No One Wants Your Ebook. Here Are 4 Better Ways To Grow Your Marketing List

by Sid Bharath

Last updated on June 11th, 2018

Do you know the term ‘banner blindness’? That phenomenon where we consciously or subconsciously ignore banners and ads on websites. Apparently 86% of consumers suffer from it.

Well, I think I’m starting to suffer from book blindness too. Every blog I read now has an opt-in or CTA to download their ebook. Unless something comes highly recommended to me, or it really stands out, I’ve started automatically ignoring them.

Now maybe book blindness (if this becomes a thing, remember that you first read it here!) isn’t as common as banner blindness, but it sure is becoming harder to differentiate your ebook from everyone else’s. And that means lower subscription rates. Not good.

So what’s the solution?

It’s time to think outside the book. In this article, we’ll have a look at four innovative hooks that can help you grow your email list a lot faster. Not many websites are doing this right now, so try these quick before they catch on!

1. Content Upgrade

Content upgrades are lead magnets that are created specifically for particular blog posts or pages. Unlike typical opt-in bribes, which tend to be generic ebooks, content upgrades provide exactly what visitors want at the moment.

Let’s take the Daily Egg blog for example. To the top right, you’ll see a green opt-in box saying “Don’t Miss Out!” Of course, there’s no ebook, but subscribing to the blog provides as much value as an ebook. Still, it’s a pretty generic opt-in and it’s meant for everyone who visits the blog.

On the other hand, a content upgrade would be a laser-targeted resource meant specifically for this post. Since you’re reading this right now, you’re probably interested in improving your subscription rates. If I wanted to capture your email, I’d offer you a bonus checklist that will show you how to improve it in exchange.

content upgrade increases email subscribers

That’s way more powerful because I’m offering you more information on a problem you might have right now. In addition, because it is placed inside the content area of your posts or the pages, the content upgrade is hard to miss and immune to book blindness.

By the way, that screenshot of the content upgrade was taken from Brian Dean at Backlinko. Using Crazy Egg, he found that only 2% of his visitors were clicking his sidebar banner. After seeing bloggers like Kim Roach and Bryan Harris use content upgrades, he decided to try it out on his blog on just one post.

His subscription rates shot up by 785%! In fact, out of all the 54 opt-ins on his blog, his content upgrade opt-in accounts for 30% of his subscribers.

That’s pretty impressive, right? The best part is, a content upgrade doesn’t take as much time to create as a book. Sometimes even a summary or a checklist is good enough. So go pick your top performing post and give it a spin!

2. Free Paywall

Yes, I know, it’s an oxymoron but it’s real. You see there’s so much content out there now that people don’t want more, they want better. So instead of offering them just one ebook, why not make it a whole library of content that always getting updated.

Copyblogger has been around for a long time, and with the kind of content they publish on their blog you’d think that people would gladly subscribe to their newsletter, ebook or not. Yet, like every other blog, Copyblogger started seeing diminishing returns on their regular opt-ins too.

So to solve this, they came up with the idea of a free paywall. It’s similar to how online newspapers and magazines limit content to only paying subscribers, except in Copyblogger’s case their readers “pay” with an email address. They essentially gated their best content.

Of course, readers aren’t going to subscribe for regular blog content that they could possibly find elsewhere. That’s why Copyblogger created an entire library of resources consisting of 16 ebooks and a 20-part Internet marketing course. On top of that, the library is constantly being updated.

The week after they launched the free paywall, Copyblogger saw their subscription rates shoot up to 67%. That’s 2 out of every 3 website visitors subscribing! Their list growth in the first week was 400% more than their previous highest growth for one week.

Now, obviously, that’s a lot of value and producing 16 books is no joke. However, you don’t need to create unique content. Like Copyblogger, if you’ve already been creating content on your site, you can simply repurpose them into an ebook.

Evidently, hiding your premium content behind a free paywall can help you grow your leads tremendously. In addition, it also allows you to connect with your potential customers and let you build a long lasting relationship with them, which could result in more sales in the long run.

copyblogger free paywall increases email subscribers

3. Community Access

Another way to grow your email list is to offer subscribers access to your private community. I saw this tactic last month when I received an email from Sujan Patel on the launch of his new tool

I’ll be honest (and I hope he isn’t reading this!), the tool itself didn’t make me want to reach for my wallet and buy it immediately. However, as I read through his launch email, I noticed some of the additional benefits he was throwing in, and one immediately jumped out at me – access to his private Slack group of marketers.

Being part of a high-quality group of peers and mentors is far more valuable than an ebook. You get to interact in real-time with experts who can answer your questions or give you feedback. But Sujan isn’t the first one to use this strategy. Even before Slack, people have been building private communities and forums.

Ramit Sethi’s Brain Trust and Tropical MBA’s Dynamite Circle are two other examples. Ramit creates online courses on finding jobs and starting businesses, but many people say the true value comes from access to his exclusive network of successful entrepreneurs. The Dynamite Circle is a paid network and members say it’s worth the money.

So if people are willing to pay to get access to an exclusive community, imagine how attractive it would be as a lead generation tool if you gave them access for free. Not only does it entice them to register on your site, it also qualifies them as leads for your products if they’re very active. Of course, this is best suited for the sites that are well established and already have an engaged community.

4. Product Bundle

Product bundling is a common sales tactic in e-commerce. Instead of selling one product, you sell a bunch together at a discount. If you’ve seen the queues on Black Friday, you know the lengths people will go to for a good deal.

The same principles can be applied to your site or blog, even if you sell software, or nothing at all. The point is, by collecting a bunch of valuable products, digital or physical, and offering discounts on all of them as a bundle, that’s a way more powerful lead magnet than a book.

A popular example is the Groove Small Business Stack. It’s a collection of discounts to some of the best small business apps collectively worth $30,000. And Groove is giving them away for the price of an email address!

Within 6 months of launching it, they collected 3,000 email addresses. Now that may seem like a small number but remember that these are highly qualified leads to people who will probably also use Groove for their small business. I’d take 3,000 qualified leads over 30,000 unqualified leads any day!

The important thing to remember with this strategy, whether you give away products for free or at a discount, is to make sure the products are related to your business. This ensures you don’t get people who are just there for a freebie. For example, Web Designer Depot, a popular web design blog, has grown their email list immensely by offering free bundles of goodies for designers in exchange for an email address.

web designer depot product bundle

Final thoughts

The 4 hooks mentioned above are innovative methods to increase your blog subscription rates because not many marketers are doing it right now. Following one of the above methods can help you differentiate your offer from the rest.

No matter what you offer as opt-in bribes, make sure you increase the perceived value of your offer. Remember, the higher the perceived value of your offer, the more your visitors are likely to subscribe to your list.

Now go try one and let us know how it works!



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Sid Bharath

Sid is an entrepreneur, growth hacker and writer. To find out more about him or get in touch, check out his personal site.


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  1. Paul Morello says:
    September 20, 2015 at 7:39 am

    I really enjoyed this article.

    It’s true you can no longer offer the same generic ebooks and expect different results. The private service for subscribers is an interesting idea, that is something ill be giving a go.

  2. Aisha says:
    September 16, 2015 at 6:28 am

    Enjoyed the post. Just one teeny note, the guy from spells his name “Brian Dean” not Bryan Dean.

    • Sean says:
      September 16, 2015 at 8:05 pm

      Thanks Aisha! We’ll update that right now.

  3. Gail Gardner says:
    September 15, 2015 at 5:59 pm

    Thanks for this. I need to give the “Content Upgrade” concept some serious thought. A warning, though, to anyone who decides to start a community. Communities take a lot of time and work. Most of them recruit or pay many moderators to keep them going. That IS an excellent way to generate strong income, but don’t think it won’t require indefinite, consistent effort.

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