Any online business owner not yet implementing Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) tactics is almost certainly leaving money on the table.
CRO refers to the process of making sure your web pages, landing pages, and blog posts are optimized to encourage the user to take the desired action. This action might be opting-in to your newsletter, clicking an affiliate link, or making a purchase.
CRO is tied in very closely with user experience. The smoother, clearer and more enjoyable a user’s experience is, the more likely they are to take action.
With 15 years of experience specializing in growing content and affiliate sites, our guide will look at the use of CRO to optimize blog posts focused on affiliate sales.
Our tried and tested process has worked consistently to boost affiliate sales through optimizing our content for conversions organically. However, feel free to use this process on any web page.
We are sharing our personal checklist that we use to optimize content.
Of course, every niche is different, and we always recommend running your own A/B tests. But checking your content against these 12 pillars is a great place to start.
And it couldn’t be simpler to implement.
Here’s what we are going to cover:
- Table of contents
- Comparison Table
- Excessive ads
- Info table
- Advanced Structured Data
- Excessive CTAs
- Affiliate programs
- Up-to-date products
12-Step CRO Checklist for Content
Head to any published blog post that might not be performing at its peak, and measure it against the following 12 criteria. Alternatively, you can do this with ready-to-publish pieces.
1. Table of Contents
As we mentioned earlier, a good CRO links closely to the user experience. Adding a table of contents near the top of your content helps the user navigate your piece. It allows readers to identify if the post will be helpful to them instantly, and it encourages them to keep reading.
2. Comparison Table
If you are reviewing or comparing products in your blog post, make sure to include a comparison table near the start of your article. According to a report by ContentSquare, people spend an average time of 54 seconds on a web page. Therefore, including a summary of information in a visual, digestible format will help users quickly extract critical information.
Including a CTA button for each product, e.g. ‘check price’ or ‘buy now,’ makes it easy for the reader to take action. Make sure you optimize your comparison tables for mobile use.
What should you include in a comparison table?
- Product images
If your article does not contain products or reviews, can you include a short overview section of pros and cons or key takeaways instead?
3. Excessive Ads
Another way to improve CRO is to make sure that your webpage is not drowning in ads. If there are excessive ads on a page, this can put users off, ringing spammy alarm bells.
How do you know how many ads are too many? It is a difficult call. Users are accustomed to seeing some ads on most web pages, and a good rule of thumb is to make sure it doesn’t impact readability. Side banners and some in-post ads are usually fine, but be wary of including too many pop-ups or anything that will seriously detract from the reader’s experience.
If you think there are too many ads, consider contacting your advertising provider. Switch up ad placement or reduce the number of ads.
No one wants to decipher a massive wall of text — this is a sure-fire way to lose a reader fast. Break up your content into short paragraphs using subheadings (we’ll cover this in more depth in the headings section later). We suggest paragraphs of two to four lines that break up the text and make information easy to read and digest.
As a rule, shorten sentences to a maximum of around 25 words. However, vary your sentence length to make your content more dynamic and avoid monotony. Adding plenty of bullet points and numbered lists makes the content more skimmable.
Readers also appreciate it if you provide value upfront. Answer critical questions up top and offer supporting info further down.
5. Info Table
This one is only necessary if the topic calls for it. An info table is similar to a comparison table but filled strictly with information — no affiliate links.
If your topic involves giving a rundown or comparing items, products, or simply a subject, an info table is a visual way to deliver essential information. A table above the fold (aka. visible at the top of a page before scrolling down) offers instant, skimmable value for a reader.
Not sure if you should include an info table? Check the highest-ranking competitor articles and use your findings as a guide if you need one.
As a rule of thumb, every post should include a featured image that appears above the fold. It should also have visual media throughout the piece. If you are reviewing affiliate products, it is good to add pictures of each one. Amazon allows affiliates to pull images straight from the site using SiteStripe, for example:
The next crucial aspect to check is whether you have enough optimized media throughout your content. Here we mean images, video, or other visual content.
Otherwise, add a few engaging or helpful images throughout the post. These could be:
- Video content
- Stock images
Ensure that all media has an Alt tag, which provides HTML text for the image that the search engines can read.
When you click on an article, you don’t read every word. You probably skim through the text and read the sections that seem most relevant. How can you tell which part is relevant to you? Headings.
Choosing the correct heading sizes and distributing headings throughout the article can significantly impact CRO. Use the H1, H2, and H3 heading tags to split up the piece and structure it. The large, bold text allows users to skim and navigate the article with headings and subheadings quickly.
Check your content to make sure you are using headings — and in the proper order. The following is the order we would use for a product review article:
- H1 at the top before the intro
- H2 main heading to start the list of products
- H3 for each list item
- H2 buying guide
- H3 buying guide subtopics
8. Q&A Questions
Have you added a Q&A section to your articles? If you don’t know what I’m talking about, listen up.
If we aim to provide value to the reader and create an enjoyable user experience, we should answer any questions they might have on a specific topic. The easiest way to do this is to add a commonly asked questions section to your post.
Running a simple Google search on your topic, you will see Google generates some People Also Ask questions that appear in the SERPs. These questions are real common searches people type into Google.
If you include the most relevant questions as subheadings in your article, you know you are resolving key reader issues in your text. Providing value will help your CRO and allow the piece to rank better.
9. Structured Data
Here we get slightly more technical and look at the code behind your content. You should add some type of article schema to your post, which is a language that aids Google and other search engines in understanding the content of your post.
Having structured data on a post can improve how your article looks in search engines. For example, it could allow your post to appear in the top stories carousel.
Many CMS will automatically add schema to your article code. The YOAST plugin for WordPress, for example, creates an autogenerated schema that will be sufficient for many niches. Otherwise, you can get your backend team to add this.
Review schemas can help you get clicks by adding ratings to your article search results. However, you risk a penalty using review schema, so it may not be worth it.
10. Excessive CTAs
Check that you don’t completely overload your article with CTAs. If your concentration of links is too high, search engines may flag your page as spam. Too many links can also put off readers, seeming pushy or ‘salesy.’
If your article reviews products, it is natural to have quite a few CTAs throughout your piece. Aim to have no more than one link per 100 words. You can also use competitor articles as a guideline, as the number of acceptable links can vary from niche to niche.
11. Other Affiliate Programs To Try
You could likely promote several affiliate partners if you are making money through affiliate sales. It is worth ‘shopping around’ so you know that you are offering the best deals to your readers, as well as maximizing your profits.
You can find new affiliate programs by checking the competition. Use Google to determine competitor articles. Then, use a tool like Ahrefs to view the ‘Links from Target’, which refers to the domains they link to throughout the piece. Sort this list by the number of links. The domains with many links are likely affiliate links.
12. Products Up-to-Date and in Stock
For CRO, if you promote affiliate products, all the items must be up-to-date and in stock. It might sound obvious, but affiliate promotions are constantly changing, and sellers may take down items, run out of stock, or the product ratings may change.
There is nothing worse than managing to guide a user to the point of clicking a link, to have them find it no longer works or the item is unavailable. Many affiliate marketers bleed revenue this way, and it not only undoes all the CRO you have done but also reduces your site’s credibility.
It can be a time-consuming job to check product links constantly. For any affiliate marketers that use Amazon Associates, you can use a tool called amzwatcher.com. It scans a site automatically and flags any broken links and out-of-stock or poorly rated products.
What Is CRO?
CRO stands for Conversion Rate Optimization. CRO in marketing essentially means optimizing a webpage to increase the percentage of users that take the desired action, e.g., clicking on an affiliate link or making a purchase. CRO focuses on a user’s experience and addresses issues of copy, design, page layout, CTAs etc.
Why Is CRO Important?
Even if your webpage is converting well, you can always find room for improvement. CRO is a simple way for you to boost sales and maximize profits.
- Generates more leads or sales
- Helps you stop losing money in your sales funnel
- Is cheap, if not free, to implement
- Increases the ROI on content or marketing spends
- Improves the user experience, encouraging repeat business
To make the most of your web pages, it is time to start building CRO into your content strategy. Simple things such as the user experience, the page layout, and the placement of different elements can hugely impact your reader’s actions. Now you are armed with a checklist you can use for content, especially for affiliate sales.