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Landing Page Optimization: 11 questions to ask about your landing pages to increase conversion

March 12th, 2020
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We frequently receive questions from our email subscribers asking marketing advice. Instead of hiding those answers in a one-to-one email communication, we occasionally publish edited excerpts of some of these conversations here on the MarketingSherpa blog so they can help other readers as well. If you have any questions, let us know.

While most of those questions are to a general MarketingSherpa customer service inbox, this email was sent directly to Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director and CEO, MECLABS Institute (parent organization of MarketingSherpa). The email has been stripped of any identifying information but includes general information that will likely be helpful to many of our readers.

 

 

Dear Flint McGlaughlin: I have been watching your videos, including:

Based on these videos, I’ve been putting together a treatment on our current landing page. We did not change much design-wise, but the main points I’ve tried to address are:

  • Changing the personality of the page … i.e., toning down the direct-marketing “hype” voice on the page and presenting information more objectively
  • Communicating the value proposition in a way that hopefully is more credible
  • Using short testimonials to make specific claims instead of just bullets by an anonymous copywriter
  • Trying to increase the overall credibility of the page with more evidence spread throughout —not just in the form of testimonials but also data on the underlying science, quantitative evidence, customer satisfaction and awards.

I am wondering if you might be willing to look at it and give me your immediate feedback and perhaps refer me to anything in your videos or book which I might not be understanding or using correctly.

I am not looking for free copy editing, more just feedback whether it looks like I am applying these principles correctly or not. Obviously testing is going to help determine if we have the right value proposition and appeal.

If you have a chance to do this, I would be extremely grateful 🙂 Thank you!

 

And here is Flint’s (generalized) response, which I thought would be helpful for many marketers, especially anyone focused on conversion rate optimization or landing page optimization…

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CRO for CTAs: There is no perfect call-to-action, but these 6 checklists will help get your CTA pretty close

March 5th, 2020
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Isaac Newton’s first law of motion states that an object at rest remains at rest unless acted on by a net external force.

It’s a good reminder when we discuss the call-to-action. The customer’s natural state is inertia. They don’t care about our products or services without a clear, compelling reason.

The only reason they move is because the perceived value of the product (shaped by previous experiences, word of mouth, press mentions and especially your marketing) begins to pull them into motion. And usually the final piece that tips them from being at rest to in action is the aptly named call-to-action.

Which is why it’s surprising that so many calls-to-action don’t really live up to the name. CTAs like “submit” and “request a quote” give your customers very little reason to act.

Oh, let’s take a quick break for our own mid-blog post CTA:

This blog post was originally published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.

OK, we’re back. While the above call-to-action is not value-laced per se, our hope is that it’s surrounded by value. If you find this blog post helpful, and you would like to receive more helpful content like it in your email inbox, then making you aware of the email newsletter’s existence will encourage you to overcome inertia and act.

 

The quest for the perfect CTA

Now that we’ve talked about the bad, let’s talk about the good. We’ve been asked about the perfect CTA. What should the words say? What color should the button be? Friends, we can’t help you find the perfect call-to-action. It doesn’t exist.

Because CTAs are very context-dependent. The best thing you can do to improve your CTA is to understand your unique customers’ psychology as well as your own.

To help simplify that for you, we’ve created a nifty PDF download of checklists you and your team can go through as you seek to optimize the conversion rate of your CTAs. You can download it for free here: The Call to Action: Six quick checklists to help the busy marketer improve conversion rates.

I’ll walk through one of the checklists with you in this blog post, and you can get more background on the checklists along with a deeper understanding of how to improve your calls-to-action in 150 Experiments on the Call-to-Action: Six psychological conditions that hinder our results.

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Marketing 101: What are variable tags?

January 16th, 2020
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Marketing has a language all its own. This is our latest in a series of posts aimed at helping new marketers learn that language. What term do you find yourself explaining most often to new hires during onboarding? Let us know.

 

Recently we moved our corporate office to a new location. We are in the process of updating our address on our web sites, online business listings, social profiles, templates, etc. When I checked our email templates, I realized that we had neglected to place a variable tag in our email footers. Because of this oversight, we had to manually change the address for several hundred templates. If we had used this handy tag to begin with, it would have saved us a lot of time. Variable tags have several uses and benefits in email automation, but before I explain further, let’s define the term for those who are new to email marketing.

 

What is a variable tag?

A variable tag, in an email context, is a bit of code that you can add to a template that will personalize customer information by pulling content from their personal records in your automated email program. The personalization possibilities can be endless, depending upon the degree of information you have gathered over time about your customers.

Automated email programs have different names for personalization tags. We use Pardot, which refers to them as variable tags. But Hubspot calls them personalization tokens. Mailchimp refers to them as merge tags. Constant Contact just calls them tags.

Probably the most common personalization tag used today is the greeting tag. It enables bulk emails being sent out to address each recipient by name rather than “Dear valued customer” or something else generic. Since customers are more likely to engage with your messaging when it’s personalized, it’s a good idea to use this tag. Even if the only information you have about a prospect is their name and email address, it is enough to insert this tag and begin greeting them personally. You can even personalize the subject line with a tag that pulls their name. Studies show this increases open rates.

You can also use variable tags to add contact information into your email templates, like your company name and address. Here’s just a sampling of the most common ones.

In Pardot, you can add a variable tag in the body of an email by placing your cursor where you want it and then clicking on the variable tag option. It will open a window with a list of default variable tags to choose from, as well as any custom ones.

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Marketing 101: What is a sticky footer?

December 19th, 2019
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Marketing has a language all its own. This is our latest in a series of posts aimed at helping new marketers learn that language. What term do you find yourself explaining most often to new hires during onboarding? Let us know.

 

A footer is the information at the bottom of a webpage. On a traditional website, a visitor would scroll down to see the information at the bottom of a webpage in the footer. However, with a sticky footer (sometimes known as a fixed footer) that information is always present at the bottom of the visitor’s web browser as the visitor scrolls down. They do not have to get to the bottom of the page to see it.

For example, the team at Reservation Counter discovered that having the contact center phone number prominently displayed on the website increased orders, so they included it in a sticky footer for their mobile visitors.

The below image from the article Conversion Rate Optimization Case Study: How a travel website doubled website conversion rates in one year points out the places that the phone number was included on the mobile site. The phone number at the bottom of the page is in the sticky footer.

 

Creative Sample #1: Mobile sticky footer with telephone number CTA

 

The Infinite Scroll: A never-ending attempt to find the footer

Another website design tactic that has gained traction over the past decade or so is the infinite scroll. An infinite scroll is when more content loads automatically at the bottom of the web browser as a visitor scrolls down a webpage.

Infinite scroll designs were adopted because they reduce the friction of having to click to the next page. This is especially true on a smartphone where it’s far easier to continue to swipe than to click on a link or button.

However, most infinite scroll designs essentially remove the footer as a website element since the visitor never gets down to the bottom of the page. Anytime they think they’ve reached the bottom, more content loads on the page, and the page just gets longer. It’s a lot like that dream where you’re eating spaghetti — the more spaghetti you eat, the more gets added to the bowl, so you never finish.

This is one use case where a sticky footer can help. By combining a sticky footer with an infinite scroll design, you can reduce friction for the users while still providing the information they would expect from a footer.

 

Footers add credibility to a website

At this point, you might be thinking “I like my infinite scroll design. The footer was a relic from the early days of the internet. Who needs footers anyway?”

For visitors accustomed to websites designed with footers, the footer can add credibility by providing general information about the company, such as:

  • Link to about page
  • Link to contact us form
  • Link to customer service forum
  • Link to FAQ
  • Link for press requests
  • Phone number
  • Mailing address
  • Customer service email address
  • Privacy policy
  • Name of the person or company that owns the website (usually accompanied by a copyright)
  • Link to social media accounts (Pro tip: If you’re using a template, make sure you update the icons for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc., with links to your accounts. If customers click and get nothing, it only reduces credibility)

Now you might think “my customers never send me postal mail, so why does my mailing address matter in the footer?” Even if your customers don’t try to contact you in these ways, simply having a physical mailing address can reduce anxiety for the customer and help them understand that your company is legitimate.

 

The long landing page

While many marketers try to keep their landing pages as short as possible, fearing that customers simply won’t read a long landing page, long landing pages can be effective for some products. Here’s an example of a long landing page that netted 220% more leads for an addiction and mental health rehabilitation facility. And here’s a long landing page that generated 638% more leads for an insurance call center.

With a long landing page, you don’t have the same problem that you do with an infinite scrolling page. Visitors can scroll down and eventually get to the bottom to see the footer. However, if the page is long enough, they may lose patience. So you may want to test a sticky footer. It could help increase conversion by giving them the credibility information they desire. Or it could hurt conversion because it presents a distracting element on the page. The results will depend on how your unique visitors react to your unique products’ pages, and they will likely vary by industry, product type and visitor type.

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Marketing 101: What are microsites? (plus 3 successful microsite examples and 2 missteps)

November 21st, 2019
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Marketing has a language all its own. This is our latest in a series of posts aimed at helping new marketers learn that language. What term do you find yourself explaining most often to new hires during onboarding? Let us know.

 

Microsites are somewhere in between a single landing page and an entire website. They are small, special-purpose websites for a single, dedicated communication (and conversion) goal set up by companies that already have a full site. They work well for the communication of an idea or product that requires more than a single landing page, for example, an event.

Successful microsite creation requires a clear goal and focus for the microsite and should be built from the ground up optimized for achieving that goal.

Here are a few tips to help you use microsites.

 

Tip #1: Tightly tap into visitor motivations

Microsites can be more focused on an ideal customer subset than a company’s overall website that often must serve multiple audiences. For that reason, microsites can be used to create a more forceful prospect-level value proposition.

For example, MECLABS Institute (parent organization of MarketingSherpa) was engaged in conversion marketing services for a national land and home sales organization for consumers. The company had microsites for individual communities.

In an A/B test of a community’s microsite, the control offered a community guide to prospects and used sales-oriented language like “… learn why [community name anonymized] is Paradise Found.”

 

The treatment offered a community map to prospects and a more helpful tone. The map was described as something that would help prospects. “Be prepared for your visit to …”

By better tapping into the motivations of people interested in visiting the community, the control produced a 326% increase in conversions.

 

Tip #2: Use microsites to target specific locations to garner local search

A large brand that sells warranty and car servicing options was performing well on keywords for the United Kingdom as a whole, but there were towns with service garages where the brand was off the top of the search rankings.

The team at agency DFY Links built three microsites for their client’s least competitive towns — Bath, Chepstow and Swindon. There was a similar technical setup to the main site, but with a heavy focus on the town, and the team went to work building links to these microsites every month. The team chose microsites because any increased effort to help the main site rank in certain areas would dilute the UK search and also reduce rankings in other local areas, according to Brett Downes, SEO Specialist, DFY Links.

“Within a year, Chepstow and Swindon sites featured in [spots] one to five on SERP (search engine results page) results for 90% of keywords we were targeting,” Downes said. “Bath was slightly different, as competition was higher and the other sites had a lot more backlinks. However, we did rank on page one for 50% of [keywords] we were targeting, with around 10-20% ranking in position one to three, especially on long-tail keywords.”

The sites also appeared in the local map pack, the listing of nearby businesses that appear under a map on the main SERP.

“The microsites were minimal in code and very simple. Having a lean site ensured we would have a very fast-loading website, as speed has become more of an important ranking factor (especially on mobile) this has given us the advantage [over] local, bloated sites,” Downes said.

The microsites were completely different sites, not subdomains or subfolders. Local businesses they were competing against usually had less than 50 referring domain links, so the team knew they could match the best competitors within six to nine months of link building.

“We could have used the extra budget and created subfolders on the [main] site and had targeted sections for different locations. This may have diluted the main site; plus with the microsite, the assumed location managed to qualify us for proximity searches,” he said.

However, your business may have a very different competitive mix and that can affect how you consider your URL structure, so read the next tip …

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Marketing 101: What is baking in?

October 3rd, 2019
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Marketing has a language all its own. This is our latest in a series of posts aimed at helping new marketers learn that language. What term do you find yourself explaining most often to new hires during onboarding? Let us know.

In a recent MarketingSherpa article, ConversionXL Research Director Ben Labay says, “I think we are getting better as an industry at baking in an experimentation process and culture into our organizations.” (from Ask MarketingSherpa: Maturity of conversion rate optimization industry)

That raised the question — what exactly is meant by “baking in” in a business and marketing context?

If you click on that link and read the final article, you’ll see that we chose to include the parenthetical statement “[including as an integral part]” to clarify the term baking in.

Baking in means including, in a sense. But that misses the nuance. When you’re baking something in, you’ve considered it from the get-go. So that’s why we went with “[including as an integral part]” not just “[including.]”

Not just a cherry on top

Just like when learning a new language, understanding the nuance to a term is crucial to speaking the business lingo fluently in an industry. In this case, the nuance is meant to communicate that the thing being discussed is not just included, but included as an essential, core part from the very beginning.

I suspect the analogy comes from baking itself. You could just add icing to the top of a cake. Or a cherry on top.

But when you bake something in, it’s really part of the dessert.

Words mean what people think they mean

Language is a funny thing. As marketers, we may be trying to convey a certain denotation (literal meaning) or implying a certain connotation (the idea of feeling invoked by a word), but if our audience doesn’t get the essence of what we are trying to communicate, that communication has not happened.

So I wanted to reach out to some others and get their thoughts on the term “baking in” to see how it aligned (or diverged) with my own understanding. And perhaps with yours as well.

It’s a pretty interesting little experiment. We take this business lingo for granted. But miscommunication happens when we assume we know what the other person is talking about, and professionals (especially newer workers in a field) rarely like to admit their ignorance of an inside term.

As you read the responses below, note how we all generally tend to agree on the meaning of the term. And yet, we all add our own little nuances to the meaning. A good example of why we should always confirm that others understand what you’re talking about, especially when using insider lingo.

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Effective Landing Pages: 30 powerful headlines that improved marketing results

August 8th, 2019
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There are 21 psychological elements that power effective web design (see infographic). Of those elements, one of the first your customers will experience is the headline.

21 design elements

(You can download a PDF of this infographic here.)

 

A powerful headline is your make-or-break opportunity to connect with the customer and get them to engage with the rest of your page — and ultimately convert.

We’ll provide you oodles of examples of effective headlines in this MarketingSherpa blog post to help spark ideas as you brainstorm your own headlines. And you can delve deeper into all 21 of those psychological elements in the following videos from MarketingSherpa’s sister brand, MarketingExperiments:

The 21 Psychological Elements that Power Effective Web Design (Part 1)

The 21 Psychological Elements that Power Effective Web Design (Part 2)

The 21 Psychological Elements that Power Effective Web Design (Part 3)

(This article was originally published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.)

 

Now on to the examples …

Like with your own landing pages, in many of these examples the headline wasn’t the only factor that affected performance. However, a different headline is a pretty significant change on a website and is usually a major contributing factor to a change in performance. The best performing headlines below are bolded.

Before: We’re here to help.
After: Simplifying Medicare for You
Results: 638% more leads

You can read more about the above headline in Landing Page Optimization: How Aetna’s HealthSpire startup generated 638% more leads for its call center

Before: About The GLS
After: Two Days of World-Class Leadership Training
Results: 16% increase in attendance

You can read more about the above headline in Customer-First Marketing: How The Global Leadership Summit grew attendance by 16% to 400,000

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Ask MarketingSherpa: Value proposition layers versus communicating the value prop concisely

August 1st, 2019
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We frequently receive questions from our email subscribers asking marketing advice. Instead of hiding those answers in a one-to-one email communication, we occasionally publish edited excerpts of some of them here on the MarketingSherpa blog so they can help other readers as well. If you have any questions, let us know.

 

Dear MarketingSherpa: Thanks for the great resources. I have been in touch in the hopes of getting some direct support around our value proposition.

We’ve taken insights from the Value Proposition course (and Flint’s new book) and redesigned our site (note, we haven’t yet implemented these new designs).

Is it common to present the value proposition in layers or should it be communicated more concisely? How early in the user journey should the value proposition be presented? Is it typically done on the homepage? Do you have examples of companies successfully implementing the value proposition in this way? How did they guide users through the value prop from the homepage?

Thanks so much for your insights!

 

Dear Reader: Thanks for your email, and glad to hear you’re working on getting some direct support.

I’m also glad to hear you’ve taken some insights from the value prop course and Marketer as Philosopher book for your site redesign. If you’d ever like to share some of that work publicly to help other marketers and product managers and get some recognition for you and your team, please let me know. Happy to consider it for a MarketingSherpa article. Here are some examples:

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Ask MarketingSherpa: How do small businesses find clients?

February 22nd, 2019
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We frequently receive questions from our email subscribers asking marketing advice. Instead of hiding those answers in a one-to-one email communication, we occasionally publish edited excerpts of some of them here on the MarketingSherpa blog so they can help other readers as well. If you have any questions, let us know.

 

Dear MarketingSherpa:  I have a question for you. In this ever more increasing digital age — where pressing palms and getting face time is getting harder and harder. How do small businesses find clients?

I am a graphic designer/marketer whose business model is to contract with other small businesses. Much like a General Contractor hires subs when they build or remodel a house.

When I get together with other contractors in the marcom field (web designers, marketers, other designers, branding specialists, etc.) the first question is generally ‘So, how do you find new clients?” The answer is generally referral, but that only provides so much to the pipeline.

We don’t have trade shows where the public can come in and meet us and get to know what options they have in terms of marketing their small business (like a home and garden show where the public comes in and meets the companies that offer home improvement — and all the new tech that goes along with it).

Our local AAF chapter did one about 7 years ago. It was poorly attended and never repeated. I presented. It was a fabulous idea.

We don’t have a Marketing Channel where people ooh and ahh over the latest couple who comes into businesses and turns their branding around and makes it all shiny and new and hands them a marketing plan and clients ready to purchase.

Marketing is the slow burn and a mystery how some succeed and others don’t. People like Shark Tank because it’s a Cinderella story — where the prince bestows upon them the money they think they need to succeed. Success overnight!

Everyone thinks it’s social media — but really that’s just more ad buys. And it’s left to the algorithm to determine how successful you are.

So how do small businesses that are in service industries especially find new clients? Sure we all know to go where our audience is, but our audience/ideal clients are in front of their computers looking for their own ideal clients. Or on the job, or at shows selling their own goods. They don’t scroll Instagram looking for business advice. They aren’t on Facebook reading funny memes. Generally. I mean they are definitely on their phones though.

I’m interested to hear your thoughts on the matter. I mean even your own website when it gives examples, it’s usually really large companies with really large budgets and a full agency behind the A/B testing and research and metrics. Not really applicable on a smaller scale, in most instances. Even people that know they need to content market are buying their content, not generating it themselves or through an agency (buying it from a service that caters to their industry).

OK — thank you for listening, and we all await your response.  🙂

Thanks!

Deanna Taus
Owner
Full Circle Creative, LLC

 

Dear Reader:  Hi Deanna, Thanks for reaching out.

We get this question quite often from small businesses who are engaged in marketing.

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What do you lead with? (MarketingSherpa Podcast Episode #4)

February 12th, 2019
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What is an impactful way to increase conversion?

Or …

How do you grab your customer’s attention?

See, I could have led with either statement. Both statements describe our conversation in the latest MarketingSherpa podcast. But my hypothesis was that the first statement would grab your attention more.

Customer attention is a scarce resource. There is only space for one headline in the print ad, only a set amount of characters in a paid search ad, only six seconds that will be the opening six seconds of your TV commercial. And yet, your product likely has many value attributes.

So what do you lead with? To elucidate (and other fancy words) yourself on this subject, you can listen to this episode below in whichever way is most convenient for you — or click the orange “Subscribe” button to get every episode.

 

 

Listen to the podcast audio: Episode 4 (Right mouse click to download)

More About Episode #4 — Value sequencing

The initial question of the podcast leads to a bigger topic — value sequencing.

What do customers need to know? And when do they need to know it during the buyer’s journey? In addition, which customers need to know which things about your product?

This is true for their entire macro-journey with your brand but equally important at the micro-level within each customer interaction. For a landing page or an email, what do they need to know in the beginning, middle and end?

These are topics Austin and I dove into. Here are the show notes from this episode:

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