How to Create Effective Blog Posts That Convert Like Crazy
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When you’re creating content for your blog, what are you hoping to achieve? More than likely, you’re working to attract qualified leads for your business. Unfortunately, though, this can be easier said than done.
Business blogging comes with its challenges. Maybe you’re dealing with a bounce rate that’s higher than ideal. Perhaps people aren’t clicking on your calls-to-action or converting through your forms. It’s possible you’re attracting an audience, but they aren’t interested in your products or services. You may even be spending resources on creating valuable offerings, but they aren’t attracting qualified leads.
There has to be something you can do about this, right? You shouldn’t give up on your blog, but rather optimize your content for lead generation. After reading through this guide, you’ll be able to do just that.
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- A Blog Post Outline Template to write thorough content every time.
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- A How to Write a Call to Action Bonus Template to craft CTAs that convert crazy amounts of traffic.
- A Content Calendar Excel Template to plan and schedule all your blog posts.
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Have One Main Goal When Planning Your Content
Hint: that one overall goal should revolve around lead generation.
To start, you need to clearly define this goal. It’s not enough to just say you want to generate leads. You need to follow a process for making that goal work.
SMART stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
With SMART goals, your focus is on making a goal that provides enough information to make reporting on results easier.
A SMART lead generation goal could be:
"We want to increase qualified, sales-ready blog leads by 50% this quarter compared to last quarter."
CLEAR stands for: Collaborative, Limited, Emotional, Appreciable, and Refinable.
The CLEAR goal-setting process is the more recent alternative to SMART goals. Adam Kreek, an entrepreneur and motivational speaker, developed this alternative to fit a more up-to-speed, agile environment.
A CLEAR lead generation goal could be:
We want to work as a marketing team to bring 5 new qualified leads from marketing blog objectives for sales readiness through quality content offerings.
With your blog content, you want to decide on one of these goal-setting options, or create your own way, so that you can clearly understand your path. Your goal, regardless of methodology, should be set up in a way that allows you to see a beginning-to-end process for your work.
Yes, your blog should be designed around your readership’s needs and pain points, so you should have subgoals for that. However, your overall, most important goal should always be what lead results you want to see from your efforts.
In addition to setting up your goal, you have a choice for how you’ll follow your content’s results. You can use calendar software, such as what you’d find with CoSchedule, or choose a do-it-yourself (DIY) calendar system in Excel or Google Sheets. By following a calendar, you’re better able to see how your content is leading to or falling away from your established goal.
Use The Right Tool(s) For Contact Information Collection And Follow-Up
The best way to turn your blog into a lead generation tool is to have a system in place for quick and easy contact collection. You want to acquire at least an email address. Ideally, you’ll want more information to help you create a personalized lead nurturing experience.
You’ll want to find the tool or tools that’ll help you with this process. The tool(s) need to help you develop a seamless system for both marketing and sales to work together. Whichever system you put in place should help you take a blog subscriber and follow their path to a sale.
Some of the best lead acquisition and nurturing tools, depending on your needs and budget, are:
- MailChimp: Best for contact collection and email marketing
- HubSpot’s CRM: Best for lead nurturing and monitoring
When using MailChimp, you can add sign-up widgets for your blog sidebar so that it is always visible to your readers. You also have the option of creating a pop-up form to appear when readers visit your blog. Add the MailMunch integration to create these widgets and pop-ups.
Watch this video to see how:
You’re given options for copy, design, form fields, and other elements. This integration is free, but it means the MailMunch name will appear with your form.
Using these forms allows for contact information to go straight into your chosen MailChimp list. It’s an easy, automatic way to bring leads to your email marketing platform for further contact.
MailChimp is primarily an email marketing platform, so it doesn’t give you a full picture of where each contact stands in your sales funnel. That’s when you need to find a tool that can take your contacts further along.
HubSpot has a CRM that offers what you need to collaborate and monitor your contacts as they proceed through the sales funnel. You can use this tool to track the emails you send to your leads, if you use Gmail. Or, you can use MailChimp for email and HubSpot’s CRM for taking your marketing activity and passing it along to sales.
HubSpot’s CRM gives you thorough information collected from each of your contacts. This information is found automatically, when possible. You can learn where the contact works, their phone number, and even their social media accounts. All of this information is available in one place along with your contact’s timeline.
If you want to take your lead generation one step further, try using a full-service, all-in-one platform. HubSpot has a marketing platform that’ll help you track leads from source to sale and beyond. It offers ways to engage with leads from when they’re just visiting after they’ve made a purchase. You’ll know which blog elements resonated with them to help you create a truly personalized lead nurturing experience.
Whichever tool(s) you select, make sure it works well enough to remove any barriers between contact collection and sales follow-up. You’ll want tools that work seamlessly together or just one tool that does it all. This system of having a lead nurturing tool(s) will help you truly see a successful return on investment (ROI) with your blog activity.
Make Your Content Relevant To Your Buyer Personas
Your blog is an opportunity for dual benefits. You want to bring in leads on your end, but to do this, you also need to give your readers worthwhile content. To see the right audience convert on your content, you need to create highly-relevant blog resources that benefit your buyer personas.
This pinpointed readership will help you create articles that bring in the right audience for conversion. To create these personas, you can follow your own process, use a template, or follow these steps:
- Clean up and finalize your data. You likely now have an overwhelming amount of data for your personas. It’s time to filter and clean this up to a more manageable document. Focus on the critical data, such as what is working instead of what should be put aside. Keep your focus on creating reader personas that have data about what they like and what they want to see. Everything else can be removed.
- Ask your current readers for their input. When you’re looking for what is working versus what is missing, one of your best opportunities is to ask your current readership directly. Use a tool, such as Google Forms, to reach out to them via email, or add a survey to your social media accounts. Twitter polls, for example, are great for multiple choice questions. Your readers are eager to be heard, and asking them for their input is largely effective for that very reason.
- Evaluate how your readers behave. Use Google Analytics for this because the tool gives you so much information about how your website visitors are behaving on your site. You can track which blog posts have the most visitors versus which ones have the longer time on-page data. Take advantage of this information to see what’s working for you so far versus what needs improvement.
- Compare your real data with your ideal data. Take what you know about your current readership and compare it to who your ideal reader would be. This is a hypothetical reader that you’d want to see visit your blog. They are contacts that fit with your conversion goal.
- Collect initial demographic data. Where do they work? What is their age and gender? Where are they located? These are all examples of the demographic data you should collect. This data should describe your current readership to help you understand your status now for better decisions in the future. An example of a tool you can use to collect this information is Google Display Planner. It provides detailed information about your audience via search results and website activity. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fiGfgo4RJDA
- Find your target audience’s pain points. Do some research on social media and review sites to see what your target readers are complaining about. Tracking mentions, hashtags, and keywords can help with that. This will give you important information about problems you can solve via blog content. The more relevant and timely your content is, the more conversions you’ll see.
- Ask your sales team for their findings. Your sales team acquires a great amount of data on your customers and prospects when they’re taking each one through the sales process. They can offer valuable information for your use as you build your personas. Take the information you acquire to develop personas based on what you know is effective so far.
- Audit your current content. Look at your current content to see if it’s getting any engagement. Blog comments and social shares are two ways to determine your content’s value. Check your bounce rate in Google Analytics. Analyze social media metrics to see how people are reacting to your content on each platform. Are they retweeting? Do they add a comment? Are you getting a lot of link clicks? These are all ways to determine whether your readers are enjoying or skipping your content.
- Apply the data into a persona document. You can use a tool, such as Xtensio, to create a manageable document for your personas. Or use your own Excel, Google Sheets, Word, or Google Docs template.
To make your content relevant to the right audience, you need to know who they are and what they want to see from you. Your personas can help you with that. Personas aren’t permanent or final, however. They’re fluid as your target readership changes. As trends change, reader interests change. Your blog content and personas need to adapt with these changes.
Take The Time To Fully Prepare Your Content
To truly make effective blog content, it’s not enough to just dive right in. You need a plan for what you’re going to write and how you’re going to present your ideas. Otherwise, you risk creating scattered content. It will confuse your readers and likely make them leave without converting. That’s why it’s so critical for you to do the necessary research and planning before you start to write your draft.
First, Identify Your Topic.
Finding a topic that will resonate with your target readers can be a challenge. You not only need to know what you’re going to write about but also how you’re going to present the idea in your article headline.
You have tools available to you that can help you with this process:
Impact’s Blog Title Generator
With BlogAbout by Impact Branding & Design, you choose a keyword, such as “marketing” to help you fill out the headline prompts. The keyword is more for your reference as you receive the prompts, but the headline ideas can apply to any keyword you choose.
When you receive a headline idea that you like, you can click on the heart to save it in a list for future reference. When you have enough options, you can request the list be sent to you automatically by email.
To add to this tool’s value, you also have the option of free writing using their “writer’s block” section. It’s a blank canvas you can draw in to get your thoughts onto “paper.”
This tool has one noticeable glitch though. Exporting your list does not always work. It might be best to type out your favorites into a separate document. This will also make it easier for you to work with the content instead of having to copy/paste from the email.
Portent’s Content Idea Generator
Unlike BlogAbout, Portent’s Content Idea Generator does not have an export feature. However, it does have several helpful features to make up for it.
This tool gives you especially creative (sometimes controversial) headline prompts using the keyword you chose. It adds your selected keyword into the headline along with the rest of the text.
With your prompt, Portent adds commentary to the words to help inspire you or simply to make you laugh. The comments can give you more ideas for the visible headline or help you create an entirely new one.
HubSpot’s Blog Topic Generator
HubSpot’s tool for discovering topic ideas is different from the other two tools. With their Blog Topic Generator, you insert 3 noun-based keywords. The tool will then give you 5 headline ideas based on those words. You can mix and match the headlines on your own, but HubSpot doesn’t let you do it in the tool. Instead, export the list via email or copy/paste them into an editable document.
When you’re considering a topic generated from these tools, keep your reader personas in mind at all times. Even if you think the headline sounds funny or appealing, you need to stick with the ones that will attract your target readers.
Pick the topics that mention or at least will cover a specific pain point in your readers. When they read content that truly speaks to their needs, they are more likely to follow-through on your call-to-action to convert into leads.
Then, Create An Outline
You now have a topic picked out. It’s time to start writing your draft, right?
You always need to take the necessary step of creating an outline. Why?
- You’ll create structure out of your various points.
- You’ll make it easier on yourself when writing your draft.
- The outline will ensure your article’s readability factor.
To create the best outline, make sure you’re creating one that has plenty of detail and all your points listed.
Have your headings and subheadings ready to go. Include any research you’re going to cite, placed where they belong in your article.
Add your main points, even if in fragments, to each heading and subheading. This all will make creating your first draft a lot faster, easier, and more efficient.
Focus Your Content On Reader Benefits
Now that you know the importance of reader personas, your next step is to create content that benefits them. You want to create content that gets found in search results, but your priority should always be on helping your readers.
There’s nothing worse than putting in all the effort in creating your article just to see your bounce rate increase. The important thing to remember is that your content can either put off your readers or get them wanting more. When they choose the latter, that’s your chance at converting them via your call-to-action.
When you’re writing your article, your focus should be on the following:
- Readability. Is your article easy to scan and read quickly? Are your points easily understood? Use Hemingway or the Yoast SEO plugin to help you with this.
- Benefits. Does your article provide value to your readers? Are they given instructions they can take with them and apply with their own work?
Readability is key when you’re trying to keep your readers from beginning to end. To keep your blog post focused on this, it needs to follow these best practices:
- According to Yoast, it’s important that you write in simple English so that younger audiences would be able to understand what you’re saying. This is known as the Flesch reading ease score.
- Using transition words helps your readers by dividing one point from another. This makes your content easier to digest. You can use words such as “and,” “but,” “or,” “because,” etc to separate your points. For example: “The article was 5,000 words long, so the writer divided it into a series of posts.”
- Use enough subheadings to make scanning your article easier. For example, if your article is 1000 words, divide it into 3-5 subheadings. Too much text per subheading, such as 500 words in block text, will make it harder for your readers to scan through.
- Keep your paragraphs short to keep reader focus. Shorter paragraphs help readers understand your point quicker than longer paragraphs.
- Make sure your sentences are short. Longer sentences are inevitable, but you don’t want too many of them in your article. The ideal sentence length should not exceed 20 words.
- Avoid using passive voice when possible. Otherwise, you make your sentences harder to read:
- An example of passive voice: “The article was written by Annaliese.”
- Switching it to active voice: “Annaliese wrote the article.”
- Use plenty of bulleted lists, white space, imagery, and other breaks from your block text. This will help your readers understand your points without losing focus.
Benefits are what make your content worth readers’ time. If you’re too focused on what you want from your post, you’ll neglect providing value to your readers. Blogging is about helping your readers first, so self-promotion should always be secondary.
Along with giving people a reason to read, you also want to give them actionable takeaways. This is the end benefit you should offer your readers. They are looking for assistance with their own needs and efforts, so they expect to have ways to apply what they’ve learned from you.
CoSchedule articles focus on reader benefits by ensuring that every article includes thorough explanations, step-by-step instructions, and applicable takeaways. Each of their articles includes content readers can download to further enhance the experience.
Another blog that does a good job is from Buffer. Their articles are also thorough, and they regularly update them to ensure readers learn the latest trends and techniques for their efforts.
No matter what: focus on your readers first, and give them what they came for in the first place.
Be Strategic With Your CTA Wording, Design, And Placement
Your call-to-action or CTA has to be convincing enough to get your readers to click on it. You may be wondering: how can I accomplish this? The answer: you create a CTA that follows these best practices. This is how you’ll get people to give you their contact information and convert.
Nail Your CTA Copy
Your call-to-action copy needs to be short but still give readers a reason to click on it. It should be focused on real benefits and not serve as clickbait. Use power words to convince visitors that this action they’ll take will be worthwhile. Make it clear why and how they should act on your CTA.
As you can see from the example below, CoSchedule uses strong wording in their CTAs, such as “get,” “now,” and “free.” They’re expressing a sense of urgency and making their CTA a command to help visitors take action. Also, CoSchedule makes the value clear in what they’ll provide in exchange for the visitor’s information. They tell visitors that they offer the “#1 Marketing Calendar,” which clearly shows that their product is worth considering.
When you’re working on your CTAs, make sure you’re using strong words, such as commands or value-based terms, to give your visitors a reason to click through.
Pay Attention to CTA Design
Use different text colors or use images to help your CTA stand out, but be careful that your design doesn’t confuse or annoy your readers. Check to see that your CTA design stands out without interrupting the flow of your article. You want your CTA to be noticeable without being intrusive. That’s why experimenting with your CTA design is key. You’ll want to find the right method for best lead generation results.
Let’s look at this example from a recent HubSpot article. Their call-to-action displays a preview image and bold colors. The text is large enough to be easily noticeable. Their CTA stands out from the page’s white background. As it is located at the end of the article, it doesn’t interrupt the reader.
Experiment With CTA Placement
Many times, you’ll see a CTA that’s in-line with the article copy. Other times, it may be a clickable image with text overlay. Regardless, you want to use a placement that stands out from the rest of your article and page as a whole. You want your CTA to fit naturally with your article without getting lost in the flow.
Whether it’s at the beginning, middle, or end of your article page, you want to choose wisely. It’s important that you experiment thoroughly with which placement converts the most visitors. There’s not one best placement for everyone, so test it until you know what works for you and your visitors.
Also, don’t be afraid to add it more than once per article. You just want to make sure it doesn’t take away from your article’s readability. If your readers can’t stay focused on your article, they may leave before considering your CTA.
In the above example from the Convince & Convert blog, this CTA is placed at the end of their articles. It takes a wide space to really stand out to readers who made it to the end. It doesn’t interrupt the article content but rather gives readers a reason to seek more. This is a prime example of a strategically-placed CTA.
How To Test Your CTAs for Copy, Design, and Placement Optimization
- Only make one change at a time.
- Continue this process until you start seeing a decline in leads generated.
- If you don’t see improvement with a change, revert back to the last setting and make a different change.
- Use your available analytics to see if the change produced more leads, the same, or less.
Testing is never over. Your readership changes over time, so your CTAs should adapt as a result. The best way to stay in tune with what works for your readers is to experiment regularly with your CTA copy, design, and placement. Although you have these three elements to work with, always remember to only make one change at a time. Otherwise, you won’t know which change was the winner.
Provide A Gated Content Upgrade Relating To Your Post
In the last section, you learned about CTAs and saw examples from a CoSchedule blog article. If you look at the in-line and pop-up CTA examples again, you’ll see that they lead to what’s called a “content upgrade.”
It’s an additional resource related to the article’s topic. It often serves as a way for readers to apply what they’ve learned from your article. CoSchedule uses content upgrades in almost all of their articles. It’s a quick and effective way to get more conversions than a simple CTA would provide.
With a content upgrade, you want to ask for an email address at a minimum. However, to fully optimize your further contact with readers, ask for a name and other personalized information. This will help your email outreach and also any sales-based contact.
Have A Content Promotion Plan In Place
Before you finalize your blog draft, and before you publish it, you should have a plan for how you’re going to promote it. Your first focus should be on optimizing your content for social sharing. Then, you can plan how, where, and when to share your new content online.
First: Optimizing Your Content For Sharing
To see your content reach a larger audience than your own, you need your readers to share it with their networks. They won’t share if you don’t make it easy for them, so you want to pay attention to this when finalizing your draft.
There are several tools you can use to make social sharing a breeze:
- CoSchedule’s Click to Tweet in-line tweet prompt
- Sumo’s image sharer
- AddThis’s social sharing buttons
CoSchedule uses social sharing buttons and Click-To-Tweet to give people more than one way to share.
Make sure your content is optimized for social sharing by including options in the form of in-line engagement and sharing buttons to give your audience a quick, simplified process.
Next: Plan Your Own Promotion Schedule
Your own content promotion is important for notifying your existing fans and followers of new content. It’s important that you know what you’re doing, when you’ll do it, and how you’ll do it effectively.
- What you’re doing. What platforms are you using for your content promotion?
- When you’ll do it. What days and times are you going to publish your content promotion?
- How you’ll do it. What format will you use on each platform, and how will you make it engaging?
Use your content calendar to organize your content promotion strategy to make it more manageable. Otherwise, you’ll lose track of where and when you’ve already promoted your content, risking future repeats and mistakes.
You’re now better prepared to use your blog to generate leads. You have seven pieces of the puzzle that you need to use together to get the full picture. Apply each of these lead generation tactics in your blog activity to achieve the ROI you’re seeking.
What tactics have worked best for you from this list? What tactic or tactics would you add? Let us know in the comments!
April 5, 2017