Are Conversions A Red Herring To Your Brand’s Content Strategy?

As a dyed-in-the-wool strategist, nothing gets me more excited than going after the soft underbelly of the competition. I’ve seen time and time again that when a business commits to smartly zig when others zag, the dividends can far exceed what anyone initially expected. But this only happens if business owners are open-minded, willing to refrain from allowing conversions to be a red herring to their overall content strategy.

Conversions, while important, are not the be-all and end-all when it comes to the driving the content for your brand.

In fact, it might be wise to ignore conversions to a large extent when it comes to the content that should be added to your website.

Opportunities Can Trump Conversions

"300 movie" "This is madness"

Image courtesy of

I know what you’re thinking: “This is madness, Ronell! You’re a mad man!”

When you or your staff are deciding what to add in the way of content to your site, you likely start with Google Analytics, which alerts you of everything from where the user came from and which pages they visited to how long they spent on the site and everything else you need to fill up your daily data cup.

Simple enough, right?

But what about the folks who visited your site and did not convert? How did they end up there? What could you have offered them to gain their business? Most important, what about the folks who never found/visited your site?

How could you get in front of them so that next time, or at some point in the future, they visit your site and do convert. I’ll tell you how: By largely ignoring your keywords and your conversion traffic.

Here’s why:

Let’s say one of your main branded keywords are “Jeff’s Coffee Beans” and your money keyword is “Coffee Beans Phoenix.”

  • This means that you’d obviously have the website local SEO-optimized for anyone looking for “Jeff’s Coffee Beans in Phoenix”
  • And you’d have main category pages and blog content centered around “Coffee Beans Phoenix”

If someone is walking through Phoenix and thinks, “What was the name of the coffee shop Diane told us about?” you’re covered. Then they get on mobile and type in “Coffee Shops In Phoenix,” and assuming you have your local citations in order, you pop up as one of their top choices.


  • What about the person looking for a great place to work, with free Wi-Fi, in downtown Phoenix?
  • How would the person who’s meeting a friend in downtown find you?
  • And for the four co-workers looking for a light lunch—would your keywords make them aware that you offer tasty bagel sandwiches and homemade chicken salads?

Keywords Are Great Until They Aren’t


Image courtesy of Darpa

Don’t be misled by data and keywords. Those amazing conversions could be distracting you from real opportunities, the ones that your business (a) needs and is (b) on the cusp of.

The problem arises when you think of your keywords from the standpoint of your business, not as your customer. You think, “I’m a location in downtown Phoenix that roasts and sells coffee beans and that also runs a coffee shop that sells specialty items.” Many would-be customers are likely looking for none of those services, but would happily visit, or even frequent your location, if you’d simply market yourself to them.


By focusing on their solutions, not their problems.

No matter what business you’re in, the better you understand the intent, not just actions, of your ideal prospects and existing customers, the closer you are to realizing the level of success that’s available to your business.

This is a point summed up nicely by brilliant SEO Ruth Burr Reedy, in a recent blog, Persona Research and SEO: Nobody Googles Their Problems: “Focusing solely on the last keyword—the one that converts—means missing out on a huge opportunity to engage earlier in the decision-making process.”

She continued: “The searches that convert tend to be searches where people already have a solution to their problems in mind. The real opportunity, however, lies in the searches people conduct while they’re trying to figure out what those solutions are. Information-gathering queries are unlikely to convert right away, but they are an excellent opportunity to build a relationship with a consumer so when they’re ready to buy, they come to you.”

An Agile Persona Model That Gets Big Results

Remember, content marketing is not PPC, where someone clicks an ad, is taken your landing page, and then decides to buy your product or service. No, content marketing is part of the long game, which means you’re planting today what likely won’t yield fruit until some point in the future.

That’s why blogs are important. Consumers find your content, become familiar with your brand, then, when they need a product or service, you’ll be top of mind, provided you’ve made the commitment to content marketing early and often enough.

Thanks to our recent blog on long-tail keywords, you’re savvy enough to think beyond your main terms and, instead, now look for opportunities around long-tail keyword phrases.

Now, it’s time to take that effort to the next level by marrying it with your buyer personas.

Don’t let the word “persona” scare you. I’m not going to propose that you spend months compiling data about users, spent thousands on some fancy service or pay a marketing firm to conduct a study.

What I am going to do is ask you and your team to put on your thinking caps and come up with the reasons folks buy/would buy your products.

Notice, this is a bit different than the typical approach to personas, whereby marketers focus on the various types of people who purchase their products. This broad-to-narrow view can be very effective, especially for larger brands having varied but similar product lines.

However, it is fraught with problems many businesses need not concern themselves with:

  • It can lead business leaders down a path of assuming there are vast groups of people seeking any one product
  • It can result in marketers taking their eyes off their core audience, which is most-easiest identified
  • It often lends itself to “there-is-never-enough-information” syndrome

Start Marketing To Real People


I’ve compiled hundreds of personas for dozens of companies, and I can say that, with rare exception, what most small and midsize businesses would benefit most from is identifying the why, not the who.

While the personalities/personality types could be endless for the people who would buy your product or service, the reasons for which people make those purchases is very, very narrow.

No one buys a car to fix a nasal infection.

So, I want you and your team to focus on the various reasons prospects would buy your product and why existing customers currently purchase your product.

These two exercises alone will tell you more than you ever imagined and inform your content strategy, and your blogging strategy.

Here’s how the process looks, using the fictional coffee shop above:

  • Ask team members to keep a notebook handy to jot down ideas of why customers would frequent your location (e.g., cup of coffee, coffee beans, work space, food, meeting, etc.)
  • Talk to current customers about what brings them in, what they purchase, where they work/live, why your location works for them, what additional items they’d be interested in, how many times a week they visit, etc.
  • Meet weekly to compare notes and to discuss content that should be created around the topics discussed

This exercise accomplishes two very important tasks:

  1. It gets staff to thinking about content strategically, not just for the purpose of creation
  2. It focuses the business’s marketing “eyes” on a few clear, definable targets
  3. It allows the team to see the business through the eyes of would-be consumers and actual consumers

This is the where content strategy meets brand strategy: defining clearly who you (the business) are in the minds’ of consumers, and in the process understanding the types of content your audience expects, is receptive to, will share and reward you with business for.

The game-changing benefits to this strategy are that it energizes your entire team to market to real people, not fictional characters created on a whiteboard. In essence, the amalgamation of your (informed) keyword strategy and personas delivers a handcrafted content strategy that’s easy to get started on and, dare I say, fun to keep going.

Let’s see this in action…

One of the coffee shop’s customers is Pam, an upper-middle-class 43-year-old mom of two girls who lives three miles away, visits four times a week, after she leaves the nearby gym. She always purchases the 10-ounce skinny latte but says she’s (a) interested in a low-fat, gluten-free muffin and (b) would consider visiting the shop for lunch if the menu had sufficient healthy options.

It’s safe to assume other moms in the area are like Pam, so why not create content around her and moms like her.

  • Create lifestyle-oriented blogs with topics like “How To Find Your Local Gym Partner,” “Stay Skinny With The Best Latte In Phoenix,” “Why Should Pam Enjoy All The Fun?” and “Don’t Throw Away All That Hard Work At The Gym: Stay Skinny With Phoenix’s Best Latte”
  • Offer coupons through the local gym for a buy-one-get-one-free skinny latte (available only to those who bring in a friend who is also in gym clothes)
  • Feature moms/patrons in your blog, on your website and in your promotional materials, highlighting who they are and what makes them tick
  • Create discount cards with a space for writing on the back, allowing them to double as suggestion cards, when they are traded in at the register

See a pattern? Every bit of content is infused with the user, and the solution he or she is seeking, not with the needs of the business.

The more willing your business is to commit to delivering the content prospects need, the more they will reward you with consistent business for your efforts.

This entire process has legs.

If your team is willing to jot down notes as time permits, then bring those notes to a brief meeting each week for discussion, the benefits can be eye-opening.

This is the sort of content strategy I think all businesses can and should engage in. I’ve seen the positive benefits with my own eyes.

What are your thoughts? Did I leave out something of significance?

About Ronell Smith

I'm digital strategist and content geek who's passionate about helping businesses wade through the B.S. and get the results they desire. I rant often about user experience, PR, SEO, branding, product innovation or content marketing. Otherwise, I'm just a boring nerd who dreams about disruptive innovation, long-form feature writing, nuclear physics, entomology and sniper rifles.

Filed under: Strategy