In the time it took you to read the title of this article, parse what it might be about and decide that you wanted to click on it, many more viewers checked out and went on to the next one. It’s nothing personal – that’s just how most 21st-century digital consumers process information. The attention span of the average ad viewer is growing ever shorter, and ads that require sustained engagement are less likely to click with many audiences.
So how can you capture this shrinking resource with your digital marketing tactics? To pique a viewer’s interest (or at least nurture a seed of it in their brain), you’ll need to incorporate some best practices for keeping it short, punchy and useful. These six strategies will help guide your digital marketing toward the right balance of brevity and information.
1. Clarity is king
When in doubt, use simple and concise prose. Your guiding principle should be to create something that’s useful or interesting to the viewer and doesn’t make them work too hard for it. Tell them in a sentence or less why they should care about your ad.
One way to create clarity is to give the viewer a simple and concrete concept to latch on to. Some examples of good “anchor points” include:
A problem with a competitors’ product that your product solves.
A new model or feature that’s just been added.
A strong, single-sentence customer testimonial.
A short phrase that uses active, exciting language.
A pleasant or exciting image that creates an aspirational desire.
It takes practice to develop your digital advertising strategies in a way that’s assertive about demanding the customer’s attention, so it’s key to use A/B tests and focus groups to continually refine your approach. And when in doubt, consider the limitations and advantages of the medium in which you’re working.
2. Know the best practices of the platform you’re using
Each digital advertising platform has its own set of rules—not just the formal ones, but the implied ones. Know the terrain of the digital landscape and make sure that you can articulate your message in different ways depending on the platform.
With Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media platform advertising, you’ll need to be especially aware of this. Something that works as a tweet often doesn’t make a good LinkedIn post, and vice versa. If your social media posts aren’t getting enough engagement, consider that they might need to be tailored to the platform better and review some best practices and stay on top of recent updates when writing for different social media.
These best practices include making sure your formatting is correct, avoiding duplicate content and sharing high-quality, legally owned images that users will enjoy seeing on their feed. Familiarizing yourself with each platform’s unique standards, such as their character limits and post formatting is also important. Typically, less text is best and will allow for a greater visual appeal, especially on Twitter, which has one of the smallest character limits. Overall, always consider the end-user, what they will enjoy seeing, and how you can best help them.
3. Don’t push video content where it’s not appropriate
By now, everyone knows the secret of the “pivot to video” that swept the digital ad industry a few years ago: That the numbers on engagement with video content had been inflated, severely in some cases. That doesn’t mean that video isn’t a great medium for reaching digital audiences – but it serves as a reminder that video needs to have its place in context.
Autoplaying videos on a website home page are one example of a video strategy to avoid. For one thing, it often causes pages to load slowly, and you can see why a slow-loading website would be a problem for a consumer with a radically shortened attention span. And for another, it increases a viewer’s cognitive load in a way that can be unpleasant if it’s unexpected. For many people, watching a video is a bigger cognitive commitment than reading a few short paragraphs of an article, so try to consider whether video actually improves your message.
Lastly, keep video content short and sweet unless you’re purposefully doing a more in-depth video for customers further down the sales funnel. And great long-form content has its place as well – but you should consider how best to use it. In fact, that’s exactly what our next tip is about.
4. Get more out of your content by splitting it up
The 21st-century attention span works best if you feed it in small bites. If you’ve got a cool informational video or article that’s long and involved, consider splitting it into parts. This accomplishes several things:
It gives you more search engine real estate and can allow you to segment your audience more effectively based on the individual interests you’re addressing in each section.
It makes the content more readable or viewer-friendly.
It maximizes the utility of your content by turning a single post into a week’s or a month’s worth.
This idea also applies at the micro level. Try to keep paragraphs relatively short and break up text with lists (like we just did.) Make it snappy, make it relevant and – if appropriate for your brand voice – make it fun.
5. Personalize ad content
There’s one relatively easy way to make your content way more useful and interesting to your audience: Personalize it. In an age when consumers see thousands of ads per day, personalization is an effective way to make your content stand out.
Almost all of today’s ad platforms offer some kind of personalization and targeting tools. Whether it’s social media PPC, search engine PPC, email marketing or any other platform, there’s probably a way to personalize your ad displays. PPC ads are particularly attractive because platforms like Facebook and Google offer robust targeting tools built into the ad buy system and solid metrics to track your ads’ performance.
It’s also worth noting that personalization can cross the line into creeping out the consumer, so be wary of personalization that targets potentially sensitive information. Keep a sense of empathy for the consumer in mind and ask yourself, “Would I be okay with someone sending me a targeted ad or email about this?”
6. Use visual aids and interactive elements to leave a more lasting impression
Content that creates visual interest for the viewer will always have the advantage. Infographics and charts are a great way to accomplish this, as they can convey a lot of information in a useful, bite-sized format. The flowchart, for example, is a classic because it gives a lot of useful information and adds a level of interactivity and personalization.
It’s also an exciting time to take advantage of the many new ways for customers to interact with a website or app. That same flowchart, for example, could be turned into an interactive personalization quiz that helps customers find the product they need from a range of choices. Meanwhile, many eyewear manufacturers now offer “digital try-on” features that superimpose a pair of frames on a user’s picture. While these features require more dedication and attention from the viewer, they can be effective because they create interactive engagement, not just passive viewing.
Some marketers might wish for the days of five-paragraph ad copy, and some might love the challenge of the new attention economy, but what’s clear to everyone is that the lightning-strike attention span is the new normal. Successful 21st-century marketers will address that need by finding ways to communicate more information in smaller bites, and by doing it in a way that respects the constant demands our world places on a consumer’s time and attention.
We’ve passed a milestone in Google’s evolution from search engine to walled-garden. In June of 2019, for the first time, a majority of all browser-based searches on Google.com resulted in zero-clicks.
Throughout this post, I’ll…
We’ve passed a milestone in Google’s evolution from search engine to walled-garden. In June of 2019, for the first time, a majority of all browser-based searches on Google.com resulted in zero-clicks.
Throughout this post, I’ll be using numbers from the clickstream data company, Jumpshot. They are, in my opinion, the best, most reliable source of information on what happens inside…
A common refrain we’ve heard is that people’s businesses are too small to use any sort of CRO tool that tells them what their visitors are up to. That their website traffic is too low. That they need to increase their revenue or traffic fir…
A common refrain we’ve heard is that people’s businesses are too small to use any sort of CRO tool that tells them what their visitors are up to. That their website traffic is too low. That they need to increase their revenue or traffic first before they can think about improving their website for those […]
As the web grows, more domain extensions have started to crop up. The internet began with six top-level domains (e.g., .com, .net, .org) and now has over a thousand.
As the web grows, more domain extensions have started to crop up. The internet began with six top-level domains (e.g., .com, .net, .org) and now has over a thousand.
What differentiates one domain extension from another is its popularity and familiarity. One domain extension that’s on the rise is .design.
Many companies are using it to brand their design-related products and projects. Designers are using it as a home for their work and portfolio. If you’re in the design field, a .design domain is just what you need.
Right now you can get a free .design domain name for an entire year from Porkbun. Your .design name comes with free Whois privacy, SSL certificates, and a Weebly Site Builder trial. Get a free .design domain and start building your brand.
“If you cannot measure it,” declared Lord Kelvin, “you cannot improve it.” Perhaps SaaS companies have taken this advice too literally. SaaS sales and marketing teams can get overwhelmed by metrics. But without any metrics, it’s impossible to track growth. And without growth, a SaaS company is dead in the water. According to Statista, the […]
“If you cannot measure it,” declared Lord Kelvin, “you cannot improve it.” Perhaps SaaS companies have taken this advice too literally.
SaaS sales and marketing teams can get overwhelmed by metrics. But without any metrics, it’s impossible to track growth. And without growth, a SaaS company is dead in the water.
According to Statista, the SaaS market will reach $157 billion next year. And while that figure is promising, early-stage SaaS companies need a ton of growth to survive. In fact, SaaS companies with an annual growth rate of 20% or less have a 92% chance of failure, according to research by McKinsey.
That same research found that “super growers” were eight times more likely than “stallers” to grow from $100 million to $1 billion, and three times more likely to do so than “growers.”
If growth is the best way to get out alive, marketing metrics do little unless they correlate with sales. After talking with a bunch of SaaS experts, here’s what I learned about which SaaS metrics deserve focus—and which ones don’t.
The nuts and bolts of measuring SaaS growth
Software and online-services companies can quickly become billion-dollar giants, but the recipe for sustained growth remains elusive.
Foong said the company knew right away that they couldn’t rely on the same metrics for CandyBar that they had been using to measure ReferralCandy’s success, like LTV or CAC:
The product was at an early stage, so traditional marketing metrics were pointless.
It didn’t make sense to measure MRR (we had none), we couldn’t calculate LTV or CAC for lack of information…We didn’t have enough customers to map out their lifecycle.
Even measuring monthly traffic to the blog, Foong continued, was pointless—the content strategy prioritized long-term potential (i.e. foundational, evergreen articles) over short-term returns, and they were experimenting with different content types to see which would earn more shares and links.
Once we’d figured out the content, we started building up outreach and guest posting, and measuring the number of guest posts we’d secured.
Eventually, we tweaked the metric to include backlinks secured and moderated the domain authority of the sites involved.
Still today, organic traffic isn’t our top priority…yet. Our focus is on building up domain authority—until the boss is ready to flip the switch.
As your company (and data collection) matures, LeadBoxer Co-Founder Wart Fransen recommends starting at the bottom of the funnel and working your way back up:
Once the metrics are in place, and you have collected some data, you start by having a good look at the bottom of your funnel (your closed deals/sales) and calculate for each step upwards from the conversion rates.
It’s only by starting at the bottom of the funnel, Fransen says, that companies can find out how many opportunities, leads, trials, Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs), traffic, and campaigns they need for one deal/sale.
Focus on that—other metrics are often vanity metrics and should be ignored.
You should be able to say something like, “For each $1 we put into this specific marketing campaign, we get a result of $5 in terms of revenue.”
Monitoring SQLs or PQLs can help avoid a misplaced focus on vanity metrics.
2. Put more focus on SQLs (or PQLs).
Successful SaaS growth means marketing and sales teams work in harmony.
But an emphasis on MQLs may hand over too many underqualified leads to sales teams. In fact, as many as 90% of MQLs never turn into Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) because they were tagged as MQLs too early in the buyer’s journey.
Nutshell Content Marketing Manager Ben Goldstein says that the marketing metrics worth keeping an eye on all relate to conversion in some way, and a big one to watch is SQL generation:
Is your marketing content compelling your site visitors and email subscribers to make the leap into a sales conversation or a free trial of your product?
While email acquisition generally measures the strength of your top-of-funnel content, this conversion metric is heavily influenced by your mid-funnel content (e.g. product comparison articles, new feature announcements, how-to guides, and customer success stories).
No matter what you do on a marketing team, your end goal should always be revenue growth.
Aptrinsic CEO Mickey Alon encourages SaaS companies to go a step further and look at product qualified leads (PQLs). He contends that the MQL/SQL model is highly subjective, rule based, and relies on basic activities like website visits, email opens, webinars, and gated content downloads:
[The MQL/SQL model] is missing a critical element when it comes to SaaS companies, whereby potential customers expect to educate themselves by experiencing the product firsthand.
By overlooking this component of the buying experience, SaaS companies are effectively robbing themselves of the chance to gain greater visibility into buyer intent through product usage.
Alon further notes that the PQL approach centers the sales process on in-product engagements:
In the product-led approach, the customer lifecycle shifts more into the elevated axis area where product behavior becomes essential in guiding users and customers through the lifecycle.
In fact, sales, marketing, product, and customer success can call upon product usage data to efficiently move prospects through the customer acquisition process.
Once you can identify a quality lead, it’s time to figure out which sources deliver the most of them.
3. Learn which sources generate the most high-quality leads.
According to stats from GetApp, lead quality is the biggest lead-generation problem for SaaS companies, which makes monitoring which sources generate “good” leads crucial.
Sarah Bottorff, VP of Marketing at Fastspring, has seen companies ignore lead sources in favor of a more general focus on total leads.
It’s easy to think that more leads or MQLs will equate to more sales, but if you aren’t monitoring conversion by lead source you might find yourself with a whole lot of nothing.
When you run an A/B test, it may be tempting to assume that the variant that drove the most leads is the winner; however, you need to take that extra step to measure how those leads performed throughout the buyer lifecycle.
Bottorff says it’s vital to know how much leads from various sources are worth in terms of sales and, when including acquisition costs, their ROI.
“A page driving record numbers of leads,” she notes, “does not necessarily translate into success for your business.”
But what if companies focused on a single metric? CMO Tim Soulo said they once used three analytics platforms to track conversions—then they ditched tracking them all together.
Shortly after joining Ahrefs as a CMO, I wanted to do marketing “by the books” and set out to set up our conversion tracking for new leads.
Somehow, at that time, we were paying for three different analytics software. I think these were Kissmetrics, Mixpanel, and Woopra.
We used Segment for feeding exactly the same data to all three platforms, and I configured the same conversion funnel in all of them—from a visitor to our homepage and down to a successful payment for the first month of service.
Right off the bat, all three analytics platforms provided different conversion numbers at different steps of the funnel. But, Soulo continued, it got worse:
As we were rolling out some changes to our homepage and our onboarding flow, the discrepancies between those three analytics systems got even worse.
One might say that we could spend more time looking into it and finding the reason for these discrepancies, or just pick one platform and focus on improving the conversion numbers that it was reporting.
Instead, Ahrefs took a different approach and focused on a “North Star Metric”. A North Star Metric is a single metric that a company uses to define success.
Ahrefs decided to track only monthly revenue growth for their product. “It’s been nearly three years since we stopped using conversion tracking software,” concluded Soulo, “and we’ve never felt any urge to try it again.”
Harver’s Marketing Lead, Mitchel de Bruin, agrees that North Star Metrics can be helpful. At Harver, they look at the number of candidates that flow through their systems. “If this number keeps on growing, it means we’re doing a good job across the board,” he said.
One number that should matter for every SaaS company? Retention rate.
6. Don’t ignore churn, even when your customer retention is on point.
For a SaaS company with a hundred customers, two customers churning isn’t going to move the needle. However, churn compounds. That 2% churn rate that wasn’t a problem at the start? If you have a half-million customers, that same churn rate translates into a monthly loss of 10,000 subscribers.
Replacing that many customers can be unsustainable.
ProfitWell CEO Patrick Campbell said in a ChargeBee article that if companies focus solely on growth, they’ll likely hide massive retention problems that will reappear down the line.
This bad habit can start in the early days of a SaaS company, when it’s easier to replace churned customers with new ones:
Most companies don’t think about churn until deeper in their development, which results in massive problems down the road, because it’s not that simple to just change the DNA of your company when you’ve hundreds, if not thousands, of employees.
One solution? Focus on growing the loyalty of your early subscribers, not just their raw numbers:
That shift dovetails with the final piece of advice from experts.
7. Once you’re growing, focus on Net Dollar Retention (NDR).
Perhaps the most unspoken metric of SaaS success is Net Dollar Retention (NDR). NDR is the percentage of growth a company has after accounting for churn, upgrades, and downgrades.
A SaaS company could be growing ARR (annual recurring revenue) over 100% each year, but if their annualized net dollar retention is less than 75%, there is likely a problem with the underlying business.
Net dollar retention has a huge impact on the long-term success of a business; companies that go public usually have net dollar retention rates of well over 100%, and in some cases 150%+.
Sammy Abdullah is the Co-founder of VC firm Blossom Street Ventures. The firm looked at 40 recent SaaS IPOs and found that the median NDR at the time of IPO was 108%.
Abdullah offered additional details on the list:
Note that the top 5, which includes names like Box, Crowdstrike, and PagerDuty, were much stronger, showing an average net retention of 139%.
The top 10 were 131%, and the top 20 were 122%.
The numbers, Abdullah continued, prove the relevance of NDR as a SaaS metric:
If you’re at ~106%, you’re in line with the average. If you’re below 100%, do a little work to figure out what’s happening. And if you’re ~120%+, you’re in great company.
There are hundreds of metrics a SaaS company can use to track growth. But knowing which ones to use at which time can make all the difference.
The overwhelming advice from industry leaders is to keep it simple. Focus on metrics that lead to conversions and revenue growth, even if it means reducing your analytics reporting to a single North Star Metric.
Pinpointing the metrics that fuel growth early in your company history can save years of wasted focus—and lost growth opportunities—that many businesses sacrifice to vanity metrics.
It’s understandable that some companies are struggling with these new standards – after all, things have changed rapidly in the past decade – but it’s time for anyone who’s been on the fence to start making an active attempt to create better representation in their marketing. Today, we’ll take a look at a few key questions that can help your team create respectful, inclusive and, ultimately, more effective marketing campaigns.
How is diversity defined?
First, let’s talk about what we mean by the term “diversity.” You might hear the word tossed around a lot, but what does it mean on a practical level? Diversity, as we’re going to be discussing it, is:
Creating spaces and media that are inclusive to people of color, people with disabilities, people outside the gender binary and more.
Acknowledging the existence of and representing these people in your marketing campaigns.
Avoiding harmful stereotypes and not using race, gender or disability as a punchline.
While these definitions will be helpful, it’s equally important to figure out what diversity means to your business specifically. It might mean fixing the representation in your ads when it doesn’t accurately reflect your brand’s demographics, or it might mean taking a stand on an issue that’s important to many people in your audience. For some businesses, it may even mean acknowledging harmful things that have been associated with your brand in the past and taking responsibility for them.
Why does diversity in digital marketing matter?
So, why is it so important that your digital marketing campaigns feature inclusive representation? Several different studies suggest that there are a variety of ways that diversity matters in marketing, including:
80 percent of marketers agree that using diverse representation in ads helps a brand’s reputation.
Millennials and Generation Z consumers alike prefer media with diverse casts, view ads with diverse representation more favorably and are more comfortable with brands taking social stances.
Diversity in digital marketing also has a defensive side. A solid grounding in diversity principles is important for reducing costly gaffes and potential PR disasters such as Dolce & Gabbana’s ill-advised campaign featuring a Chinese woman attempting to eat various American foods with chopsticks. Saying the wrong thing can be much worse than saying nothing at all, and having a diverse staff who are empowered to candidly call out a misstep is the best way to prevent that.
How can you make your digital marketing more diverse?
Unfortunately, there’s no magic wand to wave and create “instant diversity.” Inclusion has to be grown organically from a marketing philosophy that rewards and celebrates it, and that usually requires some long-term work. Some of the diversity steps that marketers can begin taking today include:
If diversity is like growing a flower garden, you have to prepare the soil first, so the best way is to start with your team. Diversity-centered hiring practices are a subject unto themselves, and if you haven’t yet embraced them, that’s something to work on first. If you don’t have representation on your marketing staff, your representation in your campaigns will suffer.
Businesses that already have a diverse team in play should remember that their minority team members aren’t there to rubber-stamp marketing materials as “certified unproblematic.” Make sure that they’re being asked to take the lead on plenty of projects, particularly ones that are aimed at a group they’re a member of.
Robust market research can help identify demographics your brand may have been under-serving. Try to understand the specific concerns that motivate people from different cultures and how your marketing may have been missing a beat. Using social media listening services can be a great choice for discovering how a diverse audience relates to your brand on social channels.
Curate some customer-centered diversity by offering customers a place to upload content related to your brand, such as a YouTube channel. And if you work with social media influencers in your campaigns, you have another great opportunity to improve representation by making the effort to reach out to a demographically varied group of relevant influencers.
Remember that these aren’t one-and-done tricks to score some easy points. It’s critical to approach diversity as a constant process rather than as an achievement. Keep a running list of improvements you’d like to make and don’t be afraid to add to it.
What mistakes can derail digital marketing diversity?
With issues as potentially sensitive as those surrounding diversity and representation, it’s no surprise that there are some important pitfalls to be aware of and avoid. Some key mistakes many brands make when they’re trying to create inclusion and diversity include:
Using people as token representatives to pander to a certain group.
Trying to wade into social issues that are out of your brand’s depth.
Getting defensive (rather than listening and learning) when your marketing is criticized for lack of diversity or sensitivity.
Not aligning your message and your practice (such as publicly supporting transgender rights when the brand’s physical spaces don’t offer gender-neutral restrooms).
Representational diversity can be a fine line to walk, and it takes practice and commitment. Diversity in marketing is best created from the ground up by a team that already has a culture of inclusion in place. Without a foundational grounding in what it means to be diverse, your efforts will often fall short or backfire. That means that there’s no shortcut – only the hard but extremely rewarding work of building up your business as an inclusive institution.
What should you do if you have a button that isn’t active in a given context? Removing the button from its native location and revealing it later can surprise users.
What should you do if you have a button that isn’t active in a given context? Removing the button from its native location and revealing it later can surprise users. Instead of doing this, designers will indicate that it’s disabled to avoid displaying a drastic change to the interface.
The way most designers communicate a disabled state is by graying the button out. However, this approach also surprises users because the button’s enabled state has little resemblance to the disabled one.
A button that turns from gray to fully colored is an unexpected change that makes users wonder what just happened. For a smooth and seamless experience, it’s best to avoid this. Instead of graying out your disabled buttons, you should decrease the opacity to make it transparent.
When the disabled button is transparent, users can see some semblance of the button in its enabled state. Although the button is faded out, some color still bleeds through for users to recognize. As the disabled button transitions to its enabled state, the new appearance won’t catch users off-guard.
A transparent button blends into the background more, while a gray one remains in the foreground (unless the background is gray). Users tend to fixate on foreground objects, which means a grayed out disabled button may steal attention from other visual elements.
Users are less likely to confuse a transparent button with other buttons. A gray button doesn’t always mean it’s disabled. Sometimes gray is used to communicate a low priority button in a group (e.g., cancel buttons). Users can easily mistake a grayed out disabled button for a secondary call to action. Or, worst-case scenario, they can mistake it for a poorly designed button with low color contrast.
When designing disabled buttons, adjust the opacity, not the color. The optimal opacity values will vary based on your background color. But a rule of thumb is to aim for an opacity level of 50% or below. By following this technique, you’ll make your disabled buttons look disabled without giving users any surprises.
The ultimate guide to conversion rate optimization for websites, helping you generate many more website sales and customers.
It’s no longer just about driving more traffic to your website to increase sales. To really increase sales you need to optimize your website experience to convert more of your visitors. This new technique is called conversion rate optimization (CRO), and many websites already gain great results from it.
Are you ready to take advantage too?
This guide helps you quickly benefit from CRO – and it’s not a basic CRO guide.
While it starts with the basics, it reveals the essential aspects of CRO, including the four main elements of CRO, the importance of conversion research, and a CRO process flow to maximize your success.
I created it based on my 10 years experience with CRO and it will help signficantly increase your website sales or leads, without needing more traffic. It’s a long guide, so here is a table of contents:
What is conversion rate optimization (CRO)?
Conversion rate optimization is the art of converting more visitors on your website into your goals (e.g. sales or leads). By increasing your conversion rate, you increase your website sales or leads without actually needing more traffic.
What are the benefits of doing CRO for your website?
The biggest benefit is that it helps you generate much more revenue from your website. Here is how:
Generates more leads or sales on your website, with the same traffic you already have, which means you don’t have to spend more money on traffic.
Helps maximize the return on investment from your marketing spend, and reduces the cost per sale or acquisition.
Improves your website so that it engages more visitors, and increases the chances of them returning and converting in the future.
What kind of results can I expect from doing CRO?
This depends on how much effort and budget you put in, and your level of expertize. With modest efforts you can increase conversion rates by 5-10%. This may not sound much, but it often has a big impact on your online sales. If you maximize your efforts with CRO you can get amazing results like these:
GetResponse.com increased sign-ups by 153% with CRO
CrazyEgg.com grew revenue 363% by doing CRO
TheGuardian.co.uk increased subscriptions by 46% by doing CRO
Moz.com generated an extra $1 million in sales doing CRO
How is conversion rate calculated?
Your conversion rate is the proportion of your website visitors that convert for your main website goal, which is quite often a purchase or a signup. This is how it is calculated for an ecommerce website:
Ecommerce website conversion rate
(Number of orders / number of website visitors) x 100
This conversion rate is often setup by default in tools like Google Analytics. They also track ‘goal conversion rate’ for specific goals like signups or leads.
What are the main elements of CRO?
CRO is made up of four overlapping main elements – conversion research, user experience (UX), website persuasion, and A/B testing and personalization. Making strong use of these will increase your chances of improving your conversion rates, and therefore your sales or leads.
Conversion Research: Gather insights and improvement ideas from conversion research. This comes from web analytics, heat maps, visitor recordings, surveys, user testing and expert CRO reviews. This is the most essential piece of CRO, and cannot be done effectively without it.
Website Persuasion: Don’t just hope your website converts your visitors. To engage and convert many more of them, use copywriting best practices and influence techniques, including the usage of social proof, scarcity, urgency and reciprocity.
User Experience (UX): Improve your website user experience so visitors can browse and convert more easily, including using best practices for improving your website navigation, forms and user flow. Without it, it doesn’t matter how good your website looks or how persuasive it is.
A/B Testing & Personalization: A/B tests and personalization techniques are used to discover and show the highest converting experience for your website. This is very useful, but not essential, particularly because so many websites don’t have enough traffic or conversions for this.
All of these elements overlap and feed into each other to gain better results from CRO, particularly conversion research. For example insights from conversion research feed into better ideas for A/B testing and personalization.
Why is conversion research so important?
Don’t just guess at what to improve on your website, or only listen to what your boss wants to improve, as this often fails to get good results on your conversion rates and sales.
Conversion research is essential for determining what needs improving and why, and is gathered from visitors and analytics tools.
There are 6 elements of conversion research that you need to use to gain the best results:
Web analytics.Tools like Google Analytics are not just for reporting on traffic and KPIs. Doing in-depth analysis forms the quantitative part of conversion research, and reveals pages and traffic sources with the highest potential to improve.
Visitor recordings.Use these to watch EXACTLY what visitors do on your website. They are great for discovering visitor issues, like page elements or form fields they find hard to use. Always gain insights from these recordings for pages you want to improve.
Heat maps. These are a good compliment to visitor recordings. Don’t just presume you know what visitors click on or how far they scroll – check these for your key pages. Great for revealing CTAs, images and content that should be clicked on more.
Surveys and polls. The voice of your visitors is THE most important thing in CRO. Essential to find what they like and don’t like with surveys and polls. Create single question polls for specific feedback, and send customer surveys.
User testing.Gain feedback from your target audience while they try to complete tasks on your website and ask them questions. Great for discovering what people think of your website, their issues with it, and what needs improving.
Expert reviews.This is done by an experienced CRO expert (often called heuristic analysis), and is a fast effective way of getting CRO insights and recommendations. These are offered by CRO experts including myself, CXL and WiderFunnel.
Insights from these elements of conversion research then feeds into better ideas for the other elements of CRO, including A/B testing.
Conversion research is often neglected or not well understood, apart from web analytics, so you have huge potential to take advantage of this element of CRO in particular.
How is website persuasion used in CRO?
You need to persuade your website visitors to purchase or sign up – don’t just hope they will. Therefore you need to use this newer technique of website persuasion, which is one of the 4 main elements of CRO.
Compelling copywriting plays a huge part in persuasion, particularly headlines, bullet points and CTAs. Mention how your website solves pain points and benefits. My copywriting guide gives many best practices and techniques to use.
Social proof, urgency, scarcity, reciprocity are essential influence techniques to use, as made famous by Robert Cialdini’s ‘Influence’ book.
Social proof is particularly important to show prominently, including reviews and ratings, testimonials, ‘as featured in’ and logos of well known customers. Doing this will increase the chances of visitors thinking your website is liked by others, and also using it.
Showing urgency and scarcity messages can also work well. People don’t like to feel like they may miss out, so this messaging can help convert visitors. UseFomo.com is a great tool for doing this (but don’t go to travel website extremes though!)
Why is user experience (UX) essential for CRO?
It doesn’t matter how good your website looks or how persuasive it is, if visitors find it hard to use they will not convert very often.
Therefore you need to ensure you adopt website usability best practices to improve your website user experience. Navigation, forms and user flow elements are very important elements of UX to improve, and here are some good examples:
Use tool tips for fields or pieces of content that require explaining.
Improve error handling on form fields to ensure greater completion rate.
Make buttons and links fat finger friendly on mobile devices.
Best practice UX improvements should be just launched and don’t need A/B testing first. UX trends should be A/B tested first though.
Can you do CRO if you don’t have enough traffic for A/B testing?
A/B testing is certainly a part of CRO, along with personalization, but it is not essential. While it is very useful for discovering which versions of your website ideas convert better, many websites don’t even have enough traffic to do A/B testing (you need at least 5,000 unique visitors per week to the page that you want to run an A/B test on, and at least 200 website conversions per week).
Do I need to A/B test all CRO improvements or just launch them?
You don’t have to A/B test every CRO improvement you want to make to your website. This would require a lot of traffic, time and effort. Most importantly though, there are improvements you can just launch, even if you have enough traffic to A/B test them. These are considered best practice and will improve any website, so should just be launched without needing A/B testing first. This frees up time to A/B test other elements with higher impact.
Launch it – website improvements to launch instead of A/B testing:
Usability fixes and improvements (improving confusing or difficult navigation)
Prominent unique value proposition elements on key entry pages
Purchase risk reducers like guarantees, free shipping and free returns
Social proof like reviews and ratings, ‘as featured in’ and third party ratings
You can certainly do follow up A/B testing to fine tune these or iterate on the exact location or style of them, but the key thing is to just launch them first because they are so important to have.
A/B test it – website elements always worth A/B testing:
Any time that it is unclear which improvement version will perform better, particularly when it comes to elements regarding psychology and influence, these are definitely worth A/B testing to find the one with the highest conversion rate. Here are some examples:
Headlines (these have a huge impact on visitor engagement)
Website copy on key pages like the homepage and service/product pages
Call-to-action wording on buttons
Influence and persuasion elements mentioning scarcity or urgency
How to make best use of personlization for CRO
Don’t just do A/B testing, move beyond this by also doing personalization to improve your conversion reates. Instead of a one size fits all, you need to personalize your website to engage and convert more visitors. Headlines and hero images on key entry pages have particularly good impact for personalizing.
One of the best ways to use personlization is to target visitor segments with more relevant content:
Returning visitors with content relating to what they saw previously
Frequent purchasers with loyalty content like rewards or discounts
This personalization can be done with any A/B testing tool, like VWO or Google Optimize.
However, it doesn’t matter how well personlized your website is if it doesn’t have a good user experience or doesn’t persuade them to convert. Therefore to see best results from personalization you need to ensure your website has first been improved with the other elements of CRO.
What tools do you need for CRO?
For doing conversion research and A/B testing, you need three key types of website tools:
A web analytics tool. This tool is essential because it helps you monitor your current website conversion rate and success metric performance. It also helps you to gain great visitor insights and find poorly converting pages for improving. A simple web analytics tool like Google Analytics needs to be setup and used for this.
Visitor feedback tools. Getting great feedback from your visitors is essential for really understanding their needs and for gaining high-impact ideas for improving your website and conversion rates. The most important tool to use for this is Hotjar.com. User testing tools like Userfeel.com and UsabilityHub.com are essential too.
An A/B testing tool. Ideally you need to test different versions of your content (like different call-to-action buttons or different page layout) to see which version increases your conversion rates the most. A low-cost A/B testing tool like VWO is a great place to start, and here is a review of common A/B testing tools.
Is there a process I can use to get better CRO results?
CRO shouldn’t be done randomly or only as a project – a continuous CRO process is needed for success. I created a CRO success flow that helps ensure you get the best results for improving your conversion rates and website sales. Here are the 5 steps of this process:
Step 1 is to do in-depth conversion research, this is essential and was discussed earlier in this guide.
Conversion research then feeds into CRO ideation step 2 where ideas are created for improving your website, along with ideas from website persuasion and UX elements (2 of the other parts of CRO).
Prioritization of CRO ideas in step 3 is important to ensure you launch ideas with highest impact. Use my website prioritization tool in my CRO toolbox to help you do this.
Next in step 4 you launch the website improvement or A/B test it (if you have enough traffic).
The last and very important thing to do for step 5 is to review, learn and iterate from what you have launched or tested. This then feeds back into forming more conversion research, and the process continues again.
What website elements have biggest impact on CRO?
Unfortunately there is no silver bullet that will work every time. Depending on your type of website, your unique value proposition and your type of visitors, there are hundreds of website elements that contribute to increased conversion rates. However, here are some things to improve that often have a big impact on increasing your conversion rates.
Call-to-action buttons. These important call-to-action (CTA) buttons that influence visitors to take an action on your website have a high impact on your conversion rates. To improve their effectiveness, improve the wording, style, color, size and even the location of them on your pages. Dual CTA buttons can be used effectively when there is more than one main goal, as can adding useful related text very close to the button. Here are some good examples for your inspiration:
Headlines and important text. If your text doesn’t grab the attention of your visitors and intrigue them to read the rest of your content, then there will a greater chance of them exiting your website, lowering your conversion rates. Test improving your headlines by keeping them simple wording that solves for visitors needs or explains benefits. You should also condense long blocks of text, and use bullet points instead – these are far easier for visitors to scan and understand quicker. Here is an example:
Shopping cart and checkout pages or signup flow pages. These are key because if your visitors struggle with these pages (regardless of how good their prior experience has been on your website), then they will abandon your website, lowering conversions and potential revenue. In particular you need to make your forms simple to complete, remove non-mandatory fields, improve your error validation, and use risk-reducers like security seals, benefits of using your website, guarantees and shipping/returns offers.
Your home page and key entry pages. These are often referred to as your landing pages, and usually get the most traffic on your website, so often have the biggest impact on conversion rates. Making sure these are focused, uncluttered and solve for your visitors main needs will greatly improve your conversion rates. Using targeting for your tests on these pages to customize your visitors experience will meet their needs better and increase your conversion rates too.
This last CRO question is a very common question, and sorry to disappoint you, there is no simple answer. This is because conversion rates are hugely dependent on your website type, your unique value proposition, and your marketing efforts.
For a rough benchmark though, 2% is average for an ecommerce website and anything above 5% is considered very good. But to prove my point, it’s not unusual to have conversion rates above 50% for good, focused paid search lead generation landing pages.
Also, don’t compare your conversion rate to your competitors or what you have read in a blog or a report – it’s risky because it may set you up for a fall or set incorrect expectations to your boss. It’s more important to increase your current conversion rate – never stop improving!
Resources for deep diving into CRO
To help you learn even more about this growing subject of conversion rate optimization, there are a number of very useful resources you should check out, from great training to courses. You will find these very useful.
Conversion rate optimization training and courses:
Recently, advertisers have invested more and more of their budget in social media. According to our latest Digital Marketing Report, spend growth numbers for Facebook and Instagram have been +8% and 85% in Q2 2019 respectively. But what are some of the…
Recently, advertisers have invested more and more of their budget in social media. According to our latest Digital Marketing Report, spend growth numbers for Facebook and Instagram have been +8% and 85% in Q2 2019 respectively. But what are some of these drivers that are leading to this shift?
Influencer marketing has been around long enough to generate great case studies—and skepticism. That’s especially true for B2B marketers. An Instagram model gushing over a new fashion product seems infinitely remote from strategies they might deploy. Still, about 65% of brands planned to increase their investment in influencer marketing in 2018, which puts the strategy […]
Influencer marketing has been around long enough to generate great case studies—and skepticism. That’s especially true for B2B marketers. An Instagram model gushing over a new fashion product seems infinitely remote from strategies they might deploy.
Still, about 65% of brands planned to increase their investment in influencer marketing in 2018, which puts the strategy on track to top $10 billion by 2020. Yet, according to another study, only 11% of B2B companies have ongoing influencer marketing programs, compared to 48% of B2C brands.
B2B brands shouldn’t feel left out, even if they lag behind. Professional communities on social media are strong. We’ve all given and received one-off recommendations in Slack groups or via email. Those under-the-radar endorsements can influence purchasing decisions for cloud-based CRMs as much as cleansing teas.
But too many case studies tout the strategies of SAP, Salesforce, and other behemoths who have resources and networks that dwarf most companies. This post offers four B2B influencer marketing strategies that move the needle in any industry and for companies of all sizes.
1. Partner with industry experts to co-create content.
What this strategy achieves: Adds instant credibility to your content and provides a natural distribution network.
Like every good influencer strategy, this one is a win-win. Ross Simmonds, Digital Strategist at Foundation, explains why:
When you collaborate with an expert in your field [. . .] the expert/influencer has a chance to connect with a new audience and you have the opportunity to bring new value/perspective to your existing audience.
This strategy is also flexible: You can select the right type of content based on your resources.
Here are several ways to co-create content with B2B influencers:
Even if you don’t have a roster of influencer-users, reach out for a quote about your product or brand. Co-created “content” can be as simple as a few lines to add social proof to your offer.
A pop-up on the cognitiveSEO blog has a quote from Bill Sebald:
Start with influencers who are already connected to your brand; the chances of getting a reply are much higher. Who follows your brand account on Twitter? Who shared your content in the past?
If manually culling a list is too much effort, use a tool like Followerwonk. With just a few clicks, you can identify the most influential users among your followers. (You can learn more about this strategy on my recent post on Moz.)
Similarly, Buzzsumo allows you to see who on Twitter shared your content:
Involving experts in case studies can help win more likes and shares—promoting the content is in influencers’ self-interest because they get to share their success stories.
You can catalyze that sharing, something Ann Smarty of Viral Content Bee does regularly:
Any time I feature influencers in my content, I tag them on Twitter, not just in my own tweets but also in updates from everyone else. This gets my influencers back to my site with every tweet.
We add the project to Viral Content Bee and include the influencers’ usernames in the project name. This way, every time the article is tweeted from the dashboard, the influencers are tagged on Twitter, driving them back to the content.
But, of course, there’s a limitation to these collaborations: The targeted influencers have to be your clients—for long enough to have gotten great value from your product and liberated from a self-imposed NDA that keeps them from sharing their story.
Video has won marketers’ hearts and minds: 83% believe that video content grows sales. But it may require some penny-pinching since videos need a generous budget (compared to, say, a blog post or whitepaper).
If you’re on a shoe-string budget but still want to produce content featuring experts:
Record a short webinar-like Q&A. I use Zoom for its ease-of-use and decent video quality.
Live stream on Facebook or YouTube. Pick your brand channel that has the most engaged community (i.e. most followers, subscribers). After the live stream, promote the video across other social media platforms.
While production may be more demanding, it may also make it easier to find experts who will collaborate with you. Videos are among the most expensive content types to produce, so the perceived value of collaborating is often higher.
Ross Hudgens at Siege Media has successfully uses this formula. His “Content and Conversation” video series features a veritable “Who’s Who” of the digital marketing world:
There are ways to reduce production costs, too, like shooting videos at company-sponsored conferences and events. The experts are already there, so just start rolling.
Want to co-create content that will really stick with readers? Already have a cache of data? Share it with a B2B influencer to publish on their site.
In the digital marketing space, Brian Dean does this often. Most of his research is based on data provided by other companies. Here are a few examples from his recent posts:
If you need ideas of what kind of content you could create with your data, check out the post on B2B content marketing strategies, or use a tool like BuzzSumo or Ahrefs to surface popular topics.
Partnering up with experts in your field is a great way to create new and interesting content while also building relationships. But influencers aren’t the only people who can help you promote your brand.
2. Turn loyal, influential clients into brand ambassadors.
What this strategy achieves: Builds word-of-mouth referrals and cultivates a community of user-advocates.
If someone tells you that building relationships with influencers is a piece of cake, they’re either:
From a well-known company that influencers are eager to work with;
Have never never done it themselves.
Persuading influencers to collaborate is anything but easy. Get ready to be ignored by hundreds of them. It’s just a part of the process—if you thought to reach out to them, so did dozens (or hundreds) of others.
Loyal clients may be an easier target, especially since you don’t need to “sell” your brand; they’re already sold. So how do you get them to share their experience with your business?
Here are options to turn happy clients into vocal supporters:
Special community programs
Moz was among the first digital marketing companies to create a bonus system (“MozPoints”). For various activities—like a “thumbs up” for your blog post comment—you receive a certain number of points.
SEMrush has also invested in their community, building something similar to motivate people to participate and engage with their brand:
The gamification can motivate users to engage with your content or to help other users on your product forum. That engagement, in turn, may help you create and identify your champions.
Nick Dimitriou, Head of Growth at Moosend, highlights other benefits of loyalty-type programs:
Stay ahead of the competition;
Reduce your advertising spend;
Increase customer retention;
Move existing customers further down the funnel;
Identify brand evangelists;
Find customers who have influencer potential for your brand.
Make your customers feel truly special by adding them to an exclusive group. Many companies have closed Facebook groups to help clients feel more connected to their brand. However, you can go a step further and create a VIP group accessible only to hand-picked clients. (A community feature can also be added quite easily to your site.)
This will streamline conversations about your product/service, help you collect feedback, and—most importantly—allow you to share special offers (e.g. beta access, company swag) and invite influencers to your community meet-ups.
Engaging with loyal customers is an affordable strategy to earn endorsements from clients whose opinions carry weight in the industry. But clients may not be your only die-hard fans. Your brand might already have loyal influencers.
3. Organize offline events to develop relationships.
What this strategy achieves: Builds brand awareness by celebrating others and creates the personal connections you need to execute influencer strategies.
I know tons of people that I’ve never met in person (but would love to meet one day!). Thanks to digital marketing conferences, I have been able to grow many of those digital-first relationships.
An old-school, face-to-face chat can’t be beaten, even by video calls. My team knows this, which is the number-one reason we host our own annual event, Digital Olympus. Even if you’re not in a position to run a conference, there are some options to consider:
Closed VIP events
For instance, SEMrush Summer Jams brings together the very best digital marketers. Being a part of this event is a big deal. Or take SEOktoberfest, organized by Marcus Tandler from Ryte. Even though it costs quite a lot to attend, it remains an invitation-only event with a feeling of exclusivity.
If there’s no award in your niche, it could be your chance to start one! Recruit a group of trustworthy experts to act as judges (Influencer Engagement Opportunity #1). Then, promote submissions for Best XYZ and celebrate the winners digitally or, if you have the budget, with a one-night award ceremony (Influencer Engagement Opportunity #2).
Existing award programs highlight best practices. For example, Search Awards are well-known in the digital marketing niche. I was a part of Search Awards a few times, and I think they’re so popular because:
Even being shortlisted is a huge benefit to brand awareness.
It’s a great opportunity to meet experts that you’ve known on the web for ages.
Shortlisted companies invite friends and influencers to their tables to build stronger bonds.
If experts see that your award benefits them, they’ll be more willing to participate and maybe even help organize or sponsor the program.
Parties before or after big events
This is a shortcut if you’re on a tight budget and can’t afford VIP events or awards. Search for an existing event and announce that you’re running a pre- or post-party for it. (Lots of companies, for example, run BrightonSEO pre-parties; some are “official” parties, sponsored through the conference.)
Face-to-face communication will always be the best way to catch up with loyal influencers, whether they’re clients or experts. Now, let’s see how to identify more of those people for future collaborations.
4. Keep hunting for new influencers.
What this strategy achieves: Grows your network of potential influencers and opens the door to new or expanded strategies.
The game never stops. As with other marketing strategies, a one-off approach is least likely to work. Keep in touch with people you already know (through, for example, the aforementioned VIP groups), but always seek out new connections.
At any point, your most vocal influencers might move on to collaborate with other brands. There are many ways to find new potential influencers:
(Too) many round-ups are average at best; there are exceptions. For example, Robbie Richards’ round-ups are valuable and rank well. His article on the best keyword research tools earns more than 600 organic visitors a month:
Richards’ round-ups are successful because of their structure and those involved—the experts he includes help him promote round-ups effectively and win links back to the posts.
For your next round-up post, start with a question that’s likely to yield insightful answers. Here are some that I’ve used in the past:
What’s an outdated strategy in [industry]?
What’s the best thing you’ve ever done to improve [topic]?
What’s the best tip you’ve ever received about [topic]?
What’s your favorite piece of software for [task]?
What’s a new strategy you’ve uncovered recently to improve [topic]?
Any question that tackles an area of expertise and asks for an actionable tip will generate meaningful answers. That said, avoid topics that are overused in your industry. (In digital marketing, for example, no one needs another round-up on “how to write a blog post.”)
This post can help you find motivated influencers who are eager to participate in a round-up.
Top XX experts posts
These posts are, essentially, a type of round-up (a round-up of names rather than ideas). However, I strongly recommend that you connect with the experts you want to feature in your post beforehand. That will help ensure they promote your piece once it goes live.
Pick who you want to build a relationship with and link to an article on their site, not a guest post they’ve published elsewhere. You might want to connect with your potential influencer to see if it’s okay to share a link to their new post. (The answer is almost certainly “yes,” but it’s a frictionless way to break the ice.)
To be more strategic about it, see who links to your competitors. The authors of those posts likely contribute to many sites, which makes them valuable targets for your outreach. Here’s a great post that shares how to find them.
Support influencers on your social media channels
Promote content that needs (and deserves) promotion. Obviously, if an expert writes a new post for Moz, it will do well regardless—the author isn’t likely to notice if you share it. That story may be different when they publish on their personal blog.
Take the time to make a custom, visually appealing social media shoutout for the influencer’s content. People love visuals, and the 10 minutes you spend to make a nice image on Canva or Vengagge—especially if the influencer didn’t do the same for their work—may earn their attention.
Invite guest hosts to Twitter chats and webinars
You’ll have better luck convincing an influencer to host if they have some history with you. Spend time warming them up—include them in a round-up or ask for a quote—then move on to webinars and chats.
Send company swag
You don’t even need to know the person to do this. Just send some swag to their company, with the package addressed to them. (Still, sending gifts to people you know is better—they’re more likely to share their excitement on social media.)
This works well for event promotion. For Digital Olympus, we made cookies with the logo and sent t-shirts to our friends. That campaign was a definite success.
Congratulate influencers on life events
The life events of influencers provide opportunities, too. Catalog personal details in a CRM-type system (in a non-creepy way) and set reminders.
Small but memorable gifts work well. For example, Deepcrawl sends the cutest onesies for newborns:
B2B influencer marketing has carved its own path. Success is less about the one-and-done “viral” efforts common in B2C marketing and more about generating a regular undercurrent of interactions with industry influencers.
The biggest benefit of that strategic bent? It makes influencer marketing accessible to nearly every business. You may not crash your servers with a successful campaign, but you can build credibility for your content, product, and brand.
There are so many ways to do it:
Working with established clients;
Networking with respected industry figures;
Co-creating content, and so on.
Ideally, you’ll implement multiple strategies to reach more people. Pick those you like most, but go out of your comfort zone and try something new, too.