Let me start by saying that without this tactic, our email list would be 8,406 names lighter. And, what’s more, it’s an extremely low effort add-on to your existing content marketing. I set up the entire system in one afternoon.

You might be thinking that it’s going to be something as dumb as shoving an all-site pop-up there and watching the emails roll in. No, actually, it’s a tactic that has been found to convert 785% better. People talk about it a lot, but I’m about to lay down a step-by-step process for you.

Here goes!

Find your top 10 organic traffic posts with Google Analytics

If you look at the total sessions by page over the last 30 days, you’re going to get a skewed perspective. You’ll see blog traffic coming in from unsustainable sources like email newsletters and tweets. So you want to change the view in Google Analytics to show traffic by source / medium. That way, you can weed out direct (likely to be email) and social traffic.


You can get this view by going behavior → site content → landing pages. Then, add the secondary dimension as source / medium.

When you see google / organic in the second column, you know that it’s truly your most trafficked page long-term, not a fluke.

Compile your top 10 posts in this way. You can add them as bullets to a WorkFlowy document (my scrapbook of choice), or use the text editor of your choice.

Come up with 10 ideas for content upgrades

Once you have a clear picture of where you’re capturing the majority of your traffic, it’s time to think of the best ways to get those visitors onto your email list.

A content upgrade is “an extension to a piece of web content that adds value in exchange for an email address”. You’ve likely come across a fair few before. This is how they work:


Basically, you have three elements to the system:

  1. A call-to-action in the blog post
  2. A pop-up
  3. The promised content behind the pop-up

Worry about the first two later — there’s no content upgrade without the content, so we need to come up with ideas. As Pauline Cabrera at OptinMonster points out, there are tons of different kinds of upgrades you can offer, including checklists, cheat sheets, lists of resources and data.

Different posts suit different upgrades. For a data-driven post, you might want to offer the full data set in a spreadsheet for the reader to analyze. For how-to guides, use a checklist they can work through.

For the post about SaaS landing pages I showed you above, I offered a tool I created in Google Sheets that generates landing page headlines. It turned out to be very popular and captured almost 300 emails the first day the post launched. Now, the page is ranking and brings a steady supply of emails our way.

You can even offer a PDF version of the same post they’re reading so they can save it to their device and read it on the train. This works especially well for long posts that would be hard to read over a quick break time.

Whatever you choose to do, note down 1 idea for each of your top 10 posts. It’s best to draw on things that probably already exist or at least will be easy to create. If you write a list post with 10 items, you could cheekily offer the two that you cut out of the final version as a bonus.

Implement the content upgrade using a SumoMe click trigger

The next thing you’ll need to do is embed the content upgrade into the relevant blog post. At Process Street, we do this with SumoMe because we use it for site wide email capture and it isn’t purely a content upgrade tool.

As you can see from the gif above, you can trigger the pop-up from any kind of click. And, when the user enters their email address, they’re directed to the bonus content.


There’s not much to this step, but it is vital because you’ll not capture any emails without it. Follow this guide from SumoMe on setting up content upgrades with their platform.

One week later: start A/B testing

A/B testing is part of every successful team’s marketing process playbook. Once you’ve got your initial pop-up ready and running for a week, it’s time to experiment with it. SumoMe has an inbuilt A/B testing feature for split testing the box copy and design. You can also use an experiment process of your own to test things like the call-to-action on the blog.


Above is an example of the content upgrade A/B testing on a post I wrote about employee onboarding. We had one baseline running, then tested two variations against it. Here are the different designs:


We’re just A/B testing the headline, but as you can see, the 2nd headline (“Don’t Make These 3 Fatal Onboarding Mistakes!”) improved conversions by 166%.

Optimizing content upgrades (and keeping them bringing in leads)

Traditional split testing principles apply with content upgrade pop-ups, and the same way you’d optimize headlines, design and other copy, you can use these principles to test your pop-up.

Things you can test:

  • Changing the headline (likely to be the most impactful tweak since it’s the element most people will read)
  • Changing the body copy (not worth tweaking before the headline is optimized)
  • Using different brand colors for your pop-up (colors can have a big impact on conversion)
  • Using different yes / no button copy (some boxes make you feel awful for not submitting!)

And, remember, any data you get from A/B testing is excellent material for blog posts. 🙂 If you’ve had any luck with content upgrades, I’d love to hear about it. Let me know in the comments.