Why do you blog?

For fun? For personal enjoyment? As a hobby?

It is likely that your blog has become ground zero, the place you promote yourself, your business, and your ideas. Your blog is a strategic business tool, but are you treating it that way? Are you optimizing your blog conversion rate?

For years, the ‘typical’ blog layout was the same, with content on the left and a sidebar on the right. There was the usual array of widgets and ornaments decorating the side and, in a word, the look of such blogs was busy.

Isn’t it time we started to re-think our blog post layout? Isn’t it time we got a bit more strategic?

Focus On Your Blog Conversion Rate

The problem with most blogs is that they lack a simple thing called focus. Do you know why your blog exists? I suggest that it is for two simple reasons:

  1. Your blog should display and distribute your content well.
  2. Your blog should convert visitors into readers and future customers.

With this in mind, how is your blog conversion rate? That’s the rate at which your visitors convert to your desired call to action.

Are you focusing on a single call-to-action that you can track and measure? The more options we give our readers, the less likely they are to actually do what we want them to do when they visit our site. As we strip away the excess, we narrow our focus and naturally increase our blog conversion rate.

Here are few ways that we can do just that.

Tip #1 – Choose A Single Call-To-Action

For years, the typical blog sidebar has looked something like this:

typical blog sidebar

Crowded, colorful, crazy, and confusing. What we do you really want the reader to do with all of this?

So often, when we try to decide what we want our readers to do, we get confused ourselves. We want them to follow us Twitter. Or maybe, we want them to subscribe to our RSS feed. Or, download a free ebook. Perhaps we would like them to click on an ad.

It can be pretty easy to think of our web visitor as a character in a choose-your-own-adventure novel. They are there for intrigue and suspense, hoping to see something interesting. This usually isn’t the case. The average time a users spends on a website is, at best, only 20 seconds. You have to make it count.

So, if you could only choose one thing to have your reader do (besides actually read the article) what would it be?

Choose a single call-to-action. This simple task will instantly improve your blog conversion rate. For example, make it your goal to convert an inbound visitor into a reader with an email signup, or a free course. This is a simple but powerful call-to-action that we can focus on as a way to increase conversions.

Want to use Click to Tweet on your blog?

Tip #2 – Cut The Ads

You aren’t getting rich and famous with those Google-served sidebar ads. Why are they there?

So many ads, so little space. Source: http://www.smashingmagazine.com/

So many ads, so little space. Source: http://www.smashingmagazine.com/

Unless you get a ton of traffic, it is unlikely that those ads are paying off for you at all. In fact, they may be doing more harm than good. Are you okay with a potential lead becoming distracted or disgusted by a pile of ads in the sidebar? Are you okay with them completely missing your call-to-action altogether?

If you have ads, it’s happening.

Increasing your blog conversion rate may be as simple as cutting the excess clutter and cleaning up your sidebar. Those ads might be worthwhile for a high traffic site, but that isn’t the case for most blogs. Consider ditching them altogether in favor of more breathing room and a better focus on your tangible goals.

Want to use Click to Tweet on your blog?

Tip #3 – Cut The Sidebar

While you’re hacking away at those ads, maybe it’s time to ditch the sidebar altogether. In so many ways, the blog sidebar has become a dumping ground for our every whim. Unfortunately, there are too many whims:

  • Ads 
  • Facebook “like” box
  • List of categories
  • Recent posts
  • Follow Me! Follow Me!
  • Links to my favorite sites
  • Blogroll, anyone?
  • RSS Feed
  • Subscribe
  • A link to another project

You get the idea. Maybe it is time for a different approach.

Lots of breathing room. Where's the sidebar?

Lots of breathing room. Where’s the sidebar?

Sites like Medium.com have popularized the no-sidebar blog post, and it works. Not only does it make reading a pleasure, but it leaves plenty of room for the real call-to-actions that you need to promote.

If you removed half (or all) of your sidebar widgets, what do you think it would do for your blog conversion rate? It might be worth a try.

Want to use Click to Tweet on your blog?

Tip #4 – Get Inline With Your CTA’s

Who decided that all of the action needed to be taking place on the sidebar anyhow? Wouldn’t it be better if we had them where our readers are, like inside the actual blog post for example? See what this strategy can do for your blog conversion rate.

Image source: http://coschedule.com/blog/

Image source: http://coschedule.com/blog/

You can sneak a basic call-to-action inline, right inside your blog post. These can be especially useful if they are matched with important keywords, like the example above for a content marketing editorial calendar. Your content is why they came in the first place. Make it a goal to do at least one inline call-to-action with each blog post.

You can even automate a portion of this process with a plugin if you are using WordPress. The plugin SEO Smart Links will automatically link keywords that you define to a post or a page of your choosing. This is a simple and valuable way to add calls to action to your post’s text.

Want to use Click to Tweet on your blog?

Tip #5 – Lighten The Footer

Speaking of dumping grounds, what about the blog post footer? This is another place where we’ve loved to bring on the clutter.

Holy footer batman! Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

Holy footer batman! Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

Again, this is just too much. When we choose to focus our blog on a single call-to-action, it becomes much easier to improve our blog conversion rate. Ads and more blogs posts are not necessarily the goal. We need to be careful about where we send our readers.

Want to use Click to Tweet on your blog?

Tip #6 – Don’t Take Out Ads On Your Own Site

A few years ago, I was publishing content on my company blog day after day. The content was good, but overall the blog wasn’t doing much for me. I wasn’t sure why. We had everything. We the subscribe box, related posts, a Facebook Like box, and of course, a series of ads for our own content.

Wait…we were taking out ads on our own blog?

It may not feel like it, but this could be exactly what you are doing as well. It is only natural to want our audience to see and understand everything we offer, but that is an unrealistic goal. We can’t sell our audience everything all at once. We need to help them focus on one actionable goal so that we both succeed. Slowly, over time, we can expose them to our other services and offerings, but not until after we’ve ensured a maximum blog conversion rate.

Want to use Click to Tweet on your blog?

Tip #7 – Make Things Easy To Track

One of the most crucial aspects of improving our blog conversion rate is being able to track our efforts. Fortunately, by relying on a few calls-to-action, rather than an abundance we make tracking them much easier. This way, we can make subtle changes to our site and see the impact that those changes make on our overall conversion statistics.

ebook conversions

We doubled our own blog conversions by cutting the clutter, and focusing on what we really wanted to happen.

By cutting out some of the clutter and focusing on a simple conversion metric, we were actually able to double our total ebook downloads over a single week. Simple works!

Want to use Click to Tweet on your blog?

Doubling Your Blog Conversion Rate

Your blog is a valuable tool. Mitch Joel calls it your homepage. Our blog is often the customer’s first experience with our brand. This is the nature of inbound traffic. Your blog says more about who you are and what’s important to you than the rest of your site. The question is, are you readers getting the right first impression?

At some point, we must decide if we would rather have our reader choose between ten different things to do once they get there, or just one. There is no question that the fewer options we provide, the more likely our visitors will do what we want.

The perfect blog layout will be different for everyone, depending on their goals and audience. But, unless we take a good hard look at what we are serving up for our readers, we may never reach our top blog conversion rate.