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The Best WordPress Plugins And Tools To Create And Deploy Content Upgrades

List building is super important if you want your website to take-off.

You will gain so much more momentum from email marketing compared to social media marketing.

But building your list requires you to put some effort in up front.

For starters, you will need a lead magnet to entice your readers.

Traditionally websites offered one lead magnet, but over time marketers have stepped up their game. It’s not uncommon now to have category-based lead magnets; for example, one for SEO, one for Plugins, etc.

However, the more savvy marketers have taken this one step further.

They offer Content Upgrades.

Inside this post, you’ll learn:

  • What a content upgrade is
  • Three super tools to help you create a content upgrade with ease
  • The best WordPress plugins and tools for deploying content upgrades

What is a content upgrade?

A Content Upgrade is a post-specific lead magnet.

And according to Pat Flynn they are one of the most effective ways to build your list:

What’s working even better today are smaller, unique, bite-sized lead magnets that directly relate to what people are already consuming.

Brian Dean reported a 785% conversion rate increase after he started to use content upgrades on his website, Backlinko.

Take a quick look at these websites to see them in action:

Backlinko Example

Smart Passive Income Example

Videofruit Example

QuickSprout Example 2

You can see from the examples above that marketers place the content upgrade in different places in their blog post:

  • Near the top
  • In the middle
  • At the end

How to create a content upgrade

You’ll notice that the content upgrades from above and around the web tend to be one of the following:

  • Checklist – Resources or tools to help implement the strategy
  • Worksheet – Step-by-step guide to help implement the strategy
  • Infographic – Either of the post content or additional content
  • Video Tutorial – The blog post in video format (could be vice versa)
  • PDF of the blog post – Some people like the whole post to read later
  • Bonus Tips – Unavailable in the post
  • Template – Fill in the blanks

There are certain combinations of blog post and content upgrade that work well together.

For example:

Blog Post Content Upgrade Example
How To Checklist A brief 1-page checklist to accompany a long blog post is perfect.
Case Study Slideshow or Video Create a Slideshare presentation or YouTube video.
Blog Post Series eBook An eBook that combines a 3 or 4-part blog post series is an ideal takeaway.

Creating a content upgrade will take a little extra effort, but your original content can provide the backbone to this bonus content.

Here are a few tools that can help you out:


There are many design templates in Canva that you can use. If you take the time to create your first resource well, then you can duplicate it next time and switch in your new content.

Try the ‘Blog Graphic’ or ‘A4′ templates.



Beacon is a new tool I’ve recently come across and it is ideal for creating lead magnets.


  • eBook – There is an optional WordPress plugin that will pull your entire blog post(s) through into your Beacon dashboard. Or you can create from scratch. Or perhaps a bit of both.
  • Checklist – Take the main action points from a blog post and turn them into a practical checklist.
  • Resource Guide – A collection of recommended tools or resources that people should use to achieve a result.

Whichever type of lead magnet you decide to use there are plenty of design themes to use, plus you can change fonts and colors.


Checkli is a free app and is ideal if you want to create some simple checklists that your readers can reuse. For example, an On-Page SEO Checklist:


Content upgrade plugins

All of the earlier examples use the 2-step opt-in method for their content upgrade.

A 2-step opt-in is less obtrusive than a traditional 1-step opt-in form because it displays as a highlighted box or text link that invites a reader to click for more.

According to OptinMonster, the 2- step opt-in method has higher opt-in rates because:

They use the psychology principle known as Zeigarnik Effect which states those who initiate are more likely to finish the process.

It’s fair to say that most email service providers only supply simple opt-in forms.

That’s why you’ll need a WordPress plugin to create a 2-step opt-in content upgrade.

The plugins are packed with more features to give you the best chance of converting readers into subscribers. And they are all designed to integrate seamlessly with your email service provider.

Let’s take a look at three of the best WordPress Plugins that have the Content Upgrade functionality you need.

1. Thrive Leads

Thrive Leads

Thrive Leads is the complete list building plugin for WordPress. It has every type of opt-in form including Sticky Ribbon, Popup Lightbox, Slide-In, Opt-in Widget, and Scroll Mat.

More importantly, it also has Inline Forms which are perfect for content upgrades.

What’s more impressive is that Thrive has developed a set of content upgrade templates that come preconfigured as 2-Step Opt-in forms.

Here’s an example:

  • Step 1: The Inline Form displayed in the blog post:

Thrive Opt-In 1

  • Step 2: The Opt-in box displayed as a Popup Lightbox after clicking the link:

Thrive Opt-In 2

Asset delivery

Thrive Leads also has the option of Asset delivery, which brings two main advantages for content upgrades:

  • You can send the right download links to your opt-in offers to new subscribers via a third-party service like Mandrill rather than your email service provider.
  • You don’t have to set up a separate thank you page, list, and follow-up sequence for each new opt-in offer you create.

Note: this option works best if you don’t use the Confirmed Opt-in that email service providers offer.

Split testing

One of the other great things about Thrive Leads is that you can run A/B Split Testing of your content upgrade to see which performs best. For example, you can test color and text variations. Plus, you can either choose a winner manually or let the plugin decide.


  • Place Inline Opt-in Forms anywhere with shortcodes
  • Multiple templates available for content upgrades
  • Drag & drop editor allows for advanced customization
  • Test different variations against each other
  • Send PDF’s to your subscribers with digital asset delivery
  • Reporting dashboard gives you essential insights
  • Supports most popular email providers

Price: From $67 / Single site, $97 / Unlimited sites

Get Thrive Leads

Note: need help setting up content upgrades with Thrive Leads? Check out our step-by-step tutorial.

2. Leadpages

List Building Leadpages

Leadpages is a web based app that is ideal for creating and deploying landing pages.

However, one of their main features is perfect for content upgrades.


It was, in fact, Pat Flynn who encouraged Leadpages to introduce the Leadboxes feature. It works in the same way as Thrive Leads or OptinMonster by deploying a 2-Step Opt-in process.

Here’s how it looks with a simple text link followed by the pop-up box:

Leadboxes 1

Leadboxes 2

Because Leadpages focus on rapid implementation, they have a complete set of Leadboxes templates available via their user dashboard. Plus there are additional templates available to purchase in their marketplace. All templates are customizable to tailor to your website and integrate with your email service provider.

Pre-populated form fields

The opt-in process is made easy with Leadboxes because it can automatically pull in your leads’ information if they’ve ever filled in a Leadbox form—on any site—before.

If that’s the case, it pre-populates the opt-in form. If you’re a new subscriber, then it will send the download link and add you as a subscriber too.

Digital asset delivery

Like Thrive Leads, LeadPages also incorporates a digital asset delivery system to send your lead magnets.


  • Web managed platform – build landing pages and Leadboxes in one central location
  • Use Leadboxes on any website
  • Digital Asset Delivery
  • Built-in analytics to monitor conversions
  • Easy A/B split testing (on pro or advanced accounts)
  • Supports the primary email service providers

Price: From $37/month, or from $300/1-year, or from $408/2-year

Get Leadpages

3. OptinMonster


OptinMonster is not just a WordPress plugin. It’s a complete web-based app that’s available for all types of websites.

You can manage most things from your dashboard, but there is also a WordPress plugin to help with additional page targeting features.

OptinMonster has various opt-in form types such as Sidebar Widgets, Lightbox Popup, and Fullscreen Welcome Gate.

It has two types of opt-in form that are suitable for content upgrades.

1- MonsterLinks

MonsterLinks is the name of the 2-Step Opt-in technology from OptinMonster.

MonsterLinks can turn any link or image into a 2-step opt-in process. When a user clicks on the link or an image, a popup opens up asking them to subscribe.

Remember the Backlinko example from above? That was done using MonsterLink.

Here’s a gif from OptinMonster showing you how it looks in practice:


2- After post and in-line opt-in forms

OptinMonster also has a feature called After Post which is ideal for using in a blog post as a content upgrade.

You can place the opt-in form either inline or at the end of the post using the generated shortcode. It’s not as subtle as MonsterLinks, but it’s another way of offering a content upgrade.

Here’s an example of how it might look in a blog post:

After Post Forms

Note: The After Post feature is only available on the Pro Plan (see below for pricing).


  • Use MonsterLinks feature to display 2-step opt-in forms
  • Great selection of templates for your forms
  • Easy-to-use editor with form preview
  • Set up split tests from within your dashboard
  • Access your analytics to see how your forms are performing
  • Integration with all the leading email providers

Price: Basic $19/month (or $9/month when paid annually) / Pro $39/month (or $29/month when paid annually)

Get OptinMonster


Time for a quick recap on what we’ve covered today.

Content upgrades are proven to be the best way of adding subscribers to your mailing list. They are a unique post-based lead magnet delivered via the 2-step opt-in method.

Invest some extra effort to create your lead magnet but remember you can repurpose some of the original blog post where applicable.

If you want to make your content upgrade stand out, then you’ll need a WordPress plugin or tool to help.

Thrive Leads, OptinMonster, and Leadpages are all excellent tools for executing the 2-step opt-in method. They all have useful templates that you can customize to suit your website. All three are top list building plugins and tools with a host of other features too.

Thrive Leads is a real WordPress plugin that includes a full feature set across the board. Whereas OptinMonster and Leadpages are both web-based apps that have graduated pricing plans.

Overall, Thrive Leads is the most versatile and cost effective of the premium solutions here. Whether you choose the individual plugin or the annual membership plan, both options are excellent value for money.

This article was first published here

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