Conversion Archives - Stephan Spencer

VIDEO: Learn from Shoemoney, my daughter, Duane and Steve (oh, and me too!) how to monetize your blog

By | Blogging, Conversion, Ecommerce | One Comment

I’m in NYC for SMX East which starts tomorrow and I’m really looking forward it. But I’m also gearing up for Blog World Expo in a couple weeks. That’s because my daughter Chloe Spencer, the Neopets blogger, is going to be speaking there on a panel called “Are You Getting The Most Money Out Of Your Blog As You Can?” along with heavy hitters Dave Taylor, Tim Jones, and Chris Pirillo. The session is scheduled for Friday, October 16 at 11:30am.

Thinking about this panel reminded me of another panel that Chloe was a part of, also on the same topic, last year at DMA08. The session was called “Blog Monetization: From Soup to Nuts” and the heavy hitters that time were: Jeremy Schoemaker, Duane Forrester, Steve Spangler, and me. And thinking about that session reminded me that I had neglected to post the video of the session to this blog. Doh! So here it is…

The order of speakers was:

  1. me, founder of Netconcepts, co-author of The Art of SEO (coming out this month!)
  2. Chloe, teen blogger and AdSense entrepreneur, Huffington Post blogger/contributor
  3. Jeremy, a very successful Internet entrepreneur and Technorati top 100 blogger (Shoemoney.com is his blog)
  4. Duane, author of Making Money with Your Blog and the upcoming book Turn Clicks into Customers
  5. Steve, inventor, successful entrepreneur (founder of a science toy catalog company), science educator, keynote speaker, television personality, blogging CEO… Quite the Renaissance man!

The monetization approaches covered AdSense, affiliate, and much more. Lots of great tips, tricks, tactics, etc. If this video doesn’t help you make more money, I’ll give you a full refund! ;)

A blog can be an asset that benefits you personally. It can supplement your income, provide for your retirement, build up the kids’ college fund, or whatever. So I encourage you to study this video, because this could be your ticket — your ticket out of the rat race and into the world of passive income.

Here is my Powerpoint and Chloe’s.

Now go make some money! Or more specifically, go build yourself a passive income stream!

ACCM 2008: Improving Conversion from SEM Traffic

By | Conversion, Search Engines | No Comments

Another great search marketing session at ACCM 2008 was “Conversion is your secret weapon,” given by Wine Enthusiast’s VP of marketing Glenn Edelman and The Rimm-Kaufman Group’s Larry Becker. The first part of the session concentrated on in-depth ways of determining advertising ROI and effectiveness. The general advice that Web marketers get on this subject can be pretty lightweight, but these guys gave some really great advice:

  • Track at both the keyword and the ad level
  • Pay as close attention to your organic search results as you do to your PPC results
  • Choose your tracking technology carefully; if possible, use multiple redundant solutions

The second half of the session concentrated on both landing page design and general site design — the other half of the search marketing equation (it’s not all about keyword research and ad copy!) The presenters offered tips and tricks for fine-tuning your ads, landing pages, and your entire site as a whole. Every page needs to serve one of three purposes: It should offer information, an opportunity to buy, or an opportunity to click deeper into the site. In essence, every page is an offer page.

The presenters spent the last portion of the session talking in depth about usability as it applies to conversions and sales. They gave some examples of good and bad sites, concentrating specifically on the level of hassle of signup pages (and the degree to which visitors are satisfied after they’ve completed them).

Overall it was quite an informative session for search marketers. I’m sure everyone in the audience got at least one actionable tip from it.

Convert your Customers by Listening to Bryan Eisenberg

By | Content, Conversion, Ecommerce, Online Retail | 2 Comments

I had the pleasure of interviewing Bryan Eisenberg, who is the co-founder and CPO of Future Now, Inc. Bryan is also a high profile speaker, author, consultant, blogger, and the publisher of GrokDotCom. In additional to his role at Future Now, Bryan is also one of the founders and Chairman of the Web Analytics Association.

My interview with Bryan was about personas and “Persuasion Architecture,” a process that helps persuade customers to make a decision on your website when traditional marketing methods fail. As an inventor of Persuasion Architecture, Bryan shares a wealth of expertise into the world of crafting personas to get into your customers’ minds in order to give them the content they need in order for them to make their next click decision.

There are several nuggets that we can take from Bryan’s interview, that revolve around the idea of personalized search. I asked Bryan what the typical rate was for a typical online retailer. His answer? “The average online conversion rate for a typical retailer today is 2.4%.” That’s pretty depressing when you think about it. So how to you help your conversion rate through managing your content?

Persuasion Architecture is based on Bryan’s idea that, “everybody does things for their own reasons.” These reasons translate into four, distinct preferences, the how and why people do the things that they do. Once you understand the four basic personality types — emotional, logical, fast-paced, and disciplined — you can build perspectives or snapshots that give you insight into how your customers might want to purchase your products. Once you understand the “how,” then you can build the “who.” Who is buying your products from your site? That’s where profiles come into play, small pictures to what Bryan says will “give us a little better understanding of who that grouping or that mode of behavior is going to be — and then ultimately two personas.”

Listen to my interview with Bryan Eisenberg for more about how to boost your site’s conversion rate. This podcast is 40 minutes long, and is a 10 MB download. Enjoy!

“Monetizing Your Site” Powerpoint

By | Conversion, Search Engines | No Comments

Here’s the Powerpoint from my “Monetizing Your Website” session at the Search Engine Room conference last week in Sydney. It’s mainly about how to improve your monetization (as a publisher, not an advertiser) of the Google ads (and other contextual ads) that display from Google AdSense, but some is also relevant to YPN (Yahoo Publisher Network) and other contextual advertising platforms. Enjoy!

Download PPT (1 meg)

Make the most of your ‘Thank You’ pages

By | Conversion, Email | No Comments

The confirmation/thank you that you get when you first sign up for an email newsletter, a webinar, a special offer, or what have you, is a really important first impression. If you send a confirmation email, that email sets the tone for your email relationship and, if it is personality-free and dry and offers no value, not only is it a wasted opportunity it really starts things off on the wrong foot.

I have blogged before about how to write Thank You emails. Now MarketingSherpa has covered the related topic, of Thank You web pages…

According to MarketingSherpa: “When a prospect signs up for a webinar — or a white paper or newsletter for that matter — be sure to include more hotlinks or offers on the ‘Thank you’ page they see right after submitting their registration. Prospects are in the perfect mood right then to learn more about you, so they may click on links for white papers or other offers. Why not deepen the relationship right then?”

In fact, their research pointed to 39% of viewers accepting offers on ‘thank you’ pages.

It is amazing the proliferation of “thank you for (ordering/signing up/inquiring)” pages that contain … well, nothing else. No offer. No suggestions like “if you enjoyed reading this, you may enjoy reading this …white paper, article, news release.” As MarketingSherpa says “they are wasting valuable real estate.”

A fundraising/nonprofit consultant I know says that the ‘thank you’ is the beginning of the next ‘ask’. There’s a lesson here for us for-profit folks too: don’t let an opportunity go by where you could be cross-selling and up-selling.

Ecommerce Best Practices, Tip #13: Incorporating customer feedback

By | Conversion, Ecommerce, Online Retail, Search Engines | No Comments

I’ve already shared some of the benefits of incorporating discussion forums into your ecommerce site. Now let’s delve deeper into the concept of user-generated product review content.

Intuitively it makes sense that your customers would convert better if they could read credible product ratings and reviews from your other customers before buying. Indeed, studies back this up (stats excerpted from bazaarvoice.com):

RoperASW reports the value of word of mouth as the best source of information on products has exploded from 67% in 1977 to 93% in 2001.

BizRate found that 59% of their users considered customer reviews to be more valuable than expert reviews.

Marketing Experiments Journal tested product conversion with and without product ratings by customers. Conversion nearly doubled, going from .44% to 1.04% after the same product displayed its five-star rating.

The Shop.org State of Retailing Online study, conducted by Forrester Research, found only 26% of the 137 top retailers surveyed offered customer ratings and reviews, but 96% of them ranked customer ratings and reviews as an effective or very effective tactic at driving conversion.

So now the question becomes, what’s the best way to implement customer reviews? There are hosted third-party services like BazaarVoice and PowerReviews that offer a managed solution and host the content and technology for you. Or you can host and manage the ratings and review technology and content in-house. Both approaches have their merits. Certainly if you have limited IT resources, a hosted solution would appeal.

But you should be aware of the SEO impact of a hosted reviews solution. The review content gets inserted into your web pages using JavaScript, and as such, that content is invisible to the spiders. So if you expecting that content to augment your existing product page content with additional keyword-rich user-generated content, you’re going to be disappointed. You’d have to do some pretty clever workarounds, like scraping the product content and inserting the review text into your HTML, if you want to realize fully the SEO benefit of this product review content.

Publicly viewable customer feedback can take other forms besides the standard ratings and reviews. For instance, you could offer a wiki, like some other retail sites have done. Just imagine having buyer’s guides written and maintained by your visitors, like ShopWiki has. If you can pull it off, I think that would be pretty cool.

Another non-standard approach to incorporating user-generated content is to get customers to tag your products. I’ve already made a case for tagging as a SEO tactic for blogs. And I’ve discussed auto-tagging.

But what about social tagging (user tagging), where you get your visitors to do the work for you? Frankly, I’m dubious. My preference here is to accept tags only from employees and/or a small trusted group of customers. A thousand monkeys randomly pecking away at a thousand typewriters for a thousand years may eventually output Shakespeare. But in the meantime, it’d be a whole lot of useless noise. If you’ve got the time to weed out the useless noise from the tags contributed by your visitors, then social tagging could be a valuable addition to your ecommerce site.

Amazon.com rolled out social tagging. How’s it working for them? Well, according to one contact I have at Amazon.com, the benefits of these user-contributed tags to create a “folksonomy” (i.e. alternative categorization and navigation) has been limited. That’s because the tags added to products are often self-serving and relevant only to the person applying the tag (e.g. “birthday gift for betty”).

Finally, I want to circle back to the topic of discussion forums. If you have forums on your site, consider more tightly integrating them with your product catalog. For example, link directly from your product page to the relevant section/page of your forums. And highlight the most relevant posts to help influence the buying decision. One of my favorite ecommerce sites, Woot.com, does both of these things to good effect.

Multivariate testing platforms and SEO compatibility

By | Conversion, Search Engines | One Comment

A client recently asked me if there were any SEO concerns around websites managing their content via automated content “enhancement” or “testing” systems such as Touch Clarity, Optimost, Vertster or Offermatica.

I am not aware of any issues with search engines misconstruing this as spam. I had a short conversation with the CEO of Offermatica when he presented at Search Engine Strategies last year and he said that Google is okay with what they are doing. There are too many major AdWords customers using multivariate testing for Google not to be careful not to penalize sites for this.

Offermatica use JavaScript to overlay and in effect replace the existing content for browsers with JavaScript enabled, so the spiders (who don’t execute JavaScript) don’t execute the Offermatica scripts and the underlying default HTML is what is “viewed” by the spiders.

As one blogger describes it, Offermatica’s solution produces a “control” copy for the spiders and through JavaScript (mboxes) display different pages to end-users. The blogger raises the concern that It potentially violates Google (see 1st bullet in “Quality Guidelines – Basic principles” section: http://www.google.com/webmasters/guidelines.html) and Yahoo!’s (see 2nd bullet in “What Yahoo! Considers Unwanted” section: http://help.yahoo.com/help/us/ysearch/basics/basics-18.html) search quality guidelines.

Nonetheless, as I stated above, I think the engines are careful not to penalize sites running Offermatica, Optimost etc.

The problem I have with conversion optimization services like Offermatica and Optimost is less that they could be misconstrued as spam, but rather the fact that they don’t take the potential SEO impact into account. So, for example, a conversion optimization test of the home page might show a clear winner as far as the the best converting variation. However, when that variation is then implemented as the new permanent home page, the rankings and search traffic may tank. The likelihood for unforseen consequences is great because Offermatica and Optimost do not understand SEO deeply at all.

Scott Miller, CEO of multivariate testing vendor Vertster whom I met at SES explained to me that they use an AJAX/DHTML approach to modifying the page content, done in a way that they claim is imperceptible to the search spiders. They identify areas on the page with specific id attributes, and then modify the content shown to users. This would only cause problems if it was used for “gaming” the search engines, and you get caught. They do not allow this usage of the tool, and will delete any users who may use it for this.

Sounds like a similar approach to Offermatica.

Anyways, a few considerations to take into account when implementing a multivariate testing platform…

Ecommerce Best Practice Tip #12: Email customers who have abandoned their shopping cart

By | Conversion, Ecommerce, Email, Online Retail | No Comments

An effective way to recapture the potential customer who has abandoned their shopping cart is to send them a reminder email. Don’t do it right away. JupiterResearch recommends waiting at least 24 hours. I’d wait a few days. In the email show a photo of each item along with the product name, price, etc. just like you (hopefully) do on your View Cart page. Sweeten the deal, particularly if the person appears to be new-to-file, by offering a discount or incentive to complete their purchase. If you’re too predictable about it, customers may figure out what you’re doing and purposefully abandon their cart in anticipation of a discount. The last thing you want is this listed as a discount on coupon codes sites like dealnews.com. You may wish to send several more reminder emails spaced out over time after the initial one, continuing to up the ante with more irresistable offers with each successive email until you finally give up on them. PETCO’s reminder emails, sent 3 days after the cart is abandoned, included the abandoned product as the main feature along with cross-sells to three other high-margin items; these program-centric emails achieved a 852% increase in clickthrough rate and 171% increase in conversion rate over the company’s previous campaign-centric emails (as reported by MediaPost).

Of course it’s hard to send a reminder email if you don’t have the shopper’s email address. If the shopper is not a previous customer or is unidentified, have them identify himself/herself as early on in the ordering process as possible. In other words, have them provide their contact details / create an account / login (as an existing account holder) as one of the first steps of the checkout. Note that user accounts are an important feature for ease of repeat ordering and checking on order status. Through the use of cookies you should be able to also identify many of your returning shoppers without them logging in first.

This kinda goes without saying… If you’re going to provide a means for a shopper to be reminded of their cart contents, you’ll need to allow shoppers to add items to their “shopping cart” then leave that cart for extended periods of time and still have it remain intact. I’d keep their cart alive for 90 days or more. Sometimes shoppers will purposefully want to save their cart and return later to it. Consider having a “save my cart for later” option and/or “move items to wishlist” type feature to better cater to these people’s needs.

Received any shopping cart reminder emails recently? If so, were they any good? Is there a merchant you’d like to highlight who does this “recapturing” exceptionally well? Post a comment and let me know.

Ecommerce Best Practice Tip #9 – a slippery shopping experience

By | Conversion, Ecommerce, Online Retail | No Comments

Shopping cart abandonment is of primary concern to online retailers, and for good reason. If real-world stores were like their virtual equivalents, there’d be so many shopping carts littering the aisles the shoppers would have to literally climb over them!

The best kind of ecommerce site is one where the shopping experience is smooth and easy – slippery in fact. Whether you whip out your credit card or not is a foregone conclusion – you are swept away in the moment. The epitomy of this is Amazon’s “1-click ordering”. If I stumble upon a product I like on Amazon, I can own it within a single click of the mouse.

Here are some tips to make the shopping experience a slippery one, which will hopefully equate to less abandoned shopping carts in your virtual checkout aisle:

  1. Eliminate steps in the checkout process where it makes sense. Just remember that fewer is not always better; it depends on whether the checkout pages remain uncluttered and uncomplicated after consolidating steps.
  2. Let shoppers know where they are in the process with a progress indicator on each checkout page.
  3. Let shoppers see what they have selected already with thumbnail images inside the shopping cart.
  4. Allow shoppers to edit their selections easily. Revising color and size options of items in their cart should be painless.
  5. Show them you are real. Assure shoppers by providing your full contact details including physical address. I as a shopper don’t trust sites that are completely “virtual” — i.e. no physical address, no company info, no photos of staff — and I’m sure I’m not alone in that sentiment.
  6. Recommend other items based on what is already in the shopping cart (i.e. cross sell and upsell).
  7. If you are competing on price, offer a price guarantee.
  8. If, after all that, the customer abandons the shopping cart, find out why. Offer them an incentive to complete an exit survey. It will reveal a lot about the shopping experience you are providing your customers.

Ecommerce Best Practice Tip #5 – Streamline your site

By | Conversion, Ecommerce, Online Retail, Search Engines | 2 Comments

Is your ecommerce site a breeze to use? Is it fast to download? Does it render (paint) quickly on the screen? If not, is the HTML at least built to display the most important parts of the page first?

You can trim precious seconds off the download time by removing superfluous HTML code, optimizing your images, and converting any tables-based layouts to CSS-based (Cascading Style Sheets) instead. Especially ditch any nested tables. Superfluous code includes such things as programmer comments, commented-out copy/code, redundant font tags, inline JavaScripts and inline CSS. The latter two can, in most cases, be moved to a .JS file and .CSS file, respectively. MS FrontPage is notorious for adding ‘code bloat’ to your pages. Optimizing your images for fast download includes not just choosing the best compression format and compressing them to the largest extent possible (using Photoshop, Fireworks, or whatever your tool of choice is) without noticeable degradation in the image quality, but also defining height and width attributes on all your images. And if you’re still using 1-pixel GIFs as placeholders to align things on your pages, it’s time to leave that technique where it belongs… in the ’90s! A tool like Dr. Watson or NetMechanic’s HTML Toolbox can also help you in your HTML streamlining efforts.