In our most recent slideshare on conversion-oriented content marketing, tip #1 is: conversion is optional.

The case for optional conversion

Content marketing often works best when visitors get value without having to give anything in return. Instead of asking for the conversion up front, you can offer it as a natural extension of the content. If your visitor likes your content, they have a logical next step to take.

For instance, instead of hiding a white paper behind a lead gen form, you might offer a straight link to it. Then on the last page of the white paper, you could say, “want more info like this? click here” and then send them to a lead gen form.

This helps your content spread faster, and also ensures the people who do fill out the form already like what you have to offer.

This sounds great right? It’s a win-win on both sides. Visitors get free information, and you get quality leads. However, fortunately or unfortunately, we’ve been conditioned to believe we should give up something (usually contact information) in exchange for valuable content.

The case for testing optional conversion

A while back ion created a content-rich microsite in which we gave away our Top 10 Mobile Marketing tips for free. On the microsite we had a form that said, if you want MORE content like this, we’ll be happy to send it to you.

We tested a conversion path against the microsite, where we did not offer the content for free. Visitors first segmented themselves on the landing page. They chose whether they wanted to schedule a mobile landing page demo, or receive our Top 10 Mobile Marketing Tips.

The people who choose to receive the tips quickly clicked-through to a landing page with a few bullet points on what to expect in the tips document, and were presented with the form.

The conversion path, where no content was offered for free, beat the microsite in under 2 days (tested to 80% confidence)!

This isn’t to say a conversion path will always win, or that it will even still be the winner if we reran the test 6 months from now. The point is: you should test a variety of different ways to circulate your content.

And that is principle #3 in our conversion content marketing slideshare: “publish and deliver your content in the format that maximizes value.”

You won’t know which format maximizes value unless you’re testing it!

How are you testing delivery of your content?