list building is like fishing rb blog header
list building is like fishing rb blog header

List building has been likened to fishing more than once. As in, just as you need to know where the fish are if you hope to catch anything, you need to know where your target audience is and what type of content they like if you want your list-building efforts to be successful.

I grew up on Lake Erie. During the summer we would watch the fishing boats travel up and down the lake setting their nets. It was always fun when they came in close to shore and set a net close enough to swim to (not that we ever got that close). It meant there were fish in our little corner of the lake, and that we could go sit on the end of our dock with a fishing pole and maybe catch enough for dinner.

The fishermen we watched set their nets in a different spot every time. They were smart enough to go where the fish were. As my Dad used to tell us, it doesn’t matter how pretty a fishing spot might look, if there are not fish there, you’re not going to catch any fish. That’s why the successful fishermen find out where the fish have been hanging out, and then go there. And why my dad would head out to the end of the dock when he saw a fishing boat close to shore.

This concept can also be applied to marketing and list-building. You may have created an amazing opt-in gift that you know is going to help people. But if you’re not getting any traffic to the site you put it on, then you’re not really going to help anyone.

How To Find The Best Fishing (List Building) Spots

What you need to do in order to get the most traction out of your blog posts is find out which ones are most popular, and where the traffic you do get is coming from. Think of those popular posts as your own private fishing spots.

A quick way to determine which posts are most popular is to see how many comments they are getting. A general rule of thumb is that the posts with the most comments are usually also the ones with the most traffic.

There are also plug-ins you can use on a WordPress blog that will help you with your analytics. My personal favorite is Rank Math* because not only does it help you get your SEO rankings up, it also makes your analytics easy to see. You may have to install Google Analytics as well, since many stats plug-ins rely on Google’s data. Or, you can just log in to your Google Analytics account and use the data directly.

Another way to determine where your traffic is coming from is to use a link redirect tool. I like to do this because sometimes the referral data in Analytics and other stats programs can be pretty thin.

A link redirect tool (the one I use is called Simple Click Tracker*) lets you create a separate link for each place you promote your blog post, so you can see exactly where your traffic is coming from.

Knowing where your traffic is coming from can have a direct impact on how well your content performs, because audiences on different sites have different needs. For example, a person coming to your site from Facebook might have a completely different expectation than someone hangs out on Twitter.

So now that you know which posts are your most popular and where the traffic is coming from, what will you do with it?

The short answer to that is you create a content upgrade (aka the “bait” in our fishing analogy, or the “opt-in gift” in marketing terms).

Want to learn more about content upgrades? Be sure to check out the Amp Up Your Business Summer Workshop Series! I’m doing the first workshop in the series and it’s all about list-building with content upgrades.

What is a Content Upgrade?

A content upgrade is an extra piece of content you offer your visitors at the end of a blog post, which dives deeper into the content and gives your readers something they can use to take action on what they’ve just read. It’s most often used as a lead generator, as the reader is required to opt-in to your list to receive the additional information.

That’s the short version.

How do I know what to give away as a content upgrade?

Coming up with content upgrades is a rather easy process if you know your audience well.

The first step is reading your post as if you were a new visitor who had never seen your content before.

As you’re reading, ask yourself questions about the content:

  • What is the topic?
  • What is the message it’s delivering?
  • What are the values and benefits someone receives by from this content?

Make notes of ideas as you are reading, and be thinking about what type of resource or content would be a useful addition to what you’ve read.

The idea is to think of an upgrade to your popular blog posts and web pages that your reader can take action on and is interested enough to opt-in to get it. Keep it short and easy to digest, and your readers will see some quick value in the content you provide. Examples of content that works well as an upgrade includes:

  • Checklists
  • Resource guides
  • Quick start guides
  • Short reports
  • Challenges
  • Templates

Having relevant and useful content upgrades on your blog posts gives you multiple ways to grow your list. The reader has to opt-in to get the extra content, and this works well for two reasons: it lets you know which of your readers are action-takers, and it also enhances your reputation as a go-to person in your market. If your readers like and use your content upgrades, you can be sure they’ll tell their friends about them as well, helping to grow your list even more.

What do you think? Does this sound like a viable way to generate leads and grow your list? Do you use content upgrades? Share your thoughts in the comments below. 

This is part 1 of a 5 part series on Using Content Upgrades

  1. List Building: Why It’s a Lot Like Fishing (this post)
  2. Content Upgrades: Are they right for you? 
  3. How Long Should Your Content Upgrades Be?
  4. Resource Pages: Easy Access to Your Content Upgrades
  5. 5 Ways to Use Social Media to Promote Your Content Upgrades

*Note: This post includes affiliate links, for which I will receive a small commission should you make a purchase.

About the Author

Ruth is self-styled creative soulpreneur who loves that she gets to play with words and pictures for a living. She started her first email newsletter in 1997 and has never looked back. Between creating printables and courses, she publishes a daily newsletter, loves to golf and walk on the beach and is teaching herself how to do hand-lettering and doodle art.

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