Updated: 23rd May 2017

Turning content pages into lead generators

content-planning-web-ss-1920This summer, I presented at the Content Marketing Institute’s Content Marketing World conference. There I was faced with the challenge of explaining how content marketers can turn visitors into subscribers and subscribers into customers.

There was one answer to this question in my mind: landing pages.

I’ve written about landing pages here at Marketing Land. Landing pages service known visitors. They are responding to an ad, an email link, a social media post or a link on your website.

Landing pages have two jobs:

  1. Keep the promise made in the ad, email link, social media post or web link.
  2. Single-mindedly get visitors to take action.

When we rely on our content to bring visitors to our websites, we are making the promise. This promise is typically the title of a post or article. This makes it relatively easy to keep the promise made. Visitors to content pages should get the promised content.

However, content pages don’t do the second job well: single-mindedly getting the visitor to take action. This is a missed opportunity.

Typical landing pages are graded on their conversion rate, the number of people who take action divided by the number of people who see the page.

Content pages tend to be graded on softer metrics, engagement metrics. Time on page and pages per visit are two soft metrics. If your business is investing in content to generate leads and sales, you need to see your content pages as content landing pages.

What should you add to your [content] landing pages?

There are a number of ways to add action to your content landing pages. Some of these will be familiar. You’ve seen them or tried them.

Every audience is different, and the mix of offers around your content may be different from those that work on a similar blog or website. Measure them. Test them.

Baseball pitchers have colorful names for the pitches they throw, mainly because it takes too long to describe the physics of a pitch. A throw that causes the ball to rotate very little, making it zigzag, is called a “knuckleball.” A pitch with spin that causes it to change direction slightly is called a “curve ball.”

When we’re trying new strategies on landing pages, we also give them nicknames. Let me take you through some of the strategies you can try on your content pages. I’ll introduce you to the “Sidecar,” “Showing the Guns,” “Page Flair,” “Peacocking,” “Zuckerbait,” “Heroing” and “Lead Magnets.”

Crafting the offer

The first step is to offer something. Most blogs use the plain-old sidebar offer: “Subscribe to this blog.” We call this strategy a “Sidecar.”

The call to subscribe is the most common call to action on a blog.

The call to subscribe is the most common call to action on a blog.

This is often a fairly weak call to action. However, we know from testing landing pages that we can incorporate two elements to improve our results: proof and trust.

Social Media Examiner has used proof in its subscribe offer for years.

User counts are proof that your content is worth subscribing to.

User counts are proof that your content is worth subscribing to.

There are 480,000 subscribers to this blog? That’s some pretty strong social proof. We call this “Showing the Guns,” as in flexing your muscles. If you’ve been a success, show it.

You don’t need to have half a million visitors for this to be effective. I always say, “If you’ve got it, flaunt it. If you don’t, flaunt it more.” Primer Magazine emphasizes that “guys just like you” are readers.

Address your audience directly in your offer.

Address your audience directly in your offer.

Many sites with low brand recognition borrow trust from better-known organizations in their marketplace. This can be done with “badging.” We call this “Page Flair.”

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If your stories are featured on media sites, you can borrow trust from them, like Gregory Ciotti.

Borrow trust from known brands.

Borrow trust from known brands.

If you’ve done something amazing, like written a book or two, this can lend you credibility and build trust as well, like Food Politics.

Show off your accomplishments to build credibility.

Show off your accomplishments to build credibility.

We call this “Peacocking.”

You can even use social media symbols to borrow trust, but don’t give your visitors a way to escape! Primer Magazine lets visitors go off to their Facebook page, and at that point, you have lost your prospect.

Beware of using social media widgets. They can drag visitors away from your page.

Beware of using social media widgets. They can drag visitors away from your page.

We call this “Zuckerbait.”

Be the trusted spokesperson

One of the most important features of content is the author. Feature your authors as part of your content.

Jen doesn’t hold back on her blog Inky Collective.

Be the hero of your blog for connection and credibility.

Be the hero of your blog for connection and credibility.

We call this approach “Heroing.” I’m front and center on our Conversion Sciences blog, even though the company is much bigger than myself.

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This all works to build credibility and trust with your readers and future prospects.

Don’t use bad form

Your forms shouldn’t ask for more information than the offer permits, and you should avoid asking questions that don’t make sense. Why ask for the visitor’s age when they sign up for content? Are you discriminating?

Don't overdo it with your forms. Ask only for what you need. And no CAPTCHAs.

Don’t overdo it with your forms. Ask only for what you need. And no CAPTCHAs.

Your form should not use a CAPTCHA to make them prove they are not a “robot.” In the US, we are innocent of robotousness unless proven guilty. All you’re doing is asking your valued prospects to manage your spam problem for you.

Finally, choose compelling button text.

“Submit” only works if you have a Dominatrix blog.

“Subscribe” is better, but not emotional.

Social Media Examiner uses “Yes, I want more!” as their call to action. See above.

Try some of these:

  • Get Instant Access
  • Sign Up Now
  • Join the Club
  • Don’t Miss Out

It’s absolutely OK to let your brand dictate your call-to-action copy. Shinesty offers this:

Converting can be fun. Go wit h your brand voice.

Converting can be fun. Go with your brand voice.

You can do better than “subscribe to our list”

If you really want your content pages to deliver leads, create offers that are relevant to the topic of the content.

We’ve begun using this on the Conversion Sciences blog, offering summaries of the articles we write in PDF form. This is simply called a “lead magnet.”

For our post on AB Testing Statistics, we make this offer at the end:

Create offers that are directly related to your content for more conversions.

Create offers that are directly related to your content for more conversions.

It’s a simple list of definitions, but very helpful. These kinds of offers have a conversion rate more than twice that of our sitewide conversion course offer.

HubSpot offers a great example of this with its free press release template.

If your content is “hub” content — full-answer content on a key topic you write about — you can spend more time on your giveaways. Consider some of these for customized gated content:

  • Spreadsheets
  • Templates
  • Definition lists
  • E-books
  • Industry reports
  • Buyer guides
  • Reviews
  • Calculators

The simplest of offers will outperform “Subscribe” in most cases. We’ve even toyed with giving six of seven tips in the content and putting the rest in a separate PDF.

Place your offers in the right place

There are a large number of ways to present your calls to action on a content landing page. In my next column, I’ll introduce you to the “top hat,” the “dripping pan,” the “coffee break,” and the “welcome mat,” among others. These are all strategies for getting your offer in front of your readers.


Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


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