referral marketing

Telephone sales aren’t what they used to be. It took only 3.68 cold call attempts to reach a prospect in 2007. Today, it takes around 8 attempts, more than doubling the difficulty of landing sales over the phone.

But as you know, phone sales certainly aren’t dead. They just require a higher level of strategy and mastery. A study by Baylor University found that it takes roughly 7.5 hours to secure one referral or appointment through cold calling methods. If you only have one dedicated phone salesperson, your company could have one new appointment or referral every day via cold calling.

For most B2B businesses, where phone selling strategies are most commonly found, one lead per day per salesperson represents a very strong ROI.

Today, we’re going to help you sell over the phone like a modern pro. Here are 8 advanced tactics for increasing your B2B telephone sales.

1. Take Timing Seriously

In sales, as in many areas of life, timing is everything. You will often accomplish more during peak hours than you do the rest of the day, so even if you are in a position that requires around-the-clock calls, it’s important to be at peak efficiency during those peak hours.

So when are those peak hours?

An in-depth study out of MIT gives us several interesting insights:

  1. The best time period to contact leads is between 4:00-6:00 p.m.
  2. The best second best time period is between 8:00-10:00 a.m.
  3. The worst time period to call is between 11:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.
  4. The best days to call are Thursday and Wednesday.
  5. The worst days to call are Tuesday and Monday.

It’s worth checking out the study, because these aren’t insignificant differences. For example, calling on Thursday versus Tuesday increases results by an average of 50%. Calling at 4:30 p.m. versus 11:30 a.m. increases results by an average of 114%!

Timing might seem cliche, but what other tactics do you know of that can immediately double sales?

2. Call The Right People

I’m going to borrow and re-spin an example from Jason Quey.

Sid works at a large SaaS company. When it comes to larger tool purchases, he makes the decisions. However, Sid rarely creates content for the team. Tyler is in charge of content.

If your sales team is attempting to pitch a solution to the content problems Tyler is facing, appealing to Sid around those challenges won’t be effective. The best way to pitch Sid is very different from the optimal way to pitch Tyler.

The Gartner Group reports that in a company of 100-700 people, an average of 7 people are involved in buying decisions. If you aren’t tailoring your pitch around these people, you will struggle to succeed in B2B phone sales. There’s no getting around that.

For help identifying and reaching decision makers, check out this guide from Lead Forensics.

3. Lay The Groundwork

We know that cold calls can work, but there’s a way to make them work better. UNC professor Dave Roberts said it best, “Cold calling is old fashioned… Aim for hot calling.” The more prepared you are when you call, the better that call will generally go.

We live in an age of the internet and social media. Before you call a prospect, Google search them. Learn everything that you can before ever making the call. This can help you know what the customer’s needs are, what their objections might be, and what interests them.

You can even make some level of initial contact before calling:

  • Connect via shared acquaintances
  • Comment on their social posts
  • Mention them in a blog post or comment
  • Etc.

There are many ways to make a superficial connection with someone that quickly turns you into a known entity versus a cold call. For more tips on laying the groundwork, check out this article by Owen Matson, Ph.D.

4. Follow A Sales Script

There are no downsides to using a sales script… only to using one poorly.

When used correctly, having a sales script results in the following benefits:

  1. They force you to create and refine a consistent sales methodology.
  2. They allow you to provide a baseline for your entire sales team’s performance.
  3. They allow sales reps to spend less time thinking about what they’re going to say and more time listening to the potential customer.
  4. They provide talented sales reps with a strategic baseline off of which they can improvise.

To learn how to create your own sales script, check out this guide from Close.io.

5. Navigate Objections

Navigating objections is a central part of any sales process, but there can be a bit of a misunderstanding about this issue.

Some objections always need to be covered and getting out in front of them can be beneficial. For example, if your product is twice as expensive as every other competitor, it’s almost guaranteed that issue is going to come up, and addressing it before the customer does gives you the chance to frame it in a positive light.

Not all objections are created equal, however, and sometimes, bringing up certain objections simply bogs down the sales process and creates doubts that weren’t there to begin with. Instead, have a plan to overcome these objections IF they are brought up.

For more on covering objections, here’s another top notch guide from Close.io.

6. Stop Talking. Ask and Listen.

Listen. Listen. Listen.

The more your prospect is talking, the better your chance of closing the sale.

Outbound sales and inbound sales followup are an inherently aggressive activity. You are on the offensive. You are seeking out people to sell them something. But often, the solution is simply to slow down and get out of your own way.

The best sales scripts and salespeople are focused on asking the right questions. The prospect doesn’t need you to create challenges for them. They have numerous pitfalls and problems on the path to their goals. Your job is to create a situation where the prospect is articulating those challenges… not you.

Ultimately, B2B sales isn’t about tricking people into getting a product or service that doesn’t work for them. It’s about matching beneficial solutions to the businesses that need them, and that requires a two-way conversation.

7. Focus On Customer Value

Your goal as a salesperson is never to sell someone on a price. Your goal is to sell them on value – such incredible value that the price seems like a no-brainer.

It’s very, very important that you focus on this value BEFORE discussing pricing, for a number of key reasons.

First, if pricing is brought up first, your product/service will be evaluated as a commodity. Once a number has been mentioned, everything will be filtered through that number. You will have zero leverage in presenting your value.

Second, if you don’t pitch you value before getting to pricing, the prospect will consider the pricing based on their preconceived assumptions about the value of your product class. And remember, they aren’t currently using your product, so it’s likely they don’t consider the value to be worth the cost.

Finally, if you don’t understand the prospect’s needs before you get to pricing, you might propose a price that is too low or too high. Too high, and the conversation is essentially over. Too low, and you won’t be considered a serious player. Without getting to know the prospect first, you are playing a dangerous guessing game.

8. To Close Is To Follow-Up

You already probably know your “hook, line, and sinker.” You have your closing speech down to a science. That’s great, but just know that you will talk to a person several times before they’re ready to hear your golden pitch. According to Marketing Donut, 80% of sales require 5 (yes, FIVE) follow up calls. 44% of salespeople quit after just 1 follow up. Don’t be a quitter!

Also, stop leaving the follow-up in the customers’ hands. Don’t say, “Give me a call if you’re interested.” Geoffrey James, author at Inc. said, “I’ve read dozens of so-called sales letters and sales emails that end with a suggestion that the customer should call or contact the seller…The people who send these letters always complain that they don’t get any responses. No kidding–you’re asking the customer to do your work for you.”

Instead, change your follow-up strategy and set up a time to talk again. For instance, “I’m going to call you next Wednesday, after you’ve had time to look at everything, so that we can discuss whether it makes sense to continue discussing our offer.”

Conclusion: Upgrade Your Phone Game

Telephone sales are more challenging than ever, but they are worth the trouble. Use these 8 advanced tactics to improve your B2B sales calls and close more sales.

Rachel Africh Headshot

Rachel Africh

Contributor: Rachel Africh is the CMO of TheLeadsWarehouse.com and is an expert on marketing tactics and generating targeted leads that convert for sales industry professionals.

On Monday, Conversion Sciences launched a revamped website. As you will learn in our Lab Coat Lessons Webinar, a website redesign can be a very dangerous undertaking.

Sixty percent of our business comes through our website (the remainder being referrals). Any significant drop in traffic or conversion rate will hit our bottom line hard.

It’s still early for us, but we will share five client redesigns we’ve been involved with and why they were or were not successful. Watch the webinar replay.

What Not to Do in a Website Redesign

There is a lot that can change in a redesign. The sentiment seems to be that, since everything is changing anyway, what can it hurt to add a few more modifications, updates and rewrites? It can hurt a lot, as it turns out.

A redesign is a collection of changes, all based on assumptions about what visitors want. Some of those assumptions will be right on. Some will be sadly misdirected. The more you add, the more likely you are to introduce some random poison pill feature into the mix.

Any website redesign is a mix of good and bad assumptions.

Any website redesign is a mix of good and bad assumptions.

With our redesign, we did the opposite. Our primary goal was to improve the search engine performance of our amazing content (like this). We were tempted to rewrite dated pages, redesign elements we’ve grown tired of and photoshop our pictures to make us look more fit.


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

We will do these things, but not until we’ve baselined the structural changes we launched on Monday.

The heartbreak comes when more of your changes decrease conversions than increase them.

Things can get ugly when more of your redesign ideas hurt than they help.

Things can get ugly when more of your redesign ideas hurt than they help.

If you didn’t roll out changes step-by-step, you just don’t know which changes hurt you and which helped.

An even more insidious result is when more of your changes increased performance. In this situation, the marketing department pats itself on the back and goes on about its business.

When the good decisions outweigh the bad, the bad decisions are hidden.

When the good decisions outweigh the bad, the bad decisions are hidden.

But how much better could business be if the bad decisions were tested away? Usually, much better. The positive decisions overshadow the mistakes that still linger on the site sucking the revenue out of the business.

JJ Abrams has shown that he can revitalize a beloved film franchise, turning it into a blockbuster. Isn’t this what you want for your website? Find out how he did it in our webinar, The JJ Abrams School of Website Redesign.

We’ll show you five different approaches to data-driven redesign. One should fit your situation.

I’ll write more about what we’re learning from our redesign.

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.
^t\.co|facebook\.com|twitter|pinterest|disqus|linkedin|
lnkd\.in|quora|plus.*\.google\.com|digg|netvibes|
scoop\.it|slideshare|instapaper|
meetup\.com|paper\.li|stumbleupon

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.
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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.
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We just sent a sizable check to someone. They didn’t do any work for us. They didn’t deliver any software, designs or furniture. They didn’t install a hot tub or trim the trees outside our office. They didn’t threaten us.
All they did was trust us to help one of their clients. The relationship has gone well past the original engagement, and we love working with this company. By all accounts, they love working with us, too.
We’d like to do the same for you.
We love it when we get referrals. Referred clients are some of our best. For some reason, referred clients are more successful and stay with us longer. This means we can reward you handsomely for introducing us to your clients and colleagues.
http://conversionsciences.wistia.com/medias/usm94t9svl?embedType=seo&videoFoam=true&videoWidth=501
Over the next twelve months, we want to give away $100,000 in referral fees. That’s ten referral clients and up the $10,000 in referral rewards per client.
Yes, that’s a lot, but we intend to make it up over the course of a long relationship with them, beneficial to both of us.

What We Do For Them

We are a turnkey website optimization company. We don’t drive traffic. We don’t do SEO. We don’t manage paid search accounts. What we do is make all of these programs more profitable.
We offer a 180-day Conversion Catalyst™ program. In 180 days, we will have setup a mature conversion optimization program for almost any company and will have found enough additional revenue to cover the cost of the program and a lot more.
The Conversion Catalyst works with a wide variety of companies, established companies with 300 leads or transactions per month.
We know our stuff. Last year, 97% of our Conversion Catalyst clients continued working with us after the 180 days.
If you think one of your clients or colleagues is ready for website optimization, please complete a short form, or reach out to us by email. It could mean $10,000 in your pocket with no additional work.

How the Referral Program Works

It’s always been a simple program. We have a formal referral agreement, but otherwise, things are very collaborative.

Step 1

Do you know a business with a leaky website?

Do you know a business with a leaky website?


You think of a business that is losing revenue to their inefficient website or landing pages.

Step 2

Introduce us to them using our online form.

Introduce us to them using our online form.


Contact us via email or through our online form. We’ll follow up with a call and determine appropriate next steps.

Step 3

If there's a good fit, we'll work with them to make things better.

If there’s a good fit, we’ll work with them to make things better.


If they are qualified, we’ll prepare a presentation and proposal. Conversion Sciences has a strong value proposition and great reputation.

Step 4

We'll reward you with up to $10K.

We’ll reward you with up to $10K.


If we work with them, you collect $1000 for each month they are under contract, up to ten months.

Get Started Now

We’re only taking ten referrals this year under the program, so secure a place in the program. Complete the form on our site and schedule a conversation with Conversion Sciences.
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Search engine algorithms are evolving at higher paces than ever before. The frequent updates to these algorithms – especially Google’s search algorithm updates – have made it harder to “game” the system using Search Engine Optimization (SEO). This has forced companies to bring at least one SEO specialist on board in order to gain and keep high rankings for their websites in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
At the same time, advances in data-collection tools has made conversion rate optimization (CRO) one of the highest returns on the marketing investment (ROI). Ironically, CRO is one of the most underused activities in the marketing department.
This paradox becomes apparent once you consider that obtaining the click that brings someone to your website is only the first step toward converting the visitor into a paying customer. From this perspective, CRO carries the burden of managing the entire user interaction, as opposed to SEO, which arguably only brings the visitor to the “front door.”

SEO and CRO Are Meant to Work Hand-in-Hand

With SEO, the basic point of focus is the webpage. In conversion optimization, the central concept is a PPC ad and a matched landing page. Nevertheless, the principles of search engine and conversion rate optimization are undeniably compatible. In fact, here are a few fundamentals that apply to both SEO and CRO:

  • A conversion optimized page will prove user friendly and more likely to receive inbound links and referrals, thus improving SEO.
  • Having clear and relevant headlines, as opposed to excessively creative ones, will improve both SEO and CRO.
  • Using clear content hierarchy with proper heading tags will help with SEO and keep focus on the progression of the message, which will help with conversion.
  • A conversion optimized page should be using plenty of relevant keywords that match what visitors are searching for.
  • Replacing complex presentations with digestible pieces of content will improve your SEO and conversion rate.
  • Search engines will favor pages that are updated frequently. Keeping layouts and content fresh will prove beneficial for both SEO and CRO.
  • Pages that focus on a single topic or product achieve better search engine rankings and improve conversion rate.

SEO Factors Inform CRO Efforts

The SEO field has been revolving around the standards imposed by search engines, especially Google’s ranking factors. Some of these are documented by Google, some are relatively obvious, others are not confirmed, and some sit at the brink of speculation or wishful thinking.
Since SEO revolves around ranking factors, which basically dictate the actions and tools needed in this field, it’s only natural that the SEO insights most relevant to CRO are rooted in these ranking factors.

1. Focus on User Behavior

Conversion optimization is data-driven, much like SEO. Web analytics are your greatest asset, but you will need to do additional research into user behavior. Segmentation analysis becomes quite important. Ask yourself this: “How do different segments interact with your website, and how can you optimize their particular experiences?”
The user interaction factors most likely to be useful in CRO and impact on conversion optimization are:

  • Dwell time and click backs focus on how long people spend on your page before returning to the original SERP. Session duration is also important. It measures the amount of time people spend on your site and may be used as a quality signal by Google.
    Average session duration in Google Analytics

    Average session duration in Google Analytics


    If you’re having trouble differentiating dwell time, session duration, and bounce rate, read this article published by Neil Patel on Search Engine Journal. It will clarify the topic.
  • Bounce rate is used to calculate the percentage of users who navigate away from your site after viewing a single page. Bounce rate probably cannot be a ranking factor by itself. Metrics that can’t be applied broadly, with the objective of identifying relevant and quality content, usually are not Google algorithm factors. However, bounce rate will surely influence the way you strategize for conversion, especially in creating the A/B tests fundamental to CRO.
  • Direct and repeat traffic are powerful indicators of quality for Google. They use data collected through Chrome to determine how often users visit any particular site. Pages with a lot of direct traffic are favored in SERPs, because they are much more likely to contain quality and engaging content.

2. It’s Not Just the Landing Page, It’s Also the Website

Conversion optimization extends beyond single pages, creating what we call conversion paths throughout the website. SEO dictates that breaking up content into multiple steps is usually a bad idea. CRO specialists tell us that multiple-step landing pages can convert better, by engaging respondents in a mutually productive dialogue and facilitating proper segmentation. For this reason, some form of consensus needs to be achieved in order to allow both SEO and CRO specialists to reach successful results.
Some of the site-level SEO factors most likely to influence CRO are:

  • Site Architecture and Sitemap improve your site’s relationship with Google, since they allow the engine to index your pages and more thoroughly organize your content. Make sure your website can accommodate conversion paths without messing up its logic.
  • Domain TrustRank is a very important ranking factor. TrustRank is a link analysis technique described in the famous paper Combating Web Spam with TrustRank by researchers Zoltan Gyongyi, Hector Garcia-Molina of Stanford University, and Jan Pedersen of Yahoo!. SEO by the Sea tells us more about TrustRank.
  • Google indexes SSL certificates and uses HTTPS as a ranking signal. People are reluctant when offering credit card details and other personal data over the Internet. Obtaining an SSL certificate is crucial to offering assurance to customers and letting Google know that you are running a legitimate business.
  • Mobile friendly sites rank better with Google. Even before the April 2015 “Mobile Friendly” Google algorithm update, it was not unthinkable to assume that mobile friendly sites had an advantage in searches from mobile devices. Google actually displays “Mobile friendly” tags next to mobile search results.
    Google's mobile friendly tags

    Google’s mobile friendly tags


    Also, keep in mind that Google has precise standards for evaluating what constitutes mobile friendly design. Google WebMaster Central offers details about mobile friendly requirements. To assess your website’s current mobile performance, check out this Mobile Friendly Test.

[sitepromo]

3. If Content Is King, the Webpage Is Its Kingdom

In both SEO and CRO, content is king. In SEO, this wins you links. In conversion optimization, it wins you customers. [pullquote]You should never allow technical aspects to eclipse what is truly important: compelling value propositions and meaningful brand experiences.[/pullquote]

Page-level SEO factors that will prove crucial for conversion

Using keywords correctly throughout webpages is critical when trying to improve your search engine ranking and your conversion rates as part of your online marketing strategy. Keywords must be used in:

  • URLs.
  • Title tags. Place top-performing keywords in descending order and make sure that the title tag reflects the most important keywords used on that particular page. Here are 9 best practices for optimized < title > tags (Search Engine Land).
  • Description tags. This MOZ article states, “While not important to search engine rankings, [Meta Description Tags] are extremely important in gaining user click-through from SERPs.”
  • Heading tags. The heading tag is useful in outlining whole sections of content. It impacts both the SEO and usability of websites. For information on how to use these tags, consult this article from Woorank.com.
  • The body text. Fairly distributing the keywords throughout the content is crucial. You may want your keywords to be the most frequently used elements on the page. However, do not overstuff content with keywords. Use them intelligently and always favor usability. A link or review from an established source – thanks to the quality of your content – will weigh much more than keyword density. On the other hand, keyword prominence might be an important relevancy signal. Make sure to include your keywords in snippets and in the first 100 words of your content.

A great page layout influences rankings and conversion, if not directly as a quality signal, at least by scoring in the “user friendly category.” This keeps readers coming back for more. The page layout on highest quality pages makes the main content immediately visible.
Content length. While life on- and off-line speeds up and our attention span keeps narrowing, you would expect content to get shorter in order to efficiently catch the attention of users. On the contrary, long articles rank and convert better than short ones. Review the results of an A/B testing experiment conducted by Neil Patel, demonstrating the superior efficiency of long copy.

4. Build Links, Build Trust, Build Rapport

One of the driving goals of SEO is link building. Conversion optimization deals with links mostly in terms of conversion paths. Landing pages usually do not contain links themselves other than for the call to action (CTA). However, many SEO factors concerning link building can apply to CRO in crucial ways. Here are some examples:

  • The quality and word-count of the linking content make a big difference in link value. For example, receiving a link from a 2,000+ word well-written article weighs in much more than a link from a short comment or a poorly written blog post.
  • “Poisonous” anchor text pointed toward your site may be a sign of spam or a hacked site. Either way, it can hurt your ranking and your conversion rates, particularly when the anchor texts in question are stuffed with pharmaceutical keywords.
  • If there are low-quality links pointing to your landing pages, or you receive unnatural links warnings from Webmaster Tools, you can always use the Disavow Tool. It will not remove the harmful links themselves, but at least it will eliminate them from Google’s assessment of your site.
    You have the option to disavow links

    You have the option to disavow links

  • Contextual links – links placed within the content of pages – are more valuable than links found in sidebars, footers, or anywhere else on the page. So on top of the PPC ads, try getting your landing pages mentioned in relevant content on relevant websites.

5. Your Brand Needs a Social Identity to Attract and Convert

In terms of the decision to purchase, user behavior has been shifting toward a multi-source, multiple stage process over the last few years. Regardless of how persuasive your landing pages are and how well they bring customers to the realization that you have the answer to their specific needs, your brand needs to back up its claims with a healthy social media presence and an SEO effort that encompasses social factors. Here are a few of the factors that can inform CRO specialists on what needs to be done:

  • Google officially favors real brands and real businesses, with real offices and real people, so it only makes sense they would verify businesses and brands by their website and social media location data. MOZ goes even further and suggests that Google looks at whether a website is associated with a tax-paying business.
  • Brands have Facebook pages with many likes and Twitter profiles with many followers. Moreover, serious businesses have proper company Linkedin pages. Interestingly, Rand Fishkin, co-founder of MOZ, states that having many Linkedin profiles that list working for your company will improve your rankings and might actually constitute a brand signal.
  • Social media account authority weighs considerably in SERPs, especially since social media has become a major influencer of consumer behavior. This infographic published by Social Media Today shows how social media influences consumers, the types of content that deliver the most impact, and more.
A link shared on multiple accounts will be more valuable than the same link shared multiple times on one account.

A link shared on multiple accounts will be more valuable than the same link shared multiple times on one account.

Wrapping It Up

Looking ahead, experts predict a major detachment from traditional ranking factors to a much deeper analysis of perceived site value, authority, structured data, and social signals. Automation is transforming digital marketing, turning SEO and CRO into much more precise and effective fields in the process. Ideally, within this decade Google’s services and search algorithm will evolve to a level that will allow us to fully customize our proposals according to our customers’ buying cycles.

Alexander Kesler headshotAbout the Author

Alexander Kesler is the President of inSegment, a Boston-based digital marketing and advertising agency. He is a graduate of Babson College, where he earned a B.S. in Entrepreneurship.
Feature image licensed by Bgubitz through Creative Commons and adapted for this post.

This is a common question, and requires an understanding of the definitions of bounce rate.”
The bounce rate is a bit slippery and requires some examination. The intention of measuring the bounce rate is to figure out how many of your visitors are leaving almost immediately after arriving at your site. This metric provides for a lot of error in interpretation.

“A high bounce rate means you’re site is crappy.”

This is rarely the case. A more accurate explanation is that your site doesn’t look the way your visitors expect it to look. Understanding what your visitors expect is the way to reduce your bounce rate.
Instead, there are usually some more valid reasons for your high bounce rate. Here are the things we examine when confronted with uncomfortably high bounce rates.

You’re measuring it wrong.

How you measure your bounce rate can give you very different insights. For example, blogs often have high bounce rates. Does this mean that visitors don’t like the blog?
Many analytics packages measure a bounce as a visit, or session, that includes only one page. Visitors who take the time to read an entire article would be considered a “bounce” if they then left, even though they are clearly engaged.
We set a timer for our blog traffic, so that any visitor who sticks around for 15 seconds or more is not considered a bounce.

Technical Difficulties

We are fond of saying that you don’t have one website, you have ten or twenty or thirty. Each device, each browser, each screen-size delivers a different experience to the visitor. If your website is broken on one of the more devices popular with your visitors, you will see a bump in overall bounce rate.
If your pages load slowly, especially on mobile devices, you can expect a higher bounce rate.
If your page breaks out in a chorus of Also Sprach Zarathustra when the page loads, you may enjoy a higher bounce rate.

How to diagnose

Your analytics package will track the kind of device your visitors are coming on.

Is there a problem with this site when viewed with the Safari (in app) browser?

Is there a problem with this site when viewed with the Safari (in app) browser?


The Google Analytics report Audience > Technology > Browser & OS shows that there may be a technical issue with Safari visitors coming from within an app. This may also reflect visitors coming from mobile ads, and they may simply be lower quality. See below.
With Google Analytics Audience > Mobile > Devices report, we see mobile devices specifically. The Apple iPhone has an above-average bounce rate, and we should probably do some testing there, especially since it’s the bulk of our mobile traffic.
With an above average bounce rate, visitors on an Apple iPhone may be seeing a technical problem.

With an above average bounce rate, visitors on an Apple iPhone may be seeing a technical problem.

Traffic Quality

If you’re getting the wrong visitors, you will have a high bounce rate.
Remember StumbleUpon? Getting your site featured on the internet discovery site often meant a flood of new visitors to your site… and a crash in your conversion rate. Stumble traffic was not qualified, they were just curious.
Your bounce rate is a great measure of the quality of your traffic. Low quality traffic bounces because:

  • The search engine showed them the wrong link. Do you know how many visitors used to come to our site looking for a “conversion rate” for Russian Rubles to Malaysian Ringletts?!
  • The visitors aren’t ready to buy. They were in a different part of the purchase process. Visitors coming from Social Media ads have notoriously low conversion rates. They weren’t looking, they were just surfing.

We take a closer look at the source of traffic to diagnose a traffic quality problem using Google Analytics Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels report.

Display and direct traffic are our biggest traffic sources and bring the most bouncers.

Display and direct traffic are our biggest traffic sources and bring the most bouncers.


Here we can see that traffic coming from Display ads and those visitors coming “Direct-ly” have a high bounce rate. These two sources also make up 50% of our traffic. Ouch.
In the case of Direct traffic, we expect most of it to come to the home page. With a click, we can see that indeed 50% of Direct visits are to home.
Filtering for Direct traffic, we see that 50% of it is entering on the home page.

Filtering for Direct traffic, we see that 50% of it is entering on the home page.


Clearly we need to do more to get visitors on their way into the site. As Tim Ash says, “The job of the home page is to get people off of the home page.” He didn’t mean by bouncing.
With regard to Display ads, we my have a problem with broken promises.

Broken Promises

Do your entry pages consider the source of visits?
If your traffic is clicking on an ad that promises 20% off on a specific propane grill, and they’re directed to your home page, you’ve broken a promise. You might think that they will search your site for the deal. You might even think they’ll search your home page for the deal. You’re wrong. Many will jump.
Every ad, every email invitation, every referral link is a promise you make to your visitor. If they don’t come to a page that lives up to the promise, they are likely to bounce.

  • Does the headline on the page match the offer in the ad?
  • Does the product in the email appear after the click?
  • Are the colors and design consistent across media?

This Dispaly ad takes the visitors to a page that is almost designed to disappoint.

This Dispaly ad takes the visitors to a page that is almost designed to disappoint.


Looking at your ads on a page-by-page basis is necessary to diagnose and correct this kind of bound-rate problem.

Vague Value Propositions

Ultimately, if you’re not communicating your value proposition to your visitors clearly, you are going to enjoy a monstrous bounce rate.
[sitepromo]
Your value proposition typically does not address your company or your products. It should be targeted at your visitor, why they are there, and why they should stick around.
Each page has it’s own value proposition. Your business may have a powerful value proposition, but each page should stand on its own.
A contact page should talk about what will happen after you complete the form. Who will contact you? How long will it take? Will they try to sell you something?
A landing page should clearly state that you are in the right place and provide reasons for you to stay and read on.

This landing page delivered a strong value proposition in above the fold.

This landing page delivered a strong value proposition in above the fold. See the full case study and video.


A home page should help you find your way into the site. Most home pages are treated like highway billboards. No wonder people just drive on by.
Ultimately, we don’t want to reduce our bounce rate. We want to improve our conversion rate by bringing the right traffic, to the right page, with the right message, and avoid technical issues that get in the way.
[signature]
Richard Strauss: Also Sprach Zarathustra by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License.

As a scientist, I’m obsessed with data in every aspect of my life. I calculate wait times in lines based on number of customers and speed of the checkout clerk. I check multiple spreadsheets and websites to optimize cash back rewards and airline points before purchasing anything.
So when I decided it was time to look for a lab coat that matches mine, joining an online dating site with plenty of data points was the perfect choice for me.

My Online Dating Profile: The Most Romantic of Landing Pages

An online dating profile is essentially a lead generation landing page, so it’s the perfect platform to create an optimization project that’s entertaining to read about as well as fairly practical for me: a single woman looking for a dating partner.

[dating-series]

Before we can attract the ideal date (or customer), we need to know how to measure “ideal”. Most of our visitors won’t be the ideal. We need to have a good understanding of our base qualifications and the deal-breakers that mark a visitor as outside our target market.
One of the most difficult questions a business can answer is, “Who do I not want to focus on?” or, “Who am I willing to let go of to better serve my best prospects?” If we try to speak to everyone with our value proposition, it gets watered down so much that we don’t engage any visitors effectively.
This is essential for efficiency in time and cost of acquisition. [pullquote]You don’t want your sales staff spending hours with leads that will never be customers.[/pullquote]
And I don’t want to spend hours with men that will never be a good date for me.
With this in mind, I’m putting aside the idea of a “match” in favor of looking for “leads”. However, not everyone is a good “lead” for me.
For this experiment to work I needed to be armed with a list of traits that could easily be spotted from a dating profile or early interaction, and a site with a lot of data points to examine.
I chose the free site okcupid because it has a large user base in my target market (Austin, TX) and uses both quantitative and qualitative data points which will make sussing out a qualified lead much easier.
With all this data at my fingertips, the job I have before me is to put together a rating system that will allow me to quantitatively judge what is a fairly subjective task.
But how do I do that?

The (Quite Literal) Formula for Love

For a dating landing page, I need to be able to numerically rate a lead – someone who messages me – instead of using my intuition, and I need to be able to gauge whether I’m attracting the kind of person I want to spend time with. Otherwise, I’m just congratulating myself on receiving mountains of messages with no regard to quality.
We experience the same challenges on landing pages. Our conversion rate tells us how many visitors respond to an offer, but we need another way to determine whether or not our page is engaging qualified prospects: quantity and quality.
Fortunately, my work as a data-driven analyst has prepared me for the task… I hope.
For my lead rating system, I will rate the profile based on observable evidence in his profile and initial message.
I’ve organized my rating system into three different levels:

        

  • Free of deal-breaker traits (db) rated as a 0 or 1
  •     

  • Traits that are of importance to me (ti) rated on a scale from 0 to 1
  •     

  • Traits that are of critical importance to me (tomg) rated on a scale from 0 to 1
    Note: this is weighted more heavily in our formula

It all boils down to this First Date Probability formula:
P(first date) = db x (∑ti x 2∑tomg)

Deal-Breakers

The deal-breaker variable is binary. If a curious courter has even one deal-breaker trait, his First Date Probability goes to zero.
In both the dating world and the business world, deal-breakers are pretty important. They quickly eliminate prospective paramours from the running early on. Businesses, however, don’t often incorporate these all-or-nothing deal-breakers in lead scoring algorithms.
What are the deal-breakers in your online business? We all want web prospects that have a problem you can solve, and who have the money to pay for it.
Common business deal breakers include:

        

  • Title: They don’t have the authority to make the decision.
  •     

  • Purchase Timeframe: They aren’t ready to buy in a reasonable time.
  •     

  • Location: We can’t service their city.
  •     

  • Language: We can’t communicate with them.
  •     

  • Budget: They can’t afford us.

At my company, we really can’t do scientific optimization unless a prospect gets 200 transactions or leads from the web in a month. For us, this is a deal-breaker.
Asking about deal breakers in your lead generating landing page forms is one way to let visitors know that they are in the wrong place. They won’t waste your time and you won’t waste theirs.
Deal-breakers for me include:

        

  • Younger than 25 or older than 45
  •     

  • Already in a relationship or not interested in monogamy
  •     

  • Living outside of Austin, Texas
  •     

  • Smokers

I would score these with a zero if I find them in his profile.
my dating landing page data
my dating landing page about me dataq
Finding evidence of my deal-breakers is pretty easy on okcupid as these are simple questions provided in a basic profile. Either you’re a smoker, or you’re not. Here are some of my answers, totally spelled out for me – 37, non-smoker, Strictly Monogamous, Lives in Austin, Texas.
Non-smoker
Evidence of monogamy
If a lurking Lothario contacts me who is prison-bound for living out the storyline of Psycho, I will say “no” to a date and consider none of the other attributes. If these items are present, the inquirer receives an appropriate rating of 0.
For our experiment, anyone who contacts me outside of this range will still be considered a lead, but they’ll just be an unqualified lead. In business, these are the folks we just can’t help. They might get a short, polite email or a referral to a more suitable business.

Important Traits (ti)

This next group of traits aren’t deal-breakers. I’m willing to make compromises here, though they’re still important.
In my formula, I will find a value for important traits (ti) by finding the sum of rated items.  Some items will get a negative rating, meaning a score of one will be subtracted from the total.

        

  • Negative Rating: If there is a religious mismatch, a prospective Romeo will get a negative rating. It’s important that we have similar values.
  •     

  • College graduate – Tells me he values and respects education. And he can read. I’m most turned on by smarts, so someone with a well exercised brain is a must.
  •     

  • Adventurousness – Not afraid to try new kinds of foods, sky-diving, road trips — almost anything you couldn’t do in your cubicle.
  •     

  • Love of travel – Traveling is part of being adventurous, but it’s also a distinct part of my rating system. I have friends all over the country and would like to hear more about interesting places.
  •     

  • Appreciates dry/sarcastic humor – My sarcastic voice sounds a lot like my regular voice (bonus points for Joss Whedon fanboys and knowing where that line comes from)
  •     

  • Creative and appreciates art – Creative hobby a plus! (I dance, love the theater, paint and write – I want someone that can come with me to the theater or an art museum.)
  •     

  • Healthy/physically active lifestyle – It isn’t about body type; it’s about lifestyle. I’d love to find someone who will join me at the gym or go hiking with me.

You can that rating leads based on these traits isn’t going to be as straightforward as the deal-breakers, but it can still be pretty clear whether someone is stacking up well.
standardized questions
This snippet of standardized questions helps me get an idea of how this person feels about his religious beliefs.  It’s actually a two part question answered by choosing your answer from a drop down menu.  Part one is choosing the religion, and part two is where you choose the degree to which you follow the religion.
Dogs, food, and travel
This question is open-ended, but this guy still managed to cover one of my important traits and also a critically important trait by mentioning his dog.
It won’t always be easy to assign a value, however. Sometimes I’m going to have to look at the profile as a whole to make a decision.  This next profile gave me some mixed messages.
not into exercise
loves bike riding
When you answer standardized questions on okcupid, it will use your answers to rank you among other users of the site.  In the bar graph above, the midline represents the average okcupid user, so this person is much less into exercise than the average person.
But he has also indicated that he rides his bike often in his response to an open-ended question.  Since I’m looking for someone who lives a healthy lifestyle, maybe not exercising is ok. It could mean that he just really hates going to the gym, but he loves being an active person.

Critically Important Traits (tomg)

        

  • 27-37 years of age
  •     

  • Loves dogs – I own a giant dog named Remus and he’s here to stay.
  •     

  • Negative Rating: Negativity and pessimism.
  •     

  • Career oriented – My ideal match has his own career and professional direction because he’ll understand my own ambition, and we’ll be able to encourage and support each other.
  •     

  • Enjoys quiet evening at home – I love being downtown or out where the action is, but I need quiet and mellow to recharge and be my best.

Critically important traits
If this person contacted me, he would be a strong lead based on this small part of his profile.  Humor?  Check. Career oriented?  Check!  Education? Check.  There are many personality traits I’m looking for that I didn’t include in my rating system because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to find solid evidence without meeting in person, but this guy is also demonstrating some strong elements of the Type A personality I really like.
Deciding whether someone is negative or pessimistic will be another item that requires looking at the big picture.  It’s one of those “know it when you see it” traits, but strong indicators are lists of unacceptable attributes in another person and making repeated comments about how past relationships have ended poorly.

Scoring Qualified Leads

So now what? We have a bunch of leads that aren’t obvious mismatches. How do we determine which ones to spend our time and energy on? Who will have the highest ROI?
For our experiment we’ll count a lead as anyone that initiates contact.  We’ll then rank our leads based on the following system:
Qualified lead: Scores a one on all deal-breakers (meaning there aren’t any deal-breakers I could find)
These are the profiles I’ll take time to look at and see if they’re worth spending time on.
Ideal candidate: Scores zero on all negative ratings and ones across the board other than that.  We can skip the screening portion and start lobbying hardcore.
Candidate Level 1: Scores in the top third of my formula.
I will devote time and energy talking to this person and getting to know him with an emphasis on setting up an in-person meeting sooner rather than later.
Candidate Level 2: Scores in the middle third of my formula.
I will respond to his message and ask leading questions.  He may have other qualifications that are not on the list that appeal to me, so he might be worth an in-person meeting.
Candidate Level 3: Scores in the bottom third of my formula.
These are the leads that are worth talking to if times are lean. If lead flow is up, and we’re swimming in qualified leads, these will fall to the bottom of the pile.  We’ll get to them if we have the time and resources to do so.
[sitepromo]

Case Study

To see how well my equation works on a real person, I’m putting it to the test.  The screenshots below are from a single profile.  He hasn’t messaged me, so he doesn’t count as a lead for my experiment, but he should be good practice for my rating system.
I’ve started with profile basics looking for deal breakers.
Age Location Data
Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 11.59.22 AM
Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 12.13.54 PM

Deal-Breaker Traits

        

  • Younger than 25 or older than 45: 1
  •     

  • Already in a relationship or not interested in monogamy: 1
  •     

  • Living outside of Austin, Texas: 1
  •     

  • Smokers: 1

He’s off to a good start, so now I’m moving on to look for important traits.  Some of them popped up in his profile basics.

Important Traits

        

  • Negative Rating – Religious mismatch: 1
  •     

  • College graduate: 1

He’s agnostic, and I’m Episcopalian.  We might be able to make it work, however, which is why this trait isn’t a deal breaker.
Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 11.59.59 AM

        

  • Adventurousness: 1
  •     

  • Love of travel: 1
  •     

  • Healthy/physically active lifestyle: 1

He describes himself as fit in his profile basics which made me think he probably leads a pretty healthy lifestyle, but this paragraph made me certain.
He also has a tone here that seems humorous when he says he runs for his own “feel goods”.  I wanted to give him a score of one based on that line, but it seemed like it would be based on fairly thin evidence.  His self-summary gave me more data to make me think a score of one is appropriate.
Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 12.00.21 PM

        

  • Appreciates dry/sarcastic humor: 1
  •     

  • Creative and appreciates art: 0

I looked for responses to questions about art, photos that could be in a museum, mentions of favorite artists, but I didn’t see anything artistic.
He didn’t nail all of my Important Traits in his profile, but I still found evidence of most of them.  Now for Critically Important Traits.

Critically Important Traits

        

  • 27-37 years of age: 1
  •     

  • Loves dogs: 1
  •     

  • Negative Rating – Negativity and pessimism: 0

I found his age and pet ownership status in his profile basics.
Of course I can’t prove the null hypothesis with negativity since I’m trying to figure out whether he isn’t a positive person, so it’s possible that he’s a pessimist.  That’s what makes this trait one of the more difficult ones to score – but there wasn’t enough evidence to give him anything other than a zero.
Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 11.59.41 AM

        

  • Career oriented: 1
  •     

  • Enjoys quiet evening at home: 1

If he wants to spend Friday night talking about business ideas, I can say with confidence that he’s a career oriented person.  Takeout, movies, and TV shows all sound like a solid night in to me.
Now I can plug in some numbers into my formula.
P(first date) = db x (∑ti x 2∑tomg)
db = 1
∑ti = 3
∑tomg = 4
P(first date) = 1 x (3 x 2(4))
P(first date) = 24
He is a candidate level one using my criteria.  Let’s hope he sends me a message!

Attracting Ideal Qualified Leads

It may turn out that people aren’t up front about something I thought they would be or that a particular flaw that bugs me turns out to be so common that I would be remiss to keep paying attention to it.  So I may need to make adjustments here and there in my description of an ideal lead.
The process of creating my rating system, however frustrating, was a good experience because knowing what I’m looking for is half the battle. I now know what I’m aiming for in my profile/landing page, and I can share things about myself more strategically.  I won’t be lying on my dating profile, so when I say I’m being strategic, I’m not changing who I am to meet someone – I’m simply emphasizing certain things about myself and not mentioning other things.
Best foot forward, right?  Your landing pages should do the same.  If you’re a family-oriented small business, but your ideal lead isn’t, why share that information?  It’s still important, of course, but it’s ok to withhold information that doesn’t get right to the point.
Now you know quite a lot about what I’m looking for, but you know relatively little about me personally.  To find out more, you know what to do: subscribe to my series!  You know you want to…

[dating-series]

What would happen if you suddenly pulled the plug on your website optimization efforts? The question behind the question is, “How much has website optimization contributed to our online sales?”

We all know that the results we see in our tests don’t reflect reality when rolled out to the website. So, how much faith should we put into test results?

My Marketing Land column The Nagging Little Question Of Conversion Optimization I explore all of the things that make our actual results different from that predicted by testing.

And I tell you what happened to one company when they removed the months of optimized changes from their site.

The Massey Observer Effect states that,

“The act of measuring an audience will change the way the audience behaves.”

This means that what our tests tell us are going to be somewhat inaccurate. This is just one reason that the results of our tests won’t be seen when rolled out onto the website.

You’ll learn how to overcome several sources of error in our tests.

  • The Massey Observer Effect
  • Statistics Lie
  • Test Segments
  • Market Coincidences

I go into detail on each of these, explaining why these issues is important and how to overcome them when doing website optimization for leads and sales.

Photo © 2015 Third Door Media, Inc. All rights reserved.

Last year, Austin, Texas declared itself the Conversion Capital of the World with some stiff competition.
It turns out that, this year there is even more reason to support this very scientific and not-at-all-biased claim. We’ll be sharing our updated list of Austintatious website optimization pros on CRO Day, April 9.
[pullquote]Clearly, the quality of breakfast tacos and microbrews are determining factors for how optimizers choose their city of residence.[/pullquote]
Website optimizers aren’t your typical marketer. In our roundup, each one will tell the story of how they were drawn, pulled or tricked into conversion optimization.
Subscribe to The Conversion Scientist. Don’t miss this Ausome list.

[subscribe-by-email]

Ironically, CRO Day was declared by the crew at Unbounce, a respected but decidedly “ain’t in Austin” company. Despite that, we think that you should be online for this event. We will participate.
Two days until International Conversion Rate Optimization Day
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breakfast tacos by goodiesfirst via Compfight cc and adapted for this post

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.”
“[pullquote]Email is like a cockroach, you can’t kill it.[/pullquote]”
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 1990s desktop

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.
Image of John Stamos

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. (Digital.com)
  • 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, and how exit 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 overlay, i.e. a modal lightbox that activates when a user is about to abandon your site.

An exit overlay on Gr8fires.co.uk, activated when a user is about to abandon the site

An exit overlay on Gr8fires.co.uk, 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 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 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 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 overlay
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.
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4.   Exit 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 from 2013:
Shopify's cart abandonment rates in 2013
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?
Image of BabyAge exit overlay
Email is the obvious answer, yet according to BizReport, 80% of marketers aren’t sending triggered emails after cart abandonment.
Exit 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.
Image of Xero Shoes exit overlay
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.

Results

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

Takeaways

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.