Content has many functions: It enhances the value of your site, builds customer loyalty, attracts new customers through ongoing syndication and improves your search engines ranking. But the bottom line for any content strategy is increasing your customers and revenue. And content, coincidently, has one more function: It converts. It forges a direct path for the reader to become a buyer.
Your definition of a “conversion” might differ depending on your business, but no matter what format you choose, getting your readers to convert is an instant, measurable action that leads you right to more revenue. Writing content that is optimized for conversions can be difficult, especially if you’re new to the art, but the following strategies can help you achieve that goal.
1. Speak directly to your target audience.
If you’re hoping to convert a reader, you have to speak directly to them, your target audience. That means writing in a way that makes your brand feel familiar, trustworthy and approachable. The usual holdup here is failing to understand who or what your target audience is; many businesses like to believe they’re writing for everybody under the sun, but the reality is you need to narrow your target audience down to one or two specific demographics—and write for them.
2. Don’t sell.
Encouraging conversions isn’t the same as selling. With direct selling, you’re making a pitch to an individual with the sole intention of getting them to buy a product. With conversion optimization, you’re creating a set of environmental circumstances that naturally encourage more people to make a buying decision. Using your content to pitch your products and services directly will immediately turn off your prospective buyers; instead, focus on writing great content and let your users figure out for themselves whether or not they are prepared to buy from you.
3. Bolster yourself as an authority.
People are more likely to buy from sources they trust, and brand trust is becoming increasingly difficult to build. One of the best ways to increase the trust your customers have in your brand is to use your content as a means of increasing your authority. When people see you as an authority in the industry, they’ll feel more comfortable making purchases from you. To do this, you’ll have to carefully select topics that fit in your target niche and explore them in great detail, showcasing your thorough understanding of the subject matter. It also helps to introduce new ideas, thereby becoming a “thought leader” in your readers’ eyes.
4. Borrow from others’ authority.
Unfortunately, asserting your own expertise can only get you so far. If you want to rapidly increase your perceived authority, borrow that authority from others. There are several ways to do this; one of the easiest is to quote other recognizable industry leaders in the context of your blog—it shows you’ve done your homework and aligns your brand under their name. Citing facts from prominent or trustworthy sources is another subtle way to boost your authority through others’ established reputations, and if you can work in a testimonial somehow, you’ll be in great shape.
5. Add an emotional element.
People are more likely to convert when there is an emotional undertone to your content. The type and level of emotion you choose will depend on your brand and the subject matter you’re exploring. Using sympathy is sometimes effective, as is using excitement to drive a quick conversion. Using fear is another common tactic—for example, implying that readers might be vulnerable without a product like yours. But be careful; using too many emotional appeals can make you seem tacky or aggressive.
6. Use strong action words to increase activity.
When you lead into your call-to-action, use action words to increase the likelihood that your readers are going to take the plunge. Gimmicky phrases like “click here” and “act now” probably won’t work very well in the modern era, but you can still use phrases like “read more” or “get started.” Using any type of passive language, on the other hand, could let users skip right over your call-to-action, leaving your conversion rates to suffer as a result.
7. Get rid of distractions.
Your ultimate goal is getting your users to convert, so when you introduce your call-to-action, take care that you don’t distract them with any other options. For example, if you close your article with a call-to-action that leads people to a signup form, don’t also include lead-ins to other areas of your site or, in a more egregious error, include lead-ins to external sites. Including too many options can disorient your visitor or lead them randomly around the site instead of leading them directly to your conversion opportunity.
8. Interlink your pages to decrease bounce rates.
It’s also worth noting that decreasing your bounce rates, thereby keeping more visitors on your website for longer, can also increase your total number of conversions, and one way to keep your bounce rates lower is to tightly interlink your pages. Including links in the body of your content to other pieces of content or other sections of your site can keep them interested for longer instead of allowing them to leave. If you have the option, funneling them to a conversion is always better than leading them to another page, but interlinking your pages is a way of hedging your bets.
These strategies are helpful ways to boost the conversion rates of your content. Don’t forget about the most important element of conversion optimization: analysis and adjustment. Roll out your strategy for a month and measure the results of your efforts, then make a few changes, implement for a month and measure the results again. Gradually make more of the changes that seem to be effective and ditch the ones that do not. Only through a process of analysis and revision will you be able to perfect your content-based conversion strategy.
This article was published in May 2015 and has been updated. Photo by @Korneevamaha/Twenty20