Are blogs still valuable? Does your ecommerce or lead generation website really need to put all that time and effort into keeping a blog updated?
Here’s the short answer: yes, they are… when thought of as a conversion machine.
Let’s look at how blogging adds value to your online presence in the first place. After that, we’ll talk about the different types of conversions and how to leverage your blog for more of them.
How does having a blog add value to your ecommerce or lead generation website?
First off, let’s clarify something. You’ll often hear someone say “I wrote a blog today.” Blogs are not articles, but blogs are typically composed of articles.
As we use the word here, a “blog” is a page on your website that’s made up of regularly updated content arranged chronologically. You don’t write a blog. You write an article, or otherwise create content, and that is posted to your blog.
Before we get into converting new customers from your blog, here are some of the marketing and traffic generation benefits your business can realize from publishing relevant content to a blog on your website:
1. Your blog provides SEO benefits. Search engines love blogs because new content appears regularly. That content helps define your web presence. It tells the ever-hungry knowledge machines what you’re about and the types of problems you can solve for searchers. There was a time when “blackhat SEO” practitioners used blog content to pull undeserved traffic. Given advances in search technology, though, those days are all but over. You have a legitimate business, so you should display legitimate content.
Every time you update your blog, you’re sending out another message to Google, Bing, and the others: “Hey, listen up, we have something to say here.”The more articles you’ve published along a certain topic, and the more people read, comment on, and share those articles, the more clout you will have in organic search. Blogs are, in effect, price-effective ways to advertise your capabilities.
2. Your blog can help you gain position as an authority in your niche. Seth Godin is a known authority in the world of marketing. According to SEMrush, his blog draws almost 23K visits per month from search engine traffic alone, and 3.2K other websites link back to sethgodin.com.
Is Seth an authority because of his blog? Yes and no. Seth is also a prolific book author and speaker. His blog, though, is a big part of the recipe. Seth uses multiple channels to get his name in front of people. He stays focused on his niche, and he positions himself as a thought leader.Could Seth have become as popular without a blog? It’s doubtful. Seth Godin blogs daily, and he stays on target.
3. Your blog draws traffic to your website. This works in tandem with #1. The more often you’re found by online searchers, the more visitors you stand to receive.
The key to drawing profitable traffic is staying on topic. If you sell farm equipment, talk about farming and the equipment it requires. An article based on “The Smart Farmer’s DIY Guide to the 7 Most Common Tractor Repairs” is considerably more likely to draw buyers to your ecommerce site than are ten articles on “Why Fish Swim Upstream.”
4. Your blog works for you around the clock. Every piece of content you publish on your blog will continue to work for you as long as the website remains online.
Most advertising methods are good for a certain period of time, then you have to pay again. Not so with your blog. You own the work and you get to reap the benefits ad infinitum.
5. Your blog helps build your brand. By positioning yourself as an authority, by staying on topic and posting information that draws the audience you seek, and by building SEO benefits and pushing your website higher on the search engine results page (SERP), you’re strengthening the power of your brand.
Never treat your blog as a separate part of your business; it is integral to your business.
Those are probably the top five reasons you’ll hear from any chief marketing officer concerning why the company chooses to maintain a blog.
But there’s one reason more important than all of those. It’s something so obvious and simple it’s easy to overlook: converting blog readers into customers.
Conversions: the most overlooked benefit businesses can get from a blog
Here at The Good, our focus is conversion optimization. We help ecommerce and lead generation websites turn more of their traffic into revenue.
When our clients ask our advice on whether or not blogs are valuable, we go over the five advantages listed above first – then we give them the biggest reason of all: your blog can deliver conversions, and every source you have for conversions should be looked at from an ROI perspective.
The answer to the question is a matter of math. If your blog can deliver sufficient ROI to make it worth the expense, then it could be a good idea. If your blog can deliver excellent ROI, it’s a great idea.
Taking off from that perspective, let’s look at two more questions:
- What exactly is a “conversion”?
- How can you use your blog to get more conversions?
Let’s dig a little deeper to find out how much value you might be able to gain from either launching a blog on your website or improving your current blog.
What counts as a “conversion”?
Loosely stated, a visitor “converts” anytime that visitor takes the next measurable action you want to see occur.
Here are some examples of conversion points:
- The visitor registers for your newsletter
- The visitor clicks on a certain link
- The visitor opens an email you sent
- The visitor participates in a survey you designed
- The visitor makes a purchase from your store
Notice that buying something is certainly a conversion, but it’s not the only conversion. In reality, your prospects will make any number of “micro-conversions” before converting from prospect to customer.
Since every page on your website should be positioned to help move the visitor from one step to the next along the buying journey, you get to choose the specific conversions you want to see happen on any given page.
You may not want to sell directly from your blog, opting instead to build interest in our products or services and get visitors to self-identify as prospects by giving you their contact information.
Usually, that is accomplished by offering something of value in exchange for their agreement to receive email from your company. You have plenty of latitude for creativity here. We advise clients to constantly test messaging, call to action (CTA), and offer to seek an ever-increasing conversion rate (CR).
How to get more conversions from your blog page
Okay, here’s the pay dirt: some of the things we’ve found that can help grow conversions.
1. Try moving your CTA to within or to either end of your blog post. Our testing shows the sidebar is not always the best place to present your offer, thanks to banner ad blindness.
2. Cut back on friction. Make it super easy for your visitors to take the next indicated step along your sales journey. You don’t have to hop from “Hello” to “Buy now!” Take it a step at a time. Just keep moving forward.
3. Use one CTA per page. You can repeat that CTA more than once, but don’t use multiple CTAs or multiple offers. Keep it simple.
4. Make use of progressive profiling and personalization. This is a train you want to board as soon as you can. By serving different content to visitors, based on what you already know about them, you can shorten the time it takes for a prospect to become a buyer.
5. Stay on topic. Give your visitors actionable and relative information that will enrich their lives. Never, ever use flamboyant headlines with weak copy to draw people in. Under promise and over deliver – not vice versa.
6. Format you content to accommodate the skim-read style many people adopt on the internet. One should be able to move from your headline to subheads to bullet points and lists to get the gist of your message. Don’t make visitors read a novel, or even a short story. Cut to the chase.
7. Pull from the tool bag of proven copywriting techniques when and where appropriate. Change up those techniques and test the results. We’re talking about things like creating a sense of urgency, providing social proof, putting time and thought into headlines that sizzle, and building desire. Always know what you’re trying to accomplish, then make sure your copy pulls visitors in that direction.
8. Make copy and design work together towards the same end. They should never compete with one another. If your copywriter and designer are constantly fighting over whose work is more important, help them both see the customer is most important. That’s where their salaries come from.
9. Do the work to find and use pertinent keywords. Don’t let anyone convince you keywords no longer count. Some will argue the search engines care about context now. That’s true, but don’t forget that keywords are part of context. The more you use the same phrases your prospects will use to search for the kinds of products and services you provide, the more traffic you’ll generate.
10. When your CTA leads to another page, make sure that page is properly optimized to accept the transfer. You want your sales journey to be smooth, simple, and obvious. Never leave the visitor wondering “Where am I, and why am I here?” Your job is to lead them by the hand safely to the checkout page.
11. Use heatmaps and tracking technology to get a customers-eye view of your website. Where are the hot spots? Which spots are ignored? How can you leverage that information to boost conversions.
12. Test, test, test. Always be testing. Develop a hypothesis. Create a test. Run the test. Analyze the results, and formulate another hypothesis. Rinse and repeat. Never stop testing.
The tactics you use, of course, will in part depend on the conversion mechanism you choose. The starting point is to consider exactly what purpose your blog plays or will play along the sales journey.
So, are blogs still important?
Choose a type of conversion that will be relative to your blog and is directly measurable. You don’t have to use mailing list signups as your blog’s CTA. Blogs can be an excellent place for building your list, but there are other possibilities.
Choose the conversion mechanism that best suits our situation. Try and test several. You’re sure to find one that provides a suitable ROI.
Once you fully grasp the significance of looking at your blog as another tool to drive conversions, you’ll never see it in the same way again.
Blogs aren’t for showing off your writing ability. They’re not for proving your superiority over the competition.
Blogs are for conversions. Period.
And if thought of in that context, then yes, they are most certainly still important.
About the Author
David Hoos is the former Director of Marketing at The Good, conversion rate experts who deliver more revenues, customers, and leads. David and the team at The Good have made a practice of advising brands on how to see online revenue double through their conversion rate optimization services.