Content Upgrade vs. Lead Magnet: Which One is Better?

by Christina Hooper.
Last Updated on September 2, 2020

You know you need the best lead generators to move the needle for your clients — but should you create content upgrades, or lead magnets? Which one is better?

The answer depends on the unique challenges your agency is facing and what kind of budget your client will allow.

When you’re a one-man show or operating with a small team, you’re likely rushed and pressed for time. It can make it harder to create more substantial amounts of content all at once for one campaign.

Even if you’re a larger agency with a larger workforce, you are limited by the amount of money your clients want to spend — meaning you still can’t create large amounts of content for a single campaign.

Because of this, most marketing agencies end up avoiding content upgrades in favor of lead magnets. But, in doing so, they are missing out on some prime opportunities to generate new leads. 

Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of content upgrades vs. lead magnets to get an idea of which one to create for your clients.

Content Upgrades: The Pros and Cons

Content upgrades differ from lead magnets in that they are more closely aligned with the particular article a prospect lands on.

For example, let’s pretend you’re trying to sell a package to Pigeon Forge. You might have a blog article called “X Essentials You Should Pack For Every Vacation” published on your website. 

Someone landing on this article is more than likely planning for a trip they’ve already paid for. An excellent content upgrade for this article would be a printable checklist of the essentials they need to pack. 

The checklist is more closely aligned with the topic of the article, and it is the logical next step the reader should take.

While the checklist is a great content upgrade, it doesn’t make a great lead magnet because it is not generic enough to be used for more than a few articles on the same topic. 


  • More closely aligned with the article, which means a higher conversion rate
  • Easy to create if you are making a group of articles around the same topic. One Content Upgrade can work for multiple articles. 


  • You can’t use it on as many articles if your articles aren't aligned with a Cluster or Silo strategy, which means you have to create more of them than you would if you were using lead magnets instead

Lead Magnets: The Pros and Cons

Think back to our previous example. When creating a lead magnet for your Pigeon Forge vacation package, you’ll want something that enlightens your prospect on what your package has to offer and why they would want it — without being pushy or salesy.

Your lead magnet needs to be pretty generic so you can use it on all your articles on a particular topic. Still, it needs to logically move a lead to the next step of the buyer journey — which could be contacting sales or purchasing your products or services directly.

An excellent example of a lead magnet for a Pigeon Forge vacation package would be something like: “10 Things Everyone Absolutely Must See When Vacationing in Pigeon Forge.”

Now, imagine you’re a website visitor landing on the same blog article as before — “X Essentials You Should Pack For Every Vacation.”

You’ve probably already paid for a vacation package, and unless it’s to Pigeon Forge, which is unlikely, this lead magnet won’t interest you — meaning, you won’t give up your email address to download it.

If you didn’t include a content upgrade — like the checklist — you just lost out on an opportunity for a new lead.


  • Can be used on more articles, so you need less of them, which means less time and less money


  • They don’t have as high of conversion rates because they’re more generic

5 Examples of Content Upgrades

Get your creative juices flowing with these five examples of content upgrades other businesses have created:

#1: PDF Blog Post

A PDF Blog Post is a simple way to keep your content at their fingertips that they can use again and again. If you have a blog post that contains resourceful information that could be used as a point of reference, this is a great way to help. 

It allows the user to take it with them wherever they go, even if the internet isn’t available. Here is an example from Ian Cleary’s blog about Social Media Analytics. 

He added the option to download the blog to be viewed later. If your content is truly valuable to them, they will keep using it time and time again.

#2: Video or Audio Clips

If your client hosts podcasts, webinars, or audio clips, this would be a great content upgrade. It also appeals to viewers who may be more auditory learners. 

It gives them more appealing options that they can easily access over and over again. An example might be offering an audio clip that goes over the content in a blog post step by step. 

Additionally, webinars could also coincide with blog posts by offering a step by step visual guide that shows the viewer how to retrieve the information one step at a time. These kinds of how-to options can appeal to many viewers, both seasoned and new. 

Here is an example from Flipboard, where AskMen added a video clip under a section about Camping Essentials. They reused a video about Multitools to add content to their post about Camping Essentials for the Ultimate Guyventure.

#3: Transcripts

Transcripts are another great way to add a content upgrade. If your client has a lot of webinars and podcasts, a transcript could appeal to those who do not have the time to listen to the content and prefer to read it later. 

You could offer a transcript as a signup option to go along with the webinars or podcasts. These could be emailed or added to a blog for easy access. 

Here is an excellent example of transcripts used as a content upgrade. The podcast Brain Science with Ginger Campbell, MD, offers her premium subscribers unlimited access to her transcripts. However, she also offers them individually for $1-3 each.

#4: List of Resources

If your post has a heavy focus on resources like teaching a user how to make their own visual aids or content for their blog, they may be interested in a content upgrade that gives them a complete list of resources. 

This could be a downloadable list that has links to many sources they could use, which will give your viewer a complete list of resources to reference and create their own content using what you have taught them. 

The list could have clickable links like the example below, or it could be a list of websites they could copy and paste into their browser.

#5: Bonus Content

Bonus content is another option that is an excellent content upgrade. Examples for bonus content might be printables such as lists, or downloadable forms they could use again and again. 

The lure of bonus content is a great way to get viewers to sign up for email lists. The appeal of bonus material directly to their inbox is enough for most users to sign up, especially if it’s content they can use repeatedly. 

DM Dave is a great example. He offers bonus content through his email lists that include an array of options, from downloadable content to printables.

5 Examples of Lead Magnets

Do you need to make a lead magnet? Check out the following examples for some inspiration.

#1: Plan/Planner

A great way to expand your email list is to offer them a plan (like a meal plan) or planner (like a daily/weekly/monthly planner). Have them sign up for your newsletter to receive the printable plan or planner in their email inbox.

A great example of a plan is the 5 Free Meal Plans from 100 Days of Real Food. A mom looking to ease up her busy schedule would be tempted to subscribe to make her life a little easier.

#2: eBook

eBooks don’t usually convert well as lead magnets because they can be lengthy and difficult to consume. However, sometimes they can work if you have a real benefit. 

In today’s world, branding is prominent. It can make or break your business, and it’s a great tool to connect to your consumers. This example below is an eBook that has a big benefit and, thus, is a great lead magnet. 

JUST CREATIVE offers the eBook Branding 101 as a free resource for signing up for their subscriber list. They also mention having a “Branding Briefcase,” an expanding bundle of resources that keeps the user interested.  

#3: Email Course

Email courses are pretty simple to put together and don’t require you to make anything elaborate or downloadable. An email course is a simple autoresponder series that teaches users how to do something specific. 

Email courses can turn prospects into customers. Rick Mulready uses his email course 4 Facebook Ad Mistakes That Are Losing You Money to convert leads into customers for his FB Ads for Newbies course. 

#4: Newsletter

A newsletter is so simple it can be an irresistible lead magnet. I can think of probably a dozen newsletters I have signed up for over the years, and many of them eventually led to me purchasing something from that company. 

An excellent example is The Hustle. They send you an entertaining email with all the top tech and business news for the day.

#5: Coupons

Coupons are a great lead magnet. People love deals, especially when they can find a coupon with a quick search via their smartphone. 

Everyone wants to save a buck or two. Offering a coupon to a customer or even a window shopper in exchange for their email address will surely get you some leads. Below is an example from Fragrant Jewels, a company that sells bath bombs and candles with jewelry hidden inside.

Which One is Best?

The answer is — it depends. When you’re talking about which one converts better, then it’s definitely content upgrades. When you’re talking about which one costs less and can be used across more content, it would be a lead magnet.

For best results and maximum performance — you need both.

The problem?

More time equals more money, and your clients aren’t likely to give you more money until you’ve delivered positive results.

The solution?

Save time and increase your clients’ ROI by using our Silo Planning Workbook to plan out every piece of content you need for each topic your client needs to be known for.

When you download our Silo Planning Workbook, you’ll have everything you need to plan out:

  • 10 blog articles
  • 2 conversion offers
  • 30 social posts
  • 16 emails

Download your free Silo Planning Workbook now and get 1 free blog article for your agency when you give our content ninjas a try

The Team

These are the people that made this awesome article possible.

Subject Matter Expert

Christina Hooper

Account Strategist

Christina Hooper


Danielle Phipps


Amanda Parnell


Vicky Taylor

Content Manager

Danielle Phipps

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