6 Proven Tactics for Writing Blog Posts that Convert | Outbrain Blog


Blog Optimization: 6 Proven Tactics for Writing Blog Posts that Convert Traffic to Leads

| Dan Sherman

content conversion optimization

As the Director of Conversion Optimization at Outbrain I spend a lot of time optimizing our Amplify sign up funnel and direct response landing pages, but I also work closely with our content team to ensure we are applying conversion rate optimization (CRO) best practices to our blog posts and other content assets. While sometimes that “conversion” is directing readers to sign up for Amplify, other times the content type is better suited for a blog subscription or ebook download call-to-action (CTA). Engagement KPIs like scroll-depth, time on page, or bounce rate, if measured correctly, are other critical numbers to optimize, that can ultimately result in higher conversion rates.

Feeling inspired by Will’s recent recap of the Unbounce conference, I’ve decided to share 6 tactics that have helped to inform our own effort to convert blog traffic to leads and customers. Here goes…

1. Help Solve a Real Customer Problem

This may seem obvious, but if you want your content to convert leads and eventually customers, your blog posts need to help solve real customer problems. If you sell the most comfortable running shoe on the market, share tips from professional runners on how they make sure they’re feet feel great after a run. If you provide an enterprise productivity tool, write about how to solve inefficiencies in the workplace. Get creative, but don’t stray too far from the goal of solving your customer’s problems. Our best converting blog post is “5 Paid Traffic Sources Every Online Marketer Should be Testing“. If you know anything about our Amplify product, you can probably guess why.

2. Hook Readers with a Great Story

While the topic of your content may be the first thing that you need to focus on it’s also critical to introduce your post with an interesting story.

Humans are naturally attracted to stories. They make our neurons fire like crazy, actually triggering a response that simulates what the reader would be feeling if they were the ones in the story themselves. When written correctly, stories are so engaging that they encourage your audience to keep reading all the way to the end. In a great example published by Alex Turnbull, the founder of Groove, on the Buffer blog, he found that adding a story to a blog post increased average time on page by 520%, and nearly 300% more people scrolled all the way to the bottom of the page.


3. Start with an Image

Much like a story, a single image can provide a great, and stimulating, narrative. Rather than going with a generic photo, remember that you want to engage your audience and trigger emotions in a unique way. As such, you’ll need to provide an image that is both personable and relatable. To increase conversions even more, consider these two strategies offered by JeremySaid:

  • Images should be big – In an A/B study published by EcoConsultancy, blowing up images to a size 28% greater than their original resulted in 63% more clicks, and a 329% increase in customers filling out online forms.
  • Use pictures of people’s faces – Eye tracking studies confirm that faces are the first thing that people look at when they see a picture of a person, and there are a number of studies that confirm that using pictures of faces can help to increase conversion rates.


4. Use Subheadings to Break Up Text

Sadly, not all readers actually read every word of content; instead, the majority of them skim content for the most important part. By adding subheadings, your readers will be able to find the most essential parts of your blog quickly and easily. Your subheadings should be bolded with H2 or H3 html tags. This will also help with SEO. Bullet points are another great way to break up content into easy-to-manage sections.

If you overwhelm the reader with a wall of text, they will be more likely to bounce. Breaking up content with subheadings gives the reader the choice of whether or not they want to closely read the article.

5. Increase Site Speed

I can’t emphasize this enough: make sure your site loads quickly.  A slower load time results in an increase of blog abandonment on the part of the customer. In fact, 47% of consumers report that they expect a webpage to load in two seconds or less. And what’s more, a one second delay in load time can result in a 7% reduction in conversions.

Check out these awesome studies on load time published by Web Performance Today: Walmart.com found that for every one second of improvement they made to load time, they yielded a 2% increase in conversions; Firefox reduced load time by 2.2 seconds, and increased their number of downloads by 15.4%; and AutoAnything.com cut their load times in half, and increased conversions by 9%.

You can test the load time of your blog by using online tools like WebPageTest and GoogleDevelopers PageSpeed Tools.


Image courtesy of KISSmetrics.

6. Leverage Your CTAs

One of the most important tactics you can leverage to increase your blog’s conversion rate is to test your calls-to-action. There are a number of different CTA strategies that you can employ for optimal success, including:

  • Text-based in-line CTAs
  • Sidebar CTAs
  • End-of-post CTAs
  • Slide-in CTAs.

Text-based in-line CTAs are CTAs that are written directly within the content of your blog, like the one seen here provided by HubSpot:


In the case study from which this image came, HubSpot added a text-based in-line CTA early on in a post. The CTA was the third for the post, and was based on a keyword. The conversion rate of the post increased by an overwhelming 240%.

Sidebar CTAs can be effective when done right. However, too much on a page can be overwhelming for a reader, actually increasing bounce rate and decreasing engagement. iMPACT Branding and Design eliminated their sidebar—and sidebar CTA—and experienced a 71% increase in performance on their standard CTAs. Not only does this speak to the fact that sidebar CTAs aren’t right for everyone, but that the traditional end-of-post CTA can be extremely effective.

And last but not least, slide-in CTAs. These CTAs “slide in” from the side as the reader scrolls down the page. They’re often not as overwhelming as a full on sidebar, making them more engaging to readers. Online Digital Profits reported that using slide-in CTAs increased CTR by 192% and generated 27% more submissions.

These are just a few methods of converting your blog’s traffic to leads. How are you applying conversion rate optimization best practices to your blog? I’d love to know.

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Dan Sherman

Dan Sherman

Dan is head of Conversion Optimization at Outbrain. He’s responsible for making sure that all of our customers are going... Read more

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  • chris| September 6, 2015 at 2:14PM

    Great tips!! I have just started blogging on new a site, onlineshouter. I will definitely follow your suggested tactics!!

  • Suhem| November 17, 2015 at 6:06AM

    Love these tips, Dan! I like how you listed common mistakes everyone faces, but they’re still easy enough to implement fixes for if you just try a little. I especially feel so for numbers 1, 4 and 6, since I faced problems with those three myself. Number 1 was just an issue for me that I wasn’t even aware of until it was pointed out to me, but I’ve been careful to avoid the same pitfall since then.
    For numbers 4 and 6, I used this nifty little inbound program called SalesPanda. I found it’s interface for publishing content much more affable than that of WordPress, so even html headings were easy to set up. It also helped solve my CTA dilemma as well, as it provides the option to set up a variety of CTA’s for any page of your website. The slide-in ones are my favorite too!


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