In startups and marketing departments across the country, we hear a whole lot about creating a content strategy that converts. Create content segmentation, the blogs tell us; develop brand voices that match your target user personas, and, above all else, jive with what you discover in Google Analytics. Are your website visitors technophiles? Write to that.
And, honestly, that’s all good advice in the hands of a skilled writer. Targeted writing, multi-voiced, multi-audience targeting based on knowledge of audience values, wants, and desires; it creates engagement. This isn’t anything new; it’s classic Aristotelian rhetoric, tried and true.
But that doesn’t mean that you should sit back, swallow the current thinking about content marketing like cold medicine, and wait for your blog to start converting. I mean, you can, but, just like Nyquil, you’re not addressing the problem at hand (i.e. how to create content that converts) and, are instead, easing the pain of common symptoms (low blog traffic, little engagement, etc.).
Make no mistake about it: these two things, like a cold, are related but not the same. You can spin technically “great” content all day long and never make a conversion, despite all assurances from thought-leaders that “it’s just a matter of time.”
Spoiler alert: it isn’t.
So what, then, allows content to convert or not?
Unfortunately, optimizing content and strategy for conversion isn’t as simple as checking a few boxes. Yes, of course, you want to use formatting and SEO-friendly tools to ensure that crawlers actually find and index your page, displaying it to the world, but beyond that, creating content and content strategy that converts is less of a process and more of an art.
So, below, you won’t find quick tools that can be implemented today. You’ll find quotes and use-cases from successful content professionals who work deep in the field. These are some of the artists working today who drive meaningful conversion through content, and, if you ask any of them, it’s a lot more conceptual than most people think.
5 Tips from Experts for Content that Converts
- “Create content that reaches your audience’s audience” – Ann Handley, MarketingProfs
While Handley’s quote seems obtuse, it really isn’t. What she’s identified is that content is, inherently, social. To create buzz around the content, and, more specifically, to create audience buy-in to the brand, it’s at least as important that your content has social value in sharing. The days of solitary readers are over; it’s a social experience, and your content won’t convert without it.
- “Your top of the funnel content must be intellectually divorced from your product but emotionally wed to it” – Joe Chernov, Kinvey
We’ve written about this before, but content that converts isn’t necessarily the content that offers a call-to-action in the cleverest way. Instead, converting content is typically somewhere near the bottom of the content funnel; the rest of the content for a particular audience is usually just really useful, branded, personalized content related to their industry.
- “Content isn’t King; it’s the Kingdom” – Lee Odden, TopRank Marketing
When writing well-branded, audience-appropriate content, you’re basically doing just as Odden says above, you’re giving readers a tour of your brand’s “kingdom.” The kingdom, in this case, can mean anything from an exploration of your employee expertise to a showcase of your company culture. You can offer tips, provide expert analyses, whatever you want, really, but don’t step outside. Writing what you (as a business) don’t know can seriously damage credibility and stifle conversions that come from confidence.
- “Traditional marketing talks at people. Content marketing talks with them” – Doug Kessler, Velocity Partners
Perhaps the foundation of any successful piece of content or strategy is the idea that solid, meaningful content—the kind that creates repeat readers and converts—is always part of a conversation. Using the kind of language your audience talks in and engaging other professionals demonstrates a genuine respect and understanding of the subject. I’m sure you’ve heard that caring and passion are sexy, and sexy means conversion.
- “Don’t let anyone who doesn’t love writing touch your content” – Austin Duck, CircleBack
I know that quoting myself is a little strange, but I didn’t see anyone else saying this and it’s central to content creation. Don’t assign blogging responsibilities to someone who has time. Don’t task analytics wizards with writing emails. Don’t. People without a passion for writing, who think of it as work, write content that reads like work. Most of your readers will find you specifically to avoid something they’re “supposed” to be doing, so uninteresting, rote, stiff content is going to lead to a big fat bounce as they search for greener pastures.
The Wrap Up
What I’ve written above shouldn’t be taken as an exhaustive list. Instead, think of it more as a sketch, an attempt to loosely define (through example) the components of artful content creation.
Yes, your analytics matter; they’ll help you define your audience, unpack what they want to know, what they read, and what their interests are, but equally important is writing passionately, knowledgeably, and in a way that’s appropriate to your business as a brand.
Think of your audience, yes, but think beyond them, of the place where you and they meet and dance around a maypole in harmony. And, seriously, make sure that someone who cares is doing the writing.
Further, you can actually track your all-star writer contacts with the CircleBack app. That way, when you’re ready to step up your content game, you know who in your network might have the skills.