Content Optimization: How to Turn Readers Into Revenue

by Shopify Writer Shanelle Mullin
8 minute read

How do you turn readers into revenue?

It’s the question content marketers around the world ask themselves. It’s the question ecommerce marketers and entrepreneurs ask themselves before starting a blog.

Let’s deconstruct the question and work backwards from the money. Here’s your step-by-step guide to turning your current (or future) readers into cold, hard cash.

How much money did your content make you in 2019?

If you know the answer to this question, congratulations! You’re likely within the top 10% of content marketers in the world. If you’re like most people, though, you weren’t able to answer the question confidently.

You might know the number of pageviews you racked up or how rapidly your email list grew, but those are not monetary measures of success.

After talking to countless frustrated content marketers, in the ecommerce space and beyond, about how difficult it is to measure revenue generated through content marketing, I’ve invented a formula.
Wait. Inch away from that Close button. I promise this won’t involve any confusing math; I was an English major.

This formula serves two different purposes:
  1. Convince stakeholders to invest more in content or fully staff your content team.
  2. Shift content from a long-term branding effort to a measurable marketing activity.

Why the 80/20 rule of content is total BS.

Ok, let’s back up a bit. Let me take you back to 2006-2007.

Content marketing was starting to be taken seriously because of the success of what we called “SEO articles”. Basically, we chose a keyword and used it as many times as we possibly could in a 500 word article. Then we submitted that article to a site with tens of thousands of other SEO articles.


Very advanced stuff, I know. But it worked. Like, it really worked.

After a while, a debate broke out about what’s known as the 80/20 rule. Essentially, people started arguing because SEO articles weren’t working anymore and we needed to rethink content.

Some people said content marketing was 80% content creation, 20% content promotion. They wanted to put a focus on crafting content people actually wanted to read. Others argued content marketing was 80% content promotion, 20% content creation. They still believed the promotion method was everything. Viva la Ezine Articles!

Long story short? Everyone was wrong.

What about the money?

Neither side of the 80/20 coin takes money into account at all. 10 years later, you’ll still find people arguing about the 80/20 rule of content at conferences. And money is still not taken into account by most.

Why does this matter?

Because money matters a lot to every business, especially in the ecommerce space. Pageviews don’t pay the rent.

People know content works in the sense that it seems to fuel growth, but it’s a big time commitment. Ecommerce entrepreneurs and marketers want to know they’re getting a return right away and exactly how to scale that return.

All they get is a whimsical, “Play the long game, the value will come.”

So content marketing gets overlooked in ecommerce a lot.

This formula, hopefully, will change that.

Don’t worry, I'm not going to talk about lame popups.

You get enough call to action overload every single day. How do I know? Here’s an actual screenshot from Neil Patel’s blog:

Neil Patel's blog

I’m not zoomed in, that’s what my entire screen looks like. There are three sentences visible in a blog post and the rest is calls to action. Overload!

And don’t even get me started on those cruel opt-out popups that are suddenly everywhere:

Cruel opt-out
Cruel opt-out

The point is that content optimization doesn’t mean popups and calls to action for your calls to action.

Content Marketing Growth Formula

So, without further ado, here is that content marketing growth formula I’ve been talking about:

Content marketing growth multipliers

Number of leads multiplied by purchase frequency multiplied by average order value. These are the three multipliers that facilitate content marketing growth. Everything else is noise.

The cool thing about this is that if you can increase each multiplier by 30% in a year, you can double your revenue generated by content marketing in a year.

Check it out:
500 leads x 0.5 purchases per lead x $10 value on average = $2,500
600 leads x 0.65 purchases per lead x $13 value on average = $5,070

I know you’re thinking those numbers make zero real world sense. You’re right, but I told you I wasn’t the best at math, so I made it easy on everyone (read: myself).

30% seems a lot less overwhelming than 100%, right? Totally doable.

Now, this formula is taught by Drew Sanocki and by many others in many other industries. I’m definitely not the first person to present the idea of the three multipliers.

Here’s the problem. Content marketing is in desperate need of this formula because most people aren’t thinking about money at all. When they are, many are only considering the number of leads multiplier. And it’s the least important of the three.

Start by improving purchase frequency (of leads) and AOV (of leads) first. Then move to the number leads. Why send more people into a leaky funnel? It’s all wasted opportunity.

Increasing the Number of Leads

Number of leads

As I said, this is the most familiar of the three multipliers, so I won’t spend a ton of time on it. Everyone knows more email leads is a good thing.

The most important thing you can do for yourself is to focus on the value you’re providing to the leads.

While I’m usually using Mention as an example of what to do, here are a couple examples of what not to do: demo call to action

When’s the last time you were reading a blog post on improving customer loyalty and thought to yourself, “Man, I’d really love to demo a media monitoring tool.”? Exactly.

This call to action serves Mention, not the lead. The key to the second and third multipliers is getting this first one, number of leads, right. That means offering the leads something they actually value in the moment.

There’s a place for that demo call to action, but it’s not at this multiplier.

Here’s another call to action on their blog: subscribe call to action

Definitely better than a demo call to action, but still not super valuable. Would a total stranger find value in getting “hot blog posts, insanely useful resources, and funny gifs every Friday” from you? 

Probably not.

It’s time to get creative with these capture methods, folks. Break out from the norm. Go beyond the welcome mat or the popup. If you ask me, BounceX is leading the charge here. Check out the calls to action they have on the ConversionXL blog:

CXL slide call to action
When you activate that call to action on the right, you get this lead capture form sliding in from the left:

CXL slide call to action

Cool, huh? Here’s an expert quote from my friend Talia of
Quote from Talia Wolf

And here’s a sneaky little call to action hiding in plain sight:
Quote call to action
You get the idea. Offer real value to the lead, and think outside the box for your calls to action and lead capture forms.

Increasing the Purchase Frequency

Purchase frequency

Now let’s get to the good stuff. You know how to build up that list of leads. Let’s make those leads spend their money on your site more often.

There are some things you don’t want to save money on, like tattoos. (We’ve all seen those bad tattoo roundups.) Acquisition isn’t one of them, though.

Getting a lead to opt into your list can be expensive. You might be paying for ads to your site, for example. Once that lead is in your email list, the cost of acquisition goes down to the price of an email.

So, once you capture them, you want them to purchase a lot and often. After the first purchase, your profit margin increases because your acquisition cost stays low.

That’s why these last two multipliers are so important.

Remember when you could buy 12 hit songs by mailing away a penny? Or 6 CDs for $1? That concept is still alive and well today, known as a tripwire. Here’s a more modern example:

Harry's trial

Free, just pay the $3 shipping fee. This transaction isn’t about making money for Harry’s. It’s about changing the relationship from lead to paying customer.

Be sure to A/B test the products you use as tripwires. They need to be valuable and the offer needs to be absolutely irresistible. The idea is that you’re sacrificing some revenue now for exponential revenue later.

Don’t forget to send those who convert on your tripwire to your best selling products after the conversion. Take advantage of their buying mood! If they don’t bite, give them time for the tripwire to arrive in the mail and then try, try again.

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Here’s another tactic. Say you’re selling the Nintendo Switch. You might notice that 25% of customers who buy the Nintendo Switch come back a week later to buy the neon controllers. Another 65% never come back and the rest come back to purchase something else.

Start sending those who purchase a Nintendo Switch an email with a discount for the neon controllers a week after their initial purchase. It’s not rocket science, but it’s often overlooked.

Repeat this process for your other best selling products. What products are complementary and how can you build a funnel around existing buying patterns?

You can introduce a discount ladder as well. So, send them 5% off after a week, 10% after two, 15% after three, etc. Just don’t let that process drag on too long. You want to provide value, not creep people out or annoy them.

Increasing the Average Order Value

Average order value

Alright, so we have people flowing into the email list and we know how to make them buy more often. Now let’s get them to spend more each time they buy.

One of the best ways to do this is by bundling up products. Continuing with that Nintendo Switch scenario, here’s a bundling example:

Nintendo Switch

Death Wish Coffee is also taking advantage of bundling:

Death Wish Coffee bundle

Yes, you’re offering a slight discount on one or both of the products, but you’re increasing the AOV overall, so it’s a revenue win.

Or you can try cross-selling, which is the process of selling an additional product to an existing customer. That’s why all of those $0.88 chocolate bars at the checkout counter work. Or why McDonald’s asks if you want fries with that.

We already touched on forms of cross-selling above, but here’s the top secret cross-selling formula you can use:

Top secret cross-selling formula

Pretty self-explanatory and definitely not actually top secret. Essentially, you need the urgency (“The line is moving fast, do I want this chocolate bar or not?”) and the deep discount (“$0.88?! I just saw this chocolate bar for $1.50 in aisle seven.”) to make it work.

Be sure you’re using a high stock, high margin product for this. That’s different for everyone and I have no way of knowing Whiskey River Soap Co.’s margins or stock, but a bar of soap might be an example:

Whiskey River Soap Co.
What’s cool is that these strategies are all for email. So when you find what works, you can automate. Of course, you should continue testing products, copy, images, prices, discounts, etc. But you can set a lot of this stuff from the last two multipliers on autopilot while you focus on optimizing the funnels.


Content marketing gets a bad reputation because most people are stuck counting pageviews and shares. Those metrics are so far from revenue that sometimes it feels like content is a long-term branding exercise instead of an immediate marketing strategy.

  • Increasing email leads is only 33% of the solution.
  • Purchase frequency and AOV will fuel your growth.
  • Dollah dollah bills are king.
I promise what you don’t know about your content is hurting you. And if you haven’t tried content marketing yet, this is the best time to start.

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