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Picture this: A member of your target audience is reading a piece of your company’s content. They make it all the way to the end, and they liked what they read … Now what?

Ideally, you’d like them to convert. But depending on your company and industry, that word — “conversion” — could mean many different things.

According to MarketingSherpa, a conversion is “the point at which a recipient of a marketing message performs a desired action.” That could be an email open, a follow on social media, a form fill that generates a sales lead, or, the end-all-be-all of conversions: a purchase. Many customer journeys include a series of smaller conversions that lead the buyer from first touch to purchase.

One key component to generating conversions (and ultimately customers) is content, but you can’t just throw some content up on your website, sit back, and wait for the conversions to roll in. Turning content into conversions starts with three best practices:

1. Get Ready to Play the Long Game

The best part of good content marketing is the trust that it builds with your audience. By reaching customers on their level and empathizing with their problems, brands can position themselves as a friendly voice in a sea of potentially deceitful marketing messages.

“Content marketing only works if users trust the validity of the information provided,” wrote Matt Leap in a recent blog post for High-Impact-Prospecting. “This information becomes the basis for later value claims …That’s why it’s so damaging for your content to be treated like advertising. Advertising is viewed with an inherent grain of salt. Without trust in the supporting information, your later claims are no longer grounded.”

Building this trust requires a long-term view of your content marketing strategy. Your content may turn into conversions, but it won’t happen right away. Start by looking at your efforts from the point of view of your audience: Build goodwill by giving some content away for free and putting only the very high-value assets behind forms. Improve your public perception by generating thought leadership content in your space. Let your audience know you can relate to them by covering topics they’re interested in and keeping the straight advertising pitches to a minimum.

2. Find the Right Eyeballs

Quality content is the first step in successful content marketing. But to get your content to convert, you need to look at your distribution strategy.

Don’t be fooled: Distributing your content means more than blasting it out on social media. You need to be wherever your audience is. Outbound methods such as email, content syndication, and yes, social media networks are key to your success.

But inbound methods such as search engine optimization are also incredibly valuable. Consider a reader who comes into your site on a Google search, reads a piece of content, then shares it with their Twitter followers. Suddenly your content could have dozens, even hundreds or thousands, more sets of eyes on it. Even if you focus your efforts on outbound distribution, don’t forget to optimize your content for inbound traffic

3. Strengthen Your Calls to Action

Look at your customer’s journey like a novel: Your goal is to keep the audience reading chapter after chapter, maintaining their attention until the end. Including strong calls to action with each piece of content will drive the reader through to the next chapter in your content journey.

As a best practice, each piece of content you create should include one — and only one — core call to action. This may be a request for the reader to follow you on social media, to learn more by downloading a white paper, to read a related article, or to sign up for a free trial.

In addition to your one core call to action, though, you can also include smaller opportunities and requests throughout your content. Links on keywords to related content are a valuable and unobtrusive way to guide your audience to other assets — not to mention a great way to show that your brand has content depth. Social sharing buttons at the beginning and end of your content are another subtle way to prompt readers to engage with your brand.

With these best practices and an understanding of how and where your audience wants to interact with your brand, you can greatly improve the conversion rates of your content and keep your audience’s attention to the end.