The Step-by-Step Guide to Crafting Content for Conversions

Brush_and_watercoloursHow many times has this happened to you?  You spend hours creating a new video clip that you’re sure your website visitors will love.  But when you release it on your company’s blog, the reception is lukewarm at best.  A few people watch the video, but only a handful share it with others – and none of them go on to take action on the “free trial signup” prompt you included in your clip.

What happened?  Although your video’s content might have been strong, there’s a good chance you didn’t create it with conversions in mind.  When you focus on conversions as the end goal of each content piece you craft, there are a few things you’ll do differently throughout the creation process in order to increase your overall effectiveness.  We’ll discuss these steps below, as well as show you a few examples of content pieces that handle this distinction well.

Now, to be fair, not every piece of content you create will play a direct role in the conversion process.  Your next Facebook post, for example, might include a powerful call-to-action (CTA), or it might just be a fun message that’s designed to capture some quick likes and nothing more.  Balance is important.  If every piece of content you create is focused on conversions, you risk coming across as overly-promotional.

It’s also important to remember that there’s rarely a direct connection between any individual content piece and an eventual conversion.  Depending on your marketing funnel, prospective customers might read different pages on your website, view video clips, encounter your display ads on other sites and even talk to a sales representative.  These complex sales paths make multi-touch attribution (like the kind powered by Convertro or marketing automation tools) a must for truly determining how much credit your content pieces should receive for each conversion.

But despite these more complex considerations, you can still take steps to improve the effectiveness of your content by crafting it with the goal of increasing conversions.  As you read through the following steps, keep these distinctions in mind and focus first on applying this process to your bigger-ticket content pieces (like your landing pages, “About” page and “Pricing” page).  Once these pages are optimized, you can always go back and apply these principles to the remaining content on your website.

Step #1 – Identify the buyer persona you’re targeting

We’ve talked about buyer personas and how to create them on the Single Grain blog before, so this step may already be part of your process.  If it’s not, here’s what you need to know…

A buyer persona is, essentially, a fictitious representation of your target customer.  These can be as detailed as you like, but ideally, they allow you to visualize the person you’re writing for.  As a result, completing them might involve answering questions like, “What is my buyer persona’s job title?” or “What challenges does my buyer persona face at work?”  Many companies have 2-3 primary buyer personas they work with, though yours may have more or less depending on your circumstances.

Once you have your buyer personas created, it’s time to target them with your content.  Let’s look at an example to see how this works:

In our article on “How to Develop and Use Buyer Personas,” we identified two accounting firm buyer personas – Frank Founder and Tommy Technology.  Frank Founder is the 65-year-old president of the firm whose primary concerns involve financial stability and leaving a legacy after his retirement, while Tommy Technology is the 34-year-old staff accountant who is thinking more about his advancement potential.

Suppose you were selling a SaaS program targeted towards accounting firms and you want to create a landing page for a new PPC campaign you’re running.  If you know that employees like Tommy tend to be the ones who identify new services and champion them to their decision-making bosses, you’d choose to use tech-focused language on your page.  Alternatively, if you know that buyers like Frank are the ones doing the internet research, your page might be more effective if you focus on your product’s bottom-line impact.

Consider the following two headlines:

“Our Software Helps Keep Your Accounting Firm Out of the Digital Dark Ages”

versus

“Accountant-Approved Software That’s Easy On Your Bottom Line”

Clearly, these are rough headline examples, but they do emphasize the different types of language you’d use to target Tommy versus Frank.  By knowing what buyer persona you’re targeting with your content piece and what issues are most important to these customers, you can better select the language that will help drive overall conversions.

Step #2 – Determine the content’s place in your marketing funnel

So now you know who you’re targeting, but you’re not finished yet!  Remember that, in addition to different buyer personas, you’ve also got to contend with different stages of the buying process.

We’ve outlined these different stages pretty thoroughly in our blog post on “How to Create a Marketing Funnel,” but to briefly review, prospects must go through all of the following stages before making a purchase:

  • The recognition of the problem or need
  • The search for information on potential solutions
  • The evaluation of alternatives
  • The purchase decision
  • The post-purchase evaluation

Put these stages together with your buyer personas, and you’ve got a combination of potential content targets.  Keeping with our example above, you might decide to create any of the following content pieces:

  • A blog post confirming to Tommy Technology that his accounting firm has a need that must be filled – for example, “Why Dated Accounting Software Is a Problem (And What You Should Do About It)”
  • A video-based tutorial that introduces Frank Founder to your product as a potential solution to his needs – as in, “Getting To Know Our Software”
  • A series of case studies that Tommy Technology can use to introduce your product to his more profit-oriented boss
  • A traditional white paper that conveys important product details to Frank Founder while reinforcing the idea that your product understands the needs of older business owners

Certainly, you don’t have to limit every content piece you produce to one buyer persona and one stage in the buying process.  One of the pieces listed above that’s intended to appeal to Tommy Technology might be just as effective at moving Frank Founder through the different buying stages and vice versa.

However, when it comes to crafting content for conversions, it’s useful to know who you’re targeting and what the most prominent issues in their minds are.  The better tailored your content can be to the needs of a particular group of prospective customers, the more likely your information is to resonate with their needs and lead to conversions.

Step #3 – Set one target action for the content piece

Next up, keep the following principle in mind: one content piece, one target action.

When you craft content with the explicit goal of improving conversions, you simply must have something in that content that’s prompting people to action.  This mechanism – called, for obvious reasons, a call to action – tells visitors exactly what you want them to do once they’ve finished with your content piece and how they should do it.

It sounds so simple, but a survey of 200 B2B small businesses by the company Small Business Trends found that 70% of participating businesses lacked a call to action on their homepage.  That’s a huge missed opportunity!

What kinds of things should you target with your calls to action?  You can certainly encourage actions that represent conversions for your business (such as downloading software or requesting a free trial) or you can prompt an action that moves a prospect closer to converting (for example, liking the company Facebook page or opting-in to an email list to receive updates).

Consider any of the following call to action options:

  • take actionDownload software
  • Request a free trial
  • Fill out a lead generation form
  • Download a white paper
  • Download a free ebook
  • Download a coupon
  • View a video clip
  • Send an email
  • Request an online demonstration
  • Opt-in to an email newsletter
  • Complete a survey
  • Follow a social profile
  • Leave a comment

Pick one of these call to action options – or any others you can think of – but pick just one.  When you incorporate multiple calls to action into a single page, you confuse your readers.  Should they subscribe to your email newsletter first or go to your Facebook page?  And if they go to your Facebook page first, what are the odds they’ll remember to come back and opt-in?

Minimize confusion and focus consumers on completing your highest-value calls to action by selecting a single option for each content piece you create.

Step #4 – Integrate effective calls to action into your content

Once you’ve selected the type of call to action you’ll include in your content piece, your next task becomes adding it to your content.  Will you include it as a text prompt at the end of your page?  As a graphic button?  Or maybe as a lightbox-style pop-up ad that’s displayed when readers reach a certain part of your page?

As you might expect, some calls to action will perform better than others based on their wording, styling and location in the page – but there’s no way to predict with 100% certainty which of these combinations is right for your page.

So to make your calls to action as effective as possible, consider the following nine suggestions for improving your requests, based on guidance given by Neil Patel:

  1. Test your button copy – If your content piece includes a button, try different text variations.  “Download now,” for example, might perform better than “View Now,” but you won’t know until you try both options.
  2. Experiment with different colors – Color psychology is the study of the impact different colors can have on our mental states.  If your call to action involves colorful elements, give different options a try until you find one that reinforces the psychological appeal of your message.
  3. Try different locations – Neil shares an example from his personal website, in which placing his call to action above the fold resulted in 17% fewer conversions than if it was included later on.  Change up your call to action locations to see if you can drive similar results on your website.
  4. Redesign your CTA – If your call to action involves graphic elements, there’s a chance these images could be confusing visitors.  Try an A/B split test with a simplified version to maximize your conversion rate.
  5. Delay showing your call to action – It might seem counterintuitive, but in some cases, if you make people wait to see your CTA button, you increase the odds that they’ll spend enough time on the page to learn what you do and what your benefits are.  If you have a high bounce rate or a complex product, pay special attention to this strategy.
  6. Get creative – Don’t ever make assumptions when it comes to your calls to action.  Mix things up and always be sure you’ve got a test running.  You won’t know when unconventional options will work best for your readers unless you give creative alternatives a try.
  7. Experiment with reverse psychology – Negative language can be surprisingly effective in your CTAs.  Take, for example, the case of Timothy Sykes’ website.  When he tested the wording “Don’t click here if you’re lazy” on his CTA button, it performed 39% better than “Click here.”
  8. Give special effects a try – Can you incorporate animation into your CTA so that it wiggles slightly when the reader’s cursor hovers over it?  Or can you force readers to scroll to view the entire call to action?  These little tweaks can mean big increases in engagement.
  9. Try a CTA on exit – Use a tool like BounceExchange to launch a pop-up CTA box whenever a user’s mouse heads towards the back button.  Some readers may find this technique spammy, though it will be surprisingly effective for others.

When it comes to improving your calls to action, don’t try all these techniques at once or you won’t know which changes led to more conversions (unless you’re skilled at launching and measuring multivariate tests).  Instead, pick the one that you think is likely to make the biggest difference in the performance of your content piece and see if the changes you make result in higher conversions.  If not, give another strategy a try.

Step #5 – Test your results

The paragraph above briefly touches on the idea of testing your calls to action, but these aren’t the only elements you’ll want to experiment with.  If you’re serious about getting the most conversions out of your content pieces, get in the habit of testing everything!

What all can you test?  Any of the following – and more!

  • Type of content – Do you tend to get more conversions from your video blog posts or from landing pages that you send PPC traffic to?  Do your CTA buttons get more clicks on your “Pricing” page or your “Features” page?  Keep an eye on which type of content is performing best on your website, as you’ll want to expand these opportunities by delivering more similar pieces.
  • Content subject – Suppose you define conversions as completed lead generation forms and decide to test two Facebook updates against each other: a motivational quote and a funny joke.  Tracking the number of completed conversions each post generates can give you insight into your audience’s attitudes, as well as how you should structure future posts.
  • Channel – Are you getting more conversions from your social media efforts or from your PPC advertising?  From your blog or your Youtube stream?  Paying attention to how each channel you’re active on contributes to your overall conversion count can show you how to best allocate your marketing resources in the future.

It should go without saying, but no matter what you want to test, you’ll need to have a mechanism in place that determines when a conversion occurs.  Depending on your business, this might be something as simple as monitoring the number of Facebook likes your page has received or as complex as a multi-touch attribution model that measures conversions and assigns relative weight to each touch point that led up to it.

Bringing all of these different elements – from your conversion monitoring system to the content pieces you create to support it – together can be time-consuming.  However, if you’re serious about improving your business’s online performance, crafting your content for conversions by tying it to buyer personas, assigning it to a stage in the buying process, adding a strong call to action and testing your choices are all time well spent when it comes to your overall results.

Give this process a try and report back to the comments section here with the progress you’ve made on improving your conversion rate!

Image: Wikimedia Commons, DeviantArt

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