Content and conversion are like chocolate and peanut butter: better together.
Take a look at the marketing department of almost any company and you’ll find a disconnect between content and conversion.
There are people responsible for creating content, and people whose job it is to optimize that content so it sells better.
Sometimes those people are one and the same. But those two jobs are often at odds with each other—to the detriment of the business and its goals.
What we mean when we talk about content
In the broadest sense, content is anything that’s published on the web. Here at BRANDING FOR THE PEOPLE, we use the word to mean three general types: website content, blog content, and what we call “external” content—social media posts, pay-per-click ads, videos on YouTube, and so on.
Your content matters for two reasons. First, if you create it in the right way, you can use it to bring (or drive) more visitors to your site. A blog post that performs properly in the search engines, for instance, will draw more traffic. An ad that’s well written, for another example, can compel more people to click.
But it’s at turning those visitors into customers—“converting” them—that content typically fails.
The basics of conversion optimization
Conversion rate optimization—or, more simply, just “conversion”—is the science of increasing the percentage of web visitors who convert on your site. That is, conversion takes web browsers and convinces them to request more information, donate, buy your product, contact you, and so on.
When we talk about conversion then, we ask questions like “Would more people click on this button if it were bigger?” and “What if we tried a more detailed product description—would a larger number of visitors eventually buy?”
Conversion is a process of formulating hypotheses, testing them, and acting on the results of those tests.
The complete opposite, in other words, of content creation.
Why content and conversion have a hard time co-existing
There are three “M’s” that explain why there’s usually a gap between content and conversion:
- Models. Content and conversion are based on different models. Content creators are often in love with their words, and write based on what sounds best—not what might work best. Search engine optimization experts, for their part, are almost always fixated on the almighty keyword—sometimes sacrificing readability to squeeze another couple instances of “comfortable shoes” into a document.
Conversion experts, on the other hand, are sometimes so in the weeds that they can’t see past button colors or headline variations—in staring too long at the trees, they lose sight of the forest.
- Methods. Conversion-focused marketers know what tools they need, such as strong headlines, effective calls to action, nicely designed landing pages, and so on. But they regularly focus on those tools at the expense of what their audience wants—which is engaging content.
Content-focused marketers, meanwhile, couldn’t be any more different, prioritizing content over any of the “fiddly bits” in the conversion process.
- Measures. Even the metrics these opposing camps use are different: content people love page views, likes, shares and so on, while conversion fans tend to focus on minute differences in conversion ratios and other statistics.
How to reconcile content and conversion
What’s the way forward? Combining the two approaches.
Yes, it’s critically important that your content is engaging. It needs to speak to reader goals, meet them where they are in the buying cycle, keep them on your site, and so on.
But conversion matters too. That content should always encourage a next step—signing up for your newsletter, contacting you for more information, setting up a free trial, or, yes, buying your product or service.
And testing is most important of all. Fans of content should be willing to experiment with headlines, sub-headlines, calls to action—even the whole premise of a piece of content—to see what produces the best marketing results.
That said, the conversion camp needs to compromise as well. After all, without good content, there simply won’t be anyone to convert.
Balancing content and conversion can be a delicate process. But with a sure foot in both camps—content that engages even as it converts—you’ll have a better chance of success.
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