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How to Create Content That Converts

Traditionally, SEO has been about traffic, not conversions. In other words, SEOs give front-page visibility to websites on Google and other search engine results pages (SERPs), which boosts the amount of traffic to those sites. However, increased traffic doesn’t necessarily mean increased conversions, and this is an area of some friction between SEO agencies and their clients, who expect SEO to increase conversions on their sites, not just traffic.

As Google’s algorithm evolves and SEO becomes more focused on websites’ quality for increasing their visibility, informative, well-written content becomes a pillar that SEOs lean on more and more. One interesting outgrowth of this shifting strategy is that it pushes SEO into content creation to drive up clients’ websites in Google’s estimation and get them better ranks. Content creation isn’t new to SEO by any stretch, but the edict to create content that converts does nudge SEO partway into the process of increasing conversions with content that is designed to convert.

Although it is still the clients’ job to increase conversions using the improvements SEOs make to their websites, the new role of quality content in SEO gives businesses more to work with as they strategize ways to use the increased traffic to their sites to boost conversions.

So, the question becomes—how do you write content that converts?

Meet Real People’s Real Needs With Your Content

First of all, specify which actions on your website you want to count as conversions. This allows you to create content that supports your goals. If you want shares on social media, you should put resources toward developing compelling images, because images are shared with greater frequency than other content types.

If you want to make sales on an e-commerce site, your on-page content needs to provide credible information that supports your goal of selling your products. Visitors should feel that they are getting all the information they need to make informed purchasing decisions. The tone should be informational rather than a dressed-up sales pitch. If you have good products, they pretty much sell themselves to people who are looking for them. Your content should simply make people comfortable buying from your store over someone else’s.

If you want people to sign up for a newsletter, the content of that newsletter needs to be informative and useful to the audience. Otherwise, they’ll get tired of receiving your email newsletter and unsubscribe rather quickly.

And so on. Just make sure your site content serves your visitors’ needs by answering their questions or providing them with reliable information in the medium they prefer, whether it’s articles, images, or videos—or better yet, some combination of all three. Use your site’s Google Analytics data to determine the types of content that inspires your audience to convert, and depend on that data in your decision-making regarding content formats and subjects. With content that’s proven to convert, you can leverage it to increase both sales and the size of your audience.

Depend on the Data: Google Analytics, Keyword Planning & Pay-per-Click Ads

Pay-per-Click (PPC) and organic SEO go hand in hand in many ways, including the promotion of your content that is designed to convert. For maximum effect, combine the two in a way that maximizes your company’s reach while minimizing your ad costs for your PPC campaign. The information you can get from Google Analytics informs you about which keywords are best for driving conversions, shares, or audience building. It’s important to know what type of language speaks to your audience and improves conversions, and then to use that to formulate your company’s content strategy. This strategy should incorporate organic and PPC campaigns to get the most traction from your content. Neglecting either is harmful to your overall SEO strategy.

One of the most useful things you can glean from Google Analytics keyword data is a sense of which terms are associated with the different stages in the conversion funnel. Armed with that knowledge, craft content designed to nudge the audience toward the next stage in the buying cycle. With quality content made for each stage, you can streamline the channel your audience follows toward converting on your site. Carefully targeted content driven by real-world data about your audience is an important aspect of any SEO strategy, and both PPC and organic campaigns are effective in supporting that strategy if you use the data as a guide.

Writing Articles

Although the term “content” applies to all media that transmit information, for the purposes of this article, we will focus on written content since that requires the most skill to create effectively. However, the principals of article writing also apply to video scripts because film, too, is a writer’s medium.

The Headline

Since most readers on the internet stop after the headline, effective content begins (and often ends) with an effective headline. Not only do your headlines have to capture people’s attention, but it also has to be the right attention from the right people—people who will behave a certain way and perform an action that moves them from one portion of the conversion funnel to the next. For most contexts, you’ll want a clickable title that makes the article seem newsworthy, authoritative, or otherwise worth the time investment. As well as supporting the keywords you use in your title, the body of your content should also match up with the impression of the article that your headline gives potential readers.

The Body

Long-form content like this article will only reach a small percentage of people who read the headline. For those people, your articles should showcase your expertise on the topic while engaging the reader with valuable information. All of your content should have a clear call to action, regardless of what that action is. Don’t depend on people to infer it, because they won’t. Tell them what you want them to do, and many people will do it.

Quality content worth sharing tends to also perform well on social media, especially if it has a viral component that taps into current conversations and memes. You’ll want great content that appeals to all members of your audience, whether that is highly specialized or very diverse. With high-quality content to appeal to readers of all kinds, you should give your brand a consistency of ranking on the first page for results appealing to your different audiences.

You can also make content for multiple sites using the same target key terms but unique wording. Once you start to show up on the front page, you’ll begin to be perceived as a valuable resource in your niche. Approaching relevant topics from multiple vantage points makes your content more relevant to more people. You can also use your content for link building by citing related content on your website or content created for use on other websites, and then reaching out to those sites’ webmasters to exchange your link to their site for a link to yours.

Generate Trust

It is also important to incentivize your customers to publish reviews of your company on Google+ and other social sites. Reviews are effective in getting hesitant readers to convert, in much the same way as a positive recommendation from a friend makes it more likely you’ll try a product or service. Websites like Yelp, SuperPages, Foursquare, UrbanSpoon, and others are great places for positive reviews of your brand.

Don’t go after every social platform, though, as there are literally thousands of social sites. Since you must pick and choose, you should focus on the biggest, most-visible social media sites: Google+, Facebook, Foursquare, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr, YouTube, Flickr, and Instagram.

You will generate trust with your readers by giving them straightforward information that helps them make a decision. Too much marketing language will make this virtually impossible because most people are able to recognize a sales pitch when they hear one, and are inclined to doubt the veracity of the information in that content.

Don’t be in a rush. Start out by creating informative, useful content to gather an audience that trusts you, and then you can focus more on individuating content types for different goal conversions. Your audience will trust you as an information source and will be much more likely to put that information into action, i.e. sales, sign-ups, or other conversions.

Seed Your Content So it Will Stand the Test of Time

Finally, you need to leverage all the content you create as efficiently as you can. A churn-and-burn approach won’t help you build authority over time, which is one of the most important impacts that quality content can have on your site’s performance. Because you want content that will increase traffic over the long term and not just short-term spikes in traffic, a portion of the content you create should be evergreen, or in other words, the information in it should remain useful for a long time after it is first posted, unlike news stories and other timely content types. When you plant high-quality evergreen content, it will continue to increase the size of your audience for a long time after you’ve forgotten it and moved on to other things. The value of content that provides a perpetual source of traffic and conversions is far greater than short-lived content that is quickly forgotten and never used.

As you develop a strategy to create content that converts, remember that your content should do the following:

• Give people information they need that is also actionable.
• Use/interpret all analytics data available to you. The best free resource by far is Google Analytics.
• Create a wide variety of content types to support each of your traffic and conversion goals.
• Write engaging headlines that draw in readers with a promise, and fulfill that promise in the body.
• Always include a call to action.
• Provide accurate, helpful, and interesting information to develop trust with your audience.
• Leverage your content on the most popular and highly trafficked social media sites.
• Plant your content around the web and let it grow (an audience), and then you can harvest the fruit for years with very little to no additional effort.

The basic principles behind a content strategy that converts are simple. Help people by giving them information they can use, and they will reward you with increased new and returning traffic to your site, and the responses you ask them for in your calls to action. Like so many other things in life, you just have to give something of value to get something of value in return.