Every piece of content you publish ought to have a goal. Sponsored content placements on independent blogs are no different. Unfortunately, many content marketers use the guise of “generating awareness” or “creating brand lift,” to leave their content less than optimal. Page views are nice, but page views plus a follow up action are better. Here’s how to take advantage of every opportunity you get to influence an audience without making a sales pitch.
Sponsored posts aren’t billboards, they’re road signs.
There are a lot of reasons why you chose to seek out paid content placements. Perhaps you know that to reach the audience you’re after, the most direct route is through the blog publishers who speak to them and influence them daily. That makes you pretty smart. So don’t squander the opportunity by broadcasting your message like you just rented a billboard in the middle of that blog. Help guide readers along the path you want them to travel.
Sponsored posts shouldn’t be written like ads, with a lot more words and moved to the left. Sales copy belongs on product landing pages and promotion emails. And if you want to create ads, then do that– don’t waste your time with content.
In our Ten Commandments of Content Marketing, we lay out a clear set of guidelines for how to connect with and influence an audience, not broadcast to it. Inbound marketing with content is about providing value. Readers should be better off for having read your content and feel smarter, not feeling interrupted like just another ad. And that’s exactly what makes your next steps so powerful, because you didn’t broadcast an ad– you gave readers a welcoming way to interact with your brand–and they chose to interact further.
What do you want readers to do?
Yes, you want new customers to buy your product, that’s a given. But a “buy it here” style link can be too overt a signal, depending on the structure of your content. Calls to action that feel like a hard sales close can end up tainting an otherwise solid article and making it feel less genuine.
Conversely, treating your article like a guest post with “subtle” links from keyword anchor text in the body isn’t useful, either. (Seriously, get over the anchor text thing.) Links from paid content placements should be no-followed anyway, removing the link juice advantage, so your links should function solely as calls to action for readers to take another step. Of course, a click to your site isn’t always the next step you need.
Your goal is to get readers to engage with you/your brand at least one more time. That’s it. In the world of blog articles, continued engagement is the holy grail. Should that goal even be a click to a product or service page? Probably not. Many other, more effective options await. Work on getting your readers to take one of the following actions:
- Comment on the post and add more ideas to the conversation
- Click on independent research that you reference in your post
- Investigate a helpful resource you assembled on your site
- Share your article on social media
- Follow your brand or author profile on social media
- Read a related article on your own blog
- Subscribe to your newsletter
- Download an e-book or special report
When you treat your call to action like the beginning of a conversation, and not an attempt to close a sale, readers become prospects. They open up to your message. More importantly, blog publishers appreciate your respect for their readers, which can help you gain more exposure to their audience, more often. Consumers generally need multiple impressions from your brand before an opinion or feeling of trust develops anyway. So give them good reasons to keep welcoming you into their content experience and interacting with your brand.
Make the next step clear with a good reason to take it.
Easy concept. Rarely implemented. Remember, blue text with a line under it is not an automatic inducement to click. Explain to readers where the link goes and why they ought to click it. Or if the next step isn’t a click, what should they do? (Note that none of the links in these examples are actually clickable– I made them up.)
For more research on how to help babies sleep through the night, click here.
Hungry for more instruction you can put to use right away?
Check out our in-depth pieces about effective networking and follow up call scripts.
Did we miss something? Please share your own experiences in the comments. We’d love to keep the conversation going!
We’re discussing issues like these every day in our Google+ Group, including weekly Hangouts.
Come join us!
Our New 2014 Spring Garden Planner is here! Download the free app and share your designs with us on Facebook.
There are many effective ways to implement calls to action into your sponsored content, but very little advice about how to do it specifically for sponsored posts. Here are a number of classic examples used to sign up for subscriptions, and this is a great Slideshare and article about call to action graphic design, buttons, layout and text. Both are useful for moving your thinking in the right direction– even if they provide examples that won’t all neatly apply to your marketing objectives, they do provide a wealth of ideas.
In the end, if your content was valuable to readers, your call to action should simply provide access to more useful tools, content and community interactions. Know what you want your readers to do next, then ask them to do it with a good reason why.
Have you implemented powerful calls to action that worked for you? Tell us about them in the comments.