“But where are the conversions?”
As a content marketer, you probably have to answer that question quite often. Prove the value of content and all the efforts that went into it for your business.
You also know that the value of content goes way deeper than direct sales and revenue, such as getting an ideal customer to:
- Subscribe to your emails;
- Share your content with their team;
- Share your content on their socials;
- Read seven additional pieces of content after that first one.
Each of these is a valuable activity—a conversion. You know you can show its value to your boss/company, but you need to get those conversions first.
This blog post will show you how. Let’s get started!
1. Write a transformational introduction
You can write a 3,000-word monster of a post with the most actionable strategies, but if it doesn’t make the reader go past the first two paragraphs, it’s a waste.
Your blog post intro has one job: to make your visitor read the post. To do that, it has to make them think both of these things:
- “This blog post covers the exact pain point I’m experiencing,” and
- “This blog post will show me what to do about that pain point.”
Sounds simple, but so many blog posts just don’t have a purposeful introduction. I often see these issues with introductions:
- They are too long, too wordy, and too fluffy.
- They don’t clearly introduce the problem they are solving.
- They don’t try to connect with the reader.
My favorite way to write anything, including my blog post intros, is to write for one person and not for a group of people. It’s a mental exercise: I imagine I’m sitting across a friend and I think of the ways to get her attention so we can talk about the idea I have.
This exercise also helps me write in a conversational, natural tone and avoid unnecessary jargon.
Now think about your ideal reader, the person that will walk away from your blog post better in some form. Think of her or him as a person sitting down for a chat with you. If you know them well, you know their struggle and what they’re trying to solve.
So when you’re writing your intro, thinking of this person, write down the following:
- The struggle they’re facing;
- The transformation they will go through by reading your blog post.
You can see that very thing happening in my intro to this post. I know you need your blog posts to convert so you can prove the value of content to your boss(es), and I’ll show you how. Easy.
Your reader needs an incentive to read your blog post, especially if it’s long, so give it to them.
My favorite examples of this:
A fun, relatable introduction on Copyblogger:
Attention-grabbing and personal from Copyhackers’ Joanna Wiebe:
Clear questions that Buffer knows you want answered:
2. Define your WIIFM (What’s in it for me?)
This isn’t necessarily a visible piece of your blog post, but it sure is a crucial one. It needs to be the foundation of everything you write.
Every building block needs to make your reader do one or more of these three things:
- Learn something;
- Feel something;
- React in some kind of way.
If the words are there just to fill up the space and add to the word count, they are murdering your reader’s experience. A 3,000-word post that should have been a 1,000-word post does nobody any good.
The exercise I do to avoid redundancies and filler content is a “So what?” exercise I learned from Ann Handley. Basically, you keep asking yourself the “So what?” question, and you answer “Because…” for as long as there are no answers left.
Something like this:
I want to write a blog post that will help content marketers and writers create high-converting content.
Good content often performs poorly because it wasn’t optimized for best reading experience. It needs a strategic approach and ideally follow a checklist so each post had the best chance to convert, be shared and linked to.
Conversions are in direct correlation with revenue. More revenue = more growth.
Well… Businesses that don’t make money fail, and that’s sad.
See what I mean?
By doing this, you’ll weed out any unnecessary points and parts that don’t add to your post at all.
It’s a no-brainer. Sentences and paragraphs that don’t create a better experience for your reader have no place in your blog post.
3. Pick your LSI (latent semantic indexing) keywords
LSI keywords are keywords that are semantically linked and closely related to the keyword that was searched for. They’re a great addition to your blog post because:
- They help you write more in-depth, comprehensive content.
- They help search engines better understand what your blog post is about.
That first reason is the ultimate win: you’ve provided your reader with the best, most complete resource for a pain point they’ve experienced. The second reason is extremely useful (ranking for relevant terms = also winning), but it shouldn’t be your primary reason to use LSI keywords. Writing for humans—your ideal readers and customers—should be your priority.
If you want to better understand how LSI keywords work from a search engine perspective, Brian Dean of Backlinko explained it well. He said:
Today, Google’s goal is to figure out a page’s overall topic. And Google relies on LSI keywords to understand content at such a deep level.
For example, let’s say you just published a blog post about cold brew coffee. Google will still scan your page to see if you use the term “cold brew coffee” in your title tag, content, image alt text, etc. But they’ll also scan your page for LSI keywords (like “filter”, “temperature”, “grind”, “cold water”, and “ice”).
And when they see these LSI keywords in your content, they’ll say: “We’re confident that this page is about the topic of cold brew coffee.”
Defining your LSI keywords early on will help you deepen your content by expanding it with hyper-relevant information that people are already looking for.
Use this approach to build your blog post’s subsections, create more value for your reader, and answer related questions they likely have.
Tools to help you out:
LSIGraph. An absolutely brilliant tool for generating LSI keywords. After you complete your search, you’ll get dozens of suggestions, top performing content for that keyword, and access to an LSI keyword guide.
Keep in mind there’s a limited number of daily searches (3/day if you don’t register with your email address, 8/day if you do).
Related searches. Look at the bottom of the search engine results page—easy and straightforward! Here’s an example of my results with the search term ‘brand messaging guidelines.’
4. Format your blog post for success
No one will read your post if it’s badly formatted and difficult to digest.
In other words: no one will go out of their way to read text that’s impossible to read.
When a blog post is hard to read, it’s usually because of formatting troubles like:
- Paragraphs that are too long;
- Little or no subheadings;
- Little or no images, or irrelevant images;
- No bold text;
- No bullet points.
Let’s unpack each of these.
Paragraphs that are too long make it hard to stay focused. If you find that your posts don’t have the effect you were hoping for, the easiest fix to try first is your paragraph length. I try not to go over three to four lines maximum—test what works for your .
Lack of subheadings can hurt your reader’s experience, as well as your SEO. Subheadings allows your reader to follow your points more easily and get to what they need most quickly. For SEO, your subheadings (H2 to H6 tags) help with your post’s structure, making it easier for Google to understand what it’s about.
When it comes to images, the most common mistakes is using images that have little or no relation to your text. Images add to your post when they are on-brand and relevant, and especially when they help make a point, such as screenshots and other tutorial-style images. If you want to use images to support your points with data, check out my post on great sources for graphs and charts.
Lack of bold text makes your reader desperately search for key points. While the opposite mistake you can make is bolding every fifth word, it’s important to use bolded words and/or phrases to guide your reader through your post’s skeleton and help them focus on what matters most to them.
And finally, bullet points help you further sort your thoughts, steps, and reasoning. Just like I did in several places in this post, you can help your reader create a clearer picture about your topic. Bullet points also create a better experience for those who skim your blog post while looking for something specific.
All of these strategies also massively improve any reading experience on mobile devices. So don’t skip them!
5. Write at least 20 headlines
Yep. No less than 20.
A bad headline will either attract the wrong readers, or no readers at all. (It’s hard to say which one’s worse.)
I left this element closer to the end on purpose, and there’s a simple reason for this: I always write my headlines at the end of my writing process.
Different writers will write their headlines following different tactics; I’m doing it this way as I want it to perfectly draw the reader to exactly what was covered. I want it to convey the tone, feeling and transformation that my blog post creates.
And while I usually know early in my writing which points will I likely cover (after my research), I sometimes see halfway through my writing that I want to use a different tone (like more entertaining, informal, controversial). Writing a headline before that is simply a waste of time!
A good headline is unique and specific. And according to CoSchedule, headlines that perform best:
- Are around 55 characters in length;
- Are 6-7 words long;
- Convey strong emotion;
- Are a how-to, question, or a list post headline;
- Use a mix of common, uncommon, emotional, and power words.
Writing a good headline isn’t easy, which is why you’ll have to write dozens of headlines for one post until you find the perfect one.
Or in Copyhacker’s words:
“Just write at least 50 headlines before you choose one. If you do not do this, we’ll know – only an uncreative person would write 50 variations of a headline and finish with a dud.”
Tools to help you out:
CoSchedule headline analyzer. While I don’t always give it the final word, it’s super useful to throw your headline ideas in and see the suggestions! It often gives me good guidance on tiny tweaks I can make to improve my headline.
Here’s what it looks like in practice:
BuzzSumo. Simply type in your topic and look for posts that received lots of shares and engagement. Test short and long entries and keyword variations. Use these engaging pieces as headline inspiration!
Keep in in mind you’ll see very limited results without an account. You can get a free 7-day trial.
A list of 400+ power words by Sumo. Technically not a tool, but super useful nonetheless. I’ve printed out this list a while back and refer to it all the time. Power words are great not just for headlines, but also product names, landing pages, and more.
6. Have a captivating call to action (CTA)
And finally, we can’t talk about a high-converting blog post without mentioning the actual conversion, right?
As you know, a conversion is an action you want your reader (or a viewer/listener) to take that you deem valuable to your business.
They’re usually one of the following:
- Subscribing to an email list;
- Contacting your business;
- Completing a purchase.
And even though it seems like a no-brainer, so many posts still don’t contain the most important piece in order to convert: a call to that one action that you decided your post should encourage.
Or in the legendary words of Oli Gardner:
If your entire blog post brought incredible value to your reader, writing a call to action is easy. There is no need to overcomplicate it or oversell your point.
While there are many strategies to help you optimize your call to action and improve your conversion rate, begin by sticking to these general guidelines:
- Use a clear, strong action verb.
- Make your CTA consistent with your blog post’s key points.
- Use numbers if possible.
- Replace vague, generic CTAs with crisp action. For example: “Send me the checklist” instead of “Download.”
- Use the copy around your CTA to explain what will your audience miss if they don’t subscribe.
Wrapping it up
Writing a high-converting blog post often doesn’t come naturally. That’s because it needs to be so much more than a piece of content written in the spur of the moment.
Instead, they should be strategic and include these six elements to guide the reader toward the desired action.
Because the ultimate way it works in the long game is: better content = more conversions = more customers = a more successful business.
Do these tips help? How do you optimize your blog posts for conversion? Let me know!
P.S. Pin this post so you can refer to it later:
Note: This post was originally published on August 18, 2017 and updated on May 7, 2020.