How to Generate Online Revenue with a Content Marketing Pyramid

The Content Marketing PyramidHave you ever wondered how giving away free content on your website or blog can generate profits for your business?

For years I’ve been doing presentations and consultations on how to generate leads and revenue from a website. There’s usually a lot of focus on creating valuable blog posts, articles or short how-to videos.

Invariably, somebody voices the concern, “but if I give all of my best secrets away, why do they need me?”

If your “best kept secrets” can be condensed into a single blog post or two-minute video then you may need to rethink your business model. [Click to tweet!]

On top of that, chances are your quick-typing competitors are already sharing all of your best kept secrets on their own blog or podcast. And in doing so, they’re getting in front of your prospects and customers while you’re still worrying about over sharing!

Sure, there is a percentage of their blog visitors who say, “oh, I can do that,” and leave forever. But for the rest of their visitors, how many are more likely to hire the business or consultant who has just established their credibility and demonstrated their experience?

That’s not to say that you should just push out all of your content without a plan to generate leads, business, and revenue. That’s where developing a Content Marketing Pyramid comes into play.

The Content Marketing Pyramid

There are four levels to the Content Marketing Pyramid that will lead your site visitors to do business with you. As you move up, the pyramid shape takes effect:  at each level you can reach fewer people than the level before, but each level is more profitable than the one before it.

At each level some people will choose not to move up, either because they’ve solved their current problem or they haven’t been convinced of the value of the next level.

Part of your content marketing strategy is to get people to “level up.”

What follows are the four levels of the Content Marketing Pyramid and how you can use them to grow your own business.

Level 1: Free Content

Examples of Free Content

The free content level is made up of the blog posts, articles, and videos you share to increase your online visibility.

This level is the base of your Content Marketing Pyramid. There’s no barrier to entry, so this content is publicly available to everyone and the search engines. 


  • You can make an impact on the largest group of people. Since there’s no filters, opt-ins or costs, this content can be spread and shared most easily. (Note: it still has to be valuable content for it to be shared. Ask yourself this: is this content valuable enough that people would be willing to pay for it? If not, maybe you shouldn’t be sharing it at all.
  • The search engines can grab and index this content, serving it up for relevant searches for years to come. That means fresh leads delivered to your inbox on a regular basis…indefinitely.


  • The “no barriers” model also means that you’re not receiving anything in compensation. People don’t have to pay you for your content, nor do they have to provide any contact information for follow up.

How to Get People to Level Up:

  • Although this is your base level content, you’ll still need to drive visitors to your website or blog if you want to get your content seen. Make sure your free content is optimized for the search engines targeting the right keywords, and publicize it heavily and effectively using your social networks.

Level 2: Opt-In Content

Example of Opt-In Content

Opt-in content can include downloads, webinars, and email newsletters. The difference between this level and the previous one is the requirement of registration.

By providing valuable content (or, more specifically, the promise of valuable content), you can persuade someone to fill out a contact form or sign up for an email newsletter. 

This provides you with a channel to send follow up marketing messages and stay in touch with people who have shown interest in your products and services. 


  • You are moving people down the sales funnel and building a relationship.
  • You’re gathering contact information on prospective customers.
  • You are able to access your subscribers’ inboxes (assuming you collected their email address.) This allows you to keep the lines of communication open and regularly deliver new information to a place where they must take action, even if it’s to hit delete or (gasp!) unsubscribe.


  • Although your engagement level is higher, you’re still not generating any immediate revenue.
  • You may not be getting the search engine benefits if your content is behind a registration wall.
  • People can easily unsubscribe after they download your white paper or the first time they find your content less-than-valuable.

How to Get People to Level Up:

  • Include calls to action at the bottom of your free content, asking visitors to sign up for free email updates.
  • Tease downloads, white papers and webinars in the sidebars or within the content itself to funnel people to a registration/sign up page.

Level 3: Paid Content

Paid Content Example

Paid Content can be an online e-course, paid membership site, Kindle book, or any other content that is behind a paywall. 

If you’re asking someone to pay for your content, you really need to create something of value, and promote it heavily.

Many times this content can be created once and sold over and over again, like an e-course made up of a series of how-to videos and some downloads. This can provide an additional revenue stream without a lot of work on your end once the product has been setup and promoted.

Other times you need to inject some of yourself in the product, such as weekly conference calls or access to you in a discussion forum. This can add value to the product and allow you to increase the price, but may limit how many courses or seats you can sell, if people are expecting access to you.


  • You’re finally getting paid!
  • Often you can sell an unlimited number of your product. 
  • You may be able to reach and help more people than your business could otherwise handle.
  • People who can’t otherwise afford your services can “hire” you by buying your Paid Content.
  • It’s an opportunity for someone to try you out before they hire you for a bigger engagement.


  • It takes time to develop content worth paying for, and even more time to promote and manage the paid content once you’ve created it.
  • There’s no search engine benefit to this content since it’s behind a paywall (although the promotion and marketing can be optimized for the search engines.)
  • It’s possible that you will cannibalize some sales from people who would have hired you for a bigger project or higher level of content.

How to Get People to Level Up:

  • You’ll have your best conversion rates with people who are already at level two, so make sure you market to them via email and other one-on-one channels.
  • Offer a free webinar that teases the paid content.
  • Work with affiliate marketers who help promote your content for a cut of the action.
  • Offer a money-back guarantee to reduce any fear of loss in the mind of your customer.

Level 4: Customized Content

At this highest level of the Content Marketing Pyramid, people pay you for content that’s customized to their business or industry. In other words: consulting.

As we move up the pyramid we’re able to reach and help fewer people. This is due in part because fewer can afford the services at the top, but also because the highest two levels require more of a precious, limited resource: our time.

The good news is this can be the most lucrative part of your Content Pyramid, not to mention your business. In fact, for many businesses they skip over level three and use their first two levels of content to drive people to the Customized Content.

Lessons learned here–with your client’s permission–can feed back into the other three levels of your pyramid.


  • Revenue!
  • Customized Content can generate more content for the other levels, assuming your client is OK with you sharing some or all of your results.
  • When you do a good job it will lead to additional work with this client, and generate positive word of mouth referrals.


  • You’re reaching and helping the fewest number of people.
  • It does little to nothing in terms of helping your online visibility.
  • It is the most severe drain on your time.


If you want to generate leads, business and income from content creation, you need to develop a plan.

Your Content Marketing Pyramid plan must include:

  • Content ideas for each level of the pyramid, and
  • Ideas for how to move someone up to the next level.

What next?

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