5 Simple Ways to Create Content That Converts

by 31 05/27/2014

You work hard creating, curating, collecting, and sharing content to market your business.

But, are you missing critical elements when it comes to your content marketing strategy?

In other words, is your content optimized to turn viewers into buyers?

If not, you’ll get tons of people to read, share, and comment on your content… but it won’t add profit to your bottom line.

If you’re serious about using content to grow your business, you must combine entertaining content with content that converts.

content-that-converts

What do I mean by “content that converts”?

Simply put, I mean content that takes website visitors from “just looking” to “sold” (often with time-proven principles from direct-response copywriting).

Don’t worry, we won’t be changing your whole content strategy. Instead, we’ll incorporate just a few direct-response techniques to make sure you get better conversions and more sales.

Let’s get started…

1. Write better headlines.

You probably already know a compelling headline can attract more readers (and therefore more customers). But, did you know experts believe you have five seconds (or less) to capture your reader’s attention when they land on your site?

If you don’t grab their attention, you risk them leaving, wandering around the Internet, finding someone else, and completely forgetting about your business.

Luckily this problem has an easy solution:

Whenever you have a headline you know could be better, try testing out the 4 U’s. The 4 U’s (coined by AWAIOnline.com) are urgency, usefulness, uniqueness, and ultra specific.

For example, check out this blog post headline from 37signals:

content-that-converts
This post is one of their most popular and it could be because of the headline. However, we could improve this headline with one or more of the 4 U’s.

First of all, the headline isn’t very urgent. In fact, it says, “There’s always time.” This article could be more effective with some urgency in the headline. Such as, “The One Thing You Must Do Today to Eventually Launch Your Dream.”

It could also be more specific by pinpointing the reader’s dream. Based on the article, the reader probably wants to build his or her own business. The headline could get more specific by saying, “entrepreneurial dream” instead of just “dream.”

If the 4 U’s fail to inspire you, here are “10 Killer Blog Post Headlines You Should Be Using Right Now.”

2. Write conversationally.

What does that mean? Writing conversationally means that you research your target market to learn how they speak. Then, incorporate what you learn into your copy.

Also, forget how you learned to write in English class and write like you’re talking to a friend instead. Specifically don’t write like a corporation or lawyer. You want to be your readers’ ally and friend—someone who is there to help them.

Here’s a great example of a conversational headline that grabs your attention:

content-that-converts

Finally, when writing conversationally, write like you’re talking to one person at a time. Use the word “you” naturally to connect with readers.

3. Always include a call to action.

A call to action is simply asking your reader to do something. Basically, they came to your website, your headline grabbed their attention, they read through your conversational copy, and now they’re at the end…

What should they do?

Well, if you don’t make a suggestion, they probably won’t do anything. Most readers won’t sign up for your e-newsletter, follow you on Facebook, or “comment below” on their own. You must take the initiative and ask them for what you want.

But, keep in mind, calls to action in your content should not be hard sells. Save the “Buy Now” pitches for your sales pages.

In content, like articles and blog posts, here are some call to action ideas:

  • What’s your opinion about X? Comment below to join the discussion.
  • If you liked this, you’ll love this. (With a link to a sales page.)
  • Did you enjoy this article? If so, please share it with your friends. (With social sharing options.)

Here’s an example clipped from Ambit Energy’s blog, “The Spark”:

content-that-converts

This blog shares energy efficiency information and is a critical part of Ambit’s content marketing. Notice how they provide information and then add a call to action.

4. Format your writing for readability.

Online users are busier than ever. If your copy isn’t easy to read, they’ll easily get distracted and leave. After all, they have everything from social media to work-related emails crossing their screen (and mind).

Sadly, only 16 percent of website visitors read word-for-word, according to the Nielson Norman Group. And, 79% of website visitors scan each new page they come across to see if it’s relevant to them.

To get the most out of the copy you put on the web, make it easy to read and scan by following these “web copy” suggestions:

  • Break your content up with subheads that attract the reader’s attention and portray relevance immediately.
  • Write in short blocks of text (1-2 sentences per paragraph).
  • Use simple, easy-to-read language.
  • Keep your colors and design simple and easy on the eyes. For instance, black text on white is easier to read than red text on a yellow background.

Here’s an example of a block of text that is not formatted properly for the web:

content-that-converts

Here is another example from Social Triggers. This one is properly formatted for the web:

content-that-converts

See the difference?

For more advice on writing for the web, be sure to check out, “20 tips on how to write for the Web.”

5. Focus.

I’m personally guilty of getting off on a tangent, both in real conversations and in my writing. Luckily, when writing, I have the opportunity to delete anything “extra” before I hit “Publish.” You should too or your audience will lose interest.

For each piece of content you write, be sure to stick to only ONE point, ONE position, and ONE idea for each piece of content you create. For instance, in the example below, the main focus seems to be teamwork:

content-that-converts

American Writers & Artists Inc (AWAI) calls sticking to one idea, “The Power Of One.” Learn more about it here: The Power of One – One Big Idea.

If you’re having trouble sticking to just one idea, try making an outline of your article before you write. Here’s a great article about article outlining from Psychotactics.com: When Outlines Behave Like Cats: How To Keep An Outline From Going Off At A Tangent

Now it’s your turn… did I leave anything out? What other direct response principles have you used in your content strategy?

About 

Christina Gillick is a direct-response copywriter. She helps her clients create loyal customers and raving fans through relationship building copy and marketing. She is also an entrepreneur and founder of ComfyEarrings – The Most Comfortable Earrings on Earth.

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31 COMMENTS

Scott Ayres

I think tip #4 is spot on! I hate when I go to a blog and it’s full of long paragraphs of 5 or more sentences.

I rarely will read them, and just skim over.

That’s why on our blog at Post Planner we typically only have 1 or 2 sentences in a paragraph.

Some think it looks odd and it’s “correct” grammar, but I’m not worried about grammar.

I want people to read my blog posts (and this comment!).

May 27, 2014 Reply

    neil

    Scott, it definitely is. Thanks for sharing. I am here reading now :)

    May 27, 2014 Reply

    Kathryn Aragon

    So true, Scott. Studies have shown that shorter paragraphs improve readership. And readership has got to be a top consideration on a blog!

    May 27, 2014 Reply

    Christina Gillick

    Hi Scott, Thank you for commenting! I checked out Post Planner and it looks awesome! I’m looking forward to sharing the results I get with it. :) Keep up the great work!

    May 28, 2014 Reply

Steve Maurer

Chrisitina,
Very good article! Great tips all. I particularly agree with the formatting for easy reading.

One thing that is often left out in many articles on this subject, however, is that writing good subheads is imprortant as well. I use them for several reasons.

First, they help me focus on the topic at hand, serving as an outline. Keeps me from chasing rabbits! I normally write the headline and subheads first, after I’ve determined the topic.

Obvioiusly they are not set in stone and will probably change during the first edit. However, they do keep me on track during the first draft.

The other reason they’re important is that they give the reader a type of roadmap for the article. Great for skimmers and scanners, subheads allow the reader to decide whether to invest time in reading the entire post.

Thanks again for the great tips!
Steve Maurer

May 27, 2014 Reply

    Kathryn Aragon

    Steve, agreed! That’s my strategy for beginning an article too. It’s good for writers and for readers.

    May 27, 2014 Reply

      Steve Maurer

      Hi, Kathryn.

      I sometimes use what I call the Snellen Test for copy. The Snellen test for visual acuity is that eye chart we’ve all had to read to figure out our eyesight problems. I use a similar technique by printing out the article, hanging it on the wall, and then moving away from it until just the headlines and subhead are readable. Then I decide if they contribute to the flow of the article, allowing the reader get the gist of the topic.

      Have a great day,
      Steve

      May 27, 2014 Reply

        Kathryn Aragon

        Love it! I sort of do a squint test, but I like your approach. It has a more professional feel. :)

        May 27, 2014 Reply

          Steve Maurer

          Hi, Kathryn.

          It gives me an excuse to get up and get a cup of coffee as well. LOL

          Seriously though, I use it when I feel my article is disjointed. I’ve used the technique for quite some time, but first introduced the idea on an article I wrote for Uberflip. Felt it might be good to share with the young’uns.

          Besides . . . I squint most of the time anyway!
          To your success,
          Steve

          May 27, 2014

          Kathryn Aragon

          Thanks, Steve. Pro tips always welcome here.

          May 27, 2014

          neil

          Steve, thanks for the feedback and kind words of support. Looking forward to hearing more from you :)

          May 28, 2014

    Christina Gillick

    Hi Steve, Thank you for the compliments and suggestions! I especially love your Snellen Test for copy – I’ll be using that today. :)

    May 28, 2014 Reply

      Steve Maurer

      Hi, Christina!

      Glad you liked the Snellen Test (for copywriting acuity?) Let us know if you found it useful!

      Word of warning – - I tried the Tumbling E chart and got sore neck muscles! Just kidding.

      Your tip on writing a call to action is right on the money and so critical. Even if it’s just to ask for comments or input on the article.

      I share the articles I write for Uberflip with LinkedIn groups. Here’s one place I see folks, uh, messing up. When you share on a LinkedIn group, the same set of rules apply. Create a compelling title for the post, add an interesting description of the article to get folks’ literary taste buds primed and DO NOT forget to include a call to action!

      For example, when I write my description of the linked article, I usually include something along these lines at the end: “After reading the article, jump back here and let us know how you handle this situation. We’d all like to hear your take on it.”

      If you’re going to use social networking to promote your articles (and by extension, yourself), then use it effectively! It pays off really well.

      May 28, 2014 Reply

        Christina Gillick

        So true! Great advice! I know I personally need to enhance my LinkedIn strategy. What kind of results are you seeing with LinkedIn?

        May 28, 2014 Reply

          Steve Maurer

          Hi, Christina.

          The results from my LinkedIn profile have been increasing a lot lately. Here are some ideas you might think about (and anyone else here as well).

          Make a huge effort to fill out your profile as completely as possible. There’s a meter on the right side that tells you how strong your profile is. Mine is sitting at All-Star. You can get there!

          I have my summary first, under my photomograph. That’s because it’s the first thing I want viewers to see.

          I’ve seen a lot of profile summaries that consist of bulleted or numbered lists of “what I can do.” A laundry list of sorts. For better results, write good copy that speaks to prospects.

          Include samples of your work. There’s a space for that. Pick out your best work and use it. You can always swap that out later for something new, by the way. Say, that brings up another point.

          Remember that recommendations are worth more than endorsements. Don’t be afraid to ask for some from your past and present clients.

          In most cases, your status is updated when you make a change. That puts it out there in the open for folks to see. Don’t update everyday . . . but do update.

          I have the paid, business membership. You get a lot more reach and other benefits. If you can afford the monthly, go fo it. I stuck with the free version for several months before switching. I’m seeing more activity since I switched a year ago.

          Social networking is important. The clients I’m looking for are looking for writer’s on LinkedIn. I work it more heavily than any other, save perhaps Google+. Those are my top most productive networking site. All others get their content pretty much on autopilot from LinkedIn.

          If you get a byline for a guest post (paid or otherwise), make sure your LinkedIn profle gets a link. In mine, LinkedIn, my website, and Google+ profile get top billing. By the way, if I don’t get a byline for a paid guest post (sometimes happens with clients) the price per post goes up.

          Significantly.

          Here’s a link to my LI profile in case anyone here would like to view it for ideas:
          http://www.linkedin.com/in/stevemaurercopywriting/

          I wish the best of success to everyone here!
          Steve

          May 28, 2014

          Steve Maurer

          By the way, sorry for the spelling errors in the previous comment. Didn’t run it throught The Snellen test! I need to find my glasses I guess!

          May 28, 2014

          neil

          Steve, not a problem. Thanks for the feedback :)

          May 29, 2014

        Christina Gillick

        Hi Steve, Thank you for sharing all this valuable advice for LinkedIn! Your comment could be it’s own article – it’s gold! I hope readers are paying attention. :)

        BTW – I would have replied on the other comment, but I think we must have exceeded our limit of going back and forth because it wouldn’t let me reply to that one. :)

        May 30, 2014 Reply

Ryan Percy

Hello Christina,

This was aweosme read. I was starving to get max no of conversions on my website due to poor content, but now I might be able to maximize conversion rate.

Hope for best :)

May 29, 2014 Reply

    Christina Gillick

    Thank you for the feedback, Ryan! I’m glad you liked the post.

    Please let me know how your conversion optimization goes. :)

    May 30, 2014 Reply

konrad

awesome tips, thanks a lot Chrissy, I’d probably hire you

May 31, 2014 Reply

Ashraf Kamal

Great points and Excellent way of explaining things. Thanks for all but special thanks for point number (4) Format your writing for readability.

June 3, 2014 Reply

    neil

    Ashraf, glad we could help. Thanks for the feedback :)

    June 3, 2014 Reply

federico

Nice, straightforward and usefull

June 4, 2014 Reply

    neil

    Federico, glad we could help. Thanks for the feedback :)

    June 4, 2014 Reply

Altaf

I think rather than shorting paragraphs article has summary that describr whole article in last paragraph.

June 11, 2014 Reply

    Kathryn Aragon

    Altaf, thanks for sharing. Research has proven that short paragraphs increase readability. In fact, I know one editor who will reject an article if any sentence is more than 24 words or any paragraph is more than the specified limit (I can’t remember, but it’s somewhere around 50 words). I haven’t seen research about summaries, but they would be worth testing.

    June 11, 2014 Reply

    Neil Patel

    Altaf, that’s also good :)

    June 11, 2014 Reply


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