How I Got 1,200 Extra Subscribers in 2 Months


Online marketing has evolved a lot over the past few years, and marketing tactics that worked really well a few years back are no longer as effective.

You’ve probably heard the saying “the money is in the list”.

If you’re like most bloggers, you’re probably thinking about creating a major ebook or e-course, offering it on your website for free as an incentive to encourage readers to sign up and hoping that you’ll get some subscribers as a result.

Not only is that not as effective as it used to be but there are now smarter ways to build your email list.

Late last year, I learned about the concept of “content upgrades” by reading an article on Brian Dean’s blog; I implemented the suggestions in that article and I was stunned by the result.

In 2 months and 9 days, I had over 1,200 subscribers on my list; I had gained 1,300+ subscribers in this period, but the total number of people that remained after some people unsubscribed is more than 1,200.

Here’s a screenshot of my email list growth within a period of 2 months (I created a special newsletter to test the idea of content upgrades, so the 1,200 subscribers stands for the total number of EXTRA subscribers I gained):


What’s more important is that the list is highly engaged; open rates and clicks have been high, especially compared to my main email list; so far, the open rate has been more than 50% average.

Here’s a screenshot of the engagement rate at the time of writing this article:


As you can see from my results, content upgrades can be very powerful.

Here’s how I implemented content upgrades on my site:

1. I Decided on What Incentive to Offer as My “Upgrade”

According to Brian Dean, the idea behind a content upgrade is simple; it should be something that complements your original article, by making it easy to implement the suggestions in the article or by helping readers keep track of the information presented.

Your content upgrade could be a video, a short PDF, a checklist or even the PDF version of your article.

For me, I went with the easiest option; I offered the PDF version of an article on my blog as my content upgrade.

2. I Decided on What Article to Publish for Maximum Advantage

The reality is that articles published on most blogs only get around 100 views, sometimes fewer, in their lifetime; that is way too low to experience real success with content upgrades.

In other to maximize the benefit I will get from my content upgrade, I decided to assign it to an article I was already preparing that I knew has good potential.

The article in question is: 110 Websites that Pay Writers.

Based on my experience with articles of a similar nature, I knew this particular article will be a hit. I was right; within a month of the article going live, over 6,000 people have read it.

That same month, over 700 people became verified subscribers of my newsletter (over 900 people subscribed, but for some reason only around 700 people confirmed their subscription).

I have since implemented this on other less popular articles on my blog, and the results has been impressive so far; a few hundred additional subscribers in a month is not to be sniffed at.

A great way to get maximum benefit from your content upgrades is by using it with an already popular article on your blog, or by writing a new article with potential to go viral. For some ideas, you can read this case study on a formula that has resulted in around 300,000 views from just 4 articles.

3. I Didn’t Give Full Information in the Original Article

To get more people to take advantage of my content upgrade, I knew it had to be somehow exclusive.

The original article I planned to published featured 110 websites that pay writers, and it is very massive at over 6,000 words and with more than 110 links; for usability and SEO reasons, I had to somehow cut this down, so I instead featured 70 of the sites in the original article, and asked people to upgrade to get the full list of the 110 sites.

People were impressed, because a list of 70 sites that pay writers is really massive on its own so there were no complaints, and people even thanked me for allowing them to download the list.

Now, this is a kind of grey area; unless you’re offering some serious value in your article, it will be difficult to get away with not giving away full information in your article, especially if that was what you promised in your article title.

4. I Updated Existing Relevant Articles With My Content Upgrade

To further supercharge the impact I get from my content upgrade, I decided to update two similar articles on my blog with a call to action to get the content upgrade.

The two articles are:

  • 30 Websites that Pay Writers
  • 45 More Websites that Pay Writers

These articles were already popular, so adding my content upgrade to them resulted in more subscribers.

That said, I know that I had an advantage since my articles were read by at least 20,000 people within this 2 month period but I’m sure that I would have lost a total of at least 1,200 subscribers in a span of 2 months if I hadn’t implemented it.

While you might not necessarily get 1,200 subscribers, or you might get significantly more than that, it is important to realize that this is relative.

If you’re only able to get 50 subscribers from your blog in a month, imagine what 100 additional subscribers in a month will do for you just by implementing content upgrades.

4 Reasons You Should Use Content Upgrades Instead of a Traditional Squeeze Page

If you’re still contemplating using content upgrades, here are 4 reasons why you should give it a try:

1. It is very simple to create: If you’re like most people, you probably spent months trying to create a single sign up incentive to offer to your subscribers. Perhaps, you haven’t even created one due to the overwhelm.

More likely than not, a lot of people won’t bother to read that mega ebook.

A simple 2 – 3 pages PDF, however, will be more accepted and most of your readers will definitely go through it.

2. It is relevant: Gone are the days when a single sign up incentive all over your blog is the norm; now, you have to be smart and segment your email list.

If someone signs up for information about exercise on your health and fitness blog, have a special incentive and email list for these people; don’t lump them with people who want information on diet.

Since content upgrades are relevant to the content they are featured in, they give you massive advantage as far as relevancy is concerned.

3. Conversion Rates is High: Relevancy also plays a role here; when someone reads an article on social media and you give them a “optimal social media performance checklist”, you can be sure they will be more likely to subscribe compared to someone who is being offered a “monetization plan ebook” after reading an article on social media.

4. No Traditional Squeeze Pages Needed: You do not need to use traditional squeeze pages to get people to download your content upgrade.

You can include a “triggered popup” inside the content that has an upgrade; as soon as people click the link to download that content upgrade, they will trigger a popup asking for their email address.

This is effective because they don’t have to visit another page to sign up, and the fact that they already clicked the link that showed a popup will create little resistance in them providing their email address to receive the incentive.

You can do this through popular landing page software LeadPages, or through OptinLinks, a WordPress plugin you can install.


Are you familiar with content upgrades? What email strategy is responsible for giving you the most email subscribers?

Bamidele Onibalusi is a successful businessman, marketing consultant and the founder of, a blog aimed at giving business owners practical business ideas that work. You should follow him on Twitter @youngprepro.

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10 Responses to “How I Got 1,200 Extra Subscribers in 2 Months”

  • Neon Emmanuel

    I usually love the subscribe box pop out, in a light box, that allows users opt-in my site easily and kinda compusriliy, but I noticed it affected my site in every ways like slowing site and increasing my bounce rate.

    Thus I moved to subscribe box at widget , and I get only 20 subscribers per month (poor though), and I shall try your method if it works.

    But the issue is , is it advisable I do the article upgrade , on all articles on my blog wouldn’t it be stressful to me and the readers ? , and since I don’t know what article would be productive until I try them, is there any probably way to check article probability of productivity ?

    Next is , may be I run a slit test, and I offer 3 different article upgrades on the same blog, is there and service that recognise already opt-in users and send the article upgrade to them, without a further confirmation and singup ?.

    Please I need answers.

  • Jessi Sharon

    Awesome Post…! Easy to understand and easy to implement….!
    This information is enormously helpful. Thank you for sharing…!

  • Joe Mclain

    I have a question in my mind:

    I hope you will answer:

    If I am having a very micro niche related blog and I have only few thousand words there just to get some sales, would it be wise to gather subscribers? Or can I even get some? As the traffic is very low, like 10 visits a day only.

    I appreciate your help 🙂

  • niko

    This is very interesting. A good tip for marketers. Definitely will try this and see how it will fare with my product

  • Dan Western

    Hi Bamidele,

    Great stuff! 1200 is a great number for such a short time!

    Have you experimented much with editing the text/images used on your opt-in forms? It’s amazing how change a few words can make a huge difference on conversion rates.

    Thanks for sharing Bamidele and I look forward to reading more from you!


  • Priyanka

    Yes guys,
    Building subscribers is not a hard process when you get down to the basics. Your aim is to provide a quality product, and an incentive for readers to continue to get the information you’re giving them.Thanks for the article!

  • Neha sharma

    Top tips on using bulk SMS marketing effectively

    Companies shouldn’t be afraid of using bulk SMS to aid their marketing campaign. After all, research shows that SMS messages are read more than any other messaging medium. According to 98 percent of all SMS messages are looked at and are read within an average of five seconds. So it’s highly likely your messages will be successfully reaching your audience.

  • Michelle

    Excellent article , easy to undrestand for those who are not so pro in this area.

  • InternetLocalListings

    Nice post! We haven’t tried anything like this before, but this is a really good place to start learning about how content upgrades work. Thanks for the article!

  • anurag

    While you might not necessarily get 1,200 subscribers, or you might get significantly more than that, it is important to realize that this is relative.

Comments are closed.