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How to Use Multivariate Testing to Build the Ultimate Opt-in Form

This guest post is by Adam Connell of Bloggingwizard.com.

There’s a testing technique out there that’s not being used to its full potential—or even used at all by most website owners.

Today I want to show you how you can use it to create the ultimate high-converting opt-in form.

So what is multivariate testing? It’s essentially very similar to split testing. The difference is that it takes into account a lot more variables.

Many site owners avoid multivariate testing as it seems overly complex, and most of the services on the market that provide multivariate testing are paid services, which leaves bloggers unsure of the potential ROI.

In this post you will learn how you can use Google Analytics content experiments to conduct multivariate testing on your own opt-in forms in an easy and controlled way that will allow you to maximise your conversions.

Why multivariate testing?

In early 2012 Econsultancy.com and Redeye conducted a survey http://econsultancy.com/uk/reports/conversion-rate-optimization-report that yielded some interesting results.

Multivariate testing came out as the most valuable testing method for improving conversions, despite only 17% of companies stating that they used it.

According to the same report, taking the leap from A/B split testing to multivariate testing can help you improve conversions by an extra 15%.

This shows a huge opportunity for those site owners and businesses that come on board and start using this testing method.

So let’s see how it’s done.

Step 1. Break down your opt-in form

In order to conduct any worthwhile experiment you need a plan and identify all of the different variables; but in order to come up with a complete list of variables you need to break your opt-in form into its various elements.

Here is a combination of the typical elements you may find in an opt-in form:

  • headline
  • subheadline
  • additional text
  • image/video
  • name capture field
  • email capture field
  • buttons
  • background.

Step 2. Define your variables

Now that we have all of the elements of your opt-in form mapped out, we need to break each element down further and plan out how we might want to vary each one.

Please note, the list below is not exhaustive, nor do you have to vary all of these when you come to experiment. The point is to show you all of the possibilities.

You may think some of these are minor changes, and they are. But the impact of some of these changes can be enormous.

For example, some marketers have tested opt-ins with name capture and email fields against forms with just an email capture field, and have managed to increase conversions by 20%. So it all makes a difference!

  • Headline: font, text size, text colour, capitalisation, alignment
  • Sub-headline: font, text size, text colour, capitalisation, alignment
  • Additional text: yes/no, font, text size, text colour, capitalisation, alignment, bullet points
  • Image/video: yes/no, image size, image content, video size, video content, video audio, video type
  • Name capture: yes/no, text in field, icon to the left
  • Email capture: icon to the left, text in field
  • Button: size, shape, text colour, text font, text size, background colour, rounded edges
  • Background: border, image, drop shadow, border.

Step 3. Plan the test

This is where it starts to get a little bit more complex: you need to come up with the original control version of the form for your test, and as large a number of variations as possible.

The downside to Google Analytics content experiments is that you’re limited to nine variations plus the original (or control) version.

You also need to be able to keep track of the variations and changes that you’re making; you can’t just throw something in and hope for the best.

To make this easy for you, we’ve put together a Google docs spreadsheet that will allow you to keep track of all your elements and variations.

Click here to access the spreadsheet

Please note: you must make a copy of this spreadsheet before altering it, otherwise everyone who visits will be able to see your testing plan!

testing-tracker

Due to the number of variations that may be needed in the future we’ve broken the document down into controlled groups.

Now just add the variations, which may look something like this:

testing-tracker-filled-in

At this stage it’s important that you only fill in the variations for group A as you need to use the results of each group’s test to inform the variations you select for the next group.

Step 4. Gear up to test group A

Now that you have planned out your variations for group A, you’re ready to get the test underway.

The test

The setup process here is fairly straightforward:

    1. Set up a new page for each variation.
    2. Add the pages to Google analytics content experiments. Log in to your account, then navigate to standard reporting > content > experiments.
    3. Set your goals. Note: the easiest way to do this is to ensure your opt-in form directs users to a thank you page, then find the URL and add this as the goal URL.
    4. Add the content experiments code to your pages.
    5. Let the experiment run.

It’s important to let your experiments run for as long as possible, so you can get data from the largest possible amount of traffic.

The more traffic you run this experiment on, the better, but if your blog doesn’t have as much traffic, then you will need to run it for even longer.

You are just looking for conversion rate here so, strictly speaking, you can run each test on different numbers of traffic. You need a statistically significant result for each test; you don’t need every test to involve the same amount of traffic.

Step 5. Review results and prepare to test group B

By now you will have had the results from group A, which means you can start thinking about the group B tests.

The first thing to do is to take the best performing variation from group A and add it as the original for group B (don’t forget to update your main page on your website at this point).

Now it’s just a case of rinsing and repeating the process above, tweaking and coming up with new variations to test each time.

A potential 15% conversion boost

Using this guide you will be able to create additional experiments for other parts of your sites, not just opt-in forms. You can easily tweak this method to use on sales pages, product reviews, squeeze pages, ad layouts or anything else you can think of.

The important thing is laying out your variations and keeping track of them. Then, just rinse and repeat.

Are you using any form of testing at the moment? We would love to hear about which methods you’re using and how much you’ve managed to increase your conversions in the comments.

Adam Connell is an internet marketing and SEO nut from the UK. He can be found blogging over at Bloggingwizard.com. Follow him on Twitter @adamjayc.

Make an Offer they Can’t Refuse: 5 Tactics for Stronger Calls to Action

This guest post is by Christopher Jan Benitez of PrintRunner.com.

For site owners to increase their profit, they need to strengthen their calls to action (CTA).

Websites earn from visitors who click on a button or banner. This leads them down the conversation funnel until they reach the end of the funnel where they become a lead, if not a customer.

Getting people to perform a click of a mouse button—or any desired action—however, is never easy. It takes careful planning and strategizing to get people to heed your CTA, let alone act on it.

ProBlogger has said much about calls to action here and here. But a call to action needs to weave some factors left out of these posts together into an eye-catching and attention-grabbing banner or button.

This post discusses other essential points to help site owners maximize their earnings.

1. Color

The colors you use on your calls to action trigger different emotions in users. Whether it’s the copy or button itself, you need to use the appropriate color choices that best connect with your audience to increase the chances of people acting on your CTA.

This color wheel shows how each color is perceived by users:

Color wheel

The color you will use on your landing page will depend on the site’s theme. For the copy and button to pop out from the screen, you will have to choose a color that is complementary to the site’s theme.

If there are elements of your call to action that stick out like a sore thumb, redesign it with a color that is analogous to the theme.

2. Size

Make your calls to action appear in large buttons or fonts. If you have different calls to action set up on your page, make the priority ones larger and the lesser ones smaller, so that users can distinguish which are more important.

Don’t design the entire page with a call to action graphic design—observe subtlety at all times.

3. Placement

Theoretically, the best places for your calls to action to appear are above the fold and below the post.

When positioned above the fold, users will immediately see your call to action as the page is done loading. They won’t have to scroll down the page to see what’s in store for them.

On the other hand, placing your call to action below the post has the potential to produce more leads. Users who scroll down the page are engaged with the content of your post. Therefore, once your call to action appears on their screen, they will be more likely to heed your call.

The placement of your CTA ultimately depends on your site design. Since each site is unique, some best practices may not necessarily apply to your blog. You need to determine how your site is viewed by users by looking at a heat map. This helps you figure out which parts of your pages receive the most attention from visitors.

Slodive has a post of heat mapping tools that you can use for your site to learn the best places where you can post your call to action.

By placing your CTA on “hotspot” areas in your layout, you increase the chances of users heeding your call to action.

4. Uniqueness

It is advisable to follow the suggested practices of a particular task, but you can’t let yourself be restricted by those practices. Eventually, everybody will start using those tactics. until every other call to action ends up looking exactly the same.

Although there’s essentially nothing wrong with having a fundamentally sound CTA, a really good call to action operates away from convention.

Writer Dan Kennedy shares his insane advertising ideas for pain relievers, financial services, and skin cream product in the market in this post. “Truly groundbreaking” are words that perfectly capture the essence of Dan’s advertising ideas.

The idea here is that your CTA stands out even more from those of your competitors. When everyone else is following the best practices for their CTA, you can do ever better by going against the flow and following your gut.

Be distinct from the competition, but don’t overdo the weirdness—you may end up alienating your target audience. Let your creative side show while still being in touch with your core values and mission.

5. The “What’s in it for me?”

To effectively get people to perform your desired action, you need to put yourself in the shoes of your potential clients.

Think of your experiences purchasing goods from a store. You will find yourself buying something that gives you the most satisfaction at reasonable prices.

As a service provider, it is your responsibility to provide high-quality products and services that fill a need. Start by listening to people and knowing what makes them tick. Then develop your CTA based on the findings.

The higher the demand, the greater the possibility that your CTA will be answered. Whether you’re offering free ebooks, email subscriptions, or products for sale, ensure that there is genuine interest among users, and craft your CTA accordingly.

There’s a lot more about calls to action that needs to be discussed to help site improve their lead generation tactics and increase sales. If you have tips and tricks on how to boost your CTA that weren’t mentioned in this post, let us know by commenting below!

Christopher Jan Benitez writes helpful articles about social media, small business, and print marketing, in particular full color brochure printing. He is currently a writer for the PrintRunner Blog.

Make Money From a Low-traffic Blog [Case Study]

This guest post is by Nathan Barry of Designing Web Applications.

It seems like every day you read a story about a blogger who released a product to their audience and made a ton of money overnight. But then after you read more details about their story, you learn that they already had a popular blog with a huge audience.

That’s the point in the process where I always used to feel disappointed. While I wanted to replicate their success, I didn’t have an audience.

My story is different. Yes, I managed to pull off a massively successful product launch, but I did it with a tiny audience. I hope this is a story you can relate to and learn from.

The beginnings

In June 2012, I had 100 RSS subscribers for my blog. Not 10,000, just 100. And I’d been working steadily on my blog, pushing everyone to subscribe by RSS, for over a year. Not great results.

But a few months later, on September 4th, I released my first product, an ebook called The App Design Handbook, which went on to make $12,000 on launch day and has passed $35,000 in total sales.

Now are you interested?

Focus on a big goal

What happened in those three months between June and the September launch? The biggest change I made was focus. Since I was working on the book I decided that my blog was going to be almost entirely focused on the topic of designing iPhone and iPad applications. So I started writing posts and tutorials that would be valuable to that audience.

I was hardly the first person to write tutorials about designing apps. In fact, there were many much more popular blogs out there. But I was one of the first to write an ebook on the subject. So when people came to my site and saw that I was working on The App Design Handbook, it gave me instant credibility.

Focusing on a big goal, in my case writing a book, will give you credibility and a reason for visitors to follow your progress.

Give people a way to follow along

At the bottom of each post I wrote from then on, I placed an email signup form for the book. It didn’t provide much information (it would have been better had I provided more), but I did give people a chance to hear about the book when it launched.

This list gradually grew to 795 subscribers by the time I released the book.

Watching this list grow gave me the confidence that my methods were working and encouraged me to keep writing posts on designing iOS apps.

It is really important that you give your readers a way to opt in and let you know they are interested in your work. I’ve found email to be the best way to do this.

Share valuable content

The posts I wrote were all tutorials about designing and coding better products. Nothing super-elaborate, just what I thought would be helpful to someone learning about design. My most popular post was titled “User Experience Lessons from the New Facebook iOS App.”

Facebook’s iOS application had been notorious for its mediocre user experience and slow speeds. So when Facebook released a new version, I took the opportunity to dissect all the design changes they made to see what I could learn. The designers at Facebook didn’t change anything major, but they made a lot of minor improvements that designers everywhere could learn from.

I hoped this post would do well on sites like Reddit and Hacker News, but it didn’t really get any traction. To my surprise, though, it started getting shared on Twitter. After three days, it had been tweeted and retweeted over 100 times, driving a lot of traffic.

More importantly, that drove a lot of email signups to my book list.

Create a good product

It would be a waste to spend months building up to a brilliant product launch, only to have a poor product. So, I spent most of my time in those three months actually working on the book itself.

It’s important to do the marketing and promotion posts (that’s the part most people ignore), but you still need to write the book or meet your larger goal.

Yet, like all things, it’s a balance. If you focus 100% of your attention on the product, you won’t sell any copies. So find the right balance between creating the product and marketing the product. I find my time is split 50/50.

The launch event

Some people say you should let people pre-order the product to test demand. While I really like this idea, I didn’t do it. I decided that the email list was enough validation that there was a demand from the market, and I wanted to create a lot of buzz by focusing everything to the launch day.

While this strategy turned out fine for me, I don’t know enough to make a recommendation one way or the other.

I do know that if you can make a big splash, a single-day launch can help sales.

Guest posts

Speaking of a big splash, I did some guest posting as well. My original goal was to have between 15 and 20 guest posts all go live on launch day. I didn’t even make it close! But five really solid posts went live on some great sites on September 4th, with one more the next day.

It just goes to show that if you set high goals, even your failures are still a small success.

None of these posts drove a lot of traffic, but I think they helped remind people about the book. That’s why I love a single-day launch event. The first time someone mentions a book on Twitter you may not pay any attention. But then if you see an article by the same author on one of your favorite blogs, the two impressions together may be enough to get you to check it out.

So, do guest posts related to your product launches, but don’t expect thousands of visitors from guest posts. Guest posts are more about building relationships and name recognition than they are about driving traffic.

Using the email list

A week before launch I sent out a sample chapter and the table of contents to my pre-launch list. A few people unsubscribed, but they wouldn’t have purchased the book anyway.

It’s important to stay in contact with your email list, rather than trying to sell to them out of the blue months after they signed up. If you’ve been completely silent until asking for the sale, the common response will be, “Who are you, and how did you get my email address?” rather than them remembering who you are, that they opted in to your list, and are interested in your product.

It would have been better if I had delivered valuable content to them for a couple weeks leading up to the launch, but at least I did something. Then on launch day, everyone was expecting the sales email. I sent it out at 6:00 AM Mountain Time and had $1,000 in sales within ten minutes. For me, that was absolutely crazy! I never expected success so quickly.

That’s the power of a good email list.

The total was $12,000 in sales by the end of the first 24 hours, and $35,000 after two months, all from a blog that was visited fewer than 100 times a day a few months prior.

Wrapping it up

I hope it’s helped to you to follow my process and see how your own blog could make money, even if you aren’t popular. You need to focus on a big project, give people a way to opt in and follow along, focus on delivering value, and make a big splash on launch day.

Got it? I’m happy to answer any questions in the comments!

Nathan Barry is the author of Designing Web Applications, a complete guide to designing beautiful, easy-to-use web software. He also writes about design and business at NathanBarry.com.

Turn Twitter Followers into Blog Subscribers in 2 Steps

This guest post is by Momekh of LifeETC.

Too many interesting people out their are not using Twitter effectively. They may be using it to make solid connections, which is great, but they are not using it to directly build their own communities.

I propose a little experiment. It won’t take much of your time, as you’ll see. The benefits, on the other hand, can be significant.

Here are the assumptions:

  • You have your own blog (home base, as Michael Hyatt calls it) and a Twitter account. In all probabilities, your Twitter bio includes the web address of your site.
  • You understand that the purpose of both your blog and your Twitter account is to add to your platform and community. You are “community minded.”

Now for this experiment to work, I suggest that you make the following quick changes as you read them. The steps—two in total—are easy to do. And if you have any difficulties, you can always ask in the comments section.

Ready?

First, a reminder

Following people on Twitter is like voting. It’s almost a nudge, to tell the person that you find him or her interesting and relevant.

So take this idea a step further. Start following people who are following your person of interest.

Find someone interesting in your niche? Start following that person’s followers. These people are your prospects. They are the perfect candidates for your community.

Although there is plenty of great advice available on how to use Twitter, this post will help you convert the traffic coming from Twitter into subscribers for your community.

Now, it is time to make those quick changes we talked about.

Step 1: Update your Twitter bio

You are what you say you are. This is especially true if your bio is the first—and in many cases, the only—thing your prospects see before they come to your blog.

You want your Twitter bio to do two things, in this order:

  1. Make it truthful and relevant: You do not want to make it sound “cool” if what you include is untrue. Being honest has more benefits than the obvious ones. The prospect should be able to tell from your bio exactly what you do.

    Note that there is usually a difference between what you tweet about and what you do. The bio should be about what you do, so the prospect can see what your community and blog are all about. This helps them decide if you are relevant to them.

  2. Now, incorporate a call to action: Rephrase your message. Work on it. Test it out. It will be awesome if you can use it to introduce your website address. For example, see my Twitter bio—I ask users a question in the end, and then give them the website address as the answer to that question.

Step 2: Create a Twitter landing page

So far, your prospect has read your bio and your message resonates with her. The bio is clear, relevant, and even invites her to check out your site.

The prospect clicks … and sees your blog’s front page in all its glory.

That’s just wrong! I tested this out. I first changed just my bio, and sent interested Twitter followers to my blog’s homepage.

I saw an increase in traffic coming from Twitter. But there was no noticeable increase in my blog community (in terms of subscriber figures). I thought, “Well, people come and check out the blog, and don’t find it relevant, so they don’t subscribe.” And I’m cool with that—I don’t want people joining the community for the wrong reasons.

But then I thought that maybe I was looking at it the wrong way. The front page of my blog is, well, like a front page of a blog! It’s generic by design.

But someone coming from Twitter is already in a certain state of mind, a step into the “funnel” we could say. This means I can present the message of my blog to the prospect in a more meaningful way. Landing pages anyone!?

While writing your Twitter landing page, keep the following things in mind:

  • You are addressing your Twitter followers, so be as specific and personal as you can be. I start my page with “Heyya to my Twitter friends.” We already know the frame of reference for the people coming to that page, so use that information to better communicate with them.
  • As you present the central theme of your blog, make a call to action. I invite the prospect to further check out the blog content and to subscribe. There is ample research to show that a clear call to action works, so use it to your advantage.

There are tons of articles out there on how to write a landing page. That’s not necessarily a good thing. I knew I could easily fall prey to information overload, so I quickly wrote a new page, just keeping the two basic ideas above in mind, and deliberately forgetting everything else.

Writing a new page in WordPress is easier than stealing candy from a kid (not that I’d know). I gave it a page slug of “t”, and changed my blog address on my Twitter bio to reflect the change. My new Twitter landing page was live.

Now, that’s not a very elegant technical solution, as the coders amongst us would use a redirect to direct visitors from that link to the landing page. But I am no coder, nor elegant. So I just slapped the page together, put it on my Twitter bio and sat back.

I immediately started seeing an increase in signups.

Do you use any specific mechanisms to convert your Twitter followers into community members? Have any tips of your own that you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments.

Momekh is a “professional adventurer” and wants to help you attain financial freedom. He writes about creative self employment and wholesome living at his blog LifeETC. You can also follow @momekh on Twitter.

Boost Conversions Step 5: Reach All Your Audience Segments

This guest post is by Kate Swoboda of The Coaching Blueprint.

Go ahead—ask anyone, whether it’s a small business owner, a solopreneur consultant, or someone who’s determined to hit it big with their hand-made crafts:

What action would you like people to take, as a result of visiting your website?

(Note: this question may or may not make you a hit at parties, so proceed with caution).

Chances are, they’re going to all serve up the same answer: they hope that people will either buy something or book an appointment.

People have designed their business websites with one aim in mind, and that’s to get people to buy stuff—queue the series of squeeze pages and pitches and sales funnels.

It’s what we’ve been talking about here on ProBlogger all week. And it’s a worthy endeavor—I like making my rent payment each month, too.

There’s just one problem: not everyone who lands on your website is ready to buy. In fact, I’ll wager that most people aren’t, yet. What’s more? No matter what you do—no matter how much you “prime” someone to buy, or “remove objections” so that they’ll buy, a vast majority of the people who land on your site just ain’t buying, because they simply aren’t yet “buyers.”

A great many marketing sites out there will tell you to just ignore those people and move on to the person who’s ready to pull out their credit card.

Here’s an alternative idea: What about appealing to all of the different users that land on your site? How much more business would you get over the long haul if you took the approach that there’s something for everyone who comes to your website?

That’s what I want to finish up this series with today—to show you how to take what we’ve discussed about reviewing your offer, revisiting your conversion funnel, revamping your communications, and running A/B tests, and see how we can apply that advice to different user types, or segments, within your target audience.

What are those user types? I’m glad you asked.

Ideal Users, Resonant Users, and Careful Considerers

There are three basic categories of people who are landing on your website at any given time. When I work with people on website leveraging strategies, I refer to these types as the Ideal User, the Resonant User, and the Careful Considerer.

Most people are designing websites that focus solely on the Ideal User—the person who’s going to buy (now), while these same websites almost entirely ignore a call to action for the Resonant Users and Careful Considerers.

Since we know that sales conversions are notoriously low—that in some industries you’re lucky if you generate even a 2-3% conversion rate for your offering—why are we focusing so much on that 2-3%? It’s seen by some as a waste of time to focus on anything (or anyone) else.

But here’s the truth: this approach is leaving money on the table, particularly in service-based industries such as coaching and consulting, where trust is built over time. There’s another possibility that can not only increase revenue over time, it can create loyal clients and customers for life: design websites that offer something for each type of user, and over time, it’s entirely possible that they will become a Ideal User.

First things first: it’s important to know exactly what you want a user to do when they reach your website. Know these three:

  1. The action you’d like the user to take if they were your ideal user who “gets” you right away and loves everything you have to offer.
  2. The action you’d like the user to take if they resonated deeply with your message, perhaps even aligned with it and wanted to adopt it as a shared philosophy, but felt they didn’t have time/money/ability in that moment to respond to an offer you’re making.
  3. The action you’d like a user to take if they like what you have to say, but don’t feel super-connected—the people who fall in the “Hmmm, I’ll wait and see what I think” camp.

When you know these three objectives, you can create a website that provides something for each type of user.

Realistic is good

Let’s say I’m strategizing with a coach about leveraging her practice. If I ask her what action she’d like a user to take when landing on her site, she’s likely going to say: “I want the user to book a session.”

Problem? That’s what the “Ideal User,” is going to do. The Ideal User is the person who is ready to sign on the dotted line.

It’s good to be realistic. Consider your last three major purchases. Chances are, even you are not usually an Ideal User right from the get-go—you likely start as a Careful Considerer, a majority of the time.

Here’s an example of three actions a coach or consultant might desire each of their different users to take:

  1. The Ideal User would book an appointment.
  2. The Resonant User would like a blog post enough to share it with their followers, associating their name with your work.
  3. The Careful Considerers would sign up for the newsletter or follow on social media.

The people who book it from your website without taking action at all, even when you’ve provided multiple options? We’ll just say that those are “not your people” and leave it at that. (You already know there’s no point in fretting about the unsubscribes, the people who aren’t down for your message, etc., right?).

Where website design comes in

It’s website design that is a vehicle for appealing to each type of person.

Let’s continue with this example of a coach or consultant who wants new clients to book sessions. They have a blog. At the end of each blog post, they invite people to book a session. The buttons to sign up for sessions are big and bold. Sessions are open! Open! Open! Buttons are right here—book here! Click here!

Got it.

Problem: Their website design is only appealing to their Ideal User. Those big buttons are drawing all of the attention for “the next action to take,” without providing options for other types of users.

Let’s take the example from earlier, where the:

  1. Ideal User = signs up for a session
  2. Resonant User = shares a blog post
  3. Careful Considerer = follows on social media.

When I evaluate a coach’s website for a strategy session, I’m looking to see if they’re using the design to create ample opportunities for all types of users, since not everyone will be an Ideal User from the get-go.

For the Resonant Users: Is there more than one way that people can share blog posts? Are there hurdles such as signing up for a service that “allows” you to share blog posts? Is the coach directly asking people to share content, or just hoping the user will?

For the Careful Considerers, are there multiple places for someone to sign up for a newsletter? Is it clear what someone will get if they sign up for the newsletter? Do they know how often they’ll receive the newsletter? Is there a dedicated “welcome to the newsletter” auto-response?

Pulling it together

“Sometimes you don’t do one thing, 100% better. Sometimes you do 100 things, 1% better.”—unknown

This is just a piece of a much larger conversation. The best websites are those that have 100 different small, almost un-noticeable ways to engage users (the un-noticeable part usually happens when you hire a good graphic designer who can integrate elements without making them scream at your reader).

This isn’t about doing one big thing really well, or about cluttering up your website with endless ways for users to engage–this is about being clear on the specific, desired outcomes you’d like for the different people visiting your site, and then making it really, really easy for each type of user to engage.

Many people who land on your website will start as Careful Considerers. If you have great content on your site that provides value, they might become Resonant Users within a few minutes. It’s always possible that they’ll also convert to Dream Users pretty quickly, but realistically? They’ll probably hang out in the Careful Considerer/Resonant User zone for awhile.

That’s okay. That’s how I operate, and it’s probably how you operate, too, before you plunk down money or commit to time. Give those people plenty of clear options.

Your turn

Evaluate your website carefully—perhaps even ask some friends (only the ones who are willing to be honest!) to determine the top three actions for the three different types of users who visit your website.

Then ask: is your website making it easy for each type of person to take action?

And: How can you best meet the needs of the various people who come to your website?

That’s basically all this series has focused on:

There’s no sense in only appealing to a fraction of the people who are visiting your website—create your website as a space where there’s something for everyone to easily engage with, at different levels. When you create ways to engage beyond the small percentage of users who are immediately ready to spend money, that’s building a business for the long haul.

Kate Swoboda is a life coach, speaker and writer who helps other coaches to strategize with integrity and leverage their practices, beautifully. She’s the creator of The Coaching Blueprint, a downloadable e-program for new and emerging coaches who want to create a successful practice, and leader of the Blueprint Circles, small collaborative marketing Circles for coaches. She’s also looking forward to the upcoming 2012 World Domination Summit, where she’ll be leading a breakout session called “Entrepreneurs–Stop Letting Overwhelm Kick Your Ass!”

Boost Conversions Step 4: Run A/B Tests, Tweak, and Refine

This guest post is by the Web Marketing Ninja.

When it comes to conversion rate optimization, it’s easy to read about, and think about.

But when it comes to actually running a test, most people are at a loss.

It’s not that we don’t believe in testing; it’s that there’s barely enough time in the day to set up those key pages once, let alone set up variants, implement a test, measure, refine the pages, and test again. Trust me—I’ve been there!

But as we’re nearing the end of this series of posts about boosting conversions, I’m hoping you’re all fired up!

I’m going to use that motivation to push you to finally run that first test—a simple A/B test. In this post, I’ll run you , step by step, through a simple test that:

  • won’t cost you a cent
  • takes less than an hour of your time to set up
  • gives you that all-important glimpse of what testing can actually do for your blog.

I’ll bet once you’ve cracked that first A/B testing nut, you’ll become a testing junkie like me. And your conversion rates with never be the same—hopefully, they’ll be much better!

So let’s get testing.

1. Choosing a page

First things first—let’s pick a page to test.

In the second post in this series, Darren talked about reviewing your conversion funnel. That may have given you a few ideas about pages you could test—maybe they’re some of the pages you reworked after reading Tommy’s post yesterday.

My basic approach is, if you’ve got a sales or signup page that gets traffic, test that. (It’s likely to be on your list anyway.) If you don’t, pick your Contact page instead. Or, if you’re feeling brave you can go for the biggest bang for buck and test a “money page.”

2. Working out what to test

Our second step is to figure out what to test. When I’m looking at a page I want to test for the first time, I ask these six questions:

  1. Can everyone access it? We’re talking here about accessibility.
  2. Can everyone use it? Usability is the key for complex processes.
  3. Does it work? It should—on all browsers, mobile devices, non-javascript browsers, and so on. Don’t forget to consider page load speeds as well.
  4. How does it look? Does is communicate the mood you want it to?
  5. How well does is tell the story? Do the words engage users and drive the actions you want?

Ask these questions about any web page. and you’ll end up with a long list of stuff you can test, but for now, let’s start with a headline—a big part of telling the story, and probably a fairly strong element in any sales or signup conversion. It’s also something that Tommy was eager to test yesterday, in his third conversion goal, which was to get more high-quality leads.

As this is an A/B test, you need to come up with just one alternative to the page’s original headline. If one email can have over 500 different subject lines then I think we can probably come up with one.

Now we’ve got a page, we’ve got our original headline, and we’ve got an alternative headline. Let’s start our test!

3. Setting up the test

You can use a few different applications to run web page tests—some free, some not. To keep things simple, we’ll use Google Website Optimiser—one of the free options.

In order to use this tool, we first need to set up a couple of things.

  1. We need a publicly viewable version of your original page, and the one you want to test with the new headline. And you’ll need them at two separate URLS—it might be problogger.net/salespage.php and problogger.net/salespage1.php. These URLS will depend on the CMS or blog technology you’re using and your site structure, of course.
  2. We need access to a page that appears aftera user completes your goal action. So, in the case of a contact form, this page would be your “thanks, your message has been received” conformation page.If you’re testing a sales page, this can be a little more tricky. Ideally you’d have access to the page that confirms that the user’s purchase has been successful. If you can’t access that page, you might have to settle for the page that appears when someone clicks on of your Buy Now links.(Note that there are ways around this problem, however you might need some technical assistance to access them. In this case, I would recommend you look at a service like Optimizely/, but it’s not cheap. The upside is that once you set it up, creating tests is extremely easy.)

Once you’ve got all of that done, sign up to Website Optimiser. Once you’ve signed up you should see a page like the one below. Click the link to start your experiment.

Click the link

You’ll then be asked what type of test you want to run. Pick the A/B Test.

Select A/B testing

You’ll then be asked to get your test pages and your conversion page ready. We’ve already done that, so we can confirm and move to the next step.

Confimation

Next, you’ll need to enter a name.

Provide a name

Include the links to the original page, and the version you want to test.

Include URLs

Finally, paste in the link to your goal or conversion page.

Goal page URL

Once you’ve completed all the fields, click Continue.

The next step is the most technical. You need to put a special piece of code into your original page, your test page, and your conversion page. (You can read more about the code snippets themselves here.)

If you’re using WordPress, there’s a handy plugin that will allow you to do this pretty easily, called Google Website Optimizer for WordPress.

Once it’s activated you’ll see a spot under each page and post to enable testing—add your special code in there. If you’re confident with editing the tags on particular pages, great. If you’re not using WordPress, you’re not technically minded, and you can’t find a Website Optimizer plugin for your CMS, you might need to ask nicely for some help.

I’m going to move on, assuming that you’ve got the codes in place. Next, you’ll need to validate them:

Validate pages

If the validation’s all good, you’ll get a screen that looks like this:
Validation successful

Click OK, then click Next. You’ll arrive at the final conformation screen, where you can preview or start your experiment.

Preview the experiment

Once you hit Start, you can sit back and relax for a bit: you’re now testing! After a few hours some of your preliminary results will start to come through. When you log into Website Optimizer you should see your experiment listed. To see the results, click on the View Report link. The report shows you how the two pages are performing against each other.

Viewing the report

4. Deciding the winner

You can expect to see some wild fluctuations in the data initially, so it’s important not to decide on a winner to quickly—let the data smooth out over time. In the case shown above, the results came in pretty even—and this is a test I ran over four months!

Most testing platforms will have an algorithm to let you know how confident they are that one version is beating another. In the case of Website Optimizer, it’s called a “high-confidence winner.” In the case of slight changes, it can take a while for a call to be made. You can either wait, or pick your own moment and move on. It’s really up to you.

Personally, I’ve made calls on tests that have only run for three days, and waited for some that have run over months and months. As your experience in testing grows, so will your confidence in making calls.

What to expect from your test

Within your tests, you’ll probably experience one of three things:

  1. Your new headline wins.
  2. Your original headline wins.
  3. The result is too close to tell.

In the first case, you’ve hopefully got a great understanding of the progress you can make with testing.

If your original headline wins, you’ve actually also made a small step forward: you’ve proven that your current headline is better than at least one other option—but I’m sure there’s a bunch more to try!

If it’s a to close to tell results, then, as is the case if the original wins, it’s time to think up some new headlines.

So hopefully you’re all able to identify, set up, run, and report on a simple A/B test. Even better, I hope you’ve found it so easy that you’re ready and raring to start your next test. Because if you’re happy with good, then produce. But if you aspire to great, then produce, test, iterate, test again—and you just might get there.

And that’s the key point here: to continuously improve your blog’s conversion rates for paid or unpaid offers, you really need to have in place an ongoing system of refinement that’s based on trial and testing.

Once you’ve got a handle on that,  you’ll be able to go back and apply the four steps for boosting conversions—reviewing your offerrevisiting your conversion funnelrevamping your communications, and running A/B tests—more broadly, to every segment of your audience. That’s what we’ll be looking at later today, in the final part of this series. Don’t miss it!

Stay tuned for more posts by the Web Marketing Ninja—author of The Blogger’s Guide to Online Marketing, and a professional online marketer for a major web brand. Follow the Web Marketing Ninja on Twitter.

Boost Conversions Step 3: Revamp Your Communications

This guest post is by Tommy Walker of Tommy.ismy.name.

“How do I get more people to interact with my stuff?”

It’s a question I ask myself constantly. I could go on all day about traffic strategies, guest posting, or any number of online marketing topics. But the truth is, at the end of the day, shares, subscribes, and leads, are just another conversion.

I wish I realized that when I designed my existing website. I wish I realized a lot of things when I designed my website.

See, when I first started my site, I hadn’t thought about things like list building, or selling things (I had nothing to sell) or even the type of content I was going to publish. I thought I’d figure that stuff out as I went along, but, as my style changed, every new thing started to feel like it was tacked on.

Sadly, my site has become this clumsy Frankenstein creature that haphazardly attempts to do my bidding, but never quite executes. That’s no discredit to my developer, who did an excellent job at the time. It was my own misguided direction that turned what could have been a beautiful creation into something hideous.

Learn from your mistakes

If you’ve been following this series over the last couple of days, you’ll know that we’ve talked a lot about learning from your mistakes—as they affect your free or paid offer, and your conversion funnel.

I worked through these processes myself, so that as I go to work on version 3.0 of my website, I know exactly what I want my conversion goals to be. And they’ll be reflected in every facet of the new design.

The new design isn’t yet operational, but if you’ll allow me to let you peek under the sheet, I’ll show you:

  • my conversion goals
  • how I plan to attack them
  • screenshots of the current design and what isn’t working.
  • screens of the new design and why I think it’s an improvement
  • what I plan to test.

Expect this post to be on the longer side, as it is meant to be a conversion-oriented website playbook. For your convenience, here’s a table of contents:

As we go through each section, I’ll also point out things to look out for on your own site, and ways that you might be able to fix them.

A quick note before we continue: Conversion optimization is about constant testing. Everything from copy, to layouts and button placement, and color schemes.

While I might give you some suggestions along the way, there is no one “surefire” way. Often times what works best†is the thing we least expect and if sell yourself short on your testing, you may never know what actually works best for you.

The Web Marketing Ninja will be showing us the complete process of setting up and running A/B (or split) tests tomorrow, so if you want some expert advice on that topic, stay tuned.

Become really friendly with your analytics

Now, before I get to the design, I want to dive deep into my analytics.

As we’ve seen over the last couple of days, patterns in the data give a great starting point for the areas of your conversion funnel that can be improved, and even provide hints for how to improve them.

For instance:

  • Posts designed to drive conversation and high “time on site,” but which have few shares or interactions, may be lacking a clear sharing mechanism; alternatively, the comment call to action may be lacking.
  • Sidebar offers that receive traffic, but don’t convert, may need to be redesigned or scrapped entirely.
  • Landing pages with high time but few conversions require further testing to improve conversions.
  • Common click paths users take can determine pages that could be optimized for subscriptions or sales.

Your analytics tell the story of you and your users. When you fix your part, they’ll be able to give you more of what you want.

Define your conversion goals early

I imagine we’re a lot alike, you and I, in our goals. Mine are:

  • get more social shares
  • build a bigger subscriber base
  • attract more qualified leads that can be turned to sales.

What I didn’t realize on the first two iterations of my website was that each goal can be attacked very strategically within the design.

So instead of trying to get every page to do every thing, as I create version 3.0 of my website, I will be looking at each aspect with a different conversion goal in mind.

Goal #1: Get more social shares

The first goal, get more social shares, is pretty straightforward.

According to my analytics, my weekly blog articles get the most steady traffic and the highest time on site (four to seven minutes; I primarily video blog).

Knowing that, I want that traffic to turn into more traffic, because right now, the social sharing on the site is low.

With the time on site being so high, my best guess is the posts aren’t getting shared because the sharing functions are a little less than obvious.

Sharing options aren't obvious

The trick to getting more social shares is two-layered.

  1. Create engaging content.
  2. Make sharing as painless as possible.

According to my video analytics, just over 70% of people watch my videos through to the very end. Looking at the current design however, it’s incredibly clear that sharing is not painless.

To address this in the new design, on an individual post page, the video will be featured at the top, filling most of the screen, and the sharing icons will be featured on the bottom left, just before the fold.

Next to the share icons will be a short link that can be copied to the clipboard with a single click.

Next to that, I’ll show a Share Via Email button that, when clicked, will drop down an email form where users can email the page link without ever leaving the site.

New sharing layout

Key takeaway:

To improve shares on individual blog posts, create excellent content, and make sharing the primary call to action.

If the sidebars on your individual pages aren’t selling products, or bringing in email subscribers, get rid of those calls to action.

Something you can do right now is install the ShareThis hovering share bar and have it appear on all of your sharable content pages.

What I’ll be testing:

In order to get maximum shares, I’ll need make sure the sharing icons are in the most optimal positions on the page.

My tests will include:

  • the share icons being located on the left of the page (as pictured)
  • share icons on the right of the page
  • the “share bar” taking up the full width of the page below the video.

To do this, I’ll have my developer run a test using Google Website Optimizer, and track the results. (As I mentioned, the Ninja will show you how to do this yourself tomorrow). The layout with the most shares will win.

Goal #2: Increase email subscriber base

There are a few ways I plan to build my email list. Pay close attention here, because each and every one of these ideas is something you can do, too.

Email subscriber plan 1

The first tactic is persistent navigation throughout the site. This feature allows the top navigation bar on your site to remain in view as the user scrolls down the page. With persistent navigation, the fundamental action points are always in view, and available to users.

Persistent navigation seems to be where forward thinking websites are headed (Facebook, Google+, Lifehacker, WordPress). Using persistent navigation through my site allows me to create a subtle call to action that stays with the user.

On the above image, you may have noticed the word “subscribe” in the navigation bar.

Persistent navigation

I believe this will eliminate the need to create a big, obtrusive opt-in form to occupy the sidebar (but this will need to be tested, of course).

When the user hovers over the “subscribe” button, a dropdown with an opt-in form will appear:

Accessing the dropdown

In my opinion, this makes the website a little more “fun” to interact with, which leads me to believe this will increase actual engagement with the site, and, thereby, email subscriptions.

Key takeaway:
The web is evolving much faster than most people realize. Incorporating elements like persistent navigation and interactive elements gives your website more depth than text and images alone. The more you give your users to “play” with, the more likely they will want to hang around on your blog, and hear more from you.

If you’re code junkie, this tutorial will teach you how to create your own persistent navigation menu.

Or, if you’re afraid of code (like me), you could always install the Hello Bar. While it’s not as full-featured as custom navigation, it has been proven to increase clickthrough rates for many of its users, and can be very effective when you use the right messaging.

What I’ll be testing:
I’ll test the messaging within the dropdown itself: “New episodes every week + exclusive bonuses” with “Submit” or “Subscribe” as the call to action, vs. “Learn online marketing and get exclusive bonuses” with “Teach Me!” as the call to action.

Email subscriber plan 2

According to my analytics, my homepage is usually the second stop people make when visiting my site … makes sense.

Sadly, also according to my analytics, this is where my traffic goes to die. My homepage isn’t really optimized for anything.

My current homepage

Realistically, my conversion goals for this new homepage have to be two-fold:

  1. Capture users’ email addresses.
  2. Pull people deeper into the content.

To capture email addresses, I’ll be using a slightly modified approach to the ever popular Halpern Header on my homepage.

Instead of using a static image, however, there will be a welcome video that’ll introduce visitors to the site and talk about the exclusive bonuses that come from being an Inside The Mind subscriber.

Welcome video

I believe that combining the Halpern Header with video will make the email subscription call to action both unmissable and fun to interact with.

As long as I’m able to clearly communicate the benefits of being a subscriber, I think this will lift subscription conversions dramatically.

Key takeaway:

The homepage is often the second most visited page on your website. If you’re not maximizing your email efforts here, first time visitors may never return. This is why it’s important to clearly communicate the benefits of your site, and make your opt-in form highly visible, not banished to your sidebar.

The Halpern Header/feature box method has been proven as an effective way to increase email subscriptions, for some by as much as as 51.7%.

Adding a personal touch like video or an image of yourself can build trust with your potential subscriber, increasing your conversion rates even more.

What I’ll be testing:

While I have a hunch that a welcome video will work well, it’s also possible people might find it more distracting than welcoming.

For that reason I’ll be testing a welcome video vs a welcoming image. I’ll also be testing layout with the video/image orientation on the left vs. the right, the copy, and the call to action.

Homepage Subgoal: Bring visitors further down the rabbit hole

Sadly, after visiting my homepage, most people drop off the site.

To address this, I will feature a scroller of randomized content from season one of my video stream directly underneath the feature box.

The video scroller

The reason for randomization is that it’ll mean that deeper (or older) content can also get some play.

Copyblogger uses a similar approach with the “popular articles” list on their sidebar. Using randomization, a fun slider, and engaging thumbnails for the posts just takes that idea a step further.

Note: The bar will never show posts that are also displayed in the main feed below. Rather it will only show content from deeper pages. This way, I can avoid duplicate content issues—I won’t be trying to push the same article in a handful of different ways.

Below that, I’ll show a fairly standard format blog, with reverse chronological posts on one side, and an offer for my ebook on the other.

The feed of blog posts

You may notice that everything seems to get a little bigger once we get into the main feed. The reason for that is fairly simple. The top of the site will act like a built-in landing page, but once a visitor goes below the fold, the focus will be on content.

The sidebar will display only two items at any given time, and will also be a persistent part of the interface once a certain scroll threshold is reached.

At the top, I’ll include a lead generation piece/ethical bribe (more on this later). Underneath that, a randomly generated episode link will appear (again, only one that is not currently present on the page).

Key takeaway:

If your homepage isn’t working to drive people back into your content, switch things up using your analytics as a guide. Just be sure to talk about it before hand so your faithful visitors don’t think something bad happened to you!

What I’ll be testing:

Not much here actually, but I will be measuring pretty heavily what content, in what position, gets the most clicks.

As far as I know, this is nothing remotely close to a “standard” blog format, so it will be interesting to see how people respond to features like the scroller and persistent navigation.

Email subscriber plan 3

Taking another leaf out of Derek Halpern’s book, I will have email optins in three critical places:

  • the About page
  • the footer
  • at the end of the single post pages.

The redesigned footer

Normally, I would recommend placing an opt-in on the top of the sidebar. However, because I am using persistant navigation with  the Subscribe link in prime view at all times, I feel, for me, that this space is better used for lead generation.

The About page

I plan on doing something a little different by putting the link to my About (and other) pages in the footer. This is more like a news site, and less like other online marketing blogs.

Keeping that in mind, the people who come to the About page will need to do a little more digging to get there. So why don’t I try to capture an email address in the process, since we’re getting a little more personal?

This is what Derek says about the About page:

Prime people for your websiteís content and why it’s important

  1. Opt-in form
  2. Show social proof
  3. Opt-in form
  4. Show personal backstory
  5. Opt-in form

For backstory, I plan to share a bit of my background as an actor, how I was fired over a pair of pants, how that eventually lead to online marketing, and the ups and downs I’ve seen while working for myself (there have been many).

Key takeaway:

When you address your users’ search intent first, then make a personal connection by sharing more about yourself, you give visitors more than one reason to subscribe.

What I’ll be testing:

The copy is what’s going to make the difference here. While it might not be a part of my initial relaunch plan, I’d also like to test using a cinematic “trailer” video that prompts visitors to “Join the journey” by becoming an email subscriber.

The footer

There’s a very simple reason for revamping the footer to include a subscription CTA. If someone’s scrolling to the bottom of the page, you can assume one of two things:

  1. They’ve read through all of your content and are primed to want more.
  2. They just like scrolling.

Either way, the footer is a great place to capture email, because your reader has gone all the way to the bottom of the page (and there’s nothing left to do).

Currently, I have an opt-in form in my footer, and it converts pretty well.

The current footer form

What’s lacking in this footer, and on my current site as a whole, for that matter, is a page that is dedicated to explaining the benefits of becoming a subscriber.

That’s why, instead of including an opt-in form in the new site footer, I will instead include a link to a landing page called Why Subscribe?

The new footer

This again comes down to a matter of search intent. Where most of my content is going to be front-and-center in nearly aspect of the design, I can only suspect that the people who scroll to the bottom of the page are more “deep information” types.

I believe many blogs do not reward these types of people, and instead only go after those who are willing to hand over their information with little friction. However, the “deep information” types aren’t so trusting. They need to have all of the information before they give up any personal details. That’s ok with me, because they also do a good amount of homework before making purchases, and I’ve found to be the most-action oriented customers.

So instead of giving them nothing to do when they scroll to the bottom, I will give them a landing page that talks about all of the benefits of subscribing to the show. This page will include information on how frequently emails are sent, the types of bonus content they can expect, and an outline of what will be included. Doing this also gives me another page that can be linked to from internal content, which is a nice bonus!

Key takeaway:

Keep your users’ intent in mind, and create content that appeals to as many different types of readers as possible. If you don’t currently have some form of a “why subscribe” page on your site, you’re not addressing all of your readers’ concerns.

What I’ll be testing:

I’ll be interested to see the difference in conversion between the footer opt-in box and the Why Subscribe? link.

Giving users one extra click may decrease the overall conversions, however the link to the landing page is more in line with user intent on that particular section of the page.

Either way, I’ll have more data on footer and landing page subscribers, which will help me focus my follow-up messages even further.

End of single post pages
This is fairly straightforward. If someone has decided to take the time to read through the content, they’re probably a good candidate to become a subscriber. So I’ll create a subscription option at the end of every post.

The subscription form at the bottom of posts

Key takeaway:

We often clutter the end of our posts with all sorts of garbage, like related posts, share buttons, subscribe to my email list, read my bio, leave a comment, and more. Every single one of these commands is a call to action, and the more calls to action you have, the more diluted each one becomes. Find ways to incorporate all of these things—just don’t cram them all in at the end of your posts.

Using a WordPress plugin like Post Ender, you can keep your calls to action focused, and will likely see higher subscription rates from the ends of your posts.

What I’ll be testing:

Not much more than the language: “Subscribe,” for example, vs. “Keep Me Updated.” Because my content is primarily video, and it’s showcased at the top of the page, this form is one of the least of my concerns.

Email subscriber plan 4

This is it! The Dreaded Popup. I believe there’s a classy way to use popups, and an annoying way. You’re probably pretty familiar with the annoying way.

My plan with the popup, however, is to have it triggered after the viewer has been on the site for a given amount of time, or clicks within a set number of pages. That way, I’ll know they’re engaging with the site, and are more qualified than, say, a first time visitor.

Personally, I hate the pop-up, so if I’m finding that it’s not converting, even when I target mostly engaged users, I will not hesitate to yank it.

Key takeaway:

Popups can be extremely valuable, but are often seen as annoying. The longer people are on your site, the more likely they are to qualify as potential subscribers.

Although your conversion rates may go down the longer you wait to trigger the popup, your subscriber quality will increase, because they’ve already spent more time with you—they’re qualified subscribers.

What I’ll be testing:

Here, I’ll test headline copy, the optin orientation, click and time triggers, and a number of other things I exaplained in detail in this article.

Goal #3: Get more high-quality leads

Subscribers do not equal leads.

I repeat: subscribers do not equal leads. While subscribers may eventually become leads, signing up to be on your email list does not mean they have an interest in buying anything.

In order to gather more leads through the site, I intend to offer a free ebook titled Why Quality Matters, in which we’ll explore different statistics on the state of the internet, how high-quality content excels, what defines high-quality content, and so on/

The landing page to “sell” the book will follow this formula.

The book itself will follow a similar format, but remain informative throughout.

As it is ultimately a lead generation piece, the goal is to simultaneously attract the right people, and repel everyone else. Not everyone who reads the ebook will recognize themselves in it, but those who do will find a link to request a strategy session at the end of the book.

In the strategy request form, I ask questions of the reader, like how long they’ve been in business, their previous yearly income, target yearly income, and if there are any major roadblocks that prevent them from moving to the next level.

This process is designed to help a person really decide whether or not they need help. Having had my prospects step through a handful of filters also saves me a lot of trouble “pitching” my services to them. By the time we get on the strategy call, I can really focus on helping them. I do have an offer, but I’ll only make it if it seems like it’ll be a good fit.

Key takeaway:

Qualify your leads. So many bloggers and marketers assume that list subscribers = people who might be interested in buying something eventually. But every time a pitch comes around, a good chunk of people either unsubscribe or ignore you all together, causing this endless cycle of list rebuilding.

When you let people qualify themselves, and say “I need help,” they’re more likely to open your messages and take action on what you have to say.

What I’ll be testing:

I’ll test the landing page copy, without a doubt. Using Premise, I’ll be able to apply the Google Website Optimizer to test headline and copy variations. Also, I’ll be testing pure copy vs. video, to find out which will be the most effective “pitch” on the landing page. Even though the investment for users is “free”, I’ll still want to put my best foot forward, due to the subject matter and the eventual lead into the sale.

Note: This is not the only way I will be generating leads. Far from it actually. I’ll also use several paid and organic strategies to better target those exposed to my content.

I mention this because popular content marketing wisdom does not advocate paid advertising, but the truth is, there is no faster or more precise way to target the right people for your content.

Test, get feedback, iterate

The designs and tests above were all conceived to address gaps in my data. I cannot stress to you enough the importance of knowing what your analytics are telling you, and testing to make improvements.

One thing I’ve learned  is that intuition doesn’t convert well. Yet data only tells you so much. That’s why I’ll offer an incentive to my list to get real people to “test drive” the site. Their feedback will be vital in making the necessary tweaks before I push the site live and test it with a larger audience. And even when it’s fully live, there will always be testing taking place.

The name of the game is to always be improving, and iterating on what you’ve learned from previous tests. Only let your data and user feedback drive your design. The next post in this series will show you how to set up, run, and adjust your own A/B tests.

I’m sure that by now, this series has probably encouraged you to look at your offer, conversion funnel, and offer communications more critically. You’ve probably come up with a few ideas you’d like to try. Share them with us in the comments below!

Tommy Walker is an Online Marketing Strategist and host of “Inside the Mind” a fresh and entertaining video show about Online Marketing Strategy.

Boost Conversions Step 2: Revisit Your Conversion Funnel

In this, the second part of our short series on boosting conversions on your blog, it’s time to look at your conversion funnel.

Yesterday, the Blog Tyrant showed us how to review our offer of a paid or free product or service. Through that analysis, you should be able to pull together some detailed and valuable information about your product. That’s great, but the other aspect that the Tyrant touched on was your conversion funnel.

I want to take those ideas a step further today.

Understanding your conversion funnel

We’re talking in this series about conversions for any product or offer—so that could be a product or service you’re selling, or it could be a free subscription you offer on your site.

Whether it’s free or sold for a price, your offer has a conversion funnel. The Web Marketing Ninja showed us this one in his article, How to Optimize Your Sales Funnel for Success:

Sales funnel

The key is that at each point in your conversion funnel, you’ll lose potential customers.

As the Blog Tyrant explained yesterday, you can use your blog stats package to review where, exactly, those losses are occurring.

And as the Web Marketing Ninja explains in How to Optimize Your Sales Funnel, the best thing to do is put measures on each point in the funnel so that you can understand what, exactly, is happening at each point in the conversion process. He says that looks at as much data on each point in the sales process as he can—and that includes bounce rates, time on page, entries and exits through the page, traffic sources, and so on.

So the conversion funnel review process might look something like this:

  1. Go through your site, and map each step in your conversion funnel.
  2. Look at your analytics work out what you’ll measure at each point in the funnel.
  3. Put numbers against the metrics you’ve decided to measure at each step.

Understanding the data

Once you work through this process, you’ll find yourself armed with a lot of data. How you interpret that data will go a long way toward boosting your conversions.

For example, finding that you have a high exit rate from a page in your funnel means people are leaving it—you’re losing potential conversions at this point. That’s good to know, but that information alone doesn’t tell you what you can do about it.

In working out implications of that information you may need to also look at bounce rates for the page, and where the traffic it receives is coming from, for example. This information can be a big help in making the right choices when it comes to tweaking the funnel.

For example, let’s imagine that we’re analysing the About page for ProBlogger the Book. Now this page is the second in my sales funnel—the default page is at http://probloggerbook.com/.

Most visitors go straight from that default page to Amazon or B&N. But let’s imagine that a significant percentage click through to the About page … and then exit without clicking on one of the Buy buttons, or subscribing.

If I look at the data, and all I see is that this page has a high bounce rate, I might be tempted to try a range of different strategies to fix that. But what if I look at the traffic sources and notice that a large percentage of users are arriving at the About the Book page through search engines?

The About page doesn’t have any Buy buttons above the fold, so if users are coming from a search engine, where they’ll likely also see an Amazon or B&N link in the results, they may immediately think, “Oh, this is just marketing information. I’ll click back and look at the details on Amazon—I know I can buy the book there.”

In this case, my strategy for tweaking the sales funnel will differ from the ideas I had when all I noticed was the high bounce rate. My efforts might also include improving the search rank of the default sales page for the book, if it’s appearing below the About page in the SERPs, but converting better.

As you can see, understanding the data as a whole is very important if you’re to make decisions that will have the best likelihood of positively affecting your conversion rates.

Focus on key points of loss

As you review your funnel, you’ll also need to consider where to focus your efforts to improve it.

While the data may reveal a number of areas for improvement, you’ll likely find that some will produce a much bigger bang for your buck—as the Ninja explained in this recent post. If your time is limited—and whose isn’t?—you’d be best to focus on these pages, if not exclusively, at least initially.

As you’re looking at those pages, don’t limit yourself to considering one or two factors. Often, we can become fixated on things like button size or placement, and forget about other considerations that might be negatively impacting conversions. These could include:

  • headlines, sub-heads, and scannability of the content
  • how we’re using images and where they’re placed
  • whether the language on the page resonates with users
  • the strength of your calls to action
  • links to other content, including navigation links
  • use of testimonials
  • offers of samples
  • the page’s purpose in the conversion process, and whether it meets that from a fundamental, usability standpoint.

These are just a few ideas, but consider them broadly. For example, reviewing the strength of your calls to action is on that list—but that doesn’t just mean the calls to action to buy your product.

The ProBlogger Book sales page includes subscription box. Should that remain on a low-performing page? Should it be removed? Is it likely to be diffusing the strength of my call to action or is it providing a valuable mechanism by which I’m capturing new subscribers who may not be ProBlogger regulars?

My analysis of the data, coupled with my strategy for the page and goals for the conversion funnel, should help me determine the answers here.

Match the changes to your users

A quick final point: you’re not in the dark when it comes to trying to work out what tweaks you’ll make. In a later part of this series, we’ll find out how to conduct split tests that will help you to test various incremental changes so that you can see which ones work best, and use those.

But even before you get that far, the audience research that the Blog Tyrant was talking about yesterday should give you some insight into how you can alter points in your conversion funnel to match the needs, characteristics, and expectations of the audience you’re seeking.

He mentioned, for example, that video can be useful for certain audiences—perhaps that’s something I should consider adding to my book’s About page? I know from my other data and reader feedback that my regulars love video content, so it seems like it could be a good idea…

Ready to act?

Once you’ve finished reviewing your sales funnel, you’ll have a pretty clear idea of the possibilities before you for boosting conversions. It’s time to act.

Tomorrow, Tommy Walker will step us through the changes he actually made to his own website in an effort to improve conversions, so that we can get a first-hand account of how all this research feeds into practical alterations to things like page layouts, calls to action, images, and more.

But in the meantime, I’d love to hear your tips or extra advice for reviewing conversion funnels—whether for a paid or free offer. Have you ever done it? What secrets can you share from your experiences? Let us know in the comments.

Boost Conversions Step 1: Review Your Offer

This guest post is by the Blog Tyrant.

A few weeks ago I was sitting down to dinner with my big sister, and talking about one of my web businesses.

“What’s your quotation success rate?” she asked me with a face full of pizza.

“Pretty good,” I replied, sounding—I admit—pretty stupid.

“Find out exactly what it is,” she came back.

My big sister, the psychologist-turned national-sales-leader for her real estate company, then went on to explain to me how she knows exactly how many quotes she has to send out in order to make a sale. She knows how many phone calls it takes on average, what delivery method is most successful, and when to follow up the client with a phone call or an email.

And she’s constantly trying to improve that quotation figure by getting feedback on her failures.

While she was telling me all of this a penny dropped: this quotation (or conversion) rate applies to blogging, too. Sure, knowing why people buy your product or sign up to your email list is important. But perhaps even more important than that, is this:

Find out why people don’t buy or sign up.

The first of five steps

If one of your blogging goals is to boost your conversion rates—for sales, subscriptions, downloads, or some other action—you don’t need to just consider your successes. You also need to look at your failures. Boosting conversions isn’t just about doing more of the good stuff. it’s about identifying the bad stuff, and doing less of that.

But this is just the first step in the process.

Over the next four days, ProBlogger will walk you through a process that will help you to boost conversions—for sales or signups—on your blog. In it, we’ll cover these steps:

  1. Review your offer.
  2. Revisit your conversion funnel.
  3. Revamp your communications.
  4. Run A/B tests, tweak, and refine.
  5. Reach all your audience segments using these techniques.

It’ll be quite a ride—so I hope you’ll join us for three posts that will follow this one! But now, let’s get started, and consider the question:

Why aren’t people converting through your sign up or sales page?

Getting started

Before you can really understand your audience, your product, and where things might be going wrong, you’re going to need a few tools in hand.

  • Google Analytics: If you haven’t done so already, go and install Google Analytics on your blog. It will take you all of two minutes, but it will provide you with essential data you’ll need to grow your business.
  • Email marketing software: Again, everyone who takes their blogging seriously will need some form of email marketing software that works better than Feedburner. I always recommend Aweber for bloggers, as it’s easy to set up and has amazing stats for you to play with.
  • A desire to understand some psychology: Yep, you read that correctly. I’ve always put an emphasis on studying psychology alongside other marketing techniques, because it really helps you to understand buyer behaviour and the psychology of desire, and to figure out what people do or don’t want.

Armed with these three things, we’re in a good position to help grow our conversions.

Conduct a conversion review

As I said, my sister knows exactly how many quotations she has to make to generate a sale. In blogging terms, she knows her conversion rate, and she’s always looking to improve it by seeking feedback from failed quotations.

So let’s look at three key questions that you can ask to better understand why your blog’s readers and visitors aren’t converting on a given offer (paid or free). Once you understand this, you’ll be in a much better position to dramatically boost your conversion rate.

Question 1: How well does my offer suit my audience?

The first thing you’ll need to do is make sure your product or free giveaway is well-matched to your audience. Pitch the wrong product to the wrong audience, and you’ll find it extremely difficult to boost conversions—that is, if you can generate any in the first place.

Let’s consider the Mercedes Benz brand as an example. This is a high-quality, luxury car brand with a higher price tag than the average motor vehicle. This means their marketing methods need to be tailored to the right audience. For example, you’ll never see and ad for Mercedes in a magazine aimed at the teen girls market. However, you might see one in a golfing magazine. Why? Because the latter is read by older men who have disposable income and a desire to communicate a certain status with their car. Obviously, teen girls don’t have either of those things.

This is fine for a offline brand, but how can you make sure your product is matched to your audience? Study your traffic stats.

Guest post stats

This image shows a few weeks of traffic from some old guest posts I did here at ProBlogger. As you can see, the red arrow shows a post that had a bad bounce rate, and the green arrow shows a post with a better (lower) bounce rate.

As you can see, even traffic coming from the same source can vary wildly in terms of expectations and satisfaction levels with what the users find on your site. Fortunately, we have other metrics to review.

A key metric is your users’ demographics—you’ll need to know how old your blog’s users are, whether they are male or female, where they live, and so on.

While this basic information may seem elementary, you’d be surprised how often bloggers find new data hidden in their user stats—data that can point to fairly obvious changes that can help to boost conversions.

For example, if many of your blog’s readers come from an area that’s suffering high unemployment at the moment (for example, Spain), you might need to consider changing your pitch for a product to make it either seem more relevant and valuable, or more affordable to your target audience. You might consider lowering the price—so that more people can afford your product—or increasing it, to create a stronger impression of value and ensure that you get a better margin on the sales you do make.

Don’t go making any decisions yet, though! We still have some more reviewing to do.

Question 2: Are customers happy with your current offering?

The next thing you’ll need to do is to ask for feedback from satisfied and unsatisfied customers. You absolutely need to find out whether your offering is hitting the mark. While conversion statistics are one thing, they don’t give you a clear idea of what the customers who did convert actually wound up thinking of the product or service once they used it.

If you don’t seek their feedback after the point of conversion, all the hard work you do with product creation and conversion optimization could be going to waste.

Here are just a handful of the steps you can take to tap that information from your customers:

  • Use Survey Monkey to survey them: It’s a good idea to occasionally send out a survey asking customers what they like and dislike about your offering (be it a free or paid offer), and inviting constructive feedback. Obviously you don’t want to keep surveying the same users, so you need to take care not to try to survey the same customers about the same offerings over and over.
  • Set up an automatic email in Aweber: Aweber allows you to send out an automatic email called a Follow Up. The idea here is that after a few days of their signing up to your list (either through your subscription form, or as a result of a purchase on your site), subscribers receive and email asking whether or not they enjoyed the subscription product. If you like, you can take this opportunity to encourage them to pass it on to their friends, but in any case, be sure to ask them to email you any feedback or ideas they have to improve the offering.
  • Email people who unsubscribe: Aweber also allows you to keep a list of all the people who unsubscribe from your list. It’s a really good idea to email them just once to tell them you’re sorry to see them go, and to ask why they’re leaving. Their feedback will often be a lot more honest than those who still like your stuff. While the criticism can be hard to take, this feedback can be a goldmine for understanding your offering’s shortcomings.

Now, this all sounds great, right? Well, here’s the problem: sometimes people don’t know what they’re talking about. More specifically, they say one thing, but mean another. For this reason you have to be very careful about the questions you ask readers through any kind of survey. For example, if you ask a generic question, you probably get a generic—and inaccurate—answer.

“Did you like my eBook?”
“Yes it was good.”

The words “good” and “yes” here tell us nothing. This feedback doesn’t mean that the user shared your offering with their friends. It doesn’t mean that it totally blew them away and they’ll be a loyal subscriber forever. It means nothing.

People have changed their careers after reading Pat Flynn’s free ebook. People share it around and talk about it constantly on his Facebook page. That’s the kind of feedback you want. And to get it, you’ll need to ask more specific questions, like these:

  • Did you share the product with your friends?
  • What was your favorite part of this product?
  • What was your least favorite part of the product?
  • What did you do differently after you read the product?

You could also considering surveying customers about the conversion funnel itself, with questions like these:

  • What was it that made you want to subscribe/buy this product?
  • Did you think the subscription/purchase process took a long time?
  • Was it a hassle to receive the product/subscription?
  • Did you have any trouble accessing the information, or using or sharing the product files?
  • What did you expect to get? Did you receive it?

At least with questions like these, you’re going to get some clear feedback on which aspects of your offer work, and which don’t.

Question 3: How might you use this information to tweak your offering?

The next step is to tweak your product or offering based on the lessons you’ve learned.

Now, I’m not talking simply about matching your offer to your audience here. Rather, you need to look at ways to improve the quality and presentation of your offer, based on what your target market is interested in, and what you know is and isn’t working for the members of your current audience.

Recently on my blog we talked about whether or not the free ebook giveaway is dead or not. Most people agree that it’s not, but we all agreed that the poor quality ebook is dead. People are looking for better and better quality all the time.

This is where the psychology of marketing comes in to play. Here are two examples in which we can look at the behavior of an audience and try to better shape our offer to suit them:

  • Mothers: Studies have shown that women who are mothers respond poorly to promotions and products that use hype to sell their benefits. These women are highly practical and intelligent, but they’re also tired and overworked. They just want honest, trustworthy products and landing pages that don’t “over-promote”. Women in general don’t like unrealistic marketing.
  • Male teenagers: Studies have shown that male teenagers, on the other hand, are more likely to be interested in quick fixes. A generation of boys raised with video games, mobile phones, and the web generally show less patience and a greater desire for instant gratification than other market segments.

As you can see, it’s not just about aligning your offer with your market: it’s also about making sure your product pitch, and presentation to your target market.

For example, your offer might be an ebook. Great. Now, let’s imagine you’re targeting the younger male audience segment mentioned above. Tweaks you might make to your product and its pitch include:

  • Using short chapter and section titles.
  • Using imagery to communicate quickly wherever possible.
  • Keeping the design and layout simple.
  • Making sure the product delivers instantly, and communicates that it does so both in its body content and through any marketing materials.
  • Using instant, easy-to-use marketing tools like video, which suits the instant-gratification needs of the target audience as well as the fact that they’ll be more likely to access the offer through a smart phone or tablet.

By this point, you should have a list of potential ideas that you can use to try to boots conversions by tweaking your offering.

Trial and continuous review

The most important thing that I learned from my sister is that we should be constantly assessing and changing our product and pitch. Trends change, competitors come along, and people’s interests shift.

You probably won’t make all the changes on your shortlist of ideas for improving your offer. That’s fine—you can test the ones you feel will give you the best impact, then check your results and consider the rest of your list (which you may have added to!) in light of those results.

How can you choose which elements to change? The feedback you obtained from existing customers, coupled with conversion and market data, should give you a push in the right direction, but often these decisions come down to your own intuition or “feel” for your target audience, and what they want, like, and need.

Don’t be afraid to change aspects of your offer, and don’t be afraid to ask people hard questions about your product. The best products in the world have all got there because of constant improvements.

Once you have your new product and offer prepared, you’ll need to tighten up your funnel to ensure you’re not leaking potential conversions. Tomorrow, Darren will take us through that process.

But for now, I’d be interested to hear what you’ve found out about why readers aren’t signing up for your product or service offering. And if you made tweaks to it, what did you change? Share your stories with us in the comments.

The Blog Tyrant is a 26 year old Australian guy who plays video games at lunch time and sells blogs for $20,000 a pop.