8 Tips for Optimizing Your eCommerce Homepage for Success

In 2020, the pandemic forced consumers to shift from making offline purchases to making online purchases. As consumers continue to avoid making in-store purchases, the eCommerce market will see additional growth in the coming years(1). In the long run, eCommerce is predicted to grow by 11% between 2019 and 2024. But now that more consumers…

In 2020, the pandemic forced consumers to shift from making offline purchases to making online purchases. As consumers continue to avoid making in-store purchases, the eCommerce market will see additional growth in the coming years(1). In the long run, eCommerce is predicted to grow by 11% between 2019 and 2024.

But now that more consumers are turning to eCommerce, competition on the business side is stiff. You’ve got to stand out from the crowd and capture a visitor’s attention within seconds of them coming to your website — this is where the homepage comes in. You need to make sure your homepage is drawing in and converting visitors.

How do you know what will attract and convert your target audience? Continuous experimentation. You can perform A/B testing on your website copy, navigation, design, forms, and calls-to-action to make your homepage the best version of itself. 

Use VWO's A/B Testing Capabilities

Why focus on optimizing your homepage?

It only takes 10 seconds for someone to form an opinion about your website(2). In that short amount of time, they’ll decide if they’re going to stay and look around or leave. Websites are swiftly judged, so making a good impression right off the bat is important.

Also, your eCommerce homepage affects all aspects of your marketing strategy: website traffic, search engine rankings, conversions, sales numbers and so much more.

So if you’re ready to do it right and make a homepage that no one will navigate away from, we’ve got you covered. In this blog post, we’ll show you how to optimize your homepage for success, and cover how and why to A/B test to make sure what you’re trying is working.

Tips For Optimizing Ecommerce Homepage

8 Steps for optimizing your online store’s homepage

Let’s take a look at eight steps you can take to create a homepage that converts.

1. Employ an SEO homepage strategy.

Get a headstart on your SEO efforts by working on your homepage. You want your homepage to be optimized for search engines and users.

When a visitor comes to your site, they should be able to see who you are, why they should buy from you, what you sell and how to find the products — all at a glance.

When a search engine crawler comes to your homepage, they need to pull information about your business, its products and its address.

Here’s how you can satisfy both of these needs:

Include the most important information above the fold

The content on your homepage that’s “above-the-fold” is visible before any scrolling occurs. The content at the top of the webpage will be the basis of a user’s first impression, so it’s got to be good. Putting the wrong content above the fold may result in a high bounce rate and a loss of customers and revenue.

Here’s what you should have above the fold: Branding and logo, contact information, navigation and search bar, current promotions, shopping cart, and calls-to-action.

Take a look at Ice Jewellery, for example(3).

Ice Jewellery Homepage

At a glance, you can see they have branding and a logo, contact information, navigation and search bar, current promotions, shopping cart and calls-to-action — all above the fold.

Optimize your homepage title tag, meta description and images

Taking the time to optimize your homepage title tag and meta description does two good things for your website. It updates your snippet on the search engine results page (SERP), and it communicates to search engines what your website is promoting.

The title tag should be approximately 60 characters and include your brand name and location (if necessary). Consider using words that will get attention, such as free shipping, sale, money-back guarantee and free returns.

Let’s take a look at the SERP snippet for the Woodland Hills Wine Company:

Woodland Hills Wine Serp Snippet

They have the business’s full name, plus a little bit about their products and why you should purchase from them.

Also, don’t forget about optimizing your images. Images are vital to an ecommerce website because potential customers want to see what they’re buying. But images on your homepage can slow down your website speed, which turns customers away. On top of that, images that aren’t optimized don’t help your SEO efforts.

You can prevent these issues by resizing your images; make them the actual size you want them to be. Resizing your images will reduce the file size and help your web page load speed.

Next, add ALT text. ALT text should describe what’s in the image, which helps search engine crawlers. You can also add a caption below the image that contains a description of what’s in it and any additional information helpful for users.

Let’s take a look at B-WEAR Sportswear’s homepage images(4):

B-Wear Sportswear Homepage

The images have been appropriately resized, so the page loads quickly, plus they have ALT text and descriptions.

Unfortunately, you can’t perform traditional split tests on SEO efforts. Several factors go into a website’s ranking, and it would be impossible to have two identical websites for an A/B test. However, you can still test and measure your homepage SEO. 

For example, measure your site traffic and page conversions for some time. Then, make the change you want to test, such as updating your meta content. Next, measure your site traffic and page conversions for the same amount of time as before. Was there a difference? Run this test twice and compare the data.

You can measure your ROI on SEO efforts by tracking your branded and non-branded keywords and connecting them to revenue.  

Testing SEO efforts is more complicated than traditional split testing, but it can be done. It’s all about testing one item at a time and creating as stable an environment as possible.

2. Include primary calls-to-actions.

Believe it or not, people want — and sometimes they need — to be told what to do. Use calls to action (CTAs) to direct visitors where to go next. Effective CTAs can help users navigate your website better and increase conversions.

What types of CTAs are adequate for your target audience? A/B testing can narrow your options. Some common CTAs include “Schedule a Demo,” “Begin Free Trial,” “Learn More” or “Buy Now.” 

In general, CTAs should contain verbs to encourage the visitor to make a move. Keeping it simple is a good rule of thumb, but you can try adding and removing words in a split test to see which performs better.

The CTA button color also makes a difference. Hubspot ran an A/B test to compare a red button with a green button, and the red converted more users by 21%(5). Many companies use a color that stands out from their brand’s color palette and includes white space around the button to draw the eye to the CTA. 

The location of the CTA is also something to consider. Many CTAs are at the bottom of a section of text. Perhaps it would perform better in the middle of the text or above-the-fold. You can also test what works better — having one CTA or multiple?

Take a full-featured 30 day free trial with VWO to try this out yourself!

Your homepage should have primary and secondary CTAs, so visitors know what to do next. These CTAs should be guiding users through the buyer’s funnel, step-by-step.

Let’s take a look at the homepage for SOG Specialty Knives(6):

SUG Specialty Knives Homepage

All of the homepage images are linked and have CTAs such as “Shop Now” and “Learn More.”

3. Think about the mobile experience.

More shoppers are interacting with brands from mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets. For instance, in 2020, U.S. mobile retail revenues are expected to amount to $339.03 billion, up from $207.15 billion in 2018(7).

To reach customers on mobile, you have to prioritize the mobile experience. Prioritizing the mobile experience means that it should be easy to see and navigate when a visitor is looking at your homepage from a mobile device. Avoid any flashy, complicated design that will only get in the way.

As many as 85% of adults believe a website, when viewed on a mobile device, should be just as good or even better than its desktop website(8).

Although using a mobile device to look at websites and make purchases is on the rise, it’s still relatively new compared to the internet’s lifetime. As a result, practices that convert mobile users aren’t as widely known as they are for desktop efforts. 

For mobile sites, A/B testing is that much more critical. But A/B testing for mobile isn’t as clear-cut as for desktop because shoppers may use mobile as a touchpoint in their shopping journey. For example, customers may see something they want to buy on mobile, but they go to their desktop to complete the purchase. You’d see the conversion on the desktop when the mobile site converted the customer. 

Before you begin any split testing on your mobile site, make sure you understand how your customers use mobile. From there, you can test individual elements of your mobile site or app, just as you would on the desktop version.

Take A Demo Of VWO Fullstack

Plain Jane has a mobile homepage that’s clean in design and easy to navigate(9):

Plain Jain Homepage

The hamburger menu on the upper right side is a classic mobile optimization tactic. It allows users to see the entire homepage and see the full navigation when exploring the site. Plus, the CTA buttons are large and easy to tap.

4. Provide contact information.

Users are becoming more aware of false websites and phishing attempts, which has them on the lookout for suspicious sites and shops. One thing that can assure visitors is displaying your contact information.

As many as 44% of website visitors will leave a company’s website if there’s no contact information or phone number(10).

Not only does displaying your contact information help build trust, but it can also create a better user experience when someone needs to contact you. Different customers prefer specific contact methods, so leave as many options as possible, including social media channels, phone numbers, email addresses, etc.

Solo Stove displays a contact button right within their website navigation(11):

Solo Stove Homepage

When a user clicks “Contact us,” a message box pops up within the site and has room for text and any necessary attachments.

5. Offer a personalized experience.

Today’s customer expects personalized shopping recommendations from ecommerce sites. Utilize a customer’s purchase and browsing history to show them items that may be of interest.

You can also remind customers of items from their abandoned carts and upsell products from items they’ve purchased in the past. You can also show related items to things they’ve looked at.

As many as 34% of consumers are more likely to make an unplanned purchase after receiving personalized content(12).

A personalized shopping experience can lead to additional purchases, but it can also increase a customer’s lifetime value and customer engagement. Customers satisfied with their experience at your store means there’s a higher chance they’ll return.

Bliss World Related Products

Bliss World makes shopping easy when they show related products as you browse(13).

Also, do not forget about personalizing customer experience by using a live chat. Many of your customers want to get specific information about the products they consider buying.

Research indicates that eCommerce sites with live chat report up to a 40% boost in conversion rates(14). Talk to your site visitors in real-time to recommend the best products, up sell,  increase average order value and make them fall in love with your customer service so that they keep coming back!

6. Feature your best products.

Even though most of your products will live on internal product pages, you can show off your best products right on the homepage. Featuring your best products gives customers an immediate idea of what to buy.

Over time, you can test which products do best on the homepage. You can also try displaying bestsellers, seasonal items, or new products on the homepage.

TRUE Linkswear Homepage

TRUE Linkswear displays its bestselling golf shoes on its homepage(15). The photos link right to its bestsellers page.

7. Demonstrate site security.

Hacking and identity theft are becoming more common, and online shoppers want assurance that you’ll keep their information safe and secure. If you can show visitors that your website is secure, you’ll be more likely to convert customers.

Display widely-recognized trust seals and badges on your homepage. You can link these symbols to your security provider, so they can research as they wish. These can go in your footer.

If you don’t already have one, you’ll need to get a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificate. Otherwise, the browser will flag your website as “not secure,” and often, it won’t even display your site.

Any sign of an insecure website makes a poor first impression that will likely turn someone away for good. No one wants to turn over payment information to an unsecured website. Get an SSL certificate and reassure customers that their data is safe on your site.

The Kettlebell Kings have their trust badges displayed in the footer of their site(16):

Kettlebell Kings Homepage Footer

Their homepage also displays its Google Reviews, which would reflect any issues regarding site security. Plus, they list the experts and publications that have tested and approved their products, which adds credibility.

8. Highlight sales.

Everyone loves a sale, and it’s wise to display any current promotions on your homepage. You can also have a clearly marked and easily accessible sale section on your website.

For example, you can promote seasonal sales on your homepage and have a standing sale section within your site’s navigation.

Yumi Homepage

Yumi is using their homepage — above the fold — to entice buyers with an end-of-year sale(17).

Getting started with optimizing your homepage

Now that you’ve got several to-dos for optimizing your eCommerce homepage, you can begin making the updates. Here’s how to get started:

1. Conduct an audit.

No matter what the project is, it’s always best to take a look at the current situation and evaluate it from there. In website terms, an audit is an excellent place to begin. 

An audit helps you see things from the customer’s perspective. It’s a methodical way to objectively look at your site and make improvements to grow your business. 

An audit can cover several different areas of your business, including content, SEO, conversion rate optimization, site performance and eCommerce platform analysis, among other things.

The more topics you decide to examine in your audit, the more findings you’re likely to discover. You may choose to do the entire audit at once, break it up into chunks, and create an audit schedule. 

Make a checklist for your audit. Here are some of the items you should put on it:

  • Are all of the pages and images loading correctly?
  • What is the page load speed?
  • Do all of the links go to the correct destination?
  • Does the navigation work across all devices?
  • Does the site load and work on different browsers?
  • Are there any grammatical or spelling errors?
  • Is all of the content up-to-date?
  • What does your 404 error page look like?
  • Have 301 redirects been appropriately implemented?
  • Are the search results for in-site queries correct?
  • Do the product pages have thin content?
  • Is there a robust system of internal linking?
  • Are the right related products showing up during browsing?
  • Are the product images high-quality?
  • Are your abandoned cart triggers working correctly?
  • How much time does your team take to reply to a customer question?
  • Is the customer service team effective at resolving the issue?

Once you complete the audit and note your findings, you can prioritize what to fix and update. 

It would be best if you made audits a regular part of your marketing strategy. It’s easy to stop updating your website outside of adding new products or adding new content to your blog, but customers will notice when things break or go stale. If you get into an auditing routine, you’ll likely fix problems before they become too severe and stop sales.

2. Identify strategies you can implement.

There will always be recent trends and strategies on the horizon in an ever-changing industry, such as ecommerce. When these new ideas come around, you’ll have to decide if they’re suitable for your business. 

Not every idea is worth jumping on because it won’t fit with your audience. Other ideas may be great but too expensive to implement correctly. 

Here’s how you can evaluate strategies that come your way:

  • Keep an eye on industry influencers and trusted publications.

Keep up-to-date on industry news in your particular market segment. Staying up-to-date on relevant information will help you see the bigger picture and how a strategy works for another business.

  • Look at the numbers. 

Pay attention to industry research and reports. What are the numbers showing?

  • Continue to collect and analyze data. 

You know your customers best. Keeping a close eye on the data from customer interactions with your brand will help you assess whether or not a strategy is right for your business.

  • Follow search engine trends.

Are you staying abreast of Google’s search engine algorithms and what you can do to increase your organic traffic? Remember, blog posts generate the most traffic and bring users to your product pages. You need to learn how to start a blog the right way with effective content marketing and link-building tactics.

  • Get customer feedback.

Collecting feedback and customer service interactions can give you another set of insights that data cannot.

  • Look at your competitors. 

If your competition has tried a new strategy lately, is it working for them? How would you implement the idea differently?

3. Test. Test. Test.

Once you evaluate a strategy and decide to implement it, you’ll want to run tests to see if it was your business’s right choice. The type of tests or measurements you conduct will depend on the strategy you implemented.

Types of tests to run

VWO - Type Of Tests

Let’s take a look at some of the tests you might consider performing:

  • A/B Testing: Also called “split-testing” or “bucket testing,” this type of experiment looks at two versions of something containing one variable. By isolating the variable and comparing otherwise identical items, the data shows which variable meets the goal.  
  • Split URL Testing: You can test different versions of your website by using two different URLs. A website visitor unknowingly is shown one of the versions of your site to see which one performs better. VWO recommends performing split URL testing when considering a significant change such as a new checkout flow or a diverse menu.  
  • Multivariate Testing: This type of experimentation looks at several changed elements at once — instead of individual parts — and determines the better option as a whole piece. VWO recommends using multivariate testing when you want to change several items at once, such as a headline, body copy, and a CTA, instead of just a single thing.

Tools for testing

As you may have gathered, testing parts of your website can be cumbersome. Performing tests should be a regular part of your marketing strategy because eCommerce is continuously changing. Customer expectations and shopping habits evolve, as do search engine algorithms. Using a tool to manage your testing and experimentation can be helpful. Here are some trusted tools to consider:

  • VWO: An all-in-one, cloud-based A/B testing and conversion rate optimization platform that enables you to run multiple tests on campaigns, products, features, apps, and websites.
  • Adobe Target: An enterprise-level tool that integrates with Google Analytics for A/B testing, UX testing, and marketing campaign comparison.
  • Optimizely: A popular A/B testing tool and CRO platform made for enterprise clients. Run experiments across websites, messaging services, and apps. 
  • Google Optimize: Run A/B tests, multivariate tests, and split URL tests with Google Analytics data. Google Optimize is suitable for testing beginners, while Optimize 360 is more robust.

There are several testing tools with various features and pricing models. To see additional options, take a look at this post on the VWO blog.

How to run a test

Once you’re ready to run a test, the right tool can help you along the way. Start by doing your research. Understand how your website or a specific page, such as the homepage, is currently performing. 

Next, use the research to form a hypothesis. For example, if the investigation shows your website visitors are not scrolling on your homepage, your hypothesis might be: Placing a CTA above-the-fold will lead to more conversions.   

You can utilize key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics to ensure your hypothesis is measurable. KPIs you might consider include website traffic, time spent on site, social media followers and average click-thru-rate (CTR). 

Once you have a hypothesis, you’ll create variations based on it. For this example, you could place your CTA above-the-fold in one version. If an A/B test doesn’t work for your needs, consider multivariate testing. 

After you run the test for a set period, look at the results with an open mind. If there is an evident variation that did better, you can launch the latest version. If the numbers don’t show an obvious winner, you can perform additional tests.

Wrapping up

It’s easy to see how an ecommerce homepage affects every angle of your marketing strategy. It impacts website traffic, is a factor in search engine rankings, makes or breaks conversions, and affects sales numbers. 

Focus on the areas that make sense for your business, have patience, get in a routine of auditing your site, testing individual elements, analyzing the results, and updating as needed. Once you do, there’s no doubt that your homepage can stand out from the crowd.

Free Trial Of Vwo For Ecommerce

3 Levels of Product Prototyping

Prototypes are the initial sample of the product being developed. Creating them allows you to make your workflow more efficient. Time is saved, communication is improved, and tasks are identified to focus on. You gain insight into how the product will …

Prototypes are the initial sample of the product being developed. Creating them allows you to make your workflow more efficient. Time is saved, communication is improved, and tasks are identified to focus on. You gain insight into how the product will actually work. Prototypes are created at various stages of product development, including the earliest. […]

The post 3 Levels of Product Prototyping first appeared on Loop11.

Adobe Experience Manager to Cloud: Technical Implications for Migration

 Adobe has moved to the cloud with its Enterprise CMS, Adobe Experience Manager. With content management systems in the cloud likely to become the standard in years to come, are you ready to make the switch? If so, why is now the time to do it?

 Adobe has moved to the cloud with its Enterprise CMS, Adobe Experience Manager. With content management systems in the cloud likely to become the standard in years to come, are you ready to make the switch? If so, why is now the time to do it?

One Customer Feedback Email Changed Our Startup’s Trajectory

Building a new company means constantly managing one’s emotions. The high highs of days when everything’s golden inevitably give way to the low lows when you’re certain it’s all doomed. At the end of February, Casey (my cofounde…

Building a new company means constantly managing one’s emotions. The high highs of days when everything’s golden inevitably give way to the low lows when you’re certain it’s all doomed. At the end of February, Casey (my cofounder) and I were in that latter boat, nervous about how signups for our 10-month old startup had slowed to a trickle. Here’s…

The “Death of the Cookie” Can Be Good for Advertisers, but the Time to Level Up is Now

If marketers have learned anything in the last year, it’s the need for adaptability and a healthy appetite for change. Through that lens, the looming “cookiepocalypse” presents an opportunity for much-needed evolution within a behavioral advertising ec…

If marketers have learned anything in the last year, it’s the need for adaptability and a healthy appetite for change. Through that lens, the looming “cookiepocalypse” presents an opportunity for much-needed evolution within a behavioral advertising ecosystem that has historically enabled many brands to operate with a relatively low level of sophistication. As the cookie crumbles, brands will be forced to either retreat further into the walled gardens or up-level their approach to deploying customer data.

To briefly recap the furor of the last couple weeks, Google announced in a blog post on March 3 that third-party cookies will be removed from the Google Marketing Platform ecosystem and will not be replaced by an alternative individual identifier. Google will continue to invest in the development of the Privacy Sandbox, a suite of privacy-forward technology products that focus on consented first-party data in owned and operated environments (Search, YouTube) and interest-based cohort audiences across the open exchange (Doubleclick). Google did make it clear that it won’t stop third parties from pursuing the use of alternate individual identifiers on Chrome, leaving the door open for the solutions being established by The Trade Desk, Neustar, LiveRamp, and others.

As the dust settles from Google’s announcement last week, a few things are left clear:

  1. Big changes ARE taking shape on the horizon. Google is actively pursuing further Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) testing in Q2 as The Trade Desk’s Unified ID 2.0 moves into beta testing. Laying aside the technical details and nuances, these new audience targeting solutions represent material disruption for programmatic media buyers.
     
  2. The importance of first-party data access is not diminishing. In a disrupted ecosystem, strong customer experience management practices and the ability to bring consented customer data to the table for targeting and modeling will provide a competitive edge.

We still don’t know exact timing for when Chrome will drop cookies or the full technical details of how alternate solutions will allow advertisers to activate and measure given that there is still product development work to be done. This begs the question: with so much still unknown, what action can advertisers be taking now to be prepared for the inevitable changes to come?

  1. Audit and analyze current marketing investment. How much is spent against first-party audiences? How much on the open exchange? How much on in-app media? Answers to these questions will help quantify the potential impact and identify priority areas to begin testing or diversifying. Gathering relevant data points will provide a critical foundation for forecasting and creating impact scenarios specific to current investment mix.
     
  2. Develop plans to maximize consented first-party customer data. This isn’t about devising quick schemes that trick or force customers to give up their personal information. It’s about building a foundation that creates value for customers and communicates the benefits of sharing data.  For anyone who has been plagued by a banner ad for a product they’ve already purchased, it’s easy to understand the benefit of providing brands with customer data to improve advertising experience. It’s left up to those brands to wield consented data both responsibly and intelligently. Unfortunately, it’s often far less obvious to a consumer when their opt-in data has been used for forces of good, perhaps to curate a landing page full of products in their favorite colors and styles, only in stock in their usual size range. While consumers might not be consciously aware of how their data is being used, brands can tell in a big way because conversion rates, ROI, and lifetime value should see a sharp increase.
     
  3. For organizations still focused on post-click or last-touch attribution, ensure there is a roadmap to move towards Marketing or Media Mix Modeling. Since details are still murky on exactly what digital data points and identifiers will be available to advertisers in the future, the focus should be on education and organizational buy-in for statistically modeled performance analytics. Tomorrow’s winners will be those who have moved away from easily trackable or attributable online activities toward modeling the impact of changing media investment decisions on long-term customer value.

As the cookieless future continues to unfold, success won’t be defined by which digital platforms or technologies marketers select or the savviness of their media buyers. Future-proofing advertising strategy requires a transformative shift in the way that marketers think about identity, orchestrating customer experiences, and analyzing total marketing performance. Breaking down organizational silos won’t happen overnight, so now is the time for digital advertisers to get to work as change agents. The “death of the cookie” might sound scary, but the “death of the last-click attribution model” would be a very good thing for brands and customers alike.

Predict A/B test results using ancient Indian astrology

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a way to instantly know which version is going to win without waiting weeks or months for the data to arrive?

We at VWO have a mission to help marketing and product teams reduce the time and effort required for figuring what works best for their business and what doesn’t. In 2010, we pioneered the Do-It-Yourself visual editor for business teams for editing webpages and creating their variations for A/B tests without involving IT teams. That innovation cut the effort to launch an A/B test from weeks to hours and the A/B testing industry hasn’t been the same ever since.

But, as anyone who has run an A/B test knows, you still have to wait for weeks in order to start getting statistical significant results about which version is better.

We’ve been wondering if there’s a way to cut this wait period as well. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a way to instantly know which version is going to win without waiting weeks or months for the data to arrive?

Can AI help?

The first research direction we turned to was the booming AI technology. You would have certainly heard about neural networks, machine learning, and data science. Could one such  technique help us? If neural networks can drive cars today, perhaps they can also predict which website version is better?

Over the last few years, we tried several techniques and invested a lot of money in trying to get one of the AI techniques to work. We did make some progress when a couple of months ago, we launched an AI powered website copywriter that helped marketers come up with new alternative headlines, CTAs and product descriptions to test.

But, unfortunately, similar AI-based techniques didn’t perform satisfactorily on prediction of A/B test results. It seems driving cars, beating world Go champion and detecting tumors is an easier problem than predicting which website design is going to be a better choice.

Enter IA

As we were about to almost give up on our dream project, someone pointed us to the elephant in the room: astrology. Our first reaction was to dismiss this absurd suggestion immediately. We’re a skeptical bunch and there’s no place for such pseudoscience in a serious business like ours.

But we were desperate and decided to give this totally absurd idea one last shot. We were told that millions of people across the world predict all sorts of phenomena using techniques like horoscopes, or Tarot cards. If people are using a technique to predict whether their marriage will succeed or not, can’t it be used to predict whether A version is better than the B version?

After looking at the cost-benefit equation, we decided to do a small pilot. If, as we predicted, astrology didn’t work we’ll just lose some investment and time. However, if it did work, it’ll change the marketing and user research industry forever.
So, in all earnestness we kickstarted the pilot. After doing initial research on the most predictive astrology technique, we settled on Indian Astrology (IA). Particularly, we settled on parrot astrology. What gave us confidence in it was that there’s even a wikipedia page on it.

Parrot
Photo via Vijay S (on Flickr)

In parrot astrology, an astrologer lays out multiple options in front of a caged pet parrot. When the parrot is let out of the cage, it picks one of the options as the prediction. Simple and straightforward. We loved it already.

What we did for our pilot is the following:

  • Take 100 A/B tests from our database where there was a clear, statistical significant winner (either A or B)
  • Print their screenshots
  • Recruit an Indian astrologer with a parrot and have the parrot pick between the pairs of screenshots across 100 trials (one for each A/B test)

Our null hypothesis was that the parrot wouldn’t be able to pick better than the random chance. That is, the parrot should pick the correct winner and the loser each roughly with a 50% chance.

However, to our astonishment, the parrot picked the winner 80 times out of 100. Using any standard binomial calculator (either frequentist or bayesian), you’ll quickly find out that the chances of that happening are close to nil. Indian Astrology really worked!

Pblog

We’re obviously onto something here. We soon plan to write a scientific paper on this and submit our findings in a top journal. It’s all very exciting and mysterious. How does the parrot know which version works best? Well, we don’t know that but it shouldn’t prevent us from using the technique in the real world (just the same way we still don’t know why deep learning is so effective at various kinds of problems but it’s used widely).

Get early access to parrot-powered A/B test prediction

We’re actively trying to scale the pilot with an eventual goal for making it available for all businesses in the world via simple user interface inside VWO or via an API.  The main challenge is in finding enough parrots and making sure we’re doing this ethically. Once we do that, any business in the world will be able to rapidly converge on optimal user interface without the need to do any A/B testing.

We have some slots for people who want early access to this technology. If you want to give it a shot, email us here: aprilfools@vwo.com

Wait, what?

Well, didn’t we say we’re a skeptical bunch? It turns out there’s no scientific evidence that astrology works. Moreover, we strongly condemn caging of any bird or animal for anything other than clinical or medical research (even in clinical research, we wish computational and physical models increasingly replace actual animals).

If you were excited about the prospect of prediction of A/B test results, you’re not alone. We’re excited about the same thing and even though parrot-astrology doesn’t work, we’re committed to continue making progress towards helping business teams achieve a higher probability of success in each of their A/B tests.

After launching an AI powered website copywriter last year, we recently launched an AI powered heatmap predictor. After you enter your webpage URL, we take a screenshot and use deep learning to predict the distribution of clicks on the website. This can help you spot obvious dead zones or distractors on your website even before you make it live or use a heatmap tool on it.

Ecommerce

This tool is free to use. So feel free to try it as many times on as many websites.

We’re sorry for giving you hope that you can get rid of A/B testing, but hope you had fun reading the post 🙂

Happy April Fools day!

Had a laugh? Send me a note at paras@vwo.com. I read and reply to all emails.

How to Establish an Agency Content Strategy When Outbound Stops Working

Agencies looking to grow have traditionally relied on fostering strategic relationships to land deals and increase sales. Cold email and referrals have often been quite effective.  But through my work with dozens of agencies, it’s clear outbound alone is no longer enough. The most successful agencies are beginning to invest more time and money in […]

The post How to Establish an Agency Content Strategy When Outbound Stops Working appeared first on CXL.

Agencies looking to grow have traditionally relied on fostering strategic relationships to land deals and increase sales. Cold email and referrals have often been quite effective. 

But through my work with dozens of agencies, it’s clear outbound alone is no longer enough. The most successful agencies are beginning to invest more time and money in content marketing to establish expertise in their industry and, more importantly, generate inbound appointments.

In this article, I’ll outline how to create an agency content strategy that fuels your business development efforts and generates the optimal kind of organic traffic.

Mining your clients for pain-points, success, and topic ideas

When starting out, many agencies blog about topics directly related to their offering. This is great if you’re creating success stories, but less so if you’re writing about high-level, tactical fluff. It’s unlikely your ideal client is interested in a generic “5 ways to produce better ads.”

Many agencies invest as little time and energy as possible into their content efforts.

But the problem is, creating a content strategy that attracts your ideal client means understanding what matters to them. It involves putting in the work.

I’ve found that interviewing your existing clients is one of the best ways to create valuable content for your ideal audience.

Customer interviews allow you to uncover:

  1. Why they decided to do business with you;
  2. Why they love working with you;
  3. What other challenges they have in their business;
  4. Where they go for new information.

While keyword research matters, your clients are a rich source of insight for your optimal content strategy. Your customers can provide you with pain-points to write about, as well as success stories to attract new clients. 

The same goes for your sales conversations; why did new leads seek you out, and what objections do you hear during the sales process?

Digging deep into your client’s responses is the bedrock for an effective content strategy. At Grizzle, we couple these qualitative insights with data-driven research—here’s our 3 step process. 

1. Collect data sources for quantitative insights

Data sources include the publications, competitors, influencers, podcasts, and communities that your audience engages with the most. Uncovering popular articles and conversations will show you what people are most interested in, which is useful for “seeding” your content research.

Using a tool like SparkToro, you can uncover the channels and influencers that your audience is most engaged with. For example, let’s say you offer digital transformation services, and your ideal client is looking to modernize their digital experience:

Here are some initial sources uncovered by this search:

  • Websites like Econsultancy and McKinsey that publish content on digital transformation
  • Niche influencers and social profiles like Adaptive Path (using the “hidden gems” filter in SparkToro)
  • Podcasts by brands like CMOTalk and the Cognizant Podcast.

You can use these sources to identify patterns of the content they’re publishing consistently. For example, certain publications are talking about modernizing legacy systems, a topic well worth pursuing for any agency that offers digital transformation services.

With industry trends identified, your next step is to identify relevant communities and conversations. 

For example, searching Facebook for “SaaS marketers” yields the following Groups:

You can also search Reddit to find relevant subreddits:

Your clients may hang out in different communities than the examples above, but this is the time to put your detective hat on and look for popular conversations happening within each community.

Reddit makes this easy, as you can sort by popularity and filter by date (e.g. “this month”), and Facebook automatically prioritizes conversations with recent comments.

For example, we recently worked with an app development agency and, after analyzing community conversations, we found a popular discussion around the difficulty of starting and growing consumer apps:

This conversation alone provided us with a tremendous amount of insight into the challenges B2C startup founders face, which was invaluable in both strategy and creating future content. The discussion also allowed us to see the most upvoted comments from members giving advice advocated by the broader community.

2. Conduct content-driven client interviews

Your existing clients are your most significant source of insights. Interviewing them will provide you with their wants and needs from a messaging perspective and uncover topic ideas and distribution channels.

But how you schedule and conduct these interviews with your clients matter. When reaching out let your clients know what you’re hoping to achieve. In general, your clients want to see you succeed, and you’d be surprised how many are willing to assist in any way they can.

Go into each conversation with a broad set of questions. We usually limit the number of high-level questions to 5 or 6, which allows us to focus on digging deeper into our client’s responses. Here are some example questions we recently used during a client campaign:

  1. Why did you decide to work with [AGENCY]?
  2. What’s the biggest challenge you currently face in your role?
  3. What are your goals for the next 3-6 months?
    1. Follow-up question: What are the biggest obstacles to achieving those goals?
  4. Where do you go for advice or content around [TOPIC]?
    1. Follow-up question: Do you read any blogs in this space?
    2. Follow-up question: Are you active in any LinkedIn groups, Facebook groups or other online communities?

These questions get the conversation and help move things in the right direction. But the initial questions are just the start. Expanding on their responses and going deeper is where the real value lies. The more detailed you get, the more insight you have into how to craft your content strategy. 

For example, when building the first version of their product, the app development agency’s clients would download popular (and similar) apps to garner inspiration for their product roadmap. Digging deeper, we found they would take screenshots, map out the user journey, and look for ways to build something better.

So, we’ve dedicated an entire portion of their content strategy to breaking down popular apps in the space. Each section is dedicated to a feature or stage of the customer journey (while remaining relevant to audience goals and pain-points.) Now that’s some great content! 

3. Synthesize your insights in an audience analysis report

At this point, you should have collected trending topics, popular conversations, and conducted client interviews. Now it’s time to organize these insights into a helpful format for everyone involved in your agency’s growth.

Creating an audience analysis report allows you to pull-out and elevate client pain-points, goals, and desires. It can also be used to highlight why clients love working with you in the first place. Having a bunch of unorganized data isn’t useful for anyone. 

Writing this report in an editorial-style provides a reference about your audience that’s easy to digest. It acts as a narrative that allows pain-points to stand out, providing detailed information on why they’re relevant to your strategy.

For example, here’s a section about a particular priority shared by several of the app development agency’s clients:

This is closely related to an additional goal we uncovered on revenue generation, which leads us to the following section:

This report not only gives you crystal clear insights on shared client traits, but becomes the fuel for the next stage of the process: developing a clear content strategy. Having all this insight in one place can also help keep your teams aligned and on the same page. 

Developing a clear content strategy

Creating a well-document content roadmap is critical for producing blog posts and articles that generate new business. Much like your audience analysis report, it will ensure everyone involved in the planning, production, and distribution process is aligned. 

Here are the  critical components of a successful content strategy you’ll want to include in your research and analysis. 

Well-defined goals and objectives

What are the primary and secondary goals you’re aiming to achieve? What drove you to seek out content marketing as a growth solution?

Start with high-level bullet-points before getting more detailed:

  1. Lead Generation: attracting founders of well-funded startups who are ready to build exceptional products
  2. Organic Traffic: drive search traffic by producing content around buyer-specific keywords
  3. Thought Leadership: position our agency as a trusted brand in the app development space
  4. Market Expansion: target other locations outside of our location (London, U.S., etc.)

Follow this list with a handful of paragraphs that declare how you’ll achieve these goals. For example, if organic traffic is a priority for you, include a statement like this:

From an SEO perspective, our primary goal in the early stages of this content strategy is to focus on low-volume, high-buyer intent keywords and queries related to specific pain points.

This sets the intention for your early-stage priorities. Painting a clear picture of what you aim to achieve in the short- and long-term makes a strong case for the decisions you’ll make throughout the rest of your content strategy. It may sound high-level on the surface, but you’d be surprised at how many companies skip this step and end up struggling later on in the process. 

Information about your audience

Dedicate a section to high-level audience information (as uncovered during the research phase). Include a brief description of each of your audience segments, product-driven pain-points, and the challenges they face in their day-to-day role.

For example, here’s how we’d describe a segment of the app development agency’s audience:

Existing Startup Founder: Sometimes, founders will already have an MVP or prototype. This prototype may simply include the technology or infrastructure at the core of their product, so they need help developing an app that provides an experience on top of that technology.

This helps us visualize the audience segment and fully understand their priorities, accompanied by relevant pain-points:

App startup founders are very budget-conscious in the early stages. Cash flow is a matter of life or death when bootstrapped and pre-funding.

As well as challenges and goals they’re looking to achieve outside of the scope of your services:

For content-driven apps, the question is, “how do we become part of our user’s daily lives?”

It may seem repetitive, but by having high-level audience information in the same place as your strategy, you can communicate how they feed into the rest of your strategy.

The topics and content formats you’ll create for them

Here, you’ll want to include information on content themes and the content formats you’ll be utilizing. These themes can be used as blog categories to organize your content for your audience.

For example, earlier in the process, our app development agency discovered how their clients analyze other successful apps to inform their product roadmap. We can help them with this process by creating app breakdowns of popular products in the app space, offering expert commentary, takeaways, and ideas on what they could do better.

When presenting different formats in your content strategy document, try and include an example of what that format looks like, for example:

Thought Leadership: Strategic in nature, thought leadership aims to challenge existing beliefs or present a new way of thinking. For example, debunking the myths of React Native or Firebase as the cheapest/most expensive solutions.

The formats you create should be focused on providing your audience value first and foremost. By selecting three or four content formats, you can build constructive constraints that force you to stay focused and create the most value content for your target audience. 

Select your content distribution channels

How will you attract new visitors and readers? This is where client interviews will become invaluable, as they’ll tell you exactly how they discover and vet new information.

For example, you might find that your ideal client is active on LinkedIn. Maybe you also discover, that most of your ideal clients never use Twitter. That’s incredibly valuable insight.

In this case, it would be best for you to repurpose your content into several LinkedIn posts, getting industry influencers involved in the process to amplify your reach.

Here are some of the most effective content distribution channels we’ve used for our agency clients:

  1. Guest blogging: Identify three to five publications that your clients regularly read with the aim of becoming a contributor. This allows you to get your content in front of an existing audience and get backlinks simultaneously.
  2. Influencers: Who are the movers-and-shakers in your industry? Go back to your data-driven research and look for experts you can collaborate with. Getting them involved in the content creation process not only gives you an existing audience to tap into, but makes your content more unique.
  3. Direct channels: If you’re looking to attract a tactical audience, it’s well worth sharing content to directories and communities that allow it. Examples of these channels include GrowthHackers and Hacker News.
  4. Vendors and partners: Look to existing partners that have access to your audience. This includes other non-competing agencies, as well as software and technology vendors.
  5. Social content: Which platforms are your clients most active? If it’s LinkedIn, find someone from within your agency to become the face of the brand. If you’re reading this, that person is probably you.
  6. Organic traffic: Don’t forget about SEO. Be sure to identify keywords that align with your client’s pain-points, making your content relevant for those terms.

The best content distribution approach is to reverse-engineer your client’s consumption habits. If you’re targeting a more senior audience, that source is often their peers and counterparts at other organizations. However, don’t neglect the executives that report to them. Individual contributors still have a say in the strategic conversation, and it’s well worth publishing content that caters to them.

Lastly, you’ll want to decide how you’ll measure success. For example, if SEO is a priority, some metrics you’d want to focus on may include;

  • Organic search traffic;
  • Impressions on the SERPs;
  • SERP click-through-rate;
  • Avg. position (across all target keywords);
  • Position (for specific content);
  • Previous position (from previous period.)

More importantly, don’t forget to measure the number of qualified leads and new business generated from your content efforts. After all, that’s why you started this content marketing journey in the first place.

How content fits into outreach and business development

Cold outreach is often treated as a transactional affair. Agency founders and marketers race for sales appointments before establishing a relationship. 

Before disregarding outreach entirely, consider using it as a content distribution channel. If you’re writing for a specific type of client, send your content directly to that segment.

Let’s say you provide creative services to paid media specialists. A common pain-point you hear on sales calls might be, “we need help scaling our ad creative.” 

Here’s a framework you can use to craft your email messaging:

  1. Forget contrived personalization; get right to the point: Use the first line of your email to present what your content is about. If it’s a topic that’s truly a priority for your ideal buyer, it’ll get their attention.
  2. But do personalize why it matters to them: Once you’ve presented the topic, tell them why you’re sharing it. For example, after looking at their Facebook Ad Library, you might see that they’re using the same imagery. Therefore, they may be looking for ways to test new ad creative at scale.
  3. Provide the link to your content (and a call-to-action): What do you want them to do after reading your article? This could be as simple as asking them to share any feedback they have.
  4. Use follow-up messaging to establish a sales conversation: It’s best to use your initial email to share content without expectation. However, you can use follow-up messaging to ask if they’d like to learn more about your agency’s approach to creative asset production.

Here’s an example that brings these elements together:

Hi [NAME],

We just published an article on how to scale ad creative without lengthy turnaround times.

As you guys at [COMPANY] are creating lots of ads with similar imagery, I thought you might be interested in learning how to run experiments and automate new ad combinations without the hefty design fees.

You can read the article here: [LINK]

I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback if you have any.

Cheers,

[SIGNATURE]

Instead of asking for a sales appointment, this approach starts the relationship based on value. You’ve crafted content specifically for them, and aren’t just spamming their inbox. 

Content collaboration to develop relationships 

To take your content efforts even further, you can use your content as a collaboration tool to start new relationships. Get your ideal client (or those with access to them) involved in your content creation process. Here are two ways we do this at Grizzle:

1. Collaborate on an in-depth guide

There are plenty of non-competing brands with the same audience as you—partner with them to collaborate on a high quality piece of content together.

Start by identifying who these brands are. For example, if you’re offering paid media services to performance marketing teams at mid-level market organizations, consider partnering with SaaS brands that provide them with the tools to do their job (such as Kenshoo, Acquisio, and WordStream).

Before reaching out to potential partners, build an offer they can’t refuse. Two ways to sweeten the deal include:

  1. Taking care of the heavy lifting: Write design, and help your partners repurpose content for their social platforms.
  2. Repurpose for publications: Take sections and themes covered in the main content and turn them into standalone guest posts. Help your partners get in front of a wider audience (and get high-quality backlinks in the process). 

For example, in 2019, Buffer partnered with social media agency The Social Chain to produce a “State of Social” report. Clocking in at 1,500 words, this report is chock full of data and visual content, appealing to other content creators and journalists alike:

Another approach is to create a microsite dedicated to your co-marketing efforts. Mention’s Influencer Marketing Stack is a prime example of this, partnering with several software brands and agencies to provide a one-stop-shop for influencer marketing vendors:

This simple microsite generated over 1,900 upvotes on Product Hunt. It also allowed Mention to drive awareness through the audiences of HubSpot, BuzzStream, Later, and many more.

More importantly, it’s become an acquisition channel for the agencies they partnered with, allowing them to stand on the shoulders of a well-known brand.

2. Build personal connections with podcasting

In my experience, podcasting presents a paradox for the amount of effort needed to get involved. Providing written insights in an email might take around 5 to 10 minutes, yet many busy professionals prefer to jump on a 30-minute interview.

Psychological reasons behind this phenomenon aside, podcasting is the perfect platform for building deeper relationships with target accounts and industry influencers.

For example, since launching my podcast, Maker Mixtapes, in January 2021, I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with marketers from brands like Shopify, as well as industry leaders like Rand Fishkin. 

And while my primary motive is to expand my network and share great stories, the podcast has been responsible for several new leads and two new clients (both directly and indirectly)—not bad for only three months in the game.

If you’re looking to build deeper relationships with influential people in your space, I highly recommend starting a podcast. Here’s a simple process you can follow:

  • Start with a premise: In a recent conversation with Kristen LaFrance, host of Shopify’s Resilient Retail, I learned all about the importance of having a purpose for your podcast. What’s the big problem you’re looking to solve, and why does your podcast exist in the world?
  • Create a delightful guest experience: Make it easy for guests to get involved. Provide them with high-level themes you’d like to cover before the interview so they can prepare themselves. Corey Haines has a great article on how to do just this.
  • Do your research and look beyond surface-level questions: If your guest has been on podcasts in the past, they’re likely asked the same questions. Go beyond the surface and get more specific. Aim to understand their true feelings or motivations behind a particular topic.
  • Use the Netflix effect: When launching your podcast, have a bank of episodes ready to go. For Maker Mixtapes, we launched with six episodes. This helped me make plenty of noise on the backend of my guest’s audiences on launch day.
  • Make it easy for guests to share: Turn your interview into a tweetstorm and LinkedIn post that adds plenty of value to your audience. Once an episode goes live and you post your content, provide your guests with clear instructions on sharing these posts to spread the word.
  • Repurpose your podcast content: Since launching, we’ve created a dedicated section on our website as a home for in-depth articles produced around our content. This allows us to add more value to our audience, elevate our guest’s stories, and fuel other content efforts.

For example, in a recent interview with Nitsan Peled, Director of Content at Optimove, we talked about the benefits of appealing to target accounts by writing about their brand:

We used this story as an example when writing about content-driven customer expansion:

As you interview more guests, you’ll notice patterns in their approach to a particular craft. For example, we’ve been talking to content marketers who are seeing great success with gated content. This is the antithesis of popular discussion on social media, where many content marketers condemn the practice. Therefore, we have a (potentially polarizing) topic we can write about in the future, using our guest’s success to back up any claims we make.

If you plan on creating content yourself, focus on formats that play to your strengths. If you’re a great writer, start with blog articles and guest posts. If you’re a natural conversationalist, jump on the podcast bandwagon.

Conclusion

A strong content strategy begins with a detailed roadmap on how you plan to secure new business. Organic traffic will help you generate predictable traffic over time, but it’s nothing without qualified agency leads. 

If traditional outbound marketing is no longer as effective as it once was, consider leveling up your content marketing game.

  • Interview your customers to help gain insight into creating content your target audience will love.
  • Spend time in communities where your audience hangs out. 
  • Experiment with content partnerships with other players in your space that aren’t directly competing.
  • Improve your outbound efforts by sharing helpful content before asking for anything in return. 
  • Consider launching a podcast if that medium fits your style.

The post How to Establish an Agency Content Strategy When Outbound Stops Working appeared first on CXL.

Organic Shares or SEO Rankings: Which Should You Prioritize?

We’re told time and time again, producing high quality content is one of the highest value activities you can do for your business. Yet, the question remains, what does high quality content actually mean and how do you measure it? With content marketing, it can be easy to get lost in the noise and miss […]

The post Organic Shares or SEO Rankings: Which Should You Prioritize? appeared first on CXL.

We’re told time and time again, producing high quality content is one of the highest value activities you can do for your business. Yet, the question remains, what does high quality content actually mean and how do you measure it?

With content marketing, it can be easy to get lost in the noise and miss what matters.  For this article, let’s consider just two metrics—an engagement metric—social shares and an SEO metric—keyword rank.

Shares are often considered a ‘vanity metric’ in the sense they don’t always directly help a business generate more revenue.

But shares are also significant in the fact that it shows that someone found your content valuable enough to share. Being mentioned by an industry thought leader can put your brand or business on the map for example.

On the other hand, optimizing your content for ranking takes time to start seeing results and can and it can be challenging to outrank your competition. 

In an ideal world, your content would rank well and get lots of social shares. But given marketers are often limited on time and resources, which should you prioritize if you have to choose? I asked 18 digital marketing experts and content creators to find out. 

But first the pros and cons of each approach.

Pros and cons of Shared Content Optimization (SCO)

Pros

  • A share is a leading indicator that your audience found the piece of content valuable enough to share. The more shares a piece of content gets, the higher the chance of it ‘going viral.
  • A share also suggests your reader agrees with or finds your content though-provoking. 45 percent of US adults shared an opinion piece they agreed with on social media.
  • Content that gets shared, also generally suggests the content was interesting, fun, or even just engaging. This can often signal you’re creating content that connects with your readers and target audience. 
  • Shared content is immediately public material and can lead to an immediate bump in traffic.
  • Oftentimes, shared content includes commentary or other additional insight you can use to gain audience insights and leverage user generated content (UGC).

Cons

  • Not all shares are created equal, and shares can often be misleading. It’s often difficult to measure the true ROI from social shares directly. 
  • 6 in 10 people only read headlines before sharing, this means that quantity of shares may not always reflect content value.
  • Organic reach for many social media platforms is declining, making it more difficult for content to get seen organically. 
  • Social media is subject to changes in algorithms, updates and features. These affect content visibility and are many times out businesses control. 
  • Social media posts are time-sensitive. For example, you have to post at a certain period to get maximum engagement. Generally posts have a short shelf life.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Pros

  • With well ranking content you’ll generally continue to see ROI for a long period of time.
  • When you rank for buyer intent or longer tail keywords, you attract people who potentially need the kind of solution or information you provide.
  • Ranking high in search gives you more credibility amongst searchers. 71% of search engine users don’t click past the first page of search results.
  • The process of  keyword research for SEO alone, can help you understand what your audience wants. 

Cons

  • It is difficult to achieve first page rank with new websites or fresh content. Old pages (sometimes with subpar content) often outrank fresh pages. In this way, ranking highly may not reflect content value. 
  • Google constantly changes its algorithms which requires you to keep up with the changes.
  • It can be quite difficult to determine the ROI of your SEO efforts in the beginning as rankings take time to settle (up to 6 months).
  • Depending on your industry, it can be difficult to rank due to competition. 

Now that we’ve gone over the pros and cons of both SEO and SCO let’s look at what the marketing experts have to say. 

According to the Experts:

The best metric is EPV (earnings per visitor) > CPV (cost per visitor). This means you are driving traffic at profit. Shares and rank are vanity. You can have both and still make no profit.

– Chris Von Wilpert, Owner, ContentMavericks

“Shares = meh. Ranking is only good up to a point, but it’s important when we add new features (to get listed quickly with new pages.”

-Benjamin Thomas, Content director, User.com


Picking a metric to focus on is the whole problem with measuring content marketing impact. The premise is flawed. Different pieces should have different objectives. The same piece can have multiple objectives. And depending on where in the buyer’s journey the potential customer is with the content, a metric that is a perfect fit for measurement elsewhere could be completely useless and inappropriate.

Instead of arguing over rankings vs. shares, we ought to be arguing for a more holistic and inclusive way of evaluating content performance. Doing anything else doesn’t do anyone any favors. 

– Joel Klettke, Founder, CaseStudyBuddy

“Comments and replies I think constitute more than anything else, that people are interested in what you created. It has to be interesting enough to capture their attention and evoke a genuine response. Of course, that can be manipulated in all kinds of sneaky ways, and is, but it’s the content that offers some kind of true value that works best. It’s a long game. Unfortunately, most content creators play a short game, they want results now, and it encourages a blinkered approach. They play to people’s emotions deliberately and inflame passions for the sake of numbers. That’s a real shame I think”.

-Larry G. Maguire, larrygmaguire.com


I would argue that the most qualitative metric for effective content in 2021 is the number of subscribers/followers the content generates. Other metrics are also important but don’t meet the main objective, which in most cases is to gain a constantly growing following that will consume your content on a consistent basis

-Oleg Donets, Founder, ODMSoft and Real Estate Bees

“I’d say “Leads” if not “Sales”. But these tend to be difficult to measure, with content often not being the last thing folks click before they end up buying.

Other than that, it’s got to be a mix. You can rig the game and play with these metrics if you want, by creating viral content or one that’s super searched for…but has nothing to do with your business. So in my opinion, it’s got to be a mix.”

-Michal Leszczynski, Content director, Getresponse


For us it’s the amount of free trials the blog drives. We care about bottom-lines, not vanity metrics. 

Trina Moitra, Head of Marketing, Convert.com

“For every piece of content I publish—for ourselves or for our clients—I have a specific objective the piece fulfills and set my content marketing KPIs accordingly. For our content marketing agency, our content strategy focuses on connecting with marketers and startup founders who need help drafting or implementing a content strategy. With that in mind, we love it when a blog post ranks well in search and sees a good amount of traffic. But having social shares, and seeing reader comments, is often a better indicator that we are reaching our intended recipient.”

-Erika Heald, Erika Heald Marketing Consulting

The short answer: it depends

If I had to choose, I’d lean towards rank, as that in my opinion, would have the biggest upside. That said, getting shares early and often, especially when you’re just building your content marketing strategy, can help put you on the map and lead to links, which will ultimately help you rank higher in the future. Certainly, shares can be useful for vanity/generating excitement, but ranking is where it’s at for me.

CXL’s very own content lead, Bud Hennekes 

Measuring the success of content depends on the goals of that content. Sometimes the goal will be engagement, making shares and likes the best metrics to track. Other times, the goal will be to increase site traffic, making rankings the most effective metric. Your goals should inform your content decisions and each goal will determine the most effective metric to measure success.

Amy Balliett, Founder, Killer Visual Communications

“You should focus on leads or revenue. You can’t bank shares or rankings.”

-Eric Schwartzman, Ericschwartzman.com

I would say conversions. While content marketing is not directly intended to make sales, there is often a desired conversion involved. That could be readers signing up for an email list or even making a purchase.

Emily Krings, Owner, Quill to Keys content writing.

“There are many metrics to consider when measuring successful content, but it depends on the type of content you’re creating. So marketers need to align different goals with different types of content. But the two metrics that tend to remain stable across all formats are: where your content is placed and how useful your audience feels your content is. 

The former is fairly straightforward, in that it shows how well you have optimized your piece for the right keywords. But the latter is complicated. Here you’re not only looking at actions, but also how long your audience stays on your site, for example, to consume the content or how they interact with it (do they click through to another page for more information? leave a comment? ask questions? etc).

I would definitely say it’s the rank and the relevancy of your content to your audience at different stages of their lifecycle with your business/brand that matters when measuring success. 

And there’s no one metric fits all approach, because everyone’s creating content to reach different goals. So the measurability aspect, the onus is on the marketers to clearly define the goals in their strategies.”

-Vanhishikha Bhargava, Founder, Contensify

For me it’s rank, because if a post ranks it has longevity. Shares are amazing to drive traffic and leads in the short term, but the shares will dwindle and so will the traffic. If the content ranks it has the ability to be evergreen.

Michael Brennan, founder, SMBClix

“I’d optimize for rank. It has the longest lifespan, highest ROI, and it’s scalable.”

-Aaron Orendorff, VP of marketing, Common Thread Collective.

“Content has to serve the needs of my audiences and their preferred channels. It needs to emphasize humanity because people connect with people. And I need to measure content effectiveness a little differently – maybe by looking at consumption measures and feedback metrics versus volume and design.”

– Deanna Ransom, global head of marketing, Televerde, in a CMI article

The best response to content corresponds to the explicit strategy of that content, which hopefully loops into metrics that support the enterprise. This holds true ALL the time, not just for 2021.

Rebecca Lieb, Cofounder, Kaleido Insights

“For me, traffic is probably the most important metric, because a piece of content could be ranking first for a keyword, but that keyword might have zero visibility. Likewise a piece of content could get a ton of shares but if nobody clicks through, then it’s not going to affect your bottom line. 

Rank and shares can sometimes be a vanity metric, but what really matters is if the needle was actually moved, and for me that needle is the traffic to the page.”

-Alex York, Content Marketing Manager, Teamwork

Conclusion

As with most things in marketing, there’s often no ‘simple answer.’ Whether you should focus on ranking, shares or any other metric for your content marketing efforts is contextual. 

Asking the simple question: “Specifically, which do you prioritize as a better metric for successful content at CXL? Shares or Rank?” resulted in a wide range of answers, many of which suggested content should be measured on other metrics than SEO and SCO. 

For some, rankings may be more important, for others, shares might be the metric that moves the needle. 

Overall, the best metric for content would be metrics that support your company’s goals. 

Want more leads? Keep an eye on signups. Looking for more brand exposure? Optimizing for shares might be your best bet. Want more market authority? Then put more effort towards ranking for the right keywords. 

Use the guidance from these experts as a foundation to start, and commit to testing to see what is most effective for you. 

The post Organic Shares or SEO Rankings: Which Should You Prioritize? appeared first on CXL.