Ultimate Guide To
Lead Magnets &
Content Upgrades

Updated 11th January 2022

Guide to Lead Magnets

If you want to build an email list engaged in your content and hungry for your products, you need effective lead magnets.

The perfect lead magnet will entice visitors and convert them into subscribers.

Maybe you've built lead magnets before, but they didn't convert.

Or, maybe you are new to this and have no idea where to start!

Either way, in this guide, we will cover everything you need to know if you want to make professional, high converting lead magnets.


How do you actually start building a Lead Magnet?

At OptimizePress, we’re very aware of just how difficult it can be to find relevant information that covers what you need and walks you through how to do it in a clear and concise manner.

In this guide, our aim is to provide you with the most in-depth and comprehensive training when it comes to creating a Lead Magnet for building a list of email subscribers.

We’re going to cover what a Lead Magnet and Content Upgrade is, how the two relate and walk you through how to best set them up. 

We will also provide you with the things to think about and guide you through the various promotion methods that will allow you to get the ball rolling and start getting results immediately.

By the end of this guide, you will have a firm understanding of the practical steps required to start collecting email addresses.

So grab a cup of tea, roll up your sleeves, and let’s get started…

What is a Lead Magnet?

66 percent of online consumers made a purchase as a result of an email marketing message.” - Casey Hampsey (Data & Marketing Association) 

To begin explaining what a lead magnet is, let’s start from the very beginning by discussing the psychology behind just what makes someone want to take action.

When email autoresponder software services launched in the late 1990’s, many online business owners and marketers saw a huge opportunity when it came to building a database of customers. 

They knew that in order to build a dedicated fanbase, they would have to collect their information for the purpose of directly contacting them and building the relationship required to start promoting offers and making sales.

So back in the 90’s, collecting emails with web forms was easy. All you had to do was insert a form on your site and people would opt-in. They rarely needed little encouragement and there was limited optimisation required to get subscribers. 

Fast forward to now, that doesn't quite work that easily... 

Having an email form on a website simply isn’t enough.

As time passed and marketers were monitoring their statistics it became apparent that just adding an email opt-In form to a page requesting visitors enter their email address for a generic “Newsletter” or update wasn’t enough to build an email list.

Customers wanted a reason to give away their contact information. 

With the dawn of Internet Banking and the introduction to the GDPR legislation, visitors are more protective than ever to hand out their personal data. We use our email addresses to carry out so many different online activities, like account security, website passwords, user logins. Now our email address is a very protected asset that we will not give out as easily.

This is where a Lead Magnet comes into play.

In short, a Lead Magnet is a resource that’s relevant, valuable and quick to consume, that visitors are motivated enough to want and therefore are willing to share with you their email address to get it.

In the seminal book ‘Influence’ by the renowned Psychologist ‘Robert Cialdini’, one of the most powerful principles highlighted was the concept of ‘Reciprocity.’

Robert discovered that people are much more likely to return a favour when something’s given to them freely. 


This applies equally to offline and online activities. Whether it’s a free brochure from a store, a sheet of coupons through your letterbox, small food sample from a bakery or a web design cheatsheet.

Customers are more likely to want to shop or at least find out more information about the services provided after receiving something for free, provided the information being given away is of value and high quality. 

It’s a concept that encompasses every type of human-to-human interaction, whether it’s calling up a friend and asking how they are, or over delivering to your bosses in the company you’re working for.

The good news is, people generally love being given free stuff and can use this to your advantage.

Think about your business for a second... 

What can you provide for your audience that’s valuable and can give away for free?

If you’re involved in a niche that you’re passionate about, then this question may be a simple one to answer. However, it’s also a point where many website and business owners seem to struggle.

In order to know the answer, we must first take a step back and ask ourselves the following questions:

Who is your potential customer? - You might read this thinking “everyone is my potential customer” and hopefully you do have a product that absolutely everyone wants. The main point here is that to understand what offers and services to provide for your audience, you must understand your market and the customer you’re providing information for. Your business will reap greater rewards when your marketing activities are targeted. 

There are various ways you can identify this:

Spending time in niche forums and Facebook Groups.
Researching your competitors.
Looking at Social-Media pages and services.
Reading blog comments and Amazon product reviews.

The more you target your lead magnet the better it will meet your subscribers needs and allow them to experience a ‘quick win’; building trust and authority.

The customer journey typically consists of four parts:

Visitor >> Subscriber >> Customer >> Promoter

Visitor - Your prospective customer does not know who you are. They may have found your website using Google search, recommendation from an affiliate partner or perhaps saw a social-media post that got shared by a friend on Facebook. 

They’re not yet sold on what you have to offer, but are intrigued by your content and want to read more by visiting your website for more information.

Subscriber - Once a visitor converts to a subscriber, you’ve successfully moved your relationship from an observer to a follower. 

They’re interested enough with what you have to say and would like to know more. 

Customer - The goal of any business is to make sales and build a nice flow of loyal customers. This stage is perhaps the most complex that generally has a lot of moving parts and processes. 

However, if you manage to move your subscriber into a customer, they now trust who you are, feel a connection with you and are happy to buy the products and services you have to offer.

Promoter - The ultimate goal is to build awareness and exposure in your business through ‘word-of-mouth’, which is the most powerful form of marketing. 

If your customers like, trust and endorse you to their friends and family, you’ve essentially built a great asset for your business that will continue to deliver other raving visitors and customers to your website without any active promotion of your own.

Your job as a business owner is to smoothly walk your audience through each step of the process, with your Lead Magnet acting as the first port of call from moving your customer from Visitor to Subscriber.

In short, having a Lead Magnet and building a list is vital.

Lead Magnet Promotion Examples

Example #1:

Lead Magnet Example Neil Patel

Here’s a nice example of a good Lead Magnet opt-in form taken from 'Neil Patel's’ official website. It’s clear that looking at the offer, Neil knows exactly who his customer base is and what they’re interested in learning.

It also includes a powerful headline that describes exactly what the offers about. We will get into headlines in a bit more detail later in this guide. 

But for now, please focus your attention on the opt-in form and the general layout of the page and start creating a mental note of what the most common and optimal designs are.

Example #2:

Digital Marketer Lead Magnet Example

This Lead Magnet offer from DigitalMarketer is a great example that illustrates the power of newsletters. They provide a range of lead magnets, with this targeting specifically those interested in getting an edge in their business. 

The Opt-In area is clearly distinguished by using a flat blue patterned background with a blue opt-in button. The page also takes advantage of authority by including other well known recognised companies as endorsements.

Example #3:

Tribe Stu Mclaren lead magnet

Here’s a nice example from TRIBE, offering a lead magnet providing strategies, tools and support. 

The layout is basic but very well organised, with a background image of the founder to increase trust and credibility. 

A key thing to note in this example is its simplicity and goal. There is nothing on it to detract the visitor from doing anything besides opt-in for the download, which is crucial for increasing opt-In rates and getting the most out of your landing page.

Example #4:

The Knot Optin Form Offer

Here’s another type of Lead Magnet form in the ‘Wedding Planner’ niche presented as an ‘opt-in box’. Offering visitors a ‘Free Plan’, advice, tools and access to local vendors. 

Example #5:

Lead magnet SEO niche

Here’s another type of Lead Magnet form in the ‘SEO’ niche presented as an ‘opt-in box’. 

What's great about this optin offer is that it's placed directly on the footer of the article that was about Increasing organic traffic to your website. Making the offer highly relevant and targeted.

Example #6:

Authority Hacker lead magnet

Here, Authority Hacker offers a free Webinar as a Lead Magnet, which is great for pre-selling and quickly converting new subscribers into customers.. 

This offer is great as it delivers lots of value upfront and can automate the process by using an evergreen webinar, which plays whenever someone opts in.

Example #7:

Runners free newsletter

Here's a basic optin box from runner's world, offering a free newsletter for runners.

This is a great example to highlight that an optin form doesn't have to be complex and is oftentimes best to keep things simple.

Example #8:

Martin Lewis Money Tips Lead Magnet

Here's a nice footer pop up box from money saving expert. Again offering weekly money saving tips and strategies as an incentive for signing up.

This is a great example to highlight the non intrusiveness of the optin box, which can be beneficial if you want to prevent your readers from getting distracted from the main content on your website.

Example #9:

Backlinko SEO Tips Newsletter

Here's another nice example following the same simplistic design as the one used by Neil Patel.

Again, highlighting the simplistic design of the form with a call to action thats targeted to people who are looking to increase their organic traffic.

Example #10:

Good food newsletter lead magnet

Finally, he's another example from BBC's Good Food website offering a simple and non intrusive optin embedded inside their content.

If you have a lead magnet that fits well with the content piece you're writing, including it as an embeddable form will be perfect as it's seamless and relevant to the information you're sharing.

Lead Magnet Types

Here’s a compilation of the most popular Lead Magnet types below with examples to help give you some additional ideas of what you could potentially deliver to your visitors.

1 - Summaries
If you have a blog post that’s beyond 2000 words, providing a summary can be very valuable to a portion of your readers who simply don’t have the time to read your article. This style of Lead Magnet fits very closely to ‘Content-Upgrades’, which we’ll be discussing shortly.

Here’s a nice example of a Lead Magnet providing summaries of existing posts by compiling them into handy guides that you can download and consume.

Blog post summaries lead magnet

2 - Free Quotes
Here’s another example of a summary/quote based lead magnet. This is ideal for P2P type businesses that require bespoke and tailor made solutions.

Property Rescue Lead Magnet

3 - Checklists
Do you have a comprehensive ‘how-to’ post that needs condensing? Providing a checklist is ideal for creating an action-plan for your subscribers who are looking for a short and simple way to take the required steps to achieving a result.

Here’s another great example of a checklist provided in the ‘Productivity’ niche using a simple opt-in box and a nice clean design.

31 day checklist lead magnet

Here’s another great example of a checklist in the ‘Productivity’ niche but this time without a need for a signup and offered as a content upgrade. We will get into content upgrades a bit later in this guide.

Free checklist lead magnet

4 - Cheat Sheets / Handouts
Similar to a Checklist, a Cheat Sheet or Handout is great for providing additional material beyond your blog posts by taking away the key concepts and including them into a consumable document.

Here’s a Planner and Calendar Lead Magnet in the ‘Weight Loss’ niche, which is a great incentive for subscribers to opt-in and gain access to.

Ultimate diet lead magnet

Here’s another Planner Lead Magnet in the ‘Bodybuilding’ niche, which provides a a free resource for those interested in gaining muscle.

12 Week Workout Plan Lead magnet

5 - Toolkit / Resource List
This Lead Magnet type is great if you have a ‘how-to’ post that requires tools and resources in order to take action. Listing these tools into a digestible document that subscribers can download and view can be very valuable.

In this example, the vendor has included a useful resource with a clear description to explain what’s included and a privacy policy. This is especially important with the latest General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) consent laws.