How to use lead magnets

By Citizen Affiliate | Email Marketing

Oct 16
lead magnets

Despite what some people might tell you, email marketing is not dead and it is very important for online marketers to build an email list. That way, you can build a long-term relationship with your readers, drive traffic to your blog, and send out promotions. All for free!

So the million dollar question (literally!) is how to build a big email list. There are a few ways, but one of the easiest is with lead magnets. This article will explain what they are, how to use them, and some advanced tips on maximizing conversions.

What is a lead magnet?

A lead magnet is a resource of some kind (usually digital) that you offer someone in exchange for an email address. For example, you might offer a checklist, cheat sheet or short ebook, and ask people for their email so you can send it to them.

Once someone gives you their email address, you can send them any emails you like, until they unsubscribe from your list. So lead magnets are one of the most popular and powerful ways to build up an email list.

How lead magnets help you build a list

Lead magnets are helpful for building a list in two important ways.

Firstly, they offer a specific solution to someone’s problem. If you just ask them for an email address, or to “subscribe to your newsletter” or similar, there isn’t much incentive for them to agree to this. Most people are already signed up to plenty of lists, so you have to offer something more valuable.

Secondly, lead magnets work well with “cold” traffic, i.e. people who don’t really know you or what problems and solutions you are talking about. These could be people who arrive at your site by clicking on a random link somewhere, or could be people who arrive because they clicked on an ad that you placed.

If you are dealing with warm traffic, these are people who already know you and know what sort of topics you discuss. They might have read some of your articles before. If you are putting out valuable content, they (hopefully) will trust you and see you as having authority.

So it’s a lot easier to convince those people to subscribe with a simple “get my updates” offer. Cold traffic is completely different. These people don’t know or trust you at all. So the only way you are going to turn them into subscribers is by offering something of value, i.e. a lead magnet.

Therefore, a common way of building a list is to run ads (usually on Facebook) to a squeeze page offering a lead magnet. Since those people are almost always cold traffic.

Best practices for lead magnets

There are some commonly accepted best practices for lead magnets. Using most or all of these will result in better conversions and more subscribers.

  • Specific: the lead magnet is not a general “information product” or “101 guide”, but a specific resource, and people will immediately understand what it is about.
  • Solves a problem: people go searching on the internet because they are looking for solutions to problems. A good lead magnet isn’t just specific, it’s a specific solution to a specific problem. For example, I offer an on-page SEO checklist. It is specific (on-page SEO) and solves a problem (people don’t know or can’t remember all the things they need to check for the on-page SEO of an article).
  • Valuable: a good lead magnet is actually worth something to readers. Ramit Sethi says that a lead magnet should be so good, people should feel like they are stealing from you.
  • Quick to digest: you might be ready to unleash your 200 page ebook or four hour video course on the world, and that’s great, but don’t offer it as a lead magnet. You need to gradually lead people up the value ladder. Start with something small and offer bigger, more thorough resources later on.
  • Instantly accessible: a lead magnet should be something that people can get to right away, with minimal mucking around. Don’t go make people wait a week or sign up to Dropbox to get whatever it is you’re giving away.

Pro tip: content upgrades

Brian Dean from backlinko came up with the clever idea of “content upgrades”: these are lead magnets that aren’t just a solution to a specific problem, but are a solution related to the specific problem that the reader interested on right now.

So instead of offering the same lead magnet on all the pages on your blog, you can offer different ones based on what type of content the person is reading.

Thrive Leads makes this super easy (and it’s what I use on this site). You can set the visibility rule for a lead group to display based on a bunch of criteria, including the category of the post.

So I have a lead group with a form offering the on-page SEO guide to all posts on my site with the category “SEO”. I have another rule that shows a form offering a guide to starting a blog on all posts with the category “Blogging”. Neat huh! Every time I add a new post with a certain category, it automatically picks up the relevant content upgrade form via Thrive Leads.

How to make a lead magnet

There are several ways to make lead magnets. The fastest and simplest is just to use Google Docs or something similar to write a document, and then export it to PDF. You can also use other tools like Beacon or Designrr to produce these.

There is also the paid option. Go pay someone on Fiverr or Upwork to make one for you (you give them the content, and they will produce the PDF – or give them a lot more money and they’ll write the content for you too).

Then in your autoresponder (I use GetResponse and recommend that you should too), you set lists for each content type. And when someone joins that list, they get an automatic reply with that lead magnet linked to in the email.

Don’t forget about email courses

You can also try a different approach to lead magnets: an email course. This can be good in that you don’t have to make a PDF or anything. You just have to write emails. And you can just make that email course the autoresponder welcome email series.

The other advantage is that it requires people to open your emails to get the content you promised. This will help with email deliverabilty and open rates, since they will probably white-list your email to make sure they don’t miss out on the content.

The disadvantage of it is that it breaks one of the best practices mentioned above: quick to digest. A lot of people don’t want to wait four or five days to get the information they were interested in.

How to offer lead magnets

There are many ways to offer lead magnets. I use Thrive Themes, which offers a lot of great options for including email forms in your content.

The two main ways though are forms embedded in or over your content, and landing pages.

If you want to offer content-upgrades, the best way to do it is to offer them in your content through an in-content form. This is a simple form that appears after a certain number of paragraphs. You can also put it in a ribbon at the top of the article or a page footer at the end of the content.

I would also recommend creating a landing page for each lead magnet, even if it is a content upgrade. Thrive makes building landing pages very easy. And they hook up to the same list in your auto-responder.

These landing pages probably won’t attract much organic search traffic, if any, because they will be thin on content and nobody will be linking to them. However, you can drive traffic to them via social media or paid advertising.

And although your traffic might be lower, the conversion rate will be higher, because people will be there for one thing only: to get the content that you promised. So you might end up getting as many or more signups from these landing pages as from your article forms.


So here is the super quick summary of how to use lead magnets:

  • Lead magnets are a resource that you offer in exchange for an email address
  • Make them specific, relevant, short and solution-oriented
  • You will get great results from content upgrades, which are lead magnets related to a specific type or category of your web content
  • You can offer them in articles, on landing pages, or both.

I hope you found these tips on lead magnets to be helpful! Do you have any others? Or any questions? Please leave them in the comments below!