email marketing

How long should your emails be? Do people read long emails? Do short emails convert better? These questions have been debated for a long time. My guest has the data and this is one question she answers for us.

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There’s nothing better than getting another shot at a conversion. Sometimes, people aren’t ready to buy. I get that. I’m fine with that.

But I always want another shot. Maybe when the time is better.

Because it took a lot to get that person to the site.

Email makes more website visits valuable

The search engines are getting ever pickier at the kind of content they consider authoritative. You’ve got to work for it.

Social media requires so much time to do right, and most of the activity stays on the social media apps.

Every online advertising source has gotten steadily more expensive, prohibitively expensive. It was Google. Then Facebook. Then “the Gram”. Competition has driven up the cost of each of these in turn.

And what do I have to show for it? A landing page bounce or a full shopping cart left abandoned on one of my digital aisles.

No, I want another shot.

I’ve got a lot of choices when it comes to catching a wayward visitor. Exit overlays, live chat and the BB8 equivalent, chatbots. I can try to get you to agree to push notifications. I can give you a discount in exchange for permission to send you a Facebook message. I can pout, I can cry, I can beg.

But after almost four decades, the best choice is still that quaint old communication medium email.

“So a lot of experts nowadays will tell you that you need to write really short emails because there’s a statistic out there that says that our attention spans are that of a goldfish. I hate that.”

What the Data Says: Email, Podcasts, & Lead Conversion

What does the data tell us about effective email, podcasts and converting leads to sales? It's in here.
  • * Biggest misunderstandings
  • * Important metrics
  • * Applying the data
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What the data says displayed on phone and spread of pages

Email is the new email

It’s the original social media platform.

Every year, we hear about the demise of email. And every year email is the new email.

Email still can’t be beat for rich content, for conversations that feel one-to-one, and for getting another shot at a future customer. While everyone was fawning over the sexy new kid, social media, good ole email kept my readers close. Despite these new channels, the money is still in the list. And no algorithm change is going to take your list away from you.

People reply to my emails and tell me a little about themselves. Because they can. And I write back. And it can make my day.

Because that means I’m going to get another shot at making them a customer. Customers are some of my favorite people.

“Only 10.9 percent of e-mail experts send emails with subject lines of 20 characters or less.”

Yes, we may have abused our email privilege, but not by sending too much email. It’s something else.

To explore this, I’ve invited Liz Whillits to join me. Liz is Senior Content Marketing Specialist at AWeber, one of the OG email services. She is a self-proclaimed marketing nerd, and that makes her our kind of crazy.

“46 percent of emails are opened on mobile devices. Most mobile devices will cut off your subject line at somewhere between 30 and 40 characters. So anything over 40 characters is definitely getting cut off for your mobile readers.”

Liz doesn’t think you’re sending too much email, and she’s got the data to prove it. If we’re not sending too much email, then what’s keeping our email from being more productive?

When you get back to the office…

Our inbox has become our task master. If we want to know what’s going on with our team, communicate with our clients and agencies, or handle that return, it’s still done through email.

Email used to be the place we turned when we needed to take a break from creating that report, from polishing that design, or from meeting with the team. It used to be email to which we turned for a distraction.

“If you don’t clean your list, your emails are less likely to reach the inbox. So you could be putting all of this work into your email marketing strategy only to have your emails not reach the inbox.”

Today, the inbox drives our daily to-do list. This is true of veterans like me, as well as the younger members of the Slack generation. This is where it gets its power.

But instead of suggesting that you review your autoresponder, I’d like to invite you to make your everyday emails a little more personal. Add a bit of wit when you acknowledge receipt of that spreadsheet. Drop a meme to that terse, business-like reply you’ve just banged out.

Do something… anything that will make your coworkers glad to get email from you. In the long run, I think this will change the way you write for your prospects and clients.

I’m going to start doing this today.

Now, go science something with that personal flair.

How Long Should you Emails Be Show Notes

Connect with Liz

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Would you like to know why your mobile visitors don’t buy from your ecommerce site? Brian Massey, the Conversion Scientist®, unveils the mystery – and tells you what to do about it.

If you are like most ecommerce sites, you’re getting more mobile visitors, but the conversion rates are significantly lower than your desktop and tablet visitors – a lot lower.

Find out how to reverse this trend, increase your sales, and learn to love the small screen.

Understand your mobile ecommerce website visitors

Let’s take stock of your mobile visitors. What are they really like? This will require some analytics work. Even if you aren’t yet comfortable with analytics, get a Google Analytics login and follow along.

Are tablet visitors mobile or non-mobile?

Tablet visitors are generally happy with a desktop-like experience because they have large screens. However, tablet visitors are often in a “lean back” context, browsing for entertainment rather than to accomplish a goal. If your tablet visitors have conversion rates and average order values similar to your desktop visitors, you can regard them as, what I call, “non-mobile” or “big screen” visitors.

Look at your mobile visitors and non-mobile (desktop plus tablet) visitors separately.

Why your mobile visitors don’t buy from your ecommerce site: Questions to ask

To fully understand why your mobile visitors don’t buy from your ecommerce site, answer each of the following questions. There are no right or wrong answers.

1. Is your mobile traffic growing?

Look at the total number of visits (or sessions) for mobile and all visitors over time. Then look at the last month. Google Analytics has a report (Audience -> Mobile -> Overview) that will show you the percentage of these visitors to your site.

The Google Analytics Mobile Overview report shows mobile traffic (green line) is clearly trending up as a percentage of all traffic (blue line).

Figure 1: The Mobile Overview report shows mobile traffic (green line) is clearly trending up as a percentage of all traffic (blue line).

Has the percentage of mobile visitors changed over time? Is this percentage bigger or smaller in more recent months?

2. Does your mobile traffic convert lower than your desktop traffic?

How much do you make from each mobile visitor? Look at the revenue per visit or session value for mobile visitors and compare this to non-mobile visitors. You’ll find this by clicking the Ecommerce tab in the Mobile Overview report.

Choose the Ecommerce view to see average session value reports.

Choose the Ecommerce view to see average session value reports.

If your mobile visitors are converting less or spending less per transaction, you will see it in these metrics.

Report showing the average order value for mobile is less than desktop. Figure 2: In this example, the average order value for mobile visitors is only $0.20 compared to $3.75 for desktop visitors.

Figure 2: In this example, the average order value for mobile visitors is only $0.20 compared to $3.75 for desktop visitors.

You may want to analyze a longer period of time if you have seasonality in your ecommerce business.

3. Do your mobile visitors convert in other ways?

Look at non-ecommerce conversions, including email, subscriptions, registrations, phone calls, and social messenger permissions. Compare these conversion rates to your big-screen or desktop conversion rates.

report showing registration rates for mobile vs desktop visitors. Looking at Goal Set 1, we see that mobile visitors have a lower Registration rate (last column) than desktop visitors.

Figure 3: Looking at Goal Set 1, we see that mobile visitors have a lower Registration rate (last column) than desktop visitors.

4. Do your mobile visitors buy as much their desktop counterpart on the first transaction?

Look at your average transaction size, or average order value. Is it larger or smaller for mobile visitors? In Figure 2, we can see that the average order value for this online store is considerably smaller for mobile visitors ($46.60) than for desktop visitors ($160.43).

5. What channels make up your mobile traffic?

Do you have more mobile customers coming from email and social media?

While more visitors from YouTube are coming on desktop, the opposite is true for Facebook visitors.

Figure 4: While more visitors from YouTube are coming on desktop, the opposite is true for Facebook visitors.

6. What is your ecommerce cart abandonment rate?

This is the number of visitors who add to cart, but don’t check out.

CAR = Transactions / Sessions with Add to Cart

Related Reading: Mobile Call-to-Action Buttons: Best Guidelines for Placement, Copy, and Design

7. What is your mobile checkout abandonment rate?

This is the number of visitors who start to check out, but don’t complete the process.

COAR = Transactions / Sessions with clicks on Checkout

Answering these questions will help you determine the particular behavior of your small-screen visitors. When you are campaigning for resources, you need to be able to tell the story of your mobile visitors.

Report showing mobile visitors have higher abandonment rates than desktop.

Report showing mobile visitors have higher abandonment rates than desktop.

In the example above, we see that mobile visitors have much higher Cart Abandonment (75.66%) and Check-Out Abandonment (68.88%) rates than desktop visitors (52.43% and 37.62% respectively).

This is an indication that this mobile checkout process may have some issues.

The reasons your mobile visitors aren’t buying from your ecommerce site

It costs more to buy on a small-screen mobile device because it takes longer and it extracts a psychological price. There are three major reasons your conversion rate is lower for smartphone users.

  1. Your mobile visitors are coming with a lower level of urgency. They are standing in line, waiting for a table, or checking out of a group conversation.
  2. Your responsive website template assumes a mobile site is just a small desktop site. It’s just too hard to checkout.
  3. Your website is too slow. Mobile visitors have to wait much longer for a slow site because their connections have lower bandwidth.

Conversion Rate Optimization Tips: Mobile visitors aren’t here to buy. Don’t fight it

Mobile users are likely to have a “lean back” attitude compared with your big-screen visitors. For a portion of your visitors, their shopping experience is less urgent, driven more by opportunity than by purpose.

Mobile visits are more often sourced by interruptions than by intent-driven search advertising. They are clicking through, based on a recommendation on Instagram, clicking on your Facebook ad, or coming from your abandoned cart email. In these cases, they are responding to an interruption. They may have a need for your product, but they weren’t shopping intentionally. They were interrupted.

Visitors coming from a search engine are intentional. They are signaling that they are actively trying to solve a problem.

Your mobile traffic is more likely to come from interrupt-driven sources: email and social media websites. Accept this, and move on.

“If you are investing more in the cheap clicks of social media, you are going to attract more “lean back” mobile visitors.”

Start a conversation instead

If you have a large percentage of mobile visitors coming from interrupt-driven campaigns and they are not converting, don’t focus on the sale. Focus on getting an email address or permission to communicate via a social messaging app, like Facebook Messenger.

What call to action would a mobile visitor respond to?

Content: Offer sizing guides, buyers guides, style guides, installation, and how-to videos in exchange for an email address.

Save my work: Offer to store the items they’ve added to their cart in exchange for an email. We call this a “screen hopper”. They may be more willing to buy later when they are checking emails on their computer at work. Offer to send them a link to their wish list via Facebook Messenger. Just know that their return visit will probably be on their smartphone.

Join our community: Offer to make your more passionate mobile visitors a part of an exclusive community.

Discounts. Offer a future discount in exchange for their email address or permission to send them a message.

Don’t redo the whole site. Land mobile visitors on specially designed pages in your online store.

Focus on getting the second visit.

It’s hard to complete forms on a smartphone

Forms are frustrating. They take the joy out of the purchase. No one likes entering their address once, let alone twice. And we tend to make more mistakes on a mobile keyboard. It’s not hard to track form errors in analytics. If you do, you will likely find more errors from mobile visitors.

The reason mobile is harder is the input method: 2 thumbs vs. 10 fingers for a keyboard. And on-screen keyboards aren’t tactile. There’s no feedback. Mistakes happen more often, extracting a psychological price.

Your clue that you have a user-experience problem is a high checkout abandonment rate (see above). If so, you should help your mobile visitors out.

Watch some screen captures

The recommendations I give here may or may not be affecting your visitors. Before you begin making changes to your site based on my rantings, find out which issues are affecting you.

The best way to do this is by watching screen recordings. I KNOW IT’S BORING. But it will take you less time to watch 100 of your visitors interact with your checkout than to make all of my recommended changes.

Screen recordings are pretty easy to get these days. Look at tools such as CrazyEgg, Sessioncam, Mouseflow, and Hotjar.

I recommend watching 50 to 100 visits that include a checkout or an abandonment. The best tools will let you search for these particular recordings. As you watch, tally the number of visitors who struggle, and notice which fields trip them. Star the visits that result in an abandonment. You’ll want to play these for your development team later.

Reduce the form fields

It may seem obvious that you need a credit card billing address, expiration date and CVV number. But, do you really?

Can you get this information from PayPal, Apple Pay, Visa Checkout, or some other service?

Use the right mobile keyboards

There is no good reason to make me enter sixteen numbers using a QWERTY keyboard. The number targets are tiny. Give me the numeric keypad.

The same goes for entering a phone number, CVV, expiration date, PIN, and US postal codes. Use the numeric keypad please.

Choosing the wrong keyboard may be the reason mobile visitors don't buy from your ecommerce site. Use the numeric keyboard for numeric fields.

Figure 5: Use the numeric keyboard for numeric fields.

If you want my email address, please use the email keyboard. It doesn’t require me to do anything special to enter “@”, “.” or “.com”.

Eliminate the endless drop-downs

How many countries are there in the world? If you are choosing your country on a mobile device, you know there is a lot, about two minutes worth of scrolling through a dropdown. I’m from the United States. I have to scroll to the bottom of a long list of countries to find “United States”.

If you don’t ship to Mars and Venus, they shouldn’t be on the list.

Your mobile visitors know the abbreviation for their country. Let them enter “USA” or “Canada” or “UK”.

Also, I’m from Texas, which means I scroll through 40 states. I hate your state dropdown, but not as much as those poor souls from Wyoming.

Avoid fancy fields on mobile forms

There’s been a trend toward auto-formatting fields. Phone numbers magically get parentheses around the city code. Dashes magically appear.

Fancy fields fail too often on mobile devices. If you have the resources to continuously QA all of the new browsers on all of the new devices coming out, you’re probably okay.

Cover the exits

Use exit-triggered, or exit-intent popups to make a final pitch to your mobile visitors. These popups appear when your mobile visitor tries to leave the site. This is a great place to offer to continue the conversation, save the cart, or provide a discount.

Use trust and proof in your mobile ecommerce checkout

You can’t make mobile visitors wait

I often hear that web visitors have the attention span of a goldfish. Mobile visitors could have the patience of a redwood tree and still abandon your page because it doesn’t appear to load.

Your mobile site is slow. This is because no one has a 4G connection to the internet, even if they’re standing right under the cell tower. Have you tested your website with the WiFi turned off? Probably not.

Your mobile site must be snappy. Google considers a mobile page speed slow if it takes more than 2.5 seconds to load over a 4G connection. There is nothing more painful than having to wait for the information needed right there and then when on a smartphone. Even a goldfish won’t hang around if you’re not responding quickly.

Barriers to Sales in Mobile Ecommerce Websites: Someone else designed my shopping cart

You will run into some barriers in optimizing your mobile checkout.

We’ve all been told to think “out of the box.” But “out of the box” shopping carts do not let us customize for our mobile visitors.

Third party services such as Shopify and BigCommerce do their best to give you a strong starting point. But you’ll need resources to customize their default experience for mobile.

Integration with third-party payment options requires work. Services like PayPal and Stripe need to balance security with integration that looks seamless. This is just the first step toward mobile-optimized checkouts.

Your mobile website isn’t a mini desktop site

Google successfully convinced most online businesses to go to a responsive web template with its Mobilegeddon threat. As I said in “Is Google Using Mobilegeddon to Lead You Astray?”, a responsive desktop website only gets you part of the way there.

  • Mobile visitors want more than a mini-me of your desktop site. They want:
  • Smaller forms.
  • Faster load times. Have you tried using your mobile site outside of your corporate WiFi network?
  • Thumb-driven content. Sliders and carousels work on mobile.
  • Custom keyboards for numbers, email addresses and text.
  • Location-based content, like maps.

Mobile visitors want something fundamentally different. Give it to them. Expect to make changes to the way your responsive template works. After a period of testing, your mobile site will evolve away from your big-screen site. That’s as it should be, and it’s the only way to get your mobile site converting as high as your desktop site.

Related Reading:

With a limited amount of money in your marketing budget, spend it on things which are going to give you the best return on investment. These email marketing facts tell you why email remains a great way to spend your money.

Unfortunately, many people wrongly think that this type of marketing is dead. The amount of emails I get in my inbox each day says otherwise. Here are some facts about email marketing to prove my point:

  1. 205 billion emails are sent each day. This is expected to rise to 246 billion by the end of 2019.
  2. Email is still one of the most widely used methods of communication despite the wide range of platforms and apps available.
  3. Although Facebook is an important tool for marketing, email marketing is the most direct and personal way to reach and interact with your target audience. People are more likely to sign up for your email list than they are to interact with you on Facebook. In fact, companies still employ third-party email marketing services to assist them with this aspect of eCommerce.
  4. Your customers want updates. Don’t just settle for one sale per customer, you want multiple sales. Your customers want to hear from you and want email updates about your brand. Don’t let them forget about you, give them what they want!
  5. Emails have a larger ROI. For every $1 spent on email marketing, an average $38 is returned – this is very important if you have a limited budget.
Want to learn more about email marketing? Check out our infographic below.
Email Marketing Facts

Email Marketing Facts

Talking about useful AB testing tools to the readers of this blog may be like preaching to the choir. But if you are new to this blog, or new to conversion optimization in general, you may be wondering which AB testing tools you can start using without making a huge investment. Fortunately, there are some AB testing tools out there that are either free or won’t cost you any additional money because you already have them – you just don’t know it yet.
In this post, we’re going to look at AB testing tools that you may have had all along and how to use them to optimize different aspects of your marketing strategy for conversions.

Useful Website AB Testing Tools

Since most people will want to do AB testing on their website, we’ll start with the tools you can use here. Did you know that if you have fewer than 50,000 unique visitors per month, you can use tools like Optimizely for simple AB testing for free? It’s a really simple tool to use. You just sign up for your free account and start up a website project.

Create a project with Optimizely for free when you have fewer than 50,000 visitors a month

Create a project with Optimizely for free when you have fewer than 50,000 visitors a month

Once you’ve entered your URL, you will be taken to a screen where you can immediately start creating a variation to test on your website.

Create a variation for your AB test

Create a variation for your AB test

Once you’ve created your variation, you click the Start Experiment button and get the code you need to add to your site.

Start your Optimizely experiment

Start your Optimizely experiment

You will set up a goal so you know which variation leads to the most conversions.

Create a goal for your AB testing experiment

Create a goal for your AB testing experiment

And then sit back and wait for visitors to come to your website to determine which variation gets the most conversions!
If you’re stuck for ideas on what to test on your landing page, you can try the common elements – headlines, subheads, images, calls to action, etc. – as well as some creative options listed in our landing page testing ideas post.
If you have more than 50,000 visitors each month, or would prefer to not add another tool to your toolkit, you can also look into Google Analytics Content Experiments. This allows you to conduct testing with your Google Analytics.
To start, you go to Behavior > Experiments for your website and click the Create Experiment button. Then you define the experiment you want to perform, starting with the goal of your test. You will use your Google Analytics goals to ultimately determine which variation of your AB test is the winner.

Create an experiment in Google Analytics

Create an experiment in Google Analytics

The key difference between Google Content Experiments and your average AB testing tool is that you have to create an additional page on your website that has the variation, whereas most AB testing tools (like Optimizely) will let you “edit” your page in their editor. So depending on what you want to change, it may be an easy or difficult process to create that second page.

Setting up variants in Google Analytics may require more steps than using a traditional AB testing tool like Optimizely.

Setting up variants in Google Analytics may require more steps than using a traditional AB testing tool like Optimizely.

Next, you will receive the code you need to insert on your website to start your experiment.

You code for your AB test in Google Analytics

You code for your AB test in Google Analytics

Finally, you will confirm that the code has been installed and you will start your experiment. Once your experiment is completed, Google Analytics will declare a definitive winner.

Alternatives to AB Testing Your Own Website

An alternative to doing AB testing on your own website is to monitor the tests of others. There’s a free way to do it and a paid way. First, you can try to find your competitor’s website history in the Internet Archives. The downside to the free is that you’ll have a lot of clicking to do.

The Internet Archive brings you the tool Wayback Machine which lets you see how a website appeared on a particular date.

The Internet Archive brings you the tool Wayback Machine which lets you see how a website appeared on a particular date.

The other option I mentioned in my landing page testing ideas post, Rival IQ, allows you to see your competitor’s website history in a much easier to digest format.

RivalIQ is a paid tool for viewing website histories.

RivalIQ is a paid tool for viewing website histories.

There’s a good chance that if you look through your competitors designs over the last couple of years, you’ll see subtle changes to headlines, images, colors, etc. that will relate to some AB testing. So instead of testing on your own, you can learn from their tests and pave your own unique way from there.

Email Marketing AB Testing

If you are running email marketing campaigns, chances are you are using a popular email marketing software platform that likely has an AB testing component built in. MailChimp, for example, allows you to select an AB testing campaign and then allows you to test four aspects of your email campaign: the subject line (highly recommended), the from name, the content, and the send time.

AB testing options in MailChimp

AB testing options in MailChimp

You can choose a certain percentage of your recipients to test with and you can choose click rate, open rate, revenue, or other goals to judge the results of your testing. For example, if you chose to test subject lines, you would simply enter two subject lines for your recipients instead of one.

AB testing email subject lines in MailChimp

AB testing email subject lines in MailChimp

Or, if you were going to test two different types of newsletter content (such as a text-only email versus an HTML newsletter), you would get two email templates to send to your recipients.

AB test your email content

AB test your email content

Most email marketing software offers AB testing. At the bare minimum, you can at least test your subject lines. Some go further with the from name testing, email content testing, send time testing, and other forms of AB testing.
But considering that your subject line is the make or break point of whether someone opens your emails, it’s safe to say that so long as you have the option of testing that, you are good!

Alternatives to AB Testing Your Own Email

There is a simple and free way to monitor your competition’s email and potentially see what headlines are working for them – just sign up for their emails. And be sure to at least open them. If you just ignore them, some will automate you out of their main line of emails. And that might mean you’ll miss out on some good subject lines!
Bonus tip: if your competition is using email marketing software like Infusionsoft, ActiveCampaign, or others that allow automations, you should open the emails and click on the links on occasion. You may get to see one of their automation funnels in action too!

Blog Content AB Testing

Similar to email AB testing, blog content performance can rely heavily on one specific element: the title. If you choose a great blog title, people will click through and read your post from your blog’s homepage, search engines, social networks, and other sources. If you choose a bad blog title, then you may not get an clicks or readers at all.
That’s why AB testing your blog post titles can be a crucial key to the success of your content marketing strategy. If you have WordPress, Nelio A/B Testing is a tool you can use to do just that.
While it’s not free, it starts at $29 a month for websites with 5,000 views per month. And it will allow you to test crucial elements of your blog, beyond just the headlines of your blog posts.

You can use Nelio A/B Testing to test WordPress blog content

You can use Nelio A/B Testing to test WordPress blog content

For serious publishers, WordPress website owners, and WooCommerce website site owners, this can be a powerful AB testing tool that can help you test a variety of things that other testing tools simply can’t.

Alternatives to AB Testing Your Own Blog Headlines

Going back specifically to blog headlines, if you don’t want to test your own, there are ways of finding out the best headlines for a specific topic. The free way would be to use BuzzSumo – even without an account, you can usually get the top five to ten headlines about a specific topic based on social sharing.

Find the top headlines for a topic using BuzzSumo

Find the top headlines for a topic using BuzzSumo

If you don’t mind paying, a similarly priced tool that offers even more information that you can try or compare to BuzzSumo is Impactana. Both start at $99 per month, but Impactana goes a step further by allowing you to see headlines that are not popular based on social shares alone, but also based on views, backlinks, comments, and other metrics (based on the type of content).

Impactana uses more metrics than BuzzSumo to show you the top headlines for topics

Impactana uses more metrics than BuzzSumo to show you the top headlines for topics

This can give you a strong idea of what headlines and content generate the most social buzz, search authority, traffic, and audience engagement.

Social Media Ad Campaign AB Testing

While social media advertising is not free, AB testing for some social media ad platforms is because it’s built right in. Take Facebook, for example. You can create an Ad Campaign, an Ad Set that is targeted to a specific audience through specific placements, and multiple Ads under that set that help you test variations so you can determine which one drives the most conversions.
Here’s how the process looks in the standard Facebook Ads Manager. First, you will start by choosing your ad objective.

Choosing your ad objective in Facebook

Choosing your ad objective in Facebook

Then you will name your Ad Campaign.

Naming your Facebook ad campaign

Naming your Facebook ad campaign

Next, you will define your Ad Set by choosing your target audience, ad placements (the desktop news feed, the mobile news feed, Instagram, etc.), and setting your budget.

Defining your Facebook Ad Set

Defining your Facebook Ad Set

Before you continue, you can save the name of your Ad Set.

Your budget and schedule for your Facebook ad

Your budget and schedule for your Facebook ad

Finally, you will configure your first Ad.

Configuring your Facebook ad

Configuring your Facebook ad

Once you’re finished with your first ad creative, you will place your order. Once you do, that ad will go into review and you will get the option to create a similar ad.

After finishing your order for your Facebook ad, you're ready to get set-up for your variation

After finishing your order for your Facebook ad, you’re ready to get set-up for your variation

This will allow you to create another Ad under the same Ad Campaign and Ad Set. You will get the option to modify the Ad Set if needed.

Modifying your Facebook ad set

Modifying your Facebook ad set

Otherwise, you can click Continue to create your next Ad variation. This will bring up the same Ad you created before so you can create your variation by changing one specific element, such as the image, originating page, the headline, the text, the call to action, the news feed description, or the display link.

Change the element you want to test in your Facebook ad AB test

Change the element you want to test in your Facebook ad AB test

Once you have made your variation and placed your order, you will again get the option to create a similar ad or to continue to your Ads Manager. You can also decide to add more variations from the Ads Manager by clicking on the Create Similar Ad button.

You can add more variations by clicking Create Similar Ad

You can add more variations by clicking Create Similar Ad

The downside, as you can see above, is that you can’t name the individual ad variations. Therefore, unless you’ve changed the images between them, they all look the same in the Ad Manager view. Hence, to know which variation in terms of originating page, the headline, the text, the call to action, the news feed description, or the display link is working, you will have to click through to the winning variation and view the post to learn from it.

It's easy to toggle off an ad if it's not working out

It’s easy to toggle off an ad if it’s not working out

The upside, however, is you can easily toggle off the losing variation of your ad based on its performance.
But overall, this is a great way to use AB testing in your Facebook Ad Campaigns. And it’s the simplest way as it doesn’t require you to use Power Editor, although if you are more comfortable in Power Editor, it can be done there as well.
If you use LinkedIn Ads, they also offer an option for creating variations with their text and image ads. Fortunately, their variations editor is even simpler. Start by going to LinkedIn Ads Manager, select your LinkedIn advertising account, create a new Campaign, and then select Text Ads.

How to begin a LinkedIn ad campaign

How to begin a LinkedIn ad campaign

Start by giving your campaign a name.

Name your LinkedIn ad campaign

Name your LinkedIn ad campaign

Next, you will create your first ad.

Creating your first ad

Creating your first ad

When you save your first ad, you will get the option to continue or create up to 100 variations of your ad.

After you create your ad, LinkedIn makes it easy to create your variations

After you create your ad, LinkedIn makes it easy to create your variations

When you click to create another ad, you will be able to create an entirely new ad from scratch to test different URLs, headlines, descriptions, and images.

Building your LinkedIn ad variations

Building your LinkedIn ad variations

Once you are finished creating your variations, you will continue through the campaign creation process to select your target ad audience and set your ad campaign budget.

Select your targeted audience and your budget

Select your targeted audience and your budget

Once you have finished creating your campaign, you will get a clear view in your ads dashboard of how each of your ad variations are performing. This will allow you to learn what works and what doesn’t quickly, as well as allow you to toggle the losing variations off.

Your dashboard will tell you how your ad variations are performing

Your dashboard will tell you how your ad variations are performing

Alternatives to Doing Your Own Social Media Ad AB Testing
There are two free alternatives when researching paid advertisements. The first is Moat. Moat allows you to look at other companies display banner ads. While this isn’t specific to social media ads, it can help you learn about the images and ad copy that big brands use to drive paid traffic to their websites.

Use Moat to discover what your competitors are doing with their ad testing

Use Moat to discover what your competitors are doing with their ad testing

If you notice particular imagery, copy, calls to action, button colors, or other elements have been used over and over again, you can assume that said elements have been doing well, considering you can almost guarantee big brands are testing the elements that they are paying for.
The second resource you can tap into that is specific to Facebook is the AdSpresso Facebook Ads Gallery. Simply sign up for their newsletter and start searching for brands that advertise on Facebook. Not only will you get to see the variations of ads they have used over time, but you can click on their ads to get some pretty good details about the ads.

AdSpresso shares a lot of valuable information about Facebook ads

AdSpresso shares a lot of valuable information about Facebook ads

Between these two resources, you should learn a lot about how to create a successful ad campaign on social media and beyond. And they’re both better options than sitting around and refreshing your Facebook or LinkedIn news feed, hoping to see some ads from your competitors.

In Conclusion

As you can see, between free and premium tools, there are various ways to A/B test many aspects of your online marketing beyond just your landing pages. Be sure to look at the different aspects of your online marketing strategy and think about the ways you should be testing it to improve your results today!

About the Author

Kristi HinesKristi Hines Headshot is a freelance writer, blogger, and social media enthusiast. You can follow her latest tweets about business and marketing @kikolani or posts on Facebook @kristihinespage to stay informed.

I’m fond of saying that AB testing, or split testing, is the “Supreme Court” of data collection. An AB test gives us the most reliable information about a change to our site. It controls for a number of variables that can taint our data.

Things change over time. You might make a change to your site at the same time that a competitor runs a sale. Was it your change or the sale that was responsible for a drop in transactions on your site? AB tests eliminate such issues by serving variations over the same period of time.

Things change among visitors. Generally, visitors coming to your site from an email campaign are more likely to buy than visitors from search ads. For most businesses, mobile visitors convert worse than desktop visitors. An AB test can make sure that the “mix” of visitors is the same for the each change that is tested.

Plus, the AB test gathers data from real visitors and customers who are “voting” on our changes using their dollars, their contact information and their commitment to our offerings.

And our AB tests can lead us astray.

Testing Email: Open Rates & Click-Through Rates

When testing email, open rates and click-through rates don’t give you the true performance of your emails. They also don’t let your team take credit for keeping the accountants busy.

We recently did an analysis of one of our e-commerce client’s email campaigns. They had been testing how the “disclaimer” line in their emails was affecting purchase behavior.

The “disclaimer” is the first line in an email. It typically says something like “Having trouble viewing this email? Click here.” The reason this line is important is that most email clients now show the subject line and the beginning of an email in the inbox view. Here’s an example from my Gmail promotions folder.

The first line of your email is as important as the subject line.

The first line of your email is as important as the subject line.

One assumes that, if these messages are working, they will be reflected in a better open rate. It turns out not to be true.

So, we tested different versions of this text over the course of 23 emails. The Open Rate predicted which would generate the most revenue in less than half of them.

As a predictor of revenue, click-through rate didn’t fare much better, calling the revenue winner in thirteen of the tests.

Revenue-Per-Recipient Puts Marketing In The Money

When we talk about monetizing a list, the metric we like is Revenue-per-Recipient.

It is calculated as:

revenue per recipient is email revenue divided by email delivered

It tells us how much spendable revenue we’re getting from each member of our list. To look at it another way, it’s an estimate of the value of each person on our list.

With proper analytics, we can measure this for the whole list, particular segments of the list (customers vs. new subscribers for instance), or for different treatments in a split test.

Measuring it requires some discipline and a bit of analytics work.

Getting To Revenue-Per-Recipient

The key to getting the Revenue-per-Recipient (RPR) number is tying email clicks to transactions. This may require some help from your friendly IT department.

Configure Your Analytics Package

Most e-commerce companies will be pumping the results of each transaction into their analytics software. If you’re generating leads for your business, your analytics system can track new prospects for you as well.

We talked last time about tracking phone calls generated by your site. Done right, you can track the number of calls made by email clickers.

Do the work necessary to get reliable reporting of sales or leads into your analytics package. Once this is done, you have what you need to calculate the impact of email on the bottom line.

Mark Your Email Traffic

This is where the discipline comes in. We need to be able to identify the traffic generated from each email drop. This is done typically by adding special parameters to the links in the emails that come back to our site.

What you add to you add to your URLs depends on your analytics package. Google Analytics has a set of standard parameters. An email link, properly tagged might change from:


When someone clicks on this link, Google Analytics will know that it was from the email talking about the Halloween Special, that it was sent to the Subscriber List, and that it was clicked from an email.

I have found that it’s important to add the date of the email drop as well, and this can be added to the campaign description. Here’s the format I use.

Many email service providers offer integrations with popular analytics packages, such as Google Analytics. They will add these tags automatically for you. The only down side is that the campaign names they choose may not be as easy to read. Mailchimp sends Google Analytics campaign names like “934f31ce51-Webinar_Follow_up_Email_10_31_2013.”

Readability is important.

We will want to be able to identify performance of individual emails when we’re testing or sending to specific segments. We will soon want to be able to marry our email service provider reports with our analytics reports. Readability will be key.

Power Reports

This process gives us the ability to see the revenue each email produces directly. Here’s a report taken from Google Analytics.

Track your emails to the dollars.

Track your emails to the dollars.

For any of the emails in this kind of report, we can pull the number of recipients from our email service provider. This gives us our Revenue per Recipient for each drop and an overall number.

Revenue per Recipient accounts for list size and revenue generated.

Revenue per Recipient accounts for list size and revenue generated.

In this example, we got 37 cents for each member of our list. However, we can see that this number is skewed by the first one, delivering a whopping $1.20 per recipient.

Don’t be concerned that 37 cents sounds so small. RPR numbers are rarely exciting in their magnitude.

A Word For B2B Lead Generators

It may not seem that this will work for lead generators, especially those with long sales cycles. Nonsense.

As lead generators, we should know the value of a lead to our business. For our purposes, how we calculate it is less important than being consistent. Lead value is calculated by New Customer Revenue/New Leads.

We could calculate it once based on last year’s numbers and use it for all emails until you calculate it again.

We could calculate it every month by dividing the past month’s new revenue with all new leads from the past three months.

You should choose the method that you can justify, and that delivers a consistent RPR month over month.

Power Process Tip: If you can calculate the true value of a lead for your organization, you can calculate your value as a lead generator in terms everyone understands: dollars.

Optimizing Revenue-Per-Recipient

There are two ways to increase your Revenue per Recipient, both of which are best practices in email marketing.

  1. Increase the revenue your list is generating. Duh.
  2. Decrease the number of recipients. What?

Like trees in the winter, it’s important to prune and shape your list. Those who have never opened a single one of your emails should be dropped. In fact, many email marketers drop non-openers every 90 days or less.

It’s scary, but it’s good business.

Of course, we all want our lists to deliver steady revenue growth. This comes from understanding the offers, subject lines, email copy and landing pages that make the most money for the business.

It’s relatively easy to test emails. Just remember to test to the dollars using RPR.

A Final Word About Accuracy

This method doesn’t take into account the revenue generated when your emails create non-click demand. You don’t get credit when recipients see your email, but call, come to your store, or visit your site through other means. Nonetheless, RPR this is a valid measure of the dollar impact we are having on our businesses.

It’s time to stop boring people with how good your open rates and click-through rates are. Tell them what each and every person on your list is worth in dollars. When you track the results of your emails down to the dollar, you track your own value down to the dollar.

Portions of this article first appeared on Marketing Land.

21 Quick and Easy CRO Copywriting Hacks to Skyrocket Conversions

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
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How does one build traffic to a blog? That’s easy. One writes. One posts. One shares.
Unfortunately, not all posts are created equal. Not all topics interest the same number of readers. And not all keyword phrases get the attention of the great granter of traffic, Google.
Having blogged since 2005 on marketing topics, from email to conversion optimization. Every post has it’s own signature when I look at it in Google Analytics. There are Eagles, Icebergs, Burps and more.
I thought I would share them with you.

How We Look at Traffic

Our subscriber list gets an email each week of with new posts. We publish new posts three times per week. We put new posts on LinkedIn and Facebook, and will generally share with on Twitter multiple times over the course of a week or two. Our most active posts will get reposted on LinkedIn.
We count on this initial outreach to drive relevant backlinks for search engine optimization. I use Referral Traffic as a proxy for backlinks. While backlinks aren’t about generating referral traffic, there is a correlation between the amount referral traffic and the number of backlinks a post has.
So, when evaluating the performance of our blog posts, I’m examining:

  1. Email traffic
  2. Social traffic
  3. Referral traffic (for backlinks)
  4. Organic traffic

With these segments, I look at the Google Analytics Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages report for individual posts that rank high in traffic generated, and go back more than a year.

The Google Analytics Landing Pages report can be used to isolate the most visited entry pages on the blog.

The Google Analytics Landing Pages report can be used to isolate the most visited entry pages on the blog.

Separating Social Referrals from Referral Traffic in Google Analytics

First of all, Google Analytics seems to include social referrals in it’s “Referral Traffic” filter. I want to look at social separately, so I created a filter based on the social networks that send traffic to us.

The difference between Referral and non-social Referral Traffic-Graph-Arrows

This article shows that Google’s “Referral Traffic” advanced segment includes social referrals.

The Kinds of Posts You Find in Analytics

Every post is unique. Each has its own signature in analytics. However, there are some common themes I’ve seen in the data and I’m going to share them with you here.

The Burp

The Burp is a post that gets all of it’s juice from email and social media. There is a spike of activity followed by near “silence,” if you can say visits make a sound.
These are topics that may have been interesting to people when shoved into their inbox or social media timeline, but didn’t grab the attention of the search engines.

Burps are the most unsatisfying of all blog posts.

Burps are the most unsatisfying of all blog posts.

Burps can be blamed on poor search optimization, poor choice of keywords or just boring content. The post shown above had a nice email spike and got some referral traffic. But the referrals didn’t seed organic visitors like some. See below.

The Burp and Fizz

A variation of the Burp is the “Burp and Fizz.” This traffic pattern burps when email and social sharing are being done. Then it sizzles with search traffic – just a little – over time.

Strong email, social traffic and referral traffic resulted in only a rumbling of organic visits.

Strong email, social traffic and referral traffic resulted in only a rumbling of organic visits.

Only a small amount of organic traffic emerged from this post.

Only a small amount of organic traffic emerged from this post.

These may be long-tail topics, or the small amount of search traffic may be driven by less-relevant backlinks.

The Iceberg

Like its frozen namesake, the iceberg is massive and floats through your analytics, slowly melting over time. In our case, the iceberg has been one our most visited post since it was published in March of 2011. It has generated a large volume of search traffic, decreasing slowly.
Icebergs can be misleading. In our case, email is not how potential prospects find us, so traffic to this post is largely poor quality from a lead generation standpoint. As more visitors come to this post, our conversion rates drop.

This Iceberg generated a great deal of traffic, but is slowly melting over time.

This Iceberg generated a great deal of traffic, but is slowly melting over time.

We can see the influence of key backlinks here in driving search relevance. A new resurgence in traffic came after a swelling of referral traffic. A little investigation showed that the post was featured in January of 2014 on the Crazy Egg Blog.

Beach Ball at a Concert

Sometimes a post just won’t fly without frequent support. Here’s a topic – Generating Mobile Phone Calls from the Web – that looked like it was going to iceberg on us (see below). However, every couple of months we did a presentation on the topic of mobile and generating phone calls from the web.

This topic kept trying to die, but was buoyed by presentations and publication on other sites.

This topic kept trying to die, but was buoyed by presentations and publication on other sites.

Each presentation included being mentioned in blog posts and online show marketing. So, we got new life from each, like popping a beach ball back into the air at a concert.

The Celebrity Curve

This post mentioned SEO celebrity, Rand Fishkin.

This post mentioned SEO celebrity, Rand Fishkin.

I did one of my live Instagraph while Rand Fishkin was presenting at Business of Software 2014. Rand is well known in our industry as the founder of MOZ and it’s various products.
Our email list gravitated to his name, which you can see in the orange line below. His our social channels responded with less enthusiasm. However, we were on the search engines’ radars for his name, at least until his next thing became more relevant.
Celebrity posts offer short-lived organic traffic.

Celebrity posts offer short-lived organic traffic.

Celebrity is a fickle master, even when creating content.

The Eagle

These are the posts you write for. You seed them with some email and social media attention, and then they spread their wings, riding the winds of the search engines. [pullquote]The Eagles are the posts that your blog is built on.[/pullquote]

This post took on a life of its own thanks to the search engines.

This post took on a life of its own thanks to the search engines.

Eagle posts take flight and drive organic traffic to your site.

Eagle posts take flight and drive organic traffic to your site.

It’s hard to tell what causes Eagles to soar. Some enjoy early social traffic. Others get early referral traffic. There doesn’t seem to be a pattern to jump starting an Eagle post. However, most of our Eagle posts are not on conversion-related keywords, but focus on Adwords, Facebook, Live Chat, and Exit-intent Popovers to name a few.

The Blue Bird

It’s unclear how a blue bird post gets started. There’s little support in the way of email, social or backlinks. Yet, it nonetheless finds an updraft and takes flight.

Even with little help from email and social outreach, some posts will fly. We call these Blue Birds.

Even with little help from email and social outreach, some posts will fly. We call these Blue Birds.

A blue bird is just a gift of the search engines.

Dodo Bird

This form of post takes a while to get off the ground, but soon evolves into a workhorse.

It took a while, but this post eventually caught on with search traffic.

It took a while, but this post eventually caught on with search traffic.

For some reason this post didn’t take off for months, and it’s unclear what got it going some seven months after it was published. Who are we to argue. This looked like a classic Burp Fizz post for most if that time.

Identifying Blog Posts that Drive Organic Traffic

The signatures you use to grade your blog posts may vary from ours, though this approach has proven to be very effective for the business.
You need to take a long-term approach to content. It’s never obvious when a Burp Fizz is going to turn into a Dodo Bird.
When you understand what makes Eagles, Blue Birds and even Dodos soar; when you understand the impact of icebergs on your reports; when you can see the impact of celebrities on your traffic, then you can select the right mix of content to grow your site.

Video helps your marketing. It’s not a very controversial statement, but for years now YouTube has been hovering around the number two spot of the most-used search engines, yet somehow video in online marketing still has a feeling of just emerging from its infancy.
Despite that, marketers feel very comfortable using video for their own projects, with close to 80% of marketers polled by eMarketer claiming they’ve leveraged video for their own brand’s marketing. Marketers are starting to see that they can benefit greatly from leveraging video in channels like email marketing.

Email and Video: An Unlikely Marriage?

Email marketers are among many starting to see the benefit of video in their campaigns. Jon Spenceley of reported that the brand Clear Fit saw a 53% higher click-to-open rate on emails that featured a video call-to-action over their non-video counterparts.
Even mentioning the word “video” can increase open rates by 20% as reported by the Daily Egg blog. In fact, it’s preferred over even more precise terms like “webinar” and “conference”.
A white paper released by The Relevancy Group LLC showed an increase in customer engagement across the board when videos were used in email campaigns. This includes conversions, click-through, social sharing and even average order size!

What are the benefits of using video in your email marketing messages? Source: The Relevancy Group, LLC Executive Survey, n=66 2/13, United States Only

What are the benefits of using video in your email marketing messages? Source: The Relevancy Group, LLC Executive Survey, n=66 2/13, United States Only

Video also has the added benefit of being mobile friendly and this is especially good news since last year mobile finally overtook desktop-fixed internet-access hubs.
Number of global users on desktop versus mobile from Smart Insights

Number of global users on desktop versus mobile from Smart Insights

These numbers are no doubt impressive and there is some psychology behind why video is so effective.

Why Do Customers Prefer Video?

While numbers are definitely indicating a preference for video, we’re interested in exploring why? Let’s start with a simple video-email analogy.
The process of checking email is largely a passive activity. You have information sent directly to you and you review it. Checking your email is a simple process, and it’s precisely the reason marketers find video such an attractive transition within the user’s experience.
Videos can engage customers without requiring them to change their current state which is important because your customers don’t have to do work in order to do business with you. [pullquote]Video content allows customers to enter into your sales funnel without feeling like they’ve abruptly left another activity behind.[/pullquote] That’s a hugely beneficial psychological component supporting why video seems to increase the effectiveness of marketing activities.

Carefully Weighing Video in Email Marketing

Videos are great for the user but how much should they be used and where? What should your marketing campaigns look like? A lot of the focus on video and improved conversions in the research cited above touts the benefits of video specifically in email marketing campaigns. But don’t go and blindly add video to every email and marketing document you send out!
Embedding video is great for the user and engaging them with your brand in their current state of mind, but there are also drawbacks. Even well-rounded and optimized email campaigns need to consider what can go wrong before including video.


Thumbnails, perhaps the most overlooked aspect of video, can actually create several unintended problems for your campaigns. YouTubers have long known that thumbnails matter and email marketers inexperienced with video should take some notes. A good thumbnail needs to be good-quality with a central focus and also be adaptable to changes in sizes. A thumbnail may have to scale from as small as a couple of hundred pixels to over a thousand.  Size considerations also apply to text included in the thumbnail, since it can quickly become unreadable.
The best thumbnails:


  • Evoke emotion

  • Leverage controversy

  • Focus on a human face with an engaging expression

  • Accurately represent the content

These need to be used carefully and in accordance with the brand’s overall messaging and feel.


While thumbnails are important, email marketers need also to consider whether to leverage the new video embedding feature that many email clients now support. There’s more support now for this feature than ever, but its current ubiquitousness might have you question whether all your customers are receiving your marketing messages. Since approximately 58% of email users cannot view video embedded in their emails, marketers should be careful about placing all their eggs in that basket.
Even if a customer can open the content, the ability for your customers to engage with your brand in an individual email is limited. Ideally you want your customer to engage with your site more directly.

Leveraging Landing Pages Can be Confusing

Landing pages can support email marketing and help take visitors from the email to the website or to an important conversion in between. You may have a landing page AND an email sporting an embedded video, but that creates a bit of confusion for your customers on how they should share this information. Do they forward the email with the video? Do they email a link to the landing page? If the customer forwards the email, will it create formatting issues with the video?
If you prefer to use a landing page to support your email marketing, you should embed the video in the landing page and use a call-to-action that mimics the look and feel of a video player. The slight disruption is outweighed by side-stepping user confusion of where to share and of course by drastically improving the user’s ability to actually access the video content.

Final Thoughts

There is a lot to consider when working with video in email marketing. It may not be the right move to include video in your email marketing efforts. If it is the right move, you may have a separate set of considerations when it comes to landing pages. Pascale Guay, CEO of Dialog Insight, responds to the limitation of video content in email marketing on her company blog saying the most important strategy for email marketers is to make use of the channels used by their target audience above all else. If your target audience responds to email marketing – use this channel! If your open-rates soar because of video content – use this channel…carefully.
Are you using video in your email campaigns? If not, how come? If so, how is it working for you? Leave a comment below!

About the Author

Jenix Hastings
Jenix is a journalist who specializes in discovering and documenting digital media. She makes a living as a copy writer specializing in web content and recently began writing for her personal blog: Jenix is also a proud new mother and when she isn’t writing she’s sharing in the daily discovery of her beautiful daughter. Reach out @JenixHastings.

Exit-intent overlays are effective tactics for building subscriber lists. Incentivize signups, capture addresses, and target specific users.

The other day we gathered for an email brainstorming session.  What followed was the usual list of half-baked metaphors:

“Email is like fine wine, it gets better with age.”

“Email is like styrofoam, it’ll take 10,000 years to break down.”

“Email is like a cockroach, you can’t kill it.”

We were repeating ourselves, but the point was clear: despite being 350 Internet years old, email has never been more important to ecommerce.  How did this happen? Weren’t we all giving email the last rites in 2009 as ‘social’ stormed The Internets?

Instead, something peculiar happened: email grew some grey hair and stopped wearing cheap suits. It became a place for business, something we now use mostly for work, shopping, and all kinds of other grown-up stuff.  Think about it: what did you do online in 1998 that you still do today? You don’t go on Yahoo Chat, and you don’t Ask Jeeves. But you still use email every day.

Image of 1990's desktop: What the f*** was “Network Neighborhood” for?

What the f*** was “Network Neighborhood” for?

And since Clooney got married, John Stamos stands as the last breathing representation of email: a relic from the ’90s that we still appreciate—and that still looks pretty damn good.

Email is like John Stamos. A relic from the '90s that we still appreciate—and that still looks pretty damn good.

Email is like John Stamos. A relic from the ’90s that we still appreciate—and that still looks pretty damn good.

Email By the numbers

To illustrate just how valuable email has become to ecommerce, we need only look at a few telling statistics:

  • Over 77% of online customers prefer receiving marketing messages via email. (MarketingLand)
  • Email marketing produces a $44.25 return for every $1 spent.
  • Companies see, on average, a 4300% return on their investments in email marketing. (
  • 79% of leads don’t convert to sales, and lack of nurturing is the main reason. (Unbounce)
  • Prospects who receive email marketing messages order 28% more often. (iContact)
  • Email is projected to grow from roughly 4.1 billion accounts (2014) to 5.2 billion accounts in 2018. (Radicati Group)

So why is it so much more valuable than social media?

The reason is that email addresses are much different than fans or followers. Gaining direct access to someone’s inbox is the ultimate sign of trust from an online customer.

“Without a doubt our email list is the best investment we’ve ever made.”
Douglas Karr, MarketingTechBlog

And if you build a list of subscribers who know and respect your brand, it’s likely to become your most powerful revenue channel.

The list-building conundrum: how exit-intent overlays can help

The sheer value of email subscribers creates a natural conundrum. How can marketers reach beyond signup widgets and accelerate list growth?

Sure your signup widgets and call-outs help. But they won’t build you a hugely valuable email list by themselves.  And I’m not talking the dead-end ‘get one or two leads’ or ‘half the emails get returned’ kind of list.

I’m talking lists full of warm email leads that are familiar with your products, have read your content, and recently interacted with your brand.

The tool I’m going to discuss today is building some seriously kickass email lists for marketers across the web; Neil Patel has used it to double his email his email opt-in rate.

The tool is an exit-intent overlay, i.e. a modal lightbox that activates when a user is about to abandon your site.

An exit-intent overlay on, activated when a user is about to abandon the site.

An exit-intent overlay on, activated when a user is about to abandon the site.

The juice that drives exit overlays is called “exit-intent technology,” which is designed to detect abandoning visitors based on user behaviour. Exit-intent technology identifies abandoning users by measuring the path a user follows through a site, sensing resting moments when users are idle, and detecting cursor movements the break the browser plane towards the ‘Back’ button.

When abandoning visitors are detected, the exit overlay activates and attempts to capture a signup by offering something of value to the user.

And when done right, exit overlays will build you a kickass email list in a relatively short period of time.

4 Reasons exit-intent overlays are the best list-building tool on the web

1.   You can incentivize the signup

Customers need a good reason to sign up for your email list, and exit-intent overlays are fertile ground for providing this incentive.
Busted Tees uses an immediate discount as incentive in the example below.

Image of BustedTees exit overlay.
The incentive you offer can take many forms. Here’s another example from CopyHackers, which incentivizes the email signup with the promise of valuable, free information that marketers can use to improve their business.

Image of Copy Hackers exit overlay
Offering a course has the extra advantage of guaranteeing multiple interactions with the prospect, as the offer can be served piece-by-piece.

2.   Exit-intent overlays are big and bold—but not intrusive

Exit overlays have much better visibility than traditional signup widgets.

When an exit overlay activates, it dims out the rest of the window to maximize contrast and visibility, as per the example from The Chive below.

Image of The Chive exit-intent overlays

That said, exit overlays are not intrusive in the way old school pop-ups were:

  • They don’t disable or inhibit the functionality of the navigation bar
  • They don’t slow or prevent users from leaving the site
  • Since they’re served only to abandoning users, they don’t interrupt active browsing sessions

Essentially, an exit overlay acts as a second page view that’s only seen by segments of abandoning users you choose to target

3.   Exit overlays can be targeted at specific users and pages

Abandoning users are not all the same; they leave your site for all different reasons.  To accommodate differing motivations, exit-intent technology allows you to target specific user groups such as first-time or repeat visitors, cart abandoners, referral traffic, and paid traffic.

Targeting rules can also be applied to pages. You can target (or exclude) any page on your site—which comes in handy for appealing to different users who are at various stages of your conversion funnel.

For example, targeting first-time visitors from low-converting segments like social media traffic can be a very lucrative tactic for building email lists. Traffic from social media usually hasn’t established a relationship with your brand, so grabbing an email address from these users can be a valuable tactic for starting this relationship.

4.   Exit-intent overlays capture signups from “hedonic” cart abandoners

If you’re like me, you believe the idea that abandoned shopping carts are costing etailers trillion of dollars per year is utter hogwash.

Yes, most virtual carts are ‘abandoned’. But by attaching a dollar figure to the “cost” of cart abandonment, we’re presupposing that everyone who adds items to a virtual cart does so with intent to buy.

The truth is, a good portion of cart abandoners add items out of interest, not commitment. They’re simply browsing, often using the cart as a bookmarking tool to save items for later.

And a group called hedonic shoppers makes up a large percentage of these ‘casual’ cart abandoners.

According to research, people have two primary shopping motivations: hedonic and utilitarian.

Utilitarian shopping is driven by our need for necessities like housing, food and clothing. For utilitarian shoppers, purchasing is a problem-solving activity.

Hedonic shopping, however, is driven by our desire for fun and entertaining shopping experiences.

To illustrate, here’s Shopify’s data on cart abandonment:

Shopify's cart abandonment rates.Note that hedonic motivations show up in two of the top five reasons for abandoning a cart.  Hedonic shoppers don’t need to buy to get satisfaction; they need only browse. And we see these motivations manifest themselves most noticeably in cart abandonment.

So the question now is obvious: how do we engage hedonic shoppers beyond that first interaction with your cart?

How to Growth-Hack Your Email List Using Exit-Intent Overlays: Image of BabyAge exit-intent overlay

Email is the obvious answer, yet according to BizReport, 80% of marketers aren’t sending triggered emails after cart abandonment.

Exit-intent overlays can rapidly build subscriber lists from abandoning cart traffic – especially when they promise more of the rich, engaging experiences the hedonic shopper desires.

Case Study: How Xero Shoes used exit overlays to grab 3,000 new email subscribers

Xero Shoes manufactures and markets “barefootwear,” a brand of light, low-profile footwear that feels like you’re wearing nothing at all.

In the words of founder Steven Sashen, Xero Shoes allows customers to Feel The World™.

Xero Shoes website

Like all etailers, Xero’s fortunes rest on the performance of paid and organic traffic sources. And of course, email marketing is a key tactic for monetizing this traffic.

Challenge and Strategy

Barefootwear is a complicated product that takes time to explain properly, and educating prospects on its benefits posed a big challenge for Xero.

Further, Xero’s email sidebar widget had a low signup rate—a common problem amongst etailers today.

But rather than see this as a barrier to sale, Xero hypothesized that they could kill two birds with one stone using an exit overlay campaign.

Bird 1: Accelerate growth of the company’s subscriber list.

Bird 2: Use the email content to explain thoroughly Xero’s product offering and overcome customer pain points/objections.

Xero’s email sidebar widget had a low signup rate — a common problem amongst online retailers today. But rather than see this as a barrier to sale, Xero hypothesized that they could kill two birds with one stone using an exit overlay campaign.

The creative was designed to position Xero Shoes as an alternative to what “shoe companies” offer and to drive curiosity around founder and owner Steven Sashen.

Xero decided to place their exit overlay on the company homepage—the highest-traffic page on the domain—with the intent of grabbing new signups from low-converting segments such as social media traffic.

Finally, returning visitors were excluded from viewing the exit overlay—ensuring the messaging wouldn’t irritate blog readers or existing customers.


Over a six-month period, Xero’s exit overlay campaign averaged between 15 and 20 signups per day, resulting in a list of over 3,000 new subscribers.

Over a six-month period, Xero’s exit overlay campaign averaged between 15 and 20 signups per day, resulting in a list of over 3,000 new subscribers.

This represented a 412% increase in email signups and drove a 9.81% boost in overall company order volume.


Gaining access to a prospect’s inbox is the ultimate sign of trust which is why email marketing has become so valuable to ecommerce.

Exit overlays – modal lightboxes that activate before users abandon your site – are one of the most effective tactics for building subscriber lists.  With exit overlays, marketers can incentivize signups, capture addresses from uncommitted prospects, and target specific users and pages.

Angus Lynch is a conversion copywriter at Crowdvert, a Vancouver-based conversion rate optimization agency, and the Director of Marketing for Crowdvert’s proprietary user engagement tool, Rooster.

Email is still the most effective strategy for onboarding visitors. By “onboarding” we mean:

  • Getting tryers to use the product so they can become buyers
  • Getting buyers to use the product so they become long-term subscribers
  • Getting repeat buyers to share their appreciation of the product

Yes, email is important to your business. It can’t be done through Facebook or Twitter. It can’t be done through SMS. Maybe it can be done through direct mail. Maybe.
The first step in these processes is the ubiquitous Welcome Email. It gives customers a first impression of your business. Guides them through your product. And demonstrates the value that you can bring them. It’s what takes them from trial to paying user to a repeat user to a evangelist.
In fact marketers who utilize welcome emails find that they have a substantial effect on their conversions with some even experiencing up to a 50% conversion rate when implementing them into their onboarding marketing strategy. Impressive, huh?
Welcome emails aren’t as straightforward as you would think, however. They need to be tested. From timing to subject line, rigorously A/B testing the different aspects of your emails is a sure fire way to build the most effectual onboarding strategy for your business.
Today, we are going to focus on one aspect of welcome email A/B testing – Content.

Content is what entices your user to click-through and act. You need to get it right.

Here are five A/B tests you should be doing on your content to optimize your onboaridng emails and get users converting from trial to lifetime customers.

1: Test Simple vs. Hyper-Stylised Design

Let’s begin with design.
No matter how well-written your emails are, if it the look isn’t right the effectiveness will be hampered. Emails can be as simple or flamboyant as you wish. Generally they are divided into three types:

  1. The first type is E-zine style. It’s flashy, hyper-stylized with images and bold font taking centre stage.
  2. Next is SaaS style. It’s cleaner and simpler yet still professional.
  3. And finally Personal. This has no branding, no design. Just a straightforward email.

It’s up to you to test what works best for your business.

Stylized versus simple welcome email design.

Will your visitors perfer a stylized email or a simple “personal” email?

An interesting design case study comes from SitePoint, a specialist in content for web developers. After sending out over 40 newsletters, their campaign started to look a little lackluster.
Their initial emails were uncluttered and pared back in design. And they wanted to continue with this look but update it and get more clicks.
So they ran an A/B test.
The first thing they tested was the template, and the results were positive with an initial 16% rise in click through rates.
Next they tested images – should they include them or keep it plain text?  SitePoint already had a hunch that their customers didn’t care for them and wanted a text only email.  This assumption proved to be inconclusive as the results were 118 vs. 114 clicks in favor of no images.

A/B testing images in welcome emails

This inconclusive test demonstrated that readers didn’t prefer nor mind images in their welcome email.

These tests were just the first round of experimenting for SitePoint. They went back to the drawing board and tested everything again. They experimented with images and templates until they found what worked best.

Winning email template after A/B testing welcome emails

The winning email was simple, but a little design can go a long way.

The winning email retained the simple look of their original email. It was just updated, more attractive to readers and most importantly, increased their click-through rate.
Contrasted to this is Wishpond. After extensive testing of their own emails, they discovered images were just what their audience wanted. Using images produced a 60% higher click-through rate versus just using text alone.
These two contrasting examples are just to illustrate the fact that there is no single best design for all businesses.
There is no one template fits all.
You need to test to discover what your customers like and what drives results.

2: Test A Single Call to Action

When you send out your welcome emails we are betting you have one goal in mind – getting customers to use your product.
All too often we see businesses sending emails with multiple links and requesting customers do numerous actions. It’s confusing and will distract your user from your goal.
So here’s a challenge – try restricting your welcome emails to have only one call-to-action,
That’s exactly what Optimizely did.
In 2014 they began rigorously testing all aspects of their emails. One of the tests had a goal of increasing click-throughs on the call to action.
To do this they sent out two emails. The first having only one CTA, while the second had multiple.

Optimizely tested emails with a single call to action against their one with several.

Optimizely tested emails with a single call to action against their one with several.

There was one clear winner. The email with only one CTA produced substantially more click-throughs with a 13.3% increase.
Narrowing down your email to one call to action can be a tough task. You have a limited amount of onboarding emails to send. Yet you have so much to say.
Try removing any unnecessary call to actions you have in your emails and just focus on what you believe is most important.
Ask yourself what is the most important thing you want your customer to do after receiving this email and make this your call to action.
Then test.

3: Test Urgency Inducing Copy

When sending welcome emails to onboard your users there are some tactics you can use to convert those trial users into paying customers.
One method is urgency. Using a sense of immediacy in your email to get your customer to act now.
MarketingExperiments tested the effects of urgency in their email campaigns.
They planned a Web Clinic Invite and sent out two emails. One was just the simple invite. The other however, had three extra urgency inducing words – Limit 1000 Attendees.

Urgency may induce more of your email recipients to act.

Urgency may induce more of your email recipients to act.

The email containing the urgency had a 15.4% increase in click-throughs. Pretty impressive figures considering the only difference was 3 words!
When sending welcome emails, urgency can be incredibly valuable.
Here is another example of urgency from Sprout Social.
To get trials to convert to paying customers they use copy to imply urgency and encourage users to act now.

Urgency can be communicated in may ways.

Urgency can be communicated in may ways.

They use phrases such as “Only 2 days left” and “Time Flies – your trial period is over in just 2 days”. It shouts “act now or you’ll miss out!”
It’s a clever way to optimize your emails and get more customers converting.

4: Testing Email Length

When a customer signs up you want to tell them everything about your business.
Explaining every feature and what you offer in a long winded email is going to show them the value of your business, right? Well probably not.
Conversely, saying too little can be problematic also. Customers might feel under informed and might not act at all.
Research has shown that the average open time for an email is only 15-20 seconds.
With such a small window of time, you need to test how long your emails should be to have the maximum impact.
iMedia Connection decided to carry out tests, with two versions of an email promoting an upcoming converence.
One email was verbose, containing all of the information about the conference within it as well as links to the website.
The other was half the length, with only a short description and a link to a website containing the information.

A bigger open rate doesn't mean a higher click-through rate.

A bigger open rate doesn’t mean a higher click-through rate.

The shorter email proved to be more appealing. iMedia Connection reported that not only was the open rate on the shorter higher at 30% vs. 20% but the click-through rate was also higher at 11% vs. 5%.
Short, brief content was the winner here but that might not always be the case. Getting your emails length right must be tested.
Good testing will help you find the perfect balance between being informative while also being concise.

5: Test Personalization

Personalization is one of the most effective techniques to increase conversions from emails. Using a customer’s data to appeal to their interests has been proven to work time and time again. And it isn’t as complicated as you may think.
DoggyLoot, an online store experienced astonishing success when they began personalizing their email’s content.
They recognized that Rottweiler owners wouldn’t want the same emails as Chihuahua owners. So they began to segment in the simplest way possible.
They began collection “doggie data” by asking owners one simple question – is their dog small, medium or large?
Based on this data, they created three email segments based on dog size. Each segment received an email that had products that were suited to their dogs.

DoggyLoot sent different emails to owners with different sized dogs.

DoggyLoot sent different emails to owners with different sized dogs.

The results were impressive to say the least. The personalized emails that were targeted at large dog owners had a click through rate that was 410% higher than the average.
Personalization doesn’t have to be complicated. Just find whatever works for your business.
Doggyloot just asked the right questions on signup, enabling them to segment their audience with relative ease.
Whether you just add a user’s name or build comprehensive buyer personas, testing personalization can be a real asset to your welcome emails.
And remember
These 5 A/B tests and case studies are guidelines. Some may work for your business while others might make no impact at all.
It is important to focus on how customers are reacting to your email content. Measuring click-throughs and conversions is essential. See what makes statistical significance, gets users converting and becoming lifelong customers. For more advanced A/B tests read our Ebook “Welcome Your First Million Users: The Ultimate Guide to A/B Testing Your Welcome Emails”.

Don’t give up on your email campaigns. If you feel frustrated by low click-through rates, keep one thing in mind: people tend to respond to emails at a higher rate than any other marketing channel.

It is possible that you just need to make a few adjustments to the emails you are sending to enjoy high open rates, high click-through rates and more sales.

Most businesses have disappointing open and click-through rates for their email campaigns. However, email marketing is as good as everyone says it is. You just need to approach it the right way. But first, let’s take a look at the wrong way.

Mistake #1: You Take the Email Shotgun Approach

There are two possible reasons no one is reading your emails.

The first reason is that your email isn’t relevant or compelling.  I like to call this the shotgun approach.

Back when email services were less sophisticated, sending lots of emails was a surefire way to get attention – but that’s no longer true today.

Your customers’ email inboxes are overloaded with emails they never read. If your content hasn’t been particularly relevant and compelling, your subscribers have probably forgotten who you are and why they ever signed up to receive emails from you. Sooner or later they will mark your emails as spam or just unsubscribe.

The shotgun approach is exactly like closing your eyes, counting to twenty, and firing a shotgun in the air, hoping to down a pheasant. It’s ineffective and can be dangerous.

Email campaigns are the same way.

Sometimes Less Is More

Emails cost your business money. Your autoresponder service costs money, and it costs money to pay the staff who write your emails.

Like any other business expense, there should always be a positive return on investment. This is why every autoresponder service gives you open rates and click-through rates on your emails, as well as many more statistics for your analysis.
Here’s a quick lesson in autoresponder statistics:

Click-to-Open (CTO) rates by industry.

Click-to-Open (CTO) rates by industry.

Most autoresponder services charge according to how many email addresses are in your lists. GetResponse’s autoresponder service, for example, charges $45 per month if your lists have 5,000 email addresses and $15 if you have 1,000 addresses. This tiered pricing system is used because larger lists consume more resources than smaller lists – and that’s where we need a change in perspective.

Most people will tell you that a bigger list is better, but if 4,500 of your 5,000 subscribers haven’t opened an email in the past six months, they are dead weight. Even worse, they’re costing you an extra $30 per month with a negative ROI.

Now, you might argue that $30 a month is chump change, but there is an additional, hidden cost with that. Every single one of those unwanted, unopened emails you send damages your reputation with the email service. The more you send with no response, the more likely you are to be relegated to Gmail’s spam folder – and that’s a costly mistake.

The more you send with no response, the more likely you are to be relegated to Gmail’s spam folder – and that’s a costly mistake.

However, there’s some good news. Properly targeting 500 active subscribers will yield you a much higher return than shotgunning 5,000 non-readers. You don’t need a massive list to get results – you just need to understand your audience and give them value.

Mistake #2: You Aren’t Emailing Enough

If your email marketing is limited to a once-per-month newsletter, you probably aren’t being very effective.
As I mentioned previously, your subscribers get a lot of emails in their inboxes. Once-a-month probably isn’t enough frequency to stand out.

If you want to learn how to install a successful drip campaign and start converting more with your email, Conversion Scientist has you covered.

How To Fix Your Mistakes: Bringing the Non-Openers Back on Board

So, let’s say you’ve found yourself with a high percentage of non-openers – how do we fix it?
The first step is looking closely at the subscribers who are not engaging with you.

  • How long ago did they sign up? Their needs might have changed if it was more than a few months ago.
  • Do their email addresses have anything in common? Your emails might have been running afoul of one service’s over-aggressive spam filters.
  • Do the names have anything in common? Perhaps they speak a different language from your own.
  • Is your writing style turning them off? You should be looking closely at your communication style in any case; perhaps you can bring these people back on board.

Once you’ve answered these questions, compose test emails to send to each of these groups:

Long-Ago Sign-Ups

If you are selling diapers, child car seats or other child-related items, then these subscribers might not need your products because their children are older than when they initially subscribed. The same is true if you have a seasonal offering or anything targeting a specific stage in life.

Do you have other products that they might now be interested in instead? Could you set up a joint venture with another company that sells products aimed at the parents of older children?

There are a lot of ways to monetize an email list, so don’t put yourself in a box. Your subscribers might have more children planned or on the way, so your products might still be relevant: You might just need to re-engage these subscribers.

Recipients With Over-Aggressive Spam Filters

Your email automation service will have spam-scoring tools that you can use to judge how likely your emails are to be marked as spam. You need to compose a few different test emails with very low spam-scores to send to a sample of this group.

If your emails have particularly enticing subject lines and special offers you might be able to persuade these subscribers to white-list you, so your future emails will get through to their inbox.

Sometimes, dealing with spam or the dreaded “Promotions” folder is as simple as periodically asking your subscribers to white-list your address.

Global Clients

Do you offer emails in alternative languages? Might it be worth considering this option? Yes, there is a translation cost involved, but translation services can be acquired extremely cheaply with sites like Fiverr and others.

Are your prices available in multiple currencies? While it’s true that most credit card companies will convert transactions automatically, your customers may be put off if your prices are only in US dollars.

Are your postage rates to foreign countries as low as they can be? Check around for new postage options that might have become available since you last checked.

Email Style

This is something you should be working on anyway in order to improve engagement with the people who have been opening your emails regularly. Refine your style with your active fans and see what they want. Make it more personal, adopt a unique voice, improve subject lines or use responsive email designs to accommodate subscribers who are using tablets and smartphones to open their emails.

Once you notice engagement rates improving send out a few test emails to some of your inactive subscribers.

Over to You

Have you checked your autoresponder statistics recently? Do you any other suggestions for trimming your list or reactivating inactive subscribers? We’d love to hear. Share your ideas in the comments section below.