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Data Shows that Content Converts Poorly: Is Content Marketing Worth the Investment?

Content Converts PoorlyIf you’ve been learning about content marketing, then you’ve probably wondered how well content actually converts readers into actual buyers of a product.

Content marketing blogs often talk about creating top of the funnel and bottom of the funnel content to attract potential customers who might be interested in purchasing your product.

While this idea makes sense, many people might be surprised to find that content doesn’t drive a lot of sales (at least not directly).

Oli Gardener (one of the co-founders of Unbounce and a well known authority in conversion optimization) recently shared that content from the Unbounce blog only converts at 0.3%. As an experiment, Oli decided to write 20 blog posts in 30 days. These articles were designed to create awareness for Unbounce’s newest products and drive trial signups.

The articles brought in 11,362 readers but only generated 37 signups (0.3%). He also compared the results to the past 9 months of content traffic and the conversion rate was about the same.

Does this mean that content marketing is a waste of time and resources?

Clearly, we know that it is not as evidenced by the fact that many businesses rely on it and a growing number of businesses are investing in their content marketing.

So what makes content marketing effective and how does it generates leads and sales for businesses? And how should we create content that is effective for actually generating revenue for our business?

Let’s take a closer look…

Why Content Doesn’t Always Generate Leads

If you think about it, it makes sense that content is sometimes a poor driver of qualified leads. People who are searching for information are often not yet ready to buy.

In many cases, they may not ever be qualified or interested in buying what you are selling.

Let’s say I sell marketing software or services and I decide to create advanced online marketing content to educate prospects and drive leads for my business.

A lot of people who are looking for marketing information might not be interested in what I’m selling.

They might already have a marketing service provider. Or they might be a marketer who is looking to sharpen their skills.

Or they might be interested in doing their own marketing, but would prefer to do it themselves than to spend money.

How Content Marketing Works

So how does content marketing work and why are businesses still investing in it?

The answer is “yes”, but content marketing is often a long term strategy and sometimes is not the lowest hanging fruit when it comes to generating immediate leads. Some very successful businesses that focused on content marketing include Moz, Buffer and Hubspot.

1. Good Content Attracts Links, Which Helps with SEO

Moz has been creating content to help others with their online marketing for over 10 years. Their content has attracted tons of inbound links and as a result, they have a domain authority of 92 and their home page is ranking for the highly competitive term of “SEO software”

2. Effective Content Marketing Generates Authority & Brand Awareness

Creating authoritative content also amplifies the effectiveness of content marketing. Content marketing isn’t only about SEO. People will find out about businesses through social media, word of mouth and other channels as well.

As their brand became better known among digital marketers, they also attracted plenty of links directly to their home page, which further amplifies their SEO efforts.

So while content itself doesn’t generate tons of leads for many businesses, it does help indirectly through SEO, social media and branding.

The Conversion Rate of Content in Other Niches

Does content do a poor job of driving leads in all niches? Or is it more effective for some niches than others?

Content likely converts better for information products and coaching as content is more directly related to what the audience is looking for. Every niche seems to have influencers who are making 6-8 figures selling info products and courses designed to help people overcome their struggles.

Higher priced software and products will usually see lower conversion rates as the number of people who are willing to pay for such items is more limited. Software can often come with a high price tag or an ongoing monthly expense, so buyers often consist of businesses that are already generating income.

Software is also a more niche solution to a problem. For example, MailChimp provides email marketing services, but they might not be the best solution for everyone. Bloggers that are already making money might want something with more advanced tracking like Convert Kit or e-commerce owners might prefer something like Klaviyo.

So essentially, conversion rates can differ based on what you are selling, how tightly it is targeted towards the content you are creating and pricing.

Implications…

Blog articles tend to drive broadly targeted traffic… and often, that traffic isn’t tightly targeted towards what you are selling. Here are a few lessons and takeaways that you can use for effective content marketing:

1) Content marketing is a branding exercise

Some businesses want to get into content marketing in hopes that it will lead to direct sales. While direct sales may be possible for some niches, in most cases, content marketing is a branding exercise.

The results of content marketing become more noticeable over the long term and businesses that commit resources to making content marketing work and creating authoritative content are the ones that see the best results.

The leads and sales from branding, SEO and other factors often greatly outweigh the sales generated from individual articles on a blog.

2) Content facilitates SEO rankings

One major benefit of content is that it gives businesses a way to generate an infinite amount of links to their website. When other websites link to your content, that link juice circulates internally throughout the rest of your site.

Internal links allow your home page to rank for money keywords, which drives sales targeted traffic which is much more likely to convert into paid business than traffic to your blog articles.

In other words, inbound links to your blog articles can help you rank your home page (and other relevant sub-pages) for your main “money keywords”.

3) You don’t have to create content highly targeted towards your potential buyers to succeed at content marketing

WP Curve was founded by Dan Norris and sells WordPress maintenance services for a recurring month cost. Their content, however, isn’t about WordPress or coding. Instead Dan shared business lessons from growing his business and marketing resources.

The blog content he created drove links which in turn allowed WP Curve’s home page to rank for “Wordpress maintenance” in Google and ranking for that money keyword is what drives leads and sales.

Bill Gassett is one of the top realtors in all of New England and his site, Max Real Estate Exposure ranks for terms like “Framingham ma realtor” and various other related terms. Bill’s blog content provides a means for potential buyers and sellers to find Bill and is also a good platform for building authority and networking with other real estate professionals.

Although you don’t have to create content targeted towards your target buyer, in many cases it makes sense to do so. Asides from SEO rankings, becoming an authority is also very important as it allows you to build relationships and become known among others in your niche. And branding can help other potential customers find you through other methods besides SEO.

On the other hand, you can target your blog to attract a much broader audience, even if you write about topics that aren’t going to convert into paying customers.

4) Content probably converts better for more directly related products, like information products

Conversion rates for people selling information products are usually higher than for businesses using content to generate sales for their SAAS or e-commerce business. People who are looking for information about a topic are sometimes willing to pay money for premium information or coaching that helps them solve their problem.

SAAS businesses can still generate leads from content, but people will often search for other software solutions as well. And some people who are reading blog articles don’t have the budget for software or may already be using something else.

Conversion rates can vary depending on what you are selling, so use your own judgment when deciding on whether to focus on highly targeted niche content or to choose a broader topic for content marketing.

Final Takeaways

To sum it up, don’t create a blog that is too narrowly focused that it doesn’t attract widespread attention. One of the big mistakes that I commonly see is businesses whose content focus is far too narrow.

Create content that is interesting and gets both attention and links. Branding and thought leadership can generate even more links, which can help you rank your site for highly competitive keywords.

But ranking for informational keywords in your niche could be great branding, even if those search queries don’t convert into immediate sales.

Experiment with creating content that drives leads and sales since conversion rates can vary by niche and by what you are selling. But don’t get discouraged if leads from content don’t convert well.

You don’t need high conversion rates from the content itself to succeed. But make sure you have a strategy to make content marketing work for your business, whether your end game is SEO or something else.

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About Brian Lang

I've been making a living online since 2002, mostly through e-commerce sites and content sites with advertising. Through the years, I have also learned a lot about other types of businesses and helped other people with their business problems.

Comments

  1. Brian, I created a bunch of content last year and although my traffic has increased I’m not getting more conversions for my main product. I’ve recently been updating old posts and working on more promotion. I have been getting more affiliate sales on products in the same niche which I am happy about. Your post confirms that I did the right thing by not making my site ONLY about my main product. That would have been too narrow and reduced my options for affiliate products.

    • Thanks Stacy! I think diversifying your monetization is a good approach. Different people will be customers for different products, so there are probably lots of people on your list who won’t ever buy your main product, but will buy something related. Sometimes it’s easier to make affiliate sales because they already have their marketing systems down and optimized for conversions as well.

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THANK YOU for SUBSCRIBING
Join the Small Business Ideas Blog Newsletter to stay updated and also get access to member only downloads and content, including special reports, studies and articles I write on other blogs. Some member bonuses include:
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  • Study: How LinkedIn Publishers Get Featured on the Pulse
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  • and more!
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