Want More Conversions? Stop Giving It Away for Free

Want More Conversions? Stop Giving It Away for Free


It’s the sad tale of content marketing. You’re a content marketer who is running a high traffic blog, but no matter how much your traffic increases, you’re still not getting any conversions. The problem is that marketers create all of this great content and give it away for free. Yes, you should give content away to position yourself as a thought leader, but don’t give it away for free without optimizing for conversions.

If you are a marketer and you’re still having trouble selling your CEO (or whoever) on content marketing, this is most likely the culprit. People normally won't convert unless you ask them to.

The True Meaning of ‘Free’

When it comes to content, there are varying types of free.

The New York Times’ solution to their financial woes is allowing visitors to read their online content for free up to a point. You can read up to 20 articles and then you have to enter a paid subscription to read their content.

And after building a strong community of readers for his political blog, Andrew Sullivan was able to persuade his fans to pay $1.99 a month for content they had already received for free. To utilize your free content effectively, you have to be innovate when it comes to your long term content strategy.

How Much Can You Give Away Without Asking for Money?

This brings us to the freemium model–a pricing model where you offer free content as a stepping stone to paid content. Derek Halpern does this well by producing great newsletters and blog posts, but he always ties in the ask: purchase his course.

Because Copyblogger has built a strong community with their quality content, they have been  able to hook readers in when it comes to purchasing their copywriting courses. Now they’ve taken the freemium model to the next level with their Authority course. There are two courses: Free and Premium. The free course includes well-written ebooks that are compilations of their most popular series on their blog. The free content is so good that it makes the readers think: If their free stuff is so good, their paid content must be amazing.

Inc.com, Entrepreneur.com, etc, all offer free content online, but still charge for their print magazines. Why? Because they provide so much value with their free digital content, they know they’ll sell print copies. Their online content helps them build a relationship with the reader so that their content becomes indispensible, spurring the reader to purchase their print content on a consistent basis.

Running Ads Tastefully

A lot of people have started following the cult of free and are now afraid to integrate ads at all. They focus on getting people to their content and call that a success, but they're literally leaving money on the table. Yet some of the best inbound marketers (e.g. Neil Patel) integrate ads all the time.

I think many people are hesitant to use ads, because they aren’t sure how to use them effectively. And with the conflicting information available on ads, figuring them out can be kind of confusing. So here’s the lowdown. Ads are used to promote your own products, services and/or other content. You should be optimizing your site/blog to promote your own stuff, not someone else's. Sure, you can make money from selling ad space on your real estate, but it certainly doesn't help optimize for your own conversions.

For example, Neil Patel uses the ad space on his own blog to promote his own products. He never advertises anyone else's stuff.

Pop-ups - Some people hear the word pop-up and they cringe because it reminds them of what’s considered to be one of the most annoying things about the internet. But the truth is that they work. Your pop-ups don’t have to broadcast flashing lights and impossible remove. Make your pop-up interesting and it’ll work for you not against you. Effective pop-ups make it clear for the visitor what’s in it for them. You can do this by offering social proof and/or testimonials in the box to bolster your credibility or offering a free ebook or guide to download.

Ad Positioning - When it comes to real estate, it’s all about location The same goes for your online real estate as well. Right rail ads are effective because they occupy the same space as the scroll. The reader is already looking in that area, so they are more likely to take notice of your promotion. Some brands like to insert ads in the middle of the content. It’s click through rate is great because the ads are already in view of the reader’s eyes. But you have to be careful that you don’t come across as intrusive, so keep in content ads small. And if you’re squeamish about coming across as too pushy with in content ads, putting ads at the beginning or the end of the post work as well.

Customizing Ads - If you’ve ever looked at a website and thought ‘Something’s not right here.’ Chances are it’s because the ads didn’t suit the content. If you publish a post about saving money, the ad next to or above the content shouldn’t be promoting an ebook titled “Why You Should Spend Money Impulsively.” Think of the ads as a complement to your existing content. You’re more likely to make conversions if the ads expound on the content that your audience is already reading.


Website traffic is important, but it doesn’t mean anything if you’re not making effective use of conversions. Turns out, you can have your cake and eat it too by giving away content for free and charging for other content. Take advantage of all the resources available–pricing models, ads, etc–in your content marketing arsenal. If you want a site/blog that is sustainable, these resources make all the difference.

How do you convert your content into leads? Let us know in the comments.

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What do you think?

One Comment

Hey Renee,

This was a clever post. Yes my case, I don’t think I’m doing it the smart way. I write a lot of post but I’m getting very low conversions. I would have to agree with the last point you said. I’m writing content, but for the most part, the ads (Google Adsense) isn’t related to the content half the time! Plus I have other optins that aren’t really related to my content.

So, there has to be a change LOL… Traffic is always getting better, now the time is to improve the conversions! This post just lead me to an epiphany! Thanks for the suggestions!