How to Add Content Upgrades in WordPress and Grow Your Email List


Recently when our founder Syed Balkhi shared his 14-point pre-publish blog post checklist, many of you asked about how did he add the bonus download offer. That’s called a Content Upgrade, and it helps you get significantly more email subscribers. In this article, we will show you how to add content upgrades in WordPress and grow your email list.

Content Upgrades in WordPress

What is a Content Upgrade?

Content upgrade is a technique where you offer your readers a chance to get exclusive bonus content by signing up to your email list. This additional premium content offered for completing an action is also known as content bribe.

Some different type of content upgrades:

  • eBooks
  • Checklists
  • Excel Worksheets
  • Downloadable PDF version of your blog post
  • Exclusive video interview related to the post
  • Bonus how-to’s for the article

Basically content upgrades have to be highly relevant to the post you’re offering it on. For example, on a post about content upgrade, we should offer a content upgrade checklist because readers of this post will find that highly useful.

Human psychology plays an important role in the effectiveness of content upgrades. The psychology principle known as Zeigarnik Effect states that people are most likely to complete a task if they initiate it themselves.

For content upgrades, it works because users initiate it by clicking on a link or an image. This makes them more likely to complete the task by finishing the sign up.

Sounds too good to be true, right?

See these stats from Syed’s website comparing a regular popup and a MonsterLinks content upgrade.

Comparison of regular popup and a MonsterLink content upgrade

The generic popup was running across the site and was seen by nearly 26000 users, out of which 744 signed up.

On the other hand, the targeted MonsterLink was placed on a single page. It was viewed by 270 people and 74 users signed up. That’s an insane conversion all from a single page without running any split-tests!

Now that you know what is a content upgrade, let’s see how you can use it on your own website to get more email subscribers.

How to Add Content Upgrades in WordPress?

Content upgrades can be added to any web page using MonsterLinks feature in OptinMonster.

OptinMonster is the best conversion optimization software in the market. It allows you to add beautiful opt in forms like lightbox popups, scroll-triggered slide-in forms, floating bars, sidebar optins, below the content forms, etc.

It is super fast and works beautifully with WordPress powered websites.

Syed started OptinMonster to use on WPBeginner, and we increased our email subscribers by 600%.

Note: if you don’t have an email list, then check out our guide on why you should start building your email list right away.

Step 1: Setting up OptinMonster

First you will need to install and activate the OptinMonster plugin on your WordPress site.

This plugin acts as a connector between your WordPress site and OptinMonster.

Upon activation, click on OptinMonster menu item in your WordPress admin bar. You will be asked to provide your OptinMonster API username and key (the basic plan of OptinMonster is sufficient for offering content upgrades).

Enter your OptinMonster API key

You can find the API information under your account on the OptinMonster website. Simply login and then click on the API link.

Copy OptinMonster API username and key

Next, copy and paste API username and key into OptinMonster plugin page and then click on connect to OptinMonster button.

Step 2: Create a New Popup Optin

Once you are successfully connected, you need to click on the create new optin button.

Create new optin

This will take you to the OptinMonster website. You need to give your optin a title and select your website from the drop down menu. Next, choose lightbox as your optin design.

You will see previews of all the different themes. You can select any one of them as your starter theme.

This will bring you to the OptinMonster’s form builder where you can totally customize the appearance of your popup.

Design your form in OptinMonster

For content upgrades, you will need to click on the ‘Display Rules’ tab and select “Monster Links” option.

Enable Monster Link option

Change the status to active and then click on the ‘Copy MonsterLink code’ button.

Now you need to open a plain text editor like Notepad and paste the code you copied. You will need this code later.

After that you need to switch back to OptinMonster form builder and change your campaign status from paused to start campaign.

Make your optin live

You can now click on the ‘Save’ button and exit OptinMonster form builder.

Step 3: Enable MonsterLink Optin on Your Site

Visit the OptinMonster plugin page on your WordPress site and click on the Optins tab. You will see your new optins listed there.

If you cannot see it there, then you should click on the refresh optins button. When you see your optin, click on the ‘Edit output settings’ link below your optin.

Edit optin output settings

This will bring you to the optin output settings page where you need to check the box next to enable optin on this site option.

Enable optin on your website

Don’t forget to click on the save settings button to save your changes.

Step 4: Add Your Monster Link in a WordPress Post or Page

Adding your MonsterLink in WordPress is very simple.

Simply edit the post or page where you want to display MonsterLink. On the post edit screen, switch to the text editor and paste the MonsterLink code you copied earlier.

It will look like this:

<a href="#" class="manual-optin-trigger" data-optin-slug="h95qqg9sqx9atrsl">Click me!</a>

This code will show plain link to the users however it won’t really stand out.

So how do you make it stand out? You can add a box around it like this:

  <p style="background: none repeat scroll 0 0 #fffecf; clear: both; margin-bottom: 18px; overflow: hidden; border: 1px solid #e5e597; padding: 13px;">    <strong>Exclusive Bonus:</strong> <a class="manual-optin-trigger" href="#" data-optin-slug="mohlwy2grsxcvmcw">Download The Blog Post Checklist</a> to use before you hit publish.    </p>  

MonsterLink displayed in a yellow box

You can also create a shortcode to make the box styling easy for future.

Simply add this code in your theme’s functions.php file or in a site-specific plugin:

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

You can now add your content upgrade link in your WordPress posts using the shortcode like this:

  [yellowbox]    <strong>Exclusive Bonus:</strong> <a class="manual-optin-trigger" href="#" data-optin-slug="mohlwy2grsxcvmcw">Download The Blog Post Checklist</a> to use before you hit publish.    [/yellowbox]  

You can also show the link with an image. This way you can make it much more prominent and attractive.

Here is how you can add the image with MonsterLink in WordPress.

  <a class="manual-optin-trigger" href="#" data-optin-slug="mohlwy2grsxcvmcw"><img src="" alt="ebook download" /></a>  

MonsterLink around an image will make it look more prominent

Step 5: Delivering Content Upgrade

Now we need to take a look at how to deliver the content upgrade that we promised to the user.

Your content upgrade could be anything. Syed used a checklist document in his experiment. You can use PDF, video, audio, or any other kind of content.

Once users enter their email address, you can provide them the promised content upgrade. There are multiple ways to do this:

Show Download Link as Success Message

You can show a download link as a success message inside your popup.

Edit your optin in the OptinMonster form builder and click on the success tab. Under the ‘Success Action’ select ‘Display a success theme’.

Display in success message

Click on the success message text in the preview to edit it and add the link to the download file.

Redirect to Thank You or Download Page

You can also redirect users to a thank you page that has the link to download the file. Select You will find the option to redirect users under the configuration tab in the optin builder.

Redirect users upon successful signup to the download page

Send as an Email

Most email marketing software offer autoresponder features where you can send welcome emails to new users. You can use it to send the download link to the user.

You will have to check your email service provider’s documentation section for instructions on how to do this.


Content upgrades are going to be the NEXT BIG thing when it comes to lead-generation. Smart marketers are already starting to use it on their sites.

Brian Dean from Backlinko, Bryan Harris from Videofruit, Neil Patel from QuickSprout, Pat Flynn from SPI, and ofcourse our own Syed Balkhi has seen phenomenal results from using content upgrades.

If you want to grow your email list, then you should definitely try out content upgrades. It will take you anywhere from 30 minutes to 1.5 hours to build and add a content upgrade to your post, but it’s totally worth it.

We hope this article helped you add content upgrades in WordPress to grow your email list. Want to learn another way to boost your email list? See our guide on how to create a welcome gate in WordPress.

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