Developing a Blog Strategy that Drives Rankings AND Conversions

Jonas Sickler SEO Manager
Key Points
  • A blog strategy that helps you rank in the SERPs isn’t enough. You need to drive conversions, too.
  • Conversion goals look different in each stage of the funnel and for each audience segment.
  • Boost rankings and conversions by creating a great content calendar and using visuals, interactive elements and in-house experts to create incredible, in-depth content.
  • Create unique CTAs based on the conversion goals of individual blog posts.
  • Set success metrics, run A/B tests, use behavioral intelligence and create a reporting process so you can continually reoptimize your blog posts for higher conversions.
  • Utilize multiple promotion strategies to get the most out of your blog posts.
  • Make it all scalable by implementing processes, software and templates wherever possible.

So your company has a robust blog with a set editorial calendar, but do you have a well-defined blog strategy?

You publish high-quality content and your posts regularly rank on page one for a range of keywords. So far so good, right? But when it’s time to dig into Google Analytics to justify your hard work, you begin to notice a pattern that’s shockingly common for companies of any size: your blog posts have high traffic, but they aren’t producing conversions.

That means no purchases, no email list subscriptions, no webinar sign ups, no white paper downloads. No nothing.

If this is you, it’s time to become more goal-oriented. Think of blogging success in terms of supporting your marketing strategy. In order to drive meaningful business outcomes, you need a plan for your blog. Here’s how to create one:

BLOG STRATEGY

The vast majority of bloggers believe that if they publish relevant content and follow a simple blog promotion strategy, their landing pages will magically rank and convert. But it’s just not that easy—and that’s a good thing! Because it means the bar is set so high that most companies won’t be able to clear it.

Blogging Goals

Want to know how to create a successful blog strategy? Begin with a clear understanding of what your marketing team wants to achieve through blogging. This can include:

  • Increasing your search engine visibility for specific topics
  • Increasing your search engine visibility throughout the funnel
  • Building general brand awareness
  • Establishing industry authority
  • Creating awareness about a specific campaign or promotion
  • Helping your customers and prospective customers with useful resources
  • Telling your brand story
  • Building topical authority for different subjects within your industry
  • Fostering a community of people with the same values and passions as your brand
  • Market research: measuring the success of different topics to form a clearer understanding of your audience
  • Conversions: transactional (someone reads a post and makes a purchase on your site)
  • Conversions: other (email subscribers, social shares, ebook downloads, etc.)

Conversion goals

With so many non-conversion goals bolstering the average blog content strategy, it can be hard to determine how conversions should fit into your goals. This is complicated by the fact that conversion goals shift dramatically depending on price point and industry.

As a general rule, the shorter your sales cycle and the lower your price point, the higher your conversion benchmarks. High-end cosmetics company Estee Lauder, for example, could reasonably expect a post like 5 Summer Travel Essentials to lead to conversions. The low price point of their products relative to their target audience creates a short sales cycle that embraces the impulse buy.

Tesla, on the other hand, probably isn’t expecting any individual blog post to sell a $60,000 car. That sort of sales cycle must be nurtured slowly across many different touchpoints. B2B companies and enterprise SaaS companies also tend to have longer, more complex sales cycles. As a result, a B2B blog strategy will focus on return visitors and micro-conversions (more on that later.)

To set a conversion goal for your own business’s blog, take a look at site-wide conversions first.

Then, factor in any industry benchmarks you’ve defined through competitor research, revenue goals and the non-conversion goals.

If you don’t have enough information to give you a comfortable estimate, keep your conversion rate variable. Simply identify the percentage of posts that will be conversion driven, as opposed to awareness or brand driven. Then, track the performance of each conversion-driven post. Note the format and content of the posts that convert and set their conversion rate as the benchmark you’ll aim to beat.

Content for the entire funnel

Your blog marketing strategy pulls in three distinct audiences who are at three different stages of the purchase process – awareness, consideration, decision. Individuals within each of those stages will have different needs and require different amounts of education and types of content. Which means you’ll want to focus on different conversion and micro-conversions depending on the stage within the funnel.

Let’s say the popular office-chat-on-steroids company Slack wants to target prospects in the “Awareness” phase. A healthcare company looking to improve team collaboration and efficiency may land on Slack’s blog post The Ultimate Guide to Effective Collaboration in the Workplace. They’re not aware they’re looking for a digital communication tool yet. So a “Buy Slack Now!” CTA probably wouldn’t convert. A study on workplace communication, however? Heck yeah.

The healthcare company reads through the study and realizes that a digital communication tool is exactly what they need. Now they’re in the “Consideration” phase. The only road block? HIPAA laws. So they start looking around for how healthcare providers use digital communication tools without violating HIPAA. There are tons of tools out there. But their research leads them back to Slack: How Health-Care Teams Can Maintain HIPAA Compliance Within Slack.

With all this new and highly targeted information, they’re convinced Slack is their number one choice. They’ve moved into the “Decision” phase. All they need now is that final push. Add in a “Buy Now!” or “Get Started!” CTA and…boom!

The Slack blog has just led a customer through the entire purchase funnel through micro-conversions from their blog.

Could your blog strategy improve your chances of a purchase through micro-conversions? Certainly. You could drive customers to view relevant case studies or to play with an ROI calculator. Aim for multiple micro-conversions along the path to higher-value conversions to generate higher ROI from your blog.

As you develop your new blog strategy, aim to produce great content for each phase of the funnel. Then, set conversion and micro-conversion goals to match.

Defining Audience Segments and Personas

Now that your goals are nailed down, it’s time to actually start driving higher rankings and conversions. First, define your audience personas. This form of segmentation is more detailed and personality-driven than the “awareness funnel” segmentation. (In fact, each persona will end up segmented into three and dispersed throughout the awareness funnel.)

Don’t have your personas defined? Pull website, search, social, email and customer support and sales data and categorize the different types of people who use your product. Your sales and customer support teams will have far more insight into the personalities, pain points and stories of your customers than data alone can provide. So spend some time interviewing them. 

Then treat each persona individually, addressing their specific pain points, search habits, priorities and preferences. In addition to your more generalized content, write in-depth content aimed at one persona at a time.

Make that target persona feel deeply connected to the content.

Customers will be far more likely to convert if your blog strategy highlights the value propositions and solutions they specifically care about. Making visitors feel connected with your brand is just one of many ways to reduce your bounce rate!

For example, let’s look at a fashion retailer like H&M. The site sells young, fresh and affordable clothing, leading to a few different customer personas. In addition to teens and people in their early 20s with disposable income, the site’s reliably trendy and cheap clothing attracts middle- and working-class women in their 30s and early 40s.

The latter persona values professional work attire and comfortable-but-cute clothing. And they look for qualities like figure-flattering and sophisticated. This group may care about fashion, but it’s not the center of their life. And they may like to indulge, but not in expensive clothing that would make them feel guilty about the purchase. A post like Easing into Fall is perfect for this group.

The teens and young women, on the other hand, have a strong, care-free focus on fashion and culture. Their purchase decisions are fluid, experimental and trend-driven. And an item’s level of sophistication or interview-readiness isn’t necessarily their primary concern. The Bold, the Bright and the Brilliant is a fun, helpful and conversion-friendly post for this group.

1,081% Increase in Google Top 3 RankingsTerakeet Transformed a Student Loan Refinancing Firm’s Blog, Increasing Google Top 3 Rankings by 1,081% and Driving a Significant Increase in Revenue.See How

Topic clusters and pillar pages

Topic clusters and pillar pages aren’t just a great way to establish topical authority for SEO and drive rankings. They’re also a crucial trust-building component of a B2B blog strategy. Those personas you’re writing for may not convert after a single post. But if they read more and discover that you’re an authority on the subject they care about, they’ll trust you more and more.

Link to similar posts to guide readers through your content and keep them reading. Organize your blog into categories and tag each post. You can link to the categories on the side via a simple navigation style like Whole Foods’ blog. Or you can create different sections and use an image-driven navigation system like Slack’s blog.

Think of it this way: one of the main benefits of any blog content strategy is its ability to reinforce a brand’s personality, credibility and authority over time. By providing easy navigation to in-depth blog content about the topics each user cares about, you can compress the timeline. Instead of getting to know your brand post by post and email by email, your audience can get to know the brand within an overarching topic in one fell swoop. This makes your brand that much stickier in your audience’s mind. And it makes them that much more purchase-ready.

Content calendar development

Your content calendar is a critical organizational tool that helps your whole team produce the right content at the right time. Building a system that works for the team and brings in other departments will naturally drive rankings and conversions. It lets you generate buzz about product releases when they actually happen, offer solutions during different holidays, promote seasonal items and address life events like graduation or the back-to-school frenzy.

For much of this, the link between conversions and a strong content calendar will happen naturally. However, you can fine-tune your calendar using a conversion-driven approach to help it go the extra mile. Use tools like Google Trends to determine the exact times when priority keywords are most popular. Then, use Ahrefs, Moz, STAT, SEMRush or a similar tool to dive even deeper into your keyword research data, tracking how the search volume for priority keywords changes month to month. Track conversions to see if certain days of the week or months of the year produce spikes in conversions in your blog.

Then, leverage this knowledge as you build out your content calendar. Let each piece of content strike at the exact moment when it’s most likely to have an impact.

Conversion-worthy content

The prep work and conversion optimization stages of your content process are essential. But at the end of the day, the single biggest factor in producing a blog strategy that ranks and converts is, well, producing content that’s worth it. Your content has to be good. It has to be really good.

And believe it or not, this is the part where most blog strategies fail. Sometimes companies spend a whole lot of time building up their content strategy, creating their calendar and coming up with a functional production system. Only to strike out in the ninth inning with the posts themselves. It’s true 300-word fluff posts might keep your blog updated at a healthy daily pace, but to what end?

Build in the resources and staff time you need to produce the sort of content people will actually want to read. If the piece is a how-to or advice post, challenge yourself to get an actual subject matter expert involved in the content’s production. Conveniently, you can find these subject matter experts within your own company.

In-house industry knowledge is one of the biggest untapped resources in the field of content marketing.

Mix up the format of your blog content to include visual content vs text. Your design team should also play an active role in creating infographics, interactive elements and more for the blog. Then, hire amazing writers. Give them enough time and a reason to care about each post. If the blog becomes a rote and mechanical process for them, they’re not going to write the creative, interesting, fun or important posts they’re capable of.

We dig even deeper in this article about the Massive Business Impact of Content Marketing.

Calls to action

Build direct calls to action into each post and make them visual. This doesn’t just have to be the ubiquitous “buy now!” or “start your free trial!”-style call to action. Depending on the content and funnel stage, you can also include CTAs that take the user to other blog posts, resources, case studies, webinars or individual products. Or invite them to chat, challenge them to try something new or show them where to learn more.

While visual CTAs like buttons and call-outs are a bread-and-butter element of a conversion strategy, they aren’t the only type of CTA that converts. You can also weave the CTA tightly into the content and make it the logical next step. Test the use of inline text CTAs, which sometimes can outperform visual CTAs on the same page.  You can even take it a step further. For example, if you’re a foodie-focused grocery store like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, then recipes are an important part of your blog. You can increase conversions exponentially by providing a quick and easy way to add every item in each recipe, in the correct amount, to your shopping list. Popular grocery delivery service Instacart takes this strategy one step further by partnering with popular recipe site AllRecipes.

Home improvement stores and other sites with project-based how to’s can also leverage this strategy successfully. Michael’s, for example, builds a supply list into each of its project ideas and puts an easy “Add to Cart” option next to each individual item.

Success metrics and reporting

To measure the success of your corporate blog strategy, use the initial conversion goals you set as a benchmark. Then, measure each post’s conversion rate, factoring in the length of your sales cycle. You’ll be able to measure the conversions on a holiday-themed blog post, for example, as soon as the holiday is over. But for evergreen posts and companies working with longer sales cycles like Slack, the conversion rate you see in the first month might not tell the full story. If the post becomes a resource and a consistent driver of organic traffic, then you will continue to see conversions over time.

Don’t just view conversions for each post; also view conversion paths. This will factor in when a customer interacts with the post at some point in their journey (and when it’s the first interaction), even if they came back and converted through another channel. Conversion paths aren’t perfect. But they’re a good additional data point.

Begin to note which posts convert well. Then, refine your strategy accordingly.

Conversion optimization

Your blog strategy won’t get off the ground without conversion optimization. Add plenty of visual call-outs and CTAs, but make sure they flow with the blog content and following UX best practices. Test each link to make sure it’s functional. And thoroughly edit each post to prevent trust barriers like grammar and spelling mistakes. Keep the blog’s design clean and current.

Take our blog posts, for example. Not only do we include CTAs throughout the post. But we also include them at the end, paired with social media sharing buttons. Some of the CTAs lead to the contact page. Others lead to more blog posts. And some lead to case studies that are relevant to the blog post. In each blog post, though, what you’ll find are CTAs that are contextually relevant to the content on that particular page.

If you click through our blog posts, you’ll also notice that some of the CTA copy repeats! This isn’t an accident.

In fact, it’s a great way to reinforce what Terakeet is and what we do in the minds of our readers: Smarter. Scalable. SEO.

The key is to mix it up. Include more than one CTA on a page. Test contextually-relevant CTAs alongside more foundational CTAs. The longer our post is, the more CTAs we include. Not only does this give readers more opportunities to convert. It also breaks up the text and makes the post more visually engaging. No one wants to read a blog post that looks more like a PhD dissertation, after all.

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A well-executed content strategy will have individual posts pulling in organic traffic long after their post date: posts can continue to produce traffic for months and even years. It’s critical, then, to periodically go back and update well-performing blog posts. Make sure that their design is current, the call-outs are still the ones you want to highlight and key information is as up-to-date and useful as possible. If you link to resources off-site, check for broken links and make sure those resources are still the most useful ones you can offer. When it comes to conversions, there’s a whole barrel full of low-hanging fruit residing in your popular posts from the past.

A/B testing

A major part of conversion rate optimization is testing, testing, testing. Even CRO experts can’t pick the highest-performing CTAs for your blog post off the top of their head. Conversions can be impacted by something as simple as changing a word in your CTA or making the CTA a different color. And finding a winner is a process that must be learned anew each time.

Make use of A/B testing tools like Optimizely, VWO and AB Tasty to start tracking changes and microchanges against each other. Change a single aspect of the post and test it against a control version of the same post. Use your discoveries to write content, design elements and use language that grows more and more conversion friendly over time.

Behavioral analysis

Use behavioral intelligence tools like Decibel, Mouseflow and Hotjar to see the “body language” of users as they move throughout your post.

  • Where do they drop off?
  • How far down the page do they scroll?
  • What do they notice first?
  • Which elements do they click on?
  • What type of photos do people pay attention to. Which ones do they ignore?
  • Is there any friction in their experience on the page?
  • Are they showing any signs of frustration?

Adapt to these insights moving forward.

If you include a conversion event with a form in your post, behavioral analytics tools can also reveal the specific form fields that are problematic and causing high form abandonment rates.

Better Blog Strategy for Better ROILearn to Create Content that Strategically Connects with Your Audience throughout the Funnel. Let’s Talk

BLOG SEO STRATEGY

Factoring conversions into your SEO strategy helps ensure that all of your organic traffic actually has some pay-off. Here’s a quick look at how to take a conversion-driven approach to your blog’s SEO.

Keyword strategy

Because blog posts in each stage of the funnel will be driving different kinds of conversions, it’s important to segment your conversion data before discussing conversion rates. For example, branded terms signal a higher likelihood of a purchase conversion. And “Awareness” keywords will reveal pain points, questions, interests and other valuable information about how your customers search and the likelihood of a micro-conversion like an email sign up or download.

Then, as you track the conversion rate of each post, note the long-tail keywords that are driving traffic to those posts. Track this information separately and compare your keywords’ conversion rates over time. Identify patterns in the type of search that pulls in a conversion-ready audience.

At the same time, track the keywords that pull in the most traffic and note their conversions. For many high-traffic posts with low conversion rates, the math will still work out in your favor and you can add these keywords to your high-value keyword list. However, take a look at the posts with no or very low conversions and see if you can identify a pattern – like a certain topic or keyword breadth – in their keywords.

You should also re-optimize these posts for conversions, in case the keyword isn’t the problem. In fact, any well-trafficked post will likely be a good candidate for CRO. Even if they’re converting well or well enough, the slightest conversion rate increases on high-traffic posts – yes, even the ones in the Awareness stage – can mean a significant revenue increase down the road.

Competitive analysis

The most solid SEO tools out there can’t clue you in on the conversion rates of individual competitor blog posts. But you can use their insights to give you clues about those posts. Tools like Majestic, Ahrefs and Moz can help you gather the following data:

  • Backlinks to competitor posts. You can assume that posts with more backlinks have a higher conversion rate, since they moved people to share the post.
  • Online shares.
  • Popular subjects and types of posts.

Learn how to do a competitive analysis to find a pattern in the topics and formats that your competitors frequently repeat. There’s a good chance they’re doing so because it works. Click through to the posts themselves; what CTAs are they using?

On-page SEO

Optimize each post for its target keywords by making sure they appear in the content along with contextually relevant terms. Lean on meta data, URLs and organizational headings like H1s and H2s to continue reinforcing keyword relevance to Google.

When you write your meta data, don’t just write for keywords! Your search audience will never have the chance to convert on your site if your meta data doesn’t convert first, leading to a click through from the SERPs. Write unique, compelling, click-worthy title tags and meta descriptions. You’ll have more breathing room in the meta description. So take advantage of it by telling the search audience exactly why they need to read the post. What problems will they solve? What will they learn?

Add a call to action to each meta description if possible to encourage clicks, remembering that the meta description’s goal is to get the user to read the post – not to make a purchase (yet). That means a CTA like “Order today for free shipping!” probably won’t hit the mark.

Off-page SEO

Once you’ve tightened all the bolts with your content strategy and technical SEO, it’s time to focus on link building. If your content is truly engaging and useful, online publishers and influencers will naturally link to it. However, a handful of links here and there won’t close the gap if your top competitors’ landing pages have hundreds.

What’s more, your pages won’t rank well enough to be discovered without a serious off-page SEO strategy. It’s the age old chicken and egg argument. To start up the backlink flywheel, you’ll need to engage in highly-targeted strategic outreach.

But whether you plan to write guest posts or pitch influencers, you’ll need to get organized and work on your value proposition. While a guest blogging strategy may have a higher success rate than simply asking for links, it’s also much more time consuming.

MAKE IT SCALABLE

Working conversion optimization directly into your blogging strategy will make it part of a systematized process that is scalable. That said, you may find yourself in need of additional resources: extra writers who can cover more long-form content, designers to provide stunning imagery and graphics and UX artists who can design a page with flow. Templatize different page layouts according to the type of content. And keep your CTAs and visual call-outs standard (or easily editable) and accessible.

If you need, hire or outsource to a CRO expert who can provide detailed recommendations, run A/B tests and monitor user behavior.

And finally, have fun! Yes, really. One secret to blog posts that convert is to make sure your content team is actually excited about the subject matter. And with the right resources and a smooth production process, you’ll be able to knock that one out of the park.

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