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How to Write Content That Converts

How to Write Content That Converts


Oh, brother,
you think. Yet another post about writing content that converts.

I hear you. But before you bounce out of here, I’d like to ask you to do something—change the way you define convert. And then maybe change the content creation tactics you’re currently using. Stick around for a few minutes, and I’ll explain.

Convert Doesn’t Have to Mean Sell

That probably sounds like Internet marketing blasphemy. Why in the world would you spend time writing content if it’s not going to help you sell anything and make money?

The answer is, in order to make a sale, you must create content that doesn’t make a sale.

We’ll get to that in a minute. But first, let’s talk about changing your definition of convert.

Converting visitors can mean making them into fans of your content, whether it’s a digital marketing blog full of information to help them run their businesses, or just fun comics that entertain them. You can also run with one of the literal definitions of convert, and use your content to elaborate on your ideas and opinions in an effort to get more people to think the way you do, whether you’re convincing them to like a product for the benefits it offers, or to vote for your favorite candidate.

Aside from the selling component, creating content that converts comes down to creating something of value that people will like, want, use, and share. Sounds good, right? But how do you actually do that?

Content That Converts

In my last post, I discussed how while a lot of people talk about how to build a content team, few actually explain what that means. The same is true of many posts that talk about writing content that converts. They tell you it’s something you need to do, but they don’t fully tell you how to do it. I’m going to tell you how I (try to) do it, and maybe you’ll find these methods can work for you, too.

Remember That Prospects Are People

As marketers, we use words like user, visitor, client, prospect, customer, and reader to describe the people who come to our websites. See what I did there?

Ultimately, they’re people. Just like you, they have thoughts, ideas, opinions, and emotions. If you’re not trying to tap into those things with the content you create, you’re missing the mark. In fact, you’re not even close to the target.

There’s often too much focus on prompting action and not enough on eliciting emotion. You’re not writing for wallets and credit cards, you’re writing for people. All the calls-to-action in the world won’t help you sell a product if you fail to get some kind of base reaction from the person to whom you’re trying to sell, even if that reaction is simple desire for what you’re selling. If you can reach that ““limbic brain,” you have a much better chance of getting the reaction—or the action—you want from your audience.

I saw a brilliant example of this just the other day. You’re undoubtedly familiar with The Oatmeal and his silly, often hilarious comics. On September 17, he created a comic that’s basically a love letter to his dog, Rambo, illustrating all the crazy idiosyncrasies that anyone with a dog can relate to. And that’s just what happened. The dog lovers in The Oatmeal’s audience not only related to it, they loved it, to the tune of more than (as of this writing) 480,000 Facebook likes, 13,800 tweets, and 5,000 +1s.

In fact, the comic was updated with a note saying so many people made the request, it’s now available as a poster people can buy.

I don’t have sales figures on that poster, but you don’t need them. People who read that comic loved it so much they asked for a product that didn’t even exist so they could buy it. All because they read a comic about a funny, lovable little dog and it made them laugh, cry, and feel.

That is how you create content that converts.

It’s not just about comics or e-commerce, although it is possible to write content that inspires your audience to buy, as that example shows.

But a company website or a blog has just as much potential to reach people. Write content that speaks to your readers about your passions, values, and ideas, and that asks them to share theirs with you. By creating an exchange of ideas, and by getting people to feel something, you’re converting an audience full of readers into a community full of people.

Even then, use care in how you write your content.

Share, Don’t Push

If all you’re doing is trying to push people to buy all the time, your content quickly becomes nothing more than noise that is added to (and undifferentiated from) the rest of the noise generated by everyone else on the Internet trying to sell things.

Think of your website as an hour-long television show. I know that’s a weird comparison, but bear with me. When you watch a TV show, it’s to be entertained or to learn something, and you expect that interspersed between the segments of the show, you’ll also see some commercials for things sold by the advertisers who pay money to support the show. Without the advertisers, there’s no show. Everyone understands that.

But it’s conceivable that television networks could also make money if they just showed commercials all the time. You may start out watching, just to see what’s there, but pretty soon, after being bombarded with ad after ad, you’re going to turn your TV off and find something else to do. And if you think that’s just a crazy idea, consider how many infomercials you’ve sat through for odd kitchen gadgets and miracle-working hair products.

If you’re not giving your site’s visitors a show to watch between your commercials, and if you only create content with the intent to convert as defined by selling, you’re going to lose them. And that’s why you need content that isn’t trying to sell anything.

Write The Way You Speak

Now we get down to the actual writing. I’m a big believer in writing the way you speak as a way to make content entertaining, engaging, and effective. But there’s a limit. Writing content that converts can be a high-wire balancing act of authenticity and congeniality.

You want to write well and sound intelligent, of course. Who doesn’t? But err too far on that side by breaking out the ten-dollar words, and you’ll come off pompous, as though you’re trying to sound smarter than you actually are. People see through that.

Don’t go the other way, either, and use too much slang, or mimic your exact cadence of speech to the point where you’re writing words like “gonna” and “shoulda.” Those are fine in IMs and e-mails (although, not to clients, please), and, used sparingly in a blog, they can be great mechanisms to build familiarity. But used too often, they’ll look like just plain poor writing. You can express yourself and let your personality shine through while also employing correct grammar and spelling. (And if you can’t, get an editor. But that’s another blog post.)

Try to find that happy medium where you’re just being yourself, but communicating clearly. People will appreciate it, and will be able to relate to you more easily than if you’re trying to talk over their heads, or worse, if you’re talking down to them.

Put it All Together

Any good content marketing strategy must take into account more than just who your target audience is, although that’s important. Changing the way you not only view content, but also how you create it, will help you increase conversions. More than that, it will make you a more effective communicator, and a more successful marketer.

How do you write content that converts? Share your ideas in the comments!

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Comments

  1. Very helpful Michelle!

  2. Caleb Anthony says:

    Brilliant article! I believe it’s becoming increasingly important to write for people’s emotions, and not their wallets. People are beginning to see the hard sales pitch coming, and immediately go somewhere else, especially in the new generation. I think it’s time we as marketers take a step back from focusing on “making the sale.” We need to look at how we can foster a community of people who love our product and want to go tell others, without necessarily realizing they’re helping us sell in the process.

    • Michelle Lowery says:

      Thanks so much, Caleb! And you hit the nail on the head. A lot of psychology goes into marketing, and into content creation. That is, if you’re doing them correctly! ;-)

  3. Edwin says:

    These are great tips. Share, don’t push is the essence of writing good content that has true value.

  4. The Oatmeal example is a powerful one to prove your concept. Making people feel something has to be the first step!

    • Michelle Lowery says:

      That whole thing was amazing to watch. What was also great about it was even Matt seemed to be surprised by the reactions he got! But in my mind, that just goes further to demonstrate what he did was genuine and something from his heart, not an attempt to get likes or sell posters. :-) Thanks for commenting, Courtney!

  5. Mary Page says:

    :)

  6. Rekonstruct says:

    Thought-provoking. I can’t help but wonder though, with the proliferation of niche user sites, whether the people visiting are really ‘people’ as you spell out in the post above.

    In terms of web traffic, if we think of visitors and people in an overlapping Venn Diagram, I’m not sure that all visitors are people. I’m not being cheeky by trying to segment out bots and the like. I’m really trying to get at the way people consume content and use services on the web.

    There are occasions when I think that visitor or prospect or user may actually be a more insightful term than people.

    Thanks again for the post–it’s not often I see something that I take the time to respond to.

    • Michelle Lowery says:

      I’m not being cheeky either, but I can’t help but notice that your comment helps prove my point. :-) You said the post was “thought-provoking,” and “it’s not often I see something that I take time to respond to.”

      What you read made you think, and prompted you to respond to open up a conversation. That tells me I achieved one of my goals in writing this–getting at least one reader to feel something. Sure, plenty of bots crawl pages and, people get content through feeds, and maybe just read headlines and don’t read the entire post. That’s okay. For me, if I reach just one person–and from what your comment says, I did that–I feel successful, and like the time I spent writing this was time well spent.

      Thanks so much for commenting! You made my day.

  7. Tom Kroon says:

    Thanks for the great article Michelle. I’d love to see an A/B test to go along with this article that show how effective it is to write content for the lizard brain vs. rational brain.

    • Michelle Lowery says:

      Hmm…that’s an interesting notion, Tom. I may have to consider that. :-)

  8. Julie Martin says:

    Nicely, nicely done. I must say that I read your blog from top to bottom, stopping halfway through to check out The Oatmeal’s ode to his dog, then coming right back to your thought proking comments. Honestly, I’m like Rekonstruct in that I never comment on blogs. Oh, maybe once or twice a year, max. But I’m thinking about putting an unusually large bumper sticker on my car that says “Prospects are People Too”, or “Share, don’t Push”. Love it…

    • Michelle Lowery says:

      Thanks so much, Julie! Again, my day is made! And if you get either of those bumper stickers made, do be so kind as to send me a photo! :-D

  9. “In order to make a sale, you must create content that doesn’t make a sale.”

    I could not agree with this statement more! It happens all too often. Businesses take to their blog and create posts that are all promotional. They don’t offer any value to their readers. The posts lack conversation points and as a result, the blog readers don’t share the posts. Content needs to be engaging and “share-worthy” to get a customer’s attention, to then create opportunities for conversion.

    • Michelle Lowery says:

      Absolutely! It’s like any conversation, really. Who wants to listen to someone blab about themselves non-stop?! You gotta let the other person get a word in edgewise. :-D Thanks for commenting, Nick!

  10. When I write for my blog, I’m me, with a few keywords and a good meta description. When I write for my clients, I use the information about the target audience and content purpose to mentally create a customer avatar, with as much information as possible. I think about their beliefs, their desires, their personality, even their career and income levels. The more details I can factor in, the better. For more intense projects, I literally write my customer avatar before I write a single word for my client. Then, I write as if I were speaking directly to this person. That way, I’m on the mark. :)

    • Michelle Lowery says:

      I love that, Cindy! And thank you for sharing the perspective of writing for clients. It’s so important to adopt that persona as much as possible. Excellent advice!

  11. I’m always telling clients to write to contribute, not to sell something. People are smart, they know a sales pitch a mile away. You need to create something they will want, or that will get them interested in your industry/company/product.

    We need more personality from content in general–more heartfelt, more narrative. There’s a reason the tabloid industry does so well, it’s because it gets personal with people!

    • Michelle Lowery says:

      I think you hit on an important point, Paige. I do think that sometimes, content is dumbed down, or at least written with low expectations of the audience. Respecting your audience and their intelligence is essential. Thank you for sharing that!

  12. Ben Troy says:

    another outstanding post, Those tips are very important for sales copy writing ,too

    • Michelle Lowery says:

      Thanks so much, Ben! And yes, I’d say writing for people is paramount in sales copy.

  13. Thank you Michelle, just what I needed.

    • Michelle Lowery says:

      You’re very welcome, Buntu! I’m glad you enjoyed it. :-)

  14. That is Very Much Helpful Michelle for new content marketers in the dynamic field of content marketing and am sure they would consider you as an Idol!

    • Michelle Lowery says:

      Haha! I don’t know about that, but I appreciate the sentiment, Rafay! :-)

  15. Cody Wheeler says:

    Nice. I really like the TV example. So simple, but so true. I may use this one :)

  16. Steve says:

    Michelle! Hit the nail right on the head. How do you suggest we research our people (customers/market) to find out what they’re actually interested in. If I was a business owner for instance, I wouldn’t really want to read business stuff all day, I just got done working for 14 hours trying to keep mine afloat!

    • How to Write Content That Converts
      e

      Like what you see? Let's talk about how we can help your business. Contact Us -->

      How to Write Content That Converts

      How to Write Content That Converts


      Oh, brother,
      you think. Yet another post about writing content that converts.

      I hear you. But before you bounce out of here, I’d like to ask you to do something—change the way you define convert. And then maybe change the content creation tactics you’re currently using. Stick around for a few minutes, and I’ll explain.

      Convert Doesn’t Have to Mean Sell

      That probably sounds like Internet marketing blasphemy. Why in the world would you spend time writing content if it’s not going to help you sell anything and make money?

      The answer is, in order to make a sale, you must create content that doesn’t make a sale.

      We’ll get to that in a minute. But first, let’s talk about changing your definition of convert.

      Converting visitors can mean making them into fans of your content, whether it’s a digital marketing blog full of information to help them run their businesses, or just fun comics that entertain them. You can also run with one of the literal definitions of convert, and use your content to elaborate on your ideas and opinions in an effort to get more people to think the way you do, whether you’re convincing them to like a product for the benefits it offers, or to vote for your favorite candidate.

      Aside from the selling component, creating content that converts comes down to creating something of value that people will like, want, use, and share. Sounds good, right? But how do you actually do that?

      Content That Converts

      In my last post, I discussed how while a lot of people talk about how to build a content team, few actually explain what that means. The same is true of many posts that talk about writing content that converts. They tell you it’s something you need to do, but they don’t fully tell you how to do it. I’m going to tell you how I (try to) do it, and maybe you’ll find these methods can work for you, too.

      Remember That Prospects Are People

      As marketers, we use words like user, visitor, client, prospect, customer, and reader to describe the people who come to our websites. See what I did there?

      Ultimately, they’re people. Just like you, they have thoughts, ideas, opinions, and emotions. If you’re not trying to tap into those things with the content you create, you’re missing the mark. In fact, you’re not even close to the target.

      There’s often too much focus on prompting action and not enough on eliciting emotion. You’re not writing for wallets and credit cards, you’re writing for people. All the calls-to-action in the world won’t help you sell a product if you fail to get some kind of base reaction from the person to whom you’re trying to sell, even if that reaction is simple desire for what you’re selling. If you can reach that ““limbic brain,” you have a much better chance of getting the reaction—or the action—you want from your audience.

      I saw a brilliant example of this just the other day. You’re undoubtedly familiar with The Oatmeal and his silly, often hilarious comics. On September 17, he created a comic that’s basically a love letter to his dog, Rambo, illustrating all the crazy idiosyncrasies that anyone with a dog can relate to. And that’s just what happened. The dog lovers in The Oatmeal’s audience not only related to it, they loved it, to the tune of more than (as of this writing) 480,000 Facebook likes, 13,800 tweets, and 5,000 +1s.

      In fact, the comic was updated with a note saying so many people made the request, it’s now available as a poster people can buy.

      I don’t have sales figures on that poster, but you don’t need them. People who read that comic loved it so much they asked for a product that didn’t even exist so they could buy it. All because they read a comic about a funny, lovable little dog and it made them laugh, cry, and feel.

      That is how you create content that converts.

      It’s not just about comics or e-commerce, although it is possible to write content that inspires your audience to buy, as that example shows.

      But a company website or a blog has just as much potential to reach people. Write content that speaks to your readers about your passions, values, and ideas, and that asks them to share theirs with you. By creating an exchange of ideas, and by getting people to feel something, you’re converting an audience full of readers into a community full of people.

      Even then, use care in how you write your content.

      Share, Don’t Push

      If all you’re doing is trying to push people to buy all the time, your content quickly becomes nothing more than noise that is added to (and undifferentiated from) the rest of the noise generated by everyone else on the Internet trying to sell things.

      Think of your website as an hour-long television show. I know that’s a weird comparison, but bear with me. When you watch a TV show, it’s to be entertained or to learn something, and you expect that interspersed between the segments of the show, you’ll also see some commercials for things sold by the advertisers who pay money to support the show. Without the advertisers, there’s no show. Everyone understands that.

      But it’s conceivable that television networks could also make money if they just showed commercials all the time. You may start out watching, just to see what’s there, but pretty soon, after being bombarded with ad after ad, you’re going to turn your TV off and find something else to do. And if you think that’s just a crazy idea, consider how many infomercials you’ve sat through for odd kitchen gadgets and miracle-working hair products.

      If you’re not giving your site’s visitors a show to watch between your commercials, and if you only create content with the intent to convert as defined by selling, you’re going to lose them. And that’s why you need content that isn’t trying to sell anything.

      Write The Way You Speak

      Now we get down to the actual writing. I’m a big believer in writing the way you speak as a way to make content entertaining, engaging, and effective. But there’s a limit. Writing content that converts can be a high-wire balancing act of authenticity and congeniality.

      You want to write well and sound intelligent, of course. Who doesn’t? But err too far on that side by breaking out the ten-dollar words, and you’ll come off pompous, as though you’re trying to sound smarter than you actually are. People see through that.

      Don’t go the other way, either, and use too much slang, or mimic your exact cadence of speech to the point where you’re writing words like “gonna” and “shoulda.” Those are fine in IMs and e-mails (although, not to clients, please), and, used sparingly in a blog, they can be great mechanisms to build familiarity. But used too often, they’ll look like just plain poor writing. You can express yourself and let your personality shine through while also employing correct grammar and spelling. (And if you can’t, get an editor. But that’s another blog post.)

      Try to find that happy medium where you’re just being yourself, but communicating clearly. People will appreciate it, and will be able to relate to you more easily than if you’re trying to talk over their heads, or worse, if you’re talking down to them.

      Put it All Together

      Any good content marketing strategy must take into account more than just who your target audience is, although that’s important. Changing the way you not only view content, but also how you create it, will help you increase conversions. More than that, it will make you a more effective communicator, and a more successful marketer.

      How do you write content that converts? Share your ideas in the comments!

      Want to Get Inside?

      Become a BlueGlass Insider Today!

      • Be the first to know about BlueGlass events, meetups, and surprise releases. Before they’re made public…
      • Exclusive access to the latest tools, tips and must-read posts.From people who have been doing this for years…
      • Insider perspective on the latest trends in digital marketing. Info that you won’t get anywhere else…

      Enter your email below to join for free!




      Comments

      1. Very helpful Michelle!

      2. Caleb Anthony says:

        Brilliant article! I believe it’s becoming increasingly important to write for people’s emotions, and not their wallets. People are beginning to see the hard sales pitch coming, and immediately go somewhere else, especially in the new generation. I think it’s time we as marketers take a step back from focusing on “making the sale.” We need to look at how we can foster a community of people who love our product and want to go tell others, without necessarily realizing they’re helping us sell in the process.

        • Michelle Lowery says:

          Thanks so much, Caleb! And you hit the nail on the head. A lot of psychology goes into marketing, and into content creation. That is, if you’re doing them correctly! ;-)

      3. Edwin says:

        These are great tips. Share, don’t push is the essence of writing good content that has true value.

      4. The Oatmeal example is a powerful one to prove your concept. Making people feel something has to be the first step!

        • Michelle Lowery says:

          That whole thing was amazing to watch. What was also great about it was even Matt seemed to be surprised by the reactions he got! But in my mind, that just goes further to demonstrate what he did was genuine and something from his heart, not an attempt to get likes or sell posters. :-) Thanks for commenting, Courtney!

      5. Mary Page says:

        :)

      6. Rekonstruct says:

        Thought-provoking. I can’t help but wonder though, with the proliferation of niche user sites, whether the people visiting are really ‘people’ as you spell out in the post above.

        In terms of web traffic, if we think of visitors and people in an overlapping Venn Diagram, I’m not sure that all visitors are people. I’m not being cheeky by trying to segment out bots and the like. I’m really trying to get at the way people consume content and use services on the web.

        There are occasions when I think that visitor or prospect or user may actually be a more insightful term than people.

        Thanks again for the post–it’s not often I see something that I take the time to respond to.

        • Michelle Lowery says:

          I’m not being cheeky either, but I can’t help but notice that your comment helps prove my point. :-) You said the post was “thought-provoking,” and “it’s not often I see something that I take time to respond to.”

          What you read made you think, and prompted you to respond to open up a conversation. That tells me I achieved one of my goals in writing this–getting at least one reader to feel something. Sure, plenty of bots crawl pages and, people get content through feeds, and maybe just read headlines and don’t read the entire post. That’s okay. For me, if I reach just one person–and from what your comment says, I did that–I feel successful, and like the time I spent writing this was time well spent.

          Thanks so much for commenting! You made my day.

      7. Tom Kroon says:

        Thanks for the great article Michelle. I’d love to see an A/B test to go along with this article that show how effective it is to write content for the lizard brain vs. rational brain.

        • Michelle Lowery says:

          Hmm…that’s an interesting notion, Tom. I may have to consider that. :-)

      8. Julie Martin says:

        Nicely, nicely done. I must say that I read your blog from top to bottom, stopping halfway through to check out The Oatmeal’s ode to his dog, then coming right back to your thought proking comments. Honestly, I’m like Rekonstruct in that I never comment on blogs. Oh, maybe once or twice a year, max. But I’m thinking about putting an unusually large bumper sticker on my car that says “Prospects are People Too”, or “Share, don’t Push”. Love it…

        • Michelle Lowery says:

          Thanks so much, Julie! Again, my day is made! And if you get either of those bumper stickers made, do be so kind as to send me a photo! :-D

      9. “In order to make a sale, you must create content that doesn’t make a sale.”

        I could not agree with this statement more! It happens all too often. Businesses take to their blog and create posts that are all promotional. They don’t offer any value to their readers. The posts lack conversation points and as a result, the blog readers don’t share the posts. Content needs to be engaging and “share-worthy” to get a customer’s attention, to then create opportunities for conversion.

        • Michelle Lowery says:

          Absolutely! It’s like any conversation, really. Who wants to listen to someone blab about themselves non-stop?! You gotta let the other person get a word in edgewise. :-D Thanks for commenting, Nick!

      10. When I write for my blog, I’m me, with a few keywords and a good meta description. When I write for my clients, I use the information about the target audience and content purpose to mentally create a customer avatar, with as much information as possible. I think about their beliefs, their desires, their personality, even their career and income levels. The more details I can factor in, the better. For more intense projects, I literally write my customer avatar before I write a single word for my client. Then, I write as if I were speaking directly to this person. That way, I’m on the mark. :)

        • Michelle Lowery says:

          I love that, Cindy! And thank you for sharing the perspective of writing for clients. It’s so important to adopt that persona as much as possible. Excellent advice!

      11. I’m always telling clients to write to contribute, not to sell something. People are smart, they know a sales pitch a mile away. You need to create something they will want, or that will get them interested in your industry/company/product.

        We need more personality from content in general–more heartfelt, more narrative. There’s a reason the tabloid industry does so well, it’s because it gets personal with people!

        • Michelle Lowery says:

          I think you hit on an important point, Paige. I do think that sometimes, content is dumbed down, or at least written with low expectations of the audience. Respecting your audience and their intelligence is essential. Thank you for sharing that!

      12. Ben Troy says:

        another outstanding post, Those tips are very important for sales copy writing ,too

        • Michelle Lowery says:

          Thanks so much, Ben! And yes, I’d say writing for people is paramount in sales copy.

      13. Thank you Michelle, just what I needed.

        • Michelle Lowery says:

          You’re very welcome, Buntu! I’m glad you enjoyed it. :-)

      14. That is Very Much Helpful Michelle for new content marketers in the dynamic field of content marketing and am sure they would consider you as an Idol!

        • Michelle Lowery says:

          Haha! I don’t know about that, but I appreciate the sentiment, Rafay! :-)

      15. Cody Wheeler says:

        Nice. I really like the TV example. So simple, but so true. I may use this one :)

      16. Steve says:

        Michelle! Hit the nail right on the head. How do you suggest we research our people (customers/market) to find out what they’re actually interested in. If I was a business owner for instance, I wouldn’t really want to read business stuff all day, I just got done working for 14 hours trying to keep mine afloat!