Many content marketing teams are stumped. They spend hours planning cool campaigns, ads, blogs, and curating content to perfection – but they’re not seeing the clicks and conversions they predicted.
And try as they might, they can’t figure out why their content isn’t converting. Their website is immaculate, emails are pored over for hours before sending, and well-thought-out social campaigns are launched – to no avail.
If you’ve been here yourself, you know how frustrating it can be. But it’s also a great opportunity to learn about your target audience and adjust your overall strategy. If you can identify why your content isn’t converting, you can reset, shift your focus, and experience the growth you know is possible – and more.
So what’s going wrong with your content? Here are some common reasons your content isn’t converting.
You’re burying the lead.
The most important or interesting concept in your content is likely WHY you’ve created it. But how clear is that point to your reader?
Whether on social media, emails, newsletters, blog posts, or videos, you don’t have very long to grab a viewer’s attention and get them interested in your topic, product, or service.
When creating a singular piece of content or campaign, the first thing you need to ask yourself as a content team is this: What is the single most important message in your content? What’s the main point that could be summarized in one sentence?
A common content-team move is creating an excellent blog post – but putting the most important sentence/concept in the third or fourth paragraph. You need to extricate the most important bits and put them front and center.
And most importantly, simplify. Your 2000-word blog post is probably very interesting, but if you cut it in half, your message would be clearer and easier to access.
Remember – most people consuming content in 2022 are doing so from their phone, so breaking content down into easy, digestible bites is a great scroll-friendly strategy.
On this note, many content marketers save their call to action for the very end of their content, because they assume readers will make it to the end. But all too often, viewers didn’t scroll to the very bottom of a lengthy email or watch your YouTube video until the 10-minute mark – so they never even had a chance to respond to the CTA.
Fight this by getting to the point quickly, and with purpose. A strong hook, shorter-form content, and being clear on your intended CTA can improve the content-consuming journey for your target audience, which ideally should be as hassle-free as possible.
Another common way marketers bury the lead is through boring or factual headlines. I see a lot of headlines that are technically accurate and summarize a post, but they don’t grab the reader. Your headline is one of the few chances you have to grab an audience, so without resorting to total clickbait, you need to make it impossible to ignore your leading line. My favorite headlines effectively invoke curiosity through a question, revelation, or pain point resolution.
You’re not clear on your own CTA (or it’s confusing).
After reading my first point above, you may have realized that you are burying the content lead – and perhaps your CTA – because you don’t know what it is. Sure, you know what you’d like consumers to do in the grander scheme, but you haven’t really thought about each piece of content’s individual goals.
If you’re not clear on your own CTA for each piece of content, how can you expect anyone else to be? For each piece of content you create, think about the one ideal action your target audience would take after consuming it.
For some content, it may be to click a link, schedule a call, or make a purchase, and for other pieces, it may just be to learn more, read another post, or to be made more aware of your brand, like a drip marketing strategy.
No matter what you want your audience to do after consuming your content, here’s the bottom line: the creation of your content (including design) must center around that goal. If your piece is more educational with no strong central CTA, make sure of two things:
- That you don’t bury the lead,
- That a clear next step is available that aligns with your customer journey
Even if you have no obvious CTA, you don’t want to leave an interested viewer hanging. If you’ve piqued their interest, now provide options for more resources they’ll enjoy.
You up for a quick exercise?
Find a piece of content that you published at least one month ago. Pretend you’re looking at it for the first time (which is easier to do when you haven’t thought about it in a month).
What do you see?
- Is the customer journey clear?
- Is there one concise, clear takeaway or action requested?
- Are there two that are conflicting, like “check out this other blog post” vs. “schedule a call”?
While it might seem like a good idea to load content up with multiple actions for consumers to take, this can be overwhelming and leave them confused. It’s better to just pick one strong central CTA and run with it.
Our job as marketers is to make the customer journey as clear, intuitive, and hassle-free as possible. After consuming your content, a takeaway or next step should always be clear to your audience.
If you’re not finding this to be the case with your chosen content to analyze, make a list of ways it could be improved and present it to your team for discussion at your next strategy meeting. Invite them to participate in this exercise, because they may have additional hindsight-insight.
Your design strategy is flawed.
What’s the quickest route to derailing excellent copy and content? Not keeping your designer in the loop.
Communication with the design team about the goals of your content can make all the difference in how it performs. In marketing, I don’t want to say that presentation is everything because your message matters too, but presentation opens the door.
If you’re launching a campaign with lackluster design elements that aren’t symbiotic with the content, all your efforts likely won’t pay off. It’s also possible that designers will create beautiful work that’s aesthetically pleasing but doesn’t support the goals of your campaign.
The best way to combat this common content team pitfall is to include a design manager or representative in meetings about strategy, goals, and content performance.
Work closely with your designers to ensure that the content goals are clear, the lead isn’t buried, and your CTA is front and center. A massive mistake I’ve observed in my years of experience is siloing writers/content creators and designers from each other. These teams need each other so desperately, and a strong partnership can lead to some of the highest-performing content your team has ever released.
Hire great designers. Keep them in the loop. Communicate with them regularly and frequently, and don’t pull the rug out from under them with last-minute changes or redesigns. This should be a collaborative process- for you to score that win, they’re a critical assist. Don’t overlook them.
You’re thinking too much like a marketer.
Do you ever wonder why your target audience isn’t responding to your content as enthusiastically as you’d hoped? This may be because you’re using “marketing-speak,” and you aren’t really writing for your audience. Certain terms and lingo that marketers and industry experts get stuck in can literally be interpreted by consumers as “speaking a different language” – in other words, your message, which is meant for your audience, doesn’t make sense to… your audience.
A common reason why your content isn’t converting is speaking and writing in terms that aren’t natural to their target audience. Content should be created for your audience – something that seems pretty obvious now, but it’s so easy to lose sight of in the content creation process. If your content doesn’t speak clearly to your audience, and if you don’t communicate to their pain points in a way they understand, your message (and value!) will get lost.
For example, a team creating ads for a probiotic supplement may initially try to consider their audience’s key pain points and respond – a good first step. If the team were to claim that the product could “help balance the consumer’s gut bacteria” they might consider this a selling point in the ad because it communicates a benefit to the consumer. But here’s the problem: If your audience is lacking in context or background, they might not know what this means. To effectively communicate the benefits of a product, they first must be understood.
“The supplement balances my gut bacteria – so what?” a consumer might think. “I don’t know what that means. How does this benefit me?” Because this particular reader isn’t previously educated about the benefits of balancing gut bacteria, the impact of the ad is lost.
Your audience shouldn’t have to wonder what the benefits to your product/service are, because that is the absolute first thing you should deliver to them in their own vernacular. A product or service may actually be a great fit for someone, but because of unclear content marketing, the impact of your content is lost. As a content team, you need to know if you’re speaking to your target audience in a way that resonates with them – not just with you and your team.
Understanding your target audience demographic deeply is a critical step here, and it can save you hours of frustration. If your target audience is a small and specific group, consider creating some personas to help you get inside their mindset. If your target audience is a broader group, I encourage you to step back and re-read some of your content, all while pretending you’ve never seen it before. Looking at content with “fresh eyes” can help you identify gaps in your story.
In my own marketing history, I’ve left out crucial information from a piece of content because I had the background and context to understand the message, so I forgot that it needed to be stated for a consumer with no industry knowledge. When you’re deeply enmeshed in an industry or content project, it can be challenging to see it with clear, impartial eyes – which is why I recommend bouncing things off of at least two other people before posting.
To summarize, If you’re siloed too deeply in your marketing brain, you may be forgetting about the language that will seem natural and make the most sense to consumers – and will clearly communicate to them why they need you. Step away, take a walk, talk to your mom, brother, or partner about the piece of content (if you’re not under a non-disclosure). Someone on the outside looking in can shed valuable insight on whether you’re making sense to the average viewer or not.
Your features vs. benefits ratio is off.
Don’t make the mistake of focusing heavily on the features of a product while skimping on content that communicates the benefits to your target audience. So many content teams focus heavily on touting the features of a product or service in their content, but they skimp on talking about how the product benefits the consumer.
In my experience, this happens because content teams are overly focused on differentiating their product or service from others on the market and want to talk about what makes it special.
And don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a bad strategy – these things are impactful and shouldn’t be neglected. But without communicating the benefits of a product or service, the efficacy of your content strategy may be lost.
In most cases, leading with features won’t be a strong enough hook for your audience because you haven’t addressed why they should care yet. Conversions probably won’t happen based on a list of features alone. When you communicate the benefits of a product, you communicate your compelling “why” to a consumer – an essential part of a content marketing strategy.
One of my favorite schools of thought about marketing can be summarized by this theory: “People buy with their emotions and justify with logic.”
This concept has even been studied by Harvard neuroscientists. Communicating how a product or service will positively benefit a consumer appeals to an emotion, however big or small. Following up that message with features helps drive the conversion decision home with facts and logic.
I don’t necessarily advocate for focusing less on features than you currently are – but I would restructure your strategy to lead with the benefits (emotion) and follow up with features (logic).
At the end of the day, content marketing is just people talking to people. Clarity, understanding, and succinct messaging should be at the center of your game, and when they are, it’s likely that you’ll boost your content performance so your team can meet its goals.
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