Unbounce: How it Compares to Rivals Like Leadpages and Instapage

Creating high-impact landing pages are essential if you want better results from your online marketing efforts. And there are now many tools that help you quickly create high quality landing pages. But which landing page…

Unbounce versus Instapage and Leadpages

Creating high-impact landing pages are essential if you want better results from your online marketing efforts. And there are now many tools that help you quickly create high quality landing pages. But which landing page tool is best? There are now so many to choose from, each with different benefits.

To help you decide for yourself, I have compared and reviewed the three leading landing page tools – Unbounce, Instapage and LeadPages. I have created a comparison table including ratings for key aspects of the tools, listed the pros and cons of each, and who each tool is best for.

First of all, why use a landing page creation tool?

  • Lets you create high quality website pages quickly and easily without needing help from developers
  • Few design skills are needed as tools come with many stylish modern templates to choose from
  • You benefit from templates featuring best practices to convert more visitors into sales or leads

So now let’s move onto the actual ratings and comparisons for these major landing page creation tools. As you can see each has their own specific advantages and disadvantages:

unbounce logo instapage logo leadpages logo
Cost Plans from $79 a month for their ‘Essential’ level (500K visitors). Plans start from $68 a month for ‘Core’ level (200K visitors). Plans start from $25 a month for ‘Standard’ level (unlimited visitors).
Amount and quality of landing page templates
9/10 Great amount of templates (125+) and very high quality with built in conversion best practices. All are now mobile optimized. 9/10 Over 100 templates for all major categories like lead generation and webinars. Fairly good quality templates which are all mobile optimized. 7/10 The highest amount of templates offered, but many have extra cost to use. Varying quality of templates, but are all mobile optimized.
Ease of use of the page editor
8/10 Ease to use page editor. Advanced features are harder for beginners though. 8/10 Simple to use and intuitive editor menu system. Ideal for beginners. 8/10 Easy to use editor that is very intuitive and ideal for beginners.
Ability to customize pages
9/10 Excellent ability with full drag and drop options. Not limited to a grid system. 8/10 Good drag and drop functionality for customizing pages and CSS editing options. 5/10 Very limited page customization ability as it uses a rigid grid layout for editing.
Amount of landing page features
8/10 Great amount of features. Includes new ‘convertables’ popups and sticky bars. 8/10 Good amount of features. Lacks popups, but includes good countdown timers and multi-step forms. 9/10 Highest amount of features and includes variety of popup and exit intent options.
Landing page hosting and tool integration options 9/10 Pages hosted on their servers or on WordPress. Great tool integration options including most email marketing tools and Google Analytics. 9/10 Pages hosted on most websites including WordPress, and an option to host on their servers. Good amount of tool integrations. 9/10 Pages hosted on most types of website including WordPress or their servers. Good amount of tool integration options.
Analytics and reporting options
8/10 Simple reporting of traffic and conversions, with good option to get traffic and conversion reports by email. 9/10 Excellent reporting functionality and conversion tracking, now with click heatmaps on premium plans. 8/10 Good reporting and graph options make it easy to understand traffic and conversions.
A/B testing options
8/10 Good A/B testing options, with easy ability to create multiple variations. 6/10 A/B testing available but not included in the basic plan level. 6/10 A/B testing available but also not included in the basic plan level.
Popup lead generation options
9/10 Has great new ‘convertables’ popups for lead generation including exit intent. 0/10 No popup options included (I suggest using a tool like Optin Monster in addition). 9/10 Strong emphasis on popups with their excellent ‘Lead Boxes’ feature.
Support options
9/10 Phone, email and live chat support at all plan levels. Great coaching included in enterprise level. 7/10 Varies by plan. Email support only at lowest plan. Phone support only offered in highest level plan. 7/10 Varies by plan. Email support only at lowest plan. Phone support only offered in highest level plan.
Overall rating 9/10 Has the best page editing options and flexibility. Definitely the best option for experts and marketing teams. 9/10 Great all-around tool and at a great price. Reasonable editor with good features, for beginners and experts. 8/10 Lowest cost and great popup options, but page editor gives least flexibility. Better suited for beginners.
Free trial? Get a 30-day free trial of Unbounce Get a 30-day free trial of Instapage No free trial, but has money back guarantee

 

As you can see from the comparison table, all three tools have high ratings, so now let’s explore in more detail. Here are the pros and cons of each tool, and then which type of user each tool is ideal for.

Unbounce Overview

Overall an excellent choice, ideal for marketers who want to get the most flexibility for creating pages. Comes at higher cost than the other landing page tools though.

unbounce editor screenshot

Unbounce Pros:

  • Has the most flexible editor which is not restricted to a grid system like LeadPages uses
  • New ‘convertables’ feature for lead generation is great with many popup types
  • Great high quality templates with many conversion best practices built in
  • Has dynamic keyword replacement for getting better results from PPC campaigns
  • Offers the best support options even at the lowest plan level, including phone support

Unbounce Cons:

  • Most expensive tool and gets more expensive with high traffic levels (over 5,000 visitors per month)
  • Doesn’t offer as many features as the other tools e.g. lacks countdown timer
  • Beginners may prefer other landing page tools that have a simpler grid editing system

Rating on G2Crowd: 4.4/5 (as of December 2017)

Try the tool for yourself: Get a free 30 day trial of Unbounce

Instapage Overview

Overall a great landing page tool for beginners and experts, with good options (apart from offering no popups though), a simple to use editor, and at a great low cost.

instapage screenshot

Instapage Pros:

  • The highest amount of templates included with fairly good quality
  • Has one of the easiest to use editors for customizing pages, great for beginners
  • Very easy to setup and integrate with WordPress and other common tools
  • Offers great built-in click heatmaps on their premium plans

Instapage Cons:

  • No popup functionality included, unlike the other tools reviewed
  • The ability to do A/B testing is not available in the lowest plan level
  • The editor could offer more customization options, not as good as Unbounce

Rating on G2Crowd: 4.7/5 (as of December 2017)

Try the tool for yourself: Get a free 30 day trial of Instapage

Leadpages Overview

The lowest cost option and great for beginners wanting to create pages quickly, although has the poorest flexibility to customize pages out of all the tools.

leadpages screenshot

Leadpages Pros:

  • Excellent popup functionality with their Lead Boxes feature, great for lead capture
  • Offer the lowest monthly plan for creating landing pages ($25)
  • Good amount of templates that don’t need much customization
  • They offer the biggest template marketplace if you want to buy versus create

Leadpages Cons:

  • Poorest page customization options out of all tools, restricted to a fixed grid layout
  • They don’t offer the ability to start from a blank page, you must start from a template
  • Many of their templates look very average or have become too commonly used
  • They don’t offer a free 30 day trial like the other tools offer

Rating on G2Crowd: 4.1/5 (as of December 2017)

Try the tool for yourself: No free trial, but they offer a money back guarantee

So which landing page tool is better?

As you can see, all three tools rate well for creating landing pages. Each have different strengths and weaknesses which will be more important to different types of users. To help you understand which is better for your needs, here are the main tool differences and who each is ideal for:

  • Use Unbounce if you want the most flexibility when creating pages and want the most customization options. Ideal for experienced online marketers with advanced needs for landing pages.
  • Use Instapage if you want a good overall tool for creating and editing landing pages at a reasonable cost. Ideal for online marketers who have moderate landing page needs.
  • Use LeadPages if you are beginner or want landing simple pages, and don’t want many customization options. Ideal for entrepreneurs who want to create simple landing pages quickly.

So which tool you should chose really depends on what your needs are for creating landing pages. Personally I use Unbounce for creating my landing pages as I prefer greater editing options and flexibility. I suggest you check out Unbounce and Instapage and see for yourself as they both offer a 30 day free trial.

Other landing page tools worth checking out

I reviewed and compared the 3 most popular landing page creation tools. There are some other good options you can consider though, and each have their own strengths:

  • OptimizePress – a landing page WordPress plugin, ideal if you don’t want to pay monthly
  • LanderApp – one of the lowest cost and better landing page tools to appear recently
  • KickOffLabs – growing fast and includes unique email marketing and contest features

Wrapping up

That is my expert 2 cents for the best landing page tools. Now over to you – which is your favorite tool for creating landing pages? Please comment below. Thanks!

The Hotjar Guide for Improving Your Website Sales or Leads

You may have already heard of this relatively new website tool called Hotjar, it’s quickly become one of the most popular tools for improving websites. They now have over 200,000 online businesses signed up! So…

hotjar website improving guide

You may have already heard of this relatively new website tool called Hotjar, it’s quickly become one of the most popular tools for improving websites. They now have over 200,000 online businesses signed up!

So what is Hotjar? Well, it’s a really powerful 8-in-1 analytics and visitor feedback tool that reveals exactly what your visitors think of your website, including the most common issues they have, and what they like the most about it.

This isn’t just any ordinary website tool though – the unique combination of 8 features it offers give excellent insights for improving your website, but only if you know the best ways to use it. Most people don’t know this though, so that’s why I have created this in-depth guide to help you maximize the true potential of this tool and transform the amount of sales or leads coming from your website.

hotjar screenshot

This Hotjar guide really helps with the most important part of CRO – conversion research, and you can use it to improve any kind of website, from ecommerce websites to startup websites. It’s a pretty long guide, so for easier navigation I have included links for the main contents:

Part 1: Collect website visitor research using Hotjar
Part 2: Look for insights from Hotjar findings
Part 3: Create and launch high-impact improvement ideas

A quick overview of the 8 tools included with Hotjar:

Before we get into details of how to use Hotjar for greatest success, I thought it would be good to give a quick overview of the main features of the tool and their benefits.

1: Visitor clickmaps: Much like CrazyEgg offers, these heatmaps let you see exactly what your visitors are clicking on (and is often quite different than you may expect). These give you great insights for knowing which elements on your pages need improving most or making more or less prominent.

2: Visitor recordings: These let you discover exactly what visitors do on your website, including mouse movements and how far they scroll. The recordings are often very revealing, and help you understand which parts of your website that visitors are most often having problems with, and their typical journey.

3: Feedback polls: This polls feature is similar to the Qualaroo tool, and takes the form of a single question in the bottom right corner of your website. This is one of the most simple yet powerful parts of the tool, and is excellent for gathering very insightful quick feedback on specific pages of your website.

4: Form analytics: Google Analytics can’t easily help you with this part – this feature reveals exactly which fields on your forms that visitors most often abandon on. Very important for using on your sign-up forms and checkout pages, the insights from this are vital for improving completion rates of your forms.

5: Funnel analytics: This feature helps you understand exactly how well your checkout or signup flows are performing, and the drop off rate of your visitors between each page of the flow. This helps you discover which pages in your funnel need improving first.

6: Visitor Surveys: It also includes a survey tool every bit as good as SurveyMonkey.com. Use it to find out in-depth feedback from your visitors, and exactly what they think of your website content and your offerings, and get feedback on how they would improve it.

7: Incoming Feedback: This simple but effective tool allows visitors to leave ratings of your pages and website elements, and allows them to easily take and send screenshots of what they are having issues with or what they are loving.

8: User feedback recruitment: This helps you find participants for doing website usability and user research. I won’t be focusing on this in this guide though, as you need additional tools to run the usability research (like UserTesting.com).

Part one: Collect website visitor research using Hotjar

Time required for this part: You will need a few hours to setup each feature, and then will need to wait several days for responses (depending on how much traffic you have).

New to Hotjar? You will of course first need to create a Hotjar account if you haven’t already done so. They offer a free basic plan, so I suggest you try that first. Then you need to add the tracking code which is very simple – they have install guides for each website platform too.

This setup and collecting research part if vital, and there are many things to ensure you do, particularly for the poll and survey features. Don’t rush into using Hotjar out of excitement or you won’t spend enough time setting it up to maximize your website insights.

1: Turn on heatmaps for your key website pages.

The first thing you need to setup are heatmaps. These help you understand exactly what your visitors are clicking on your website. And it’s often different than what you might expect!

It’s really easy to turn on heatmaps, but don’t just turn them on for your homepage and a few other pages, you need to determine your most important pages to turn them on for. This should be your key pages and ones relating to your website goals, like your product or service pages, and your checkout or signup flow. You should also create them for your top entry pages, as these get seen very often and visitors will often judge your whole website based on them.

hotjar heatmpap setup

You will need at least 500 views per heatmap that you create so you get a representative sample to review and gain insights from – the more views the better.

2: Turn on the visitor recordings feature.

Next you need to turn on the visitor recording feature. This lets you start gaining excellent insights by watching your visitors website journey and most common issues that you will need to fix and improve.

To get these recordings started, click ‘Record visitors’ on the recordings section of the tool and it will begin to record your visitors on your whole website – there is no need to pick specific pages. There are a few extra options, but I suggest you leave the default options on, and you can limit the recordings to specific pages if you have a pro level account.

hotjar record visitors setup

Ideally you need at least 50 recordings to review and gain insights from, and at least 20 that involve multiple page flows to get a good understanding of your visitors common whole journey.

I asked a Hotjar expert for some of his words advice on recordings, Joris Byron:

Joris Bryon, CRO Expert at Yorro.co
“My #1 tip for Hotjar: Don’t use visitor recordings unless you know what you’re looking for. If you don’t know what you’re looking for you’ll be watching hours of videos and you won’t get any wiser. For example: in GA you see a huge dropoff on the form in your checkout. Start recording the visits to that page and see what people are doing on that specific page. Only record the sessions with visits to that page. That way you won’t ‘waste’ visitor recordings on sessions that are at that point irrelevant for your analysis. By focusing your visitor recordings on the sessions that matter, you’ll save a lot of time and you’ll learn a lot more than just randomly recording and watching sessions.”

3: Create a feedback poll for each of your key pages.

This poll feature is one of the best ways to gain feedback, but if you don’t ask a good enough question or don’t choose the right page to ask it on, you won’t get very good insights. The key is to ask relevant questions for each of your key pages that provide you actionable insights – not just yes/no or generic questions. For example, if you have a prices or plans page, ask a question for gaining feedback about your pricing, like whether pricing seems reasonable or plan differences are easy to understand.

You will get better insights running polls on pages relating to your website goals, and work very well on features pages, product pages, sales pages, pricing pages and signup pages. Homepages don’t work as well, as visitors often don’t know enough about what you offer to give feedback at that point in their journey.

When you create these polls, the most important options are choosing the page to target, the type of poll (multiple choice or long text answers work well), giving visitors the choice to get a response, choosing 20 seconds for the trigger behavior for the poll (sooner and you risk annoying visitors) and most importantly, choosing a question to ask. You can actually ask more than 1 question and use logic to show a related question next that relates to their answer  – this helps you get more detailed feedback.

Hotjar poll setup

Here are some great poll questions for gaining better insights on your key pages:

– Is there anything stopping you from purchasing today?

– Which elements look most and least appealing?

– Is there anything you don’t understand?

– What do you think of the pricing of our service/product?

– Would a free trial or guarantee compel them to try it?

– What else could be added to make our service more appealing?

You should aim to collect at least 50 responses for each page poll that you are running. Any less and you may not get a representative sample to gain insights from.

4: Create a survey for in-depth general website feedback

This survey feature is excellent for gaining more indepth general visitor insights about your website, and complements feedback gathered by poll insights. So go ahead and setup a survey of less than 10 questions (any more and you will get lower completion rates). While setting it up, use the option to popup the survey on your website, but choose the trigger option to wait at least 60 seconds after visitors arrive or after a few page views, or you risk annoying them.

Hotjar survey setup

To get more responses I also suggest you offer an incentive for visitors to complete your surveys (like a discount or free months access to what you are offering).

The key is don’t just ask questions about your product/service and visitor demographics, the survey questions should be more focused on the actual website experience. Here are some good questions to use to gain excellent insights for improving your website:

– What was the main reason you came to this website today?

– Did you find what you are looking for? If not, why not?

– What features of our website and offering did you find most appealing?

– What do you feel could be improved on our website?

– Have you visited other similar websites? Did you prefer anything on them?

– What do you think of the shipping and delivery options?

– What are the biggest factors that influence your decision to purchase?

How easy was it to use our website? Did you find anything difficult?

You will need at least 50 responses to analyze in phase 2. This should be quite achievable depending on your traffic levels. To gain more responses I suggest you create an additional survey customized just for your existing customers and send that out via email.

5: Setup a funnel analysis for your checkout or signup page

Next turn on the funnels feature for your most important flow of pages like your checkout or signup set of pages. Setting up this funnel helps you discover at which pages that visitors most often drop out from – indicating issues and potential for improvement. E.g you may find that your billing page has a very high drop off rate.

Setting up this funnel is easy and works much like creating a goal in Google Analytics. Just click ‘new funnel’ and enter names for each step and the corresponding page URL structure. You should set this up for your main conversion funnel like a checkout or signup flow, but also for most common visitor funnels that go back earlier in the visitor journey, for example from the homepage to the features page, to the sign-up page.

hotjar funnel setup

Ideally you need in the very least 100 funnel visitor sessions to start gaining insights from.

6: Setup form analysis for your important forms or single page checkout

This last step is optional depending on whether you have long forms on your website – for example a sign-up form or a single page checkout. This form analytics feature of Hotjar lets you discover which fields on your forms that visitors abandon the most, and is something you can’t actually do with Google Analytics. For example, you may find out that people are confused about one of the questions you are asking in the signup form, or don’t like giving the answer to one of your personal information questions.

This is also easy to setup. For every form you want to track, just click ‘new form’ and then enter the page URL that contains the form you want to analyze. Then you confirm which fields in the form that you want to track. You will need at least 100 form views to start getting reliable insights.

hotjar form setup

Note: I haven’t mentioned turning on the last feature of the tool, user feedback recruitment, as you actually need other tools like Usertesting.com to be able to setup and analyze the actual user feedback. This part of the tool just helps you find people to recruit.

Part two: Look for insights from Hotjar findings

Time required for this part: This is the most important part, and you ideally need to spend at least 4 hours reviewing the results from each part of the tool you setup.

In this essential part you gather insights and website improvement ideas from each area of Hotjar that you just setup. Gathering these insights is the important conversion research part of CRO, and doing this leads to better understanding of your visitors and their needs, and therefore better website improvement ideas.

If you don’t spend adequate time reviewing findings and creating insights then you won’t get very good website improvement ideas. Here are the main insights to look for when analyzing your findings:

1: Review the heatmaps for key pages. First you need to gain good insights from the heatmaps which will help you create ideas to improve your website.  Here are some key things to consider when reviewing heatmaps for each of your key pages:

  • Are visitors clicking or looking at parts of your page that you would expect?
  • Are any elements being ignored that are important to your goals and need promoting better?
  • What links in the navigation are clicked most or least? This gives you a great idea of visitor intent and for optimizing menu contents.
  • Is anything being clicked on more than your main CTA buttons? This may indicate confusion or non engaging CTA wording.
  • Are visitors not scrolling far down your pages and often not seeing key content?

The goal is to create at least 10 heatmap insights you can use to improve your website sales or leads.

hotjar heatmap

2: Review the visitor session recordings. Next you need to start watching recordings of your visitors on your website. But to get the most insights from them you have to know what to look for – and not just watch them all as this can be very time consuming. Here are some best practices to help you:

  • Review recordings from your most important pages first – your homepage, your product or service pages, and your signup/checkout flow. You can setup filters to only see these.
  • Watch at least 10 videos for each key page to get a feel for how users interact with each of them.
  • Look for which parts of the pages visitors seem to get stuck on or don’t seem to notice.
  • Look how often visitors click the back button or go the previous page, as this can indicate confusion.
  • Look for any small errors or usability issues that you may not have noticed before.
  • Review recordings on mobile devices too – these are really important for gaining insights into your mobile visitors and their challenges.
  • When reviewing each video, use the tag feature for recordings using words that help you summarize what happens (checkout issue, confused, purchaser etc).
  • If you have a pro account, use the notes feature to comment on specific points of the session replay. This makes it much easier to keep track of insights

Using these tips be sure to create at least 10 insights as you review your visitor session recordings.

hotjar visitor recording

3: Review your poll visitor responses. After you have got enough responses to each of your polls you need to start looking for insights from the feedback you have received. Here are the most important things to do to maximize your insights:

  • See which type of feedback response is most common if you are using multiple choice answers. The results graph lets you quickly see the most common responses.
  • For open response questions, use the ‘word cloud’ results option look for common words so you can see patterns for what visitors are giving feedback most often about.
  • If you haven’t got much feedback that is useful, consider changing your question to be more specific or change the topic slightly.
  • Based on the feedback you have received, consider creating follow up polls to dig a little deeper into most common responses.

The goal is to create at least 10 website improvement insights based on feedback from your visitor polls.

Signup to Hotjar for free and start using this guide on your website
Ready to get started improving your website? Get your free Hotjar basic plan now

4: Review your visitor survey responses. Next you need to analyze the feedback you get from the surveys you created. To help you create better website improvement insights, here are some of the key things to consider when reviewing your responses:

  • Discover the most common answers for each of your questions and look for most common patterns.
  • Understand which parts of your website they think need improving the most.
  • Understand visitor’s purchase motivations – do you give them enough information to purchase?
  • Discover visitor’s major issues using your website, and what they had most trouble finding or doing.
  • Learn which competitors they like using, and reasons why. What is lacking on your website in comparison to them?

Create at least 10 insights from the survey feedback that will help you improve your website.

5: Review your funnel report. After you have enough visitors to your funnel you need to look for insights into how these key pages are performing. Here are some key things to look for to improve your insights:

  • Check which page of the funnel has the highest drop off percentage – come up with insights why this might be.
  • Any page with over 50% drop off rate is high and you should create insights for improving these pages.
  • Look at the visitor recordings and heatmaps for each of the pages with highest drop off to help you come up with insights for improving these pages.
  • Setup a poll for any of the pages that have high drop pages (if you haven’t already done so previously).
  • Look for the total conversion rate at the top of each funnel report. If this is for your checkout or signup flow of pages, anything lower than 30% conversion rate is below average and means you have big room for improvement (this is because the average shopping cart abandonment rate is 68%).

The goal is to create at least 10 insights from the funnel report to help you improve your website.

hotjar funnel report

6: Review your forms reports. If you setup a form to analyze you should next analyze the results from this and create insights to improve your forms. these are some of the most important things to look for while reviewing the report:

  • Check which form field has the highest drop off percentage, and think of reasons causing this.
  • Are any of your form fields confusing that might be leading to higher drop off rates?
  • Do you really need to ask for personal information in your fields? This lowers completion rates.
  • Do you need to make all of your form fields mandatory? Can you make some non-mandatory?
  • Watch recordings of visitors completing your forms to see if you can get additional insights.
  • How good are your error validation messages? This is important to improve to reduce form exits.

From the form report try to come up with as many insights as possible to improve your key forms.

hotjar form report

Note: In addition to these Hotjar tool insights, it’s also essential to look at your Google Analytics reports to find additional insights like the bounce rate and conversion rate for your key pages. You should also run usability tests using a tool like Usertesting.com to gain additional feedback and gain insights from that too.

Part three: Create and launch high-impact improvement ideas

Time required for this part: You should spend at least 3 hours creating ideas based on insights, ideally brainstorming with other team members.

This is where things get exciting and you start to launch website improvements based on the insights you have gathered using Hotjar. But to ensure greatest chances of increasing your website sales or leads, you need to know how to best turn the insights into ideas, and know what to launch first for biggest impact.

1: Turn your insights into improvement ideas.

Now that you have created some excellent insights from your findings in part two, next you need to turn these into ideas for website improvement and A/B test ideas (if you have enough traffic). To help you prioritize, here are the key things you need to list for each idea:

  • A short descriptive name for your improvement idea.
  • A hypothesis and insight for each idea (the reason why you think it will have a good impact).
  • List the page or page element that will be improved for each idea.
  • Estimate the likely impact the idea would have on increasing conversions and sales (ranked 1 to 10, with 10 being highest potential).
  • List how much traffic each page gets relating to each idea – the more the better (ranked 1 to 10, with 10 being highest traffic).
  • Estimate how easy the idea would be to launch in terms of design and development (rank 1 to 10, with 10 being easiest).

To help list and store these extra details for each idea you should create a spreadsheet. This is perfect for sharing easily with other key people in your business like your marketing, web design and development teams that will be working on the improvements. Here is a sample of the one that use:

website improvement idea prioritizer

2: Prioritize the improvement ideas based on highest impact.

Rather than guess at what improvement or test idea to launch first on your website (which can lead to varying success), with the information you listed for each idea you can now prioritize and determine the ones that will maximize your chances of increasing your website sales or leads.

To do this prioritization, on your ideas sheet simply sort the likely impact column to show highest rated ones first. Then look for the ideas towards the top that have the highest ease of launch rating – these are going to give you the quickest and biggest impact on improving your website. These easier to change high impact ideas are known as low hanging fruit, and typically will involve changing simple things on key pages like headlines and call-to-action buttons.

3: Start launching highest potential ideas first, and progress through the list.

Once you have determined the improvement ideas that will likely have biggest impact and easiest to implement, start launching the ideas one at time. You will often need to get your website designer and developer to help create the visuals and code. Don’t forget to get help from the marketing team to help you writing better headlines, wording and call-to-actions too.

For each improvement you launch, monitor the impact on your key metrics in your Google Analytics reports, both for the page you are trying to improve (lower exit rate and higher conversion rate) and for your website as a whole (increased website conversion rate and improved shopping cart/signup abandonment rates).

Ideally you should A/B test a few variations for each improvement idea as this helps you experiment and find the best performing variation for your ideas. For low traffic pages this A/B testing may not be possible though – this guide will help you if you low traffic.

After you have launched about 5 improvements to your website, you should start to see some great impact on increased conversion rates, sales or leads. Don’t stop there though, keep working through the list until you have launched all of the ideas you created.

Wrapping up

Using Hotjar and this guide should really help improve your website sales or leads, and ideally you should repeat this improvement process at least one a year on your website, and definitely when you have just changed major elements on your website.

Now over to you – have you started using Hotjar on your website yet? Had any great success using it so far?

The Universal Analytics Command Queue

For those of you who remember Google Analytics classic, the next four characters I write after this sentence should ring with nostalgia:

_gaq

_gaq is the name of the global variable that Google Analytics would install when it was executed on a page. The _gaq variable was defined (initially) as an Array. The default snippet had it right at the top:

<script type="text/javascript">
  var _gaq = _gaq || [];
  _gaq.push(['_setAccount', 'UA-XXXXX-X']);
  _gaq.push(['_trackPageview']);

  (function() {
      var ga = document.createElement('script'); ga.type = 'text/javascript'; ga.async = true;
      ga.src = ('https:' == document.location.protocol ? 'https://ssl' : 'http://www') + '.google-analytics.com/ga.js';
      var s = document.getElementsByTagName('script')[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(ga, s);
  })();
</script>

The _gaq array was a command queue for things we wanted Google Analytics to do. The default snippet passed it some stuff right away – specifically, it passed in the instructions to create a tracker and fire a pageview. This pattern was really cool – it allowed for commands to be registered in-line while the browser was busy fetching Google Analytics and was the backbone of GA’s transition to asynchronous loading. No messy callbacks, no need to check if _gaq was defined; once Google Analytics loaded, each command would be executed in the order it appeared in the queue.

Another part of what made this exciting was that non-GA functions could also use the queue, and Google Analytics would call them for us. This allowed for clever folks to push in commands to run before Google Analytics did its tracker creation; for example, if I wanted to fire a callback function when Google Analytics loaded, I could do this:

var _gaq = window._gaq = window._gaq || [];

_gaq.push(function() {
  notifyGALoaded();
});

The first thing GA would do after it finished loading and bootstrapping itself would be to call my function, which would call notifyGALoaded, in turn. I could be comfortable adding this code anywhere, because GA would inherit any existing _gaq values non-destructively. This meant the .push() method always would work.

Then Universal Analytics came along and ruined everything – the new syntax didn’t use the familiar .push() syntax, and instead opted for commands to be pushed in as arguments to the function ga.

Getting Back Our Queue with the Alternative Syntax

Deep in the bowels of the Universal Analytics documentation, there’s an article that describes an alternative syntax for loading Google Analytics. We can use the first part of this snippet to get back our command queue:

window.ga=window.ga||function(){(ga.q=ga.q||[]).push(arguments)};ga.l=+new Date;

This snippet instantiates our ga global and configures the internal command queue for us. Now we can go right back to adding commands into our queue:

window.ga=window.ga||function(){(ga.q=ga.q||[]).push(arguments)};ga.l=+new Date;

ga(function() {
  // Do some stuff
});

Just like with our old _gaq Array, we needn’t be concerned about detechting when Google Analytics loads or accidentially overwriting the existing global.

So…?

You might be thinking “So, what? When would I need that anyways?”. Imagine you’re providing code to a 3rd party, and they want to dictate whether Google Analytics loads or not. You know Google Analytics may load, but you don’t want to force it to load if it doesn’t, and you don’t want to poll every n milliseconds to see if it has loaded. Now you can just instantiate the queue, push in your commands, and carry on worry-free.

window.ga=window.ga||function(){(ga.q=ga.q||[]).push(arguments)};ga.l=+new Date;
ga('create', 'UA-XXXXXX-YY', ...)
// etc

You also may want to have code execute only after Google Analytics has loaded. Using this syntax, you can instantiate ga, push in your command, and be guaranteed that it will execute only after Google Analytics has loaded.

window.ga=window.ga||function(){(ga.q=ga.q||[]).push(arguments)};ga.l=+new Date;

ga(function() {
  // Some code I'd like to fire
});

This simple interface provides a really simple way to queue up commands before and after the Google Analytics library loads. How will you use it? Drop me a line or on Twitter.

For those of you who remember Google Analytics classic, the next four characters I write after this sentence should ring with nostalgia:

_gaq

_gaq is the name of the global variable that Google Analytics would install when it was executed on a page. The _gaq variable was defined (initially) as an Array. The default snippet had it right at the top:

<script type="text/javascript">
  var _gaq = _gaq || [];
  _gaq.push(['_setAccount', 'UA-XXXXX-X']);
  _gaq.push(['_trackPageview']);

  (function() {
      var ga = document.createElement('script'); ga.type = 'text/javascript'; ga.async = true;
      ga.src = ('https:' == document.location.protocol ? 'https://ssl' : 'http://www') + '.google-analytics.com/ga.js';
      var s = document.getElementsByTagName('script')[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(ga, s);
  })();
</script>

The _gaq array was a command queue for things we wanted Google Analytics to do. The default snippet passed it some stuff right away - specifically, it passed in the instructions to create a tracker and fire a pageview. This pattern was really cool - it allowed for commands to be registered in-line while the browser was busy fetching Google Analytics and was the backbone of GA's transition to asynchronous loading. No messy callbacks, no need to check if _gaq was defined; once Google Analytics loaded, each command would be executed in the order it appeared in the queue.

Another part of what made this exciting was that non-GA functions could also use the queue, and Google Analytics would call them for us. This allowed for clever folks to push in commands to run before Google Analytics did its tracker creation; for example, if I wanted to fire a callback function when Google Analytics loaded, I could do this:

var _gaq = window._gaq = window._gaq || [];

_gaq.push(function() {
  notifyGALoaded();
});

The first thing GA would do after it finished loading and bootstrapping itself would be to call my function, which would call notifyGALoaded, in turn. I could be comfortable adding this code anywhere, because GA would inherit any existing _gaq values non-destructively. This meant the .push() method always would work.

Then Universal Analytics came along and ruined everything - the new syntax didn't use the familiar .push() syntax, and instead opted for commands to be pushed in as arguments to the function ga.

Getting Back Our Queue with the Alternative Syntax

Deep in the bowels of the Universal Analytics documentation, there's an article that describes an alternative syntax for loading Google Analytics. We can use the first part of this snippet to get back our command queue:

window.ga=window.ga||function(){(ga.q=ga.q||[]).push(arguments)};ga.l=+new Date;

This snippet instantiates our ga global and configures the internal command queue for us. Now we can go right back to adding commands into our queue:

window.ga=window.ga||function(){(ga.q=ga.q||[]).push(arguments)};ga.l=+new Date;

ga(function() {
  // Do some stuff
});

Just like with our old _gaq Array, we needn't be concerned about detechting when Google Analytics loads or accidentially overwriting the existing global.

So...?

You might be thinking "So, what? When would I need that anyways?". Imagine you're providing code to a 3rd party, and they want to dictate whether Google Analytics loads or not. You know Google Analytics may load, but you don't want to force it to load if it doesn't, and you don't want to poll every n milliseconds to see if it has loaded. Now you can just instantiate the queue, push in your commands, and carry on worry-free.

window.ga=window.ga||function(){(ga.q=ga.q||[]).push(arguments)};ga.l=+new Date;
ga('create', 'UA-XXXXXX-YY', ...)
// etc

You also may want to have code execute only after Google Analytics has loaded. Using this syntax, you can instantiate ga, push in your command, and be guaranteed that it will execute only after Google Analytics has loaded.

window.ga=window.ga||function(){(ga.q=ga.q||[]).push(arguments)};ga.l=+new Date;

ga(function() {
  // Some code I'd like to fire
});

This simple interface provides a really simple way to queue up commands before and after the Google Analytics library loads. How will you use it? Drop me a line or on Twitter.

What to Do When Your A/B Test Doesn’t Win: The Essential Checklist

Unless you are an A/B testing and CRO expert, did you realize that most of your A/B test results won’t get a winning result? You may have even experienced this disappointment yourself if you’ve tried…

better AB test results

Unless you are an A/B testing and CRO expert, did you realize that most of your A/B test results won’t get a winning result? You may have even experienced this disappointment yourself if you’ve tried A/B testing.

Some good news though. You can actually do something with these inconclusive A/B tests and turn them into better tests with a much greater chance of succeeding – therefore increasing your website sales or leads without needing more traffic.

Instead of simply throwing away losing A/B tests and hoping to get luckier with your next one, you have a fantastic learning opportunity to take advantage of – that most online businesses don’t know about or do well. But what should do first? And what mistakes should watch out for?

To help you ensure you succeed and maximize your learnings, I’ve put together a handy checklist for you. But before I reveal how to maximize your A/B test learnings and future results, let’s set the scene a bit…

First of all, just how many A/B tests fail to get a winning result?

A VWO study found only 1 out 7 A/B tests have winning results. That’s just 14%. Not exactly great, right?

Even a leading agency that helps run many A/B tests found quite disappointing numbers – a study by Experiment Engine revealed only 50% of tests drove a winning result. Even the best CRO agencies only claim a 70-80% success rate, so even they experience many failed test results.

Many online businesses are talking about disappointing A/B testing results too. While they sometimes got very impressive results, Appsumo.com revealed just 1 out of 8 of their tests drove significant change.

This real lack of winning results can often cause frustration and slow progress with A/B testing efforts, and limit further interest and budget in doing CRO. Very frustrating! While A/B testing is only just a part of successful CRO (web analytics, usability and visitor feedback are also essential), you can actually gain real value from failed results, as I will now reveal in the learnings checklist.

The A/B Test Learnings Checklist

1: Did you create a good clear hypothesis for your A/B test?

One of the most common reason causing inconclusive A/B test results is due to the idea behind it being poor – the hypothesis of why the element or page was tested. This is because businesses often just guess at what to test, with no clear strong hypothesis for each test idea. And without a clear hypothesis, you will find it hard to learn if the test fails – you won’t really know what you were trying to achieve or why.

So first check how good your A/B test hypothesis was – in particular, what was the proof the page or element was a problem or opportunity? If you think it was poor or didn’t even have one, you really need to create a better test idea hypothesis – looking at key web analytics reports or getting expert test ideas is a great place to start.

This high importance of a strong A/B test hypothesis is echoed by a leading CRO expert, Joris Byron:

Joris Bryon, CRO Expert at Yorro.co
“The best way to learn from failed tests is to have a clear hypothesis. I see it happening all the time. If you have a clear hypothesis, but your variation doesn’t win, then at least you’ve learned that what you thought was a problem, clearly isn’t. So you can move on to other different things to test.

One nuance though: if your variation didn’t win that doesn’t always mean your hypothesis was wrong. If your research shows great support for your hypothesis, look at your variation. Maybe it wasn’t bold enough. Then test again, with the same hypothesis but with a bolder variation.”

2: Did you wait a full 7 days before declaring a result and did you change anything major?

A simple yet common mistake with A/B testing is declaring a losing result too soon. This is particularly problematic if you have a lot of traffic and are keen to find a result quickly. Or worst still, the person doing the test is biased and waits until their least favorite variation starts to lose declares the test a loss.

To avoid this mistake, you need to wait at least a week before declaring a result to allow fluctuations in variation results to level off and to also reduce the impact of differences in traffic by day.

And any time you change anything major on your website while a test is running you also need to wait at least an additional 7 days. This extra time is needed for your testing tool to evaluate the impact of this new change (this is also known as test pollution).

If you find this is the case with your failed test, then I suggest you re-run the test again for a longer period, and try not to change anything major during the period you are running the test.

3: Were the differences between variations bold enough to be easily noticed by visitors?

Next you need to check the variations that were created for the test and see if they were really that different for visitors to notice in the first place. If your variations were subtle, like small changes in images or wording, visitors often won’t notice, or act any different, therefore you often won’t see a winning test result. I’ve seen hundreds of A/B tests created by businesses and you will be surprised at how often this mistake occurs.

If you think this may have occurred with your losing test result, re-rest it but this time make sure you think outside of the box and create at least one bolder variations. Involving other team members can help you brainstorm ideas – marketing experts are helpful here.                                               

4: Did you review click map and visitor recordings for insights about the page tested?

It’s essential to do visual analysis of how visitors interact on every page you want to improve and run an A/B test on. This helps you visually understand what elements are being engaged with the most or least. This visual analysis is particularly important to double check for pages and elements that relate to your failed A/B tests – you can learn a lot from this. Did your visitors even notice the element you were testing?

The first type of visual analysis are visitor clickmaps that show you heatmaps of what your visitors are clicking on, and how far your visitors scroll down your pages. Even more important are visitor session recordings where you can watch visitors exact mouse movements and journey through your website.

hotjar heatmap

So if you hadn’t done this visual analysis for the page relating to the inconclusive test, go ahead and do this now using a tool like Hotjar.com. You may realize that few people are interacting with the element you are testing or that they are getting stuck or confused with something else on the page that you should run an A/B test on instead.

5: Have you performed usability testing on the page being tested, including the new variation?

Usability testing is another essential piece of successful CRO – getting feedback from your target audience is one of the best ways of generating ideas for improvements and A/B test ideas. This should also be performed in advance for your whole website and before any major changes launch.

Therefore, I suggest you run usability testing on the page relating to your losing A/B test result to improve your learnings. In particular, I suggest you use UserTesting.com to ask for feedback on each of the versions and elements you tested. Ask what they liked most or least, and ask what else they think is lacking or could be improved – this really is excellent for creating better follow up test ideas.

I asked Justin Rondeau for his A/B test learning advice – he’s seen a huge amount of A/B test results:

Justin Rondeau, DigitalMarketer.com
First things first is to look at your segments (if you have the traffic) to see if the losing variation had a positive impact on any segment of visitors.

Another thing I’ll do is retest that same element but with a different approach. If I see that this test doesn’t move the needle, then the element in question likely isn’t important to the visitor.

Finally, if I don’t have the time to run the ‘exploration’ style test above – I’d dig into some qualitative data. First I’d look at the clickmap of the page, then if the page is important enough run it through an actual eyetracking lab to see if they comprehend what you are trying to improve.”

6: Did you segment your test results by key visitor groups to find potential winners?

A simple way to look for learnings and possibly even uncover a winning test result is to segment your A/B test results for key visitor groups. For example you may find that your new visitors or paid search segment actually generated a winning result which you should push live. Ideally you want to setup segments for each of your key visitor groups and analyze those – you can usually setup A/B testing tool integrations with Google Analytics to make this much easier.

To go one step further, you can actually analyze each of your test variations in Google Analytics to understand differences in user behavior for each test variation and look for more learnings. A web analyst is very helpful for this. You can setup this integration quite easily in major A/B testing tools like Optimizely.

7: How good was the copy used in the test? Was it action or benefit based?

You may have had a great idea for an A/B test, but how good and engaging was the copy used in the test? Did it really captivate your visitors? This is essential to spend time on as headlines and copy can often have some of the biggest impacts on conversion rates. So if you had changed text in your test result that didn’t win, really ask yourself how good the copy was. For better follow-up test wording, always try testing variations that mention benefits, solving common pain points, and use action related wording.

Most people aren’t great at copywriting, so I suggest you get some help with this from someone in your marketing department or get help from a CRO expert like myself or a copywriting expert like Joanna Wiebe.

I asked Claire Vo for her thoughts – she’s seen 1000’s of tests as the founder of ExperimentEngine.com

Claire Vo, Founder of Experiment Engine
It depends how you’re defining a “failed” test. If it is a conversion rate loss, then you’ve identified that the elements changed in the test are “sensitive areas” that contribute quite a bit to your conversions. This is a great clue into what can help conversions – see what in this sensitive area changed in the test. Did you deemphasize something? Change a value proposition? These also offer great hints at what is important to users, and you can use these hints to create future tests that maximize what the original is doing well.

If a test is flat, that is again, a clue. Maybe the area you were focused does not matter that much for conversions. If you can pair this against other analytics (heat maps, click funnels, etc.) you can further refine where on a page or site you should focus your conversion efforts. Every test is a learning experience, and each round, win or loss, brings you closer to finding what matters to your users in the conversion funnel.”

8: Did you consider previous steps in the journey – what might need optimizing first?

Another key learning is to understand the whole visitor journey and look at the bigger website experience for your A/B test idea that didn’t win, and not just look for learnings in isolation to the page you were testing.

This is important because if you haven’t optimized your top entry pages first, you will have limited success on pages further down like the funnel like your checkout. So go ahead and find the most common previous page relating to your failed A/B test, and see if anything needs clarifying or improving that relates to the page you are trying to test. For example, if you were testing adding benefits in the checkout, did you test the prominence of these on previous pages?

9: Did you review the test result with a wider audience and brainstorm for ideas?

To increase learnings from your A/B tests, when looking at results you should always get regular feedback and thoughts from key people in related teams like marketing and user experience, at least once per quarter. Creative and design orientated people are ideal for helping improve A/B testing ideas.

And this wider internal feedback is even more important to get when A/B tests don’t get a winning result. So I suggest you setup a meeting to review all your previous losing test results and brainstorm for better ideas – I’m sure you will unearth some real insight gems from this wider team. Then to ensure this review happens in the future too, setup a regular quarterly A/B test results review meeting with these key people.

10: Could you move or increase the size of the tested element so its more prominent?

Another common reason for an inconclusive test A/B test result is because the element being tested is not in a very prominent position and often doesn’t get noticed by visitors. This is particularly true for testing elements that are in side bars or are very low down on pages because these often don’t get seen as much.

Therefore, to try and turn an A/B test with no result into a winning test, consider moving the element being tested to a more prominent location on the page (or another page that gets more traffic) and then re-run the test. This works particularly well with key elements like call-to-action buttons, benefits, risk reducers and key navigation links.

This last step of iterating and retesting the same page or element is essential, as it helps you determine whether it will ever have a good impact on your conversion rates. If you still don’t get a good follow up test result that means you should instead move onto test ideas for another page or element that will hopefully be a better conversion influencer.

Wrapping Up

As you have hopefully realized now, losing A/B test results happen much more often than you might have thought. So go ahead and revisit all your losing test results, review these steps and try to create some better test ideas. Which will you try first? And if you need help, check out my A/B testing services.

Magic Mirror Project

For Christmas this year, I was trying to come up with something unique for the long-term roommate. After some hemming and hawing, I decided to create my own Magic Mirror, in the style of Michael Teeuw(turns out I wasn’t the only one who was inspired by…

For Christmas this year, I was trying to come up with something unique for the long-term roommate. After some hemming and hawing, I decided to create my own Magic Mirror, in the style of Michael Teeuw(turns out I wasn't the only one who was inspired by Michael. One small twist - the giftee specifically requested a full-length mirror, of which we are in dire need.

Step 1: Roughing The Design & Finding The Screen

After some initial research, I sketched out a design based on the simple and clean aesthetic of this DIY walkthrough I found.

Once I had an idea of what I wanted it to look like, I determined that the size of the screen was what would ultimately shape the rest of the mirror. At first, I was considering using a lower-resolution TV we've had collecting dust in the basement, but I decided I really wanted a nice-looking screen to go into this. I settled on a 24" Acer S242HLbid LED panel I found on Craigslist for $100.00. Once I had the screen and the design, it was time to figure out how it was all going to come together.

Step 2: SketchUp

I didn't want to cut any corners, so I modeled everything out in SketchUp first. This was my first time using SketchUp, and I can't encourage you enough to use it for your next project; it was a lifesaver (and it's free!). I referenced my model constantly. It was great to be able to measure any piece of the design on-the-fly and be fully confident in the numbers I was using - I've been burned by smudged ink and guesswork in the past.

magic mirror sketchup screenshot

magic mirror sketchup back screenshot

I stayed pretty true to the design I laid out in SketchUp. I did ditch the legs, at least for the time being.

Step 2: Setting Up The Pi

Once the design was settled, I moved on to setting up the Pi. I already had a B+ lying around with a case and a WiFi dongle, so it was pretty short work getting things set up. Michael Teeuw has a great step-by-step to get you started, if you're following along at home. My initial setup was pretty vanilla - I just dropped the compliments and calendar.

My initial setup

Next, I configured the Pi to boot Chromium in kiosk mode, pointed to 127.0.0.1, a step which is also covered in Michael's tutorial. With the software in place, I set to work assembling the mirror.

Step 3: Building The Frame

One of the great things about DIY holiday gifts is they make great excuses to buy all the expensive tools you've never been able to justify purchasing. I'd been long in in need of a miter saw, and the 45 degree cuts of the frame demanded nothing less. I decided to go with something on the entry-level side of the spectrum, and picked up a well-reviewed Hitachi saw from Lowe's for a little over $120.00.

Next, I picked up the lumber for the mirror. Originally I planned on using soft pine for the frame and the support structure in the back, with the ultimate goal of staining the wood in the spring. After some reading, I decided to use oak for the frame instead, as it looks better after staining compared to pine (so I've read, anyhow).

Then I built the frame. The frame itself is held together with wood glue and heavy-duty angle irons. I learned the hard way that oak is incredibly tough, and will happily let you torque the heads right off your screws if you're not careful. Lesson learned. Here's the frame, all assembled and standing up.

Step 4: Making The Mirror & First Assembly

With the frame, Pi, and monitor ready to go, it was time to make the mirror. Early in the project, I had read that it was simple enough to make a two-way mirror with a piece of acrylic or polycarbonate and the correct film. Armed with film I bought from Amazon and polycarbonate I bought from Home Depot, I went to work.

It was tough keeping dust and hair from getting trapped between the polycarbonate and the film as I was working. Several times I had to undo a section just to pull out a single stray cat hair, then stretch and squeegee it all over again. Unfortunately, my hard work was for nought. Once everything was installed and stood up, it was easy to see that the film had ended up getting scratched, and the polycarbonate itself was flexing and warping in the frame. It looked like a fun-house mirror.

I decided to do it right and order a sheet of glass.

Step 5: Second Assembly

The best photo I could come up with from the ride By pure chance, I met one of the co-owners of a Pittsburgh-based glass repair shop called Glass Doctor on the annual Pittsburgh Icicle Bicycle Ride.

He hooked me up with the real deal - quarter-inch tempered glass with a professionally applied two-way film. The finished product speaks for itself:

On the back, I've got the monitor pressed in place with corner braces. It's also supported by the 1"X4" crossbrace in the back. Currently, the Pi sits out on its own; eventually, it will be mounted on the rear frame, too. The power buttons from the old bezel are hanging loose, but will eventually be strapped down, too.

Steps 6 to ?: Tweaks

Once everything was put together, it wasn't long before I started adding extras. The first addition I made was to incorporate the estimated arrival times of incoming busses from the Port Authority of Pittsburgh's realtime tracking API. The giftee takes the bus in the morning (when I can't be plied for a ride), and knowing when the next one is pulling in can be a lifesaver.

I also added a small map with traffic information using the Google Maps JavaScript API, so I could get an at-a-glance idea of what my commute will look like. I'm planning on nixing that, though, since my commute is mostly off the beaten path and traffic rarely factors into my morning. Instead, I'm planning on adding cycling-related data: did it rain or snow overnight, will it rain or snow during commuting hours, and the temperature differential between the morning and evening commutes. All of this is invaluable knowledge for the commuting cyclist.

As time goes on, I plan on extending the functionality of the mirror even further; I've already decided to add a motion sensor and relay for managing power to the screen more effectively, and I'm considering adding facial recognition capabilities. I'm also really looking forward to staining the frame!

If you're interested in the code for this project, I'd recommend starting with Michael Teeuw's original project. If you'd like to use my code, you can grab my fork here, but be warned, support will be minimal.

Allegheny County Real Estate Search API

Allegheny County makes available a searchable database of public records on parcels in the area. It’s a handy resource for homebuyers interested in knowing a little more about the history of a home they’re purchasing, or to do some comparison shopping when preparing to buy a home.

I’ve always been interested in examining pricing data on Pittsburgh neighborhoods for fun, so about a year ago I put together a NodeJS package that exposes a few methods to scrape the site and return the data in JSON, e.g.:

acreApi.parcel.ownerHistory('0084-N-00285-0000-00', function(err, parcel) {
    if(err) return console.log(err);
    console.log(parcel);
});

// Outputs
{
    parcelId: '0084-N-00285-0000-00',
    municipality: '107  PITTSBURGH - 7TH WARD',
    address: '5801 WALNUT ST PITTSBURGH, PA 15232',
    ownerName: 'BORETSKY ROBERT H & KAREN R (W)',
    deedBook: '10857',
    deedPage: '371',
    ownerHistory: [{
        owner: '',
        saleDate: '',
        salePrice: 1
    }, {
        owner: 'ANN MEDIS',
        saleDate: '2/8/1993',
        salePrice: 33000
    }, {
        owner: 'BORETSKY ROBERT H & KAREN R (W)',
        saleDate: '9/1/2000',
        salePrice: 125000
    }]
}

I built it to provide a programmatic way of querying that dataset, which can be found here. The API makes it super simple to aggregate data on swaths of the Pittsburgh region for analysis. Here’s a chart I built using the street.street and parcel.ownerHistory methods.

Chart graphing sales and median price in Lower Lawrenceville

For folks who live in the area, the data suggests a fire-sale in the neighborhood between 2005-2007 (about when the new Childrens Hospital was announced and moved into the neighborhood), and steady price increases from then on as interest in the Lawrenceville area has stretched into the further reaches of the neighborhood.

This was an interesting project for me; there were many challenges to overcome. I learned a little about .NET applications and how they work, and a lot about managing multiple simultaneous requests in Node. Some more interesting problems I solved include:

  • Scraping data from the application, which uses stateless URLs
  • Queueing/managing requests responsibly

The Allegheny County Real Estate search tool doesn’t store state information in the URL, meaning I couldn’t just create a method that plopped in query parameter values and returned the data. Instead, it uses data POST’d on each query or refinement that the app returns data about on the same URL.

To get around this, I had to spoof the View Statedata the .NET application expected in order to get back any meaningful results. As it stands, I’m spoofing View State information by GET’ing the /search.aspx page, extracting the information from the HTML (View State and other .NET data values are stored in hidden inputs on the page), and then proceed. This View State information would then be cached and re-used or re-written as the scraper interacted with the site.

This introduced a challenge for kicking off multiple concurrent requests when no View State has been cached. For example, if I had some code like this:

async.map([
  'Howley', 'Cabinet', 'Mintwood', 
  '38th', '39th', 'Liberty', 'Penn'
].map(function(el) { 
  return [el, 'Pittsburgh - 6th Ward'];   
}, function(arr, callback) {

    acre.street.street(arr[0], arr[1], callback);

}, function(err, results) {

  ...

});

If no View State was cached, each street being hit by async.map would cause a GET request to be issued in order to establish an initial View State – that would mean 7 immediate requests, when 1 would do.

I solved that by adding an internal queuing mechanism to the State manager, found in /lib/State.js.

var _gettingState = false;
var _storedState;

...

_State.get = function StateGet(callback) {

  if (_storedState) {

    callback(null, _storedState);

  } else if (_gettingState) {

    _queue.push(function() {

      callback(null, _storedState);

    });

  } else {

    _gettingState = true;

    Api('get', 'search', {}, function(err, html) {

      if (err) {

        _gettingState = false;
        callback(err);

      } else {

        _storedState = Parser.stateData(html);

        if (_gettingState) {

          _clearQueue();
          _gettingState = false;

        }

        callback(null, _storedState);

      }

    });

  }

};

function _clearQueue() {

  _queue.forEach(function(el) {

    el();

  });

  _queue.length = 0;

}

When a part of the API asks for a View State, the State manager returns the cached View State or it builds a new one. If additional requests come in during the process of fetching and building the View State, the State Manager caches the callback in a private queue and defers them until the View State is constructed. Once the View State is in place, _clearQueue iterates through all cached callbacks and passes them the newly created View State. No unnecessary requests required!

When I need to get at pages further in the application, say, paginated results, I manually scrape links to those pages and request them individually. This is a bit of a slow and sloppy mechanism, and it’s very fragile; any semi-serious changes to their naming conventions would break the whole thing. If I could do it again, I would be interested to try and manually build View States and POST those directly, instead of the more spider-like approach I’m taking now.

The other challenge I ran into was responsibly managing all of those requests; left to it’s own devices, the API could generate hundreds of requests to their server instantaneously. Rather than litter in setTimeout‘s all over the place, I built a Connection manager to handle queuing, executing, and pacing the requests. That can be found in /lib/Connections.js. Since then, I’ve spent more time building similar mechanisms in NodeJS, so this experience was very valuable.

The basic gist of the Connections tool is to recursively clear an internal queue such that at most only 20 connections have been opened at any given point. The whole thing is about 51 lines of code, so I’m including it here:

// Manage our requests to prevent overloading the server
var Connections = (function Connections(){

    var _Connections        = {};
    var _queue             = [];
    var currentConnections = 0; 
    var maxConnections     = 20;

    var check = function ConnectionsCheck() {

        if(currentConnections 

Allegheny County makes available a searchable database of public records on parcels in the area. It's a handy resource for homebuyers interested in knowing a little more about the history of a home they're purchasing, or to do some comparison shopping when preparing to buy a home.

I've always been interested in examining pricing data on Pittsburgh neighborhoods for fun, so about a year ago I put together a NodeJS package that exposes a few methods to scrape the site and return the data in JSON, e.g.:

acreApi.parcel.ownerHistory('0084-N-00285-0000-00', function(err, parcel) {
    if(err) return console.log(err);
    console.log(parcel);
});

// Outputs
{
    parcelId: '0084-N-00285-0000-00',
    municipality: '107  PITTSBURGH - 7TH WARD',
    address: '5801 WALNUT ST PITTSBURGH, PA 15232',
    ownerName: 'BORETSKY ROBERT H & KAREN R (W)',
    deedBook: '10857',
    deedPage: '371',
    ownerHistory: [{
        owner: '',
        saleDate: '',
        salePrice: 1
    }, {
        owner: 'ANN MEDIS',
        saleDate: '2/8/1993',
        salePrice: 33000
    }, {
        owner: 'BORETSKY ROBERT H & KAREN R (W)',
        saleDate: '9/1/2000',
        salePrice: 125000
    }]
}

I built it to provide a programmatic way of querying that dataset, which can be found here. The API makes it super simple to aggregate data on swaths of the Pittsburgh region for analysis. Here's a chart I built using the street.street and parcel.ownerHistory methods.

Chart graphing sales and median price in Lower Lawrenceville

For folks who live in the area, the data suggests a fire-sale in the neighborhood between 2005-2007 (about when the new Childrens Hospital was announced and moved into the neighborhood), and steady price increases from then on as interest in the Lawrenceville area has stretched into the further reaches of the neighborhood.

This was an interesting project for me; there were many challenges to overcome. I learned a little about .NET applications and how they work, and a lot about managing multiple simultaneous requests in Node. Some more interesting problems I solved include:

  • Scraping data from the application, which uses stateless URLs
  • Queueing/managing requests responsibly

The Allegheny County Real Estate search tool doesn't store state information in the URL, meaning I couldn't just create a method that plopped in query parameter values and returned the data. Instead, it uses data POST'd on each query or refinement that the app returns data about on the same URL.

To get around this, I had to spoof the View Statedata the .NET application expected in order to get back any meaningful results. As it stands, I'm spoofing View State information by GET'ing the /search.aspx page, extracting the information from the HTML (View State and other .NET data values are stored in hidden inputs on the page), and then proceed. This View State information would then be cached and re-used or re-written as the scraper interacted with the site.

This introduced a challenge for kicking off multiple concurrent requests when no View State has been cached. For example, if I had some code like this:

async.map([
  'Howley', 'Cabinet', 'Mintwood', 
  '38th', '39th', 'Liberty', 'Penn'
].map(function(el) { 
  return [el, 'Pittsburgh - 6th Ward'];   
}, function(arr, callback) {

    acre.street.street(arr[0], arr[1], callback);

}, function(err, results) {

  ...

});

If no View State was cached, each street being hit by async.map would cause a GET request to be issued in order to establish an initial View State - that would mean 7 immediate requests, when 1 would do.

I solved that by adding an internal queuing mechanism to the State manager, found in /lib/State.js.

var _gettingState = false;
var _storedState;

...

_State.get = function StateGet(callback) {

  if (_storedState) {

    callback(null, _storedState);

  } else if (_gettingState) {

    _queue.push(function() {

      callback(null, _storedState);

    });

  } else {

    _gettingState = true;

    Api('get', 'search', {}, function(err, html) {

      if (err) {

        _gettingState = false;
        callback(err);

      } else {

        _storedState = Parser.stateData(html);

        if (_gettingState) {

          _clearQueue();
          _gettingState = false;

        }

        callback(null, _storedState);

      }

    });

  }

};

function _clearQueue() {

  _queue.forEach(function(el) {

    el();

  });

  _queue.length = 0;

}

When a part of the API asks for a View State, the State manager returns the cached View State or it builds a new one. If additional requests come in during the process of fetching and building the View State, the State Manager caches the callback in a private queue and defers them until the View State is constructed. Once the View State is in place, _clearQueue iterates through all cached callbacks and passes them the newly created View State. No unnecessary requests required!

When I need to get at pages further in the application, say, paginated results, I manually scrape links to those pages and request them individually. This is a bit of a slow and sloppy mechanism, and it's very fragile; any semi-serious changes to their naming conventions would break the whole thing. If I could do it again, I would be interested to try and manually build View States and POST those directly, instead of the more spider-like approach I'm taking now.

The other challenge I ran into was responsibly managing all of those requests; left to it's own devices, the API could generate hundreds of requests to their server instantaneously. Rather than litter in setTimeout's all over the place, I built a Connection manager to handle queuing, executing, and pacing the requests. That can be found in /lib/Connections.js. Since then, I've spent more time building similar mechanisms in NodeJS, so this experience was very valuable.

The basic gist of the Connections tool is to recursively clear an internal queue such that at most only 20 connections have been opened at any given point. The whole thing is about 51 lines of code, so I'm including it here:

// Manage our requests to prevent overloading the server
var Connections = (function Connections(){

    var _Connections        = {};
    var _queue             = [];
    var currentConnections = 0; 
    var maxConnections     = 20;

    var check = function ConnectionsCheck() {

        if(currentConnections < maxConnections) {

            var availableConnections = maxConnections - currentConnections < _queue.length ? maxConnections - currentConnections : _queue.length; 
            process(availableConnections);

        }

    };

    var process = function ConnectionsProcess(num) {

        var i;

        for(i = 0; i < num; i++){

            _queue[0]();
            _queue.splice(0, 1);
            currentConnections++;

        }

    };

    _Connections.add = function ConnectionsAdd(item) {

        _queue.push(item);
        check();

    };

    _Connections.remove = function ConnectionsRemove() {

        currentConnections--;
        check();

    };

    return _Connections;

})();
module.exports = Connections;

20 Expert Tips for Becoming a Website Copywriting Pro

When was the last time you gave your website text some love and made some improvements – your headlines and call-to-actions in particular? Making your text much more engaging and captivating is actually one of…

expert copywriting tips
When was the last time you gave your website text some love and made some improvements – your headlines and call-to-actions in particular? Making your text much more engaging and captivating is actually one of the quickest and highest-impact ways to improve your website conversions and sales.

Indeed, it doesn’t matter how good your website looks if your text doesn’t sizzle and captivate – your visitors won’t be excited to learn more and will bounce often – meaning many lost sales for you!

You don’t have to have a major in marketing to write more captivating text either – I’ve created 20 expert tips to help you quickly become a copywriting pro, and convert many more of your visitors into sales.

1: Captivate visitors by mentioning their needs and pain points
Often the best way to improve the effectiveness of your text is to think in your visitor’s shoes and prominently mention words on key entry pages that relate to (and solves) their main needs, problems or frustrations. Here is a great example of a paint-point related headline on Unbounce.com:

paint point headline

Try asking intriguing questions in your text that your visitors can relate to (particularly in your headlines) and then mention why your offering is the best solution for them. Researching more about your main types of visitors and getting feedback from them is essential to do this well – here is a great guide on this.

2: Focus on benefits and results of your product/service – not just features
Your visitors of course need to know your product/service features, but many websites forgot to also translate them into benefits and potential results – which is what your visitors really ultimately care about.

Therefore its essential you prominently mention these on your product/services pages – for example, if you are selling services, you should mention the benefits (saving time, effort etc) and impact on revenue for your clients – not just the service features.

3: Use proven highly-engaging powerful words far more often
Give your website text a makeover by  using time-tested marketing power words. How many of these great examples below are you using on your website? Go ahead and check right now, particularly for your key entry pages, and start introducing more:

  • Discover, Secret, Results, Imagine, Guaranteed, Instantly, Powerful, Easy, Simple, Exclusive

4: Do the ‘we we’ test to make your text more visitor-focused
To engage many more visitors, focus your words on their viewpoint, not on you or your business – so avoid using ‘we, I or us’ and your company name too often. Instead, use much more visitor-orientated and friendly words like ‘you’ and ‘yours’.

To help improve this, you should to the ‘we we’ test to check how many times you use each type of business or visitor word on your key pages. Make sure you use higher amounts of visitor-focused words – doing that will instantly upgrade the engagement of your text!

5: Write magnetic headlines to hook your visitors
Your headlines can make or break whether your visitors stay on your website or bounces prematurely. Try using several styles to see which converts best, including benefit driven ones, social proof or testimonial focused ones, or pain point related questions. This tool helps you analyze how good your headlines are.

“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar” David Ogilvy

Don’t forget to also test your headline size to make it stand out more, and the number of words used (short and sweet is better – ideally under 10 words). Here’s a great headline combining many best practices:

great social proof

6: Know which boring and dull words to avoid like the plague
Some words are just a waste of space and opportunity on your web pages, and should be replaced with much better, more engaging words. Here are some of the most conversion-killing words I still see way too often that you should avoid:

  • Submit (use a much more engaging word that implies the benefit of clicking)
  • Click here (pointless self-referential words – wasted opportunity to write a better call-to-action)
  • Cheap (makes your service/offering sound low quality – use ‘low cost’ or ‘affordable’ instead)
  • Utilize, leverage, mission statement and other corporate words (too dull)

Here is a great guide on finding other friction words on your website to avoid using too.

7: Ruthlessly cut your text and make it concise
To increase the chances of visitors reading your text and seeing your key points, you need to start really cutting down the amount of words you use. Shorten your paragraphs and sentences, cut out fluff words, unnecessary extra detail words, and don’t ramble – be direct. If the words don’t help explain anything, or don’t add any real value to the sentence, then get rid of them.

8: Focus on improving your call-to-action button wording
The wording of your call-to-actions are critical – it’s essential you persuade more visitors to click on your buttons and key links. Always avoid using generic words like ‘learn more’, ‘submit’ or ‘subscribe’ – use much more compelling text instead. Benefit and power related words will work well, as will using action-driven words, which leads us nicely into the next tip.

better CTA wording

9: Inspire action – use words to get your visitors to act quickly
Realize that your visitors are often in a rush and don’t have much time, so get them to act quickly on your website offerings. Action words are particularly important for using on your call-to-action buttons and links. Here are some good examples of action words to help you come up with ideas to test:

  • Now, Today, Get started, Fast, Quickly, Discover, Create, Instantly, Try, Learn, In Seconds

10: Use sub-headers to make your text much easier to scan
Remember that visitors don’t read online the same way they do books or magazines – instead they scan text and will only read more if something catches their eye (unless its an article). Making use of many descriptive subheaders (like in this article) will make your text much easier to scan – they also help to break to categorize and break up long blocks of text.

11: Bullet points are essential for making key points easily seen
Another great way to make your content much more scanable for visitors is to use short bullet points instead of blocks of text. These are perfect for emphasizing your most important content on key entry pages, like your benefits and unique value proposition.

Using related icons makes bullet points even more eye-catching and engaging. Here are some great bullet points being used to highlight value proposition on CrazyEgg.com:

good bullet points

12: Tell an interesting story to help captivate
People love a great story – your visitors too. So try mentioning a quick engaging story from a view point of a potential customer – introduce an interesting character that helps portray a typical prospect, while explaining why your offering works so well for them.

This works particularly well on ‘About Us’ pages – try telling people how you got started with your business, and why you are passionate about what you do. People usually much prefer to buy from a local company with a good story than buying from Amazon. Here are some great ‘about us’ pages to learn from.

13: Let your personality shine through your text
Adding personality to your text really helps to engage visitors and help them remember you. Don’t be bland or too ‘official’ – using a friendly, conversational style of text works well for building personality. David Ogilvy used this principle well, and knew that building a “sharply defined personality” is the best way (and sometimes only way) to differentiate yourself from your competitors.

14: Avoid hard to read full-width text blocks
A simple tip here – avoid showing full-width blocks of text on your homepage and key entry page – these are particularly hard for people to read (think in terms of newspaper column widths instead). Use sidebars or imagery to reduce text width to make your long blocks more readable, or increase margin widths.

15: Use words to imply that visitors can trust using you
To increase the chances of visitors feeling more at ease about ordering from you, use words that imply greater amounts of trust and low risk. This is particularly important on your product/service pages and checkout/signup flow pages – here are some great trust word examples to try using:

  • Guaranteed, Trusted, Certified, Secure, Safe, Privacy, No obligation, Cancel anytime, No risk

16: Use bolded text or colors to emphasize important words
This is essential for helping emphasizing your main website benefits and key points – try using bold and colors when writing all kinds of text, including longer blocks of texts and short bullet points. Avoid using ALL CAPS though – it’s okay for using in headlines, but often too harsh in regular text – like you are being shouted at! Here is a good example of using bold in a testimonial to mention key points:

testimonial bold

17: Cut to the chase quickly – lead with strongest points first
Don’t mention your most important words in a sea of your content or in the middle of your sentences – you risk them not being read. Instead, always try to summarize and mention key things much sooner in your text, ideally in the first sentence.

18: Back up your claims and avoid using hype and superlatives
People are tired of being bombarded with amazing sounding results or claims everywhere they turn, and often website visitors are no different. Therefore avoid using strong superlatives on your website (like ‘world-class’ or ‘the best X’), and when you use them always back up your claims with stats, ratings, testimonials, case studies or awards you have won.

19: Avoid using uncommon acronyms or jargon – simplify it
Don’t presume that all your visitors will know your jargon or technical words, or the acronyms that you or your business uses – particularly if they aren’t that common. They can often alienate and turn away your visitors – instead always dumb them down so everyone knows what you mean.

20: Don’t let SEO ruin your copywriting efforts – write for people
Lastly, and very importantly – write for your visitors, not for Google! I see this all the time on websites still – keyword stuffed headlines or blocks of text that bore visitors and cause high bounce rates. If you write great content, not only will visitors love it, it will become popular and get many links – exactly what Google and other search engines love. Here is a great guide on how to write SEO-focused copy.

High-impact A/B test ideas for your text to get started

To ensure your copywriting improvements give you biggest lifts in sales, create multiple text versions and run A/B tests to find which versions engage and convert more visitors. If you don’t have enough traffic, check out this handy guide to give you other ways of testing.

Here are some quick simple website ideas to test using your newly found copy-writing skills:

  • Pick a key entry page and create a simple A/B split test where you improve all text on it, including headlines and call-to-actions.
  • Add some text of your benefits/risk reducers to the side-bar of your signup or checkflow pages
  • Test different versions of your homepage and service page headlines.
  • Test making your call-to-action buttons more action-orientated and engaging
  • Do some A/B testing with your email subject lines too – don’t just test your web pages!

Looking for expert copywriting help to improve your website?

I’d love to help you – in my live website conversion review service, one of the many elements I help you quickly improve is your website text, particularly your headlines and call-to-actions. Learn more:
Quickly improve your text with my website conversion review.

 

The Best Google Analytics Reports for Improving Websites

Google Analytics isn’t just for knowing how much traffic your website is getting, your top pages, and how your traffic sources and marketing efforts are performing. Nope. There is an even better use for it!…

best google analytics reports

Google Analytics isn’t just for knowing how much traffic your website is getting, your top pages, and how your traffic sources and marketing efforts are performing. Nope. There is an even better use for it!

It’s also really important to use it to help improve your website – so it converts many more visitors into sales, leads or subscribers. But unfortunately Google Analytics can be a little daunting at times, particularly with seemingly endless reports to check out and analyze. Where should you start for best results?

To help you make sense of this, I’ve created a list of the best Google Analytics (GA) reports so you can quickly gain more insights into your website performance and what needs improving most. I have also recently included a video of me walking you through all these great reports. Let’s get started…

The best Google Analytics reports to improve your website

Update: Watch a video of me guiding you through all these key Google Analytics reports

Last year I created a premium video about these best Google Analytics reports. It was originally part of a paid membership but I have decided to now include it on this article for everyone to watch for free. In this video you will also learn how to create a Google Analytics dashboard for these reports. Enjoy!

Check the landing pages report for pages with high bounce rates and low conversion rates
Your top landing pages (entry pages) are crucial to optimize because they often get very high levels of traffic, and are the first pages your visitors see on your website. If visitors don’t find what they are looking for or are confused, they will leave your website often within just 10 seconds!

To improve your website with this report, pull up the your landing pages report for the last 30 days (found under ‘Behavior > Site Content > Landing pages’).  Then see which pages out of the top 10 have highest bounce rate (over 50% is high) and which have lower than website average goal conversion rate (both indicated below in yellow) – these are indicators of poorly performing pages on your website.

Google Analytics landing pages report bounce rate and conversion rate

Then optimize these poor page performers first – improving headlines, benefits, imagery and call-to-action buttons are some of the best ways to do this. Optimizing these helps increase visitor engagement and increases the chances of them converting for your key website goals.

Use In-Page Analytics feature to reveal exactly what visitors click on
Don’t presume you know what visitors are doing on your pages, and what they are clicking on – it can often be different than you might expect. Use this great click map feature in GA (found under ‘Behavior > In-Page Analytics’) on your key pages to gain better insights into your visitors journey and flow around your website.

Then based on what insights you find, to improve your website you should focus your visitor’s experience on more important links. This can be done by deemphasizing less useful links (or removing them) from key pages, and reorganize your navigation menus to focus on major website goals.

Google Analytics In-page Analytics

Note: Ideally you should turn on the ‘enhanced link attribution‘ option in your settings – this makes the clicks more accurate for when you have multiple links on one page going to the same destination page.

Check the browser report for poor conversion rate performers
Your webpages can sometimes look slightly different or even break in some browsers (often due to small differences in how browsers show CSS code). This can unknowingly cause many lost sales or leads!

To make sure this isn’t negatively impacting your website, you need to regular check the ‘Browser & OS’ report (found under ‘Audience > Technology ) and make sure your conversion rates aren’t much lower for any browsers. If you see ones on this report that are much lower, you should go ahead and check for technical problems like CSS rendering issues and fix them immediately.

Google Analytics browser report

Analyze your Funnel Visualization report for high-drop off rates and optimize
It doesn’t matter how good your website is if visitors struggle to get through your checkout or sign-up flow pages. To understand how well your visitors complete that process, its vital you check your Funnel Visualization report. On this report (found under ‘Conversions > Goals > Funnel Visualization’) you can see how many visitors get through each page of your funnel (like your billing page), and which pages are most problematic – even where they go if they go to another page.

You need to pay great attention to any pages with a high drop off rate (more than 40%) and optimize those first – adding security seals and risk reducers, reducing distractions like header navigation, and improving error handling often work well. Improving these pages will greatly increase your sales or signups.

Google Analytics funnel visualization report

Note: Obviously you will need to have made sure you have setup your goals for your website adequately, including adding key pages in your goal flows. Here is a great guide on setting goals up.

Check your traffic overview report for poor performing traffic sources
Improving the quality and quantity of your traffic has huge impact on your website conversion rates, sales or leads, and its vital you gain insights into traffic performance and optimize the major sources.

To help you gain greater insights into this, pull up the ‘Channels’ report as Google calls it (found under ‘Acquisition > Channels) and check which of your top 10 traffic sources (channels) have high bounce rates (over 50%), and also for sources that seem low or missing from the top 10.

For example, you may find your email traffic isn’t as much as you had hoped for or isn’t converting well, so you should optimize your email marketing campaigns soon. Same goes for your paid search and SEO too.

Google Analytics acquisition overview report

Use the mobile overview report for tablet/mobile insights
Mobile traffic is bigger than ever before, often accounting for over 20% of total website traffic – and these visitors have very different needs due to smaller screen sizes, and often convert much lower than regular website traffic.

To understand your mobile traffic, and its performance, you need to check your ‘mobile overview’ report. Here you need to see just how high your traffic levels are for both mobile and tablet devices, and see what the conversion rate for each is. If conversion rate is much lower for any, you need to check your website on that device for key issues and fix immediately.

And if you haven’t already done so, to increase your conversion rates it’s critical to have a mobile optimized website as soon as possible (like using responsive design), particularly if your mobile traffic is over 20%.

Google Analytics mobile overview report

Check the exit pages report to find problematic pages
You also need to find out which pages are most often causing your visitors to leave (called an ‘exit’ page) – and improve and optimize those too.

To find these top exit pages, check your ‘exit pages’ report (found under ‘Behavior > Site Content > Exit Pages). In particular look for any pages that shouldn’t be in the top 10, and try to figure out why so many people exit your site on them. Also look for pages with especially high exit rate (over 50%), as this often indicates problems.

A few ways to improve these exit pages is by using and optimizing call-to-actions at the end of them, and try using exit intent popups to show a great incentive (discounts/free guides etc).

Google Analytics exit pages report

Analyze the top pages report for key missing pages and high exit rates
Your top pages report can contain some real gems for insights – not just what your top 10 pages currently are (found under ‘Behavior > Site Content > All Pages).

First you can see if any of your top pages have high exit rates (important to optimize those ASAP) and also to check if any pages relating to your key goals seem missing from this report or have low traffic. For example, perhaps few people are visiting your ‘why us’ or benefits page – making links more prominent to this page will hopefully increase sales/leads.

Google Analytics top pages report

These are the simpler reports, there’s many advanced ones too

These are just some of the simpler Google Analytics reports that will help you improve your website. Here are a couple of the many more advanced ones to learn about:

  • Using the ‘Converters’ visitor segment to figure out the behavior of people who convert for your main website goals (sales/leads etc).
  • Using the ‘Site Search’ report to find pages causing most amount of internal searches (indicates visitors not finding what they need).

If you are interested in learning more about these advanced GA reports, simply comment and let me know.

No time to analyze Google Analytics reports or not good at it?

If you don’t have time or the skills to gain insights from your Google Analytics reports you should check out my ‘Google Analytics Insights’ service – I’m sure you will find it useful for  improving your website.

10 High-Impact Ways to Boost Ecommerce Sales You Haven’t Tried Yet

Do you work with an ecommerce website? Hopefully you’ve already tried some conversion rate optimization ideas to help increase your ecommerce sales, like A/B testing your call-to-action buttons or adding security seals in your checkout….

ecommerce CRO ideas

Do you work with an ecommerce website? Hopefully you’ve already tried some conversion rate optimization ideas to help increase your ecommerce sales, like A/B testing your call-to-action buttons or adding security seals in your checkout. Looking for even better ideas that will often have a bigger impact?

Strong and high-impact improvement ideas really do form the bedrock of successful conversion rate optimization (CRO) efforts for any ecommerce website. There is no point in randomly changing or A/B testing things, or only changing what your HiPPO thinks – this will often lead to disappointing results.

To help you get even better results from your ecommerce CRO efforts, I’ve put together a fresh, high-impact list of ecommerce CRO ideas for you to try – that you probably haven’t tried yet. Let’s get started…

The 10 high-impact ecommerce conversion rate optimization ideas

1: Optimize your newsletter sign-up incentives
Who really signs up for newsletters at ecommerce websites? Most people don’t unless they see a good reason to do so. Unfortunately most ecommerce sites don’t seem to realize that capturing emails is essential to do follow-up marketing with – most of your visitors won’t convert first visit!

To encourage and capture more emails from your visitors, optimize your newsletter sign-up by offering a great free incentive to do so. Ideally using a pop-up instead of just having a newsletter box in the footer. Try offering a first time purchase coupon (20% off etc), or a free guide relating to what you sell – these can work very well. Test when you trigger the pop-up too – exit intent can often work best (just before visitors move their mouse to the browser bar) – don’t just pop it up immediately and risk annoying your visitors.

Here is a great visually compelling, highly useful pop-up example on GlassesUSA.com:

ecommerce popup

2: Use product page description bullet points to show key benefits/features

Your product page descriptions need to quickly engage and compel your visitors to increase sales and conversion rates. Good copywriting is essential for this, but you need to take this a step further by making key features and benefits highly noticeable and scanable – don’t just put your description lower down on your product page and hope visitors see it – they may often not scroll down that far.

To optimize this, above the page fold add some short bullet points highlighting the key features and benefits of the product. This greatly increases the chances of this essential information being seen and influencing your visitors decision to purchase, and not just buried in a long block of description text.

Amazon.com shows bullet points benefits very well with many of its directly sold products:

 

ecommerce product page bullet points

 

3: Add video to showcase each of your most popular products
Don’t just rely on some good quality zoomable images to sell your products – to show them in much greater detail (and even in use) you should try creating short review or promotional videos for your best products. While it is time consuming to create these, they can have very high impact on increasing conversion rates and sales – as leading ecommerce sites like ASOS.com and ModCloth.com have found.

To test this out, create some short (less than 2 minutes) simple videos for your top 5 best products. Then add the video to the relevant product pages (using prominent video player thumbnails near your other photos), and then measure the impact. If it works well, to get even better results you should increase the video quality and expand the number of products you offer them for.

Watchshop.com do this very well, showing videos of their watches being worn and examined up close:

ecommerce video popup

4: Prominently add unique value proposition on your homepage
In a recent article I discussed the importance of showing strong unique value proposition (UVP) – and this goes for ecommerce websites too! It’s amazing how many ecommerce websites just hope and presume visitors will know the reasons to use their site instead of using other competing sites – often causing visitor misunderstanding, higher bounce rates and many lost potential sales.

To make sure your UVP is clearly emphasized and seen on your homepage, above the page fold you need to add in some short bullet points explaining it and your benefits (in particular the top reasons to use your website instead of competitors), with a compelling title. Don’t forget to mention things like major media mentions or awards you have received, if you have been in business the longest or have highest third party ratings (like from Trust Pilot or Google).

Here is a great example of UVP bullet points shown on the Cushionsource.com homepage:

ecommerce value proposition

5: Use your header to show strong risk reducers on any page
Following on from the last idea, many visitors will arrive directly on your product or category pages (often from search or social media) and won’t see your ecommerce homepage where you mention your key benefits and unique value proposition.

To make sure these key benefit are noticed, no matter what page your visitors arrive on, you need to mention 2 or 3 good risk reducers in your website header to encourage trust and low risk of purchase. For example, show wording and icons that emphasize things like free shipping, lowest price guarantee and free returns. And if you are already doing this in your header, test which combination of risk reducers work best to increase conversion rates and sales.

GlassesUSA.com do a great job with this, showing 3 risk reducers in a sticky bar at the top of every page:

ecommerce UVP header

6: Optimize how you handle coupon codes in your checkout
This is an easily fixed ecommerce conversion killer that many businesses are making. If you clearly show a discount/coupon code box in your checkout, you need to realize that visitors will often leave your website to try and find the codes – and often will be frustrated and won’t return if they can’t find any.

To make sure you don’t suffer from this, if you actually offer coupon codes then you need to clearly mention how to get them – a great time to mention you can get them when signing up for your newsletter. Some smart websites like Dell.com (screenshot below) even go as far to show all their active codes in a pop-up  – making it a really refreshing easy coupon finding experience for visitors. And if you don’t offer any discounts at all, then just get rid of this field in your checkout altogether!

ecommerce coupon code box

7: Add some personality and ‘story’ to your about page
Many ecommerce websites suffer from a bland, generic ‘about us’ page that most visitors find boring and uninspiring to read. A much better use of this page to help captivate and convert your visitors is by adding some personality and interesting storytelling about your business. People often want to buy from businesses with personality and a good story – not soulless corporate businesses!

In particular you should include a ‘story’ of how, when and why your business was created, why you are passionate about what you sell, and include photos and fun facts about the owners. Video helps to convey this well. You could also mention strong community/charity/ethics elements to help with this too.

The owner of Titanium-Jewelry.com did a particularly good job with this on his about page:

ecommerce about us page

8: Add a side bar in your checkout to mention risk reducers/benefits
There are now many types of ecommerce checkouts, including traditional multi-page checkout, longer single page checkout, and the newer accordion-style single page checkout. To increase your sales and conversions, no matter what type of cart you have, you should try adding a right hand side bar that prominently mentions and re-emphasizes your biggest benefits and risk reducers of using your ecommerce store.

This often works well in the checkout because visitor purchase apprehension/worry is often highest at this point in your ecommerce store – reminding them here that there is little risk of purchase and re-iterating main benefits goes a long way to combating shopping cart abandonment, and increasing sales.

Watchshop.com do a fantastic job in their checkout, including their great refund policy and price promise:

ecommerce checkout benefits

9: Emphasize biggest risk reducers near add to cart button
Following on from last idea, another high impact place to mention your risk reducers is on your product page. Showing your biggest risk reducer right next to your ‘add to cart’ button on this page ensures it’s highly noticeable by your visitors above the page fold.

Product guarantees or a low price promise can work very well here, particularly by showing an icon of it to help draw visitor’s eyes to it, like a guarantee seal. Free shipping is important to mention here too, but it’s now so common its almost expected by visitors, so try to use or create something more ‘unique’.

Titanium-Jewelry.com do this well, highlighting their ’90 days to love it, or return it’ guarantee:

ecommerce risk reducer

10: Create some product-specific landing pages for paid search
Rather than directing all paid search to your homepage or relevant product pages, you should try a new approach to increase conversion rates and sales. Try creating longer more information-rich product landing pages for your best products and send relevant product keywords there instead – if it works well you can ramp this up and create many more.

On these stand-alone landing pages, instead of just using a normal product page template, create a highly compelling longer page that steps visitors through everything they need to know in order to make a purchase decision. Make sure to emphasize a strong benefit-focused headline (not just the product name), unique value proposition of the product, risk reducers for it (guarantee, free trial etc), more images and video, and more social proof like awards or media mentions.

Here is a great product landing page using these best practices at EnergyFirst.com (credit to Alex Harris):

ecommerce landing page

A/B testing is essential to find highest converting ideas

Wrapping up, to help you find highest converting variations of ecommerce ideas you really need to do some A/B testing for them. And realize not all ideas will work for you – it can heavily depend on the type of industry you are in and your unique value proposition – I can help give you customized ideas too.

And don’t worry if you don’t have enough traffic for testing (at least 1,000 uniques per week for each test page, with many conversions) as I have created a low traffic A/B testing guide for you.

Which of these ecommerce ideas have you tried?

Now its your turn – which of these ideas have you tried? Or maybe you have used some particularly unique ways to increase your ecommerce conversion rates. Please comment with your thoughts. Thanks!

20 Ways to Optimize Your Unique Value Proposition and Lift Website Sales Today

What if I told you there is an element on every website that is crucial for increasing sales and conversion rates, but is often neglected by online marketers and online business owners? It’s your unique…

unique value proposition improve tips

What if I told you there is an element on every website that is crucial for increasing sales and conversion rates, but is often neglected by online marketers and online business owners?

It’s your unique value proposition (UVP – or unique selling proposition). To be effective, it should quickly show visitors the benefits of using your website, who it’s ideally for, and why use it instead of competitors.

But websites often poorly convey their UVP, unknowingly causing visitor misunderstanding, higher bounce rates and many lost sales.

In this in-depth article you’ll learn 20 ways to quickly improve your UVP. And if you do a great job with this (and better than your competitors do), you’ll get fantastic increases in sales and leads without needing more traffic. Indeed, it’s one of the key things I get my clients to focus on.

Ready to give your UVP some much needed love? Let’s get started in two key areas of tips…

Optimize the uniqueness and strength of your value proposition

These first 7 tips are essential. It doesn’t matter how good your website looks or how much traffic you get if your UVP is not very engaging, unique or strong – it won’t convert well into sales or leads. Never presume its already good enough! Here are some ways to improve and get the most out of it:

1: Get great UVP feedback from your target audience
First it’s essential to get feedback about your UVP from people who will be interested in your offerings.  Use a tool like UserTesting.com or UsabilityHub.com to get this feedback and find out what they think, including what could be improved. You should also test showing them different UVP variations to see which versions appeal to them most. Here are 3 revealing questions you can use to get highly actionable feedback:

UVP feedback questions

2: Brainstorm ideas to improve your UVP and test to find best elements
Start thinking of new ideas to improve and mention in your UVP. For example, maybe your customer support is available longer hours than competitors, or you don’t include hidden fees like other websites do, or you have the most customers. Then test to find the most compelling elements from your ideas – using Adwords or Facebook ads is great for testing to see which are most compelling to use on your website.

3: Make your UVP customer focused, not business focused
Make sure you realize your UVP is not your mission statement! Instead, put yourself in the shoes of your visitors and think ‘what’s in for me’ and ‘why should I use this website’ – don’t just list the objectives of your business (often very dull).

To help with this, always use more visitor centric wording in your UVP, like ‘you’ and ‘yours’ instead of ‘we’ and ‘our’. Here is an example of a poor about page with business-focused mission statement, not showing good UVP – a real turn off for visitors, right?
mission statement

4: Answer common visitor problems and pain points with your UVP
To make your website and UVP even more customer focused, make sure you address your visitor’s common problems and pain points in your area of business, and then make sure your UVP helps solve them. Spend some time brainstorming these most common pain points, challenges and frustrations, then clearly highlight why your UVP and offering is the best solution for them.

Here is a great best practice example of UVP solving pain points on Unbounce.com:
unbounce UVP

5: Evaluate and beat your competitor’s UVP
Review your major competitor’s websites – do you offer anything good that they don’t? Or vice versa? It is essential to think of ideas to make your value proposition a bit more unique. Perhaps no one offers free returns yet or a money back guarantee? And if you are selling products, always give reasons for visitors to buy from you instead of Amazon.com! Lastly, don’t just copy competitor ideas – make them better!

6: Is your offering really that valuable and beneficial in the first place?
Take a step back for a while. Is there actually much interest and demand in your value proposition? It doesn’t matter how unique it is if people don’t really care about the benefits you are offering. Getting good feedback on this essential – run a quick visitor survey using a tool like Qualaroo.com to discover their true interest. Maybe its time to pivot into a business that people really care about and there is a real need for?

7: Don’t show off by using many superlatives in your UVP
Don’t scare your visitors away by using over-the-top superlatives in your UVP that you can’t back up with facts or stats – this will often cause an increase in bounce rates and lost sales. For example don’t just say ‘the worlds best’ or ‘#1 provider in the USA” if you can’t prove it! Removing wording like that will make your UVP seem more believable and less salesy – and more engaging!

Optimize the promotion of UVP on your website

Many websites have strong UVP, but forget or neglect to promote it well. It doesn’t matter how good your UVP is if your visitors often don’t seen it or be influenced by it. Never just presume they know it! To ensure its quickly understood, show it on key places on your website – as you’ll see in these next tips:

8: Prioritize the best parts of your UVP and promote them more
Don’t presume all elements of your UVP are equally important. Maybe your price match guarantee is more important than your free shipping? Find out which parts engage visitors better by doing some testing. Either with A/B testing, or if you don’t have enough traffic you can test using titles in Google Adwords or Facebook ads. Once you find the most clicked versions, promote them more often by using the next tips.

9: Use bullet points to show UVP above page fold on homepage
One of the quickest ways of conveying UVP is by adding some short bullet points on your homepage that highlight the top reasons to use your website (particularly instead of a competitor). This should be shown above the page fold so your visitors can see it without having to scroll, and come up with a good title for the section (like ‘reasons why you’ll love us’). Here is a good example from one of my clients:
UVP bullet points

10: Use a tagline under your logo to show elements of your UVP
This is quick easy thing to add to your website – take 3-5 keywords that best highlight your UVP and add them right under your logo as a tagline. Your visitor’s eyes often look towards the logo first, so adding UVP messaging there ensures that it’s quickly seen and engaged.

11: Use UVP-focused headlines on key pages to increase prominence
Headlines are often one of the key levers for increasing conversions and sales, particularly for engaging visitors quicker. Therefore, on your homepage and key pages, use a compelling headline that mentions the strongest aspects/benefits of your UVP. Asking questions and mentioning pain points is a great way of doing this. Here are a few good UVP focused headlines for your inspiration:
uvp headlines

12: Mention key aspects of your UVP in the header of your website
Don’t presume that visitors will see your UVP on your homepage – many visitors will arrive on interior pages via SEO in particular. To compensate for this and make sure your UVP is seen no matter what page is arrived on, mention the most compelling key elements of your UVP in your header, ideally with icons to help draw your visitor’s eyes.

This is particularly important for ecommerce websites to mention things like free shipping, lowest price guarantee etc. Here’s an excellent use of this on AO.com:
uvp in header

13: Promote your UVP high up in your blog sidebar
Never just presume your blog visitors will understand your UVP and who it’s for, even if you think its obvious. And realize that many blog visitors will only see your article pages and miss the UVP on your homepage. To prevent this from happening, in your sidebar you should create a small area with a quick overview of the benefits and reasons of your blog (a summary of your UVP), and place it towards the top to ensure its noticed.  Here is a great example of this on the RebootedBody.com blog:
blog value prop

14: Create a ‘why us’ page to compare your offering to others
Take your UVP messaging to the next level by  creating a page that explains ‘why use us’ and the uniqueness of your offering in more detail. This page should compare your website offering against your key competitors, and even against the offline/conventional way of doing it. Be honest though, and always include some aspects that your website is not quite as good.

Using a comparison table or a matrix can often work well to highlight UVP – here is a great example of a ‘why us’ page from one of my clients:
why us UVP

15: Add UVP related items to your main navigation menu
After you have created a good ‘why use us’ page, you should add a link for this page in your main navigation menu so it can be prominently seen and often visited. You should also have a page in your navigation menu with the wording of ‘benefits’ that explains this in more detail – don’t just say ‘products’ or ‘services’. Those two navigation improvements are great ways to get your UVP quickly seen and engaged upon, from any page on your website.

16: Simplify your UVP to make it easily scanable
When mentioning your UVP and benefits avoid using long paragraphs – visitors often don’t read online as much, they scan. To help ensure your UVP is read, cut out less important words to make it easier to read and digest, format them visually, and make use of bullet points and bold to convey key points/words.

And don’t confuse your visitors by using jargon or less known acronyms – always dumb down your UVP wording. Here is an excellent example of a great visual, highly scanable UVP on WebSynthesis.com:
synthesis value proposition

17: Reinforce your UVP on your checkout/signup flow
On your checkout or sign-up pages to reduce visitor abandonment (where the chances are often highest of) you should also reinforce your UVP by repeating the key benefits of using your website. A great place to show this is in the sidebar of these pages, using short bullet points.

For best results, this UVP wording should be shown in combination with risk reducers like guarantees, and secure wording/imagery. Adroll.com does an excellent job of this doing this on their checkout page:
UVP signup

18: Emphasize uniqueness when mentioning benefits and features
When mentioning features of your service/products on key pages, always take the opportunity to add wording to point out ones that are most unique or better than your competitors.

For example instead of just saying ‘we offer 200 templates’, also add ‘double more than leading providers’. Or for the pricing section, don’t just state the price, also mention things like ‘we don’t include hidden fees like other competing services do’. This is a great highly contextual place to emphasize your UVP.
UVP features

19: If using a homepage slider, make your first slide UVP focused
If you are using a homepage image slider – make much better use of it! Instead of just showing a random promotion or product in your first slide, a better way is to show a slide that mentions key points of your UVP, with a good matching headline, imagery and call-to-action. Better yet, test replacing the whole homepage slider with just a static image mentioning UVP, as ASOS.com recently had the great idea of:
slider UVP

20: Think outside of the box – promote UVP on emails, ads and more
And last, don’t just promote your UVP on your website – take a step back down your visitor journey and always mention it in all your ads, search results and all your email marketing efforts. Basically anywhere you can place a message in front of your audience, mention key your benefits and UVP. This way you can intrigue them to come to your website in the first place! Here is an excellent example of UVP in an ad:
UVP in ad

Don’t forget to test to find the best UVP variations!

Just like any content or elements on your website, you should always test to find the best converting variations and page locations for your UVP. Use an A/B testing tool to find the best elements of your UVP, the wording you use, the style of them, and their location on your key pages.

And if you don’t have enough traffic, you can test using ways I discuss in my low traffic A/B testing article.

Wrapping up – how good is your UVP?

Your UVP always has room for improvement – particularly how you promote it to your visitors! So go ahead and try using some of these 20 UVP tips, then sit back and watch your sales or leads increase!

Now over to you – what’s your website UVP? How are you going to improve it? Comment below. Thanks!