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Content management systems like WordPress and Joomla make it easy to start a blog to educate and engage customers and build your brand. There are so many good reasons to have a blog, and yet the number of abandoned company blogs suggests people aren't getting enough value out of them.

A company blog is like home fitness equipment: it can be a game-changer for those with time, commitment and a solid plan. But they can also seem like an expensive waste of effort that's soon abandoned. Unless you have clear goals, adequate time, and measurable results; blogging will be pushed aside by more pressing business needs. Here's how a properly focused blog can help you reach your business goals.

Blogging to be known and get traffic

The reasons most companies feel like they need a blog is to establish authority, engage customers, and get brand recognition. Basically, it's an online newsletter. Now, I'm not knocking this kind of blogging, but it's the hardest kind of blog to keep fresh because it's difficult to see tangeable results (I'll show you how to get these results later; but if you're blogging for kudos, cred and calendars, here's how to do it right).

Freshness and relevance are the two legs on which a blog runs. But if you only have time to focus on one, spend most of your time on relevance. Search engines boost content that is helpful over posts that are simply "fresh". Searches typically show a mix of both recent and old content, lending far more weight to how engaging it is than how recent it is. This is great news for a blogger that wants to provide educational content: as long as it has searchable keywords, a well-written article can still rank in the search results to generate traffic years later.

A good way to balance is to write long articles occasionally, and small posts frequently. To save time and keep your site "fresh enough" in between these longer articles, think of all the bits of information your business generates: post calendar updates, special offers and scheduled tweets to create a trickle of new content while you're writing those heavy-hitting SEO-rich articles with organic search staying power. Once you have a few of those reliably engaging longer posts, you're not only creating a reliable stream of site visitors, you're creating brand recognition and industry authority when they see your ranking in the search results.

Using blog posts to generate new customers

Marketing campaigns that just send your visitors to a generic front page are wasting your money. Given how easy it is to create your own sales funnel with a new blog post, a far better strategy is to send the traffic to a post and use analytics to determine which ones are your money makers. Therefore, you're going to need content to test.

An "educational" post will probably look different than a "selling" post. The first is focused on generating brand recognition, authority, and goodwill; it will be "successful" if it ranks high in search results, gets shared and cited, and generates traffic. A selling post, on the other hand, is only successful if it makes new customers.

Through analytics, you can learn what type of selling posts get the most response, whether that be newsletter sign-ups, or clicking through to product or service pages. These pages can be further refined with A/B testing to determine everything from optimal length to placement of the "call to action". Then, and only then--once you have established a good conversion rate--do you turn up the volume on the ad campaign. While you need at least a trickle of traffic to test strategies, it is an absolute waste to throw online ad dollars at an untested new page on your site.

PAUSE... if your eyes just glazed over, don't despair! Skip to the end and get free hands-on help.

How to create and test a "selling" post

First, you're going to need a way to analyze the traffic that comes to the page, and what they do once they're there. Google Analytics can tell you a limited amount, but you're going to need more than the basic visitor count and bounce rate for this to work: you need heatmapping. With a good heatmap tool, you can tell exactly how far down the page your visitors get before they click away. You can also track not only their clicks, but where they try to click. These places where people stop engaging with your content are called "friction", and your goal is to reduce it.

You can start by assuming that people want what you've got. If they're on your page, they're at least curious. A certain percentage of them want to give you money: they want you to solve their problems and make them happy. They're already on your site with there wallets out... what's stopping them? Friction--that is what you need to discover and eliminate.

Typical problem spots that can be discovered with a heatmap include:

  • Invisible or confusing call-to-action
  • Difficult to use interface
  • Article length
  • Poor content flow
  • Unable to find something they expect

For instance, you'll be able to tell that your call-to-action is poorly placed or hard to spot if customers simply scroll by. However, if they see it but don't interact, you can tell that it's uncompelling or confusing--perhaps they don't know what it does if they click on it? Similarly, you can reduce frustration for customers by eliminating things they click on which aren't actually "clickable", or the links to other places on your site that they quickly return from. The sensation of being lost and disoriented on a website is one of the greatest sources of conversion friction that can be easily addressed with heatmaps.

Test traffic - fix friction - tune your page

Death to Stock Photography Ride or DieIn order to test for friction, you're going to need a bare minimum of 10 visitors per day that actually stay on your page for a bit. You can try to use keywords to get organic searches, but what if your site still doesn't even have this much? It's going to take a little money and some online ads.

You can choose Google Adwords, but the best bang for your buck these days is going to Facebook. You may have heard that Facebook users are notoriously hard to convert, but that doesn't matter. The goal at this point is not to sell anything; you're just paying for their eyeballs and clicks. If you don't already have one, you'll need to set up a Facebook business page first. Design a simple color-block ad and spend $5 or so to get enough traffic to reliably tell you where the friction is. Fix what you find, then do it again.

Now that you've eliminated the worst friction and have a percentage of visitors converting, you're going to test small changes in the post to see which has the higher conversion percentage. This is called A/B testing, and it can make a huge difference in conversion rate. Even experienced marketers using tried and true funnel page formulas will tweak their layout and messaging to realize huge gains. Every time you go after a new audience, A/B testing should be one of the final steps before you apply major ad dollars.

Test the ads and the audience

You now have a predictable conversion rate and you're ready to turn up the volume on those Facebook ads you created... but wait! If you really want to get the most for your dollar, you need to find your best audience and test which ads are most effective.

At this point, many people think they're going to need expensive graphic design, but simple color block and text ads sometimes more effective than fancy graphics and logos. Also, paying lots of money for "professional" ads can lock you into the sunk cost fallacy of believing that you have to make it work because it was so dang expensive. In reality, it's far better to be flexible and split test 6-10 different cheap ads than to be locked into one or two expensive ones. Here are some ways to test messaging on several different ads:

  • Play with simple stock photography vs. color block
  • Try brash vs. businesslike, or crass vs. intellectual
  • Pull quotes from the post
  • Vary the length
  • Use different headlines
  • Highlight different problems to solve

An automatic, adjustable conversion machine

You now know which post converts visitors, and what percentage of traffic will covert. This gives you your target number of visitors for the amount of new business you can handle. From your ads, you know which are the most effective at getting clicks, and therefore have the lowest cost-per-click. Now it's time to put it all together: calculate your cost-per-conversion by dividing your cost-per-click by your conversion rate. Now you know how much it will cost you to get customers with this particular post and ad campaign.

For instance, let's say you're trying to generate leads by getting people to give you their contact info. Ad clicks are costing you 10 cents each, and your page is converting 8% of people who visit. Dividing $0.10 by .08 equals $1.25 per conversion. If you're able to close on 1/4 of those contacts, each customer would cost you $5. Now it's all a matter of adjusting the flow of your lead generation: if the maximum number of new clients you can handle is 20, then you should budget about $100 for this ad campaign.

Keep it running

"Happiness is wanting what's good for you."~ Aristotle (paraphrased)

The blog slog can feel like a painful necessity--ranking right up there with high fiber diets and regular flossing in terms of excitement. Abstract ideas like "more traffic" or "higher page rank" have merely a theoretical connection to whether or not your business is actually making money. So the site got 10 visits... So what! Show me where that made money! Let me tell you, when you're seeing tangible daily results from blogging, it'll be a priority. You'll be able to see how the content on your site had a direct bearing on whether you're happy with your site and the results it's producing. You'll be doing the things that make your site succeed, and it'll feel good to do it because you'll have proof it's working.

The beauty of using blog posts for conversions is that and as you continue to blog, these high-traffic pages will jump out on your analytics report. These will be prime pages to test as new "conversion machines". Once you put the machine to work, you'll find some even lower your cost-per-conversion even more. And you'll have fresh posts ready to step in when older ad campaigns lose their draw (as some will inevitably do).

When to call in the experts

Even experienced mechanics take their cars to the shop sometimes. This has nothing to do with lack of skill or ability! When time is of the essence and you need to get that new machine running yesterday, can you really afford the hours of learning and fiddling around with new techniques to make it run? You can? Great! I'd love to see you at one of my free Social Media and Content Workshops to kick that thing in the butt!

However, if you've got more troubles than time, let us help. Whether you need regular assistance, troubleshooting, or it's just a busy time of year; Chris or I have a social media and content road-map. We'll flatten out that learning curve and get your blog working this month. Contact us or give us a call to schedule a free consultation.