11 Ways to Increase Signups from Your Landing Pages

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Whether you’re hawking a new menu for your restaurant, or building an email list for prospective car buyers, landing pages are your friend. They’re designed to turn web visitors into prospects by capturing email addresses and other handy information.

You can push traffic to a landing page with brute force marketing dollars. But converting that traffic to usable email addresses and leads is part science and part voodoo. There are a ton of variables in play, like font, size, form field sizes, label placement, colors, copy, layout. And that’s just for starters, so our first piece of advice is to refine landing pages through A/B testing.

Fortunately, a lot of geeky research has given us best practices to get started. Here’s our top 11 list.

1. Write concise headlines that clearly state the offer and tell the visitor what to do. “Download a Free Guide to Purchasing Your First Home Without Regret.” Is this headline longer than usual? Yes. But it gives the visitor all the needed information to make a decision to download the white paper quickly.

2. Resist the urge to be “clever.” It’s a difficult and humbling lesson for us writers, who, on most days, are paid for our wit and silly puns, i.e. “Home is Where the Hearth Is.”

3. Make sure that design, language and visuals are consistent across all the promotional platforms. Otherwise, your visitor will experience a disconnect (read: loss of trust) and drop your page like a hot tater.

4. In general, don’t use offers that aren’t directly related to the information you’re trying to sell. Aside from possible legal and ethical issues, you’ll also receive a bunch of junk signups from people more interested in winning an Apple® watch than seeing the resolution of your new ultrasound.

5. As comedian Sam Kinison said, “Tell me what to do, and I will do it.” The same holds true for call-to-action (CTA) buttons. “Submit” is meaningless. Be clear and direct, “Download our free white paper.” Or restate the benefit, “Save on Maintenance. Send my eBook.”

6. Form design is a graduate degree unto itself.  Key tips: label the form fields precisely. “Full Name” not “Name,” and for an address, specify which one: practice, or home. Again, this isn’t the place to be clever.

7. Design tip: Line up form labels on top of the form fields, not to the left. There art plenty of articles about the technical design aspects of form design. For inspiration, though, I love Smashing Magazine’s overview of some of the best and most creative.

8. With at least 40% of your traffic visiting by phone, mobile compatibility for landing pages is an absolute must. Otherwise, you’re missing an important chunk of your audience, and quite possibly taking a SEO hit from Google.

9. The objective of a landing page is to encourage visitors to follow a path to the call-to-action. Anything that gets in the way of that visually should be hacked out.

10. Use an A/B test on all the elements of the landing page. Start small, e.g. testing two versions of the landing page, or the color of your CTA buttons. For further information about anything related to user interface, read articles by Jakob Nielsen at the Nielsen/Norman Group.

11. Agencies and in-house groups alike tend to obsess about conversion rates. That’s okay, but the ultimate metric is the number of qualified prospects converted. The secret is to repel people who you know aren’t qualified.

For example, your event to educate health club owners about your product could be perceived as an invitation to fitness buffs. Try crafting a message like, “Knowledge is more important in health club success than muscles.”

That’ll send them running for the door.

Learn more about email marketing, marketing automation and web development services at Ideopia.com/Services.

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Podcast Your Way to Niche Markets

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Podcasting, generally short audio only, or video programs, are enjoying resurgence. According to Edison Research, 39 million people listen to podcasts at least once a month. Increased smartphone usage figures into the equation.

Listen to Ideopia’s Blendercast Podcast at podcast.ideopia.com.

Podcasts, web, video and internet radio now join the automatic coffee maker as technologies that accommodate their schedules, and maximize free time. For marketers, podcasting opens up a plethora of new content sources: Audio versions of blog posts, excerpts from speeches, and even comments or questions from customers. While some podcasts achieve chart-topping status, like these top programs from 2015, the relatively low cost of podcasts makes them a viable option to communicate specialized content to niche markets. While one of your engineers may not be ready for prime time, she could be very effective talking to peers at other companies.

Chance are you already have all the technology you need to start podcasting: a good microphone, a computer, and if you’re a one-take wonder, you can skip downloading free sound editing equipment.

For more about the popularity of Internet radio, see our post in Blender.

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Website Analytics: Turn Flabby Numbers Into Customers

The hungry marketer Many years ago, a client called me at 7:30 a.m. “Your f…..g ads don’t work, you f……g a……..e.” In retrospect this is hilarious because his store wasn’t even open yet. Some people make the same snap judgments about websites based on top line data only. This information (see below) may flag a problem on the site, but it’s not the diagnosis. Now what? Say your car doesn’t start. The problem could be everything from a faulty ignition switch to a potato lodged in your tail pipe. We need to get under the hood and get dirty.

Typical dispaly of top line website data

These are topline numbers on your Google Analytics (GA) account’s home page. If you don’t drill down to understand what’s really going on, they can bite you in your rear part.

Top line numbers fluctuate due to many factors beyond your control, seasonality, popular soccer match, day of the week, or job postings on your website. The numbers go up, and they come down. And they will not tell you important dimensions about the size of your core audience, or the surge in traffic driven by social media.

So slap on a pair of coveralls, grab a wrench, and let’s do a deep dive on your website until we reach the core. As for the hard charging, results driven, monkey on your back, you’ll have a few more bananas to pitch at him.

Can you tell where the 300% increase in traffic dropped off?

Can you tell where the 300% increase in traffic dropped off?

Last October, Ideopia redesigned a website. Traffic growth was almost immediate. Eventually the growth slowed, but growth in visits continued to increase. Then boom! Traffic spiked over 300%. Champagne corks popped like gunfire at Ideopia. And yes, we were quick to point out this accomplishment to our client.

We poked underneath the traffic to find the mystery traffic.  And the bump wasn’t do to earned traffic at all.  By checking traffic sources, we found the culprit, an Adwords account that was running amok. While it’s nice to take the credit, our job here was to shut down the rogue Adwords account. And we did.

One reason website analytics get wonky is because they’re based on averages. For example: web traffic might go up, but pages per visit go down. Has your content broken down? That’s possible, but it also might be a slow download speed for your site.

Other and possibly deceitful metrics – time per visit, and pages per visit – are based on averages of all your site’s data, too. Now hear this:  There is no average visitor. One visitor might hit one page on your site. Another may visit a hundred making the average number of pages per visit 500. Again, we love to report the good news. But it’s not helpful for decision making. So lets take an example using Pareto’s 80/20 distribution. For the sake of this example, our website pulls in a whopping 100 visitors per month.

Traffic Segment A 

  • Web Traffic = 20
  • Average page views per visitor = 10
  • Total Pageviews = 200
  • Time per visit = 5 minutes

Example Segment B

  • Total  traffic = 80
  • Average page views per visitor = 1
  • Total Pageviews = 80
  • Average time per visit = 1 minute

Averaging A & B segments together yields the top line data you would see on your dashboard.

  • Total traffic = 100
  • Total  page views= 280
  • Average page views = 190
  • Average time per visit = 3 minutes

The point here is to show how averages misrepresent the values in both A & B segments. Knowing that we have 2.8 page views is useless. What’s interesting is that 20% of our traffic views 10 pages, and 80% account for 80 page views. See how unhelpful averages are? Depending on your objectives, you might be more concerned with core visitors, or overall traffic. If only you could determine what’s sticky for the core group, and what’s turning off the fringe visitors.

Well, you can with custom segments from Google Analytics. It’s a power tool for defining your key audience segments, and a component of decision making about content, user experience, and SEO.  The answers aren’t on top. Drill down, and start finding customers.

Find Customers in the Core

Use Google’s custom segments to define your target audience. Describe it by demographics (18-24), keywords from search, affinity categories like sports and gardening, and traffic sources, like social media or Adwords. The core is the group of visitors you want to tantalize with your content, capture their email addresses, and eventually contact them personally. This report shows engagement by comparing numbers of users in different time segments.

Rules of Engagement

A metric like engagement should make you swoon. On Google Analytics, it’s called “Engagement,” located under Behavior on the left-hand navigation. Let’s take the table below as an example, and say that we consider anyone who has made a visit of 180 seconds, or 3 minutes, to define a core visitor.

Which would you say are the most engaged visitors?

Which would you say are the most engaged visitors?

380 or 21% of visitors accounted for 6,116 or 56%, of page views lasting more than 3 minutes. According to our definition, this is the core audience. To refine further, choose from a slew of pre-configured reports to import into your accounts. Custom segment in hand, you’ll want to apply it to other reports in GA. Find out how much of your core audience visits from social media, and what platform. What pages are most appealing to this group? Who is performing what actions on your site.

Increasing Website ROI

While it’s fun to gloat over top line numbers, it can lead to rash decisions based on them, like trashing your existing site, revamping the home page, or stuffing copy for SEO. Keep in mind that your site still needs  to cater to the other 80%. They will become the new core, and fodder for content marketing programs. What are your top analytic tricks? Please add them to the comments.

Bill Abramovitz is CEO and Creative Director at Ideopia, a Massively Integrated Idea Company.

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Canada’s New Anti-Spam Law Could Spank You

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Like an iron fist smothered in maple syrup, Canada is sticking it to brands with the toughest email marketing law in the land. And if your company deals in the Great White North, it may apply to you.

Effective July 1, the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) requires businesses to obtain permission to send emails, text messages and possibly social media postings to customers or prospects.

Two Varieties of Consent: Implied or Express

Implied consent requires documented proof of a relationship with a consumer. For example, Jasper in Nova Scotia ordered a batch of squeegees last May and gave you his email address.

Express applies mainly to prospects, or any customer you can’t prove you’ve done business with in the last two years.

To gain the golden stamp of approval, you must dish out opt-in messages and compete with a flurry of others doing the same thing.

While mega brands like Ford entice customers with freebies – a chance to win a free Mustang – small businesses and non-profits don’t have the same resources.

Some experts believe companies will see opt-in rates of less than 20 percent without the help of an agency or digital marketing plan.

Whether you’re a global brand with customers up north, or considering business ventures there, it’s best to have an agency (and lawyer) on your side. Or risk stiff fines – up to $1 million per person, and up 10 times that for companies found in violation – and an email list worth less than a can of spam.

But for now, let’s just hope this crackdown doesn’t spread south of the border.

Read more about CASL here.

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9 Reasons to Drink the Marketing Automation Kool-Aid

Marketing automation Kool-Aid

Would you like to reduce the cost of sales, attract more leads and boost revenues? Dumb question. Of course you would. That’s why it’s time to get over the “robots controlling the world” fears, and dive into marketing automation. Now for some motivation:

Cold, hard cash

  1. Companies that automate lead management see a 10% or greater increase in revenue in 6-9 months. (Gartner Research)
  2. 78% of high-performing marketers say that marketing automation software is responsible for improving revenue contribution. (Source: Position2)

More sales. Lower cost.

  1. Companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales-ready leads at 33% lower cost. (Forrester Research via Pardot)
  2. Businesses that use marketing automation to nurture prospects experience a 451% increase in qualified leads. (via Captera)
  3. Lead nurturing reduces the percentage of marketing-generated leads ignored by sales (from as high as 80% to as low as 25%).
  4. The average sales cycle has increased 22% over the past 5 years due to more decision makers being involved in the buying process. (via Captera)

Blindside the competition

  1. Marketing automation software only has 3% adoption in non-tech companies. (via Captera)
  2. 63% of companies that are outgrowing their competitors use marketing automation software. (via Captera)

Ideopia can help

  1. 64% of CMOs have no process, or an informal process, to manage their marketing automation. (The Annuitas Group)
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Market To Billions With Baidu, China’s Search Giant

Baidu

With more active users than the U.S. population, Baidu racks up a staggering 5 billion search queries a day. Yet, outside of China, the fifth most popular website in the world is largely unknown.

But for global brands, that’s starting to change. Here’s what you need to know about advertising on the Google of China:

Breaking down the language barrier

Baidu only crawls websites written in Simplified Chinese, so every search ad, website and landing page must be translated. The company offers support in English, and can put you in touch with a translator. Sure beats “Chinese for Dummies.”

Resellers set up shop in the U.S.

For the right price, companies like China Search International (CSI) make it easy to advertise on Baidu. They translate ad copy and keywords, handle all required documentation (China is strict with regulations), and report analytics.

It’s not just a Google clone

On top of paid search, Baidu offers animated and interactive banner ads, and its own version of homepage takeovers. These campaigns reportedly boast incredible click-thru rates of 50 percent or more.

Should your brand Baidu?

For companies with Chinese interests, Baidu can’t be ignored. With more than 531 million users and 90 percent of the search market, it’s clear that Baidu is the frontrunner in China. As for the rest of us in our American cubbyhole? Google will do just fine.

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Email Marketing – More Effective in Segments

Reasons to segment your email database

Audience segmentation has blasted way beyond simple demographic and psychographic descriptions of markets. Sophisticated email marketing schemes can suck data about your customers from Facebook and target obscure markets like guys who enjoy pilates, frozen dinners, and Finnish beer. Get started now with basic email segmentation, or you’ll have a nervous breakdown when you get serious about  marketing automation.

Why email?

Not many small businesses have the resources to use or buy big data to target messages to individual consumers. But you can put segmentation to use in your email right away. Most email platforms, even the bargain basement brands, offer some capability.

Why should I care?

You can send tailored information to small but important parts of your audience and make them like you. Why pitch a $500 driver to a novice golfer, or beer to a self-professed wine nut. It makes your company seem out of touch.

Better numbers. The positive or negative performance won’t sway the analytics for your entire list. At Ideopia, we can always count on our friends and family list for a 60% click-thru rate with our eNewsletter. Great numbers, but they’re outliers when it comes to the performance of our overall list.

Zero in on the most profitable customer segments, and super serve them with customized content.

If you don’t have the resources to write 6 different newsletters then swap out the lead stories only. Still pressed for time? Reduce the length of your stories, or mix it up with Vine video or infographics.

How do I get started?

Sign up with an email marketing web application that handles segmentation. Here’s a helpful review of the most popular email marketing solutions.

Set target metrics or KPIs for each segment. Determine the most meaningful segmentation of your list. With any luck, your Customer Resource Management (CRM) system has already figured this out. Examples could include distributor / direct, gender, brand preference, geography, mobile vs. desktop, business category, etc. Start slowly; this is a journey, not a destination.

Modify your email address capture system, like web forms, to gather segmentation information.

Consider using information commonly available through your website, like time spent on a specific page, referral source (social media, landing page, search term).

Get help! Recruit the product manager to write stories about their category. Put the people in your company who love your products and want to express themselves writing first-person pieces, or creating Vine Video. Assuming you want to see your family again, you will need a content team.

Stagger your mailings, so the editorial crunch doesn’t hit on one day.

You can do it! This first step isn’t technologically difficult, it just takes the grit to plan and organize. You’ll see unsubscribes go down, and conversions and brand loyalty go up.

Is Segmentation Creepy?

On a sale of 1-10 with Facebook being the creepiest user of customer data, basic email segmentation is a 2. Do make sure that you upgrade your privacy policy, so visitors know exactly what you’re doing with their information.

Learn more about content and email segmentation with these posts:

How Evaluate Your Email Newsletter

Blow the Dust off Your Email Program

Mobile Friendly Email is a Must

Troubleshoot Email Marketing with Infographic

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Marketing to Teens? Try These Website Tactics.

You would expect the smartphone generation to navigate the web effortlessly. But, a new study released by Nielsen Norman shows that teens (13-17) might be more confident than capable of using the Internet.

One of the biggest differences between adults and teens was the ability to complete tasks given by the researchers. e.g. buying a sweater in an e-store. Surprisingly, adults were 14 percent more successful at completing their assignments.

So what’s going on? Jakob Nielsen notes that teens have “insufficient reading skill, less sophisticated research strategies, and dramatically lower levels of patience.”

It’s also possible that old people (25-35) build many teen targeted websites and serve up one-size fits all web experiences.

How to Repel a Teen from Your Website

Call a teen a kid, and you can kiss that sale goodbye. Teens resent being lumped in with kids. So watch your language and title on
your navigation.

Slow loading graphics or widgets repel teens. Most of them use secondhand equipment with slower computing speeds and Internet connections. Remember, this is an impatient audience.

Getting personal. Teens value their privacy. They’re very suspicious of any attempt to shake loose personal information. So don’t ask!

Are you targeting teens on the web? We highly recommend reading the entire overview report on the Nielsen Norman web site.

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How to Evaluate Your Email Newsletter

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After we send an email, some of us like to watch the opens in a real time. (We can stop whenever we want.) In the interim, it’s fun to hypothesize why some stories get a lot of clicks and others don’t. While this is great fun, we decided this methodology is useless. There are simply too many variables that affect clicks: position on page, the headline, the topic, news, weather, time of day, season, business category, and day of week just to name a few.

Now we have a better solution. Instead of looking at just one issue, we aggregated the data from 12 months on all the stories and articles including remails. The articles are placed into categories, e.g. home tips, fixtures and lighting, and the categories are ranked according to popularity. This still isn’t scientific, because you haven’t corrected for all the variables. But you’ll spot trends that you can A-B test for in future issues.

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Target Your Niche with B2B Search Engines

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Google is the undisputed 800-pound gorilla of general search with 65% of all searches. But there’s growing excitement about B2B search engines that target vertical markets.

Most B2B customers start with Google or one of the other biggies, but as they refine their search they switch to smaller search engines, like KnowledgeStorm, that target niche markets. It works out for everyone. The customer finds the detailed information they need fast. And companies receive click-thrus with much higher conversion rates. Many of these sites also offer paid search, which, on a smaller scale, can easily outperform services like AdWords.

We’ve listed some of the major B2B search engines below. It’s also a good idea to Google (ha, ha) the name of your category or industry with the term search engine. You might turn up a couple high school kids running a directory in their basement, or you could find a treasure. Here’s a flavor of what’s out there:

Start Your Search with These B2B Biggies

  • Business.com: With 6 million visitors per month, this is the largest B2B search engine. Sponsored search is syndicated to more than 100 other business sites.
  • IT.com: Targets IT industry with general and narrowed search.
  • Jayde: Includes company profiles and links to internal web pages.
  • GlobalSpec: Serves engineering, manufacturing and technical market segments.
  • Alibaba: Called the “online dating service for global business,” has 27 million members in 200 countries.
  • TooToo: Refines searches by category or type of business.
  • CleanHound: Information for the janitorial executive.

Now, find the B2B search engine tailored for your business.

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