The Business Blogger's Ultimate Guide to Mastering Lead Generation

    by Pamela Vaughan

    Date

    October 19, 2012 at 1:47 PM

    cherry pie intermediate

    Your blog is, without a doubt, one of the most powerful inbound marketing tools at your disposal. In fact, it's practically a marketing Swiss army knife: it enables you to regularly publish content, boost your website's search engine optimization, establish your industry thought leadership and expertise, and it also provides content fodder for your other marketing channels such as social media and email marketing.

    But one of blogging's biggest benefits is in its huge potential for lead generation and reconversion. So if you're not taking advantage of all the lead generation opportunities your blog offers -- and then optimizing those opportunities -- you're likely missing out on a huge piece of your company's lead gen pie.

    But have no fear! In this post, we'll walk you through all the various lead gen opportunities you can take advantage of on your blog, and even give you some great tips for optimizing those opportunities to make sure you're squeezing every last lead out of your business blog.

    8 Lead Gen Opportunities for Your Business Blog

    On Your Blog's Homepage

    There are three main opportunities to generate leads from your blog's homepage -- using top and/or bottom banner call-to-action (CTAs), sidebar CTAs, or through links to landing pages in your top nav, sidebar, or footer. These options will be visible whether your readers are visiting the homepage of your blog (e.g. http://blog.hubspot.com) or checking out the permalink of an individual blog article (e.g. http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/33734/20-Common-Social-Media-Marketing-Myths-BUSTED.aspx).

    Because these types of CTAs will be shown to visitors no matter what article they're reading, it's very important to either feature offers that you know are successful among a broader audience of visitors, or offer a variety of offers that most visitors would find at least one or two appealing. Use your landing page analytics to determine which of your top-performing offers have the best mass appeal and popularity, and feature CTAs for those offers on your blog's homepage.

    Here's a closer look at how these types of CTAs might appear on your blog:

    1) Top/Bottom Banner CTAs: These CTAs span the entire width of your blog's homepage, so design them with those wide dimensions in mind. For HubSpot's blog, we've found that banner CTAs that stand out from the rest of the page tend to perform the best. Choose bold background colors that pop out from the rest of your page. Select the offer for any top banner CTAs carefully, as these are the most prominent CTAs displayed on your blog's homepage.

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    2) Sidebar CTAs: These are smaller CTAs that appear in the sidebar of your blog's homepage. While they're a little bit more hidden than your banner CTAs and tend to generate a lower clickthrough rate, they can give your blog a little lead gen boost. Again, design these sidebar CTAs with their smaller width in mind.

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    3) Top Nav/Sidebar/Footer Links to Landing Pages: You can also leverage any links in your top navigation, sidebar, or your blog's footer to send direct blog traffic to landing pages. On HubSpot's blog, for example, we use the links in our top navigation to send visitors to targeted landing pages that provide top-performing offers for the main topics we cover on our blog.

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    Within Individual Articles

    In addition to your blog's homepage, lead gen opportunities abound within the blog articles you publish themselves. In fact, these are some of the more effective ways to leverage your blog for lead generation, because you have the ability to better target readers based on the articles they're reading, which are the types of articles and topics that interest them.

    For example, if you're a unicorn breeder who typically blogs about 3 main topics -- unicorn diet, unicorn grooming, and unicorn fitness/exercise -- your blog articles will probably fall under these three main categories. If a reader is reading an article specifically about unicorn diet, you have the opportunity to feature a CTA for an offer specifically geared toward that very topic. Remember: relevancy increases conversion rates!

    Let's take a look at how these different types of lead gen opportunities might play out on a blog:

    4) End-of-Post CTA Buttons: Your blog visitor just got finished reading your article about what not to feed your unicorn. What better time to promote your hit ebook, Everything You Need to Know About Healthy Unicorn Diets? The beauty of end-of-post CTA buttons is that they help you leverage the reader's interest in that very topic -- or a related one. Be sure to choose a CTA for the most relevant offer pertaining to the specific topic you're blogging about for the best success with end-of-post CTA buttons. In terms of design, optimize these buttons for the width of your blog articles.

    At HubSpot, again, we've found that bolder end-of-post CTA buttons that stand out from the rest of the content tend to perform best, but you should experiment with different designs to see what works best for you and your readers.

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    5) Top/Mid-Post CTA Buttons: Besides end-of-post CTAs, you can also experiment with other placement of in-post CTAs if you want to take a more "in your face" approach. The key is to try to do this as unobtrusively as possible. Don't go overboard -- be subtle, and make sure the offers you're promoting here are educational-focused so you're helping, not annoying, your readers.

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    6) Anchor Text Links to Landing Pages: Not every lead gen opportunity on your blog has to be achieved through button-based CTAs. Anchor text links to landing pages can be a great way to sprinkle a little lead gen fairy dust into the actual copy of your blog post -- and at the same time, help you to optimize your landing pages for search! Link some of the keywords to relevant landing pages, as you can see in the first example below, which links to the landing page for our ebook on dynamic content. You can even be a little bit more obvious about it using a text-based call-to-action to download the offer, as you can see in the second example below.

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    Off Your Blog

    That's right! There are opportunities to generate and reconvert leads from your blog even if a visitor isn't physically hanging out there. Here are a couple of good ones to note:

    7) In RSS Readers: Let's face it -- there is probably a good chunk of your blog readers who consume your blog content without actually visiting your website. People who subscribe to your blog via RSS may choose to add your blog's RSS feed to an RSS reader like Google Reader, eliminating the need to ever come back to your blog. Don't miss out on capturing these types of readers as leads! The good news is, if you're already optimizing your individual articles themselves for lead gen using in-post CTAs, your blog will automatically be lead gen optimized for folks' RSS readers since the full contents of the post will get pulled into those readers. Easy as pie! Furthermore, if you're a HubSpot user, you can even customize your blog settings to add an additional CTA to your RSS footer, which automatically displays at the end of every post in RSS.

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    8) In-Blog Subscriber Email Notifications: So what about all your email subscribers who read your new articles in full directly in their inboxes? Don't worry -- you can capture them as leads, too! And again, if you're already optimizing your individual articles for lead gen, there's no additional work needed on your part here either, since any CTAs or anchor text links will automatically get pulled into the email, too.

    9 Ways to Optimize Your Blog's Lead Gen Potential

    Okay, so let's say you're already taking advantage of all these various blog lead generation and reconversion opportunities. What can you do to give it a little boost? Optimize, that's what! Here are nine ways to improve you blog's lead gen potential once you have the basics in place.

    1) Replace Old CTAs With CTAs for New Offers

    Offers, no matter how evergreen they are, tend to get stale and decrease in effectiveness after a while. If you're using the same few CTAs over and over, there's no doubt about it -- your overall conversions on that offer will decline. Make it a regular practice of updating old CTAs with new CTAs for new offers to keep your audience converting. This of course means you'll need to be creating these new offers, too.

    2) A/B Test CTA Designs

    The design of your CTAs can also make or break whether visitors click. Experiment with various CTA designs to find out what resonates best with your audience. A/B test CTA button design elements like button color, language, imagery, tone, etc. to optimize for the most powerful CTA design. (Note: HubSpot customers can easily A/B test CTAs using HubSpot's CTA tools.)

    3) Refresh Designs Regularly

    Just as it's important to update the offers you're featuring in your blog CTAs, even A/B tested and optimized CTA design can also get stale when used over and over again since readers get used to designs and train their eyes to gloss over them. Regularly refresh your CTA designs to keep readers on their toes, whether that means hiring a designer, outsourcing design work to an agency, or experimenting on your own with something like PowerPoint or HubSpot's CTA builder.

    4) Implement Smart CTAs

    Most businesses will find that their blog tends to attract a lot of new traffic to their website. This makes sense, since articles commonly get indexed and found in search engines or shared through social networks. Because this is the case, it's safe to assume that very top-of-the-funnel offers like educational ebook and webinars would make great blog CTA fodder, since most of your new visitors probably know little about your business and are just starting to get to know you.

    That being said, don't dismiss the fact that your blog also attracts repeat visitors (particularly if your content is top notch!). These repeat visitors may be a little bit more qualified (heck -- they may already even be leads), and it might make sense to show them different CTAs based on what you already know about them. Enter Smart CTAs, or dynamic CTAs that enable you to automatically display different CTAs based on information about a lead and better nurture them with content that appeals to their specific interests and needs. To learn more about how to leverage Smart CTAs, check out this comprehensive blog post guide.

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    5) Experiment With CTA Placement

    Perhaps mid-post CTAs just end up annoying the heck out of your readers, or just never get clicked. What happens if you move up that sidebar CTA so it's above the fold on your blog's homepage? What if you had not one, but two sidebar CTAs? Experiment! You'll never know how your audience reacts if you don't try different things.

    6) Optimize Landing Pages

    Okay, so you've got some killer CTAs all throughout your blog, and people are totally clicking on them. Fantastic! So why the heck is your blog's visitor-to-lead conversion rate so darn low? If you notice that your blog's conversion rate is dismal, yet your CTAs clickthrough rate is stellar, then you likely have some landing page problems. Don't neglect to optimize your visitors' post-click experience. Spend some time diagnosing, analyzing, and optimizing your visitors' landing page experiences. After all, if they don't ever fill out that landing page form, all your blog lead gen optimization work is all for naught. Furthermore, make sure your blog's CTAs are well aligned with the landing pages they're promoting. The quickest way to facilitate landing page abandonment is by promising on thing on a CTA and sending visitors to a landing page that promotes something different.

    7) Increase Blog Traffic

    Hitting a lead gen plateau? Another way to increase your blog's lead generation is not to focus on improving conversion, but rather to focus on generating more traffic. And if it's net new leads you're after, this means attracting new visitors. If you're attracting a lot of repeat visitors who have already converted, it's only natural that the new leads you generate from your blog will start to dwindle. Our new ebook, How to Grow & Scale Your Business Blog, offers some helpful tips for attracting brand new visitors to your blog. Some great tips include increasing the quality and reach of your blog content, seeking guest blogging opportunities, increasing the reach of your social media presence, and leveraging your evangelists.

    8) Increase Blogging Frequency

    Blogging frequency is an important part of the blog lead gen equation. In fact, according to the latest research compiled in our Marketing Benchmarks From 7,000 Businesses report, companies that increase blogging from 3-5x/month to just 6-8x/month almost double their leads. Furthermore, an average company will see a 45% growth in traffic when increasing total blog articles from 11-20 to 21-50 articles, and the average company with 100 or more total published blog articles is more likely to experience continued lead growth. Remember, the more articles you publish, the more reasons there'll be for visitors to come back and convert!

    9) Convert Casual Blog Readers Into Dedicated Subscribers

    Don't overlook the importance of convincing your casual blog readers to keep coming back to for more. Convert your readers into dedicated subscribers who become fans and evangelists of your content, and share your blog articles with their networks of potential new visitors. To learn about the various steps you can take to convert visitors into subscribers, check out this post.

    What other opportunities can you take advantage of to grow the lead gen potential of your business blog?

    Image Credit: jeffreyw

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