One of the hallmarks of the inbound marketing methodology is blogging. The idea behind it is simple: if you regularly publish relevant content that your audience is seeking, they will find you—and hopefully fall in love. (Or at least ask to go steady.)
But here's the thing. Having people show up on your blog isn't enough. Sure, it's great if they land on your awesome post and read it. But then what? How do you convert this blog reader into a bona fide lead so that you can continue to nurture him or her?
While there isn't a magic formula for lead conversion, there are some things you can do to your blog that will better your chances. Here are nine best practices we swear by…
1. Make sure you deliver a blog that your audience actually wants.
Too often, we see companies embrace the "we must blog" mantra, but falter afterwards. Why? Usually, it's because they haven't thought through the point of having a blog in the first place.
Sure, your goal is to turn blog readers into leads. But what's in it for the blog readers, a.k.a. your potential customers? Are you going to offer quick-hitting video tutorials about relevant subject matter or more in-depth articles with lots of research and sources? Perhaps a combination? Why? That last question is critical and harkens back to understanding your different buyer personas. Make sure you understand the information your potential customers are craving and deliver blog content accordingly.
Why this matters for lead conversion: Your audience is looking for something specific. If they don't find what they're looking for on your blog, they will leave (and likely end up on a competitor's site).
2. Make sure you have a well thought out editorial calendar.
This advice complements our previous point. Once you understand the type of content your audience wants, put together an editorial calendar that outlines the following:
- Optimized blog headline
- Keyword focus
- Due date
You can certainly add more detail to your calendar if you like (I usually write a lead paragraph to go along with each headline so that the client understands the gist of the topic I'm proposing), but the items above are the must-haves (and will help you and your team stay on track).
We recommend developing a three-month calendar to start. As for how often you blog, the key is to be realistic—and consistent. Once a week, two times a month, every other week—figure out what you and your team can commit to, knowing you can always adjust as you go along.
Why this matters for lead conversion: Nothing dooms a blog faster than a lack of focus and content itself. An editorial calendar allows you to rein in all the great ideas—and optimize them for your audience—while providing deadlines.
3. Give your blog a name and provide an "about" blurb.
So many blogs overlook this simple branding initiative. Give your blog a memorable name, one that (ideally) communicates what your blog is about. Speaking of "about," make sure you provide a blurb that explains what people can expect from your blog.
Below is an example from one of our clients, Hebert Design/Build. On the left, you'll see the name of the blog: The Build Up. On the right, you'll see the About blurb.
Why this matters for lead conversion: Anything that can immediately help orient a site visitor is a good thing. If the site visitor sees the name of your blog, and it resonates, they'll know they're in the right place.
4. Don't call it a blog.
Not everyone knows what a blog really is. Some people are turned off by the word "blog." And, of course, "blog" has become such a ubiquitous phrase—one that smacks of marketing jargon—that some could argue has lost its meaning. There's no rule saying you have to call it a blog. In the Hebert Design/Build web navigation, we have "Tips and Tricks"—that's the blog.
Why this matters for lead conversion: You need to ask what your site visitors are more likely to click on as they're poking around your site—"blog" or something else (such as Tips and Tricks).
5. Add an email sign up.
Ah, now we're getting to the true "lead conversion" points. The stuff above primes the pump. Now you must offer ways to actually turn site visitors into leads. First on the list: Add an email sign up. If people like your content, you should offer them an easy way to continue to get it. Essentially, you'll be nurturing them with your words of wisdom. The hope is that when they're ready to buy your product or service, your company name will be top of mind, thanks to the fact it's been showing up regularly in their inbox.
Why this matters for lead conversion: Staying in front of people is the name of the lead conversion game. If you can ensure that people will receive an email with your content every time you publish a post, you're golden. By the way, make sure your email settings look great: pay close attention to the "from" line, the subject line, and the body of the email. You will need to decide whether you'll offer the whole post in the body of the email or if you'll offer a few paragraphs before making people click through to read the rest.
6. Add blog opt-ins on all website forms.
Many businesses overlook this simple strategy. At the bottom of all forms, make sure you ask people to subscribe to your blog. See this case study on Management Mentors where we grew the blog subscription exponentially by doing this one simple thing.
Why this matters for lead conversion: The more eyeballs you can get on your content, the better.
7. Always include a Call-to-Action (CTA).
Someone has just finished reading your brilliant content. Now what? Tell them what you'd like them to do next: request a demo, download a piece of content, share the article, etc.
Why this matters for lead conversion: This one should be obvious. In order to get, you need to ask.
8. Experiment with different CTA types and positions.
You could have a CTA button at the bottom of a post along with an in-text Call-to-Action. You could have a pop-up CTA or "slide-in" CTA after the person spends a certain amount of time on the post or scrolls down a certain percentage. Experiment with placement and see which types of CTAs and positions convert best. (Psst: this article will help you set up HubSpot Lead Flows, a simple – and free! – way to incorporate slide-in CTAs into your own website's blog articles.)
Why this matters for lead conversion: Again, you need to tell people what you want them to do next—and you need to do so in a way that gets their attention and compels them to take action RIGHT NOW. Keep in mind that experimenting with CTAs is an ongoing task, not a once-and-done activity.
9. Pay attention to analytics.
Once you've been blogging for a while, your analytics will reveal which content is delivering the best leads. Lather, rinse, repeat: publish more of this content.
Why this matters for lead conversion: Deliver content people want AND that they will take action on. Your analytics will show you the way—don't ignore them.
Can you think of any other important lead conversion best practices when it comes to blogging? Share in the comments.
By the way, PMG knows how to rock business blogs of all types. Every person on our team blogs for us—and we have many brilliant writers blogging for clients. Need help with your blog? Let's chat!