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Content Upgrades Offer the Proof Point Most Marketing Strategies Lack

Content marketing is a crucial part of your firm’s digital marketing strategy. And your team works hard to craft compelling thought leadership pieces that reflect your expertise as well as your prospects’ pain points. 

But is your content marketing effective? How do you measure your content’s success? And how do you ensure your marketing efforts are paying off in the form of a well-stocked sales pipeline? 

The truth is that the content you’ve painstakingly developed by making sure it is on-message for the right prospects at the right time needs to go further.

How? With content upgrades. 

Content upgrades are gated, downloadable assets that topically relate to the content on the page where they are embedded.

They not only turn your existing content into a lead-gen avenue, but these upgrades also provide new, insightful data that brings deeper meaning and context to the metrics you currently analyze. Together, this builds a critical bridge between content marketing and sales — all with a low investment of time and resources. 

Does that sound too good to be true? Read on.

Table of Contents

  1. Content Upgrades Drive High-Value Conversions
  2. Are Content Upgrades the Missing Piece in Your Digital Marketing Strategy?
  3. When Are Content Upgrades Right for Your Strategy? 
  4. How INK Communications Converted Organic Traffic Into Leads 
  5. MindFlow Design’s Path Toward Qualified Leads With Content Upgrades
  6. Make Your Content Do the Heavy Lifting

Content Upgrades Drive High-Value Conversions

Who doesn’t love a low-effort lead-gen strategy? We recommend content upgrades to our clients because they provide simple avenues on your website for users to engage with your content — via a form completion for the upgrade download. 

Think about it like this: Your whole website exists to create engagement opportunities for prospects. Free thought leadership, case studies, email newsletter subscriptions, and gated assets are all excellent ways to nurture prospects as they build familiarity with your agency and move through the sales pipeline. Conversions like email signups are valuable to build your list. And contact page conversions? Those are worth their weight in gold. 

But as valuable as those conversion points are, they represent a fairly large commitment on the part of your prospects. They’re simply less likely to convert on email signups and contact forms when they’re first getting to know your firm. 

That’s part of what makes content upgrades so useful. Content upgrades are highly targeted to a self-selected group of people who’ve already demonstrated an interest in a topic on your website. It’s an easy conversion opportunity. And beyond generating leads, the data collected can be put to use so your team sees a more complete picture of your content performance (and prospect behavior).

Are Content Upgrades the Missing Piece in Your Digital Marketing Strategy?

A traditional content marketing program seamlessly nurtures prospects through the sales cycle, integrates perfectly with your website and other digital channels, and positions your firm as a leader in the field — one that is chock full of experts. 

But an advanced content marketing program utilizes content upgrades to reveal who, specifically, is engaging with your content. Knowing that detail makes your content marketing exponentially more powerful.

With content upgrades, you can: 

Derive More Value From Your Existing Content

Content upgrades build on your existing library of content and make it work smarter for you. Since the content upgrade is a targeted conversion opportunity for a specific group of already-interested people, the conversions are a) more likely to be right-fit prospects, and b) more compelling than the conversion opportunities in your site’s right-hand side or footer.  

Generate Leads With Less Time and Effort

Using top-performing content to drive conversions enables your team to better measure and qualify your organic site traffic using a piece of content you already have

Adding a gated asset to an existing top-performing page is a low investment of time and resources. The time it takes to create an effective content upgrade with Newfangled is approximately 30 minutes for an interview, give or take some internal prep time, and a little more time for design (if you’re not on our content design service). 

For the cost of (at most) a few hours of your team’s time, you gain a resource that will consistently gather leads for the foreseeable future.

And content upgrades are reusable! We encourage you to add them to any piece of relevant content you have, whether or not it’s a top performer. A lesser-performing page may only get a few conversions, but every single lead you attract matters. 

You can set and forget content upgrades, and they’ll continue to work for you as long as you have them on your site. 

Bring a Narrative to Your Metrics

The leads that come in through content upgrade conversions indicate something important. Through keyword research, you’ll gain perspective on the broad topics prospects are interested in. By adding a content upgrade, the conversions will allow you to distill more specific information about prospect interest.

Organic traffic is its own beast. One that can be unpredictable and difficult to qualify as right-fit prospects. You can carefully craft your content based on keywords and buyer intent. Despite that, you still won’t be able to control who navigates to each page on your site. 

Metrics like bounce rate, pageviews, time on page, and referral source are helpful — to an extent. But at a surface level, these data points can be considered vanity metrics. Nice to look at but lacking deeper substance.  

Content upgrades go a long way toward elevating and enhancing your existing data. They can show whether your traffic is meaningful, or whether it’s not attracting the right kind of prospects for your firm. This additional data contextualizes the information you already have and provides deeper insights beyond those vanity metrics. 

Would you rather know a page has 300 organic visitors or have the email addresses (and thus company and potentially job title information) of 30 conversions from that page?

Build a Bridge Between Sales and Marketing

Every time a site visitor converts on a content upgrade, you gain deeper visibility into who is interacting with your content and what they’re interested in. Which means your team can take the reins in the relationship. Rather than passively waiting for prospects to come back to your website on their own sweet time, you can proactively engage with known leads via email and other outbound channels. 

The sum of this approach means you can better connect your content marketing with your sales efforts by tapping into your organic traffic in a thoughtful, deliberate, and truly low-effort way. 

When Are Content Upgrades Right for Your Strategy?

Well, we’d argue content upgrades make sense on nearly any piece of content you already have in your arsenal — and upcoming content items as well. 

But since that’s likely not possible, here are three steps to guide you in prioritizing the most promising content and getting started. 

3 Steps to Decide Where to Add Content Upgrades

1. Identify Top-Performing Content

Organic traffic is an untapped gold mine. However, you’ll get the best ROI from your efforts by focusing on the pages that are consistently driving a decent percentage of traffic to your site. 

Start by considering what content on your site meets that criteria. It might sound low, but a page responsible for even 2-5% of your site traffic is a plentiful source worth plundering with page-specific conversion opportunities like content upgrades. 

2. Evaluate the Search Intent Behind the Organic Traffic Using Keywords

After selecting a top-performing piece of content based on traffic, you need to check the keywords that are leading users to that page. As you review search terms, keep in mind that you’re looking to determine the search intent behind the keywords. There are four types of search intent: navigational, informational, transactional, and commercial.

Plenty of keywords have mixed intent. “Blog ideas” could be a prospect looking for a partner to help them write long-form content (commercial intent). On the other hand, it could just be simply a curious marketer at the beginning of their research process (informational intent).

Understanding keyword intent in conjunction with organic traffic volume can inform not only which pages you place content upgrades on but also the topics you choose for content upgrades as well. 

3. Create a Compelling Download — and Make It Easy to Find

Next, it’s time to develop a content upgrade that is tailor-made to appeal to the steady flow of organic visitors who are already visiting the page. 

Keeping the keywords and intent in mind will help you craft an asset that stops visitors in their tracks. The goal is to make them think, “Perfect. This download will help me answer my question or achieve my objective immediately.”

But a prospect won’t come to that conclusion if they can’t find the conversion opportunity to begin with. Embedding calls to action (CTAs) within the content as close to the top of the page as possible makes them much more effective than a footer or sidebar CTA that’s largely ignored or hard to find. 

In Newfangled’s work with clients, content strategists continually monitor performance metrics to identify where, when, and how we can make the best use of your existing content with well-placed content upgrades. 

How INK Communications Converted Organic Traffic Into Leads

Take INK Communications for example. This PR and marketing firm for tech and energy companies wrote a blog post about the difference between media relations and analyst firms, a hot (and widely searched for) topic in their industry. The leading source of traffic to this page was organic search, and the article itself was driving 2.5% of the overall site traffic. The page ranked 5th on page one of Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs) for “analyst firm” and 6th for “best technology research companies,” showing strong commercial intent.

We saw the potential to squeeze more value out of this already successful page. So we worked with INK to ideate and develop a highly relevant content upgrade: an analyst firm cheat sheet.

Once the upgrade was added to the page, the conversions started pouring in:

In approximately one year, INK gained more than 100 conversions from this one upgrade. Compared to just two email signups during that same time frame (on that same page — not the whole site), it’s clear which call to action was more compelling. 

In addition, the leads we generated enabled us to contextualize and personalize the data we already had. When visitors on a client’s website convert on a form, Newfangled’s proprietary Insight Engine (the two screenshots above both come from this platform) scrapes the web for publicly available information about those individuals. It also tracks their activity on our client’s website moving forward (GDPR compliant tracking, of course). 

Instead of just relying on pageviews, bounce rate, and time on page, INK Communications can now use the content upgrade conversions to learn meaningful information about a subset of their visitors and use that data to measure the success of their content strategy. They can truly determine if their site traffic is quality users.

The other best part? These leads are coming from an article published more than a year ago. Simply refreshing it with a short but relevant piece of gated content means the marketing team at INK Communications now receives leads in their inbox every month.

MindFlow Design’s Path Toward Qualified Leads With Content Upgrades

This example of our work with MindFlow Design is quite different from the previous example for a few reasons. 

First, MindFlow Design is a firm focused in a very niche industry: medical device design and development. Second, after years of dedicated content marketing, their organic traffic was incredibly strong but consisted mostly of users with informational intent. We identified where a content upgrade would be impactful on their site. In essence, we showed them which tree to shake to gather the most low-hanging fruit. 
MindFlow Design wrote an article about FDA design controls in 2020. This article stood out as a natural place for a content upgrade for two reasons. It ranked highly for relevant keywords like “design control process” and had been selected by Google as a featured snippet — an earned informational “spotlight” given to pages the search engine deems highly useful in the context of various search terms.

While MindFlow Design didn’t achieve 100 leads from this one content upgrade in a year, they still received multiple leads a month. The results show how compelling a content upgrade can be, even when the numbers are relatively low. By comparison, the embedded content upgrade had 200% more conversions than the right-hand sidebar CTA on the same page. 
But the real value for MindFlow Design is the deep insight that will inform their content strategy to reach and capture those right-fit prospects. The information and data gleaned from the conversions showed how prospects move through the site and which of MindFlow Design’s services they are most interested in. This information is useful not only for ideating future content but also nurturing existing users through the sales funnel.

This article is focused on researchers and, as you would expect, the keywords showed more informational intent. But we still saw an opportunity. The traffic to this page was so steady and abundant we knew a content upgrade could help illuminate information about the people visiting the page in addition to passively gathering leads. 

At the end of the day, this example demonstrates the value of using content upgrades to convert faceless traffic into known prospects even when keyword intent is more informational than commercial.

Make Your Content Do the Heavy Lifting

Your content can (and should) work harder for you and your team after its initial development is complete. A content upgrade connects the dots — it generates leads, qualifies traffic, and provides context around elusive organic traffic. And hey, giving a resource away for free establishes trust with your audience! 

The sheer fact that you have the content upgrade on a frequently visited page means you’re going to continually tap into that audience without needing to do much else. And isn’t that what you’ve always wanted from your content marketing?

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