Content Marketing Blog

When asking questions leads to fewer conversions

In the 18 months or so since Google unveiled its Hummingbird algorithm there has been a sharp rise in the amount of content that poses a question in the title.

Hummingbird promised faster, more relevant search results using the full query rather than just a few keywords. Google’s data showed that more users were searching for questions and it wanted to make sure it could provide answers.

This prompted content creators to produce millions of articles using a question and answer format, with some success. Search volumes for a given longer-tail keyword phrase, such as a five or six-word question, are low, but a targeted piece of content can get you a quick win.

As a result, blog archives, glossaries and FAQs sections have become much more powerful tools for website owners and content marketers since Hummingbird was launched.

But while posing questions might be good for search and even clickthrough, what about when it comes to achieving a conversion? If you want all those extra website visitors who have come to read your Q&A content to then click a button, should your call-to-action also ask a question?

Content that gets the blood pumping

It could depend on how excited they are, according to a new study. Research featured in the Journal of Consumer Psychology revealed that people respond differently to marketing messages when they’re highly stimulated.

Content that gets the blood pumping

If you’re creating high-octane content, don’t ask questions

“If consumers are experiencing high arousal for some reason, and there may be many reasons for this – they could be at a sports event, watching TV or some kind of action movie, it could be the content of the magazine or webpage they’re looking at – if there is stimulating material around the consumers, they will tend to be aroused and respond less favourably to a question,” said Professor Henrik Hagtvedt, who led the study.

“If you are highly aroused, you tend to want clear information and know exactly what’s going on – you don’t really want to think about it, hence a statement does better. Under high arousal, the statements led to more purchases than the questions did.”

For content marketers, this could be a useful insight into when to adjust the messaging in their calls-to-action. If your content is intended to get the blood pumping, posing a question could lead to lower conversion rates, but if your content is interesting and good quality, just not super stimulating, a question could be much more effective.

Investing time and effort to improve conversions can often pay off quicker than working to increase traffic. Conversion rate is a sensitive metric and you may find relatively minor changes, such as the position and colour of your call-to-action, can have a significant impact on your results.