8 Conversion Rate Optimization Tips for Bloggers

This is a guest post. The author’s opinions are entirely his or her own and may not always reflect the views of Unbounce. Today’s post is from Chase Sagum, Director of SEO at 1on1.com. He currently spends a majority of his free time blogging on his blog ChaseSagum.com where he covers a variety of Organic internet Marketing subjects including Blogging, SEO, Content Strategy, Direct Navigation, WordPress, and Site Conversion. He also finds it slightly awkward writing in the 3rd person!

Internet Marketers have been focusing on conversion rate for years but for bloggers, it’s still a relatively new topic of conversation. I’ve had discussions with dozens of bloggers over the past 6 months who all expressed their frustrations with trying to “increase conversion rates” in their blogging efforts.

Up and to the right. That’s the dream…

I have shared these same frustrations and have devoted much of my time that I normally dedicate to my blog trying to test and figure out ways to solve the blogging conversion problem. While I don’t pretend to have all of the answers, here are 8 CRO tips I have learned that can help you increase your blogging conversion rates dramatically.

Important Acronyms for this post:

  • CRO = conversion rate optimization
  • CTA = call to action

1. Dynamic Sidebar per Category

Hypothesis = Ads/CTA’s in blog sidebars will convert at a higher rate if they are closely relevant to the content the user is currently reading.

Your sidebar has the potential to be a major asset to your conversion rate if you let it. Which is why displaying a generic sidebar across every post in your entire blog is a true waste of resources. Instead… if you are using the WordPress CMS you can make a simple change to your theme that will allow you to create custom dynamic sidebars for specific categories.

This way when a visitor is reading your blog post about Justin Bieber (shame on you) you can show that visitor ads relating specifically to Justin Bieber or Pop Music etc. Here’s a quick tutorial on how to make this happen in WordPress.

2. Open Your CTA Links in the Same Window

Hypothesis = Conversions are being lost because users don’t trust links as much that open in a new window.

This trick totally varies in results depending on the blog which is why I recommend just like with most things in the world of CRO, testing and monitoring the results carefully. In my tests on ChaseSagum.com I have been able to increase my affiliate revenue by roughly 67% by simply opening all affiliate links in the same window as opposed to in a new window.

There is of course a negative with this if you are pushing affiliate offers because people are going to be leaving your page entirely. But if you are funneling people to your own sales pages than you really have nothing to worry.

3. CTA @ The Bottom of a Post Depending On The Category

Hypothesis = Ads/CTA’s at the bottom of an article will convert at a higher rate if they are closely relevant to the content the user is currently reading.

Another opportunity you have for converting a blog reader into a customer is at the bottom of the article. If your content is high quality you have a golden opportunity to tie someone into a relevant offer. But rather than just throwing a random CTA in that place you can take the opportunity to do something similar to what I mentioned in #1 on this list.

That is to load a CTA based on the category that article is assigned to. How do you do this? Open up your single.php file and put in a simple PHP if/else statement. Something like this:

<?php if ( in_category( ‘1’) ): ?>
<!– Insert code for Justin Beiber Category Ad here –>
<div id="singlefootad">
<a href="/jbeiber"><img src="/justinbeiberAd.png" alt="Justin Beiber" /></a>

<?php elseif ( in_category( array( ‘2’, ‘3’ ) )): ?>
<!– Insert code for Usher Ad here –>
<div id="singlefootad">
<a href="/usherpage"><img src="/usherAd.jpg" alt="Usher Stuff" /></a>

<?php else: ?>
<!– Insert code for generic ad here –>
<div id="singlefootad">
<a href="/generic"><img src="/genericAd.jpg" alt="Generic Stuff" /></a>

<?php endif; ?>

4. Increase Your Page Load Speed

Hypothesis Fact: The quicker a page loads for a user the better the chance you have of converting that user into a customer.

I’m pretty sure I don’t need to tell this audience the importance of page load speed when it comes to conversion. It’s important. Very important. Unfortunately many blogs today are bloated with heavy images, external javascript files, and extra unnecessary code.

The popular web development blog Six Revisions wrote a great post about specific steps you can take to speed up your web pages dramatically. These same tips apply to blogs of course.

5. Minimalize and Clean Things Up!

Hypothesis: Too much on a page can hurt conversion rates.

Blogs are traditionally messy which has a large part to do with why so many bloggers struggle with conversion. Take some time and begin to clean things up. Remember “less is more.” If you’re looking for inspiration on blogs that do a good job on this check out ZenHabits.net. One of the cleanest, most minimal blogs you will ever see.

You don’t have to take away everything, but you need to get rid of all the excess. Excess ads, excess widgets etc. This way the focus can be on your copy and your CTA’s and as long as the two relate to each other, conversions should start flowing in!

6. Funnel Traffic To Landing Pages

Hypothesis: Blog content can convert at a higher rate if you funnel your traffic to landing pages.

This is where Unbounce comes in. Many bloggers complain that blogging “doesn’t convert visitors into customers.” This is usually because they haven’t learned to funnel their readers from blog content to landing pages.

Using Unbounce you can quickly and easily create landing pages that do the converting for you. All you have to do is focus on writing copy that helps your readers make the correct buying decisions. Just take a look at some of your favorite blogs (the really popular ones) and pay attention to the ones that practice this “funneling” concept. It really works!

7. A/B Test Display Ads in Sidebar

Hypothesis: A/B testing can be performed on a blog on a consistent basis.

In blogging it can be difficult to find things to A/B test. Things like headlines and images within posts often times have other important purposes such as readability. But your Ads and CTA’s in your sidebar, footer, and other areas are perfect grounds for A/B testing.

While you’re using Unbounce to fulfill your A/B testing of landing pages, try using a tool like Google Website Optimizer to A/B test the ads/CTA’s in your sidebar and to get data back on which one performs better. Don’t just throw up some display ads in your sidebar and hope they do well. Do some testing and utilize your available space more wisely.

8. Don’t Underestimate the Conversion Power of Contextual Links Within Blog Content

Hypothesis: Users are inclined to click on contextual links within blog content if the content is of some value to them.

The non-bloggers of this Internet Marketing world tend to place a lower value on contextual links when it comes to conversion. But that’s only because they don’t understand the power of blogging. DO NOT underestimate the power contextual links can have on your conversion!

If you do a good job engaging your readers with your content and building a readership over time, the recommendations you make through that content will make a powerful impact on your conversion. And these recommendations typically will come in the form of a contextual (text) link.

Chase Sagum

Editor’s note: If you have any questions for Chase regarding his 8 CRO tips for bloggers then please fire away in the comments below…

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About Chase Sagum
Chase is the Director of SEO at 1on1 Marketing. He currently spends a majority of his free time blogging on his blog ChaseSagum.com where he covers a variety of Organic Internet Marketing subjects including Blogging, SEO, Content Strategy, Direct Navigation, Wordpress, and Site Conversion. He also finds it slightly awkward writing in the 3rd person!
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