It’s said that a picture is worth a thousand words, but too often, we use them as nothing more than a design element on our sales pages.

When used poorly, images work against us, but when used correctly, they can do things in our customers’ minds that our copywriting cannot.

In the next 10 minutes, we’re going to look at why images are so important and review 6 case studies that demonstrate how images can make or break our conversion rates.

We’ve also put together a downloadable, best-practice checklist for choosing the right images in 5 key scenarios:

    1. Product images
  1. Hero shot images
  2. Landing page images
  3. Social post images
  4. Content images

These guidelines are compiled from 20 different expert sources. Download the checklist here:

Image Best-Practices Sheet

Guidelines for choosing high-converting images in 5 key scenarios.

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Why Images Are Critical To Conversion

As we’ve talked about many times before, direct response copywriting is a key ingredient of breaking down your audience’ mental barriers. But it’s not the only tool in our toolbox.

Images are powerful. VERY powerful. Here’s why:

#1. Our brains process images faster than text

A study by MIT neuroscientists discovered the human brain can identify images seen for as little as 13 milliseconds. In comparison, it takes humans 100 milliseconds to blink.

This means that before you blink once, your brain has processed almost 8 images.

Our brains process images 60,000 times faster than text. What this means practically is that images are actually the first thing people ‘read’ on your landing page.

#2. The brain is predominantly a visual organ

According to the same MIT scientists, 90% of information transmitted to our brain is visual, with the remaining 10% divided between the rest of our senses. Our eyes are our primary way of consuming and understanding information.

By utilizing images correctly in your marketing and sales, you’re playing to the brain’s strength, so to speak. You’ll get your audience to grasp your message faster and in ways you can’t pull off via copy alone.

#3. Most people are visual learners

Research from Pearson Prentice Hall shows that 65% of people are primarily visual learners. They respond more to visual demonstration than auditory explanations or even hands-on, tactile learning.

In practice, this means that failing to visually demonstrate your offer will put you at a disadvantage with 65% of consumers.

Obviously, that’s not ideal. We want every advantage available to us when optimizing our websites and online funnels.

Now that we understand why images and visualization are so important, let’s look at how we can practically make images work for us on our websites.

#1. Using Images To Visualize Benefits Increased Revenue Per Visitor By 17%

One of the best ways to use images in marketing is to help customers visualize the benefits they’ll receive.

What does success look like for them when they choose your product or service? Is there a way to visualize that success with an image?

A great case study of this in action comes from Behave.org. While the original image helped visualized the product, the team wanted to test an image that more clearly visualized the product’s benefit to the consumer.

The decided to test an image of a model before and after adding the brand’s hair extension product.

AB Test in which a before and after approach was tested

AB Test in which a before and after approach was tested.

This change was intended to better display the changes (or benefits) the products brings to the wearer, and new image got results.

With a test size of 23,000 visitors, split 50/50 across the old and and new versions, the “before & after” approach increased page click-throughs by 7.93% and more importantly, increased revenue per visitor by 17.61%.

Interestingly, these results only held true for desktop traffic.

On mobile, where the new design was a bit cramped on smaller screens, the simpler original photo performed better, with the new image, decreasing click-throughs by 0.67%, and revenue by 27.69%.

The original image still displays the benefits of the product, and in our analysis, the mobile results suggest that for mobile users, simplicity is superior to other conversion factors.

In other words, take advantage of the added space on desktop and tablet, but prioritize simplicity on smartphones.

#2. A 28% Increase In Product Image Size Resulted In A 63% Conversion Lift

While size and quality aren’t as important as relevance, both qualifications matter when creating images.

Bigger images typically mean greater visibility, deeper emotional connections, and better-looking pages. When it comes to product images specifically, a larger, higher-quality image can provide a significantly superior shopping experience for customers wanting a clearer idea of the product before purchasing.

When Skinner Auctions tested a product image increase of 28%, they boosted page sales by 63%, despite the bigger image pushing the content below the fold as seen below.

Example of AB Test in which larger images increased conversion rate

Example of AB Test in which larger images increased conversion rate. Source

Of course, bigger isn’t unilaterally bigger. Overly large images can be distracting or harm load speeds. In order to stay on the right side of this equation, follow these recommendations from WordStream:

  • Resize the image yourself (as opposed to having the browser resize it)
  • Compress the image in Photoshop, an online compressing tool or even in Paint
  • Experiment with different image file types (PNG vs. JPG) to optimize quality without sacrificing load times.
  • Leverage page caching as much as possible.

#3. Adding A Smile Increased Sales By 10%

People are attracted to other smiling people. This law of reality is about as universal as it gets, and it’s been applied to marketing many, many times.

In one simple, five-week split test, Alwin Hoogerdijk of Collectorz.com saw a 1.3% increase in signups and a 9.9% boost in sales when he compared a serious and a smiling face on his landing page.

Version A

Example of a test in which the model is not smiling

Example of an image in which the model is not smiling. Source

Version B

Example of a test in which the model is smiling.

Example of an image in which the model is smiling. Source

Notice his big smile on the winning version?

Neuroscience marketing studies show that smiling makes one look warm, attractive, likeable, and approachable. The same report shows that a smile is a trust booster. People are more likely to trust you and be influenced by you when you’re smiling.

Plus, people are hard wired to follow other people’s gaze as this eye-tracking study shows. Take advantage of this fact and use eyes as visual cues to direct visitor’s eyes to specific areas of your page.

A good illustration of how to use a stare to guide visitors’ eyes comes from this Wordstream optin page.

Example of using eye direction to focus attention in an image

Example of using eye direction to focus attention in an image. Source

See how she’s focused on the form? This draws the visitors’ eyes to focus on the sign up form as well. You can also use a person’s body as a directional cue not just the eyes.

To boost conversions, give your images a human touch.

#4. Switching From Stock Photos To Real Shots Increased Lead Signups By 45%

Listen, you’ve read this before… undoubtedly. But if you look at your own marketing materials, there is probably a decent chance you are using a few stock photos.

Why?

Because taking quality photos of your team, equipment, business, etc. is somewhat challenging. There are a few hurdles to jump, whereas stock photos are easy, and you probably have a great eye for picking the good ones, right?

The problem is that you are thinking in terms of downside. “This stock photo isn’t THAT bad and surely won’t hurt my conversion rate.”

But when creating a landing page, we shouldn’t be thinking in terms of “not hurting” our conversion rate. We should be thinking in terms of enhancing our conversion rate.

As we discussed earlier, images are incredibly powerful, and your site’s images should be an ASSET to your page, not simply a neutral force. If you are aiming for neutral, you are missing out.

And there’s some good news here.

You don’t need high resolution, professionally produced photos to enhance your page’s conversion rate. Just taking real photos of relevant parts of your business can do wonders.

For example, Harrington Movers improved conversions by 45.45% when they replaced their stock photos with a shot of their crew. They also tested with a shot of their trucks, and saw similar results.

AB test example in which images of real people or a truck worked

AB test example in which images of real people or a truck worked. Source

Notice that these shots are the type you could take with your smartphone. They key is understanding why these images work. They aren’t design element to enhance your page. They are a way for potential customers to visualize key pieces of your business.

When you are hiring a trucking company, what are the only three points of contact with the business?

  1. The driver
  2. The truck
  3. Customer service in the event of a problem

By choosing images that visualize 2 out of 3 of these contact points, the company was able to help readers visualize the brand’s value.

And while we don’t have the data on this, they’ve since redesigned their site with more real shots of crew and equipment.

This website now uses real pictures, not stock photos.

This website now uses real pictures, not stock photos.

Images can and should be working FOR your business.

#5. Using The Right Colors Increased Opt-Ins By 132%

Color has a powerful psychological influence on the brain. A journal by Satyendra Singh revealed that people make snap judgements about about both products and people within 90 seconds of their initial interactions, and between 62-90% of that assessment is based on colors alone.

Coca cola knows how to use colors to impact buyers.

Coca Cola knows how to use color to impact buyers

Coca Cola knows how to use color to impact buyers. Source

The color red isn’t an accident here. It has a number of powerful psychological effects.

Color has a number of powerful psychological effets.

Color has a number of powerful psychological effets.

Alertness, romanticism, vitality… these are central feelings targeted in Coke’s marketing, as further articulate through their taglines, “Open happiness,” “Taste the feeling,” “The Coke side of life.”

The colors are used in conjunction with the copy to create feelings.

And while branding isn’t always directly measurable, we can see evidence of color’s profound impact in more measurable tests.

We sometimes like to make fun of the poorly run tests claiming massive improvements from small changes, but just two years ago, Leadpages saw a green CTA beat a yellow CTA and increase opt-ins by 132.41% when they did the following split test.

Example of form with yellow call to action

The original form with yellow call to action button. Source

Example of a form with a green call to action that improved conversion rate

This form with a green call to action button performed much better. Source

While colors are powerful, their use is not simplistic. The same color doesn’t have the same emotional effect on every human being every time. A study by Joe Hallock showed different genders favor different colors and even different age groups like different colors!

The central point here is that color matters, and being intentional about the colors you use can have a profound impact on your marketing.

#6. Aligning Images With Copy Boosted Revenue By 108%

Aligning persuasive copy with strategic images makes for the perfect marketing marriage.

Show the benefits. Speak to the pain. Sell the solution.

That’s the strategy SweatBlock took in revamping its homepage and the result was a 108% lift in revenue.

Example of an AB test in which image and copy are better aligned

Example of an AB test in which better aligned image and copy improved performance.

While the new version isn’t a massive conceptual departure from the original, it does a better job both in terms of the copy and the image, better aligning the two around the benefits of the product.

Best Practices For 5 Key Scenarios

Now that you understand why images are powerful and how to choose the right ones, it’s time to get one step more practical.

Different scenarios call for different types of images, so we’ve gone through 20 different expert sources to put together a best practice cheat sheet. We cover the following 5 key scenarios:

  1. Product images
  2. Hero shot images
  3. Landing page images
  4.  Social post images
  5. Content images

Download the cheat sheet below.

Image Best-Practices Sheet


Image Best-Practices Sheet

Guidelines for choosing high-converting images in 5 key scenarios.

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Yes, I’m very interested in purchasing your product, and I just clicked the button taking me to your pricing page.
What does that mean?
It means the $50 you invested in finding me and getting me to your landing page paid off. It means the $1,500 you invested in creating a high-converting landing page did its job.
Most importantly, it means I’m a very warm prospect evaluating your pricing plans and very likely considering an immediate purchase.
Aaaaaand I’m gone…
There are a lot of places you can lose someone in your funnel, but the pricing and checkout pages are where it hurts the most. The people who arrive here are the most primed to purchase, and while re-targeting campaigns can help mitigate the damage, ultimately, we want to maximize the rate at which these warm prospects become immediate customers.
In fact, after analyzing 89 successful SaaS startups, one angel investor cited time invested in optimizing the pricing page as the #1 indicator of conversion rate.
Yet unlike checkout pages, the pricing page rarely gets the focus it deserves.
Today, we are going to shine a big fat spotlight on the pricing page and teach you how to create a high-converting edition on the first try.
1. Offer a money-back guarantee or a free trial.
One of the biggest friction points that prevents prospective buyers from purchasing is trust. This type of doubt can be multifaceted and is often referred to as FUD (fears, uncertainties, and doubts). It can be expressed as questions like:

  • What if I don’t like it?
  • What if it’s difficult to learn?
  • What if it isn’t suitable for my purposes?
  • What if I pick the wrong pricing plan?
  • Can I trust this brand to deliver on their promises?
  • Can I trust that my transaction will be secure?
  • Can I trust that my investment won’t be a waste?

One of the easiest ways to alleviate these trust-based fears is to offer a money-back guarantee or a free trial. These types of offers make the customer feel like their risk is significantly reduced, and their actions follow suit.
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Marketer Neil Patel ran a number of different pricing page offers and found that adding a money-back guarantee increased sales by 21% and total revenue by 6.4%. Adding a free trial performed even better, doubling signups and resulting in 15% additional revenue.
Of course, it’s possible that a company could promise a refund and then fail to deliver, but this type of behavior is much more easily sniffed out via due diligence, and consumers generally tend to trust that if a company promises a refund, they will deliver.
brand is well known in your industry, you will have to break through some trust issues. Trust symbols give your visitors a visual signal that your site is safe and that your business is legitimate. A study done by Atcore, a Danish digital marketing agency, found that adding trust symbols to their ecommerce site improved conversions 32%.
Some examples of trust symbols are:

2. Display transaction security badges.

While money back guarantees and free trials make the customer feel less at risk from the company, that’s not the only point of concern.
The Nilson Report estimated that last year total credit card fraud worldwide topped $24.71 billion and Experian reported that e-commerce alone saw a 33% spike in credit card fraud. This upward trend has buyers extra cautious when it comes to doing business online and has forced sites to put in extra effort to alleviate security concerns.
As a result, displaying security badges can give potential customers confidence that the checkout process will be safe and secure. A study done by Atcore, a Danish digital marketing agency, found that adding trust symbols to their ecommerce site improved conversions 32%.
Not all security badges are create equal, however. A survey performed by the Baymard Institute found that Norton led the pack in customer recognition and feelings of safety when it comes to paying online.
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3. Display social proof.

In many ways, the same things that enhance your landing pages will enhance your pricing page as well. Just like social proof can help motivate that first click, it can also motivate each subsequent click throughout your conversion funnel.
This continues on that thread of building trust. 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. When you include things like testimonials, reviews, and other forms of social proof, it’s like having a friend sitting next to your prospect and saying stuff like, “Oh yeah, this is what you’re looking for,” and “This is totally going to solve that problem you’ve been having,” at every step of the conversion journey.
Leadpages’s pricing page offers a solid look at this principle in action. Their page displays real customer reviews that highlight different pain points their potential customers might be experiencing such as pricing concerns, product effectiveness, and conversion rates.
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GetResponse’s pricing page does a great job of weaving in several different forms of social proof, including influencer testimonials, brands of well-known customers, and the total number of users.

Conversion Sciences has already covered social proof thoroughly in their landing page best practices, so I won’t belabor the point, but suffice it to say that what improves conversions on your landing pages will often improve conversions on your pricing page as well, and for much the same reasons.

4. Re-order your pricing plans.

Experiment with ordering your pricing plans from most expensive to least expensive. This one is pretty simple, and there’s not much to say except that there is data to suggest this is worth a split test.
A study performed by ConversionXL found that when you place the more expensive options on the left, participants tended to spend more time analyzing the features and benefits of the leftmost plan and less time doing so on the rightmost plan. The results showed a 6% increase in conversions when the most expensive plan was leftmost and a 10% increase when the second most expensive option was placed first.
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5. Highlight a “recommended” option.

Suggesting a price point that satisfies the bulk of your visitors can boost conversions by helping reduce the paradox of choice.
A study performed on pricing preference versus layout designs for the site Surveygizmo concluded that site visitors focus more quickly and longer on a highlighted plan. The research also found that in a scenario where the most expensive plan was ordered first, and the recommended plan was highlighted in the second position that the recommended plan (shown below as the Pro plan) was chosen more often than in any other scenario.
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To make the most out of this strategy, make sure that your recommended plan offers a superior value-to-cost ratio over lesser plans. It should entice people who would prefer to pay for the lesser plan to purchase it because it is such an obviously better value.

6. Utilize charm pricing.

“Charm pricing” is pricing that ends in digits that are non-zero such as 9, 7, or 5.
Gumroad analyzed ever produce and price point being sold on their massive creator marketplace and discovered that charm pricing resulted in considerably higher conversion rates for the exact same product.
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From a psychological point of view, Gumroad’s team theorizes that since we read left to right, we tend to process the first number in a price and tend to block out the rest of the price. They also mention studies that correlate charm pricing with consumers believing they are receiving a discount.
Simply put, charm pricing is a fairly universal practice for a reason, and if you’d decided to buck the trend and just be “straightforward”, you might want to reconsider.

7. Write strategic pricing plan names.

How much time did you spend thinking about the names for your pricing plans?
The main goal of a pricing plan name is to help communicate who its intended for and make the customer who selects it feel like they are making the right choice. You want customers to instantly know which plan is designed for them.
There are upsides and downsides to choosing standard names versus more original and fun names, but one way to have the best of both worlds is to use more standard, descriptive names while incorporating fun illustrations that highlight your business’ personality. Mailchimp shows us a decent example of this in action below.
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8. Write less and use more white space.

In everything you do online, simplicity and clarity should be your core values. Visually complex websites don’t perform well in most cases. In order to help users process the info on our page, we want LESS clutter. Less text. Less options. Less distracting design features. The only thing we want more of is white space.
The following should be our target in most cases:

  • Minimal text that is benefit driven
  • Bullet points to focus attention and allow for scanning
  • An above-the-fold design highlighting important points and CTA’s
  • A layout that makes it easy to compare options

Grasshopper offers a great example of our target design aesthetic. It’s simple, clean, clear, and allows readers to quickly process the presented information without feeling confused or overwhelmed.
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Another great example comes from Typeform. Rather than coming off sales-y, their pricing page comes off as helpful with useful one-liners describing their plans such as “Get to know Typeform,” “More power & personalization,” and “Advanced features for brands.”  Each plan builds upon the last, the layout makes it easy to compare, and the entire presentation is simple and visually appealing.
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9. Offer fewer options to reduce analysis paralysis.

There was a fairly famous study done on the detrimental effect more choices can have. The study was conducted by a pair of Columbia and Stanford University professors on the subject of jam. This research duo concluded that people purchased more jam when fewer options were made available to them. In fact, conversions shot up 10x when choices of jam offered to shoppers were reduced from 26 varieties to only 6.
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The same dynamic has been seen in a number of pricing page studies, and it’s one of the reasons you rarely see more than 4 options being presented on a pricing page. Some companies have even taken this element to the extreme with great success. MeetEdgar, for example, has offered only one plan on their journey to $4 million ARR.

The sweet spot for most business seems to be 3 pricing options, but like everything, you’ll need to test in order to know what works best for your unique business.

10. For international audiences, provide automatic currency conversion.

The internet has expanded the once limited reach of local business owners to encompass the entire global market. As such, you are likely missing out on some key conversions if you aren’t offering some sort of exchange rate calculator or alternative pricing page design for other countries.
Take this survey performed by Y Combinator into consideration. They asked, “Would you buy a service that bills only in € (euros)?
72 people said “€ is OK”
65 people said “€ is OK but I would really prefer $ if possible”
19 people said “€ is not OK at all”
6 people said “I would not buy in $, but only in €”
Out of 159 possible votes, 84 (roughly 53%) would rather pay in dollars instead of Euros. If your audience deals in more than one currency, adding those options to your pricing page can enhance your conversion rate.
A great example of this in action comes from Australian company Quad Lock which lets users select from 6 different countries/unions and will change the site’s currency to match.
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Summary: The Perfect Pricing Page?

If you have a pricing page, it’s a core piece of your conversion funnel.
Today, we’ve highlight some ways to immediately optimize this page, but at the end of the day, there no such thing as a perfect pricing page. Some of these tips may work for your business and some may not. The most important thing to remember is to test early and test often.
We would love to get your feedback as well, what changes have you made to boost conversions on your pricing page? Tell us in the comments below.


21 Quick and Easy CRO Copywriting Hacks to Skyrocket Conversions

FREE: Click to Download

21 Quick and Easy CRO Copywriting Hacks

Keep these proven copywriting hacks in mind to make your copy convert.

  • 43 Pages with Examples
  • Assumptive Phrasing
  • "We" vs. "You"
  • Pattern Interrupts
  • The power of Three

Discover the 7 components of an optimized byline with 7 high-converting author bio examples to show you exactly what to aim for.

Creating quality content is challenging.

You have to find a unique angle on an often well-covered topic. You have to research data to back it up. You have to create a compelling headline. You have to create curiosity in the opening, polish your grammar, get the tone right, yada yada … all this while fitting the piece into your brand’s or client’s overall content marketing strategy.

With all that work, it’s important that you are getting maximum value out of your content, whether it’s published on your website or a 3rd party publication.

One incredibly easy yet often overlooked way to increase the value of your content is to optimize your author bio.

There is actually quite a bit of value you can derive from your bio, and yet most marketers and writers simply throw something together and never think about it again. Such a waste!

Today, I’m going to highlight the 7 components of an optimized bio, with 7 high-converting examples to show you exactly what to aim for.

Before we begin, let’s cover the basics.

How To Write An Author Bio: What is a Byline?

A byline is a short paragraph that tells readers a little bit about the author and how to contact the author or read additional content by the author.

In most online content, the author bio can be seen at the end of the article.

Aaron Orendorff is the founder of inconic content and a regular contributor of Mashable, Lifehacker, Entrepreneur, Business Insider and more. Connect with him about marketing, behavioral economics, and business on Twitter or Lilnkedin.

Author bio of Aaron Orendorff from Fast Company. Aaron Orendorff’s

As a general rule, you want to keep your bio to 2-3 sentences or 40-60 words. This gives you enough room to include the 7 components we’ll talk about today without creating a wall of text that scares off readers.

An author bio is sometimes confused with an author byline which is technically not the same thing.

An author byline is a line at the top of an article that names the author, usually lists the date, and occasionally includes additional information

Byline says, "By Aaron Orendorff, a 5 Minute Read"

Author byline by Aaron Orendorff from Fast Company article. Fast Company article

Author bios and bylines have become much less distinct in the internet age, and on many websites, the two will be merged in some form or other. But in most cases, you will have the ability to create a distinct 2-3 sentence bio for yourself that shows up at the end of any article you write.

So let’s talk optimization. The following 7 components will help turn your author bios into legitimate lead generators for your business.

STEP #1: Say who you are and what you do.

People who consume your content have got three big questions:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you do?
  • Why should I care?

Your bio should answer all three.

Nail them and they’ll be keen to find out more about you — and gladly follow you into the kingdom of your products and services. Most bios don’t address these essential queries. Some do but in a dry matter-of-fact-Wikipedia way. Think of your bio as an elevator pitch in two or three sentences.

Henneke Duistermaat gets hers right.

Henneke Duistermaat is an irreverent copywriter and business writing coach. She's on a mission to stamp out gobbledygook and make boring business blogs sparkle. Get her free 16-part Snackable Writing Course for busy People and learn how to enchant your readers and win more business.

Author bio of Henneke Duistermaat from Copyblogger. Source

She sums up who she is, what she does and who she does it for using an engaging style. Crucially, she tells readers the benefits of doing business with her. Because there’s something in it for them, her readers would want to check her out.

STEP #2: Establish your authority in the space.

Authority is the tipping point of winning a hesitant prospect over or boosting your trust with clients.

Becoming a trusted voice in your space draws more prospects and causes your clients to stay with you longer. That’s why influencer marketing is the rage right now. Use your byline to underline your authority. Prove you’re worthy of a prospect’s business.

Here’s a great example from Ann Handley.

Ann Handley is the author of the Wall Street Journal bestseller Everybody writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content. She is the Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs; a columnist for Entrepreneur magazine; a Linkedin Influencer, a Keynote speaker, mom, and writer.

Author bio of Ann Handley from the Get Response Blog. Source

Pixel after pixel, Ann proves her authority… Wall Street best seller, CCO, Entrepreneur columnist, keynote speaker. You may not have her star credentials but there’s always something to share.

Your vast experience maybe? An industry award? Or a mention by a notable publication?

Whatever it is, slip it in. Impress clients before you say a word. However, don’t shamelessly brag about everything you’ve ever done as Sammy Blindell points out in this post:

“Brand, don’t brag. It’s easy to compose a list of all your accomplishments — and it’s also a mistake. Use only those achievements that your ideal customers will see as beneficial to them, because this is about THEM. If you recently completed some extensive training in recognizing dog aggression, your financial planning audience isn’t going to care. In fact, they’ll probably turn away from your brand. However, if you were a keynote speaker and advisor for the annual International Financial Advisory Convention, that matters.”

Amen to that Sammy.

STEP #3: Include an image with some personality.

I’m amazed how many content marketers miss the importance of a photo on social media profiles. It’s SOCIAL media for goodness sake — how can you socialize behind a silhouette? That’s like showing up at a party in a hood.

LinkedIn statistics show having a profile photo can get you:

  • 21x more profile views
  • 9x more connection requests
  • 36x more messages

The same applies to your content marketing, and yet many marketers use a photo that either looks like a mugshot or a shot where the cameraman said, “Say ‘professionalism'”. Ugh!

Want to boost your brand’s perceived competence, likeability and influence? Use a professional shot with some personality!

A great example comes from John Nemo.

John Nemo is the author of the Amazon bestseller Linkedin Riches to Leverage the World's Largest Professional Network to Enhance Your Brand and Increase Revenue. As a Linkedin trainer and consultant, Nemo has helped hundreds of small-business owners, coaches, consultants, trainers, sales professionals, and business development exectives utilize Linkedin to generate more sales leads, clients, and revenue. He is a former Associated Press reporter, a professional speaker, and the author of seven books.

Author bio of John Nemo from Linkedin Riches. Source

John’s shot exudes confidence, warmth and authority. Prospects are more likely to connect with him. And, oh, please smile. It makes you more likeable. To improve the quality of your photo use editing tools like Pixlr and Fotor.

And then put your best face forward so people fall in love with you and your brand.

STEP #4: Inject your personality into the bio copy as well.

When you really think about it, you and your competitors sell similar products.

The differentiator? Your unique personality. Personality, an aspect of authenticity, leads to higher ROI and appeal. Sadly, when people write business copy, they insist on sounding business like — whatever that means.

As a result, ho-hum bios abound.

People do business with people. So you better sound like a human. You’ll bond better with your audience and win more business. Jorden Roper reveals a glimpse of her personality very well.

Jorden Roper is a fuschia-haired freelance writer for hire and founder of the Writing Revolt blog, where she writes no-BS advice for freelance writers and bloggers. When she's not working you can find her traveling playing music in her band, or hanging out with her Chihuahuas.

Author bio of Jorden Roper from Clearvoice. Source

Jorden isn’t just a freelancer. She’s a fuschia-haired one that frolics with Chihuahuas. I have an inkling that, like her Chihuahuas, she’s:

Bold. Lively. Devoted.

In one fell swoop she humanizes and brands herself by talking about her pets. Let your hair down. Flee from high sounding nothing aka corporate speak squeak.

Be yourself. Be human. Be relatable.

Then more people will desire to learn more about you and your products.

STEP #5: Include a lead magnet in your byline.

Your conversion goal for your piece should extend to your byline. For better conversions, your offer should be related to the subject of your piece or at least relevant to the topic.

Discussed pitching? Offer readers a pitch template.

Enumerated on the benefits of content creation and management software? Offer readers a demo.

Talked about the health benefits of sex? Offer them hands-on private coaching sessions at the nearest hotel. Nah, bad idea. But I’m sure you get the hang of it.

Your bio is a great opportunity to attract direct leads from your reader base.

Here’s a great example from Beth Heyden.

Beth Hayden is a copywriter and content writer who specializes in ghostblogging, email marketing campaigns, and sales pages. Download Beth's free report, The Ultimate Guide to Creating a Warm Welcome Messsage to get step-by-step process she uses to create magical welcome messages for her clients.

Author bio of Beth Hayden on the Be a Better Blogger Blog. Source

 

What the byline doesn’t show is how the offer is an extension of her piece. Here’s a snippet of one of her main points.

Excerpt from Be a Better Blogger post by Beth Hayden

Excerpt from Be a Better Blogger post by Beth Hayden. Source

Her offer? A free report entitled ‘The Ultimate Guide to Creating a Warm Welcome Message.’ You’d almost feel dumb not to sign up for it since the report completes the piece. This way, her conversions are likely to soar.

Note the singularity of her offer. Countless content strategists overload their bylines with links which overwhelms readers and tanks conversions. Plus, by making one uncontested offer, eyeballs are instantly drawn to it.

STEP #6: Follow up your bio link with a landing page.

Capitalize on the heavy lifting done by your content by linking to a landing page not your homepage.

People who read all the way down your content are potential red-hot prospects or brand loyalists in the making.

Don’t let their enthusiasm go poof — into cyberspace oblivion, without harnessing it. Reward them with something special, on a special page tailor-made for them.

Give them something cool and useful like:

  • A super-relevant lead magnet
  • A discount on your latest product
  • A free beta version of your product
  • A slot to win a prize in your competition

See how Jacob McMillen does it below. This byline on a guest post:

Jacob McMillan author bio on the CrazyEgg blog.

Jacob McMillan author bio on the CrazyEgg blog. Source

Takes you straight to this landing page:

Landing page from Jacob McMillan author bio

Landing page from Jacob McMillan’s author bio. Source

Notice how his CTA, the last words on his bio, are the first words on the landing page? This way the byline is perfectly coupled to the landing page thus increasing conversions. When a reader clicks his bio and lands on the landing page, she smoothly continues her conversion journey.

Harmony wins the day.

Step #7: Be very specific in everything you say.

Your bio offers you a chance to position your brand favourably.

Be clear about what exactly you do. You’ll generate more interest, attract higher quality leads and close more sales.

Next time I see a byline that reads ‘Andy Awesome is a marketer who resides at…’ I’ll organize an online march against dud bios. Dude, you ain’t saying nothing. They’re 271 bajillion marketers out there. Add a descriptive to specify what you do.

Only then will you stand a fighting chance of being heard above the me-too roar.

Lianna Patch stars in this regard.

Need help with email and landing pages? Then Lianna’s your girl. Her copy makes that crystal clear.

Brand yourself precisely. You’ll see an uptick in the number of prospects who approach you.

Finally, use your bio to boost your rankings for your target pages as Jacob McMillen explains:

“Bylines are a great place to link to a primary service page you are hoping to rank in search. It can be really challenging to rank service pages over blog posts, but including a back link to my main service page in every byline is one of the biggest reasons it’s ranking front page for 40+ key phrases.”

Conclusion: Get Every Ounce of Juice From Your Author Byline

Here’s the heart of the matter:

Your bio is an intricate part of your marketing and branding.

It’s a tiny hinge that swings huge marketing doors — a gateway to your world. So value it and craft it with care. Stretch all your investment in PPC and FB ads, SEO, outsourced content, site design and more to its fullest potential.

Make every click count.

If you’ve listened to any of the top conversion experts lately, you’ve likely noticed them distancing themselves from the word “conversion”.

While the goal of “conversion optimizers” is ultimately to increase revenue, the term is often misinterpreted in a market where acquisition receives an unhealthy level of focus.

Today, we want to spend a little time talking about something that is as important to optimization as the rate at which you acquire new customers.

Customer retention.

You probably already know the statistics. Acquiring a new customer is 5 to 25 times more costly than retaining an existing one. A joint study by YotPo and Riskified shows that while returning customers make up only 15% of all the shopping online, they account for a third of all online shopping revenue and spend 3x more than one-time shoppers.

image1 2

And yet the focus on acquisition remains strong.

We get it. We spend the majority of our time talking about acquisition here at Conversion Sciences, but it’s important to remember that converting 50% of our visitors isn’t worth a whole lot if we can’t retain any of them.

You can’t have growth without retention, so today, we’re going to be discussing 4 straightforward ways to improve your own customer retention.

#1. Focus on value over loyalty.

First things first.

There’s a lot of talk in the retention space about creating “loyal” customers. Everyone wants loyalty, and many businesses mistakenly believe that if customers are members of a loyalty program, they are in fact “retained”. But as Taddy Hall notes, many people participate in loyalty programs simply for the chance of occasional savings and are part of the competitors’ loyalty programs as well. In other words, they are presumably “retained” by “four or five competitors in the same industry”.

Data from COLLOQUY, a provider of loyalty marketing research, shows that although the average American family holds membership in 29 loyalty programs, they are only active in 12 of them. In other words, only one third of the loyalty programs actually translate to customer retention.

If this sounds an alarm in your minds… good. It should!

Creating a membership program and slapping the word “loyalty”on it is in no way an automatic means to increasing loyalty. Frankly, loyalty isn’t even what we should be aiming for.

Ultimately, value is what creates loyalty, and by extension, value is what we should focus our efforts on creating. When you offer more value than your competitors, loyalty is a natural byproduct.

That’s an insanely cliche word – “value” – so let’s wrap some meat around it. As Katrina Lerman writes for AdAge “we are loyal to the companies and retailers who show us they understand us through the products they offer and the customer experiences they create.”

Let’s say I have an app called Imgur that I use to scroll through interesting images and visual resources and occasionally favorite them. Now let’s say that myself and about 50,000 of my online friends have been clamoring for Imgur to add a particular feature we want – let’s say the ability to add folders to our collection of favorites so we can sort them by category for easy reference.

Imgur could do one of two things:

  1. Add value to their app by creating a feature a large segment of the community has been persistently asking for over the last few years
  2. Or redesign the interface for the 3rd time this year.

One adds real, tangible value. One doesn’t.

I put this #1 for a reason. When you approach customer retention through the lens of loyalty, you end up in weird places. But if you approach it through the lens of adding more value, you are targeting a goal that consistently results in increased retention.

(sarah plz)

#2. Show up… with humans.

We are living in the age of automation, and that means that more than ever, there is a premium on human interaction.

At the 2015 World Domination Summit, Derek Sivers shared a few humanizing tactics that he and his team used to grow CD Baby into a multi-million dollar music distributor.

The first one, believe it or not is that we answered the phone. ((That’s right, applaud me for answering the phone! Yes, yes, it is a genius revolution I started! Have you tried my famous peanut butter and jelly?))

You would think that this would be obvious right? But I think there are so many people, that in their heads they’re already this billion dollar business and, “Hey man, answering the phone doesn’t scale, so we’re trying to make it so that nobody can contact us. You just use our online forms.”

But because of this, it blew my mind that when I would go to music conferences I would overhear one musician telling another, especially in the early days when not a lot of people had heard of CD Baby yet, this guy would say, “Oh you’re not on CD Baby yet. Dude, CD Baby is awesome. You know what? They answer the phone. You can call them and they answer and you can talk to a real person!”

They’re like, “No way!”

“Yeah way! Amazon won’t do that.”

And they weren’t talking about my cool graphic design, or my fancy CSS Stylesheets on my website. No. None of the other stuff mattered.

We answered the phone. And that was enough to get his friend to sign up.

The other one, was a geeky little thing I just did for fun one day. It only took two lines of computer code to intercept outgoing emails and put the person’s first name into the from header, not just the to header. So, if an email was going to Sarah, for example, it would say the email was from CD Baby loves Sarah. It was just the tiniest little geeky thing I did once, just to make myself laugh.

But people replied back, “Did you just really? You guys are crazy!”

And then they would forward it to friends, and friends would tell friends, and friends would come and buy CDs from us. Just because of this stupid little thing.

A fun one was I had a policy that “changes need pizza.” The reason for this is because every time a new album came into the store, it would take about 45 minutes of work to lay it on the scanner, scan the album art, photoshop it, drop the CD into the bin, rip it fully and then take the little clips, and do all the stuff, and fix their bio.

And every now and then, somebody would contact us two weeks later and say, “Uhhhh, can I change my choice? I want to send you a different album art cover, or I want to change the way my tracks are done.”

And I would say, “Alright no problem, just send us a pizza.”

And they would say, “What?”

I’d say, “Yeah. Look we’re happy to do it, but it’s kind of a pain in the ass. We’re going to have to go out to the warehouse and find your CD. If you don’t mind, just send us a pizza and we’re happy to do it.”

And they’d say, “You’re serious.”

“Yeah, serious. Here’s the phone number of the local pizzeria, they know us, just tell them you want to buy CD Baby a pizza. They already know our favourite pizza, so you just call them up with your credit card, say I want to get CD Baby a pizza. The pizza shows up, we’ll do anything you want.”

The real point was, this is humanizing. I think too many of us start businesses and you want it to look big, and you start to say things on your website, like “we” instead of “I”. Even though it is just you. We try to do these things to make it look corporate. But when you do these things to humanize it and remind people that it’s just a real person back here — we’re just real people with a lot of work, so get us a pizza, we’ll do it — People loved that. I mean seriously, I would overhear this at conferences.

“Oh my god dude, you have to sign up to CD Baby.”

“Why?”

“Dude, they changed my album because I sent them a pizza.”

“No way.”

“Yeah, way. You gotta sign up.”

On one occasion, a customer asked for a plastic squid. When the customer saw a real plastic squid in the package of his order, he went nuts and posted this video on Youtube.

Showing up for your customers is one of the most powerful ways to build retention.

#3. Take customer service seriously.

Speaking of showing up, customer service is the hallmark of customer retention. This can never be emphasized enough. According to Customers that Stick, 82% of consumers in the US said that they stopped doing business with a company due to poor customer experience.

image2 3

Many businesses tend to focus on attitude and personality when training for customer service. They think friendliness is the defining factor when it comes to a great customer service experience.

On some level this is true, as can be seen from the above statistics, but there’s another piece you can’t forget. Competence and problem solving skills are often more instrumental to the customer leaving satisfied than simple demeanor.

As Fast Company co-founder Bill Taylor explains, you should focus on hiring people with good attitudes and then focus your training on equipping them to deliver a high level of service to customers.

Now that’s an effective prescription for innovation! Over the years, as I’ve studied high-impact organizations that are changing the game in their fields, they’ve adopted a range of strategies and business models. But they all agree on one core “people” proposition: They hire for attitude and train for skill. They believe that one of the biggest challenges they face is to fill their ranks with executives and front-line employees whose personal values are in sync with the values that make the organization tick. As a result, they believe that character counts for more than credentials.

A lot of businesses hire cheerful staff and then just throw them into the ring with only skeleton training. If you want top level customer service, you don’t just need top quality people. You need top quality people who have received top quality training.

#4. Go deeper than explicit complaints and requests.

Providing quality customer service is the baseline rather than the goal. According to “Understanding Customers” by Ruby Newell-Legner (accessed from Helpscout), a typical business hears only from 4% of its dissatisfied customers. If you want to fully understand what your customers want, you’ll need to dive deeper than provided feedback.

As Carmine Gallo discusses, brands that can anticipate a customer’s needs and meet them without needing to be asked are often the ones that garner customer loyalty. To illustrate, he shares a personal anecdote from a family vacation:

I recently brought my family to a 5-Star San Diego resort, The Grand Del Mar, named the #1 hotel in the United States by Trip Advisor. It sits on a beautiful property in the hills, but there are plenty of gorgeous locations in San Diego. It’s the “attentive” service that Trip Advisor featured in its review and has earned my loyalty. But exactly what does the staff do that sets them apart and, more important, what can all businesses learn from their customer service techniques? The Grand Del Mar’s customer service ‘secret’ became very clear to me on this recent visit—the staff finds small ways to unexpectedly delight their customers and they do so by anticipating unexpressed wishes. Here are just a few of many examples I noted:

– My daughters discovered a small sand area near the pool. Within seconds—not minutes—a staff member casually walked by and, without saying a word, dropped off sand toys for the kids. The kids looked up and there they were, seemingly out of nowhere.

– The valet brought up our car and asked where we were heading. “Legoland,” the kids shouted! By the time I had finished loading the trunk, the valet had placed four water bottles in the car. “It’s hot today. You’ll need these,” he said.

– Vanessa and I decided to treat ourselves to a special occasion dinner in the hotel’s premium restaurant. The hotel offered an inviting play area for children, called The Explorers Club. The dinner was running a bit longer than the kids club would remain open and the restaurant’s location was a 5-minute walk back to the main hotel. “I noticed that you had courtesy cars at the lobby. Can we request one to pick us up as soon as we’re finished?” I asked the waiter. “It’s already been done. The car is waiting,” he responded. “And we informed the club that you’re on your way.

At the end of our stay, the hotel desk employee asked if we had our boarding passes and if we needed directions. I asked the person why everyone seems to anticipate the needs of a guest. “It makes us stand out,” he said. The employee was exactly right. The reason why this level of service leaves a positive impression—and why you, as a leader, must coach to it—is because it happens so infrequently that customers will pay a premium for it. I’ve studied the best brands in the area of customer service and all of them train employees to anticipate unexpressed wishes. It’s a key component to an exceptional customer experience.

This is easier said than done, and ultimately comes down to understanding your customers, the demographics you are targeting, and the individual customer personas. If you are newer and still learning about your customers, deriving insights through competitive analysis is a good strategy.

Conclusion

Remember that retention isn’t a step. It’s a lens. If you aren’t building your acquisition and optimization strategies through the lens of costumer retention, any retention efforts you make will be superficial at best.

Provide value. Show up with some humanity. Take customer service seriously. And go deeper than initial feedback.


21 Quick and Easy CRO Copywriting Hacks to Skyrocket Conversions

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21 Quick and Easy CRO Copywriting Hacks

Keep these proven copywriting hacks in mind to make your copy convert.

  • 43 Pages with Examples
  • Assumptive Phrasing
  • "We" vs. "You"
  • Pattern Interrupts
  • The power of Three

Your visitors are ignoring you because you are not talking to them.

Do you know who you are selling to?

Do you really know?

Lately, there has been a pretty intense debate over the importance of users personas, with many in the CRO community saying they misleading or even unimportant.

In my experience, however, user personas can be incredibly powerful, but only when they are used the correct way.

What Are User Personas?

A user persona is essentially a way to summarize and communicate everything you know about a specific customer segment in a way that allows you to make good design and copy decisions. Personas are built from market research, directly observed data, and behavioral data. A persona will typically be depicted as a fictional individual who is described like a real person in an attempt to communicate the essence of the segment they represent.

Segments, on the other hand, are more frequently defined by their demographics: their age, income, gender, and geographic location. This is of little value when you want to create messages and experiences that persuade and convert.

When we can turn an intangible customer segment into something tangible, like a person, our team will target our marketing and optimization efforts together to hit the mark. The writers are writing for the same person. The designers are designing for the same person. Fewer choices are made based on their personal preferences.

User personas are often presented as a one-page document, but it’s important to understand that like the fictional person embodying the persona, the document itself really doesn’t matter. What matters is our understanding of the segment.

Penny Planner is an example of a persona

User personas help the entire team work toward a similar goal.

So why are user personas popular in the first place? What are the benefits?

  1. Help us identify and understand their problem
  2. Help us identify and understand their behavior
  3. Help us use the right messaging
  4. Help us increase LTV

User personas are primarily about understanding of them during a visit to your website or mobile app.

We aren’t trying to understand them as a person. We want to understand them in the context of their visit to our site.

If we have a better picture of the challenges our prospects are dealing with and the pain their experiencing, we can better inform, educate, and direct their attention to your brand’s solutions.

User personas are also about identifying and

understanding behavior. As you collect data on your target audience and begin segmenting it into groups, you begin to develop a better understanding of how and where each segment spends its time online. This understanding allows for better targeting of marketing efforts like ads or content, and allows you to run significantly more efficient and effective marketing campaigns.

Speaking to a segment we aren’t a part of is challenging… if not impossible. We see missteps in the media every week, where “out of touch” agencies create ads that serve to actually alienate the audience they’re trying to reach. By identifying the key segments we are targeting, user personas help us speak the language that will resonate with those segments, or sometimes, hire copywriters from those segments who can create the right messaging when we can’t.

One of the final ways that personas can benefit us is in setting up our expectations of and strategies for customer lifetime value (LTV). Defining user personas helps us better understand how to increase LTV for certain segments, but it also helps us identify which segments will tend to naturally have a higher LTV.

That all seems pretty great, so where do businesses go wrong with user personas?

The Brad Pitt Shuffle: How User Personas Save Us

When we design for everyone, we design for nobody. As we craft our copy and our design strategies, we start off lazer focused with targeted, effective messages. Then, our message becomes less specific, less targeted, less about anyone in particular.

Here’s how it happens.

When a business starts thinking user personas, they have an ideal customer in mind. I like to call this persona their Brad Pitt.

We imagine our visitors as perfect, like Brad Pitt.

We imagine our visitors as perfect, like Brad Pitt.

Brad is attractive. He’s young. He’s got lots of money. He’s going to come to our website and buy! We love this guy! So we begin targeting Brad with our messaging.

“Because handsome is a choice.”

We hope our messaging will speak to our ideal customer segment.

“I can choose handsome by buying your clothes!”

But then something happens. The writers ask, “Are we ignoring females?” Based on the persona, the answer is, “Yes.” But the sales manager begins to think about women giving gifts.

Brad Pitt in a dress. We water down our buyer perosnas as we find more segments.

Strong positions get watered down when we don’t follow our personas.

Then the designer says, “All of our images are of warm places. Won’t some of our customers live in colder places?” The guidance of our persona says our producst won’t appeal to cold weather. But the Marketing Manager thinks, “People could be going to warmer places. Go ahead and design both for those living in the cold and those living in warm places.”

Our imagery gets diluted.

What if we want to speak specifically to a segment in a warmer climate?

Brad Pitt in a crazy setting. The picture we keep in our heads of our buyers becomes muddled.

The picture we keep in our heads of our buyers becomes muddled.

Basically, the target persona keeps expanding, and businesses keep attempting to try and speak to everyone at once, resulting in the mess you see above.

This is the big mistake.

Businesses are still trying to find Brad instead of realizing that there is no single Brad. There are multiple Brads.

Segmentation Is The Key To Successful User Personas

Just like the roles Brad plays, user persona Brad isn’t one person. Our job is to break this persona down into segments – aka real user personas – and market to each individually.

Break your perfect buyer into segments

Is your website is designed for one mashup customer segment that doesn’t exist at all?

User Personas vs. Buyer Personas

Personas are a common part of most mature web design processes. However, “buyer personas” seek to understand prospects as they are.

User personas seek to understand a visitor to a website. They are personas addressing a specific time in a prospect’s life.

Here’s why this is important.

The same person will come to your website with different personalities. Take Jennifer, for example, a persona for a plumbing company. She is 35 years old and is remodeling her bathroom. She is in a high-income bracket and prefers modern design for her home. She works part time teaching painting at the local community college. She likes wine, live music and art galleries.

When researching plumbers for her remodel, she will be very methodical. She’ll want to understand the plumbing companies past successes, professionalism and their insurance coverage. She’ll want to know if they’ve done work for any of her neighbors. She’ll want to know if they work with the tile she ordered.

Now, take the same woman, Jennifer. She’s 35 years old and her sink is leaking, threatening her new wood floors. When researching plumbers to save her investment, she only needs to know two things: how quick can they come and what is the number.

Same buyer. Two user personas. Two very different design approaches.

Two different scenarios for the same buyer

Two different scenarios for the same buyer.

In my opinion, personas of buyers don’t provide enough information for me to design a persuasive online experience. We all have our own interpretations of them. User personas are designed to limit interpretation.

Here’s a story that illustrates that.

A copywriter is reviewing a buyer persona and reads that this visitor makes $175,000 per year. “Wow,” she thinks. “That is almost three times my salary.” She writes copy for a person that lives in a large house with an immaculate lawn, and drives an expensive car. The executive who will be reviewing her work also reads the same persona. “Hmmm”, he thinks. “How can anyone own a home if they only make $175,000 per year?”

When the executive got the copywriter’s work, he rewrote it completely because he felt the copy was talking “above” the target buyers. Because he was not a copywriter, the result did not persuade visitors to convert.

If we focus on some key components of the user persona, we can avoid these kinds of mistakes.

The Key Components of a User Persona

The user personas we use at Conversion Sciences are taken from the book Waiting for Your Cat to Bark? and Buyer Legends by Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg. These are the personas that will help us design high converting websites.

Here are the components of our user personas.

Demographics

Just a little, and only things that will influence messaging and persuasion. We like to include a name and a picture.

Description

The basics of what she does and her situation. Save the details for the Customer Commentary.

Beginning of Penny Planner example persona

User Persona Part One: Basic description and demographics.

Mode of Persuasion

What mode of research is this user visiting us in? Waiting for Your Cat to Bark? provides four Modes of Persuasion that define how you should message this user persona.

Page layout for persona types

How to layout a web page for different modes of persuasion.

Methodical: WIll make decisions logically and deliberately on his visits. Needs the details, plans, and fine print.

Spontaneous: Will make decisions emotionally and quickly on his visits. Just needs a reason to act.

Competitive: WIll make decisions logically and quickly on his visits. Likes to know what is in it for him.

Humanist: Will make decisions emotionally and deliberately. Wants to know how he will feel if he takes action.

Here’s an example of the Methodical Mode of Persuasion

Methodical (SJ)

Methodical types need to be prepared and organized to act. For them, task completion is its own reward. These individuals appreciate facts, hard data, and information presented in a logical manner as documentation of truth. They enjoy organization and completion of detailed tasks. They do not appreciate the “personal touch,” and they abhor disorganization. They fear negative surprises and irresponsibility above all. Those who are Methodical have a strong internal frame of reference.

They prefer to think and speak about details and specifics. They compare everything to a standard ideal and look for mismatches (what’s wrong or what’s missing).

Attitude: Businesslike, detail-oriented

Using Time: Disciplined, methodically paced

Question: How can your solution solve this problem?

Approach: Provide hard evidence and superior service

Those who are Methodical focus on language that answers HOW questions.

  • What are the details?
  • What’s the fine print?
  • How does this work?
  • What’s the process you use?
  • Can you take me through this step-by-step?
  • How can I plan ahead?
  • What are the product specs?
  • What proof do you have?
  • Can you guarantee that?

Excerpted from Waiting for Your Cat to Bark? By Bryan Eisenberg and Jeffrey Eisenberg.

Customer Commentary

When I write a customer commentary for one of our clients, they often want to put it right on the website. It is written from the perspective of the user persona, and really builds empathy for the segment.

Note that Buyer Legends recommends writing in third-person.

Example Customer Commentary

Our business runs on relationships, and there’s no better time to build relationships than at our annual “Meitex Meetup”. This is when our employees get to build relationships with partners and customers that will influence the business for the remainder of the year.

This is an important event and my company expects perfection. If I don’t have to twist arms and pull teeth to get that perfection, then all the better.

We are planning a conference, but what we want is an experience. We want our customers and partners to remember the experience, but we don’t want an environment that makes it difficult to talk and build relationships. We’re not considering Disneyland. I intend to provide a structured, professional and comfortable meeting environment with a few planned surprises, and NO unexpected surprises.

Here’s what it will look like:

Travel to the event will be handled with little effort on the traveler’s part. Travelers will be whisked effortlessly to the facility and greeted by pleasant knowledgeable employees who usher them to their very comfortable room to recover and relax. If they are hungry or want to stretch their legs, there will be ample options within the facility or within walking distance.

Visitors will want to retain some of their usual schedule and should be able to run, work out, or check their email with no difficulty.

During the event, I will have a structured program with long breaks in between formal meetings for coffee and conversation. This is critical, and I don’t want a facility that is spread across half the state.

I want to work with A-league people – planners, coordinators, chefs, and wait staff should all be top notch and attentive.

We will be planning several presentations, so A/V equipment is important. I also want to make it easy for our sales people to have impromptu meetings for presentations.

The final day of the event will be largely unstructured, and I want to have a number of options for recreation and relationship building. Golf, shopping, tours, sporting events, concerts, movies and dining will be crucial. Transportation should be simple.

Finally, I don’t want to have to manage every detail. I want a facility that can support my desire for perfection, can support me while I’m on site managing the event, and can help me anticipate and fill holes in the plan. Hotels are notoriously poor at this. Unfortunately, conference centers are notoriously poor at providing the comfort that my visitors should enjoy.

Driving Points

This lists the things that made this user persona visit our website today. It can be anything:

  • A tip from a friend
  • A ad click
  • A search
  • Direct mail
  • TV Ad
  • Email

Funnel Points

Where will the visitor land on your website. Typically, this will be the home page, a landing page or blog content page.

Points of Resolution

This is where your copywriter and designer will spend their time. It lists the things that this user persona must uncover before she will take action. These are the things that must be on the site for you to persuade them.

As you might guess, this list is longer for the deliberate visitors, Methodicals and Humanists.

For our Methodical Penny Planner, it looks like this:

Points of resolution from example persona

Example points of resolutions for our user persona.

Conversion Beacons

How will you call this visitor to take action. Often your calls to action will be content that addresses the above points of resolution.

Conversion Beacons from example persona

Map your offers and calls to action, which are called Conversion Beacons.

Current Baseline Metrics

It’s often helpful to summarize the current performance of your campaigns and website for this user persona. You can use this to measure the progress you make after you begin to optimize based on your work.

Baseline metrics and recommendations can be drawn from this kind of user persona.

Baseline metrics and recommendations can be drawn from this kind of user persona.

Get All This in One Document

Are you Methodical or Humanist

If you are reading this as one of our deliberate decision makers, you just might take advantage of our offer. If you are a quick decision maker (Spontaneous or Competitive) you probably hate all of this work. You want to get started!

That’s OK. This article is for our Methodicals and Humanists. We have plenty for the rest of you.

This is how personas work.

Find out how entrepreneurs test marketing ideas, product features and more without spending a lot of your capital. Meet the MVNP.

Should I Invest in That?

For any business person, the decision to invest

…in an idea

…in a traffic source

…in a website

…in a campaign

can feel arbitrary. It doesn’t have to. I speak and write about the abundance of inexpensive data available to us to make such decisions.

Here’s how you can use the optimization tools we use to validate a market, campaign or other business investment — whatever your “thing” is.

First, let’s distinguish between Primary and Secondary research.

Two Kinds of Research

Primary Research: What you learn about your target market.

Most of what I’m going to discuss here is primary research. I’m going to show you how to collect data that tells you what your potential prospects want from you.

Primary research is the most valuable relevant and useful research. And until recently, it was difficult to collect.

  • Interviews
  • Surveys
  • Feedback
  • Focus Groups
  • Taste Tests
  • Trials
  • Analytics
  • AB Tests

At it’s best, primary research is behavioral, quantitative and follows the rules of behavioral data.

The challenge with primary research is that you generally have to launch something to collect it.

Secondary Research: What others discovered about your market.

Secondary research is simply researching others’ research. It can help you determine the size of the entire market for your thing.

Secondary research can tell you about your total available market.

Secondary research can tell you about your total available market.

Sources of secondary research include:

  • Research about my marketplace.
  • Competitors who offer alternatives to my thing.
  • Things that are Complimentary to my thing.
  • Blogs about my thing.

Secondary research gives you delicious qualitative data.

The Maximum Viable Non-Product (MVNP)

You are probably familiar with the concept of a minimum viable product, or MVP. It is the minimum feature set a product needs to solve the most basic needs of a potential customer. The idea is that, if the MVP fails, the full-featured product may also fail.

I’d like to introduce the maximum viable non-product, or MVNP. The MVNP is the maximum representation of a product you can present without actually creating the product. It is designed to test two things:

  1. The idea or concept of the product or offering
  2. The persuasive words and images that would sell the product or offering

As a secondary effect, an MVNP can build a list of potential buyers if you decide to proceed based on the data.

If this is how you build an MVP:

This is where an MVNP fits:

An MVNP presents a product concept and persuasive components.

An MVNP presents a product concept and persuasive components.

Kinds of MVNPs

An MVNP can be produced in any environment that allows you to present the following:

  • An offer relevant to your target audience.
  • A measurable conversion, usually a form.
  • Copy and images that communicate the value of your offer.
  • Analytics to track results. Consider a free Google Analytics account.

 The Landing Page

Your MVNP can be as simple as a landing page that describes the product and persuades visitors to do something measurable. We love Unbounce for creating effective landing pages.

The Microsite

If you feel you need more than a page to express your idea and marketing message, you might consider a multi-page microsite. It’s usually simple to setup a WordPress site for this purpose.

Facebook

Facebook offers and entire ecosystem for bringing targeted traffic to a page. The ability to test a variety of ads and track the results is unmatched.

Facebook is a highly targetable way to launch an MVNP

Facebook is a highly targetable way to launch an MVNP

Crowdfunding Sites

It takes more work to setup a crowdfunding campaign at Kickstarter, Indiegogo or other niche sites. However, you will get very good idea of whether your idea and marketing message will generate revenue. And you could end up with some funding.

Building your MVNP

We call the MVNP the maximum viable non-product because you should bring all you have to bear on it. What kinds of content do you have?

  • An existing site
  • Social network page
  • Prototype
  • Existing customers
  • Testimonials
  • Content: Video, photos, eBooks, reports, blog posts

All of this can be part of your MVNP.

Calls to Action

You want your MVNP to simulate the experience of saying “yes” to your thing as much as possible. If you’ll sell your thing online, you’re MVNP should ask visitors to “Buy Now” or “Add to Cart”. If visitors must sign up for your thing, take them all the way through the process. Yes, you’ll have to apologize on the last page that the thing isn’t yet available, but this is very valuable data.

You should always see an offer that asks the visitor to “pay” something. I recommend that you ask for their email address at a minimum. This creates an audience for future versions, and a list of prospects, if you decide to launch your thing.

Other offers to consider:

  • “Tell me when the thing launches”
  • “Send me an invitation to buy the thing”
  • “Pre-order the thing”

Remember that you can launch multiple MVNPs. This would allow you to try a variety of features, prices and benefits. You are testing both the idea and your ability to market it.

Who Will See Your MVNP?

The best data will be collected from people like your prospects. You can invite people to view your MVNP through a number of sources.

You should first determine if you can get enough people to your MVNP. Your testable market is defined as the number of people who would buy your thing that you can reach for a reasonable budget.

Your test market are the people who can buy your thing that you can afford to reach.

Your test market are the people who can buy your thing that you can afford to reach.

To get an idea of how large your potential market is, I recommend the Google Adwords Keyword Planner. You’ll need to setup an adwords account to use it. You can also use a service like SEMRush or SpyFu to research your target market and your competitors.

Ad Traffic

Advertise your MVNP through Google Adwords or Facebook ads.

Research Websites

Create an MVNP and let a research site bring people to review it. We are fans of inexpensive survey sites like UsabilityHub and Helios.

A Relevant Email List

Do you have access to an email list that contains the kind of people who might want your product?

Relevant Social Networks

Do you have a social network that contains the kind of people that would buy your thing? This is a source of MVNP viewers.

Launch the MVNP

When you launch the MVNP, you’ll want to send only enough traffic to get an idea of how it’s working.

If you send 1000 people and 10 sign up, that’s a 1% conversion rate. But that’s a small sample size. If you can get 100 people to convert, that’s a better sample size. It might take 10,000 visits to get 100, but you will have more confidence in this 1% conversion rate.

Get Creative

As you become more comfortable with these tools and techniques, you will become more creative in your approaches. This is all about reducing risk, and there’s never been a better time to test your ideas before launching a product.

Slides from my presentation at Tech Ranch


21 Quick and Easy CRO Copywriting Hacks to Skyrocket Conversions

FREE: Click to Download

21 Quick and Easy CRO Copywriting Hacks

Keep these proven copywriting hacks in mind to make your copy convert.

  • 43 Pages with Examples
  • Assumptive Phrasing
  • "We" vs. "You"
  • Pattern Interrupts
  • The power of Three

Competitive analysis is competitive advantage.

What if you knew exactly what each of your major competitors was doing to attract, convert, and retain new customers?

  • You knew which channels were bringing them the most customers.
  • You knew how real customers were engaging with their websites.
  • You knew how customers were being onboarded, retained, and upsold.

Now forget the “what if”, because by the end of this article, you will know the exact steps you need to take in order to understand how your competitors are running their businesses.

This isn’t going to require a tremendous amount of time, money or expertise.

It is going to give you an immediate competitive advantage.

I’ve never made this claim before, but if you haven’t already spent some time researching and analyzing your competition, this will be the most valuable and actionable article you read all year.

Let’s get started.

Want to use the same scorecard we use to evaluate competitors here at Conversion Sciences? Click here to download our Competitive Evaluation Scorecard.

The 3 Phases Of Competitive Analysis

If you’ve been following along with us at Conversion Sciences, you know that we love systems – proven, repeatable processes we can use to consistently get results.

Our competitor analysis process can be broken down into three distinct phrases.

  1. Find out who your real competitors are.
  2. Find out what they’re doing to attract, convert, and retain customers.
  3. Turn that intelligence into profitable business decisions.

The first phase is often the most misunderstood, and in the low-barriers-to-entry world of ecommerce, we’ve found that many business owners don’t actually know who their real competitors are (more on that in the next section).

The second phase is where data analysis really comes into play, and we’ll be talking about several tools that will provide you with the required data, and more importantly, how to use them.

The third phase is where your own expertise will come into play. We’ll show you how to acquire and analyze your competitors, but how you apply that intelligence to your business is going to come down to your own strategic capabilities as an entrepreneur or manager.

We’ll give you the spear of ice. You hit the dragon.

And as we begin discussing specifics, keep in mind that competitive analysis is often a team effort, as Angie Schottmuller explains:

Remember to share and collaborate on competitive research with other team members. It’s common for a PPC specialist, copywriter, and landing page designer to individually perform competitive research. If research requirements are shared cross-functionally, steps can be consolidated to save time while also improving common understanding across teams.

– Angie Schottmuller, Growth Marketing Advisor

1. Find out who your real competitors are.

If you don’t know who you’re competing with… who you’re really competing with… you can’t gain an advantage over them.

You probably know about major players in your approximate niche, but in many cases, those big brands aren’t your real competitors, as Theresa Farr explains:

The first step in doing any type of competitor analysis is to make sure the competitors you’re analyzing are worth looking at! Don’t just pick the big dogs in your industry for two reasons:

  1. The strategies that work for household names usually don’t work for smaller brands
  2. They might have big margins or other reasons for their success despite unsophisticated digital marketing. Don’t assume they know what they’re doing just because they’re a big brand. Check out what Brian Massey says about big brand failures.

– Theresa Farr, Conversion Max

Sometimes your real competitors are other businesses similar in size to yours, big business out of your niche that happen to offer a side solution similar to yours, or alternative solutions you haven’t even considered.

The question you need to be asking is, “What alternative options are my potential customers considering?”

There are a few ways to answer that question.

Ask Your Customers

The best way to find out who else your customers have considered is to ask them, as Jason Quey describes:

Most companies that do competitor analysis are too self-focused and as a result, fail to truly serve their customer.

To start, you need to find out who your customers say the competitors are by asking them in a survey. This does two things:

  1. You find out who are the biggest competitors are in the mind of your customer.
  2. You find out about new competitors you did not realize you were competing against.

From there, you need to research how you plan to outwit your competitors and win the battle over your customer’s mind. You can only do this by becoming #1 in a product category.

For example, Tom’s of Maine toothpaste did this by becoming the natural, healthy choice. And while Colgate, Close-Up, and Crest fought for shelf space at the local grocer, Tom’s of Maine became the only choice at whole food stores across the country.

This strategy can work in numerous other ways, whether you target different keywords or write content that fits a different audience. But the goal is to learn how you can serve your customer better than the competition… by asking them.

Jason Quey, The Storyteller Marketer, VP of Marketing at Codeless

Talking with your customers is the single most effective way to identify who your real competitors are.

If you are B2C or B2B with little 1-to-1 customer interaction, using something scalable like surveys will probably work best. Just like with any customer touchpoint, remember to keep it simple and make it about the customer, not about you.

For example:

  1. What alternative brands, tools, or options were you considering when you decided to go with us?
  2. What most attracted you to these options?
  3. What would you like to see improved in our product/solution to give you the best possible experience?

How can we make YOUR experience ideal? That’s ultimately the goal of competitive analysis. How can we be the best possible choice for our customers and then communicate that value to prospective customers?

Ben Jesson offers some additional tips:

If you don’t know how you differ from your competitors, there’s a good chance your customers can tell you. Asking “How would you describe us to a friend?” reveals why your customers like you.

Similarly, you could ask a question along the lines of the following: “Which other options did you consider before choosing our product or service?” or “Why did you decide to use us?” It’s particularly important to ask questions from this group before you undertake any re-branding exercise, so you understand what your existing positioning is.

Ben Jesson, Conversion Rate Experts.

Direct client feedback is the best way to learn about your competitors, but it’s not the only way. There a few other strategies at your disposal.

Ask Customer-Facing Staff

Sometimes you can ask the customer without ever asking the customer. Custom-facing staff on your team should be regularly queried for input on what customers are talking about, and the competition is a natural part of that intel.

Ben Jesson elaborates:

Talk to people who spend their whole lives speaking with users. For example, salespeople, consultants, and customer-support staff. We call these people “Voice-Of-Customer Aggregators” (or “VOC Aggregators”).

VOC Aggregators already understand the users, the marketplace, and your competitors. And they don’t just know facts like “The average user is 40 years old with 2.4 children”; they know the users intuitively, much like you know your own family. When you talk to a VOC Aggregator, you harness the wisdom of thousands of hours of conversations with users.

Ben Jesson, Conversion Rate Experts.

This is applicable for both phase one and phase two of our competitive analysis process, but I’ve found that it tends to be most useful for identifying key competitors.

Use Competitive Analysis Tools

There are quite a few different tools that specialize in competitive analysis. Most of these are primarily phase two tools with some phase one capabilities built in.

For example, if you want to find out who is targeting the same keyphrases as you, just enter your website URL into Ahrefs.com and it will show you 10 websites targeting similar SEO keyhprases to you.

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If you want to find out who is targeting the same paid keywords as you, simply enter the keyword into iSpionage and it will show you competing websites and their monthly Adwords budget.

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If you want to see who is writing on the same blog topics as you, just enter the topic into Ahrefs Content Explorer.

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There are many other tools you can try, but these are some good ones to get started.

Use Google Search

The last method we’ll discuss today can be pretty hit or miss, but it’s free and relatively simple, so it’s worth mentioning.

Just start typing relevant keyphrases into Google and see what comes up. There are a number of ways Google can point you in the right direction:

  1. The search algorithm (obviously)
  2. Paid ads (similar to the data iSpionage pulls)
  3. Google’s search autosuggest function (dropdown menu when you start typing)
  4. Google’s related searches (bottom of page)

In addition to identifying competitors, you can also use Google alerts and other alert tools to be notified in real time whenever a competitor is mentioned, as Ben Jesson explains:

Use search engines (to be notified when people say things about your competitors). Several search engines track mentions in real time, allowing you to discover what people are saying about your competitors on blogs, forums, and in social media. The following tools can be useful: Moz Fresh Web Explorer, Google Alerts, Talkwalker Alerts, Mention, NinjaOutreach, Twitter Search, BuzzSumo and Facebook. Salesforce Marketing Cloud provides powerful tools for real-time analysis and monitoring of social media

Ben Jesson, Conversion Rate Experts.

Search engines are listed last for a reason, but if you don’t have many customers, don’t have any staff, and can’t afford any tools, it can at least get you started, and you might get lucky and find your most important competitors just be using Google.

2. Find out how your competitors are attracting, converting, and retaining customers.

Now that we know who our competitors are, the next step is to find out what they’re doing.

Similar to our overall competitive analysis process, we can break this phase down into an additional 3 phases:

  1. How are our competitors attracting new visitors and leads?
  2. How are they converting new customers?
  3. How are they onboarding, retaining, and upselling those customers?

There’s really only one way to find out most of this information.

Competitive analysis tools.

Yep… I’m about to throw a busload of tools at you. Some are expensive. Some less so. A few have been offered at $50 for lifetime access via Appsumo.

If you are serious about competitive analysis, you’ll need at least a few of these.

How Are They Attracting Visitors?

We’ll need to use different tools for different traffic channels, so let’s discuss a few of the primary traffic sources you’re likely to find:

  1. Organic search
  2. Paid ads
  3. Social media
  4. Other referral traffic

I alway start with organic search, because you can learn a whole lot in a short amount of time using a tool like Ahrefs.

Let’s use our friends over at Convert.com as an example. When we enter their website, we can immediately see some key information.

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Backlinks, referring domains, ranking keywords and total organic traffic are all key insights on how Convert.com is pulling in search traffic. We can immediately see that they are getting around 5k search visits per month.

Click “Top Pages” in the sidebar and we can see which pages are responsible for the bulk of their traffic.

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We can also look at which specific keywords are bringing them the most search traffic.

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If I’m a competitor of Convert.com, I immediately know that most of their organic search traffic is from their branding efforts versus their SEO or content marketing efforts. If I were to analyze some of Convert.com’s competitors and find that they too were driving significant traffic via unbranded organic search, I might conclude that organic search isn’t an effective traffic source for my business OR that there is room to become the content marketing leader in my space.

Next, we could look at Convert.com’s paid ads using iSpionage but since they don’t seem to be using Adwords, we’ll look at Visual Website Optimizer instead.

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We can look at all search terms being targeted.

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Compare multiple competitors’ ad spend at once.

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And even view the ads themselves.

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For social media, there are several different management tools with built in competitor benchmarking, but I haven’t found any of them to be significantly more effective than simply eyeballing social profiles.

You can see pretty clearly just by looking at a feed whether or not it’s generating significant engagement. Don’t be fooled by account follower numbers or page likes. Those are easily manipulated. Look at individual post engagement to estimate click-throughs.

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Monitoring paid social ads is a bit trickier, but there are a few tools here that collect and archive Facebook ads in huge databases for you to look through. You might be able to find your competitors’ ads in there… or you might not.

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Moving along to referral traffic, you really can’t estimate it. Instead, you can focus on reviewing the competitor’s backlink profile and seeing who is linking to them and how often. This can give you ideas for publications to target with your own outreach efforts in addition to giving you intelligence on the competing business.

We’ll head back over to Ahrefs for a backlink profile on Convert.

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That’s enough about traffic analysis for now. Let’s dive into our favorite topic… conversion analysis.

How Are They Converting New Customers?

Now that we understand where our competitors’ traffic is coming from, the next step is to identify how they are converting that traffic.

There are a few different ways to slice this, and we called on our network of conversion experts to provide you with a well-rounded take.

Theresa Farr bridges the traffic analysis process we just discussed with this new section in describing her process below:

I like to use Spyfu or SEMrush, plus the browser extension Ghostery, to quickly see how sophisticated certain competitors are.

Spyfu and SEMrush will estimate how much your competitor is spending on paid traffic, which landing pages they’re sending it to, and how long they’ve been doing it. Why is that useful? As Spyfu’s founder and CEO, Mike Roberts, often says, “Companies might lose money on advertising for a while, but not for long.”

So if you see that your competitor has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars sending traffic to a certain landing page for several years, you can probably assume that page is working well for them.

Ghostery will show you the scripts that your competitor has on their site. If you only see the Facebook Connect Social Tracker on a competitor’s site for example, you know their marketing isn’t very sophisticated. But if you see several different analytics scripts, including tools such as Hotjar, Lucky Orange, or Crazy Egg, as well as A/B testing scripts, you can have more confidence that they’re making data-driven changes to their website.

Then, once you’ve determined that a competitor is worth watching, use iSpionage to get notified whenever they start a new A/B test, or when they’ve found a winning variation. Seeing your competitors’ winning A/B tests speeds up your testing plan immensely.

Just remember, don’t make changes to your site or landing pages to copy your competitor. Use what they’re doing as one of many ideas to incorporate into your testing strategy.

– Theresa Farr, Conversion Max

By identifying your more sophisticated competitors, you can piggyback off of their investments and find your own wins for pennies on their dollars.

On a similar note, there are several tools that will help you understand your competitors’ site architecture and identify the tools they are using, as Dennis van der Heijden explains:

We love BuiltWith and NerdyData to get an idea on what websites use which tools. It’s fairly easy to get an idea of customer spending and growth of competitors in the A/B testing market. We know in US Optimizely kills it and moved to the enterprise market pushing for higher yearly deals and you can see the installs grow there with segmenting high traffic sites in BuiltWith they do 90M ARR now.

The second A/B testing tool in the US is VWO that are spread out over the lower and mid segment of traffic with 10M ARR and we with Convert.com are third in the US with A/B testing and Personalization, right between those segments.

Review sites can be also helpful for competitor analysis. We once looked and analyzed over 1,000 reviews from G2 Crowd, Siftery and Trust Radius and build word-rankings on those and there you see how often “service” or “features” are mentioned in those reviews and that gives an interesting ranking of the market that is not instantly visible. That’s a little hacky but gets new insights on if your segment (ours is focused on service, no-blinking, and affordability).

Dennis van der Heijden, Founder and CEO of Convert.com

As Dennis also mentioned, review sites can be a great source of direct customer feedback.

Another approach is to use direct user testing like you would on your own website, but run the test on your competitors! Paul Rouke discusses this at length:

End users are a company’s secret weapon when conducting competitor analysis.

Why? When conducting qualitative, intelligent user research, either remote or ideally moderated, including competitor websites in the research has a range of benefits:

  • it provides users with different experiences from which to compare and contrast – this is hugely important
  • it makes it easier for users to identify the strengths and weaknesses of different experiences
  • it ensures that users don’t have any idea which website they are mainly been asked to provide insights on, so it keeps bias out of their feedback
  • it allows you to observe users conducting the same tasks on both the main (client) website and at least one competitor
  • it helps to understand how the different value propositions influence user behaviour and the decision making process
  • you can research a range of different approaches to delivering a user experience for a similar product and service, to see which suits the target audience ie. from simple and basic to more creative and progressive

As an added benefit, capturing video footage of users waxing lyrical about a competitor’s online experience compared to yours/your clients, which is then presented to the C-suite and decision makers within the company, can prove vital in gaining attention and traction as to the importance of improving their user experience.

Competitive analysis sits under what should be the overarching goal of any progressive, ambitious, high growth business – that is to truly become customer centric. And customer centricity comes from speaking with and genuinely listening to customers and potential customers. Period.

Paul Rouke, Founder & CEO of PRWD

By watching real customers engage with both your website and your competition’s websites, you can get incredible insight into your competitors strengths and your own weaknesses. It also makes for incredibly actionable intelligence in optimizing your website.

And even though we are focused on the online experience, sometimes there are insights to be gained from offline competitors, as Ben Jesson explains.

You can learn a lot from carrying out method marketing with competitors, particularly with offline ones. Most online businesses have offline equivalents that you can visit. Offline companies are less subject to ivory-tower syndrome than online companies, because they have face-to-face contact with customers. Their sales funnels tend to be more sophisticated.

Ben Jesson, Conversion Rate Experts.

Last but not least, engaging with competitor sites on your own time and exploring their funnels can provide you a wealth of information, and frankly, it’s the only way to track how they onboard, upsell, and retain their customers.

How Are They Onboarding, Retaining, and Upselling New Customers?

This one is pretty easy to do, and it’s as effective as you want it to be.

Hit subscribe or start free trial and then observe and document.

For example, I’m currently working on a copywriting course targeted at freelance copywriters, so I am actively tracking a competitor who targets freelancers in general and learning from his funnel.

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I do this for several of my competitors. It costs nothing, and it’s my data to use as I wish forever.

Easy peasy. Next.

3. Turn competitive intelligence into profitable decisions.

The final step in our competitive analysis process is to turn the data we’ve discovered into strategic, profitable business decisions.

As I mentioned before, that will ultimately rely on your expertise and creativity, but there are a few things we can recommend.

First, as Theresa Farr mentioned earlier, focus on your most sophisticated competitors. If you have someone in your niche doing everything right, you can leverage their success to secure the #2 spot in the short term and then focus your creativity on overtaking them specifically in the long term.

Second, remember to apply rather than copy, as Rich Page explains:

Competitive analysis can be a great source of ideas to improve your website and your CRO efforts. You should perform a detailed review of the websites of your competitors initially and then every few months to look at what they have launched or redesigned. In particular check for improvements to key elements like headlines, imagery, forms, and CTA buttons. You should also often review best practice websites like Amazon.com and AO.com for inspiration.

Don’t presume ideas from competitor websites will have a good impact though. It can work well but can lead to disappointing results. Why? Because every website is different, with variations in value proposition and types of visitors. Don’t just copy ideas from other websites, always aim to tweak and improve them. To reduce risk of poor results you should also A/B test ideas before launching them.

– Rich Page, Website Optimizer

Speaking of AO.com, Paul Rouke has a very intriguing case study to share on competitive intelligence and application you might find helpful.

AO.com is now one of THE most customer centric pureplay retailers I have ever seen, but just 5 years ago, they were not customer centric at all, and they had run exactly zero A/B tests.

Our team at PRWD worked with them to propose and help deliver user research on a larger scale than we had done before or have done since. We planned a large scale remote research project using whatusersdo.com. 150 videos. Tons of insights. Far too many videos for 1 or 2 people to watch and analyse themselves.

The key to our rollout and the catalyst to AO.com starting down the path of becoming customer centric was that we provided each of the C-suite and senior decision makers with 5 videos each to watch. We sent them the videos and simply said, “Watch these videos of people using your website, and let us know if you feel there is anything we need to change or improve to make the website better for visitors”.

The feedback came flooding back. The big decision makers – classic HIPPO’s – all quickly realised that their online experience wasn’t as good as it could be, and that they had had a lot of misconceptions about how users were interacting with the site.

The rest, as they say, is history. This case study is one of the few that I am most proud of in my 17+ years in the industry.

This exact same technique of cheap, remote testing at scale can be harnessed to also include all users carrying out the same scenario on 1 or 2 competitor websites.

There you have user research and competitor analysis at scale, with the added potential for this activity to be the “shock tactic” (as AO described it) to becoming a truly customer centric brand.

– Paul Rouke, Founder & CEO of PRWD

If you are reading this as a manager, marketer, or any position depending on a higher decision maker, visual user testing can be incredibly powerful both for intelligence AND securing buy-in “upstairs”.

Click here for a number of effective user testing tools you can use to pull this off.

And of course, we wouldn’t be Conversion Scientists if we failed to mentoin our favorite pursuit: conversion rate optimization.

Competitive analysis is a key part of data collection in our A/B testing framework. Once we understand how users are interacting with a website versus the website’s competitors, we can develop an effective testing strategy to plug leaks and optimize conversion funnels.

As a final thought from our own Brian Massey, remember to incorporate competitive intelligence rather than letting it completely dictate your testing strategy.

Don’t give your competitors’ ideas more priority. Don’t assume they know anymore than you do. Add any ideas you have to your hypothesis list and then go through your typical prioritization process based on what is most important in your unique funnel. Here at Conversion Sciences, we add them to our ROI Prioritized Hypothesis Spreadsheet which you download here.

Conclusion: Competitive Analysis Is Competitive Advantage

When you know what your competitors are doing, it positions your to make better strategic decisions. You can learn from their investments and learn from their mistakes. You can emulate what they do right and find ways to outmaneuver them in the process.

Most importantly, you can use the intelligence gathered and the gathering process itself to better understand your customers and the market you are trying to reach.

We’ve given you a lot to work with today, but we’d also love to hear from you as well. What is your go-to competitive analysis strategy?

Competitor Evaluation Scorecard

Use this scorecard to rate your competitors.

Today, I’m going to shed a spotlight on the topic of content promotion.

It’s one thing to have nobody read that 500 word post you just threw up to meet a deadline. It’s another thing entirely when you invested $1,000 into a world class resource and you’re still seeing a flatline in analytics.

You know you need to be spending more time on promotion, but what the hell are you supposed to be doing?

That’s the question I’m going to answer today. I spent the last month testing out 20 different promotion strategies in a variety of niches, and today, we’re going to peel back the curtain and reveal what works and what doesn’t.

But first, we need to clear up a big misunderstanding that is probably the main reason your long-term content promotion efforts are failing.

Short-term Tactics vs Long-term Strategy

If you’ve spent any amount of time looking for promotion advice, you’re probably frustrated.

All the big, successful influencers tell you the same thing:

  1. Just send it to your email subscribers
  2. Create some nice images and share on social media
  3. Go get influencers to share your content

Yeah, sure… that’s great advice coming from someone with 60k email subscribers, 200k Twitter followers, and a massive network of eager JV partners.

But what about everyone else? What do you do when you are just starting to build an audience?

You’ve done all those things and just aren’t seeing any results. What now?

Here’s where we get to that big misunderstanding. The reality is that what works for someone WITH an audience is not the same thing that works for someone WITHOUT an audience.

There are two distinct categories that are used to promote content:

  1. One-off promotion tactics (~growth hacking)
  2. Recurring promotional assets (~audience building)

One-off promotion tactics are short-term tactics designed to get quick results. For example, sharing a post on Inbound.org or submitting a Reddit thread are short-term tactics. You are going to get an immediate traffic bump and then, in most cases, you will never receive additional benefit from that tactic.

On the other hand, you can build recurring promotional assets. These are your email subscribers, social followers, returning readers, etc. – a growing base of people who will engage with and promote your content whenever you wish. This is a long-term strategy as it’s benefits can be tracked on an exponential curve. The bigger this base becomes, the more quickly it grows.

When you are first starting out, you will rely a lot on short-term growth tactics designed to quickly get your brand and content in front of as many people as possible. As you build your audience, promoting directly to this audience will become so effective, you really won’t need to spend a lot of time on those one-off tactics anymore.

The 5-Step Process For Creating Long-term Promotional Assets

Before we dive into the short-term promotion strategies I tested, let’s first take a look at the most important part of content promotion: how to build long-term promotional assets.

1. Create Content That Is Worth Promoting

The first step is to create content that is actually worth promoting.

How many times have you received an email from someone inviting you to check out their 500 word blog post rehashing a few best practice tips you’ve seen a hundred times before?

How many times have you been asked to share a roundup post with 50 “influencers” answering a boring question that’s been asked a thousand times before?

Creating content that is actually worth sharing is mandatory if you want to have success with your other promotion strategies.

How can you do this on a practical level?

  1. Focus on questions that require in-depth answers and then provide those in-depth answers.
  2. Include real examples and data to support claims.
  3. Add custom images or illustrations that enhance the presentation.
  4. Exceed the depth and quality of your niche competitors.

Creating buzz-worthy content isn’t rocket science, but it does require you to be intentional, strategic, and willing to invest more effort than your competitors.

2. Build Your Email List

Your base of email subscribers will be one of your most important recurring promotional assets. If you’ve ever wondered how popular blogs get thousands of shares the moment they publish something new… it’s the email list.

There are many different ways to build your email list:

  • Add content upgrades to each blog post.
  • Run a giveaway.
  • Create and promote lead magnets on your blog.
  • Use popups to prompt new subscriptions.
  • Partner with publishers and influencers and tap into their lists.

For a more in-depth look at these strategies, check out my article on KISSmetrics.

As a general rule, the optimal way to build an email list is to have a single personality focusing on a single topic. That’s not always practical, however, so as an alternative, you can attempt to deliver an ongoing narrative through your blog posts and emails. For example, Groove uses the the ongoing story of their own business growth to captivate a massive audience.

3. Build Audiences On Social Media

While social media followers aren’t typically as reliable as email subscribers, they can be a powerful part of audience building for a number of reasons.

  1. Social proof
  2. Ad targeting
  3. Content amplification
  4. Direct engagement

For starters, having large social followings provides tremendous social proof. This can be very effective when trying to sell, network, or get media attention.

For platforms like Facebook, direct follower engagement is now a pay-to-play sport, BUT the larger your following, the better your ad targeting will be. This is also true for email subscribers. If you have a big group of followers or subscribers, you can create some incredibly well targeted Facebook ad campaigns.

For other platforms, free engagement is still relevant, and large social followings can tremendously amplify your content promotion efforts. For example, Ahrefs has a relatively small Twitter following at 16,000, and with only a minimal amount of time investment into Twitter, they can still generate 100+ clicks from a single tweet.

Tweet Activity analytics for ahrefs

4. Join or Build Niche Communities

Honestly, this is one of the most effective promotion techniques I’ve seen in the last two years. Niche communities that engage with each other or directly promote each others content can be a HUGE asset to your business.

One guy who does this really well is Tim Soulo of Ahrefs. Tim is very active on Reddit, frequently providing help and answering questions while only rarely dropping links. You can see some results below from some of his posts.

All Traffic Analytics 1

Tim also spent a great deal of time on Quora before joining Ahrefs, and you can see some of the results below.

16 Stats Quora

Over time, traffic from Quora can grow similar to organic search traffic.

All Traffic Analytics

In addition to joining groups or participating in communities, you can simply build your own. Tim has also done just that with an Ahrefs “Insider” Facebook group, now numbering over 3,500 members.

Successfully participating in or building communities revolves around facilitating non-promotional engagement within the group and providing constant value for participants. For promotion to be effective, it has to be infrequent in these settings.

Real Results From 20 Short-term Promotion Tactics

Okay, time for everyone’s favorite part… experiment results.

Over the last month, I tested 20 different short-term promotion tactics on three different articles representing three different niches.

  1. Why Entrepreneurs Fail: 18 Business Winners Explain Their Biggest Fails
  2. 21 Fascinating Persuasion Techniques That Boost Website Conversions
  3. How to Easily Build & Publish An Amazing Church App

These articles represent three different niches of varying sizes. The first and largest is the entrepreneurship niche. The second and still fairly large is the conversion/marketing niche. The third and smallest is the church tech niche.

My goal was to answer one simple question: “Which short-term promo tactics will bring in the most traffic?”

For the purpose of this experiment, I didn’t attempt to utilize my existing network to manipulate results or spend a lot of time building a reputation in the various channels I tested. I wanted to keep this 100% relevant to the reader starting from ground zero.

That said, there are a lot of ways to amplify results from any given channel, particularly with the help of a small team, and I’ll discuss how you can do that on a channel by channel basis as we work our way down the list.

I think it’s also worth pointing out that quality of traffic was NOT measured in this experiment. How well any of these channels convert will be very different from niche to niche, so my goal here was simply to measure what channels send the largest volume of traffic.

Here are the 20 tactics I tested, ranked from least effective to most effective:

  1. BlogEngage & BizSugar Submissions
  2. LinkedIn Group Shares
  3. Linkedin Republication
  4. Medium Republication
  5. Answering Quora Questions
  6. Inbound.org Submission
  7. Leaving Blog Comments
  8. Leaving Youtube Comments
  9. Facebook Boost Post
  10. Google+ Group Shares
  11. Stumbleupon Submission
  12. Facebook Group Shares
  13. Start A Fire Curation
  14. Taboola Paid Promotion
  15. Outbrain Paid Promotion
  16. Hacker News Submission
  17. BlogEngage Retweets
  18. GrowthHackers.com Submission
  19. Quuu Paid Promotion
  20. Reddit Thread Submission

In order to track results for all these channels, I used Clkim to create around 50 different URLs.

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Here are my results.

1. BlogEngage & BizSugar Submissions

Community upvote sites are a pretty common addition to any “how to promote your content” list, and as you may have noticed, quite a few made it on our experiment list.

BlogEngage and BizSugar were both channels I had never used in the past but found recommended on more than a few blog posts. A friend of mine had been able to drive several hundred visitors to a brand new site through one BizSugar submission, so I decided to include it in my experiment.

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Only one of my posts fit BizSugar’s guidelines, while all three were submitted to BlogEngage.

Between the 4 submissions, I received exactly ZERO click-throughs.

To be honest, BlogEngage’s free community page looked pretty dead. They have some paid options I tried out as well with better results (which you’ll see a bit later), but I’m skeptical that experimenting with time of day or even getting a team to upvote will make it worth your while.

BizSugar on the other hand, is a bit more active of a community. They are focused solely on small business topics, so if you have something highly relevant to that community, find an optimal time to post, AND get some people to help you upvote your post, it’s probably a worthwhile addition to your promotion process.

Otherwise, skip it.

2. LinkedIn Group Shares

Joining social groups is another common tactic many people use to promote their content. Theoretically, the “right” way to go about this is to join a group, engage with the community, and then share your content.

In practice, I found that Facebook was the only platform where it was easy to find legitimately interactive groups. On LinkedIn and Google+, most every group I came across in the entrepreneurship and marketing spaces was nothing more than a spam channel, and I couldn’t even find a church tech group on LinkedIn.

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But unlike Google+, most of my submissions on LinkedIn didn’t get even a single click-through.

After sharing in 4 seperate LinkedIn groups, I received only 1 click-through.

After interacting with 15 different social groups during this experiment, I believe that smaller social groups tend to be the most effective for content promotion. Small groups can support an active community, where people know each other and stay engaged. As groups get bigger, everything tends to become white noise.

From what I’ve seen, the best way to utilize social groups is to start one of your own, like the example we looked at from Tim Soulo and Ahrefs earlier in the article.

3. Linkedin Re-Publication

I’ve had some solid success with republishing content on LinkedIn in the past. One article I republished received nearly 2,000 clicks and a boatload of likes, shares, and comments.

The key was submitting the article to the LinkedIn Pulse team and having them feature it in one of their feeds. Unfortunately, Pulse no longer exists…

As a result, republishing to LinkedIn is now essentially the same as publishing something to your own blog. It’s only going to receive whatever traffic you channel to it. In other words, it’s not really a promotion channel anymore.

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My LinkedIn republication received exactly 1 click-through.

LinkedIn has recently changed their algorithm to create better engagement via status type posts on your wall. I recently topped 100,000 views with a post satirizing “influencers”, and I only have around 800 followers on the platform.

I’d definitely recommend exploring the channel, but you’ll need to take note of the type of content that performs well, because you won’t get any results from posting a link and hitting “share”.

4. Medium Re-Publication

Re-publishing on Medium is similar to re-publishing on LinkedIn and gave me similar results. Unlike LinkedIn, however, Medium still has some upside if you are able to get your posts included in a popular category feed or “publication” feed. These function similar to how Pulse used to function, and they can drive a large amount of traffic to your site.

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Getting included on a publication requires time and networking (unless you know the right person already), and it’s not something I’ve pursued in the past, so my results were based on a simple republication of content.

My Medium republication received only 3 click-throughs.

Again, the only real potential value here is going to be getting included in popular publications. Measuring how difficult and worthwhile that is will make for a good future experiment.

5. Answering Quora Questions

Quora is another one of those channels that offered a lot of potential for marketers in its first couple years, but the gold rush is over, and it’s not nearly as valuable as it once was.

Simply searching for relevant Quora questions that you can answer and link out from is no longer a viable strategy on it’s own as a promotion tactic.

I provided thoughtful answers to 9 questions and received 4 total click-throughs.

That said, there is still a way to take advantage of Quora, but it involves the same vote manipulation that comes up with half of these channels.

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After running this experiment, I talked with people who have had some moderate success with Quora, and in their opinion, it’s not very effective as a short-time tactic. In order to get any sort of meaningful results, you really need to be active on a more regular basis (and preferably beginning 3+ years ago). Results tend to be like a lottery. You never know which thread will skyrocket and start sending traffic, so the more threads you participate in, the better your chance of seeing a return.

6. Inbound.org Submission

If you are in the marketing space, you know about Inbound.org. It’s a community upvote site that has become a mandatory part of promoting any sort of marketing content, and more than a few marketers have leveraged the community to accelerate their websites and careers.

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I’ve been using Inbound.org for the last few years, and unfortunately, I’ve watched it’s digression from exciting new community to insiders-only spam channel. At this point in the game, if you want to get results with Inbound.org, you need one of two things.

  1. Access to a community moderator
  2. A group of people who will immediately upvote your submission

Moderators can easily manipulate results on the platform, and many won’t hesitate to do so. If you know a moderator or are willing to pay one under the table, you can guarantee your post will get pushed near the top of the front page.

Alternatively, you will need a group of people (around 10 is usually enough) to immediately upvote and comment on your submission. This will get it enough exposure to gain some organic traction. You can usually count on anywhere from 500 to 1,500 visitors via this method, depending on how compelling your headline and article topic are.

I haven’t even attempted to submit to Inbound.org without a supporting upvote group in some time, so I decided to try clean submissions for the purpose of this experiment.

My two clean Inbound.org submissions received a total of 6 click-throughs.

So yeah, either collude or don’t bother.

7. Leaving Blog Comments

There are a lot of potential upsides to blog commenting:

  • Networking
  • Backlinks
  • Referral traffic
  • Lead acquisition
  • Etc.

I know one marketer who built her email list to several thousand subscribers without even having a website. All she would do is guest blog and comment on blog posts with links back to a lead magnet optin page.

There are a lot of benefits to commenting on blog posts, but what I wanted to measure is whether or not I could get referral traffic from commenting on blog posts listed on the front page for my target keyphrase.

In short, the answer is no.

I left 9 blog comments and received 6 total click-throughs.

What I would recommend doing instead is following the most popular blogs in your niche and commenting on new posts as soon as they are published. Make sure you are doing this on sites that hyperlink your username to a URL of your choosing, and then leave noteworthy comments that compliment the author and provide additional insights to the discussed topic.

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8. Leaving Youtube Comments

I had never tried this strategy before, but I was very curious to see how posting a comment on a Youtube video would translate to referral traffic.

Turns out, it’s about what you’d expect, BUT the main thing I noticed was that smaller, active youtubers tend to be very engaged with commenters.

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Referral traffic wasn’t really anything to write home about.

I left 9 Youtube comments and received 15 total click-throughs.

That said, I think Youtube is worth exploring more as a promotion channel, even if you aren’t creating video content. I plan to spend a bit more time experimenting with it in the future.

9. Facebook “Boost Post”

As we discussed earlier, Facebook Ads can be a relatively cheap way to get significant exposure for a post. It can also be a very efficient way to waste your money.

I spent $45 total on the “Boost Post” option and received a measly 24 click-throughs.

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You really need to be willing to spend a bit more money in order to get decent results with Facebook nowadays. You need to spend some money to identify the right targeting options and then spend a bit more money on the post itself in order to start getting a return.

Simply dropping a few bucks to boost a post is no longer a good investment in most cases. It’s also possible that I just have no clue what I’m doing with Facebook Ads, but I’ve had enough success in the past with the platform to feel like it’s not that simple.

10. Google+ Group Shares

Google+ groups are basically the same as LinkedIn groups but with better results. They are essentially just spam communities, but my posts to these communities actually resulted in a few clicks. I don’t really recommend making a practice of spamming groups. It does absolutely nothing for audience building and any click-throughs you do get probably aren’t worth anything, but I wanted to try it out just for the purpose of this experiment.

I posted to 6 Google+ groups and received 26 click-throughs.

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11. StumbleUpon Submission

Like submitting to Google+ groups, StumbleUpon is another “click and forget” promo tactic that can potentially result in a few clicks. The quality is likely the worst of any channel here, but whatever… it costs nothing and takes a few seconds.

My 3 StumbleUpon submissions resulted in 44 click-throughs.

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The next step would be to add a tracking pixel and see if any clicks result in leads. My guess is that 50 clicks per post over 5 posts is going to result in at least a lead or two.

12. Facebook Group Shares

As I mentioned before, Facebook groups were by far the most interactive I found across the various social channels. There are many groups where link spamming isn’t taking place, and these are the groups where you can get the most traction when sharing content.

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They key here is that you can’t spam either. You have to engage with the community and connect your shares to what they are talking about. If you can do that, you will get more out of these groups than all the spam channels combined.

(That said, it looks like I was blocked from one marketing group after posting something similar to the above comment.)

All told, I posted to 5 different Facebook groups and received 62 click-throughs.

For any group that you want to use for recurring promotion, it will be important for you to engage with the group in a non-promotional capacity even more frequently than you share your content.

The best option, however, is to simply create your own group, keep it spam free, and reserve the right as owner to share your own content whenever you want. This is essentially what’s happening in all existing groups, but since you aren’t the owner, you don’t get to share your content as much.

13. Start A Fire Curation

Start A Fire is one of several apps that allow you to overlay a prompt to your own content on an article you share. This allows you to get some additional benefit out of any content curation strategies you are currently using. They just recently shut down after I finished my experiment, but you can do the same thing with Back.ly.

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It’s not a bad idea, particularly if you can integrate it with your whatever scheduling tool you are using. Start A Fire used to integrate with Buffer, but that integration hasn’t been working for me lately.

Across 2,085 curated pageviews, I’ve received 68 click-throughs to my own content.

Honestly, that’s not much at all, but it’s better than nothing and it costs me absolutely nothing, so I think it’s a worthwhile piece of automation to integrate with your current curation and scheduling.

14. Taboola Paid Promotion

Paid promotion is consistent, so if you can find a channel that sends quality traffic at the right price, that’s incredibly valuable. Taboola is one channel I’ve been wanting to test out, and I used this experiment to get a feel for traffic volume.

The targeting options on Taboola are limited. You pretty much just have to trust their algorithm and then monitor the results, which makes setting up a campaign insanely easy.

I spent $31.15 on Taboola and received 89 click-throughs.

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Similar to Facebook Ads, the more you spend on this channel, the better results you are projected to receive. Unlike Facebook Ads, spending only $30 on an article could potentially be worthwhile.

You’ll need to add a conversion pixel and track conversions to know one way or another, but for a low-cost initial experiment, there were enough click-throughs for me to look at testing quality as well.

15. Outbrain Paid Promotion

Take everything I just said about Taboola and apply it to Outbrain. Testing out this platform was pretty much the exact same experience.

I spent $32.06 on Outbrain and received 95 click-throughs.

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With both platforms there was enough volume to look further into them, but the source of the traffic makes me skeptical of the quality. As I’ve said before, with paid pomo, you really need to track conversions as well.

16. Hacker News Submission

To be honest, I’m not really even sure what Hacker News is. It seems to just be a simple, upvote-based news feed that anyone can submit to.

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I literally just showed up, submitted one article and left.

My Hacker News submission received 96 click-throughs.

I really don’t have any commentary. I have no clue what the deal is with this channel, but I’ll take a hundred free clicks any day. After talking with other marketers about the channel, it seems that it can be incredibly effective for the right content, but it can be difficult to identify what that content is, and spamming non-relevant links will get your IP address blocked.

17. BlogEngage Retweets

As I mentioned before, BlogEngage’s community submission feed is pretty much worthless, but they also have paid options at around 50 USD per month. One of the features included in this package is that they will retweet your content throughout their network.

Given how Twitter works, I thought it would be interesting to test how many actual clicks I could get through this retweet network, so I tweeted the three articles and measured click-throughs before and after the retweets.

After receiving RTs from the BlogEngage network, my three articles received an additional 145 click-throughs.

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Again, I’ll need to measure the quality here in order to determine whether or not the paid membership is worthwhile, but at first glance, I’m very pleased with those results.

18. GrowthHackers.com Submission

GrowthHackers.com is basically Inbound.org without the collusion. You can still get some decent results without needing to manipulate your submissions.

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For my clients in the marketing space, GrowthHackers.com consistently drives the most referral traffic out of any promotion channel we use. While I will usually have the client’s marketing team upvote the post when it goes live, for the purposes of this experiment, I simply submitted the post with no vote manipulation.

My GrowthHackers.com submission drove 235 click-throughs (and counting).

The main key to utilizing this channel is to write on topics that the community likes, which is anything related to driving user behavior: conversion, copywriting, psychology, etc. This makes it a very good fit for virtually any marketing blog.

19. Quuu Paid Promotion

Quuu Promote has been an automatic part of my content promotion for several months now, although their recent price increase might lead to me being a bit more selective.

Quuu has managed to have their cake and eat it too by offering a paid curation app on one end of the funnel and paid ad placement on the other end. That kind of pisses me off, but it’s pretty brilliant too, and it will remain brilliant in my mind for as long as the cost-per-click remains solid on 9/10 articles.

Quuu can pretty awesome for content promo. This cost $60:

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It can also be shitty. This cost $30:

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For this experiment, I spent $90 on Quuu Promote and received 409 click-throughs.

After the price hike, most submissions run in the $40 – $50 range, and the results on my last three submission are averaging only 70 clicks, so the while they heyday might be over already for Quuu Promote, I’d recommend trying 3-5 articles with them and seeing how it goes.

20. Reddit Thread Submission

Reddit was the clicks winner by a mile and a half, which sort of surprised me and didn’t surprise me at the same time.

On the one hand, I know how much traffic and attention Reddit can quickly drive to a site that captures its attention. On the other hand, 9/10 submissions are typically going to be downvoted to oblivion the moment you submit them.

With that in mind, I submitted each article to three separate subreddits. Not a single one was downvoted, and all of them received a moderate amount of traction. I’m a regular Reddit user, so I do know how NOT to piss off the community, but despite this, I was shocked that every single post received some moderate traction.

All told, I made 9 Reddit submissions and received 708 click-throughs.

When submitting to Reddit, it’s important to spend a little bit of time making your submission more than just an obvious promo linkshare. If you can add an element of discussion to the thread, that’s always helpful.

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Reddit is a massive community and a great place to promote B2C content in particular if you can be a bit more subtle about it and follow the official and unofficial rules of the individual subreddits you share on. Even then, you probably have a 50/50 shot of getting downvoted, but I think my experiment proves that it is possible to get consistent results with the right approach.

Conclusion: The 3 Winning Content Promotion Strategies

If you were tracking along with the results, you probably noticed that three of the last 20 results were not like the rest. The final three had a significantly higher numbers of click-throughs than the rest:

  1. GrowthHackers Submission
  2. Quuu Paid Promotion
  3. Reddit Thread Submission

I feel like it’s safe to dub these the big winners of my experiment, and I plan to make them a regular part of my content promotion process.

If GrowthHackers isn’t a good fit for your niche, try to find a similar upvote-driven site that is active in your niche, OR if that doesn’t exist, just focus on Reddit “subreddits” which are more or less the same thing.

But enough of that.

I’m not the only one promoting content out here, and I highly doubt I’ve exhausted every content promotion strategy out there, so please, tell me what’s been working for you.

What have you tried? What has failed? What has succeeded?

Let me know!

Here at Conversion Sciences, we tend to focus a lot on website optimization, but in 2017, your website isn’t your only option for driving sales.
Over the last few years, social media sites have begun building ecommerce solutions directly into their platforms, allowing businesses to attract and sell to their target audience directly through their social pages.
With a few niche-specific exceptions, we would never recommend making social commerce the central piece of your sales strategy. It’s never a good idea to put all your eggs in a basket someone else controls.
But that said, if you aren’t taking advantage of social commerce in some capacity, you are most likely leaving money on the table, and we want to help you scoop that money right back up.

What is Social Commerce?

Social commerce is selling that takes place directly through social platforms. Instead of using social marketing to drive visitors to your website, where you then convert them into customers, visitors are sold to directly on social media either in the form of a complete checkout experience or a “Buy Now” style click-through that triggers an off-platform checkout.
This is a fairly natural and predictable next-step in the evolution of social media. After all, 74% of consumers already rely on social networks to guide their purchasing decisions. Eliminating the extra steps streamlines the process for consumers and brands alike.
There are currently three major sites for experimenting with social commerce:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Pinterest

Each platform is a bit different, so we’ll take a look at each individually.

How To Sell On Facebook

Facebook led the pack when it comes to intertwining its platform with ecommerce features by introducing a “Buy Now” button back in 2014. While the button was active and used by several brands with some success, ultimately it was more of a beta test, as only select businesses could try it out.
Eventually, Facebook opened the doors for all businesses to use the feature and has made a number of innovative additions since that time.
So, how do you set up a shop section on your Facebook page?
1. First, click the “+ Add Shop Section” button on your Facebook business page.
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2. On the following screen, click Add Shop Section
3. Agree to merchant terms and policies on the next screen, and then click Continue
4. Add business and payment processing details such as your email address, business address, and Stripe payment processing login details.
4. Follow the prompts to describe what your shop sells, and then click Continue
5. On the next screen, you will be prompted to enter photos, the name of your product, price, description, shipping options, tax rates, and inventory count. Click Save when you are finished.
The finished product should look something like this:
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Clicking on any of the product pictures or blue text below them will bring you to a checkout page where you can see more in-depth details on availability, purchasing, and ship times.
Arguably, the biggest advantages of using Facebook for social commerce can be described in two words: targeting & messaging.
Targeting is an area where Facebook is lightyears ahead of Twitter, Pinterest, and every other platform. Facebook sports a robust collection of data on all its users and has seriously sophisticated reporting features that give you the ability to specifically target your ideal customers to a very fine level of specificity.
For example, with your ads, you can target new mothers, who have a Bachelor’s degree, within the age range of 18-38, within a 25-mile radius of Dallas, who have an interest in fashion, and speak English.
Messaging is another area where Facebook has a competitive social commerce advantage. The number of Facebook’s mobile daily active users recently exceeded 1 billion and continues to grow. With this growth came a greater interest on Facebook’s part for streamlining their mobile experience, not only for content consumption but also social commerce.
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In early 2017, Facebook extended its “Buy Now” button to its Messenger application. This ecommerce integration gives your customers the ability to interact with a retailer’s bot which gives them yet another option to purchase products without ever leaving the Facebook platform.
The bot conversation typically will start from a potential customer seeing an advertisement for your brand on their news feed. As an advertiser, you can select Messenger as a destination and have a bot walk them through the purchase which will show them the price, tax, shipping cost, and allow them to enter their shipping and payment info.
Customers also get the added features of tracking product availability and shipping updates in real time.
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Facebook Social Commerce Case Study: Spearmint LOVE

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A quick way to utilize social commerce and get your store in front of potential customers is through buying advertisements. No platform is greater for your brand’s reach than Facebook. With 2 billion monthly users and an intensive arsenal of targeting features, the choice was a no-brainer for Spearmint LOVE to start advertising their line of infant clothes and accessories.
The Spearmint LOVE team knew the power social influence could have on revenue and immediately started utilizing Facebook as a tool to share complete infant outfits with its followers. Shari Lott, the founder of Spearmint LOVE said, “I put up a photo of not just a shirt or shoes, but of an entire outfit. And moms will come to the site and buy everything in that picture.” Shari put her heart and soul into creating intricate blog posts and sharing them with compelling images on her Facebook page to grow her following. Eventually, she grew her brand to the point where she had over 200,000 fans, and an astounding 62.48% of them were actively engaged as shown below.
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Once Facebook launched their “Buy” call-to-action buttons, Shari and her team leaped at the opportunity to offer yet another channel to sell their products on. They wanted to give their customers every conceivable way to buy from them. This strategy quickly gained a lot of traction, and they found themselves with an extremely scalable and profitable advertising model.
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After careful analysis, John Lott, the CFO/COO of Spearmint LOVE, stated: “We’re looking at ad spends where we’re getting at least $5 of revenue or more, preferably closer to the $10 mark for every dollar of ads spent.” To acquire such a view of their ROI, John would measure total net new customers, and the net new customers acquired through aggregate ad spend. Spearmint LOVE has had a year-over-year (YOY) growth of 991% in revenue since launching their store with BigCommerce in 2013 and grew their revenue 1,100% in 2016.

How To Sell On Instagram

Instagram burst onto the scene in late 2010 and rapidly grew to 10 thousand users within mere hours of launching (thanks to beta sign ups). The site has grown to 700 million users over the last 6 years and became one of Facebook’s key acquisitions along the way. The platform has made a name for itself in the marketing and ecommerce spaces as the top platform for direct engagement with brand followers.
In late 2016, Instagram began testing new CTA buttons which allowed companies to add links to their posts leading users off Instagram and onto their website or online store. You can select 1 of 4 CTA buttons which include “Shop Now”, “Install Now”, “Sign Up”, and “Learn More”.
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While Instagram has yet to include a complete checkout experience on-platform, given Facebook’s recent history, it would not at all be surprising to see fully on-site checkout experiences coming to Instagram in the near future.

Instagram Social Commerce Case Study: The Pink Lily Boutique

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The Pink Lily Boutique is a unique women’s clothing retailer that has leveraged their nearly 250,000 Instagram followers to create a 1 million dollar per month business. It’s founders, Tori and Chris Gerbig, went from storing clothes in their garage and selling on eBay and Etsy to fulfilling over 600 orders a day from their warehouse.
Creating this highly profitable store using Instagram was accomplished through a number of strategies:
1. Seek Out Feedback: Seeking out feedback from customers can give you much-needed insight into what products to sell and what not to. Pink Lily Boutique accomplished this through asking its followers to choose between two options.
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This strategy not only gives them much needed-feedback on which products to sell but also increases engagement rates on their posts and gives their followers a sense of investment into their brand.
2. Post Often: Pink Lily Boutique posts as much as 8-10 times a day. This strategy is effective because it gives their followers fresh content more often which keeps them coming back multiple times a day.
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3. Offer Giveaways and Hold Photo Contests: activities like these increase engagement even beyond Instagram’s already high engagement rate.
Pink Lily Boutique runs contests where entrants must share a post and tag a friend to gain an entry to win free outfits and accessories. People love free stuff and giveaways will create loyal brand ambassadors. They also leverage their followers to create content for them through the use of hashtags. If anyone posts a selfie wearing Pink Lily Boutique clothes and uses the tag #pinklilystyle, then they will get featured on the front page of the brand’s channel.
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4. Think Like A User: last but not least, they always ask themselves before posting: “Would I click on this ad?”. Tori and Chris know that you have to catch your audience’s attention in a few seconds or risk losing their interest altogether. This exercise of putting themselves in their customer’s shoes has proved extremely successful to their Instagram strategy and has aided them in driving over 25,000 visitors per day using Instagram.

How To Sell On Pinterest

With an impressive 175 million active users, Pinterest has been a mildly underappreciated selling channel for sometime now. Pinterest a niche paradise and a place for DIY enthusiasts, fashion lovers, chef extraordinaires and the businesses who cater to them.
And while Pinterest has always been an effective marketing channel for certain niches, in the last few years, it has jumped into the social commerce ring by offering “Buyable Pins”. These pins are ideal for social selling and make it incredibly easy for users to purchase products directly from a Pinterest page.
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Similar to Facebook’s shop feature, Pinterest users can purchase without being redirected to an online store off Pinterest. This makes the interest-to-purchase cycle shorter and more consumer friendly by eliminating a number of extra steps. A user can browse Pinterest and stumble upon something that has the blue “Buy It” button which puts them within two to three taps of completing an order in full and receiving a receipt through email.
To get started with Pinterest for Business you will want to follow these simple instructions:
First, head over to Business Section of Pinterest and click “Join as a business” to create a new account or Convert to Business by logging in using your existing Pinterest login credentials. Going this route ensures that you will keep all your existing pins, followers, and boards in tact.
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Once you’re set up as a Pinterest Business page, you can start utilizing Buyable Pins. To get started, you will already have to have an account with either BigCommerce, Salesforce Commerce Cloud, or Shopify. These ecommerce solutions will integrate with Pinterest using an extension and will automatically create buyable pins to match existing products on Pinterest to those in your store.
If you have any products that aren’t on Pinterest yet, then you will want to create new pins for those so the extension can match them. This process can take up to 5 days to get approved.

Pinterest Social Commerce Case Study: MVMT Watches

Yes, I know we’ve used MVMT Watches as a case study before! This is different. This isn’t about their Kickstarter or their meteoric rise to fashion retail prominence. This case study specifically highlights their use of Pinterest as a direct selling platform, and it’s worth your time.
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MVMT Watches is no stranger to social selling. After initialing building their brand through Instagram, the company has also used Facebook extensively as a social commerce platform. In 2016, they began experimenting with Pinterest’s buyable pins and ran a promoted pin campaign resulting in double their typical conversion rate and the highest average order value they have seen from any traffic source.
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This strategy was so successful that over a three-month period, MVMT saw a 12-fold increase in Pinterest traffic and over 11,000 sales.
Here is what MVMT’s Pinterest strategy looked in action:
A customer is casually browsing Pinterest looking at cool watches. They come across a compelling product image and decide to investigate further by clicking it to get a better view or find out which company sells it.
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This action takes you directly to the products checkout page where you can customize your watch and have it in your cart in a matter of seconds.
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This social commerce strategy utilizing Pinterest cut down the path to purchase for MVMT customers by using pins that linked directly to the products checkout page. They found the promoted pin to be the best bang for their buck because unlike other ad formats, you would continue to drive sales after the promotional campaign had ended, as the pin stays up on your Pinterest board.

Conclusion: Social Commerce Is Changing The Ecommerce Game… Kinda Sorta

As of 2017, optimizing your own website is still the most important investment you can make in ecommerce. Relying too much on a 3rd party platforms can easily backfire and destroy your business overnight.
That said, what were are seeing today in the emerging social commerce field is just the beginning of a future where creating your own selling platform will no longer be viable. Like machine learning, this train has started and it will permanently change the game.
If you’ve begun experimenting with social commerce for you own business, I’d love to hear about it. Drop me a line in the comments.

Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology….”
So goes the introduction to The Six-Million Dollar Man, a hugely popular show in the late 70s.
I always think of this line when it comes to optimizing copy, whether I’m working on entire websites, ebooks, or stand alone landing pages.
Unlike the bionic man, though, optimizing landing page copy isn’t about implants and augmentations. It’s about stripping everything down to its core to evaluate what works and what doesn’t.
Sometimes, you still get superhuman results with less, not more.
There are two things to keep in mind when writing persuasive copy:

  1. Copy dictates design.
  2. Clarity always wins.

I kept these two concepts in mind when I rewrote the main landing page for SolarPulse[1] last year.
The results? A 42% lift in conversions.
Here’s how I did it…

The Original, Underperforming Page

To begin, we needed to understand how people got here, why they were here, and what we needed to tell them.
The original version of SolarPulse’s main landing page (written by their engineers *shudder*) looked like this…

SolarPulse Landing Page Original

SolarPulse Landing Page Original


When I put myself in the shoes of a first time visitor, nothing on this page is particularly persuasive, eye-catching or moving. Keeping in mind that a writer IS NOT the ideal customer, I can go meta on the whole thing and start by evaluating my own reactions to the page.

  1. The first thing I notice is that it’s way too long. There’s too much copy to read, and it feels like work, so I want to bounce. This is never a good reaction.
  2. The second thing I notice is that I don’t know where to look. I’m drawn to the sign-up form, but I don’t even know what it’s for because I haven’t read the copy, so I skip it.
  3. The third thing I notice is that there are a lot of footnotes. That feels like legal stuff which makes me want to run.
  4. The fourth thing is that I like the icons. They can stay.

Ultimately, I’d leave this page to find a competitor’s page that requires less of me.
If I’m interested in solar and I want more information about how it benefits me (and, ultimately, how to make it happen), this page isn’t making life easy. I’m out.

Now, I know the problems. Next, I have to fix them…

With a project like this, the general framework of the page won’t change. The first thing I do is mock up the general elements of the page in a Google Doc by creating tables and pulling screenshots of the ones I want to keep.
Like this:

Page elements I definitely want to keep

Page elements I definitely want to keep


From there, I focus on writing shorter, clearer, more impactful copy for each icon. That means I treat each section as if it’s one mini-project, with no regard to the rest of the page (for now). My goals here are two-fold:

  1. Lead with the most persuasive benefit available
  2. Provide a “quick hit” of information in the shortest, clearest way possible.

Each of these sections has to tell it’s own story while being informative. I treat each icon’s copy separately because someone may or may not go through all of them. I need each piece to carry its weight, regardless. I can’t control how much a visitor will read, but I can control how crisp each one is on it’s own.
The initial result is something like this:

Concise copy makes information transfer easier for visitors

Concise copy makes information transfer easier for visitors


From there, I turn my attention to the lynchpin of the entire page…

The Heading and Subhead

At this point, you know good headings, subheads, and headlines are crucial to improving conversion rates (and A/B testing them is simple), but the actual process of creating the right ones can get messy.
Writing headings and subheads, for me, looks like this:

  1. Brain dump
  2. Refine
  3. Criticize
  4. Refine
  5. Refine
  6. Choose

Sometimes, subheads become headings. Sometimes, headings become subheadings. Sometimes, I chop one in half and add it to another. It becomes a puzzle. My job is to rearrange the pieces until it creates a picture.

Writing Headings

That said, everyone’s approach to writing headings and subheads is different. I prefer a stream of consciousness approach where I write as many ideas as I can for up to 30 minutes. I try to fill a blank piece of typing paper if I can (yes, I do this on paper).
Then, I cull the word-herd down to a handful of my best options.
From there, I get super critical and cut, cut, cut, while keeping in mind I have just a few seconds to get their attention, so benefits needs to be clear. The trick is to cut without losing meaning.

Writing Subheadings

If the heading is about the big idea (sometimes in the form of a question) of the entire page, then the subhead should answer the “what’s in it for me” question.
Since I already created rough versions of my bullet points next to my icons, I can answer this question easily.
What is this section about? Learning more about solar panels for my home. Boom. Subhead options for days. Just play around with the phrasing until you land on the right one.
Unscientific? For sure. Does it work? Absolutely.
Eventually, I end up with something that looks like this:

Playing with headline and subhead options

Playing with headline and subhead options


In the case of this particular project, I looped the designer and the project lead back into the copy so we could work on the heading and subhead messaging.
In addition to making minor design changes, we also incorporated a couple of keywords that were important to the SEO value of the project.
After a few rounds of back and forth, omitting, adding, clarifying, etc., the final version looked like this…
SolarPulse Landing Page Final

SolarPulse Landing Page Final

A Final Comparison: Better Landing Page Copy = +42%

As a refresher, here are the two pages, side by side.

You’ll notice how much cleaner and shorter the final version is compared to the original.
I worked hard to convince them to lose all the footnotes, instead working them into the actual text wherever it was relevant. We also cleaned up the navigation bar (in some cases, you shouldn’t even have one) and changed the image at the top of the page.
Minor design changes + clearer, benefits-focused copy = 42% conversion lift!
The final point I’d make here is that I didn’t follow any formulas or templates to get these results.
Did I think my version would be better than the original? Of course! But there’s no definitive way to know how it will perform until you test it. And those tests must be based on the foundational elements of conversion and psychology.
Stick to best practices, and—just like the Six-Million Dollar Man—your copy will be “Better…stronger…faster.”
 
[1] Full disclosure: Despite my results on this and other content on their site, SolarPulse was recently shuttered by its parent company.
 
Chris Cooper is a conversion copywriter and content strategist based in Denver, CO. He owns Real Good Writing where he helps tech and SaaS companies write B2B copy that people actually want to read. When he’s not getting more customers for his clients, he’s fighting a tireless battle for proper use of the oxford comma. Visit www.rgwriting.com or connect on Twitter @ElCoopacabra.