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October 15, 2014

Want to Increase Your Blog's Conversion Rates by 87%? Try Focusing on Keywords

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kid-magnifying-glass-search-689570-editedWe're on a historical blog optimization kick over here on the HubSpot blogging team. "What in the Sam Hill is 'historical blog optimization,'" you ask?

Basically, it means optimizing our "old" blog content to generate more traffic and leads. And by "old," I just mean posts that already exist on our blog, whether we wrote it three years ago or last month.

A lot of different tactics can fall under the umbrella of historical optimization: updating and republishing blog content so it's fresh and up-to-date, optimizing posts for search to improve their search rankings, and conversion optimizing posts that still generate a lot of traffic but don't convert visitors into leads as well as they could.

Download our free marketing tool that helps you generate more leads and learn about the visitors on your website. 

I've already written about why marketers need to stop neglecting their old content. In this post, I'm going to make an even stronger case, focusing on one specific conversion optimization tactic: keyword-based conversion optimization.

That sounds boring, so before you bounce from this post, let me rephrase: I'm going to show you how we increased the number of leads we generated from our top-ranking blog posts by 99% -- and explain how you can do that, too.

How We Approached Conversion Optimization

Our First Approach: Focusing on the Calls-to-Action (CTAs)

Over the past several months, ever since we discovered that over 75% of our monthly blog post views were also of old posts, we've been on a mission to improve the conversion rates of our old posts. 

We started out by targeting our highest-trafficked old posts to see if we could improve their lead generation potential. Our approach was mainly to optimize the posts' calls-to-action (CTAs) based on the following questions:

  • Was the primary CTA's offer the most relevant offer we had for the post's particular subject matter?
  • Did the post include a slide-in CTA? If so, same question as above.
  • Was the CTA design outdated?
  • Were there other CTA opportunities available that we hadn't thought of at the time of writing?

The results of this approach were hit or miss -- sometimes the conversion rate of the post would improve, sometimes not. Sometimes, the conversion rate would even decrease.

What we realized was, while we were using relevancy to inform our offer/CTA choices, it was still mostly a guessing game. There was really no way to know whether a visitor would prefer one offer over a another one. Our approach wasn't data-driven enough.

Then, we had another idea ... 

Our Second Approach: Focusing on the Keywords

Based on our previous blog lead attribution analysis, we already knew that the majority of the visitors we got to old, high-trafficked posts were coming from organic search. What if we focused on the specific keywords those visitors were using to find those posts in the first place? 

It made a lot of sense. If we knew which keyword the majority of people were using to find a particular post, then we could make sure the offers we used in the CTAs on that post matched the keywords as closely as possible, too. 

And when we put the theory to the test, the results were incredible. We optimized 12 of our high-ranking, top-trafficked posts based on their keyword searches, and here were the results:

  • We increased the number of leads we generated from these posts by 99%.
  • We increased the average conversion rate of these posts by 87%. 

This was groundbreaking for us and how we approach the conversion optimization of old blog posts. Using this keyword-based approach, we improved the conversion rates of every single post we optimized using that method. There was absolutely no guessing to it -- it was entirely data-driven. 

The Keyword-Based Conversion Optimization Methodology 

Want to take advantage of this conversion optimization method for your own blog content? Here's what we did.

(Keep in mind that the basic idea behind this approach is to get inside the head of the searcher, and then optimize for conversion based on the search terms they're already using to find your blog posts.)

How We Identified Posts to Optimize

1) We made a list of the search terms our blog was already getting found for.

We did this by looking at the organic search traffic in HubSpot's Sources Report. (If you're not a HubSpot customer, you can also use Google Analytics to identify which keywords you're getting found for.) While, unfortunately, the majority of keywords today are encrypted by Google (and it's only getting worse), we were still able to use the keywords that aren't encrypted as directional data to indicate a larger search trend.

2) We identified which of our blog posts were ranking for these keywords.

Then, we recorded their ranking in a spreadsheet. You'll need an SEO tool to make this process easy. We used HubSpot's Keywords Report since it's integrated with the HubSpot Sources Report. If you don't have an SEO tool, you can also do this manually by searching the keyword in an incognito browser, finding your blog post that ranks for it, and recording the ranking.

3) We sorted the posts we identified by monthly views.

This allowed us to target and start optimizing the posts that generated the most traffic, and then work our way down.

How We Optimized Those Posts (And an Example!)

To explain how we did it, I'll use an example of a post we optimized for conversion using this keyword-based approach. For some context, this post example ranked highly for the keywords "how to write a press release" and "press release template." So when people search for and find that post, they want to learn how to write a press release, and they want a template to help them do it.

The problem with the post before we optimized it was that the CTAs within it were promoting our "Newsworthy Guide to Public Relations" ebook -- not a press release template. And even though people do get a press release template with their download of the guide, neither the CTA nor the landing page for the ebook clearly positioned it that way.

So, what we did was reposition those CTAs to focus more on what people were searching for -- the press release template. 

Initially, we did three things when we conversion optimized the posts we identified using this keyword-based approach:

1) We optimized the end-of-post CTA based on the keyword.

First, we looked at the post's existing CTA to see if we had an existing offer that was more relevant to the search term people were using to find the post. Then, we'd reposition the CTA to incorporate the search term into the title of the offer. This way, the search term matched the CTA/offer more closely. If necessary, we also optimized the image used in the CTA.

And if we had no relevant offer for the search term (or if repositioning an existing offer was too much of a stretch), we'd add it to a list of posts that required a more relevant offer. More on that in a minute.

Example:

old-vs-new-end-post-ctas.png

2) We optimized the slide-in CTA based on the keyword.

Slide-in CTAs are CTAs that "slide in" from the side of the page as a visitor scrolls down the post. The advantage of a slide-in CTA is that it puts a CTA in front of visitors sooner than if it were at the end of the post, since it slides in as the visitor scrolls down the page and doesn't require them to reach the end. (Learn how to create slide-in CTAs here, and easily create a slide-in CTA using HubSpot's free lead capture tool, Leadin.)

We did the same thing here as we'd done with the end-of-post CTA, optimizing the offer/CTA based on the keyword used to find the post. In cases where posts didn't have a slide-in CTA to begin with, we'd add one.

old-vs-new-slide-in-cta.png

3) We added a text-based, in-line CTA within the post's intro, based on the keyword.

The last thing we did was add a third CTA -- a text-based CTA in line with the post's body copy within the intro of the post. (We'd previously experimented with adding these into posts and found that they were successful in boosting those posts' conversion rates. I actually think this is critical for conversion optimizing posts whose traffic comes largely from search.)

Think about it: If you're a searcher and you click through to a page from a search result, you're trying to evaluate quickly whether that result is going to give you what you were searching for. So if you see a link to a resource that matches your search term right off the bat, you'll probably click on it.

Example:

in-line-cta.png

If you're curious how our example post improved, the conversion rate of the post increased by a whopping 240% when we optimized using this keyword-based method. Not too shabby, eh?

How We Tracked/Analyzed the Results

Because we'd never tried this method of conversion optimization before, we wanted to make sure we carefully tracked what we did so we could understand how effective this was as a conversion optimization strategy. If you plan to experiment with this strategy yourself, this is how I suggest you track it: 

  • Prior to doing any search-based conversion optimization, record the views, leads, and conversion rates for each post across a two-week period. That way you can compare the post's performance before and after it was optimized.
  • Record the date you optimized each post, so you knew when to check back in on the post's performance after optimization.
  • Record exactly what you optimized (for example: changed the offer, repositioned the CTA, etc.). That way, if these posts do worse after the optimization, then you can go back and undo what you did. And if they did better, you can learn from the changes you made. 
  • Two weeks after a post was optimized, record the post's performance in terms of views, leads, and conversion rate. Then compare the conversion rates to determine whether the optimization was successful.

But Wait ... There's More! 

That's right! There's even more you can do to benefit from this search-based conversion optimization approach. We're currently in the process of implementing the following tactics on our own blog, so while I don't have data to share with you yet, I have a feeling these tactics will help improve conversion rates even more based on the success of what we've implemented so far.

1) Create Offers for Posts/Keywords You Don't Already Have Relevant Offers For

Remember how I talked about repositioning your CTAs to incorporate the search term into the title of the offer ... but only if it was relevant enough? For some keywords, you may find it's a little bit of a stretch to reposition an existing offer in this way -- especially if you don't have a wide variety of offers to choose from. In those cases where you don't have a relevant keyword-based offer for a post that generates a lot of search traffic month after month, consider creating one from scratch. 

2) Optimize the Post-CTA Click Experience (i.e. The Landing Page)

Remember the example I used earlier to explain how we implemented our keyword-based conversion optimization approach? While we may have optimized that post's CTAs to emphasize the offer's press release template, they're still going to click through to a landing page that isn't positioned that way. Don't stop there. Optimize your landing pages for those keywords, too.

Using a feature like HubSpot's Anonymous Personalization, you can even make it so the landing page is repositioned only for visitors who come from a specific blog post. In other words, the default landing page positioning will remain the same, but if visitors access the page by clicking on a CTA from a particular blog post, visitors are shown a different version of the landing page positioned the same way as the CTA they clicked to get there.

This is helpful if you're promoting a landing page in multiple channels but don't want to create a duplicate landing page to serve each purpose. Magical, right? (For HubSpot customers, you can accomplish this by creating a tracking URL with a specific campaign for your landing page, and then using Smart Content within the landing page segmented by Referral Source >> Other Campaigns.)

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Topics: Lead Generation

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