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14 Actionable Tips to Increase Travel Website Bookings

14 CRO tips

So the visitors land on your travel website, search for flights and accommodation and then randomly leave without completing the booking — almost on a whim. If your website has also been seeing a similar trend, then you are not alone.

On an average, more than 95% traffic coming on hotel, airline and tour packages websites leave without completing the purchase process. Why? Because travel eCommerce is one of the trickiest online businesses — thanks to lengthy marketing funnels, complex search parameters, complicated checkout processes, multiple forms and massive personalization. The average conversion rate (% of website visitors turning into customers) of travel websites is a dismal 4% — far below the 10% conversion rate of financial and media firms.

Travel conversion rate

But you can always improve this figure by optimizing your website so that more visitors turn to customers. Here are 14 tips you can implement on your website to make more visitors convert — complete the transaction.

1) Make your ‘Site Search’ smart and intuitive

Search box
William Shatner pointing his finger towards the search box acts as a directional cue for visitors

For no other industry is the search function as critical as for travel websites. In the case of eCommerce stores, visitors operate in the ‘browsing and finding’ mode. They may or may not use a site search. But when it comes to travel sites, the entire premise of the prospective transaction is based on site search. Only when a visitor selects a location and a date, will he find relevant results from which he/she will make a choice. Not only should your site search be extremely fast and accurate, it should be as intuitive as possible.

There are four key search parameters — date, location, budget and number of people. You can use drop-down menus for calendar and locations, and pre-define different budget categories for visitors to choose from. You can also save their booking history and populate past search parameters for convenience.

Personalization
Expedia gives the visitors a Scratchpad in which their search history is saved

2) How and what you display in site search results is crucial

The result page that appears after a visitor inputs his search combination can overwhelm a visitor into abandonment if the information is presented in a haphazard manner. It’s important that the visitor gets all the needed information without having to leave the funnel. The flight and hotel options should be displayed in a clean layout with pricing being highlighted.

Search results page
Priceline encapsulates its call to action button (Choose) and Price to draw visitors’ attention

An editable search bar should also be prominently displayed so that the visitor can modify the search results without hitting the back button.

3) The progress bar is your lifeboat

Progress bar

The booking process is extremely complex with many steps in the booking funnel – hotel booking, flight booking, amenities, cab pick and drop. Complex booking experiences make travelers switch to higher cost offline channels. In a survey conducted among US passengers, it was found that at least 18% of travelers don’t find online planning and booking easy.

It’s extremely difficult to cut down on the amount of information that must be collected during the booking process. But dividing the process into identifiable steps makes customers’ life much easier. These identifiable steps are like road signs — the customer will know what lies ahead after they complete that step.

4) This is the add-ons market: Upsell and Cross-sell with elan

Cross-sell and Up-sell

Would they want to add on travel insurance as a package deal? Or perhaps, get flight seats with extra legroom at a little extra cost? Or may be extend the trip by three days to get a steal of a deal? The options for add-ons, cross-sells and upsells are immense in the online travel business — extra baggage, hotel upgrades, meals — all are additional services that could be clubbed with the booking to increase the average order value.

According to a TripAdvisor survey, free Wi-Fi is the most requested hotel amenity with 89% of travelers wanting it, followed by free parking and breakfast. However, you need to take care of two things when it comes to upselling and cross-selling. First: Don’t offer an upsell option when the visitor is at the checkout. You don’t tell the traveler what they don’t have and confuse them when they are about to close the deal. Secondly, don’t auto-check the add-ons as the customer might not notice them at that point but would get mighty pissed when they see the inflated cost at the checkout.

5) Personalization is the key

The incredible thing about online travel is that every booking is personalized to some extend. One traveler might always go for free Wi-fi as a criterion for hotel booking while another might always choose flights with 100% on-time record. Using a personalization tool to remember travelers’ booking history will help you make relevant offers the next time they come to your website. You could also track their in-session activity to understand their behavior and booking habits.

Recommendations
Travelocity makes recommendations to travelers on the basis of their past results

When you display the search results, you could also put badges on thumbnails to highlight a particular feature the traveler requested the last time. It’s a great way to catch their attention and offer relevant information really fast.

6) If you know them enough, offer recommendations

This is the second part of the personalization process. If a traveler has booked with you a couple of times, that’s good enough information for you to offer trip recommendations. If there is a lot of consistency in their booking behavior — sea-facing hotels, family trips, spa and recreational activities — you can assume he/she is a leisure traveler and accordingly recommend similar travel experiences.

A global hotel chain ran an A/B test in which it replaced its search widget with a recommendations widget on its search results page. This increased the hotel’s revenue by $658,000.

7) Leave no room for ambiguity

Any information that is vague and open to reader’s interpretation is a potential conversion barrier. The multitude steps involved in the booking process are anyways a hindrance to smooth web experience. Review all the information throughout the funnel for ambiguities.

For example, when you ask visitors for their age, you might be showing them three options to choose from – kid, adult and elderly. Now you might think you have communicated yourself clearly but what about someone who is 17? He definitely does not think of himself as a kid and neither is he legally an adult. Or what about someone who is 59? An adult or elderly? There’s always some room for confusion here. And if the ticket prices vary according to these groups, then the visitor won’t think twice before abandoning you for some other website which clearly states the age group, like this:

Clarity of information

Here’s another example of ambiguity. By looking at their analytics, Expedia found that many of their visitors were clicking the booking button but weren’t completing the transaction. After some analysis, they found that an optional field on the booking form (called ‘Company’) was confusing the travelers. The visitors thought the field required them to enter their bank name. Having entered the bank name, they then went on to enter their bank address (not home) in the address field. This was causing the credit card transaction to fail. Expedia simply deleted the ‘Company’ field and reaped in higher profits. (Here’s the full case study)

Here’s a look at what all information leisure travelers are interested in at the time of planning a holiday.

Information sought by travelers

8) Make room for the last minute traveler

Last-minute queries on mobile device for hotels and accommodations went up by 79% during January 2012 compared to 2011. Tap into this most obvious market segment by prominently displaying a ‘Express booking’ button on your homepage.

9) Make them an offer they can’t refuse

The world of online travel is an unfair one. Google analysis shows that an average travel shopper visits 22 websites (Yessir, not a typo) in multiple shopping sessions before finally booking a trip. Planning a holiday is a thoughtful and complicated process with the visitor going on a ‘Control + W’ spree at the slightest of whims and inconveniences. You have to get their attention really fast and make them act right away in order to score transactions. One of the ways to do that is by using the Urgency principle — one of the six persuasive psychology principles mentioned in Robert Cialdini’s book ‘Influence’.

Last few tickets available at discounted price’
Book now to get a free hotel upgrade’
Book in the next one hour to get free wine on arrival
‘Get complimentary breakfast if booked in the next 30 minutes

There are endless ways to generate urgency and dissuade the visitors to go on a website hopping spree. However, be reasonable and don’t make a promise you can’t keep because that will just tarnish your reputation.

Creating urgency
Booking.com constantly updates its booking status to create a sense of scarcity and urgency

10) Wear nice shoes

Men are judged by the appearance of their shoes. And the authenticity of your business is judged by the appearance of your website. Shoddy design, clumsy layout, too many rotating image carousels, misspellings, bad grammar, unrecognizable security logos and no trust badges are all signs of a possible fake. Online frauds are the order of the day and visitors are ever more cautious about revealing their personal and credit card information online. Hence, it’s very important that your website oozes trust and authenticity.

Marriott homepage
Marriott’s homepage has a minimalist classy design which evokes credibility

When you are asking for their credit card information, display a security seal along with it. Use testimonials, customer reviews, media coverage and privacy policies to win the visitor’s trust. Hotels and airlines should ensure their booking processes are secure.

Planetamex, a travel agency, didn’t come across as credible due to the use of dated logos and award seals on its website. They ran an A/B test and replaced the homepage banner with the one built around the credibility markers of the AMEX brand. This new version increased their phone call conversions by 48%.

11) Don’t make them hunt for the login button

Login button

The customers will return to your website to update, modify or cancel their bookings or just to look up flight schedule, flight number, hotel location or any of the various pieces of information that make a booking. They will also come back to look up their frequent flier miles or seek information about the loyalty programs. Make sure you display the Login button pretty prominently on the homepage as Delta does above so that the customer doesn’t have to frustratingly hunt for them.

12) Reviews are a goldmine

Reviewers' ratings

Reviews are a great form of social proof in any kind of online business. But if you are into the travel business, their importance can’t be emphasized enough. Here are some thundering facts about reviews in the online travel business.

A word of caution though. Don’t go about faking reviews, because frankly it shows.

13) Make sure your website works seamlessly across all devices

If you haven’t done this by now. Get up from that couch and get to work right away. Because if your mobile and tablet sites are not optimized for conversions, you are pissing off a mighty chunk of potential customers, and losing reputation and money alike. Want some hard facts? Here are a few:

Mobile and tablet data(Source: The Connected Traveler Report)

Invest in a responsive design so that the visitor has a seamless experience across all devices. And if you have different websites for mobile and tablet, make sure they have the same functionality and features.

14) Invest in cool tools

Let’s face it. The competition in online travel and hospitality segment is immense with little distinguishing one website from another. If you want to be noticed amid the crowd, you will have to go an extra mile and offer a unique service and tool no one else is offering (or at least offer it in a cooler way).

Kayak offers an ‘explore’ tool that let’s you scan the world map for places you can travel to within a specified budget.

Explore tool

Similarly, Bing Travel had a cool ‘price predictor’ tool which would forecast whether fares for a particular flight and location would increase or go down. Alas! Microsoft killed the tool earlier this year, much to the disdain of travelers.

The First Optimization Step

If you are just beginning with the optimization process, looking at the maximum drop off page in your analytics would be a good starting point to fix the leaking conversions. Should you have any questions about website optimization, conversions, A/B testing and Matthew McConaughey, please drop in a message in the comment section.

The post 14 Actionable Tips to Increase Travel Website Bookings appeared first on VWO Blog.

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14 Actionable Tips to Increase Travel Website Bookings

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Pro Tips on Using Social Proof to Increase Conversions

Businesses and marketers are increasingly using social proof to create positive customer engagement around their products and services, which in turn can increase conversions that contribute to the bottom line.

After all, it’s not just about getting users to your website, but it’s about ultimately keeping them there to become a real customer. To do that, businesses need to understand exactly what social proof is and what techniques are best for promoting this highly effective marketing strategy.

social proof_placeitSource: Placeit.net

What is Social Proof?

People are driven by certain behaviors, whether they realize it or not, and one of them is sticking with the group. Plenty of research backs this up, such as the Asch conformity experiments. However, social proof in the marketing community simply refers to using these crowds and their input to create positive connections with a brand or business.

Essentially, your business wants to harness this very human urge to connect with other people, whether it’s friends or even anonymous users on the Web. Whenever people are talking about a business, or using its services, or connecting with it in large numbers through social media, this helps other people know that this company has value that people naturally want to be a part of.

Comments, User Reviews & Social Media

Nothing builds social proof like community. And nothing builds community like comments from real people.

Think about the comments that people leave on your landing pages that could lead to conversions. Comments can provide an absurd amount of social credibility if you take the time to respond and provide assistance to people.

The 86 (and growing) comments on this My Advertising Pays community page only drive up conversions and encourage people to buy the product:

community proof

Notice each comment has a personal response. This turned a normal review page into a full-out community where people are encouraged to participate. This “social proof” has only increased conversions for this page.

One of the most popular and effective methods for gaining social proof is through product reviews. A study by Harvard Business School demonstrated that a one-star increase in a business’s Yelp review led to an increase of sales between 5 and 9 percent. The study demonstrates that users are constantly evaluating what others are saying when it comes to making their purchasing decisions.

Amazon is perhaps one of the most famous business models relying on a customer review strategy to sell, especially when it comes to selling products. However, Amazon demonstrates the success of companies that allow users to provide input given the increased trust it produces in potential customers.

Social media is perhaps one of the most important strategies for generating social proof. But, you have to learn to optimize your social media credentials to drive conversions.

Using Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus are all about connecting users to your site and landing conversions. In fact, something as simple as demonstrating how many “likes” you have from Facebook on your landing page has been shown to increase conversions even when all other elements between competing sites remain the same.

Publishing Stories & Testimonials

Building a network of stories and shared experiences around your site is important as well. Social proof is achieved when enough of these shared experiences generate other user stories based on the human desire to participate.

Examples include how your company’s app helps or entertains them on a daily basis or how your real estate company has led people to connect with the home of their dreams. No matter what company you’re running, it’s all about finding the human angle that speaks to a wide audience. If people can “visualize” your business’s services in their own lives through storytelling, this builds the social proof they need to connect with your website and company’s services.

A great way to successfully build social proof with users is through video testimonials. Allowing people to picture how others are benefitting from your company helps build an immediate and personal connection.

TopTenReviews did this with their Web hosting reviews and uploaded them to their YouTube channel. Using real people and real feedback data, they started producing videos that added more value and authenticity to their Web hosting review pages:

web-hosting-reviewTry placing a testimonial video directly on your landing page or upfront on your webpage, so it’s one of the first impressions a potential customer has when visiting your site.

Use Numbers Effectively

Statistics can also convince visitors that they should believe in your services. Examples include pointing to the number of clients you have, how many people have signed up for your website’s services, or how many people are using your product.

It’s not about just raw numbers either. If your business has worked with other well-known businesses, think about putting their logos on your website to help you leverage the credibility of other brands people know and trust.

If you’re a smaller business, stick to a smaller scale to generate social proof, such as individual reviews or testimonials that bring a more personal touch. As your numbers become more impressive, think about adding some of them to your website.

Basecamp, a company that provides project management tools to other companies, has a great landing page that you can really learn from:

basecamp-lander As soon as you come to their page, you’re introduced to how many people signed up for their service in the previous week, helping any visitor see that many others value this company. Basecamp also points out that over 15,000,000 people have used their services in total, which immediately indicates the “crowd” has accepted their service.

Additionally, the main page lists the companies that Basecamp works with, such as Etsy, Twitter and even NASA, which helps reinforce the quality of Basecamp’s brand. When you work with big companies like that, you immediately want to point it out. Finally, you can see projects finished by other companies using Basecamp, helping potential customers see how Basecamp’s tools can work for them. All of these factors help build social proof’ for anyone eager to try their services.

Conclusion

In closing, as social media networks have grown and the Internet has become ever more reliant on users and their input to sway public opinion, social proof is more important than ever. By following some of these strategies for building social proof, you can ultimately increase your sales and leads.

Did you like this article? Please check out my other Crazy Egg articles on conversion optimization here.

The post Pro Tips on Using Social Proof to Increase Conversions appeared first on The Daily Egg.

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Pro Tips on Using Social Proof to Increase Conversions

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8 Examples of What Not to Do On Your Ebook Landing Page

judge-a-cover
If visitors can’t judge your ebook by its landing page, then you won’t get any leads. Image by Karen Horton via Flickr.

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, read ‘em now or download for later, ebooks are a great incentive for your lead gen landing pages. When framed attractively, they can help your company educate potential customers, fill your pipeline with qualified leads and position your business as an authority in your industry.

But before you can make your ebook into an effective lead generation tool, you need to get your prospects to download it from a landing page.

If your landing page fails to convince prospects that they need your ebook, then you can’t deliver value and you won’t collect leads.

And all the time you spent putting the ebook together will have been in vain.

Let’s take a step back and learn from the mistakes of others. Here are eight ebook landing pages and how they could be tweaked for a bigger impact – and more leads.

1. Beretta

beretta

The headline is descriptive but doesn’t inspire action

Okay, so you get an idea of what this page is about right away – but the headline doesn’t inspire action. There’s a barely-legible subhead with a call to action, but because of the tiny font, it’s easy to gloss over.

Here’s an example of a headline that Beretta could use to inspire more leads to take action:

The Wrong Caliber Could Leave You Defenseless
Download Our Free Guide to Choosing the Right Caliber for Self-Defense

This headline triggers the fear of making the wrong choice in caliber (thereby leaving you defenseless). The sub-headline then provides the solution: download the free guide.

The lower half of the page takes up valuable real estate

It’s hard to tell from the screenshot alone, but the entire bottom section is useless. It’s just a photo with what looks like a button… but clicking on it does nothing.

It looks more like an advertisement that was just thrown onto the bottom of this landing page. Beretta would be much better served to use this space for testimonials to cement the benefits of the ebook.

No one wants to share your landing page

The social media tiles on your ebook landing page may help to make your boss happy, but they only serve to distract your prospects from the goal.

Toss ‘em and let visitors focus on the task at hand: opting in.


No one wants to share the lead gen landing page for your ebook. Toss the social media icons.
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2. Coach Lisle

coachlisle

The headline doesn’t speak to benefits

What is really being sold here? Is the site selling “Elite Hitting Secrets”? Or are they selling the ability to crush a baseball so hard that you become a hitting legend yourself?

I think you know the answer.

And this is the difference between selling features and selling benefits.

Yes, they are selling the feature of teaching the user how to hit better, but the ultimate goal is different. What they’re really selling is the benefits: the feeling you get when you crush the ball and are better able to contribute to your team.

So let’s try to sell what people are really buying, shall we?

How about this:

Awaken the Baseball Hitting Legend Inside You
Learn the Hitting Secrets Baseball’s Elite Hitters Use to Crush It out of the Park

The lightbox increases the number of clicks

When you click on the call to action, a lightbox with the opt-in form pops up.

Why make the visitor click, and then type and then click again?

It’s worth testing against a simple opt-in form right on the page. Type. Click “Go.”

3. Fight Media

fightmedia

Really? The ULTIMATE guide?

Okay. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and accept that this ebook might just be the ultimate guide to Twitter hacks… though there’s nothing on the page that would back up that statement.

Even if there was, it’s still not a very good headline. Because it’s just a name.

It doesn’t tell me what the content is going to teach me. It doesn’t tell me why I should be downloading the ebook in the first place.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with calling your ebook the ultimate guide, but use a headline that sells that ultimate guide so well that people can’t resist downloading it. Speak to the benefits.

Here’s an example:

Turn your Business into a Twitter Superstar
Learn the Little-Known Hacks Big Brands Use to Promote Themselves to Millions of Followers on Twitter


If you’re going to call your ebook the “ultimate guide,” explain what makes it so “ultimate.”
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Editor’s note: You may have noticed our CTA for the “Ultimate Guide to Landing Page Optimization” below – however, we challenge you to find a more comprehensive ebook on LPO! ;)

The social proof feels generic

Showing that your ebook has been downloaded over 1,200 times is a great step towards social proof, but the rounded number could turn certain prospects off.

Visitors respond much better to real numbers because, well, they look real.

Find out just how many downloads you’ve received and use that number instead. Or better yet, set up a script to automatically update the number as your ebook is downloaded.

Imagine how convincing this social proof element could be if the number was increasing while someone was reading the page!

4. Grossman Group

grossmangroup

The headline lacks clarity

The headline is convoluted and unclear complete rubbish.

There’s too much going on here. There’s no clear indication that this is a downloadable product, and no mention of the benefit that I’ll receive by reading it.

In fact, the way that this headline is structured, it makes me think that it’s going to be page after page of fluff.

Here’s how I would fix it:

Learn How to Inspire your Employees Through Communication
Read the 17 Most Thought-Provoking Lists Designed to Make you a Better Leader

The offer is also unclear

This page is full of jargon and 10-dollar words. Look at this one:

Strategic Leadership through Big-Picture Communication

Say what?

Why not break this down for people instead of talking like a lawyer who is trying to learn marketing?

And what’s with the “Part 2″ in the sub-headline? Unless it’s clearly explained, I would remove any reference to Part 1 or Part 2.

Being clear will help each visitor understand exactly what they’re signing up for – and I’m willing to bet it’ll increase conversions, too.

5. Impact

impact

The headline could be more specific

This headline cuts to the heart of what a lot of businesses need from their content marketing efforts: more traffic. Why not go a step further and talk about what traffic will really mean for a business?

Here’s an example:

How to Build Your Business Blog’s Traffic, Leads and Sales: Step by Step

The form is too long and blends in with the rest of the page

Do you really need all of these fields? If the goal of your page is to send leads to your sales team, then you can probably cut down on the number of fields.

For example, if you are asking for a visitor’s website, you don’t need to ask for the company name or industry. The information can likely be found on the website and your sales team can add it to your CRM software themselves.

Also, this form needs a bit of design work to make it stand out.


A form that blends into the background might as well not be a form at all. @ericsestimate
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Why ask for the blog subscription up front?

Adding a checkbox to subscribe to the blog is just another step for the visitor to take when filling out the form.

Why not simply add it to the thank you page and let the visitor focus on one conversion goal at a time?

6. Maximize Social Business

maximizesocial-business

This page needs to be brought into the 21st century

The design on this page is dated, and any internet user can tell that the spacing is off. Is this really the first impression that you want to send to your future clients?

Clean up the design elements, boost the headline size and don’t hide your footer links with super light font. This will make the page seem way more professional.

This headline is too specific

The headline “How to Build an Employee Advocacy Program” only works if you’re selling this ebook to visitors who are looking specifically for an employee advocacy program… talk about niche.

Why not cut to the core of the solution like this:

Teach your Employees to Promote your Brand
Learn How to Leverage the Power of Your Existing Employees to Build Brand Trust

Something seems fishy here

If the intention of the long paragraph of privacy text is to set me at ease, the fact that the privacy policy link is almost hidden is acting against you.

If you want to seem transparent, act like it. Make your privacy policy visible. Very few visitors will leak from your privacy policy link if the rest of your page is enticing enough.

7. Simply Measured

simply-measured

Don’t use the name of the ebook as your headline

Instead of just telling me the name of the download in the headline, tell me explicitly what I’m going to get out of this ebook.

Here’s what I mean:

Make your Facebook Page More Effective by Understanding Facebook Analytics
Download Our Free Guide and Use Your Facebook Page More Effectively


Don’t make the title of your ebook the headline of your lead gen landing page. Speak to benefits.
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Reconsider your choice of form fields

This landing page is all about improving Facebook pages right?

Then why aren’t you asking me for my Facebook page? Sure, some of your visitors may not have one set up quite yet, but you can fix that issue by labelling the field “Website/Facebook page.”

Also, you might as well lose the company field, because their Facebook page will tell you that information.

One last thing: this landing page hasn’t sold me on Simply Measured, nor has it told me anything about the company. Why would you have a form field asking me why I am interested in Simply Measured?

At this stage, I’m interested in the information in the ebook, not doing business with the company.

Lose that form field.

8. Social Media Today

social-media-today

The header is confusing as hell

There is so much wrong with this header that I am going to put it into a bullet list so it’s easier to read.

  • The headline doesn’t touch on any of the benefits of the ebook. Focus on what this ebook will do for me, not what it’s called.
  • No one cares if this is an exclusive report from your partner, and no one cares about your sponsor. Include this information somewhere else on the page – not in the area where people look first.
  • The “Click below to download the report” section looks like a button, but it’s not. It’s also misleading; I don’t just have to click, I have to fill in a form and then click “Submit.”
  • The background image doesn’t seem to have anything to do with “social strategy success.” Maybe calendars are a part of that “success,” but that’s not clear.

The copy feels like an afterthought

My eyes glaze over when I try to read the copy on this page. Why not throw the benefits of this ebook into a bullet list so that visitors can easily scan through what they’re getting?

What’s with all the fake calls to action?

The header has a line that looks like a button.

The copy also has what looks like a button.

Both are bigger than the only real call to action. This is almost too much to take!

Lose the confusing orange rectangles and use call to action copy that tells the user what they’re clicking on. Something like this:

Download the Blueprints Now!

You think I’m going to tell you my revenue for an ebook?

Come on.

I get that you want to give your sales team the information they need to make smart qualifying decisions. I also understand that with revenue data in your list, you can segment the type of marketing emails that you send. But do you really think that I have enough trust in your company at this stage in the game to be telling you my revenue?

Get real.

This is what your sales team is for: qualifying. If you would like all of your marketing to be automated, then simply build these questions into your sales funnel.

The bottom line is this:

Only ask for what you really need up front. You can always get more information at a later time.


On your landing page, only ask for information you need. You can always ask for more later.
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What’s the verdict?

Did you see a running theme with these landing pages?

I did – a lack of focus on benefits.

It’s a mistake I see a lot, which is a shame because it could mean the difference between a successful ebook promotion and one that flops.

Ask yourself: what’s in it for the visitor? How is this ebook going to help make their life better?

And then keep your landing pages laser-focused on the benefits.

Do you have any impressive ebook landing page examples? Share them in the comments.

– Eric Sloan


judge-a-cover

Original source:  

8 Examples of What Not to Do On Your Ebook Landing Page

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How to Develop a Persuasive Blog Design

Persuasion is the underlying art of life. Whether we are developing code, creating PSDs, optimizing title tags, or shooting video, we are engaging in some form of persuasion.

If you are a designer or developer, I challenge you to think of yourself in a new way. You are a master of persuasion.

In today’s content marketing economy, blogs are the medium of persuasion. It logically follows that a blog’s very design must be persuasive. It’s not enough to simply have powerful copy. We need persuasive design.

I’ve organized this article according to the three responses of a person who is being persuaded by design. Nobody actually says these things, but this is what they are experiencing when they are looking at a persuasively designed website.

  • These people know what they’re doing!
  • It’s so easy to read!
  • That’s what I need to do!

Within each of these three broad responses, I’m going to tell you exactly what design techniques are at play

1.  “These people know what they’re doing!”

This is the “It looks good” response. Web users will be persuaded by a site with aesthetic appeal, because that site conveys a sense of authority.

Aristotle, the father of persuasion, explained three main ways to persuade people. The first technique, ethos, is an appeal to authority. The entity that is doing the persuading — in this case, the website — must convey a sense of authority or ethos. Web design has everythingto do with conveying this sense of authority.

How do you create a blog design that is authoritative and therefore persuasive?

I suggest three main ways — professionalism, standards of excellence, and interest. If you use these broad design features, the user will trust the site and be persuaded.

Use professional design standards.

When you introduce average Joe user to your site, what goes through their mind?

Option A:  Hey. This is a nice site.

Option B:  Fascinating. Excellent distribution of negative space surrounding header menu elements, combined with subtle color differential for the breadcrumb, and HD hero image on the slider to form a focal point.

Most users aren’t designers. They are average human beings, unencumbered by the burden of possessing wizard-like skills as you do. They think simply: “Site look good. <grunt, scratch>”

What is it that makes a website look good?

To simplify the entire trade of the designer into one oversimplified nugget, it’s this:  professional web design standards. Know your craft. Stretch your skills. Understand your technology, and create a blog design that adheres to these professional standards.

Make it prototypical.

People have an innate knowledge of what constitutes good and bad design. How do they know? They’ve seen thousands of websites before! Over time, they become accustomed to a site that is professional vs a site that is crap. Google’s massive research paper, “The Role of Visual Complexity and Prototypicality Regarding First Impression of Websites” stated that people prefer prototypical websites.

Your blog design should look similar to other blogs that are in your niche. If all SEO blogs have a similar design, then the user expects those same design features in your SEO blog. If it looks different, the user may feel cognitive dissonance. She expects one thing, yet she gets another.

Let me give you an example. You have become accustomed, over time, to associate certain beverages with a typical shape.

blog design 1

Wine bottles are made out of glass, have a narrow bore, a flared shoulder, a cylindrical body, a thick insweep, and a flat base. Anything that differs from the ordinary in any major way is going to be seen as unauthoritative, a charlatan, not the real thing. People aren’t too thrilled about wine from plastic bottles.

The same holds true for web design. You must follow design best practices that accord with your niche.

Many web designers don’t aspire to be prototypical. They want to stand out from the crowd — to make a website that is better than anything that the world has ever seen.

I get that. But at the same time, we’re talking about persuasive blogs. In order to score conversions, you have to be persuasive. And in order to be persuasive, the blog has to look like other blogs.

Be interesting.

Thankfully, you can still unleash the power of amazing design in a persuasive blog. It comes in the form of interesting elements.

Although you should follow conventions, you should also create some elements which surprise the user. Using interest or novelty will go a long way in making the blog memorable, which also makes the user more likely to convert.

Peep Laja, writing on the subject of persuasive web design, made a similar point. He commanded designers to “design for novelty.” Here is his comment:

You need to provide novelty in every screen. This means you have to constantly change the layout around – to keep it interesting. Sameness equals boring and drives people away.

For this reason, it’s important to add elements that make a website look interesting. Interest creates memorability and increases trust.

2. “It’s so easy to read!”

The most important component of a blog is its content. If you want the blog design to be persuasive, the design must emphasize the content.

In a survey of consumer’s web design preferences, Hubspot made this revealing discovery. Far and away, the most important factor in web design is usability, or “easy to find what I want.”

Hail to UX — and to people who just want to get stuff done.

blog design 2

Content by itself is persuasive. Blogs are the lifeblood of content marketing. Persuasive blog design is content-centric. Peep wrote this:  “Your first order of business is to create relevant, interesting content. Then you have to present it well.”

But let’s sort out roles. If you’re the writer, go do your kickass content thing. And if you’re the designer, then presentation persuasiveness is your job.

In Adda Birnir’s article on Killer Web Design Tips, she shares some advice from a seasoned design pro:

The key to good web design, says Ryan Shafer, Lead Digital Designers at MTV & VH1, is remembering that the web is really just a bunch of text. “I encourage all budding web designers to embrace that the web is fundamentally about typography design.”

Shafer’s advice cuts straight to the point:  Good design is about the text.

Here’s how to make that text sing:

Use plenty of negative space.

The best way to focus attention on the content is to use negative space or white space — lots of it.

Kristina Zmaic put it best when she wrote, “Make sure your content has breathing room.”

blog design 3

Surround the text with negative space. This draws the user’s eyes to the focal point, which is text.

When I designed my website, Neilpatel.com, I used a ton of negative space. Why? Because it coerced the user to look at the text, read the text, and convert by inputting their website URL.

blog design 4

It’s 98% negative space. And it’s overwhelmingly persuasive.

Go for simplicity.

Simplicity is beauty. Few businesses have executed simplicity with as much expertise as Apple. Jonathan Ive, who is largely responsible for the beauteous simplicity of Apple products said this:

Simplicity is not the absence of clutter; that’s a consequence of simplicity. Simplicity is somehow essentially describing the purpose and place of an object and product. The absence of clutter is just a clutter-free product. That’s not simple.

In our case, the “purpose and place of an object” is the text. Your design should employ simplicity to put content on the throne — to make it prominent.

ConversionXL put it like this in an article proving the superiority of simple websites.

“Cognitive fluency and visual information processing theory can play a critical role in simplifying your web design & how a simple website could lead to more conversions.”

That’s simplicity.

Implement visual hierarchy.

Visual hierarchy is “the order in which the human eye perceives what it sees.” In design theory, visual hierarchy is formed by size, layout color, and contrast. A good designer knows how to draw a user’s sight path to the most important elements on a page, and even the order in which this should happen.

One of the reasons why I broke this article up into headings, subheadings, and paragraphs was because I want the design to enhance readability. You’re less likely to read a wall of text. You’re more likely to read text that is designed with visual hierarchy.

blog design 5

Image from Webdesign.tutsplus.com.

A persuasive blog uses visual hierarchy for two purposes:

  1. Emphasize the text.
  2. Emphasize the call to action.

Don’t forget about the CTA. Every good blog has a CTA — probably more than one. Use your visual hierarchy abilities to make the CTA prominent.

3. “That’s what I need to do!”

The actual conversion moment in a blog design comes when the user performs the right action. In blog design, an actual conversion is less important than in a landing page. The desired action may be nothing more than reading the entire article.

Whatever that ultimate outcome is, design is responsible for making it happen. Here are the three design features that cause the user to do the right thing:

Heed Fitts Law

Fitts law states that “the time required to move a pointing device to a target is a function of the distance to the target and its size. In layman’s terms: the closer and larger a target, the faster it is to click on that target.”

Here is the mathematical formulation,, if you’re into that sort of thing:

blog design 6

Note: The “b log” in the equation above does not refer to a “blog,” but rather the empirically determined constant which is device dependent, and coordinated with the index of difficulty (ID).

Fitts law can be kind of complex, but it has some very simple applications. These two will enhance your blog’s persuasive power:

Make the CTA buttons big.

The larger the button the more likely it is, according to Fitts, that the user will click on it. If you desire a conversion action, make the CTA for this action as large as you can. Increase the size of the button

Place the CTA at the end of the article.

One of the applications of Fitts law states that “things done more often should be closer to the average position of the user’s cursor.” When the user scrolls to the bottom of the article, which is the typical outcome for an engage user, their pointer is at a position to click on the next most obvious thing.

That “next obvious thing” should be the desired outcome. What do you most want the user to do? Click the social sharing icons? Leave a comment? Click a button for a free ebook? Choose one of these outcomes. Make the button big, and place it at the end of the article.

Although Fitts Law has some excellent applications, it should be subservient to good design principles. In other words, don’t ruin your design to obey the law. As one UX writer put it, “Another principle Fitts’s Law can interfere with is the principle of providing a clean and tidy interface.”

Follow the Fogg Behavior Model

BJ Fogg of Stanford University developed the “behavior model for persuasive design” which has three big ideas.

For someone to be persuaded, that person must…

  1. Be sufficiently motivated
  2. Have the ability to perform the behavior
  3. Be triggered to perform the behavior

These factors can be charted on a graph:

blog design 7

The “target behavior” of a blog is often a conversion of some sort, or maybe social sharing or commenting.

In order to cause the desired behavior, you need to to implement design techniques for each point in Fogg’s model.

  1. Be sufficiently motivated – Create a visually compelling design. It should be aesthetic, interesting, and engaging. Large graphics and prominent headlines work well.
  2. Have the ability to perform the behavior – Readability of text is essential, as is the responsiveness of the site.
  3. Be triggered to perform the behavior – Create a trigger that corresponds with the close of the article.

Human behavior is predictable, as long as we know how it works. Distilling these persuasive techniques into design practices will make for a persuasive blog.

Conclusion

Persuasive blog design doesn’t happen by accident. You don’t have to be the world’s best designer to create a persuasive blog design. You simply need to understand what factors are responsible for human persuasion, and then implement those techniques into your blog design.

A blog can be a powerful thing. But without persuasive design practices, it’s worthless.

Read other Crazy Egg articles by Neil Patel.

The post How to Develop a Persuasive Blog Design appeared first on The Daily Egg.

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How to Develop a Persuasive Blog Design

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Crazy Minimal Homepage Increased Leads for an SEO Service Company from 1.39% to 13.13%

The split testing campaign I am going to talk about in today’s case study was named the “crazy minimal homepage” campaign. The change was no less crazy; the company decided to wipe off their entire homepage and show just the sign-up form.

The Company

TheHOTH is a white label SEO service company. They provide link building services for agencies and SEO re-sellers. On their website’s original homepage, they have a video & a sign-up form (above the fold), customer logos, testimonials as well as other necessary and good-to-have elements.

Here is how their original homepage looks:

thehoth_original_homepage

The Problem

TheHOTH was getting a decent amount of traffic on their homepage but their conversions were pretty low. They tested their headline and added / removed some page elements among other changes. But nothing brought them significant results.

The Research

They decided to dig some data to understand about the people who were signing up for an account. The analysis showed them that most of their sign-ups were coming from referrals, word-of-mouth and direct search.

The Hypothesis

The test hypothesis was that eliminating everything from the homepage and keeping just the sign-up form on the page would increase conversion of visitors to account sign-ups. They wanted to test this, as a substantial portion of visitors coming to their website were already familiar with the brand.

The Test

The company setup a split test with VWO and the traffic was split between 2 versions of the homepage: the original and the minimal homepage with only the sign-up form. The test ran for 30 days and close to 3000 visitors became a part of the test.

Here is how the variation page looks:

variation_page

The Result

The minimal homepage increased account signups for TheHOTH from 1.39% to 13.13%. Needless to say, this was a home run for them.

comparison_image

Why The Minimal Homepage Worked

  • Broadly traffic coming to a website can be divided into 5 mediums: direct, search, social, referral and paid.
    Majority of visitors coming on TheHOTH website were from the direct and referral category. Hence, they had some background knowledge of the company already. This was also true for the social traffic. A very large portion of their search traffic also came from branded keywords (see data from Alexa below). Hence, visitors of the website had a certain level of trust in the brand already. Probably to learn more about the offering the visitors signed up for an account since no information about the service was present on the landing page.
thehoth.com_search_keywords_overview

Challenges with a Minimal Homepage

1) Quality of Leads

A major challenge with having such a design is that many people will enter in to understand the product or service and may later realize that it is not a good fit for them.

Alternatively, this would give the company a lot of leads to educate and convince about the product / service.

Clayton at TheHOTH (who setup this test) explained that they are also concerned about the quality of leads that would enter the system unaware or less aware of the service. They’re solving this by adding more information after signup, reaching out to customers via phone & email, and implementing an educational auto-responder to deliver value to their signups.

2) Additional Pressure on Sales

More number of less quality leads would put an additional level of pressure on the sales department. They would have a hard time differentiating between the already motivated leads and those who entered just to understand the offering.

3) Low Trust

Since there is nothing except the sign-up form on the variation page, users have no way of finding out more about the company. This could lead to low trust.

It would be interesting to see the results of the test with a third variation that has the sign-up form on the left and a testimonial on the right hand side. (something like below)

Test suggestion for TheHOTH homepage

This was one interesting usage of VWO that came our way. I would really be interested in knowing your thoughts on why the crazy minimal homepage worked. And what do you think about it in general? Looking forward to hear from you in the comments section!

The post Crazy Minimal Homepage Increased Leads for an SEO Service Company from 1.39% to 13.13% appeared first on VWO Blog.

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Crazy Minimal Homepage Increased Leads for an SEO Service Company from 1.39% to 13.13%

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Is Technology Impacting Your Email Conversion Rate?

It’s a fact of life. As technology changes, so must your marketing.

Today, many of your followers read your emails on retina display devices. While that doesn’t seem to be a big problem yet, it could start affecting you soon.

What’s the deal with retina display? Since the display has such a high resolution, standard images don’t render well. They get fuzzy and ugly.

MailChimp explains it this way:

“The reason for that ugliness is an increase in PPI, or Pixels Per Inch, the measurement of the number of pixels spread across an inch of screen space. As displays get better and better, this number climbs higher. This increase has doubled the CSS pixel ratio of these displays from 1 to 2 (quirksmode explains here), so that a high-density display now has double the resolution of an older one; in the case of an iPhone 4s you go from a resolution of 480×320 to one of 960×640 instead, on the same 3.5 inches of screen.

“The increased definition makes the small images we all use across the web — icons, logos, etc. — look fuzzy and unfocused.”

If users can’t read your emails or consider them ugly, they won’t click through. Fewer clickthroughs means fewer conversions. Period.

Apple’s probably to blame. Never mind that we love the improved display their devices provide. But it won’t stop there. Once one brand introduces a new technology, others pick it up. It won’t be long before retina display will become the standard.

So it doesn’t hurt to be prepared. This infographic from EmailMonks explains more about the issue with retina display and then tells you how to create retina email.

Retina Email: Overhauling User Experience

retina email

Have you tried creating retina emails? What’s your experience?

Read other Crazy Egg articles by Kathryn Aragon.

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Is Technology Impacting Your Email Conversion Rate?