The Changing Role of Content Upgrades

The idea of creating a content upgrade is web marketing 101 these days. Every online business needs using some form of content upgrade on their site today.

The classic formula for content upgrades  is the following:

  1. Develop a piece of digital content such as an ebook or whitepaper
  2. Create a landing page or lightbox which requires an email address to download the content
  3. Drive traffic to the landing page
  4. Grab the email address
  5. Nurture your new contact until they convert and purchase your product

This classic formula works, but the problem is that everyone is doing it. The result is that your search traffic and ranking may be lower than you expect.

Cornerstone articles & pages

The key idea here is to modify your strategy to create several cornerstone pages or articles on your site.

“Cornerstone content pieces are those articles on your website you’re most proud of. They reflect your business, communicate your mission and are extremely well written. “ (from the Yoast article)

By setting up cornerstone pages and putting your best content (or linking to your best content from a cornerstone page) you help the search engines to list the page ranking for this specific content on your site. The result should be that your cornerstone page(s) will rank higher than any individual page with an element of the content on the cornerstone page. The cornerstone page functions like the chapter of a book, collecting like-minded content from your site by topic or theme

Create and execute monthly or quarterly themed cornerstone pages

As a result you should modify your content publishing calendar to include the publication of monthly or quarterly “themed” cornerstone pages. The idea isn’t to make every page a cornerstone page, as this defeats the purpose. Rather the idea is to continue to create and publish individual blog articles and THEN collect the relevant topics and publish both a cornerstone page and an ebook which summarizes all of the other articles. Drive your traffic to the cornerstone page and offer the ebook content upgrade there, rather than on the individual blog posts.

So the new formula is:

  1. Create and publish blog content
  2. On a less frequent schedule (monthly or quarterly) aggregate relevant content into a digital ebook and publish a cornerstone page.
  3. Drive traffic to the cornerstone pages
  4. Offer quality content upgrades 

Content Upgrades

Content upgrades are still a viable marketing tool. What’s changing is the “bait” that you use to capture traffic. This new formula requires higher quality content and a thoughtful content development plan which offers your target audience higher value in the content download.

Content Options

  • Ebooks remains a great digital marketing tool. Ebook can be on any topic and in there are very few rules for the design aspects of an ebook. 
  • Whitepapers have stricter design requirements. A prospect expects a whitepaper to be more neutral and educational. They shouldn’t focus on selling your product or service.
  • A webinar or video can also be a content upgrade, especially if your audience is more likely to be drawn to a video response.


Improving the quality of your content upgrades will have a positive impact on the value of your content to your prospects. Increase the scope and quality of cornerstone pages is a content strategy that should help increase your traffic** to the content upgrade pages and help the search engines optimize how they rank these pages.

**Your results will vary, be sure to carefully benchmark and track the impact of your cornerstone pages.