Last week I was delving into SEO for blogging. But making sure people find your blog is only half the battle. The other (arguably harder!) half is writing blog posts that convert readers into paying clients. This week I want to address a related issue a lot of entrepreneurs run into: writing blog posts that keep visitors engaged… all the way to the end of the page! Exactly how do you write blog posts for easy conversions?
Tough truth time:
[Tweet “Most people landing on your blog posts stop reading before they get to the end.”]
Even more people see your posts promoted on social media and never so much as click through to start reading them.
And while SEO is great at helping your posts appear on Search Engine Results Pages (or SERPs, as we in the Techverse like to call them), that won’t help you unless people:
- Click your post
- Read all the way to the end
- Do whatever you’re trying to get them to do.
Easy Blog Conversions: Lesson Number One
Blog posts only convert when you have a crystal clear objective, and consistently drive readers to take action to fulfil that objective. From the first to last word, your posts need to lead people towards the inevitable conclusion that doing exactly what you want them to do is not only a good idea, but the only rational thing to do!
The biggest trap that prevents blog posts from converting is, shockingly, failing to have a clear goal in mind when you write them.
Your overall goal in blogging will (almost) always be to convert your readers into paying clients.
But that is a big picture goal.
Every post you write needs to have a micro-goal within that larger objective.
When you sit down to write, ask yourself, “What can this one post, specifically do, to get me closer to my larger objective?”
If you’re focusing on building your email list, the post needs to convince people that you know your stuff. That way, when you offer them an easy way of learning more on exactly what they’re already reading about, they will jump on the opportunity.
The objective is always to get people to sign up, but you need to give them something worth signing up for, and a compelling reason to claim it.
On the other hand, if you’re currently promoting a specific offer and you want people to buy immediately, your objective will be for them to make a purchase, book a discovery call, or make an enquiry via the website for more information.
Lesson Number Two
Once people see your post you have less than three seconds to convince them to click on it.
Writing blog posts that convert is seriously tough. Fortunately, I have thoughts (they may even be wise) on how to do exactly that…
Write For Your Ideal Client
We’ve talked at length about ideal clients and there’s a really good reason for that: they inform (or should inform!) everything you do in your business.
Blogging is no exception.
What do your ideal clients want from your blog posts?
[Tweet “Your posts won’t convert readers unless they effectively meet reader needs.”]
It’s pretty impossible to write to your readers’ needs when you don’t know what they are.
So as a priority, figure it out!
Nail down your ideal client, get as specific as possible, and if you’re still unsure ask them!
Do some market research and take the guesswork out of it. Here are a few really handy resources you can use to help:
- Twitter Advanced Search – type in your topics and keywords, then filter the results using the ‘questions’ option. It will show you exactly what people in your industry/audience are asking about the topics you cover.
- KeywordTool.io – a super-useful keyword tool that’s free to use and shows you how popular various keywords are in your industry.
- Quora – another great source for finding current questions concerning your niche and ideal clients.
- SEMRush – this one is more of a Ninja tool, and won’t be for everyone. But if you don’t mind paying a little money and playing at James Bond, you can sneakily spy on your competitors and see which of the topics they’re writing about are performing well. Then write your own (completely unique!) version.
- BuzzSumo – very handy to find out what topics and headlines are getting the most traffic and engagement in your industry or field of expertise.
Write Captivating Headlines
The first hurdle in ensuring your blog posts convert is to write a truly captivating headline.
If you panic at the thought, and are generally convinced you should give it up as a bad job, think again.
[Tweet “There’s a science to writing clickable headlines that convert. It’s a skill you can learn!”]
CoSchedule have an amazing and totally free headline analyser which is perfect for optimising every title you write. Take full advantage of it!
It may feel like a lot of effort at first, but consider that there are more than 2.73 million blog posts published every single day. Competition is fierce, and your headline is the first thing people generally see. First impressions count!
There are a few things you can do to help hone your headlines so they are as effective and compelling as possible:
- Focus on the first and last three words. Make sure you place your action words (verbs) at the beginning and end, with the middle reserved for less vital words.
- Don’t be cryptic. Clarity is key here: the headline should tell readers very clearly what to expect when they click through. If it’s humorous reflect that. Explicitly state if a post is a how-to or a step-by-step guide.
- Around 25% of readers are happy for you to exaggerate. Be as positive as you can be and use strong adjectives (i.e. exhausted rather than tired, hilarious rather than funny, huge rather than big, tiny rather than small etc.), as well as adverbs (e.g. beautifully, easily, recklessly, quickly etc.).
- Play on people’s emotions using words that make them feel. Words like ‘help’, ‘easy’, and ‘love’ are big on emotion and will make your headlines more powerful.
- Speaking of which, you should also pack your headlines with power words (CoSchedule’s analyser can help you with this!).
- Choose the best structure for your headline (for the most popular types see the image below, based on research from Moz).
The most popular structure for headlines by quite a way are number posts (i.e. 5 Ways To Ensure You Have A Consistent Online Brand).
They’re followed by:
- Titles that directly address the reader (i.e. ‘You Need To Start Using This One Blogging Trick RIGHT NOW!’).
- Then How To posts (i.e. How To Schedule Your Content Like A Boss).
- And regular titles (i.e. Digital Marketer or VA: Who To Hire For Online Marketing).
These three are relatively close in terms of effectiveness, but you will find it far easier to write an effective headline if it’s formatted as a How To than you will the others.
For that reason, How To titles are usually a better choice, even though they aren’t technically the more effective.
Question posts (i.e. Is SEO Worth The Investment For Small Businesses?) are the least effective of these five types, but they are still effective! I generally reserve this format for times I’m answering FAQs and client inquiries, when the question is the whole point of the post.
If you’re really sneaky, you can combine two of these highly effective formats – this works really well with number and How To posts (i.e. 10 Growth Markers: What They Mean And How To Use Them).
Hook Your Reader
Now you’ve written a killer headline it’s time for another painful truth:
Only about 18% of your potential readers will click it.
For this reason it’s VITAL that the very first thing they read after they click through hooks them.
[Tweet “You need to start your blog post with the tastiest piece of bait you can find.”]
Readers won’t convert if they don’t read beyond the opening few lines of your post.
You need a hook that grabs their attention and refuses to let go. This is easier said than done, but there are a few useful tricks you can use:
- Start with a story, an amusing anecdote, or a cliffhanger. If you want to get really fancy, start with the end of a story – this forces people to read the rest of the post in order to find out what the heck is going on!
- Ask a really pointed question that will resonate with your ideal client.
- Try a little newsjacking – pick a piece of very current news that is directly relevant to your audience, and relate it to the topic you want to write about. News makes for great analogies. Just be cautious if you’re using this trick, as it will date your post – newsjacks aren’t usually a suitable hook for evergreen content!
- Write your post from start to finish, then go back and re-write the introduction. I guarantee, you’ll be able to think of a better start once you know the end!
- Be specific; avoid vagaries or generalisations, and don’t ramble!
Stories aren’t just useful for hooks and openings, they can form the backbone of your blog posts and make them highly engaging.
Once upon a time, not too long ago, Buffer ran a test comparing two versions of the same blog post.
One opened with a ‘no-nonsense’ introduction that jumped right into the meat of the content.
The other began with a story, which neatly segued into exactly the same content.
Which post performed better?
In fact, readers spent five times longer on the story version of the post than the no-nonsense version. As if that wasn’t enough, 296% more people read all the way to the end of the story post.
Storytelling is compelling. It speaks to humans on a deep, emotional level, and engages aspects of their brain that are vital for both attention to and retention of information.
Stories cause our brains to react in the same way they would if we were experiencing events firsthand. By introducing your blog posts with a story, and using anecdotes and examples throughout, you’re transporting your reader to a time and place in which they learn what you’re telling them for themselves.
The trick when you’re blogging is to strike the balance between telling a captivating tale, and providing a narrative that actually achieves your objective.
You are writing blog posts after all, not novels!
Liberal Use Of Subheadings
Who’s guilty of skim reading? (I know I am!)
How about scanning posts for the most relevant info for you?
Readers don’t always read a post word-for-word. They often skim through your content, or scan the page catching nothing but the headings, only pausing for a detailed look if something is worth the effort.
When writing your posts remember two things:
- People are fundamentally lazy; they only expend effort when they feel the reward is really worth it. It’s unconscious, we don’t even realise we’re doing it half the time!
- Your readers are increasingly busy; the modern world is a hectic place, and most of them are multi-tasking while reading your post.
Design your posts to cater to reader needs, and ensure you make the most out of the skimmers and the scanners.
Break up your text with regular headings and liberal use of subheadings.
Keep the text beneath each one to a minimum – aim for around 300 words per subheading. A few more won’t hurt but don’t let it creep up too far.
Give Readers’ Eyes A Rest
The formatting of your post is absolutely essential. Subheadings help people skim but there’s a lot more to a well-formatted blog post than that.
You need to give your readers’ eyes a rest.
That means lots of nice blank space around your text!
This is one reason web designers seldom make the background behind blog text anything but plain. It’s usually white, and there’s usually a lot of it.
Reading is tiring on the eyes at the best of times, but reading on a screen (computer, tablet, smartphone, whatever) is doubly so. That blank space is really important.
[Tweet “Big chunks of text will ruin even the most perfectly crafted blog post.”]
In addition to your headings use the following to break up your blog posts as much as possible:
- Bullet Points (think of these as a list of headings – they shouldn’t be paragraphs!)
- Numbered Lists (short paragraphs are okay here!)
- Bite-Size Chunks
- Short Single-Line Sentences
- Pull Quotes (Click To Tweet is perfect for this!)
The easier your posts are on the eye, the more likely people are to read to the end and take the action you want them to take.
Use Great Visuals
Another way to give readers’ eyes a rest is to use visuals. Human brains are much faster at processing information in visual form than they are text. This is why video is so powerful.
[Tweet “Including a video version of your blog post to give people the option to read or view is optimal.”]
Video marketing will do wonders for your conversion rate, and has the added bonus of being hugely versatile. You can share vlogs on a dedicated YouTube channel, and upload them natively to Facebook.
Native Facebook videos will have massively more engagement and reach than any other form of post. These days if you want any kind of engagement on Facebook the only way to do it is through video (particularly Facebook Live), or by paying for advertising.
If video isn’t your thing (and it isn’t for everyone!), you can still easily include great visuals in your blogs.
Get a little creative with your images, but make sure they are always completely relevant to your content.
Here are a few ideas:
- Royalty Free Images (that tie directly to the subject)
- Infographics (explaining key points of the content)
- Charts Of Graphs Or Key Stats (for a visual way to absorb the more complex elements)
- Behind-the-Scenes Images (show your readers that you walk your talk!)
- Candid Camera (selfies, comedy shots, and photos that illustrate your points)
Search Engine Optimise Your Blog Posts For Easy Conversions
I covered SEO for blogging in detail last week, so be sure to check that out. Very briefly though, there are few things you need to do from an SEO perspective to ensure your blog posts convert:
- Add a Meta Title and Meta Description
- Optimise for 1-2 Focus Keywords (preferably long-tail keywords)
- Use variations of your keywords related to the same topic (Latent Semantic Indexing)
- Give your image files appropriate titles before uploading, and add Alt Text to each
- Cross-link your posts
An Effective Call-To-Action
You would be amazed how many people write amazing, compelling blog posts, with the potential to convert loads of readers, and then screw it up right as they reach the finish.
Without a Call-To-Action (CTA) your blog post cannot convert.
Despite this, there is a huge misconception among many bloggers that you succeed when you get people to read your posts.
That might be the case for hobby bloggers, but the second you start blogging for business, success no longer equates to readers.
[Tweet “In content marketing, you only win when your posts successful convert readers into clients.”]
Attracting readers is good for the ego, but does nothing for the bank balance.
We all dream of the perfect conversion process:
An ideal client Googles something, your post pops up on their SERP, they click through, read to the end, gleefully sign up for whatever opt-in you included, then immediately buy something. Before they’ve even received your nurture sequence!
It’s a beautiful dream.
The reality is that it’s a long hard fight to get people to the end of your post and, once they’re there, if you don’t tell them exactly what you want them to do next, they won’t do a thing.
They read your post (huzzah!) but they’re not going to convert.
They’re not even going to begin the process of conversion by joining your mailing list.
And that’s another thing people forget.
Conversion isn’t a one-click magic-bullet. It’s a process.
Your blog post is a catalyst for conversion; it’s rarely the entire conversion process. It will convert people from readers to subscribers. Your nurture sequence then has the job of converting them from subscribers to clients.
Your content plays a major role in your nurture sequence, so don’t feel the only job of your blog is to get people to sign up. It’s not, it’s vital to the whole process.
But an individual blog post has only one job: getting people on that list!
That conversion process works best when all the elements covered in this post are working in harmony. It is, however, possible for the process to survive and succeed without all of them.
Missing out the odd thing (a video version of your post, or pull quotes) won’t derail the whole train. It will just slow it down.
With one exception.
An absent Call-To-Action doesn’t just slow it down, it takes away the tracks and tips the train off a cliff. (Sounds dramatic I know, but it’s the truth!)
What Is A Call-To-Action?
For those of you who don’t know, a call-to-action is a line or brief paragraph at the end of your post that directly asks your reader to do something.
What that ‘something’ is will depend on your objective for the post.
Here are a few of the most common CTAs:
- Share This Post
- Comment On This Post
- Follow Me On [Insert Social Media Platform Of Your Choice]
- Buy This Product
- Sign Up For This Service
- Book A Discovery Call
- Download This Free THING (by which you really mean, Sign Up To My List!)
- Join My Course
- Take This Survey
A great CTA is easy to distinguish.
Whatever you’re asking readers to do, make sure you are clear. At the same time, don’t just shove it out there, work it into a sentence. Make sure it’s a natural progression of what you’re saying, and carries genuine value for your reader.
It’s easy to focus on what you want to get out of it, but try to think of it in terms of what your readers will get out of it. For example:
‘To help you out, I’ve put together this free guide…’
“If you’re looking for the perfect solution to this problem I have just the thing…’
‘Book a free discovery call now and we’ll find the perfect solution for you…’
You should have spent the whole of your post subtly driving people towards taking this action. Once you finally get to the punch, don’t hold back.
The Call-To-Action should stand out. It should be blatant, maybe even a little bit cheeky.
Don’t be coy.
Readers aren’t stupid, they know you want something from them in exchange for providing them with this free piece of totally awesome content.
They don’t mind!
It’s an unacknowledged bargain they made when they clicked the post.
They know you’re going to ask for something. They’ll reserve judgement on whether to acquiesce until they know what you’re asking for, but by reading your post they’ve already agreed to hear you out!
When you’re really rocking your blogs you’ll learn to include ‘lesser’ calls to action throughout each post. For example:
[Tweet “If you don’t ask, you don’t get. A blog post without a CTA is a shop with nothing to sell!”]
Every time I make a chunk of my blog a Tweetable I’m doing two really important things:
- Breaking up my text (allowing you to rest your eyes)
- Calling you to action by asking you to Tweet my post
Be Clear In Your Objective And Stay Focussed
Remember lesson one? I mentioned it first because it’s the most important thing to do:
Ensure every single post has a clear objective, and remains focused on that objective throughout.
Everything we’ve covered here is geared towards ensuring your objective is fulfilled, from figuring out what to write about, to SEO, formatting, CTAs and everything in between.
Selling your stuff by blogging is totally doable. Content marketing is not only a viable method of promotion it’s extremely effective when done right. But it does take work, and is more complex than it first seems.