Case Study – How I Increased Conversions by 785% in One Day (Without A/B Testing)

increase conversions bannerIf you want to grow your email list (FAST) there’s one thing you need to know:

Traditional bribes like free reports and email courses don’t have nearly the same juice that they used to.


What CAN you offer that gets people to fork over their email address?

The Content Upgrade.

It’s a simple strategy that instantly increased my blog post conversion rate from .54%. to 4.82%.

And in today’s case study I’m going to show you the exact step-by-step process that I used.

Exclusive Bonus: Download the step-by-step checklist that will show you how to build your email list with The Content Upgrade.

No One Wants Your Free Report (And What They Want Instead)

A few weeks ago I told you about The Social Squeeze Page, a simple page you can add to your site that converts like a champ:

SSP Post

While there’s nothing wrong with a page that converts at 21.7%…

…a single page — even one that converts at 21.7% — isn’t enough to build a thriving email list.

After all, as you can see from my Crazy Egg data, only 2% of my visitors click on the sidebar banner that takes them to the Social Squeeze Page:

CrazyEgg Date

Which got me thinking:

“How can I convert the 98% of people that DON’T go to my Social Squeeze Page?”

That’s when I noticed this weird thing Kim Roach was doing on her blog.

Instead of offering readers something vague — like free updates — she gave away a resource that was unique to each blog post.

Let me show you what I mean…

A few months ago, Kim’s published a post of the top 10 Fiverr gigs for small business owners.

Buzzblogger Post

“But wait, there’s more.”

When you scroll down to the bottom of the post you’ll notice that she has a link where you can download the top 20 Fiverr gigs:

End of Blog Post Bonus

If you click on that link, a box appears that asks you to opt-in to her email list:


A few days after reading Kim’s post, I noticed Bryan Harris doing the exact same thing on his blog.

For example, Bryan recently published a post that teaches people a productivity technique called “The Zero Based Calendar“.

At the end of that post Bryan offers access to a “bonus lesson” on productivity.

VideoFruit Bonus

Like Kim’s post, you need to subscribe to get your hands on Bryan’s free resource.

That’s when I said to myself:

“Brian, building your email list is a top priority. You NEED to try this at Backlinko.”

(Yes, I talk to myself. Doesn’t everybody? :-) )

What happened next made my jaw practically hit the floor…

One Day. Two Links. 785% Increase in Conversions.

I decided to see if giving away a post-specific resource would increase conversions on my blog post: Google’s 200 Ranking Factors: The Complete List.

(I’ll show you why I chose that post a bit later)

Before implementing the Content Upgrade, that page was converting at .54%.

Ranking Factors Conversion Rate

Not horrible for a blog post…but not great either.

On June 1st I created a checklist and added LeadPages links to the top…

Leadpages Link

…and bottom of that post.

Bottom of Blog Post

The result? A 785% increase in conversions (compared to the previous month).

Conversion Rate Increase

Keep in mind that this isn’t a flukey conversion increase like you might see with an A/B test that only lasts a few days.

I’ve had over 4700 unique visitors and 370 conversions on that page since implementing the Content Upgrade. The sample size is more than enough to conclude that this data has legs to stand on.

Plus, as I’ll show you at the very end of this post, I’ve tested The Content Upgrade on three other posts…

…and it’s significantly boosted conversions on those posts too.

Here’s The Craziest Part…

If you count all of the opt-in forms that I have on the Backlinko blog, like in my sidebar:

Sidebar Optin Form

On my homepage:

Feature Box

And at the bottom of every blog post:

Bottom Of Post Optin Form

I have a grand total of 54 opt-in forms on my blog.

The two little LeadPages links that I added to my Google Ranking Factors post now account for 30% of all new subscribers.

Think about that for a second.

Those two links bring in more subscribers than SIXTEEN opt-in forms.

Crazy, right?

How to Get More Subscribers Using The Content Upgrade

At this point you’re probably wondering:

“OK, I’m ready to try the The Content Upgrade. How do I start?”

Here’s a breakdown of the 5-step process:

Step 1: Find a high-traffic page on your site

Step 2: Identify a resource that would make the content better

Step 3: Create that resource

Step 4: Add the resource to your site

Step 5: Get more email subscribers

Now let’s dive into how you can add this list building machine to your site.

Step #1: Find a Page on Your Site That Gets a Lot of Traffic

This may sound simple, but stay with me.

If you want to maximize the number of subscribers that you get from The Content Upgrade, you need to start with a page that has the most potential for generating email subscribers.

In other words, blog posts on your site that bring in the most traffic.

Make sense?

You can easily find your most popular pages by going to Behavior –> Site Content –> Landing Pages in Google Analytics:

Google Analytics Landing Pages

As you can see from that screenshot, my Google Ranking Factors blog post was the most popular page on my site.

So I started with that.

Once you’ve identified your site’s most popular page, it’s time for step #2…

Step #2: Identify a Resource That Will Make Your Content Even Better

This may not be easy to hear, but here it goes:

No one wants your free report.

Well, maybe that’s not 100% true.

If you give away something for free on your site, SOMEONE will sign up to get it.

But 99% of people won’t.

Why not?

Because your report has nothing to do with what that person wants at that moment.

It’s like if you walked into H&M for a new belt and the salesperson said: “Would you like to see our new dress shirts that just came in?”. No, you wouldn’t.

The bottom line?

When you offer your visitors something that’s a perfect fit for what they came to your site for, they’re MUCH more likely to opt-in.

For example, I noticed people leaving comments on my Google Ranking Factors post like this…


…and this:


These people were basically telling me in black and white:

“Brian, this is a great post. But it’s an overwhelming amount of information. How can I actually put this stuff into practice?”

That’s when I realized that a checklist that listed the 10 most important factors — along with practical tips for implementing them — would add a lot of value to that post.

Another example:

James at gives away text transcripts of his podcasts:

PDF Transcript

What do you think happens when you click on that purple box?

You’re taken to a squeeze page where you can download the PDF:

Squeeze Page Screenshot

Other things you can give away as a Content Upgrade:

  • A set of bonus tips
  • Downloadable PDF version of the article
  • A video tutorial that dives deeper into one section from your post
  • An interview with an expert on your post’s topic
  • A visual guide to your post (for example, a mind map or infographic)

The possibilities are endless.

Now that you’ve decided on what you’re going to give away, it’s time to get this party started.

Step #3: Create Your Content Upgrade Resource

Here’s the deal:

When someone first signs up for your email list they’re actively looking for reasons to opt out…

…and if you give them one, they’ll take it.

On the other hand, if you wow new subscribers with a GREAT first email, they’re much more likely to stick with you for life.

(You know what they say about first impressions…)

That’s why I decided to set aside 5-hours to outline and write my Google Ranking Factors checklist.

But I took things one step further.

After I finished writing the checklist, I sent it to a professional graphic designer on Elance.

She turned my checklist from this…

Ranking Factors Checklist Rough Draft

to this:

Checklist Designed

Needless to say, this professional design makes a HUGE difference in how people perceive the value of my checklist.

When someone receives a high-quality resource in their inbox (like this checklist), they think to themselves:

“Hey, this was pretty cool. I’ll make sure to keep an eye out for their next email.”

In fact, because you’re sending new subscribers a top notch resource, you’ll actually get messages from people that say they’re looking forward to future emails from you.

For example, this is an email I recently received from a subscriber that just finished reading my Google Ranking Factors Checklist:


Having a high-value resource in hand is great…

…but it’s not nearly as important as the next step in the Content Upgrade process.

 Step #4: Give Your Resource Away 

Like anything in conversion rate optimization, HOW you present your Content Upgrade is key. In fact, your pitch is 10x more important than the resource itself.

Here’s what I mean…

As I’m sure you’ve seen yourself, lame pitches like “sign up for our newsletter” and “download our whitepaper” aren’t effective anymore.

To put it another way, you really need to sell your Content Upgrade.

Here’s the approach that worked best for me.

First, I added a yellow box at the end my blog post introduction:

Blog Post Intro

My old blog post conclusion asked people to leave a comment. I swapped that conclusion out with a pitch to download the checklist:

Bottom of Post

When someone clicks on the link in the yellow box or the download image at the end of the post, a LeadPages box appears that asks them to opt-in:

LeadPages Box

According to my Analytics, 65% of people that see that box enter their email and opt-in:

LeadPages Analytics

Because it converts so well, I recommend using LeadPages to giveaway your Content Upgrade resource.

If you’d prefer not use LeadPages, you can create a normal opt-in form in Aweber or MailChimp.

For example, you can embed a normal opt-in box like this into your blog posts:

Opt In Form

(You’d just want to replace the generic “Free Updates” with a description of your Content Upgrade resource)

Pro Tip: The Power of The Yellow Box

Here’s one of the most surprising things I learned from this campaign:

The simple yellow box I added to my blog post grabbed A LOT of attention.

Just look at how many people clicked on the little yellow box vs. the massive download image.

Yellow Box:

Crazyegg Screenshot

Huge download image:

Download Image

As you can see, people’s eyes (and cursors) naturally gravitate to the yellow box.

I highly recommend using a yellow box on your site so that you maximize the number of clicks and opt-ins that you generate from your Content Upgrade.

Here’s the code you can add to your theme’s “functions.php” file (or “custom_functions.php” on Thesis) to create a yellow box:

function make_yellowbox($atts, $content = null) {
   return '<p style="background: none repeat scroll 0 0 #ff9; clear: both; margin-bottom: 18px; overflow: hidden; border: 1px solid #e5e597; padding: 13px;">' . do_shortcode($content) . '</p>';
add_shortcode('yellowbox', 'make_yellowbox');

Once the code it added, any text wrapped inside of this shortcode will appear in a yellow box.

[yellowbox]Here is the text in the yellow box[/yellowbox]

Step #5: Get More Email Subscribers

Now that you have the Content Upgrade set up, you should notice a massive increase in subscribers coming from that page.

But don’t stop there.

I’ve since added The Content Upgrade to three additional posts at Backlinko. Like with my Google Ranking Factors post, conversions on those other page have shot through the roof.

In fact, The Content Upgrade has brought in an EXTRA 655 subscribers in only 18 days:

Aweber Subscribers

Because it works so well, The Content Upgrade is going to be the focus of my list building from now on.

So I recommend repeating The Content Upgrade process on other high-traffic pages on your site. The more you scale this process, the more opt-ins you’ll get.

Here’s The Next Step:

If you’d like to see another case study of this technique in action, you’re in for a treat…because I’ve got an excellent Content Upgrade for this post :-)

It’s a free step-by-step checklist that shows you the exact step-by-step Content Upgrade process.

Click the link below and enter your email to get access to the free video checklist.

Content Upgrade Checklits

  • So De

    Another long and detailed post from you.
    Thank you very much, Brian! You always the best.

    • Brian Dean

      You’re welcome, So. That’s what I try to do with every post :-)

  • Bryan Harris

    Absolutely love it! The great part is if everyone starts doing this (and you are CRAZY if you are not) that value of every blog post goes up substantially.

    Awesome bonus content = better for everyone.

    • Brian Dean

      Thanks Bryan.

      Couldn’t have put it better myself. Some things in blogging are optional. This is not. It’s a must.

      • Andre Oentoro

        Two of my favorite guys, kudos! Now I just need to push myself to do this.

    • AJ Walton

      I’m creating my first piece of bonus content now. However I feel like this tactic – like most – will have a limited lifespan. If it becomes common practice, readers will probably get numb to the offers – and then the innovators will create a new variant. Actually, I already feel myself numbing to them and I think Brian’s content is some of the best online – especially in the marketing space!

      All the more reason to do it now and establish your content and bonuses as kick-ass I guess!

  • Tariehk

    Thanks Brian, I like these ideas because they are simple. For example, I can easily change the background color to yellow for different text. I will try these and let you know the results.

    • Brian Dean

      You’re welcome, Tariehk. Look forward to hearing how The Content Upgrade works out for you :-)

  • Fan

    Really useful information as always Brian!

    • Brian Dean

      Thanks Fan :-)

  • Sami

    I always bookmark your post, Because it is always full of Info, Thanks again for such a long Good Content Post.

    • Brian Dean

      Thanks Sami. Let me know what you think after you have a chance to read the post.

  • Nikhil Waghdhare

    Hey Brain,

    Great Case study. Actually, I like this stuff. This post has so much of great info about conversion marketing guide and tips.
    Thank you for sharing this great case study with us Brain.

    • Brian Dean

      You’re welcome, Nikhil.

  • Boone Bergsma

    Thanks Brian! Really appreciate the knowledge and experience you share. Keep up the great work. Best wishes and many blessings!

    • Brian Dean

      You’re welcome, Boone. Don’t worry, I’ll keep it up :-)

  • sourabh rana

    Hello Brian,

    I noticed this thing on google ranking factors. I downloaded also this resource. I was waiting for your post on this change & success you got from this. Great minor key points to increase conversions from your blog.

    Thanks & I am also a big fan of KIM ROACH she is just superbbb :)

    • Brian Dean

      Thanks Sourabh. As you saw, that checklist made a huge difference. I agree: Kim is the best!

  • Harry Chittenden

    Hi Brian,
    Great Post! I’m in awe of your thoroughness.
    Here’s an issue. I get an email from someone that I’ve subscribed to. It offers me something that interests me. I click ok! Then the gate comes down and says I need to sign up to the email list that I’m already on. Awkward!

    • Brian Dean

      Hey Harry,

      You raise a good point. Unfortunately, that’s the only way to do it. I’ve set it up so once you double opt-in for one resource, you don’t
      have to do it ever again.

      So once you opt-in for this video you just need to enter your email for any other resources and you’ll get instant access (similar
      to logging in…except you don’t need to remember any passwords).

      • Ken

        Hi Brian!
        Do you know if this same process (i.e. allow existing subscribers to get instant access after entering their email address) can be set up with MailChimp?

        • Brian Dean

          I think it can, Ken. But you’d have to ask them to be sure.

  • Graham

    Another great post, a couple of observations that might improve things further.

    1. Add a ‘log-in’ section to your site – as someone already on your mailing list having to put my email address in for each bonus item will become a real pain – especially when I tend to visit a blog and read a tonne of stuff in one go rather than in bits and pieces. Retention is more important than conversion (keeping a subscriber is very easy compared to gaining one) – it also opens up a whole realm of extra analytics data!

    2. Prettify your emails!!!! The plain text email you sent to get to this page is damned ugly – you mentioned it in your post about professional design on the email information you send – get your emails into a nice quick template as I almost missed this great post thinking it was spam!!!

    Other than that I will say once again an amazing post, nice and detailed, easy to follow and some nice quick tips that anyone can implement.

    Off I go to Analytics land now to find some high traffic pages on my clients blogs :-D

    • Brian Dean

      Glad you liked the post, Graham.

      My take on your points:

      1. Add a ‘log-in’ section to your site…

      Actually I found a workaround where people don’t have to double optin for each resource. They just have to enter their email again (which is the same as logging in. Actually, it’s easier).

      2. I’ve tested this (as have several others) and plain text emails get better CTRs:
      But it’s different for every site. In my experience, plain text crushes fancy HTML emails.

      Have fun in Analytics land :-)

      • AJ Walton

        I can say with certainty that I’ve unsubscribed from every email list that isn’t text. It’s the way most people expect email to be. I want text emails and interesting blog content. Thanks for meeting those expectations hahah

      • Joe

        Brian, does that workaround work if you aren’t using Leadpages?
        If I create a new Aweber box for every bonus, won’t my old subscribers just get sent to the “already signed up” page, or how does that work?

        • Brian Dean

          Joe, you can set what page current subscribers go to. I recommend contacting Aweber so they can walk you through it.

      • Monty

        The only thing that’s “preventing” me from implementing is the opt-ins for current subscribers – would love to learn more about the workaround!

        I want to send readers a PDF file. I want to “verify” with AWeber… if they already subscribed. If they are then they can download file right away – if they are not subscribed I want to add them to my list before I send them the report.
        Thanks for your time – much appreciated.

        • Brian Dean

          Hi Monty, it’s complicated but doable. I’d reach out to Aweber and have them walk you through it.

  • Robin Geuens

    Awesome post Brian. Great tips as always

    I’ve been doing this on my own blog (it doesn’t get the same traffic though) and it works like a charm. Most of my subscribers are from additional content.

    Thanks for the great post!

    • Brian Dean

      Glad you enjoyed the post, Robin. Oh wow, Bryan and I were just saying yesterday that it’s crazy how few people are using this technique. Glad to hear that you’re taking advantage of it.

      • Robin Geuens

        To be honest I saw Bryan Harris and Noah Kagan do it and decided to give it a try.
        Emulate successful people, right? :)

        • Brian Dean

          Exactly :-)

          If you’re going to emulate anyone, those two guys are the best.

  • Paul

    I never leave comments. Anywhere. This was excellent.

    • Brian Dean

      Happy to hear this post did it :-)
      Thanks for your support, Paul.

  • Alex

    Awesome post Bro! Your posts generally are so complete that there are very less things to add in comments other than “great post”. Well prepared, well researched and well executed.

    • Brian Dean

      Thanks Alex! I love to hear feedback, but I won’t argue with a “great post” comment :-)

  • Thomas

    As always Brian, great job!
    I am planning to use this and the video trick from your previous post soon!


    • Brian Dean

      Thanks Thomas. Keep me posted :-)

  • Afiq

    Inspired! Thanks Brian. If I’m not mistaken, you are using OptinMonster and LeadPages on this site, is it right? Is there any issues on using both plugin?

    Currently I’m only using OptinMonster to increase my conversion rate on my site.

    • Brian Dean

      Yes, I’m using both plugins, Afiq. They seem to get along fine on my blog :-)

  • Loz James

    Hi Brian
    Fascinating post as always.
    I’ve started to see this strategy used a lot around the web too. These types of content specific calls to action are used by a lot of content marketing systems such as Hubspot.
    However, in my opinion your solution with Leadpages is a better one because it’s even more tailored – the lightbox popup function is fantastic for conversions.

    • Brian Dean

      Hey Loz,

      Thanks :-)

      I’ve seen it more and more too. But I don’t think most people (outside of HubSpot) realize how powerful it is. Let me know if you give this a shot at Content Champion.

  • Ondrej

    Hey Brian,
    you are really smart. It’s all about looking for some new ideas – most of them won’t give you success but there’s always one that’ll give you 1000% ROI and beats all the unsuccessful things.

    Great job – look for more and share with us :D

    • Brian Dean

      Thanks Ondrej. I’m actually not that smart. Just smart enough to use what other people have already had success with :-)

      • Hamayon Baig

        Brian you are really smart. Its not even easy to do things once again that already had done by others. You are our hero :)

  • Ryan

    Pure awesome sauce Brian, as usual. I will be adding the Content Upgrade to my site for sure!

    • Brian Dean

      That’s what I like to hear, Ryan. Keep me posted :-)


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Brian Dean is the founder of Backlinko, the training hub for digital marketing professionals with over 80,000 monthly readers and a popular email newsletter. Continue reading