The 2 Most Critical Practices for Turning Content Into Sales

Tara Kester

By Tara Kester

Are you sick of writing content, never knowing if it’s truly engaging the right audience or leading to sales? I sure was…


Writing good content takes a lot of time and effort. And if you don’t have the time (or desire to write), it takes a lot of money to outsource. Up until a little over a year ago, we were religiously creating content on a weekly or bi-weekly basis at Shovel—mostly in the form of video blogs which takes even more work and effort to create than just a text post. We were getting some traction on them—a decent amount of traffic to our site from email blasts promoting the content and some hits from social media shares. We’d even get a small project here and there from former clients who had previously fallen off our radar. All and all though, the time and effort we were spending on creating these posts was not paying off. I knew we had to post consistently (we were consistent for roughly a year)—but like my middle school band director, Mr. Landman, always said, “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.” And if we were “practicing” putting out content that wasn’t perfect—i.e. not following some sort of coherent strategy, our efforts were in vein. So therein lies the question—how do I “practice” putting out “perfect” content? How do I make sure that what I’m writing is an investment in turning content into sales?

Glad you asked. I’m finally feeling assured that the work my team and I are putting into content is an investment towards building our SEO rankings, the domain authority of our website, growing our list, and ultimately growing the number of quality leads that come in every month. And we’re converting these leads into sales! When thinking about content strategy, there are two very important fundamental practices to keep in mind, and both are dependent on each other:

1. Write to your user persona(s)—know what’s important to them.

2. Know what long tail keyword phrases your user persona(s) are searching for. 

I’ve worked with and have seen agencies, marketing directors, and freelancers do one of the above—i.e. they either focus on catering to their audience, but neglect to strategically tie this content to organic search rankings or visa versa. But by not focusing on both of these elements, you’re missing out on half of the pie. And why have just half of the pie when after just a little more effort, you can have the whole pie? Or exponentially more pies? If you don’t like pie, this may be a bad analogy. So let’s just pretend you’re a pie-lover (for now) for the sake of learning. Let’s proceed.

1. Write to your user persona. If you haven’t created your user persona(s) yet and/or aren’t sure if the ones you have are valid, click here—I’ll show you how. Once you have these identified, you should know their pain points—what’s important to them, their challenges, the type of language they use, the blogs they frequent, etc. Knowing this info is a critical first step. CRITICAL. Is it a lot of work? Yes. But without knowing this information (and there’s a big difference between knowing and guessing), you will have a very hard time getting traction with your posts—social media shares, click-throughs on your Facebook ads, high email subscriptions, low bounce rates on your website, etc. You may be ranking on the first page for strategic keywords, but if the content itself doesn’t address and speak to the needs of your user persona(s) (and if your user personas aren’t the ones searching for these keywords), your digital marketing efforts will be a constant uphill battle. Once you know your audience and have created user persona(s), we suggest paying close attention to the type of posts they’re sharing and engaging with the most. BuzzSumois a great tool to help you do this. Don’t copy the title of these posts—get creative and make the content your own. Just use the BuzzSumo tool as a meter to gage what’s popular among your audience. Write down all of the popular topics and relevant phrases you can find.

2. Know what long tail keyword phrases your user persona(s) are searching for. Once you have a pulse on the type of content that is the most popular for your user persona, it’s time to get down to your inner nerd and let the data do the talking. So often, people write content that’s centered around their user persona, but isn’t necessarily tied to an organic keyword strategy. This is silly for 2 reasons: A. With just a little more research before writing a post, you can get way more traffic your website for free and also ultimately rank higher for the service and product offerings listed on your website. B. Knowing what phrases are actually being searched for helps you create content that exactly addresses those inquiries—just how it’s phrased by your audience. When your audience types in their inquiry to Google and your article comes up with the phrase that they were searching for, they’ll think “Wow—that’s crazy! They read my mind!” and will feel an instant connection to your content and ultimately to you, the author. So let’s get jiggy with how to do this.

First, pick a keyword difficulty tool. We use HubSpot and SEMRush. HubSpot is pricey, though we like it because it links your chosen keyword phrases to your posts, lead magnets, and users personas ultimately to one central dashboard. It also measures the chance of you being able to rank for that keyword or phrase relative to the domain authority of your own website (here’s a tool that will show you what your domain authority is). SEMRush is also great and is free up to a certain amount of searches. It’s not as accurate for measuring a competitive score of that keyword phrase, but you can still roughly get an idea.

Second, take all of the popular topics and relevant phrases from the exercise above and copy/paste them into your keyword difficulty tool. You want to find phrases that A. Are being searched for. Even if you’re tool says that the search volume is “low” or under 100, that’s ok for now. Even if a couple of people search for this per month and sub-sequentially land on your post, those people are probably good potential candidates for your service offerings/products. If your phrases entered don’t come up at all, try rephrasing it. Think of how they may phrase an inquiry when searching for it.

Third, you also want to find a phrase that has a low competitive score. What’s low? The SEMRush tool ranks competition by a % — the higher the percentage, the more competitive the word or phrase. Anything below 40% is ideal—though this depends on the domain authority of your website. With SEMRush, you can click on the keyword phrase and see the top websites that are ranking for it. If they’re pretty well-known sites and/or have a higher domain authority than your website, then you’re going to have a tough time ranking for that phrase. It’s not impossible, but it will be tough. The HubSpot tool ranks competitiveness on a scale of 1-100, 100 being the most competitive. You want to try and find a keyword phrase under 40, again, depending on the domain authority of your website.

Once you have your keyword phrase, you will want to incorporate it into the post’s url, title, and once or twice through out the post. It’s also helpful to label images with the keyword phrase as well (in some shape or form).

When thinking about your content strategy, it’s also helpful to write multiple posts around one keyword phrase and/or keep updating the same post(s). This will continue to help you rank well for that particular keyword phrase.

Now that you have a strategy of what type of content to write for your user persona AND what keywords to build that content around, it’s time to get organized. We’ve created a simple content calendar template that helps you organize your posts for the year. If you have multiple user personas, with very different pain points, we recommend either using one content calendar template per persona and/or noting which persona you’re writing to in the blog post title field. You can download the content calendar template here that we use at Shovel. This content calendar template will also help you to know what type of offers to put into your content (aka lead magnets) in order to capture your reader’s information in exchange for this valuable piece of content. This will help you grow your list and ultimately your sales.

In summary, create your content strategy around your user persona(s) AND keyword research. Organize this content into a content calendar, ensuring that all of your posts are working towards a greater goal of improving user engagement, organic search, and social media shares. Then you’ll feel good about spending the time and/or money on your next post, knowing it’s not in vain and for your gain.

About the Author

Tara Kester

Tara Kester

A graphic designer and digital marketer by trade, Tara (Brouwer) Kester started Shovel Creative in 2010 out of a passion for good design and customer service. To scale upon her core values of never leaving a client hanging or missing a deadline, her very first hire was a project manager. Since starting Shovel, Tara’s passion has extended to data and psychology-driven design—design that is proven and tested to connect with its audience and drive leads and sales. She is also committed to leadership and supporting her team. Tara has worked with high-profile brands such as Sony Online, Lexus, Pantone, Activision, THQ, and Warren Miller. For fun, she enjoys being outdoors by way of rock climbing, hiking, camping, and the occasional surf session. She also enjoys singing and playing her guitar.

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