If you've been blogging for a while - business blogging, that is - you might feel you've got the finer skills down. Headlines? Nail 'em. Images? Always on point. SEO? Done and dusted, every time. But when you sit down and take a long, hard look at the analytics, can you confidently say that your business blog is happily funnelling blog traffic into an excellent blog conversion rate?
Many people can't, so if you're shaking your head and feeling a bit deflated, you're not alone. On the upside, if you have headlines, images and SEO down, you're already ahead of the curve. Now let's work on that conversion rate and get that business blog of yours working for its keep.
What is a conversion rate?
A conversion rate is the percentage of your blog traffic that goes on to "convert" into a new sale. In truth, a new sale is a very rough judge of it - there are other conversion goals that you might aim for, like a download, inquiry, or booking, and then thousands of "micro-conversions" that happen along the journey to a sale, appointment or other "macro conversion". There's some good information on conversion rates here.
Overall, I like Daphne Sidor's definition, over on the Leadpages blog...
What conversion rate should I be aiming for?
Oh wow! How long is a piece of string? I mean, I know you want me to give you a number so you have something to aim for (or berate yourself with), but there are a few problems with this. On one hand, most of the research we see out there is aimed at overall website conversion or landing page conversion, and your blog is not a landing page and only a part of a website. It's hard to extrapolate the data.
Secondly, conversion rates are HIGHLY contextual and personal, so even if I did have a number, there would be a million and one reasons why it doesn't really apply to you, your business or your blog post.
So, as per Peep Laja's rant, a good conversion rate is anything that's better than the one you had last month (or the last blog post), etc.
As a final note and gesture of goodwill, I know a language teacher who only has one goal for all of her blog posts - to get people to take a trial lesson. She has a conversion rate of 10% and is very happy with it. But she's not you :)
What can I do to improve my blog conversion rate?
Finally, something I can give you some solid advice on! If you feel your blog conversion rate is a little on the low side, make sure you're not running into any of these problems...
Make sure your blog doesn't suck
Other digital strategists and content marketers will give me a dirty look for saying this, but there are so many ways that your blog can be a bit rubbish that I'd just be wasting our time by listing them as individual points. Ask yourself these questions. If you can't answer them honestly, ask someone who will.
- Are your blog posts interesting?
- Does your blog write about fresh topics that other, similar blogs don't?
- Are your writing and grammar more or less correct and pleasant to read?
- Do you use fun and interesting images?
- Is your blog quick to load?
- Does your blog talk about you, or about your customer?
N.B. This last one is a killer. Obviously, it's your business - or you're closely involved in it - so you know what's going on. It can be tempting to write about every little thing that happens in-house, as it's pretty handy material for ideas. That said, every last new hire, piece of industry news, employee profile, new product or company charity initiative is NOT going to be of interest to your customer. Different blogs can take different approaches to the topic (I heard a great concept of a blog as a tool to "reveal company experts" the other day), but under no circumstances should it be an encyclopedia of everything that happens in your company. Be diligent!
If you can answer all of these questions positively, you've probably got a fairly ok blog on your hands. Now it's time to take a look at the other things that might be dragging your blog conversion rate down.
Know what you're aiming for
This one is very, very pertinent. Many blogs have seriously shonky foundations - they have no stated strategy, goals or targets. When you get a minute, have a read of the linked blog posts to dig a little deeper into these subjects, and in the meantime, consider this: if you don't really know what a great result is, you can't ask your blog to provide it. Possibly even more misleading is where a "great result" (conversion) has indeed been stated but has been pulled straight out of thin air, without any rhyme or reason backing it up.
Ask yourself this - what conversion are we aiming for? Why? How does this feed into our overall business goals? Is the blog the best place to look for this result? If you can't rationalize and answer these questions, your conversion goal sucks and should be improved immediately. Look here for more help.
Make it easy for your visitors to convert
This one might be especially relevant if you're seeing healthy-looking blog traffic and dismal conversion rates. Let's take another look at what you're asking your readers to do and, crucially, how you expect them to do it.
In other words, if a visitor reads your blog post and decides that what you ask them to do is a good idea, how are they going to do it? Do you want them to click or give information? Is the button clear? Does the form look trustworthy? Is the link to the shop working? You get the picture. If the mechanics of the path are working (i.e. the buttons, links, etc. work as expected), you might be facing a design or UX problem.
To get to the root of this, you can try a few things. First up, make sure the physical method works (i.e. the button works), then look at the design to see if you can make it any better. If you're determined to get to the bottom of it, try some A/B testing to see which new designs work better, and do some research into best UX practice and try to implement it.
Among the aspects that you can test are buttons, CTAs, forms, and landing pages.
This is also something that a professional can help with. A professional like me! You might also get this functionality as part of a paid marketing solution (like Hubspot, for example), or a conversion tool or service.
Make sure your conversion path is appropriate
Let's say you're trying to get people to book an appointment. How do you do this? Contemplate if the method you have chosen is, in fact, the most sensible. Maybe you've given them a form to fill in, whereas most of your traffic is on mobile, and a direct call link makes more sense. Maybe you ask them to "click here" for a free tutorial, but link them to the contact us page, which has the unintended impact of confusing them and making them feel a bit lost.
There are many variables here, so take a look at your data (usually via Google Analytics) on where and how your visitors visit you and then make sure that what you are asking them to do is something that they won't resent or find awkward.
Some possible scenarios - and fixes - for YOUR blog
Low traffic, great conversion
Do not despair - this isn't a bad place to be. For many businesses, quality conversions trump quantity. Find out where the good conversions are coming from and what they are visiting on your blog. Double down on similar content, and increase promotion on the most profitable channels.
Low traffic, low conversion
Er, this isn't great - but look on the bright side: you've got a clean slate from which to improve! Freshen up the blog visually, and create a strategic, customer-focused, content calendar. Create personas, and promote new posts hard. Ask for honest and critical feedback on your new efforts, and continue to push and refine for the next 6 months. I'd bet money that you'll find things change dramatically - they don't, email me (for realz!).
High traffic, great conversion
Why are you even reading this article?! This is ideal - continue as you were!
High traffic, low conversion
Another fairly easy situation to remedy, your excellent blog traffic clearly shows that your blog design, content, and promotion are working nicely - congrats! Take a look at the points I make up here - make sure you know what you want from readers, and that you're asking them to do it. Check the path they're supposed to take and make sure it works. Conduct surveys and interviews to see what people are doing on your website, and if that doesn't make the problem clear, splash out on extra help to troubleshoot the user journey.
Also, consider your personas. It would be a crushing discovery to make, but if all your excellent visitors are not actually your target audience, all the tweaking in the world won't make them convert. Better to cut your losses, and adapt the processes I've detailed under "Low traffic, low conversion" and start afresh.
Last year, I wrote a short ebook that goes into some more reasons why a business blog might not be contributing to your bottom line. Feel free to purchase 7 Reasons your Business Blog is Costing you Money over in the shop.