use your content upgrade many times! You don’t have to have a 1:1 ratio between content and the upgrade. My strategic web analytics guide can be used for about 25% of the pages on my website.

Let me show you how I create the content upgrade (and the tools I use)

The first thing I do is brainstorm ideas for content upgrades. As you will see in the video, there are several ways to upgrade your content. It really is only limited to your imagination. If you don’t have an imagination? Find a creative person to help.

Once you have a topic, you need to decide on the content format.

Is it text on a white background?

Is it a checklist?

Is it a printable PDF?

Is it a downloadable PPT or XLS file?

For our Strategic Web Analytics guide, it is mostly text. There is also a place to “fill in the blanks” for the user. This is created in good old Microsoft Word.

While I would love to offer a tutorial on how to use Word, that is not worth my time (or likely yours). Instead, I will just show you what the format looks like for my document. Sometimes I use background colors, sometimes it’s white (for printing purposes). You can do whatever you think is best.

Word Doc Example

From there, I add a cover sheet, which I have created in Photoshop. I have a PSD file (layered photoshop file) that I use for all my covers. A designer created this for me one time, and I make modifications as needed.

My design skills may be poor, but my ability to click on and move things around in Photoshop is unmatched.

Photoshop Cover Example

I export both of these files as a PDF, and then I merge them in Adobe Acrobat Pro. This is part of my Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. There are less expensive tools that you can use as well.

PDF Arrangement Example

The end result is a PDF that you can deliver to anyone interested.

Setting up content upgrade delivery and email capture on my site

Once you create the asset, it is time to integrate with our website. The first thing we do is log into LeadPages and create a LeadBox to handle this process.

LeadBox Setup Example

While I’m in LeadPages, I make sure to integrate with my email service (Active Campaign). I add tracking code for Google Analytics event tracking, and point them to my thank you page for goal tracking.

The last step is to publish this page on my site. I can do this as a text link, image or button. Also, I can do this based on a time-delay or when someone exits the page. My choice in this case is to create a button.

Leadbox Embed Example

Placing the LeadBox on my site

This part is pretty easy, since I’m using WordPress. I embed the code from LeadPages in my post, and it shows up on the site.

Button on Website Example

When the button is clicked, our form pops up!

Leadbox popup example

And when submitted, our user gets the following email:

Lead Magnet Email

Final step: deliver on this promise!

In that email, I set the tone for what will happen next.

  1. They read my post.
  2. They opted in to the checklist.
  3. I am going to email them about Google Analytics.

So I set this up in Active Campaign. If they download the guide, they will receive an email sequence. That sequence introduces my course and other Google Analytics resources.

Email follow up sequence example

The first email comes the next day, and it has my favorite subject line I’ve ever written.

Is Google Analytics a Monster?

Is Google Analytics a Monster

Recapping our steps to success with content upgrades

First step: Google Analytics

Find pages that are under-performing and take note.

Second step: Brainstorm content upgrades

Come up with an idea for your content upgrade. Here are a few guidelines:

  • A guide that compliments your content
  • High level guide to your topic
  • A PDF version of the page they are on right now
  • A PowerPoint file or spreadsheet template

Third step: Create your guide

The tools that I used in today’s video:

  • Word for the body text (you can use pages or docs or PPT or whatever)
  • Photoshop for the cover
  • Acrobat pro for the PDF stuff
  • LeadPages for delivery

Fourth step: Set up in LeadPages and integrate on your website

Create a LeadBox and embed a button (or popup) on your website. Make sure to integrate with your email service for follow up.

Fifth step: Measure and test results

Our monthly report template is lucky to have a 25% conversion rate. This is likely due to the nature of the query. For this case study, I think we will have to work a lot harder for conversions.

Because of this, I would like to test several ways of showing the opt-in box. We can also test the messaging and even try a new content upgrade (although you know how much I hate that work).

Sixth step: Email follow up sequence

This is the most important step of them all. None of the above matters if you don’t have a plan for what to do with these email addresses! I already said that Organic search traffic being worthless if you don’t capture emails. Now I am saying that emails are worthless if you don’t follow up with them.

I am by no means perfect with emails, but I do enjoy trying to get this right. Much like most marketing, it becomes a numbers game. How do you keep people engaged long enough so that they buy when they are ready?

That’s art backed by science, and I hope that at some point I can share my results in another case study.

What did we learn today?

You learned a lot from this detailed guide and video! In particular, you should have a good idea on:

  • The importance of downloadable content
  • Expectations from a downloadable guide
  • How to brainstorm and create your guide
  • Where to put the guide and how to deliver it

For our next video (in 2-3 weeks), we will be checking in on our results. How is our new lead magnet performing, and how might we improve the results?

Looking forward to it!

About the Author

Jeff Sauer is an independent Digital Marketing Consultant, Speaker and Teacher based out of a suitcase somewhere in the world. Formerly of Minneapolis, MN and San Francisco, CA.

  • Such an incredibly in-depth and actionable article. I love using content upgrades but your process for creating them definitely showed me I’m off base with a few of them.

    I’d love to see more information on how you set these up to track as goals to enable the first Reporting Stream Opt In goal screenshot you showed in the beginning. Since I use LeadPages, it’s been tricky to get page-level conversions.

    Great, stuff, keep it coming!

  • Nick V

    Super in-depth. You covered all bases. Nice work, Jeff. 👌🏽

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