7 Steps to Write Content that ConvertsBy Greg Snow-Wasserman
This article is part of an SEO series from WooRank. Thank you for supporting the partners who make SitePoint possible.
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How do you write content that is informative, entertaining, authoritative and advertises your product? All at the same time, and usually without the reader knowing they are being moved through a conversion funnel. Creating good copy can be one of the most difficult parts of a marketer’s job. Even if your content ranks well in search engines, there’s no guarantee it will convince a reader to complete a purchase, email signup, contact form or whatever conversion you measure. The good news is that we’ve come up with a 7 step process to discover what content your audience likes, what keywords they use to find that content, and how you can create your articles to encourage more sales.
One of the hardest parts of writing good content is figuring out where to start. You can start by just writing, figuring out what you want to say as you go. But then how do you know if your messaging will resonate with your audience? Or if people are even looking for that sort of content to begin with? As the saying goes, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. So, step one in writing content that converts is to plan.
1. Track the Conversation
Start by finding what people are currently sharing and linking to. People share and link to content they find useful, entertaining, informative or all three. Learning what’s currently being shared will give you insight into what resonates with your potential customers. You can use Buzzsumo or Ahrefs to search for your industry, products or topic and find pages that have been shared via social media platforms and backlinks.
Shares don’t tell the whole story, though. You also need to tune into the conversations people are having online. Twitter’s new dashboard feature, custom feeds, is a really useful tool for this. You already get notified by Twitter whenever someone mentions your Twitter @username, but you’re still missing out on the majority of the conversation. Your custom feed lets you track mentions for any words, phrases or hashtags that are relevant to your content marketing. So at WooRank, we can learn what people are saying about SEO and marketing tool needs and tailor our messaging to meet those needs.
Finally, set up a Google Alert for your company, product and/or industry. As the name suggests, Google Alerts will send you notifications with articles or pages that mention your keyword. This is also great for brand and reputation management.
2. Get In Front of Your Audience
The second part of planning your content is to make sure you’re building it around words and phrases that people are actually using to find information on your topic. That means our friend, keyword research. Start by gathering information from your Google Search Console account to find your most successful keywords — keywords that currently rank well and/or send the most clicks.
WooRank’s SERP Checker will help you determine which of your keywords get enough search volume to bother targeting. Add up to three competitors so you can find where you can beat them, and identify any gaps in their keyword strategy you can exploit.
Once you have that list, there are lots of good free tools you can use to find more ideas for keywords to target.
3. Segment Your Audience
One message is not going to be effective for all of your potential customers. You’re better off creating content that sends different messages, each aimed at a different buyer persona (also known as a marketing persona). Buyer personas are generalized, fictionalized versions of your various types of customers. They represent who’s interested in your business and the different ways they use your product.
Your analytics and sales data are vital in this process. When building your audience segments start broad with age and gender, and then get more granular, creating new segments where you find divergences in interest categories that could be relevant to your business.
To collect relevant data that isn’t recorded in your analytics, solicit customer interviews or capture data via forms on your website. Depending on your type of business (consumer product vs. business consumer, for example) some information to collect could be:
- Job title and/or function
- Company or household size
- Household purchasing responsibilities
Using this information, design your content to emphasize features, benefits and uses that will be most relevant and motivating for each profile.
Execute Your Plan
4. Make It Quick and Easy
Keeping users engaged with your content is critical to converting them on your page. One of the best ways you can keep users tuned in to your content is to keep it short: One study found that you start to lose readers after seven minutes. Add in the fact that most people don’t fully read content online — 79% of people scan and pick out individual words and phrases – and it starts to get quite challenging to create content that is entertaining, informative and convinces people to convert all at the same time.
What’s the ideal way to deal with this? The listicle. Many people bemoan listicles as overly simplified clickbait, but the fact is they work. And there’s a reason they work so well: they make it easy for our brains to process and retain new information. We’ve known since 1968 that lists help with information recognition and memory.
Lists also help reduce the mental work required for readers to understand what they are reading. If there’s one thing people dislike having to do when reading marketing material, it’s think. That’s what makes lists so effective: They impart vital information in a series of short snippets that don’t require much interpretation.
Listicles also do very well from an SEO perspective. They have highly structured content that is easy for search engines to interpret, they have lots of opportunities to use keywords naturally in headings and sub-headings, and title tags like “X Steps to Improve Your SEO” will draw a high click through rate (CTR).
There’s a reason BuzzFeed is so popular.
5. Make It Look Good
When it comes to content marketing, design can be just as important as the actual content. Website visitors have their opinions of a page and business formed in the first half second after landing on it. The majority of those opinions — 95% of them — are based on the visual design of the page.
When designing your visual elements, make them colorful. People are 80% more likely to read your content if it’s got colorful visuals. Plus, when information is paired with a relevant image, people remember 65% of that information three days later. Without images, retention drops to 10%.
Illustrations, screenshots and photographs are also an opportunity for you to show off your product or service. Use them to show your product in action or create a visual representation of the benefits customers derive from its use or the goal it will help them achieve. Just avoid stock images — custom images can increase conversion rate by 35% or more.
6. Create an Emotional Tie
People like to think they’re rational creatures, but they’re not. At least not when it comes to deciding which product to buy. What really inspires someone to make a purchase is an emotional connection with the product. Really effective content creates that emotional tie with the reader. The reader then connects that with the product or service you’re offering. You see this a lot with consumer goods, most famously Dove’s Real Beauty campaign and Internet Explorer’s Child of the ‘90s ad.
The buyer personas you created earlier will be really helpful with this step. The more you know your customers, the better you can tailor your messaging to connect with them. What problems do they have that your product will solve? How will your product help them achieve a goal, or add value to their lives? Explain how your business will help bring about success, make their lives easier or just generally make them happy.
Give visitors a little extra nudge with your copy by creating a sense of urgency. The more relaxed a shopper is, the less likely they are to move through the conversion process. You can create urgency two ways:
- Emphasize that they need the benefit of your product right away. You can use keyword research to find and target in-market searchers who are most likely to buy, or you can use urgent copy to push them into converting on your page. Use comparisons, analogies and metaphors to show that they are missing out on a better life by not purchasing your product as quickly as possible.
- Use special offers that expire quickly to get people to convert. If people think that a special offer is going to last forever, they’ll take time to research your competitors and argue with themselves over whether or not they need you at all. They could very well end up talking themselves out of a purchase.
You can’t control how physically comfortable your users are sitting behind their computers, but you can make them feel uneasy about waiting and maybe missing out on a good deal.
7. Build Trust
Trust is an integral part of convincing someone to purchase a product from you; that’s obvious. But how do you build trust? One of the most effective ways to do this is to include reviews and other social proof. Studies show that three quarters of consumers look at product reviews before they make a purchase, and online reviews are seen as trustworthy as a personal recommendation. If you’ve got an ecommerce site, product reviews are absolutely vital: having just one customer review on a product page boosts sales by 10%. If you don’t have products to review, use testimonials from clients who have used your service, highlighting the benefits they derived from your business.
Content marketing is a great opportunity for you to build another kind of trust by positioning your business as a thought leader. Use your content to guide readers through the decision-making process. This goes back to the fourth point: the more you can reduce the mental load of researching and evaluating for customers by telling them what they need to know about the industry as a whole, the more they will trust your company’s products/services. Making decisions easier for customers improves new sales as well as customer retention.
This sort of content is also great for SEO since it’s generally in-depth, authoritative and attracts a lot of links. Spend a little extra time on your buying guides to create evergreen content.
Never Stop Testing
Of course, since this is digital marketing, the final step to every process is to test, optimize, test and optimize again. The industry landscape is constantly shifting, so your marketing needs to as well. Your content strategy also needs to keep up with customers’ changing needs and expectations. Keep track of which messages result in more conversions: does your audience care more about price or quality? Which features speak to them the most? Are there any particular words or phrases that work better than others?
You should also experiment with various forms of media. Start a YouTube channel and create videos showing off your success stories. Infographics are also great bits of content that can help with your link building. Test the effectiveness of different channels as well. Organic search is generally considered the most effective, but does social media traffic convert enough to make it worth your time? What about off page content you produce like guest blogging? Keep track and focus on the content and channel that has the best conversion rates.