Category Archives: Content Marketing

5 Popular Blog Post Topics That Everyone Loves to Share

If you’re a content marketer of any type, you know how crucial it is for your blog posts to make a splash.

If you were to look over my shoulder any day of the week, you’d see me checking my social sharing metrics.

Just this morning, I logged in to Buzzsumo to take a look at these numbers:

(This image shows the social sharing metrics for QuickSprout.com over the past year. These are the four pieces of content that received the most social shares.)

Why?

Because social sharing matters!

This isn’t some sort of narcissistic kick. This is a data-driven way to see who’s sharing my content, how many shares I’m getting, what platform those shares are on, and why the articles are being shared.

Obviously, it doesn’t matter how much content you’re putting out if nobody’s reading it.

If nobody’s reading it, nobody’s sharing it.

Ultimately, your content must be shared if you want to increase site traffic.

Many marketers spend their days looking at Google Analytics. I do this too. But Google Analytics is only part of the picture.

There’s a fascinating story behind every social share you receive.

If you’re one of the millions of soloprenuers, entrepreneurs, content marketers, growth hackers, or startup marketers in the US struggling to put out engaging content, you’re not alone.

I get it more than anyone.

The web moves fast; trends come and go; and sometimes it’s hard to keep up.

You’ll be happy to learn, however, that there are a few tried-and-true content categories that everyone (your audience, my audience) loves to engage with and share.

In this post, I’m giving you a few of those content categories and diving into ways to discover more for a lasting result.

By the end of this post, you’ll understand why the content you’re sharing may not be getting the same results as other some content does.

You’ll also understand how all this affects share rate and what you can do to turn your situation around.

Here are your new go-to blog post topics. Read each thoroughly, and think about how they can be leveraged on your blog.

1. Productivity hacking

Time is one thing we’ll never have more of—for now, at least.

If I told you I could make your days longer and you’d be able to finish more work, make more calls, etc., you’d be interested, right?

Of course, you would. Time is important.

It makes sense then that we’re attracted to content focused on gaining more time.

In your upcoming blog posts, incorporate interesting productivity tips, whether showing how your product or service increases productivity or sharing which productivity tips and tricks are working for you.

If you’re familiar with Michael Hyatt’s blog, you’ve probably seen this work. Michael Hyatt is a leadership development expert, but he publishes a lot of productivity-related titles.

In fact, when I look back on his blog’s social sharing metrics over the past 12 months, two of his top five are on productivity:

This isn’t an accident. Hyatt knows that productivity topics get shared.

People love sharing practical content that they can vouch for and others can use.

2. Travel

The travel industry is booming for a reason. We love to travel.

Travel is invigorating, relaxing, and educational, and it’s one of the reasons why content focused on travel is so widely shared.

It’s time for you to join the club. Start thinking about what you would want to read.

Depending on the season, you can write about physical locations your audience might search for, say, Jamaica.

If you’re a company that has this information on Jamaica on your blog, take advantage of that. Take control so your blog becomes a frequent destination.

What kind of blogs would benefit from travel-related articles? It might not be that hard to find a connection.

Take ToDoIst for example. They sell a productivity app.

But they blog about travel:

Even a camera maker such as GoPro can get away with publishing some interesting and super shareable travel articles:

Evernote knows that travel is a shareable topic, and its blog features plenty of travel articles:

Give travel a try, fitting it in however you see appropriate, and you’ll likely get some social sharing among an interested audience.

3. Fitness

Face it, there are mobs of people out there (myself included) who would love to just wake up with six-pack abs. That’s why there’s always something new to help get you there.

As long as science continues to discover new things, there will be new breakthroughs to talk about—perfect fodder for shareable blog posts!

Blog posts about fitness have historically been one of the most shared genres of content on the web.

Buzzsumo, the social sharing giant, reported this about 2015 content popularity:

Who doesn’t want to get healthier? Health was a popular topic in 2015. Interestingly, three of the most shared posts on BuzzFeed this year were about health, as seen below.

They explain that the viral element of these articles was the topic of the content: health, diet and fitness tips.

Buzzfeed knows a thing or two about shareable content, and they were the clear leader in the socially-shared fitness topics.

A quick search for “buzzfeed fitness” produces over 800,000 results:

There are tons of shares on each one of these.

Depending on your industry, blogging about fitness can work well.

Begin this process by searching Google for the top fitness blogs, and scour them to find out what the fitness industry is talking about. Write a post from this, relate it to your business, and that’s it. Simple.

4. Getting what you want in life

The ability to change outcomes quickly and effectively is a skill mankind has been working on for centuries. Want to increase the share count of your blog posts?

Empower your readers.

Show them how to use confidence to get what they want in their lives, relationships, and careers.

Take advantage of this by writing content that talks about specific topics such as:

  • How to get a raise/promotion
  • Negotiation techniques
  • Relationship tips
  • Interview tactics

If spun correctly, these topics will not only be practical and interesting to your readers (i.e., perfect for sharing) but also useful to you: they will introduce you as a thought leader, helping you establish trust with your audience.

And trust, in turn, can produce social sharing.

Some of the major blogs, such as Forbes, Inc., Huffington Post, Fast Co., and Business Insider, are full of articles like this one:

Feeling that sense of empowerment drives people to share, share, share…

The great thing about topics like these is they can be used on most types of blogs.

5. Money

The fifth and arguably most successful blog topic is money and finances.

The Internet is chock full of people looking to improve their finances, get out of debt, plan for the future, etc.

James Clear, for example, typically writes about health and productivity, but he knows that money topics will hit a social sharing streak. Take this super-popular article he wrote for Business Insider:

It’s garnered 58K+ shares since it was published!

This is a great topic to blog about, and it’s excellent for highlighting the potential financial benefits your product or service provides. It’s a no-brainer.

But what if you run out of ideas?

What happens when we’ve exhausted these topics next month and we’re back to square one—out of ideas?

At this point, get online and check out forums related to your interests to find out what people are asking and what discussions are viral or trending.

Use the main categories above as a guide (fitness, finance, travel, etc.), and dive into these sub categories on each forum on a more micro level.

For example, let’s say you see on Forum A that “puppies” is trending, and, in particular, many people are talking about “German Shepherd puppies.”

Narrow the focus of your next blog post to include this specific information on German Shepherd puppies, and watch your content take off.

But it’s not always this easy, right? What about when you’re having a rough day writing? Here’s a bonus tip.

In addition to the above, keep what I like to call an “ideas file” handy.

Start with a Google spreadsheet. Every time you come across an interesting idea for your blog, write it down.

Scour the Internet for news, and read other blogs you respect.

These ideas become inspiration for posts down the road. Maintain this file, and I promise you can make your blog more successful.

Conclusion

There are dozens of factors that influence the shareability of your blog posts.

Issues such as the time of posting, time of sharing, style of the title, featured image, author’s authority, keyword presence, etc. are all crucial.

But there’s one thing at the heart of it all: what’s the topic?

If you miss the right topics, the entire blog will be a waste of time and effort.

Not all these topics will work for every blog. I understand that.

Knowing your audience and their interests is your path to ultra-shareability.

Just a few small tweaks to your blog can dramatically improve the rate of sharing of your content.

Spend time researching competitors, writing down your ideas for later use, and keeping your finger on the pulse of the blogs and forums for your topic of interest.

One piece of advice I always leave my clients with is this: Would YOU want to read your blog if you were the customer?

If the answer is no, consider some of the strategies above and let me know how it goes.

Which blog topics work best for you?

The Proven Method for Driving 8x More Conversions from Long-Form Blog Articles

On the surface, blogs appear to be fountains of free-flowing information.

You read lots of rich and valuable research.

You collect plenty of juicy data.

You discover how to do a valuable task.

And, sure, some blogs are happy with lots of traffic and satisfied visitors.

But most content marketers know that blogs have the potential to drive insane conversion numbers.

Yes, conversions—as in people taking a desired action on your website. Maybe you want more email signups, more downloads, more free trials, or more purchases.

But here’s where things get dicey. Even though blogs are supposed to drive conversions, they usually don’t.

Why not?

It comes down to this. There is a disconnect between a blog’s conversion potential and its practical ability to achieve those conversions.

If your blog isn’t converting well, don’t beat yourself up. You’re about to discover some incredibly powerful ways to amp up the conversion power of your blog.

If you can improve the conversion power of your blog, it will transform into an unending revenue stream.

Once you learn how to remove the barriers, there’s no telling how high your conversion rate will soar.

Are blogs supposed to drive conversions?

First, let’s make sure we set the stage for the techniques that’ll follow.

What’s the purpose of a blog?

In a word, it’s this: revenue.

I hate to be so cold and businessy about it, but it’s true. Everything in business comes back to revenue.

Let’s say you’re a small business. Ultimately, you want more revenue, right?

More customers will produce more revenue. And a great blog will help you get those customers.

This infographic from SmallFuel Marketing makes the point:

Source

But do blogs drive conversions?

Hubspot’s research demonstrates that yes, indeed, they do. Hubspot’s analysis of a business’s blogging efforts showed that content published in the past 12 months gained an increasing number of contacts as time went on:

Source

Get this. The more you blog, the more customers you’ll gain.

You may be thinking: But what about PPC, social media, and email marketing? What about all those other sexy techniques for driving conversions?

Fair question! Aren’t those effective methods?

Sure, paid search and social media are effective. But when you compare their conversion potential to that of organic search, there’s no contest.

Source

What’s my point?

It’s simple. Your blog can be a conversion machine.

But no, it doesn’t happen if you simply create good content. Good content is a given—something we should assume is already happening.

What you need beyond good content is the means and methods of persuading users to convert when they access your content.

Basically, it’s how you create that content and what you do with that content that makes all the difference.

So, what should you do to rev up the conversion engine that is your blog?

Instead of giving you granular tactics, I want to show you some of the deep methods that produce conversion power from the very source.

Create long-form content

Have you ever wondered why I occasionally write a 10,000-word blog post or a 50,000-word guide?

Is it because I get carried away? Have too much time to burn? Am getting paid based on word count?

No, no, and no.

I write articles like these for several reasons. Here are three of them:

  • My readers love them.
  • Search engines love them.
  • People convert on them.

Content marketing, as I understand and practice it, is all about value.

I am intent on providing the best darn value, free of charge.

I tend to think a really long article will give you helpful information and hopefully have a positive impact on your business.

Second, we’ve seen the massive impact long-form articles have on SEO.

Let me show you.

Top results on Google correlate with content longer than 2,000 words. In other words, the highest ranked pages on Google also have the most content!

Plus, there’s the social sharing aspect to keep in mind. The longer your content, the more social shares you earn.

Finally, there’s the bit about conversions, which is where I want to settle for just a moment.

  • When you have higher search results, you get more search traffic.
  • When you get more search traffic, you gain more conversions.

Let’s say your blog’s conversion rate is around 2% at the moment.

If 1,000 people visit your ordinary blog article (1,000 words), two of them will sign up for a free trial.

A long-form article, however, gets more traffic than the average blog article. Using the share metrics as a benchmark, we can safely assume that a long-form article (3000+ words) gets 100% more traffic than a shorter article (0-1,000 words).

Now, you have 2,000 people visiting your content—twice as many! And you have twice as many conversions too!

This introduces a logical question: How long is long-form content?

I hate to be “that guy,” but the answer is: as long as it needs to be.

You were looking for a word count, right?

Okay, I’ll give it to you, but you have to listen to my little lesson first.

I—and Google and the rest of the world tend to agree with me—am more interested in the quality of your content than the actual length of said content.

If you spin out 5,000 words of crap, you’ll destroy your conversions, not improve them.

As cliche as it sounds, quality is more important than quantity.

If you’re looking for a word count, I suggest 2,500 words or more are sufficient for outranking your competitors, turning on the traffic floodgates, and boosting your blog conversions.

The Lesson: Crank out long-form content on your blog, and you will double your conversions.

Create content around long-tail keywords

What kind of content drives the most conversions?

There’s no question about it: using long-tail keywords brings in the highest blog conversion rates.

What are long-tail keywords?

A long-tail keyword is a search query—the words that people type or speak to find stuff on the web.

Long-tail queries are…well, long. They generally have more than three words.

For example, “shoes” is a short keyword (called a head term). But “Nike women’s running shoes” is long.

Source

The important thing to realize about long-tail and short-tail keywords is this: Your blog is more likely to rank for long-tail queries.

Plus, long-tail queries are focused in terms of user intent. The search volume may not be astronomical, but at least you’re gaining search volume from the right users.

Best of all, the conversion rates on long-tail queries are sky high.

Take a look at this benefit list of the long-tail keyword. Pay special attention to that last point:

Source

What is a “high” conversion rate? Since “high” is a relative term, let’s do some comparison.

Notice the difference in conversion rates between head terms and long-tail queries. Which is higher?

Source

Long-tail queries converted at 26%, a whopping 160% increase over the 10%-converting head terms!

It’s one thing to know that long-tail terms have higher conversion rates. That’s nice. But the real question is: What do you do about it?

It doesn’t take an SEO whiz to know that your blog probably won’t rank for short head terms like “computer.”

When I query “computer” in my browser, here’s what I come up with:

The bulk of the above-the-fold results are major retailers. Below that are local results.

Sorry, but none of that stuff is long-form content!

I use “computer” as an example because of my personal experience.

I once had a client tell me, “We provide professional web hosting services. We’d like our website to rank for the term computer.

“Hmm. I don’t think that would be the best approach,” I cautiously countered.

“Well…okay. What about server…or maybe web server?” they replied.

I had a different perspective, so I proposed an alternative solution. I said, “Let’s focus on more specific keywords that could provide a more direct source of traffic and revenue.”

  1. First, I did some keyword research to come up with a list of long-tail terms.
  2. Second, I developed an article idea around each of the keywords.

That two-step process, although simple, was all it took.

What were the results?

One of the keywords I picked was “dedicated server capacity for e-commerce site.”

Yeah, it’s a mouthful. But a 2,690-word article on “How to Know if You Need a Dedicated Server for Your E-commerce Site” produced thousands of more conversions than a more general article would have.

To begin producing your own conversion-crushing long-tail keyword articles, follow this process:

  1. Develop a list of terms that people in your niche are searching for. Make sure these terms are 4 words or longer. This article will give you a great process for doing so.
  2. Create a blog article for each term. The article title should contain most, if not all, of the words in the selected long-tail phrase.
  3. In the body of the article, be sure to include the selected keyword phrase as well as other relevant terms.
  4. In keeping with the previous point about long-form content, write an article that exceeds 2,500 words.

The Lesson:  Develop your blog’s content to target long-tail keywords.

Deliver content that is aligned with user intent

One of the most direct ways to gain more conversions is to create content that satisfies user intent.

What is “user intent?”

User intent is what someone wants when they type something into Google.

For example, if I want to fly to Delhi next week, I would type in: “tickets from Atlanta to Delhi.”

My intent as a user is to purchase an airline ticket from Atlanta to Delhi, India.

In response to my query, Google would show me some airlines with flight times and rates.

There are three main types of user intent, often called “query types.”

  1. Navigational: The user is trying to get to a specific website. For example, “quick sprout blog.”
  2. Informational: The user is trying to learn information. For example, “how do I increase my blog’s conversion rate.”
  3. Transactional: The user is trying to purchase or make a transaction on something. For example, “Coupons for Huggies diapers.”

Google is pretty good at determining the type of query you’re using and the best results to provide.

When I searched for airline tickets, Google provided a quick and accessible way to make a purchase based on my transactional query.

When you’re creating long-form blog articles, you are most likely targeting informational queries. These informational queries often bring up blog articles. (Transactional queries, by contrast, usually bring up product pages.)

But we still need to understand the following: What does user intent have to do with conversions?

The answer lies within the buying funnel.

The buying funnel is a model that marketers use to demonstrate how users get around to purchasing something.

The iterations of the buying funnel are many. But the basic idea is this:

  1. The prospect becomes aware of the product.
  2. The prospect begins to consider, research, or compare different products.
  3. The prospect makes their decision and buys the product.

Congrats! The prospect has become a customer.

This is what the funnel looks like:

You, as a marketer or website owner, are targeting an individual within the second phase of the funnel—research and comparison.

Notice that the research phase is part of the user’s buying funnel. The information they find based on their query and intent can lead to a purchase.

Your content gives the user what they want.

They want detailed information? They want to hear a solution? They want a helpful discussion?

Enter your content, which satisfies their intent.

Such content can eventually lead to a purchase.

That’s why I recommend you deliver content aligned with user intent.

A simpler way to say it is this: Figure out what the customer wants, and give it to them.

Remember, at this point the person typing in a query is not a paying customer. They are an individual looking for information.

If they trust your website and content, they will move closer to becoming a customer—to converting on your content.

Keep in mind you should not expect to gain conversions simply on account of content that satisfies user intent. As I’ll explain below, you should also make it easy for users to convert.

Let me give you an example of how this process works in real life.

Let’s pretend you want to understand SEO. You type in “how to do SEO.” That’s an informational query.

You are not a customer, but you are in the awareness/research phase of a typical purchase.

This is what you might see in the search results:

The first result from Moz looks hopeful, so you click on it.

You see a comprehensive guide that “covers the fundamental strategies that make your websites search-engine-friendly.”

This is what you’re looking for! Your intent has been satisfied by this comprehensive long-form content.

This feeling of satisfaction is important because it has now prepared you to convert on a call to action.

Let’s take a look at what that might mean.

First, you might be likely to click the yellow button, “Start My Free 30-Day Trial.”

Perhaps, you see this call to action in the sidebar as you’re reading the content.

Or you may want to subscribe to Moz’s Top 10.

Moz creates content that satisfies a user’s intent. Then, they provide an easy way for users to convert on that content.

How do you figure out user intent on your website?

One of the most straightforward methods is to use Google Search Console.

(If you do not have GSC set up on your site, please refer to this guide from Google on how to get started.)

  • Log in to your GSC account.
  • Click “Search Traffic.”
  • Click “Search Analytics.”

Search Analytics provides a variety of keyword data with configuration options not easily accessible in Google Analytics.

Turn on “Clicks,” “CTR,” and “Position” by clicking the checkboxes:

Next, sort the results by position so you can find out what queries you are ranking for. Click “Position” in the results table:

In the table, look for queries that have a CTR (click-through rate) of 30% or above.

This means that 30%+ of the users who typed in a given query clicked on your results when they appeared in Google. We can safely assume these users are interested in your content.

For this website, I notice that a high percentage of users are clicking on the result for “django benefits.”

The query is django benefits. This is an informational query.

To satisfy user intent, I should provide comprehensive information on that topic.

You can visit the SERP the query directs to by clicking the icon next to the query.

From there, you can navigate to the relevant page on your website.

This foundational technique is helpful. If you give users the kind of content they want (their intent), you will provide a way for them to convert.

But that brings us to a really important point: How do you get them to convert?

The remainder of this article will show you some super practical ways to score those conversions.

Content is king. Keywords are necessary. User intent is important.

But what about the actual conversions?

Create a low-barrier-to-entry conversion action

So far, we’re driving relevant traffic to your page.

Now that we have those readers, we want them to convert.

The definition of conversion is pretty simple:

“The point at which a recipient of a marketing message performs a desired action.”

When you ask for a conversion, you’re not asking your blog reader to pull out their credit card and give you their money. You’re simply asking them to take the next logical step.

Often, this is an easy, low-cost, and logical way to take the relationship to the next level.

Here are some common conversion actions. Notice that each of these takes a few seconds and clicks:

  • Email subscription
  • Free trial
  • Download a resource
  • Facebook like
  • Twitter follow
  • LinkedIn follow
  • Pinterest follow
  • Instagram follow
  • Google Plus circle
  • YouTube subscription
  • Slideshare subscription

Let’s take a look at a few of these. Each of these are located on a long-form blog article.

The Content Marketing Institute invites you to subscribe to their mailing list and to read their e-book. This is an example of conversion action that includes email subscription and downloading a resource:

Buffer invites you to get started with a free account. The header pictured below is persistent, meaning you’ll always see it as you scroll through the article:

The Optimizely blog invites you to get a copy of their customer stories:

The Marketing Sherpa blog uses a shadowbox popup to invite you to subscribe to their mailing list:

Qualaroo uses a “Start Free Trial” button in their header:

Kissmetrics asks you to try their SaaS:

Invitations to social accounts are so common that it’s easy to overlook them.

In the Kissmetrics screenshot above, you can see a list of social icons on the right side.

The Content Marketing Institute uses an entire section on their sidebar to ask for social connection:

Each of these conversion actions is simple, easy, and painless.

That’s what you want to do. You want to make it easy for the reader to become a regular.

Here are some rules of thumb for effective low-barrier conversion actions:

1. If you use a form, limit it to three fields

I suggest only one field (an email address) if possible, but this depends on the product you’re selling.

SumoMe asks for only a user’s email address:

For creating an account—a different purpose—they’ve included three fields on the form:

It’s still easy, fast, and effective.

2. Make it appealing and persuasive

Don’t lie, cheat, or steal when you’re asking for a conversion. Just be honest and ask for what you want.

The right kind of users want to convert. But sometimes, it takes a little persuasion and some good old-fashioned appeal.

Here’s an example.

If you read my blog, you’ve probably seen this little box:

I’ve put that call-to-action box in my content because I want to persuade you to get your website analyzed.

You have a choice. I’m not twisting your arm.

But I am trying to persuade you.

And the reason I keep using that box is because it’s working!

3. Ask for what you want

You know the expression “ask and you shall receive.”

It’s true in online marketing.

Asking for the user to convert is a gift. They want to do it.

All you have to do is ask.

A business that uses free consults as part of its sales cycle should offer the user a free consultation. Here’s an example:

A company that provides heat mapping analytics should ask users to create a heatmap, like this:

A chiropractor can offer users a free exam and x-ray:

The conversion action you choose depends on what you’re trying to accomplish.

All you have to do is ask for it.

Give in-your-face levels of value

I don’t know what business you are running.

  • Maybe you’re starting an e-commerce website.
  • Maybe you’ve created a SaaS and want to sell it.
  • Maybe you’re doing marketing for a startup.
  • Maybe you’re running a side hustle.
  • Maybe you’re blogging your heart out and hoping it will pay off.

But whoever you are and whatever you’re doing, this is my plea.

Give value. Metric tons of value. Dump trucks full of value. Warehouses of value.

You believe in the product you are selling. You believe the world needs it. You believe there are people whose lives you can improve.

Do you want them to see it?

Then give it to them straight. Go for in-your-face levels of value.

You should offer so much value that the user can’t help but accept it.

Your goal as a marketer isn’t to take. Your goal as a marketer is to give. You want to provide an enormous amount of value free of charge.

That’s what I mean by “in-your-face.” It’s all about the sheer amount of value you deliver.

The website ConversionXL is recognized for actionable, data-driven, highly-researched long-form content.

When you visit the blog, here’s what you see:

They are asking you to subscribe.

This is good. Because they are offering insane amounts of value!

And that is why I recommend in-your-face techniques. Value, value, value.

It’s one thing to praise the in-your-face marketing methods, and it’s quite another to actually implement them.

Conclusion

Getting more conversions sounds simple.

Put up a form field!

Add a button!

Use a popup!

Those are fine methods. I’ve used all of them.

But getting conversions requires a lot more than just techniques. It requires a strategy.

That strategy is built on long-form content, enhanced by long-tail keywords, and maximized by giving people value.

Using this method for getting conversions is virtually guaranteed to work!

What are some strategic methods you’ve used to increase conversions on your long-form content?

You Can Use 404s to Boost Your SEO. Here’s How.

The dreaded 404 error page.

We’ve all encountered it at some point.

And in my opinion, there’s no bigger buzzkill than getting hit with a 404 error when browsing a site.

You’re right in the middle of exploring interesting content, and all of a sudden, you’re thrown a curveball.

If you’re not sure what a 404 page is, let’s look at a formal definition.

According to Google,

A 404 page is what a user sees when they try to reach a non-existent page on your site (because they’ve clicked on a broken link, the page has been deleted or they’ve mistyped a URL).

Here’s what an ugly, generic 404 looks like:

Not too flattering, huh?

But you can pretty them up, like I did on Quick Sprout:

You’ve seen 404s. You’ve cursed 404s. And your site might even have 404s.

The problem with 404s

What’s the big deal with 404s?

Are they really that bad?

First off, let me make something clear.

Every site will get some 404s, and it’s okay! 404s happen when people—your potential site visitors— type in the wrong URL.

For example, if I type in “businessinsider.com” in my browser and continue typing gibberish, I’ll get a 404.

It’s not Business Insider’s fault I got a 404. It’s my fault.

You’ll never be able to eliminate 404s completely.

But there are some 404s that are within your control and which you do need to pay attention to.

Here’s why.

If a user encounters a web server issue such as a 404 page, they’re highly likely to hit the back button and return to the search engine.

When your visitors do this en mass, it creates a phenomenon called “pogo sticking,” which looks like this:

This is a problem because it tells Google that your content isn’t adding value for a particular keyword query.

If this happens enough, you’re likely to see a drop in rankings.

Not cool.

The inevitability of 404s

As I mentioned above, 404s are going to happen. It’s not if but when your visitors will encounter them.

Many 404s won’t be your fault. But some will be your fault, and it’s hard to control them. Even if you’re an amazing SEO or webmaster, some will slip through the cracks.

And the bigger your site is, the more 404s you’ll have.

One of the leading causes of 404s is broken links.

Websites change. Links point nowhere. And 404s happen.

In fact, some huge websites can acquire up to 10 new broken links every day.

Just look at the number of broken links found on some of the world’s top websites:

If it happens to behemoths like Cisco and Apple, you can bet it’s going to happen to you.

And as I mentioned earlier, broken links are just one reason behind 404s. Other times, it’s simply due to a visitor mistyping a URL.

The bottom line is that 404s are inevitable, and you need an effective way to deal with them.

What’s the solution?

It’s actually pretty simple.

You need to create a customized, branded 404 page.

Here’s a good a example of one from MailChimp:

Here’s another from Hootsuite:

Think about it.

Would you rather get hit with an ugly, generic 404 or one that’s well-designed and cleverly branded?

I’d bet most people would opt for the latter.

But that’s just part of it.

Although these 404 pages are cute, they won’t do anything for your SEO.

Use 404s for good

What you want to do is not only stop 404s from hurting your SEO but use them to boost your SEO.

But doesn’t that seem a little counterintuitive? How in the world can 404s be beneficial to SEO?

Here’s what you do.

Create a custom 404 page with a branded design, like the ones from MailChimp and Hootsuite, and add several internal links to it.

I like to shoot for anywhere between 25 to 50 links.

Bam!

Instead of leaving your site in a hurry, visitors will be encouraged to check out more content and keep browsing.

Assuming the links you provide lead to engaging, helpful content, many visitors will stick around for awhile and work themselves deeper into your sales funnel.

In terms of SEO value, this reduces any pogo sticking from taking place and supplies your site with more SEO juice. Rather than 404s being a detriment to your SEO, they actually become an asset.

You’re basically turning a negative into a positive—pretty sweet.

And there are several other benefits as well:

  • You’re far less likely to annoy your visitors
  • It can increase your brand equity
  • You can increase the average amount of time spent on your site
  • You can reduce your bounce rate
  • Visitors are more likely to check out additional content
  • In the long run, this should have a positive impact on conversions and sales

In many ways, a customized 404 page with internal links is like an SEO magic bullet.

It can do much good without much effort on your part.

Specific strategies and examples

Now that we’ve established that adding internal links is the technique you want to implement, let’s get into the specifics of it.

One way to implement this strategy is to link to some of your most popular posts as well as your homepage.

Even Google suggests doing this:

I recommend looking over your analytics to see which posts received the most engagement (clicks, shares, comments, and so on).

Then include these on your 404 page.

Doing so can increase the number of pages on your site that get indexed, boosting your SEO.

And it totally works.

In fact, I used this very strategy a few years back when I was working with TechCrunch.

Within 30 days, I was able to boost their search traffic considerably (9% to be exact).

Add a search bar

This is an incredibly simple feature, but it’s one that can have a tremendous impact.

According to Econsultancy,

…conversion rates through site search can be up to 50% higher than the average. Visitors converted at 4.63% versus the websites’ average of 2.77%, which is 1.8 times more effective. Consequently, visitors using search contributed 13.8% of the revenues.

In other words, “People who use search are more likely to purchase.”

Try to put yourself in a visitor’s shoes for a second.

They arrive on your site and are looking for information on a particular topic or product.

They stumble upon a roadblock with an unanticipated 404 page.

Rather than leaving annoyed, they can simply look up whatever interests them in the search box.

Voila! They instantly find other valuable content to quench their thirst.

Twitter pulls this off well on its 404 page:

So does GitHub:

Add links to products

Let’s say you run an e-commerce store.

One way you can improve the customer shopping experience is to link to other areas of your website.

More specifically, you can create links based around different product categories.

Here’s a really good example from ModCloth, a women’s fashion store:

Not only does this improve SEO and keep visitors happy, it facilitates a smoother shopping experience and should improve conversions as well.

Talk about turning lemons into lemonade!

Include a link to your sitemap

I’m sure you’re at least somewhat familiar with sitemaps and how they affect SEO.

If you’re not, here’s a screenshot of some of the key benefits of SEO according to OnCrawl:

Why not include a link to your sitemap?

That’s what Starbucks did:

And its 404 page turned out looking great.

Here’s one last little tip

Be sure to explain what went wrong.

I’ve found this helps reduce user frustration.

I know I feel some sort of relief when I simply know what’s going on.

This 404 page from X-Cart does a great job of this:

Notice there’s no crazy jargon.

In plain English, it explains some of the possible reasons for the 404 error you’ve encountered on their site.

How to create a customized 404 page

Now that we’ve established just how beneficial a personalized 404 page can be for SEO, this brings us to one important question.

How the heck do you create one?

As you well know, I’m a huge fan of WordPress.

It truly is a godsend for anyone who wants to create a beautiful, professional looking website but doesn’t know much about coding.

I suggest using the 404page plugin for WordPress.

It’s a one-stop-shop for creating a basic 404 page.

You can customize it and include whatever information you’d like to share with visitors who encounter your 404.

The best part is you don’t need to have any programming skills to use it.

However, if you want your 404 page to be super specialized and brand-centric, you may want to shell out the cash to hire a professional developer.

If you’ve got the budget and want it to look uber-professional, this is usually the best route to take.

You can find skilled developers through sites such as Guru and Upwork.

Many are more affordable than you might think.

Conclusion

The way I look at it, 404s are an unpleasnt yet unavoidable part of running a website.

Of course, you can use tools like the Online Broken Link Checker, but you’ll still have issues at some point.

And even if you somehow manage to catch all the broken links, visitors will still mistype URLs.

The best way to handle 404s is to customize them and incorporate relevant internal links.

A customized 404 page will not only protect your SEO from harm but also improve it.

Not to mention that it makes for a much more satisfying user experience.

To learn more about the broad spectrum of 404 pages, check out this post I wrote on NeilPatel.com.

Are you persuaded to keep exploring a site if it has a helpful 404 page?

How to Create a Trust Seal on Your Checkout Page

Trust is everything.

If you can’t earn consumers’ trust, you’re fighting a losing battle.

And what’s a specific area that makes many consumers wary?

That’s simple. It’s the way in which businesses handle payment information.

In fact, a lack of trust in credit card processing is one of the top reasons for checkout abandonment.

Research from the Baymard Institute found that “18% of American shoppers abandon the checkout because they don’t trust the website with their credit card information.”

This means you can kiss one out of every five shoppers goodbye.

And I totally get it.

I completely understand why some shoppers feel uncomfortable sharing their credit card information.

Identity theft and cyber crime are on the rise. This is people’s money and identity we’re talking about! I don’t blame people for being super cautious.

A study from Javelin Strategy & Research found that identity fraud hit a record high in 2016.

More specifically,

$16 billion was stolen from 15.4 million U.S. consumers in 2016, compared with $15.3 billion and 13.1 million victims a year earlier.

In the past six years, identity theft thieves have stolen over $107 billion.

Here’s what that looks like in graphs:

It has become a serious problem.

If you haven’t been the victim of identity theft yourself, there’s a good chance you know someone who has.

Just look at the increase in the number of identity theft and fraud complaints between 2012 and 2015:

This means one thing.

Most people don’t want to hand over their credit card information to just anyone.

They want to know for sure that the company they’re doing business with is taking every possible security precaution to ensure that their sensitive information doesn’t wind up in the wrong hands.

And I definitely understand where they’re coming from.

I know I avoid doing business with any website that looks sketchy and where security could be a potential issue.

In fact, I’ve found myself abandoning the checkout page several times on account of this.

It’s just not worth the risk.

How can you gain the trust of your online shoppers?

This puts modern business owners in a bit of a quandary.

You need to come up with an effective way to put shoppers’ minds at ease and let them know they’re in good hands when they do business with you.

What can you do?

There are several factors that shoppers take into consideration when determining whether or not they trust a particular website.

Some examples include:

  • How professional the site looks
  • How quickly it loads
  • Whether a trusted friend or colleague has used the site before
  • Whether the site contains well-known brands or products
  • Whether it has easy-to-find contact information

But there’s one factor that reassures shoppers above all else.

And that’s a trust seal.

In fact,

a survey conducted by Econsultancy/Toluna confirmed the power of trust seals when it asked participants which factors help them to decide whether or not to trust a website.

Just think about it.

How many times have you had your fears or doubts quelled when you saw a trust seal when you’re checking out?

I know this puts me at ease.

And there’s evidence that shows just how big of an impact trust seals can have.

Research on trust seals

This great article from ConversionXL tackles the topic of checkout optimization and the way trust seals affect security perception.

The post includes data from a study that used eye tracking to determine the exact impact trust seals have.

Here’s a screenshot of what this study entailed:

Participants then saw one of the following six trust seals:

As you can see, there are trust seals from several notable companies such as McAfee, PayPal, the BBB, and so on.

And here are the observational patterns (the patterns respondents’ eyes followed):

By examining these findings, it’s easy to see that trust seals are huge.

After shoppers initially look at the logo and “payment method” section, their eyes inevitably shift to the trust seal at the bottom.

This goes to show that it’s an integral factor in whether a shopper decides to go through with the checkout process and actually make a purchase.

It makes sense that displaying a trust seal on your checkout page will increase trust, thereby boosting your conversion rate.

Are some trust seals more trusted than others?

You may be wondering whether shoppers respond more favorably to certain trust seals than others.

This chart shows us the specifics:

As you can see, the “PayPal Verified” seal was noticed the most, at 67%.

This was followed by the “Google Trusted Store” seal at 63% and “Norton Secured” seal at 59%.

It’s also important to note that survey respondents remembered certain trust seals more than others:

However, ConversionXL reports that the differences were fairly minimal.

According to them,

it’s clear that there weren’t huge differences between trust seals. Using eye tracking, we confirmed that all trust seals are equally noticeable.

In other words, it doesn’t make a massive difference which specific trust seal you use.

As long as you have one from a fairly reputable company, it should have a positive impact in terms of gaining the trust of your shoppers.

If you haven’t yet installed a trust seal on your checkout page, I highly recommend that you do so immediately.

This can have a tremendous impact on your conversion rate and overall revenue.

Want proof?

Look no further than a split test performed by Blue Fountain Media.

Here’s what their original checkout page looked like before they added a trust seal:

Here’s their checkout page with a Verisign seal:

Guess what impact this had?

Sales increased by a whopping 42%!

Notice that nothing else on the page changed—except for the “Your Privacy” section, which got replaced by the Verisign seal.

This isn’t to say that your sales will instantly jump up by 42%, but I can pretty much guarantee some type of increase.

Just imagine what a trust seal could do for your long-term profits—it could be major.

How do you create a trust seal?

Here’s how the general process works.

  1. You choose a company, such as McAfee or Norton, and choose the plan you want (some basic plans are free, and more robust plans cost money).
  2. They perform testing on your site.
  3. Assuming everything looks good and your site passes the test, they will certify your site.
  4. You install the trust seal.
  5. It appears on your checkout page, and you’re good to go.

Of course, this is an oversimplification of things, so let me walk you through the process step by step.

I’ll just use McAfee as an example because I’m familiar with it.

The specific steps may vary slightly depending on the security company you choose, but the overall process should be basically the same.

Step #1 – Sign up

Visit McAfee SECURE to check out plans and pricing.

In the case of McAfee, it’s very straightforward.

There are two plans to choose from: “Free” and “Pro.”

Here’s how the two plans break down:

FYI, “Pro” costs $29 per month as I’m writing this.

Next, install the McAfee SECURE plugin on WordPress.

You can find it by searching the “Plugins” section of your WordPress dashboard:

Click on “Add New:”

Now type in “McAfee” in the “Search Plugins” search box:

Here we go:

Click on “Install Now:”

Then “Activate:”

Once you’ve activated the plugin, visit Settings > McAfee Secure to configure it.

You’ll see this screen:

Fill out the information:

At this point, McAfee will run some tests on your site:

Because you’ve already installed the McAfee SECURE plugin, the trust seal will automatically appear on your site.

That’s it.

It’s really quite easy.

As long as your website passes, you’ll have a trust seal installed on your checkout page in no time.

If you would like to see a video tutorial on this process, check out this post from WPBeginner.

Conclusion

Online security has arguably never been more important than it is today.

And the fear and skepticism so many people have is by no means unfounded.

They have a very good reason to be concerned and even a little paranoid.

As a business owner, you must address these concerns and put your customers’ minds at ease.

People want to know they’re not putting themselves at unnecessary risk by completing a transaction on your website.

According to research, one of the best ways to do this is by installing a trust seal on your checkout page.

This lets shoppers know that your site has been thoroughly tested and meets today’s security standards.

As a result, they can complete a purchase with confidence, which should bring about a higher conversion rate and an overall increase in customer satisfaction.

Fortunately, installing a trust seal on your checkout page is fairly simple, and some basic plans can be set up for free.

Find the security company that’s the best fit for you and complete the necessary steps to have a trust seal installed.

How big of a factor is a trust seal when you’re deciding whether you want to complete a transaction?

How to Tell a Gripping Story on Your About Page

Your About page.

It’s one of those requisite elements of your website that’s easy to overlook.

But really, is it even that big of a deal?

How many visitors will actually take the time to check out your About page?

Well, here’s an interesting statistic.

According to a study from KoMarketing, “52% of your visitors want to see an About page.”

Without one, you’re instantly creating some distance between your company and over half of your visitors.

That’s why an About page is more important than you may think.

And here’s something else I’ve noticed.

A lot of brands (even some of the bigger ones) lack in the About page department.

Some fail to include an About page altogether, and others halfheartedly slap one together without putting any real thought into it.

Such About pages often miss the mark, which throws a wrench in the overall sales funnel.

I want to be fair and say that not everyone needs an About page. But most companies, individuals, and websites do. It’s a standard thing to do.

And it can be really valuable. As long as you do it right!

For this post, I would like to discuss A) the importance of a well-crafted About page, B) what goes into a well-crafted About page, and C) how to tell a gripping story on your About page that will resonate with your visitors.

Redefining an About page

First of all, let’s start with a formal definition of an About page.

According to Your Dictionary, it’s

a type of web page commonly seen on websites, containing general information about the person or organization that is responsible for the website in question, usually a description of the site’s history and mission or purpose.

Most people probably would say this definition is spot on.

But in my opinion, it has one fatal flaw.

It talks about only the person/organization and doesn’t address the needs or concerns of visitors.

Of course, you’ll want to talk about your company, its history, philosophy, values, achievements, etc.

But there’s more.

A great About page will answer some major questions for your visitors.

What types of questions should I answer?

Copyblogger nails it in this article.

Here’s their take on things.

Some of your visitors’ unanswered questions are:

  • What’s in this for me?
  • Am I in the right place?
  • Can this person help me with my problem?

Don’t send your readers screaming for the exit by talking only about yourself. Instead, make them want to pull up a chair, chat with you a while, and keep in touch long after the party.

How many times have you clicked on an About page only to hear a company ramble on about how awesome they are without ever answering any of the pressing questions of their visitors?

I see it happen all the time.

What you should aim for

The point I’m trying to make here is that the term About page can be a little misleading.

It shouldn’t be just about you. It should be about your audience as well.

And now, here’s my formula for telling a gripping story.

Know thy customer

I’m sure you’ve heard the Ancient Greek aphorism “know thyself.”

It speaks to the importance of an examined life.

But when it comes to an About page, you want to thoroughly know your customer.

And I’m not talking just about gender, income level, education, etc.

You need to know where your average person is at in the sales funnel.

And if they’re looking at your About page, it’s safe to say they’re in the earlier stages of the sales funnel.

The large majority will be prospects with some level of interest and minimal awareness of your brand.

Most are looking to become more familiar with you.

Not only do they want to know more about your product/service, many want to know if you share their values and beliefs.

Try to put yourself in the shoes of an average prospect and figure out what specific information they’re seeking.

This will guide your efforts.

Start with a killer headline

Your headline is everything.

If it pops, visitors will want to read on.

If it sucks, many will leave never to return.

What makes a great headline?

As I mentioned in another article on NeilPatel.com, you should make your headline simple, clear, and benefit-driven.

Here’s a good example from Yellow Leaf Hammocks:

You can instantly get a sense of what’s being offered and the benefits. In this case, high-quality, comfy hammocks.

Here’s another good example from Gini Dietrich:

Be authentic and transparent

You want to be professional with your About page. That’s a given.

But some brands are overdoing it to the point of sounding stiff and almost robotic.

Unless you’re in a super formal industry (e.g., you’re a lawyer or an insurance broker), I think it’s a good idea to “let your hair down” a little.

Paint a realistic picture of what your company is and what you do.

If you’re snarky, be snarky. If you’re quirky, be quirky.

No matter how teched out we get, business is still ultimately founded on people buying from other people.

And they naturally want to do business with someone they like and trust.

Authenticity and transparency are two major elements in gaining that trust.

I think that Pete Adeny (a.k.a. Mr. Money Mustache) does a great job of doing this on his About page:

His page instantly allows his readers to get a sense of who he is, his philosophy, and his sense of humor.

Provide a brief but compelling back story

You don’t need (or even want) to go into elaborate detail, but I recommend giving visitors an idea of where you came from and how your company came to be.

In other words, tell them your brand’s story.

For instance, on NeilPatel.com, I explain how I started my first website at the age of 16 and how I was disillusioned with the first marketing firm I hired.

That (and being broke) was the catalyst for me learning marketing.

I also mention some of my first clients and how my initial results helped me realize the power of marketing.

Just touch on some of the key points of your development that show prospects how you got to where you’re today.

Here’s how Dollar Shave Club does this with its own signature brand of humor:

Be clear about your values

This is a biggie.

You want to offer insight into your company culture and what distinguishes your brand from the rest of the pack.

Yellow Leaf Hammock pulls this off flawlessly as well:

As you can see, there’s a strong emphasis on being socially conscious, sustainable, and adventurous.

Wild Friends Foods effectively conveys its values as well:

The bottom line is to show visitors what you believe in.

Answer these 3 questions

As I mentioned earlier, most visitors will have three main questions:

  • What’s in it for me?
  • Am I in the right place?
  • Can this person help me with my problem?

This is where a lot of About pages drop the ball.

You’ve talked about YOU.

Now, you need to explain how you can help THEM (your visitors).

Allow me to use my approach as an example.

On the About page of NeilPatel.com, I mention that I’ve helped huge companies such as Google and Viacom.

But I also point out that one of my biggest passions is helping small businesses succeed.

That right there answers the first two questions.

If a small business owner seeking help with their marketing visits my website, they can instantly see they’re in the right place and that I can help them increase their sales.

Later on, I point out that marketing doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult and that there’s a proven formula that gets results.

Since not having the financial means or marketing knowledge is a common problem for many small businesses, I quell their skepticism and let them know that I can, in fact, help them with their problems.

Regardless of your industry and your product/service, answering those three questions is your means of making the necessary connection that gets visitors interested and motivated to take action.

Exploring alternative formats

Here’s the beautiful thing about an About page.

You don’t have to limit yourself to any traditional format.

You’re completely free to use whatever format or combination of formats you want.

In fact, I skip the conventional text-based format altogether and use a brief video to explain myself on NeilPatel.com:

Moz uses an illustrated timeline to tell its history:

Don’t feel you have to stick with the same old tried-and-true formula companies have been using since the 90s.

If you’re looking for some inspiration, check out this post from Search Engine Journal.

It features 25 creative and engaging About pages that can get some ideas flowing.

Conclusion

Let’s recap.

An About page isn’t just about your brand. It also needs to be about your audience and how you can solve their pain points.

You must address their needs and concerns and position your brand as a trustworthy resource so they can feel comfortable doing business with you.

The key elements of your story should include:

  • A killer headline
  • A brief back story
  • Your values
  • Answers to visitors’ three big questions

It’s also important to customize your About page in a way that’s interesting and that represents your brand.

Often this means experimenting with different formats.

By hitting all the right notes, you can establish instant rapport, build trust, and motivate visitors to browse the rest of your site.

When it’s all said and done, this can positively impact multiple metrics, such as increasing the average time spent on site, lowering your bounce rate, and improving conversions.

What do you think is the most important element of an About page?

Don’t Kill Your Audience’s Vibe with These Content Marketing Turn-Offs

As of 2017, the overwhelming majority (89%) of B2B marketers use content marketing in some form.

 

As you can imagine, how well marketers execute their campaigns varies quite a bit.

Or, as The Content Marketing Institute would put it, there are differences in “content marketing maturity levels.”

As you can see, a fairly small number (28%) would be considered either mature or sophisticated.

The rest could definitely use some improvement, and there’s a lot of room for growth for many content marketers.

One thing I’ve noticed (especially when it comes to those new to the game) is that many brands engage in tactics that could be considered turn-offs.

This doesn’t necessarily mean being unethical or using black-hat techniques.

It means unknowingly using tactics that annoy site visitors and slowly but surely drive a wedge between the company and its audience.

At best, this results in diminished engagement, a lower follower count, etc.

At worst, it can lead to dwindling traffic numbers, fewer leads, decreased sales, and diluted brand equity.

The bottom line is you don’t want to kill your audience’s vibe with content marketing turn-offs.

Here are some common mistakes I see marketers make and how to avoid them.

Fatiguing your audience

The amount of content on the Internet is mind-boggling.

According to Marketing Profs, roughly two million blog posts are written every single day.

If you really want to get a sense of how much content is being created, check out Every Second on the Internet. It’ll really put this phenomenon into perspective.

Here’s the thing.

Everyone is trying to outdo one another to claim their piece of the pie and get traffic.

What’s the result?

Many content marketers are grinding out content.

They have the mindset that if they slap up enough content, the leads will come.

They end up flooding their blogs with mediocre content and their social media followers’ feeds with sub-par updates.

This all results in one thing. Content fatigue.

They fatigue their audiences as well as themselves in the process.

Don’t get me wrong. Fresh content is great.

Of course, you want to post new content consistently.

But I know I feel overwhelmed when someone I follow is constantly blasting me with new content just for the sake of having new content.

I don’t have the time to consume it all.

What I suggest is to chill out with the frequency of your content creation.

Don’t worry so much about constantly populating your blog and social media with new content.

Instead, focus on creating fewer but higher quality pieces.

Try to find the sweet spot between updating your content regularly and giving your audience time to catch their breath.

The sweet spot will differ depending on the nature of your brand and the platform you’re using. Finding it requires a certain level of experimentation on your end.

I also suggest checking out this post from Buffer for advice on this topic. It will give you a better idea of how much you should be posting and how much is too much.

Being too content-centric

I love this graphic that illustrates the difference between being content-centric and audience-centric:

The difference between the two is to whom your content caters: yourself or your audience.

Here’s an example.

Let’s say your brand is passionate about obscure industry trends, so you frequently write about these topics.

That’s all well and good, but if those topics don’t resonate with your audience, you’re unlikely to gain any real traction.

It’s a fairly widespread issue, considering that creating more engaging content is a top priority for 73% of content creators.

Over time, being too content-centric will minimize the impact of your campaign.

It hinders engagement, lowers readership, and gradually drives your audience away.

Make sure you’re on the audience-centric side of the spectrum— not the content-centric.

How do you accomplish this?

Two words: qualitative research.

If you’re unfamiliar with this term, let’s start with a definition:

Qualitative research is designed to reveal a target audience’s range of behavior and the perceptions that drive it with reference to specific topics or issues. It uses in-depth studies of small groups of people to guide and support the construction of hypotheses.

Rather than merely observing what’s happening, qualitative research seeks to understand why it’s happening.

This type of research enables you to put yourself in your audience’s shoes and be highly informed when creating your content.

I’m not going to launch into a long-winded discussion of every facet of qualitative research, but let me offer a few key strategies:

  • Ask your blog readers what topics they would like you to cover.
  • Use analytics to identify content trends. See which posts are getting more traffic and engagement.
  • See which keywords your visitors are searching before landing on your blog.
  • Pay close attention to readers’ comments. Look for direct feedback. Note the number of comments on a post—it’s usually indicative of interest level.
  • Check your social media analytics. See what types of content are getting the biggest response.

I also recommend checking out two specific posts on this topic:

Go Beyond Analytics to Give Customers the Content They Crave from The Content Marketing Institute.

Find Out What Your Audience Wants Using Qualitative Research from Positionly.

Being pretentious

Does your content consist of a steady stream of douchey buzzwords and complicated industry jargon only a handful of individuals will actually understand?

If so, this is guaranteed to turn off your audience.

Don’t get me wrong.

You want to come across as being intelligent, knowledgeable, and generally knowing your stuff.

But I feel there’s a fine line between being smart and being pretentious.

It can be an issue especially for certain industries such as medical, legal, and finance, where complex subjects are routinely discussed.

If you’re not careful, you can easily launch into some needlessly complicated rant and lose the majority of your audience.

It makes you appear insincere, alienates your audience, and makes it much more difficult to get your point across.

To be totally honest, I have been guilty of it myself at certain times.

However, it’s something I seriously strive to avoid these days.

What’s the solution?

First, try to stick with a natural, conversational tone when it comes to your content.

I try to approach it as if I’m sitting down with someone face-to-face and having a conversation.

That seems to work for me.

Also, don’t try to jam-pack your content with big words just for the sake of using big words.

Always look for the most direct way to say something without using needless buzzwords and industry jargon.

I also recommend asking yourself the following questions when proofreading your content:

  • Will my average reader understand what I’m saying?
  • Am I writing in my own—unique—voice?
  • Can I simplify what I’ve written?
  • Did I use any overly annoying buzzwords?

Always going for the sale

Ever feel like a sleazy used car salesman when creating content?

It’s not a good path to be on.

In fact, this is perhaps the number one way to turn off would-be readers and lose the readers you’ve currently got.

No one wants to be bombarded with “Buy Now!” messages when they’re trying to kick back and read some content.

It’s distracting and detracts from the overall user experience.

Here’s the thing about content marketing.

It’s one of the more long-term inbound strategies.

It doesn’t typically involve going for an instant sale.

Content marketing is about building relationships, creating rapport with your audience, and establishing trust over time.

The mentality is that if you take the time to create awesome content that’s genuinely useful, you’ll be primed to make a larger volume of sales down the road.

Therefore, it’s important to have the right mindset when approaching your content.

Here are a few techniques that I recommend:

  • Avoid using interstitials on your website. Google actually started penalizing certain sites that use them.
  • Place your focus on educating rather than selling. Believe me. If you educate your audience and solve a problem for them, the sales will follow.
  • Don’t plug your business or include a CTA until the end of your content.
  • Work on building rapport and establishing trust before asking your audience to buy anything.

Conclusion

Content marketing has been proven to be less costly and get more leads than outbound marketing.

It also tends to yield higher conversion rates.

But using the wrong tactics and not understanding what your audience does and doesn’t want can marginalize the impact of your campaign.

You don’t want to kill their vibe unwittingly and create a rift between your brand and your audience.

But steering clear of the issues I mentioned above should prevent any missteps on your end and lead to deeper relationships and a more receptive audience.

What’s your number one content marketing turn-off?

If You Give Away Your Best Content, Your Business Will Grow by 290%

If you give it away—offer it free—they will come.

This should perhaps be the quote to encompass the business model of freeconomics.

It’s a model that involves giving away your best content.

Believe it or not, more and more companies are integrating and seeing amazing results with freeconomics today.

At first thought, it may seem ludicrous.

I mean, how can you expect to turn a profit if you’re getting no direct return on your content?

You’re spending loads of time and exerting a ton of energy to earn a big fat $0.00.

It just doesn’t make sense.

But when you look at the big picture, giving away your best content—offering it free—makes total sense.

It’s a catalyst for business growth, and I’ve even had clients who’ve grown their businesses by as much as 290% by going this route.

Allow me to explain.

How content impacts a buyer’s decision

Seldom do today’s consumers whip out their credit cards and blindly make a purchase.

No, most perform a considerable amount of research beforehand.

Besides researching the product itself, many consumers want to know more about the company behind the product.

They want to be sure that the company is legit, knows its stuff, and is trustworthy.

But how do they learn more about a company?

Besides simply reading the About page on the company’s website, consumers look at content.

In fact, Demand Gen Report found

47% of buyers viewed three to five pieces of content before engaging with a sales rep.

The report also discovered that

51% of B2B buyers rely more on content to research and make B2B purchasing decisions than they did a year ago.

This means that content has become an integral part of the buying process, and it’s now a trend that’s likely to continue growing.

By making your best content easily accessible to your audience, you can pull more leads into your sales funnel, which should eventually increase sales.

To gate, or not to gate?

This is a question posed by Vertical Response in an article discussing the benefits of giving away content.

By gate, they mean putting an obstacle in front of content (e.g., filling out a form to get it).

In this article, they point out two specific instances when not gating your content is a smart business decision.

Point #1

Internationally acclaimed marketing and sales strategist David Meerman Scott says that according to his statistics,

a white paper or eBook will be downloaded 20 times and up to 50 times more without a gate in front of it.

And why wouldn’t it?

By removing the gate and making content accessible to everyone free, you’ll naturally generate more downloads.

Point #2

Joe Pulizzi is the founder of the Content Marketing Institute and one of the most respected names in content marketing.

Here’s a quote from Joe regarding gated and non-gated content:

Let’s say you received 1,000 leads via your white paper download. From David’s numbers, let’s even take a more conservative 10x more downloads if we remove the gate.

This would give us 10,000 downloads with no lead data. Of all those people, let’s say that 1 percent would share this with their audiences (with a VERY conservative audience of 100 people, although most blogs get much more).

With those numbers, the total possible content reach for gated content would be 2,000 people. Non-gated content would be 20,000 people.

When you break it down, you see that gating the content would result in 2,000 people viewing the content, and not gating it would result in 20,000.

By simply giving it away, you’re theoretically getting ten times the leads.

Just think of the impact on your sales figures!

In it for the long haul

Here’s the thing with freeconomics and giving away your content.

There’s no immediate payoff.

It’s intrinsically a long-term strategy that involves making sales and growing your business over the long run.

It’s about building rapport and trust now so that you can make sales at a later date.

You could liken it to growing a crop:

When you plant a seed, you don’t expect to harvest the next day.

It takes time. But when you consider the bounty, it’s well worth it.

I realize this can be an issue for some people, considering the instant gratification culture we live in: we want results, and we want them now.

And I get it. It’s not easy spending an immense amount of time and energy working on something that will not give you visible results for six months or even a year.

But when you follow the right formula, the payoff is huge and makes way more sense than gating your content.

My own experience

Long ago, I realized the power that content marketing can yield.

That’s why I’ve made valuable content the cornerstone of my marketing.

More specifically, I’ve made it a point to give away the bulk of my content.

For instance, on Quick Sprout, I offer a sizable library of free content with Quick Sprout University:

This is where my audience can find in-depth information on everything from SEO and link building to reputation management and conversion optimization.

It also provides content for all knowledge levels (e.g., beginner, intermediate, and advanced).

On NeilPatel.com, I have a free podcast called Marketing School, where listeners can learn everything they need to know about online marketing:

Of course, I maintain blogs on these sites as well.

And you know what? It has completely paid off.

Although I didn’t get massive results right off the bat, giving away content has gotten me an insane number of sales.

Without it, I doubt I would be where I’m at today.

Another example

I’m sure many of you are familiar with Gary Vaynerchuk.

He’s an incredibly successful entrepreneur, author, speaker, and a major influencer.

He also swears like a sailor and makes no apologies for it.

Gary basically built an empire from scratch largely by giving away loads of quality content (e.g., YouTube videos, blog posts, infographics, etc.).

He even wrote a post called, Why You Shouldn’t Charge for Your Best Work.

Here’s a screenshot of his opening intro that captures his reasoning behind giving away content:

In other words, this tactic allows you to create real trust and boost your brand equity so that prospects feel comfortable doing business with you.

Even though you’re not earning any money initially, you’re investing in the long-term success of your company.

The full spectrum of benefits

Just so you’re aware of the impact that this tactic can have, I’d like to point out a handful of specific benefits:

  • It’s one of the best ways to nurture leads. According to Marketing Sherpa, “73% of all B2B leads are not sales ready.”
  • You can position your brand as an authority. “45% of a brand’s image can be attributed to what it says and how it says it.”
  • It enables you to tell your brand’s story and convey your philosophy and values.
  • It reduces skepticism. “In 1997, consumers indicated that they had a high level of confidence in 52% of brands. By 2008 that percentage dropped to 22%.” This is a great way to slash through any doubts your prospects may have.
  • It’s an excellent way to educate consumers on your product’s features and the way it differs from the products of competitors.
  • You can address any objections that may arise.

Which types of content most influence buying decisions?

Let’s say you’re on board with the concept of freeconomics and you understand the logic behind giving your best content for free.

This brings us to one important question.

What type of content should you create? Do certain types of content influence buying decisions more than others?

To answer these questions, I’d like to point out some additional statistics from Demand Gen Report.

Take a look at the type of content used in the past 12 months to make B2B purchasing decisions:

  • White papers – 82%
  • Webinars – 78%
  • Case studies – 73%
  • E-books – 67%
  • Blog posts – 66%
  • Infographics – 66%
  • Third-party/analyst reports – 62%
  • Video/motion graphics – 47%
  • Interactive presentations – 36%

This doesn’t necessarily mean this is the order in which your company should prioritize its content, but it should serve as a general guideline.

Conclusion

Although the concept of freeconomics and giving away your best content may go against conventional business wisdom, there’s no denying the impact this approach can have.

The results are convincing.

I can speak from personal experience and say this is absolutely one of the best ways to grow your business. It’s done wonders for me.

But in order to make this strategy work for you, it requires a long-term commitment.

You need to treat it as an endurance race—not a sprint.

If you stay the course with your content marketing, you can grow your business by as much as 290%.

What type of free content has resonated the most with your audience?