A blog without a conversion focus is a waste of Internet space. If you’re interested in conversions and have a blog, then it should be a conversion-focused blog.
In this age of content marketing, the most direct and effective way to score conversions is by using the blog to gain those conversions. Then why aren’t more businesses optimizing their blog for conversions?
There are millions of business blogs, and millions of businesses wanting conversions. Unfortunately, there’s a tragic disconnect between blogs and conversions.
How, you ask?
The breakdown happens on the blog when they are poorly constructed, sloppily marketed, and eviscerated of CTAs.
A blog costs money, takes time and requires enormous effort. But it’s also one of the best possible places for conversions to happen.
This article shares a step-by-step approach to exactly how you can use your blog to score those much-needed conversions.
1. First step in driving conversions is to have a blog.
Allow me to start at square one. You need a blog. This is where everything begins
Thankfully, most businesses realize this.
Even B2Bs, despite their stereotype of being devoid of exciting content, have stepped up their game and gotten into content marketing.
Today, 90% of B2B marketers are involved in content marketing, and 60% more plan to increase content marketing spending, according to statistics compiled by Blue Glass and published by Mashable.
But blogs alone do not conversions create.
That’s why HubSpot asserted in one of the 10 Key Takeaways from the State of Inbound Marketing this cogent application:
62% of companies outsource their content marketing, according to the studies.
When this integral marketing effort is separated from its logical climax — a conversion — there is a breakdown in the ultimate goal of content marketing.
Create a blog, and then think conversions.
2. Second step in driving conversions is to integrate your blog into your entire marketing approach.
The strategy of content marketing is known in its broader sphere as “inbound marketing.”
Companies with a well-defined inbound marketing strategy report conversion rates that are twice as high as those that don’t have an inbound strategy.
A company without an inbound strategy might have a blog, but they aren’t using that blog to drive conversions.
This data comes from the mother-of-all inbound marketing companies, HubSpot.com, in their State of Inbound Marketing Report.
In order to be truly strategic about marketing, your blog needs to be considered an active part of your marketing process. It’s not an add-on, a luxury, a side effect, a byproduct, or a cancer.
A BLOG is central to the entire process of online marketing today.
Circle back to some of the elementary lessons you learned about marketing — the famous funnel.
In the conversion funnel, you have, in egregiously simplified terms, awareness, consideration and action.
A blog has a critical role in each one of these funnel phases:
- Awareness — Customers hear about your product and gain knowledge about it through your blog.
- Consideration — Customers consider your product or service by reading/viewing blog content.
- Action — Customers trust your content, and thereby your product or service, which moves them into a conversion.
But what if there is no call to action?
A blog doesn’t just magically score conversions. There have to be conversion actions. (More on that later.)
3. Third step in driving conversions is to define a conversion goal.
We’ve been freely discussing conversions, but let’s stop and settle on that point.
It becomes very confusing for many companies, especially B2B, to decide what the conversion action should be for their blog.
Obviously, you want your blog to score conversions, but what should that conversion be?
(Image from explogic.net)
A conversion is basically a goal.
For a blog, the conversion is rarely a purchase. Purchase conversions are for landing pages or product pages.
On a blog, the conversion is usually softer and easier.
I cannot tell you what your conversion action should be. You need to decide. (TIP: There can be more than one.)
However, I will suggest that often the conversion action is gaining an email address or subscription.
Later on in this article, I will discuss the importance of allowing people to subscribe to your blog. That issue centers on the very point I’m trying to make — a subscription is itself a conversion.
Let me take an example of a great blog with some sweet conversion action — the Treehouse blog.
In the image below, you’ll see a screenshot of an entire blog article. Notice every potential conversion action that I’ve circled. Keep in mind this is a blog.
This is a company that has a blog primed for action. It is fully part of the marketing approach, and is likely raking in some serious conversions.
They know what they want. They want subscribers, social media likes, “learn more” clicks, and other forms of deeper engagement.
Their blog is asking for these conversions.
For many businesses in my sphere, the conversion goal is an email address. Others want social media shares. Others want “learn mores.”
Whatever the case, you need to have a set of goals that you have clearly outlined as conversions
Here’s how you should think about your blog:
- Your blog is not just a source of information.
- Your blog is a source of information PLUS what to do with that information.
And that’s where your blog becomes conversion-focused.
A blog that provides information and nothing more is shortsighted. All that content, that information, should be leading somewhere.
Let me go back to good ol’ Treehouse blog. They want you to learn Python. So, they tell you about a new course, about all the cool things that you can create with Python, and why Python is so awesome. And they have clear conversion goals based on that information.
4. Fourth step in driving conversions is to develop authority and thought leadership.
A blog is not effective unless it asserts its authority. A conversion-focused blog is one that develops strong authority and stature in the niche. I’ll explain the six means by which a blog develops authority and leadership.
I. Niche — The blog must have a well-defined niche. Who is the audience?
II. Length — It takes more than a couple hundred words to explain anything of real value in most niches. You may notice that every article I write is long — usually 2,000 words or longer.
Search engines and readers alike value longer content. Long-form content demonstrates that the author is knowledgeable on the topic. This, in turn, creates authority.
III. Tone — The tone of the blog itself must be authoritative. While reading BuzzFeed is fun, we don’t exactly turn to BuzzFeed when we want to solve a problem or gain strategic solutions to parenting conundrums.
IV. Topics — The topics selected by content marketers must meet the needs of the target audience. How else will a blog develop authority, except by providing answers to people’s questions and solutions to people’s problems?
V. Research — An audience can only trust a blog when that blog is backed by someone’s reputation, knowledge or research. When I develop any article, I draw on a wealth of experienced professionals in my personal network, from data that others have mined up, and from studies that I consider to be authoritative.
(Screenshot from BufferApp.com)
When I read content from Buffer, for example, I can generally find well-researched topics with an authoritative voice and data-backed information. Heck, they even included a chart from Wharton researchers displaying “preferences for segmentation versus integration of professional and personal identities.”
VI. Solutions — Authoritative blogs gives readers solutions. There is a time and place for asserting one’s opinion. But there is also a need for solid solutions to a niche’s most vexing issues and problems. That’s what an authoritative blog provides. It provides solutions.
5. Fifth step in driving conversions is to allow people to subscribe to your blog.
Encouraging people to subscribe to your blog is one of the most common and recommended types of conversion. Once you gain an engaged reader, you should retain them by capturing their email address and keeping them on your email-marketing list.
I advocate a multi-faceted approach to content marketing. Not only do you have a blog, but that blog should be integrated with your email marketing efforts, too. An email address is worth its non-weight in ethereal cyber-electron gold.
Nearly any quality blog you visit— those that are authoritative and conversion-focused — have strong CTAs for subscriptions.
I showed you Treehouse. Here’s their subscription CTA:
Buffer uses Hello Bar with this CTA:
As if that weren’t good enough, their blog has its entire above-the-fold real estate dominated by a huge CTA for subscriptions:
I capture email addresses by giving away valuable information — information that is worth real money.
Here’s what Help Scout does after you’ve partially read an article. This pops up:
An effective blog knows that subscribers are valuable. A conversion-focused blog is one that is turning readers into subscribers.
Ask for subscriptions. Plead for subscriptions. Better yet, strategically gain subscriptions in the following ways:
- Tell readers how many other people have subscribed to the blog. If they hear that thousands of other subscribers are also getting up-to-the-minute releases, they will be more likely to sign up.
- Give them something free. The best technique of all time for capturing email addresses is to make an exchange. You give them a free resource. They give you their email address. It’s a fair exchange, and surprisingly effective.
- Tell them how awesome your content is. Just in case it’s not clear enough, explain right in your CTA how drop-dead-amazing each article will be. This may provide just the push-them-over-the-edge motivation they need to input their email address and sign up.
- Provide a one- or two-field capture form. Nobody loves filling out forms. The quicker and easier you make your capture form, the better you’ll gain buy-in for your subscriptions. Make it easy for users to add their email address.
- Promise never to send them spam. Email users of every stripe have an aversion to spam. Cross your heart and hope to die if you ever send your mailing list spam, and say it right there in your CTA.
- Tell them how often you’ll send them emails. People are assured by specificity. Tell people that you will send no more than two emails a week, or whatever number you’ve chosen.
There are a variety of means and methods. The key point is, get subscribers.
6.The final step in driving conversions is to put CTAs all over your blog.
All this information leads to one enormous climactic point. This is where I’ve been leading this entire article. This is the summit. You’ve arrived at the pinnacle. Here is the only bit of information that you should not forget:
Put call to actions all over your blog.
You will not have a conversion-focused blog unless you’re asking for conversions. By this point, you know that you need to have a defined goal or set of goals, for your conversion. Now, start asking for them.
Let me suggest a few practical ways to implement CTAs on your blog:
- In the header. Use a plugin like Hello Bar to create a persistent header with a CTA.
- In the sidebar. A blog’s sidebar is prime real estate for placing a CTA or ad-like graphic.
- At the end of your article. If users are engaged all the way to the conclusion of an article, they are highly likely to convert. Use this spot for a CTA.
- At the end of the page. Research shows that people spend most view time at the very top of the page and at the very end of the page. Common scrolling habits mean that people will stop at the end of the page. This is another great place to put a CTA — right where people will see it.
- Popups or lightboxes somewhere below the fold. One of the most popular and effective ways of providing CTAs is with popup lightboxes. When a user scrolls to a certain point on the page, the popup appears. This popup automatically attracts the user’s attention, and creates a very compelling CTA.
Here’s how some businesses are providing CTAs in various locations to create conversion-focused blogs:
Help Scout uses one at the end of each article:
This is in HubSpot’s sidebar:
The Quick Sprout blog has a speaking engagement ad:
As you can see, the types of CTAs run the gamut. But the one consistent thing is this — CTAs are everywhere.
The process of creating a conversion-focused blog is straightforward:
- First, have a bog.
- Integrate your blog into your entire marketing approach.
- Define a conversion goal.
- Develop authority and thought leadership.
- Allow people to subscribe to your blog.
- Put CTAs all over your blog.
If you’ve been doing content marketing for very long, and are discouraged with the results — this could be why.
Use your content marketing as marketing — by asking for conversions. CTAs on a blog are the sine qua non of an effective and conversion-focused blog.
As you look at your content marketing efforts, ask yourself these questions:
- Do I have a blog?
- Do I consider my blog as part of my overall marketing plan?
- Do I have a clear goal of how I want people to convert when they read my blog?
- Does the blog have a clear niche, sufficient length, authoritative tone, relevant topics, and solid research? In other words, does it possess thought leadership and authority?
- Can people subscribe to the blog? Am I capturing email addresses in some way?
- Finally, do I have CTAs all over my blog?
Once you’ve successfully created a conversion-focused blog, you’ll watch your conversion rates rise.
That’s the sweet smell of success. I’m rooting for you.