We all know that publishing content regularly is a great way to be in the good books of search engines and also gives us something to share with our audience. But, how much content is enough? Surely there is a higher limit. Sooner or later, content marketing strategies have a way of becoming “a throw wet paper towels on the wall and see what sticks” kind of strategy.
So, is there a way to maximize results with minimal content? After all, getting a hundred sales off of one blog post sure beats getting the same from a hundred posts. This is where conversion rate optimization or CRO steps in.
No company will want to publish a hundred posts that just sit there, gathering digital dust. Conversion rate optimization is all about getting a better return on investment made into content and other digital assets which is why it’s more important than ever before. Let’s find out how you can use CRO to your advantage and create content that actually gets you results.
What causes a conversion?
How many times have you ever bought something or subscribed to a mailing list? I am going to go out on a limb here and say that the number of articles you have read, videos you have watched and sales pitches you have heard are far (FAR) more than those that actually helped you make a decision.
What separated the ones you agreed with against all those that didn’t? Did they just find you at the right time? Or, did they say something that their peers didn’t? To cut a long story short, it’s a bit of both most of the time.
CRO is best understood against the buyer’s journey. Just like no one will ask someone to marry them on their first date, you can’t really expect to make a successful sales pitch to a person who is discovering your website for the first time. The buyer’s journey is generally considered in three stages…
- Awareness: A person becomes aware of the problem and starts looking for a solution.
- Consideration: The person has now understood the problems and what all options he/she has available to solve it.
- Decision: The person has now zeroed in on the right solution for his/her problem and is ready to take action.
Content that converts knows who it’s talking to and what they are looking for. It will also be posted on channels that person is most likely to find it. For instance, tweets, Facebook posts and blog posts are ideal for the awareness stage as they most people are most likely to discover them through shares of search engines. Likewise, newsletters and in depth white papers and ebooks can be used to educate a subscriber in the consideration stage where they are seeking more information to make a decision.
Not only can people choose not to interact with your brand if you send them the wrong message at the wrong time, but they can move away as well. A survey of how 2,000 US adults felt about the brands they interacted with found that 34% had moved away because of receiving poorly timed or irrelevant messages.
Creating a Buyer Persona
To create better content for your prospects, you first need to understand who they are and why they might be interested in your solutions. A buyer persona is a semi-fictional readout of your ideal prospect. It contains their demographic information like age, job, income, marital status etc, their professional interests, what websites/publications they follow, interests, pain-points, goals and online groups where they might hangout.
Depending on your target audience, you can add features to your buyer persona and build as many as you see fit. The main objective of a persona is to identify different types of buyers that your brand attracts (or is capable of attracting) and what drives them. The hardest task of building any buyer persona is gathering updated, accurate information about your audience. A few tried and tested methods to try out…
Surveys: Can be sent either via email or on social media like Facebook and LinkedIn. Surveys can be incentivized with coupons and discounts to encourage participation. Here are a few more tips on using surveys to create personas.
Website analytics: Taking a deeper look into your Google Analytics account can help you gain a better understanding of what content most people on your site are looking at. More often than not, you will discover that some types of content performs better than others.
Look out for trends in keywords sending most traffic to your site, topics and posts that are getting the most views, comments and shares, and where most of your traffic is coming from. Here is an awesome article on building buyer personas with Google Analytics.
Interview your sales and marketing people: Your sales and/or marketing team spends the most time with your prospects and customers. Consider interviewing them to find out more about who your buyers are and what they are looking for. Ask them what people show up at each stage of the buyer’s journey, what their key attributes are and what information they are looking for.
Spy on competitors: Which posts and pages of your competitors are getting the most views and shares? If people are commenting on them, then what are they saying? What ads are they publishing online and which ones are running for the longest time? Questions such as these can serve as an objective reference points to help you confirm your own conclusions. Here are 17 tools to help you research your competitors.
Mapping CRO to buyer’s journey
Once you have a clear buyer’s journey with a persona for each of the stages, it’s time to start creating a CRO strategy for it. Here’s a quick run down for each of the stages…
Ideal metric: visitor count, returning visitors.
Ideal mediums: guest posts, social media posts, blogs, webinars, videos
While generally, people in the consideration stage will start looking for a solution, there will be those who are not aware of the problem either. It is all too common for people to fall out of trends and become unaware that a better solution exists.
Marketing collateral in this stage is best designed as “gateway content” that introduce the reader to the industry in general, and the company’s reason to exist. Top level content tries to educate prospects on what solutions they are potentially missing out on and all the benefits it can bring to their life.
In the awareness stage, you will be working almost entirely on third-party mediums like social media, major publications and blogs both on your own and other sites as you’re trying to attract new business. Therefore, it’s important to tailor the messages to each of the channels and website.
For example, a friendly post with a quirky call to action can work on Facebook, but is not advised on LinkedIn where people usually go for more serious content. Likewise, certain blogs and publications may prohibit explicit CTAs so, you may need to find more subtle ways to drive traffic to your website. Here are 50 CTA examples for social media you can emulate.
Finally, you should also consider using paid channels to expand your reach if budget permits. While Google Adwords is the most common platform, LinkedIn ads, Outbrain and Taboola are also good alternatives you can try to get more eyeballs.
Ideal metric: subscription to mailing list, social media following, bounce rate.
Ideal mediums: Blog posts, white papers, ebooks, long-form articles, social media posts, landing pages.
Provided you did a good job targeting the right audience in the previous stage, you should begin to see a steady stream of curious visitors to your site and social media profiles. This is where CRO really begins to show its advantages. As people are now aware of your solutions and how it can help them in their lives, you can introduce them to various offers and finer features of your product/service.
Now will also be a good time to ask new visitors to join your mailing list and/or follow you on social media. The more points you have to communicate with them, the better the chances they will respond favorably to your messaging. Consider designing different landing pages for each of your target persona along with an offer and CTA that is most likely to appeal to them.
For example, if you sell cloud storage, you can have two personas one for CTOs and the other for CMOs. CTOs will appreciate the technical features, so you can give away a white paper about the latest cloud threats and how your solutions target them in exchange for their email address. CMOs on the other hand might prefer something that can help them carry out their duties faster and so can be presented with a white paper explaining how your offering can slash off several steps in their workflow in comparison to the competition.
Landing pages should also be constantly tested. A/B testing is a popular tool in conversion rate optimization where a single version is tweaked and then tested against the original to find the best performer. Each version is presented randomly to each user segment. Elements such as text layout, color scheme, headline, main-body and CTA can all be tweaked to find a version that works best. Here’s an A/B testing checklist you can use to create your own tests.
Ideal metrics: orders, repeat orders, cart abandonment rate.
Ideal mediums: pop-up ads, email newsletters, product pages, retargeting campaigns.
OK, things are clearly getting serious as you are now seeing your mailing list and social media following filling up fast. However, you are still far from the finish line. The role of CRO at the bottom of the funnel is to generate more buy-in and revenue. Changes can be made to the product/service page, shopping cart experience, exit popups, dynamic forms and sending highly personalized messages and offers to prospects who have expressed interest in your product/service.
Conversion rate optimization is best thought of as a perpetual beta exercise which really has no end to it. You can always find ways to improve what you’re doing. Marketers are often stunned at how simple changes to their marketing copy or design end up resulting in spectacular results. Constant analysis and testing alone can help you find the best possible ways to get the most out of your digital buck, so to quote a famous guy – stay hungry, stay foolish!