Creating Remarkable Content Conversion Experiences

May 15, 2015

“Most websites don’t have a traffic problem…every website in the world has a conversion problem.” — Bryan Eisenberg (tweet this)

On April 9th, thousands of marketers all over the world celebrated the first International Conversion Rate Optimization Day. A celebration of “data-informed copywriting, design, and communication,” it unfolded across 24hrs of webinars, Hangouts On Air, Twitter chats, AMAs, and in-person meetups. It was the latest crest in a rising swell of interest in tackling what, for many, is a very big marketing problem: on average, businesses see roughly 97% of the visitors to their websites fail to convert (tweet this).

But while all the attention funneled into optimizing landing pages and converting visitors into subscribers and leads is absolutely warranted, I also think too narrow of a focus on it has the potential to make us miss the forest for the trees.

Single acts of conversion are certainly key, but getting a prospect to click a button obviously can’t be our only goal and focus. There’s an entire buying journey to consider. As such, it’s important to step back and take a less myopic view of what the entire conversion experience actually looks and feels like for a visitor.

What are they seeing before they hit our sites and landing pages? What sent them there and what are their expectations? Are those expectations being fulfilled? What happens after they subscribe or register? What’s their impression of the offer they’ve downloaded or been emailed? Does it live up to the hype? What does it influence them to do after?

Rather than simply obsessing over button colors we need to be investing more thought and effort into what comes before and after single points of conversion (especially if you’re finding subsequent drop-offs or bottlenecks with those leads). We need to examine and optimize the entire content conversion experience as a whole.

Are You Providing a Good Content Experience?

As marketers, we typically pride ourselves in waving the flag of customer experience at our companies. After all, we want to develop meaningful and valuable relationships between prospects and customers and our brand.

But talking the customer-centric talk is one thing. Walking the walk is another. For all our emphasis on making the buying journey highly customer-centric, it’s surprising how often we neglect to hold the content we create — and the journey prospects/customers take to discover, access, absorb, and utilize it — to the same standard.

3 Types of Bad Content Experiences We Sell Our Audiences Short With

1) The Bait & Switch

As ex-Google and HubSpot content marketer/current Nextview Ventures VP Platform Jay Acunzo writes, when it comes to content we routinely oversell and under-deliver, baiting visitors with shiny offers with no substance, “Ultimate Guides” that are ultimately disappointing.

What makes us think we’re building trust when all we’re doing is giving prospects beef jerky when we promised them filet mignon?

2) The “Straight to VHS”

Or we spend time and resources on developing good content, only to deliver it in ways that aren’t useful or that our prospects don’t want. Ex: Still churning out content as PDFs? Why?*

Still hosting webinars that are poorly attended? Why not save everyone the time and post a recorded presentation with slides, instead? How many times have you had to answer, “Is this being recorded?” Better question: How clearly do prospects have to spell out for you what they actually want?

(*admission: we’re guilty of this, and we’re working on it!)

3) The One and Done

We also tend to treat every landing page or piece of content as a single transaction. That kind of approach is extremely limiting, not to mention mildly exasperating from a visitor/prospect’s point of view.

When we visit a site we want to be remembered. We appreciate it when it feels like our last visit mattered, when we don’t have to fill out every single line of the same form every single time we want to see or download something**. We like it when it’s easy to find, access, and share things we think are actually awesome. We’re delighted when they’re actually useful and make something difficult easier to do. If there are follow-ups we expect them to be related and also helpful (not annoying). And surprise bonuses? Well, those are great, too.

(** double admission: we’re working on this, too!)

That’s the type of experience we enjoy and expect from others, but is it the type of experience we’re providing with our own content?

give content unto others 2

original image courtesy James Shepard

Portent founder and CEO Ian Lurie is right — it’s time we started treating content as a more conscious part of the user experience (because it is). It should be customer-centric, not just in terms of topic, but in terms of format, delivery, and how it fits in with the bigger picture.

A download isn’t one interaction. It’s a series of them, and every part matters. It builds on and sets off a chain of additional touchpoints, and each one is a chance  to make a memorable impression, differentiate, and provide/demonstrate value.

The goal is to provide one seamless content conversion experience (tweet this).

Lessons from Unbounce on Offering a Great Conversion Experience

To learn how to do this the right way, who better to turn to than Unbounce, whose mission is to help companies design not just better landing pages, but better conversion experiences.

Let’s dive into what a typical content conversion path from Unbounce looks like. Below, I’ve broken it down into five steps, and provided my take on what they’re doing well, what’s possibly missing or falling short, and what you need to keep in mind when creating your own conversion workflows.

Step 1: The Entry Point

There are plenty of ways prospects can come across your offers — social shares/promotions, search results, and referrals being just a few. For our purposes here, let’s look at a Twitter post promoting “The Conversion Marketer’s Guide to Landing Page Copywriting”.

What I Like

  • Clarity: It’s incredibly clear what’s being offered here and who the offer is for. No hyperbolic adjectives, which I actually think conveys confidence. Terms like “ultimate” tend to set off my oversell radar and can sometimes come off as desperate. Yes, they may work (and please feel free to test them), but overuse is gradually sapping their effectiveness. They also make it clear the offer is free without coming off as too salesy.
  • Visual: It’s eye-catching and also consistent with Unbounce’s overall branding.

What Could Be Better

  • A little redundant: Instead of repeating the title twice they could have considered using the text to convey a benefit readers can expect from reading the guide. Ex: “Increase Conversions X% with Click-Worthy Calls-to-Action”.
  • Who’s Joanna Wiebe?  With no additional info, many people may not know who the author is (even though they should — she’s fantastic). Why not include her Twitter handle to make it easy for them to find out? That could also help get her involved and maybe even spur more conversations and interactions around the offer.


When developing entry-point CTAs for your offers, be sure to take a step back, put yourself in your audience’s shoes, and ask yourself the following:

  • Does the CTA stand out? Do I find it visually engaging?
  • Is the headline crisp & compelling? Does it get my attention?
  • Is it clear what the offer is, who it’s specifically for, and why I should care about it?
  • Does it set the stage for me in terms of style, tone, branding, and promise?

Step 2: The Landing Page

There’s no lack of tips and best practices for optimizing landing pages. In fact, you can find 101 of them directly from Unbounce here. But let’s continue down the path the “Conversion Marketer’s Guide to Landing Page Copywriting” started us down, reviewing the landing page and the experience it provides from a visitor’s perspective.


Unbounce landing page example 2

What I Like

  • Consistency: The messaging and visual theme established in the CTA are carried over here. There are no surprises in terms of what I was expecting to find.
  • Additional highlights: The subtitle presents the value prop in a more descriptive way, then we get to dive in deeper with a concise bulleted list of what we can expect inside the guide.
  • Sign up is simple: They keep the barrier to entry low — just asking for my email address, plus info on how I currently build my landing pages, which Unbounce can then use to segment me.
  • CTA button jumps out: I know we agreed we weren’t going to obsess over CTA buttons, but the fact remains they are important. As Jeremy Smith explains, the big things that matter are color (there’s no one magic color, it really just needs to contrast with the rest of the page), size, and placement. This landing page is a good example of nailing all three so your eye is naturally drawn to it.

What Could Be Better

  • Still no hard ROI benefits listed: Stats and numbers can speak louder than words.
  • No previews of what’s inside: If there are any visually engaging graphics inside, showcasing them as “sneak peeks” on the landing page can be a great selling point.
  • How meaty is this? They list that the guide is 56 pages, but they bury that in the description copy. I’m seeing more and more sites calling out how long their offers are / how long it takes on average to read them (Medium being one of the more prominent examples). Unbounce does a good job of this on their resources library page, but it could be more called out here.
  • No social proof: Despite acknowledging the importance of social proof in bullet point #3, the landing page doesn’t include any. Knowing that this guide has been widely shared (via a social counter) and/or seeing a few endorsements or quotes can help convince me it’s an offer worth downloading.


  • Does this sync up with what I was expecting from the CTA?
  • Is it clear what’s being offered and what I’m going to get?
  • Is it easy for me to download/register for the offer? Could it be easier?
  • Does it provide me with helpful clarifying info I can use to qualify whether or not to invest my time and email address? How long will it take to read/watch the offer? What takeaways can I honestly expect?
  • Does it offer compelling social proof?
  • Does it indicate you “get it” — you feel my pain, respect my time, and want to share something gen with me?

Step 3: The Thank You Message / Follow-up Email

Good content conversion experiences don’t end with a click. The quality of your follow up can be a real differentiator and help set the stage for the interactions to come. Let’s see how Unbounce does it.

The Follow-up Thank You

Unbounce follow-up message


The Tweet

Unbounce Share on Twitter Message


The Email

Unbounce email

What I Like

  • Immediate access: Once I submit the form a window immediately pops open giving me the link to the guide.
  • Easy to share: While I appreciate the opportunity to share (and the personality “Don’t bogart the smarts!” conveys), I do think their proposed messaging could use some work (more on that below).
  • Personal touch: I love that the email comes from Oli Gardner, one of the co-founders of Unbounce, rather than a generic email address. While I know this email is automated, it’s still a nice touch, and it provides a real opportunity to reply back and start a conversation. The message itself isn’t personalized, but it strikes the right tone and it gives me easy options to either unsubscribe, access more resources, or learn more about Unbounce’s product.

What Could Be Better

  • No one would really share that message on Twitter: I actually think a large number of people want to do this (especially fellow marketers). The problem is we’re putting words in their mouths, and the majority of the time those words add up to a hokey pitch we’d be embarrassed to share, ourselves. “Can’t wait to crack open ‘The Conversion Marketer’s Guide to Landing Page Copywriting'”? Who actually tweets like that? People share things on twitter to make it seem like they’re in the know. Draft up a tweet that the downloader would be proud to share because it makes them look like an expert sharing helpful info, instead. Ex: “How to write click-worthy calls-to-action [link] Must-read #CRO guide from @unbounce…”
  • A more personalized email: It’s easy enough with basic marketing automation to create unique emails for each offer. The generalized email from Gardner saves them time from having to create new emails for every new offer, but it’s also a missed opportunity to tailor the message with even more targeted secondary CTAs. Or, if you really want to blow your prospects’ socks off, try sending them hand-written thank-you cards.
  • What, no bonus? I’m always struck by how big of an impression a small extra gift or bonus can make on me. A free sample at a new restaurant; 1-800-Pet-Meds sending a dog bone along with my dog’s pills. Call me sappy, but this kind of thing really does have an impact. Why not treat your follow-up emails as an opportunity to do the same thing by giving away another offer you’d get the same email address for, anyway?


  • Do the follow-ups sync up in terms of tone, style, and branding?
  • Do I feel like the message is personal/genuine?
  • Are there clear next steps suggested?
  • Do I have an opportunity to share? If so, does the sharing message match up, and is it compelling?

Step 4: The Offer

After all the work that goes into the previous steps, don’t forget it’s the offer, itself, that’s the main event. Does it honestly live up to the hype you’ve created?

Rather than provide a detailed critique of the Unbounce guide (which, for the record, I do think lives up to its promise and I would definitely recommend), let’s jump right into the checklist.


  • Does the content deliver what I was promised?
  • Is it easy to read/view in different formats (ex: on my phone)?
  • Is the design clean, attractive, and effective?
  • Is it easily saved/accessed/shared?
  • Is it clear what my next steps should be?

Note: These are obviously questions you’ll want to address sooner rather than later and before the production process is complete. If you do find yourself with a finished offer and you’re still unsure about these questions, you’re probably better off pushing off your release and addressing them first, no matter how painful that might be.

Step 5: The Next Steps / Additional Outreach

Once again, it’s crucial to remember that a single conversion is simply one step and a means to an end. Ideally, your content marketing is fully integrated into your lead generation and nurturing flow, and this download/registration will set an organized chain reaction in motion.

Different companies approach this in different ways, and some are more aggressive in their follow-up outreach than others. On one end of the spectrum are companies like Unbounce, who add you to an email list and send you regular updates in the form of weekly/monthly newsletters and/or additional content offers. On the other end, there are companies like, who pride themselves in calling prospects directly just minutes after they make a download or register.

No one way is necessarily the best for everyone. The important thing is that you choose an approach, get organized around it, and continuously test, analyze, and iterate to improve your results.

The bottom line is that having all of these steps/touches in your content conversion workflow is now table stakes — basic marketing automation 101. Doing them all well is a different story. Take advantage of each and every one of these potential interactions to deliver value, make an impression, share your personality, and point prospects/customers in a new helpful direction with clearly defined next steps.

Feature image by: Nelly Volkovich

Senior Content Manager

<strong>Jonathan Crowe</strong> is Senior Content Manager at <a href="">Barkly</a>. He was previously the Managing Editor of OpenView Labs.