7 Ways to Snip the Spring Out of Your Website Bounce Rate

Look, it’s easy to get traffic. If you have money, you can throw it all at ads and attract as many people as you want. And then you can boast about how your site receives a million visits a month. But that doesn’t matter really. If your traffic doesn’t stick, if they leave your site […]

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7 Ways to Snip the Spring Out of Your Website Bounce Rate

Web Development Reading List #109


What’s going on in the industry? What new techniques have emerged recently? What insights, tools, tips and tricks is the web design community talking about? Anselm Hannemann is collecting everything that popped up over the last week in his web development reading list so that you don’t miss out on anything. The result is a carefully curated list of articles and resources that are worth taking a closer look at. — Ed.

Insecure Login Fields

Building products or software is not easy. As developers, we are constantly aware of this fact. As managers, we also know this. As product owners, hell yes. But the most important thing is to also teach our customers. It’s important that we figure out a holistic approach to build a product that pleases the user and all others who are involved.

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Web Development Reading List #109

Fluff is Thy Foe: 6 Insurance Landing Page Examples + Critiques

Fluff-Featured
Fluff can seem harmless, but it’s a conversion killer. Image source.

Insurance is a complicated thing to market: it’s the only product that people will willingly pay for every month yet hope they never have to use. Of course, this is reasonable when you consider that it’s something used only during times of strife, injury or death.

So it’s no surprise that insurance companies find all sorts of ways to minimize the focus on those more unsavoury aspects of the deal, instead opting to push messages of security, reassurance and convenience — or they just skirt the subject altogether, focusing solely on discounts and savings.

But avoiding specifics rarely goes well, as you’re about to find out. Below, you’ll find my analysis of six insurance landing pages, along with critiques and lessons you can apply to your own campaigns within any industry.

1. Amica Home Insurance: It’s not all about you

autopilot
Click to enlarge.

I’ll defer to copywriting expert Joanna Wiebe on the subject of using the word “we” in your landing page copy:

“We” is a bad, bad word in copywriting. You should reword every line of copy you have that begins with “we”. […] Because your visitors don’t want to hear about you. They want to hear about themselves – about their problems, about their needs, about their futures.”

The word we is used four times on this page. But even when that word isn’t being used, Amica seems to find it impossible to not talk solely about themselves:

Amica home insurance: Experience the Amica difference.
Extraordinary customer service that makes you feel right at home.

What does that mean? It does nothing to speak to the prospect’s needs. It does nothing to communicate how this service will improve the customer’s life. And it doesn’t make any effort to capture the reader’s attention nor compel them to continue reading.

If you want to talk about your extraordinary customer service, demonstrate it up front: be honest and transparent. In Amica’s case, they should consider communicating the real-world benefits of their service versus other providers, instead of dedicating so many words to saying so little.

2. StateFarm: Remind me how I got here

StateFarm
Click to enlarge.

Can you guess what this page is about?

That it doesn’t explicitly mention insurance might seem unimportant. Surely the person who clicked the link to this page doesn’t need to be reminded what they came for, right?

But message match — how well the message of a landing page matches the message of its gateway, like an ad on Google or Facebook — is one of the pillars of creating an effective landing page. Essentially, the copy of an ad and the headline of its landing page should mirror each other. Why?

  • It’s a reminder. Admit it: you’ve opened new tabs in your web browser only to immediately forget why you had done so. That’s probably because your attention span is literally worse than that of a goldfish.

    It’s not hard to imagine that someone could lose focus on what brought them to the page in the first place.

  • It’s a reassurance. Even if the user doesn’t forget what brought them there, they could think that you’ve brought them to the wrong place, or pulled a bait-and-switch. When ad copy and page headline match, they send a clear message: “This is exactly what you were looking for.”
Message-Match
An example of strong message match, from Unbounce co-founder Oli Gardner’s 2013 post on the subject.

Since State Farm’s page would likely be displayed in results for searches for automobile insurance, it’s crazy that the only place those words are even mentioned is in this itty-bitty footer text.

StateFarm-Footer
Crystal clear!

3. AIG Direct: Specificity is a good thing

AIG Direct
Click to enlarge.

So many of the insurance landing pages I came across in my research asked for extremely little information up front — often just a zip code to begin the quote process. So I was surprised when I saw this monster of a form from AIG Direct.

But I actually think this makes a lot of sense. While it’s true that the number of form fields tends to correlate negatively with conversion rates, this isn’t always the case. Introducing more friction up-front can help pre-qualify leads, and in the case of an insurance broker, having to provide that kind of information is almost reassuring.

If the length of the form alone is enough to make the prospect hesitate, AIG’s headline serves to make the task seem almost effortless:

It takes 2 minutes to request your term life quote.

While one could feel overwhelmed by the number of fields, this one line makes it clear that it’s not really that bad. Plus, two minutes is a pretty small investment when we’re talking about life insurance.

This page excels in some other areas, too. Rather than rely on fluff and wishy-washy philosophizing about the nature of life and family, AIG sets concrete expectations, thereby holding themselves accountable for meeting them.

AIG-Direct-Trust

By solidifying their trustworthiness by linking to reviews and security certifications, and keeping the focus on the customer rather than themselves, AIG comes across as credible and transparent. And a real dollar amount, no matter what it is, is always preferable to nebulous “savings.”

4. AAA Life Insurance: Make your form friendly

AAA Life Insurance
Click to enlarge.

I feel confident in saying that most people probably don’t enjoy shopping for life insurance very much. So it’s in your best interest to make the process of doing so seem as easy as possible.

This page from AAA makes this process seem so much worse than it (likely) actually is. And it all starts with the strange visual decisions made in the form’s design.

AAA-Form

In web design, an affordance refers to a visual indicator of a digital object’s function. The most obvious example is adding bevels, borders, and background colors to links in order to make them resemble physical buttons. These details make it easier for the user to understand what these intangible objects actually do.

This form’s affordances are, frankly, all messed up. Not only are many of the form fields — text fields, in particular — nearly unnoticeable, but form labels and form fields are both contained within identical boxes, making the labels also look like fields.

Not only is this confusing, it has the unintended result of making the form appear twice as long as it actually is.

This, combined with the fact that most of the content on this page is dedicated towards explaining all of the subsequent “steps,” make this entire process seem extremely unapproachable.

Maybe they should’ve written that it only takes two minutes.

5. Farmers Insurance: Show me the way

StateFarm
Click to enlarge.

This page from Farmers Insurance is likely to lead visitors in the wrong direction due to inaccurate visual cues and confusing copy. If you’re on this page to get a quote online, where would you think to click?

Would it be, perhaps, this big button-looking-square that says Get a Quote Online on it?

Get-a-Quote

You’re likely already aware that this isn’t the case: the actual call to action is the green Click & Save Today! button. But I actually completely missed it at first.

FastQuote

Why?

  • It’s framed identically to the stock photo next to it, which I glossed over
  • It’s also shares a colour palette with the photo, making it blend into the page
  • The family is both walking and moving away from the call to action, rather than directing attention towards it
  • The copy — both “Get a FastQuote®” and “Click & Save Today” — were both less related to what I was looking for than “Get a Quote Online”

While there’s lots of talk in the conversion optimization world of color psychology and which colors correlate with which emotions, all of this is secondary to the most basic notion of CTA design: make it contrast with the rest of the page. (Psst — learn more about driving conversions through design in our new Attention-Driven Design ebook!)

And with regards to the button copy, it needs to indicate action and also speak directly to the user’s desire. For a smart formula, I’ll quote this oft-repeated advice from Joanna Wiebe:

Write button / CTA copy that completes this phrase: I want to ________________.

6. Health Insurance Sort: Cheap photos cheapen your page

StateFarm
Click to enlarge.

Insurance is a pretty serious thing, let alone insurance that would, in a time of crisis, allow me to remain alive. So I would expect anyone selling it to me to take it equally as seriously as I do.

But everything about this page screams, “we’re not credible.” And while the copy isn’t great, the most glaring issues relate to its design.

Stock photos such as the ones shown above are often used to add “visual interest” to a page. This, despite the fact that usability testing shows that while photos of people are effective at capturing attention, they subconsciously gloss over images that resemble stock photos.

Many of the examples in this post are clearly using stock imagery, but this page is exceptional. Each photo has a completely different lighting and style, and the hero image is so obviously a poor composite of two different images that I can’t believe anyone would ever enter their zip code into that misaligned text box.

Health-Insurance-Sort-Stock-Photo
Now we can recklessly grapple in the middle of this lovely autumn road, knowing any injuries will be fully covered! Thanks, Health Insurance Sort!

Fluff is thy foe

When crafting landing pages, “fluff” is thy foe. Whether it be pointless stock images that desperately try to jazz things up, or copy that talks its way around the real benefits and value of your offering, attempts at obfuscation via feel-goodery are as exactly as transparent to customers as they are to us.

And landing pages aren’t mere repositories for information; they’re designed to be a response to a specific need or expressed intent. If someone comes to your page and finds it confusing or deceitful, you can kiss that conversion goodbye.

Excerpt from: 

Fluff is Thy Foe: 6 Insurance Landing Page Examples + Critiques

Switching From Adobe Fireworks To Sketch: 10 Tips And Tricks

Transitions can be painful. It is in our nature to resist change, even when the possibility of doing something new and different may be exciting. Changing your workflow can be a real challenge if you don’t know where to start or understand how to embark on the change.
I’ve met with many designers (graphic, interaction, UI, etc.) who stick to old software because they are familiar and in their comfort zone, or because they are too scared to take the “leap of faith” and try something new (even when they know their old software does not allow them to work efficiently and effectively enough).

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Switching From Adobe Fireworks To Sketch: 10 Tips And Tricks

When Should You Stop an A/B Test?

So you’re running A/B tests like a good marketer should. But when are you declaring a test “done”? Is it when you reach 100 conversions per variation? No. Is it when you hit 95% statistical significance? No. Is it whenever the testing tool tells you? No. All of these are very common misconceptions. Let’s tackle […]

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When Should You Stop an A/B Test?

Switching From Adobe Fireworks To Sketch: Ten Tips And Tricks


Transitions can be painful. It is in our nature to resist change, even when the possibility of doing something new and different may be exciting. Changing your workflow can be a real challenge if you don’t know where to start or understand how to embark on the change.

Switching From Adobe Fireworks To Sketch: 10 Tips And Tricks

I’ve met with many designers (graphic, interaction, UI, etc.) who stick to old software because they are familiar and in their comfort zone, or because they are too scared to take the “leap of faith” and try something new (even when they know their old software does not allow them to work efficiently and effectively enough).

The post Switching From Adobe Fireworks To Sketch: Ten Tips And Tricks appeared first on Smashing Magazine.

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Switching From Adobe Fireworks To Sketch: Ten Tips And Tricks

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7 Ways Bigshot Companies Delight Customers With Email

There aren’t many canonical examples of great email marketing, but CD Baby founder Derek Sivers is responsible for one.

Years before it was trendy to create kooky transactional emails, Sivers decided that his shipping confirmation email “felt really incongruent with [his] mission to make people smile.”

So he came up with something better:

cd-baby-email

That email triggered a cascade of goodwill and new business. In Derek’s own words:

That one goofy e-mail created thousands of new customers.

When you’re thinking of how to make your business bigger, it’s tempting to try to think all the big thoughts, the world-changing massive-action plans.

But it’s often the tiny details that really thrill someone enough to make them tell all their friends about you.

One witty email won’t change your business, but a series of little moments can create a great experience for your customers and keep them coming back. Those moments can pad your bottom line too. Even just a 5% increase in customer retention can increase profitability by 75%.

This got me thinking — who else is using email to delight their customers?

I went searching through my own inbox for examples and came up with seven great ones. These companies aren’t relying on email to do the heavy lifting, they’re sewing a customer-centric mindset into the fabric of their business.

These examples may seem minute. In some case, they are. But little details — no matter how small — get noticed. These emails all make their recipients life a little easier, better or happier. And that’s something we should all aspire to.

1. Starbucks – Make your customer’s day

You’ve got a free drink waiting!

The Starbucks rewards program delivers good news all the time. The result is happy customers (like me) who are eager to open their emails.

starbucks-email-1

What I love about the email below is that it simply delivers good news. It doesn’t ask the customers to take any action.

starbucks-email-3

This is a good example of an email as a layer in a customer-centric company. The only reason the email is sent at all is because of the rewards program — you can’t send an email like this without a good relationship.

Watsi, a non-profit crowd-funding platform, leads with customer satisfaction in mind. Co-founder Grace Garey summed this strategy up nicely in First Round Review:

You want to have at least one email that’s designed solely to make people’s day.

2. Blue Apron – Over-deliver

The Blue Apron newsletter signup on their website is pretty convincing. A new recipe every week? Sure, I’ll sign up.

blue-aprov-overdeliver

What Blue Apron doesn’t tell you, though, is that subscribers also get free food. Here’s the welcome email they send a few minutes after the new subscriber signs up:

blue-apron-email-2

Blue Apron could use the free food as a hook to get new subscribers, but they don’t because it’s their way of delighting the subscriber. It’s an unexpected surprise.

Death to the Stock Photo does this as well. When I interviewed co-founder David Sherry, he told me they’ve built over-delivering into their business:

A lot of companies will say, “Join our list and get a free e-book.” We don’t say that. But when people sign up, we give them something free. It’s a nice surprise.

And who doesn’t like a nice surprise?

3. Product Hunt – Be helpful

Notifications like this one walk a fine line:

product-hunt-email-1

On one hand, it’s another email in the inbox. But on the other, Product Hunt recognized that eight of my friends are all interested in the same product. They included their names or photos in the email as social proof. It makes sense that I’d be interested too.

I actually really appreciated this email since it was so contextual. It kept me in the loop without begging for my attention.

Be careful with emails like this as it’s easy to annoy people. This one works because it’s triggered as a result of my network’s common interest. You’ll need some smart engineering to pull this off but if you can do it and do it well, you’ll be providing extra value to customers.

4. Hover – Don’t ask for anything in return

I almost never receive emails from Hover. When I do, it’s something useful like this. I’m so used to getting value and utility from their emails that I always open them.

The best part? They don’t ask for anything in return.

hover-email-1

There are so many ways to deliver utility in the inbox and updates like this are one of them. Your customers deserve to be informed about product updates, security issues and changes to their account. Send them emails that deliver value without asking for anything in return.

It feels more like correspondence than marketing, and your customers will appreciate it.

5. Intercom – Put yourself in your customer’s shoes

This is the email Intercom sends when you request one of their books:

intercom-email-1

It might take a minute to realize what is special about it…

Got it? You can download the book in three different formats!

That may not seem like a big deal, but think about how you read long-form content. PDFs are great on a desktop computer but the Kindle format is preferable if you open the email on a tablet or smartphone.

No matter which device or platform customers are using, the emails you send (and their attachments) should create an awesome experience for readers. It’s all about putting yourself in their shoes.

Intercom does just that, which makes receiving this email a pleasure.

6. Evernote – Make customers feel accomplished

When you sign up for a new Evernote account, they send a series of five onboarding emails.

evernote-emails-2

In the subject line of each email, they tell you where you are in the series. It’s a progress bar that sets an expectation for more educational emails in the future. There is quite a bit of science behind this strategy, according to marketer Taige Zhang:

…People want progress bars. But why are they so powerful and effective for engagement?

It’s because, as people, we are driven to:

1. Have goals; and then
2. Accomplish goals.

We inherently feel good about achieving something. Dr. Hugo Liu from MIT and Hunch.com says in his article Need to Complete, “It turns out that when you finish a complex task, your brain releases massive quantities of endorphins.”

Building this into your onboarding helps users feel accomplished. And because Evernote broke down their app into small, digestible chunks, it’s easy to get started. Everyone is happy.

(Psst. I wrote an entire case study on these five emails, which you can read here.)

7. ProFlowers – Make things easy

Replenishment emails are one of the easiest ways to make your customers’ day. It’s surprisingly hard to find good examples, but this one arrived in my inbox recently:

proflowers-email-1

Last year, I bought my mom flowers for her birthday. Eleven months later, they sent this email, reminding me that my mom’s birthday is coming up. The savings is nice but the real value here is that it makes it easy for me to be a good son. :)

This is a good example of contextual marketing. It’s personalized based on my past purchase history and arrives at just the right time.

Over to you

It’s not hard to make your customers smile. If you have 30 minutes to check Facebook and Twitter, then you have time to add personality to your marketing.

Have you received an email that made you smile recently? Let us know in the comments.


Mint retention email-560

Taken from: 

7 Ways Bigshot Companies Delight Customers With Email

11 ways to stop FOOC’ing your A/B tests

Work long enough in Conversion Optimization and you will hear this phrase:

“We tried [insert popular a/b testing tool], but there was a latency issue so we stopped testing.”

In 95% of cases, by “latency issue” they’re referring to the noticeable flicker or flash of the original version of a website before test changes are seen. It even has its own acronym: FOOC (Flash of Original Content)*. Here’s a beautiful example I created on the WiderFunnel home page:

An example of FOOC I created. This is not how you want to be A/B Testing.

Why does FOOC matter?

According to a team of MIT neuroscientists, the human brain can identify images in as little as 13 milliseconds.

FOOC can take longer — from 100 ms up to a whole second. Your website visitors will notice.

Is that always a bad thing? No, as David Hauser of Grasshopper discovered:

“Our A/B testing tool had a bug that delayed the $25 activation fee from being crossed out until a few seconds after the page loaded. This error ended up creating a much larger uplift than having it already crossed out on load, when the bug was fixed. The result now is that the activation fee shows, and then is crossed out after a few seconds.”

Sometimes, FOOC is a good thing as seen on the Grasshopper pricing page. Source: Unbounce

That insight came from a lucky side-effect of the FOOC error, but most times it’s not a good thing.

Whether good or bad, you need to get a handle on your FOOC. It hinders your ability to run controlled experiments. If your variation content is appearing with a flicker every time your page loads, how do you know what effect that’s having on your results?

You don’t, unless you isolate the flicker.

Why does FOOC happen in the first place?

All client-side A/B testing tools are inherently susceptible to FOOC.

“Client-side” means that the changes in your test are being applied as your web page loads, through a tag on your website. This is how the most popular tools on the market do it.

AB testing Optimizely snippet A diagram showing how Optimizely’s snippet works. Source: Optimizely

The client-side nature of these tools is what makes them so easy to get started with: a solo marketer has the ability to launch experiments without the need for a development team. It’s what makes the WYSIWYG Visual Editor a reality.

But that selling point comes at a price. For page changes to occur, a couple things must happen: the snippet of the tool must load and the page elements being modified must load. If either takes too long, your A/B test is in the gutter.

Luckily for us all, there are ways around the challenges of client-side tools.

Follow the eleven tips below, and even if you’re a noob jQuery dabbler, you’ll be able to launch FOOC-free experiments.

1. Speed up your website

Besides being one of the proven ways to increase conversion rates, speeding up your website is a first step in helping prevent flickering or long waits during A/B tests. My favorite tool for this has always been WebpageTest.org. Simple, free, effective. Have your front-end development team look into some of the issues and track performance over time.

abtesting-fooc-5Continue to check your site over time, as small changes can have a big impact on speed.

2. Put your snippet where it needs to go

I’ve seen snippets in footers and I’ve seen them served via Google Tag Manager. Don’t do either. For example, Optimizely’s needs to go as high up as possible in the <head>.

abtesting-fooc-6Whenever possible, move your snippet up to the top of your <head>, assuming you have trimmed jQuery in the snippet.

The drawback is that, yes, Optimizely will be adding a few milliseconds of load time to your pages when loaded for the first time. We haven’t found it to be an issue unless the remaining suggestions aren’t followed.

3. Reduce the size of your snippet

Archive any paused experiments and draft experiments that you don’t need the preview links to and load only a trimmed version of jQuery (this is especially important when loading your snippet at the top of your <head> tag). This will reduce the size of the snippet being loaded on your website, mostly affecting first time visitors.

abtesting-fooc-7

Archive those experiments taking up space in your snippet.

4. Roll up hotfixes

If you’re using your testing tool as a way to make fixes to your website, roll those changes up into project code rather than running them in a separate experiment. If you’re one of many who don’t have access to project-level code, then implement that code along with your current experiment.

abtesting-fooc-8Put “hotfix” code into your project code rather than in an individual experiment.

5. Order your variation code to match your website code

If you’re changing something at the top of your web page, position that change at the top of your variation code. jQuery waits until it finds the element on the page to make the change. If that element comes earlier than later, it will move on to the next line.

This way the content at the top of your website gets changed as quickly as possible.

abtesting-fooc-9

If using jQuery in your variation code, order it so that you’re making changes in the same order that elements load on your website.

6. Consolidate your variation code

If you want to up the size of your headline and change the color, do so in one swift line. If you decide later that you want to reduce the size of the headline, update your existing code rather than adding another line of code to make the reduction in size.

abtesting-fooc-10Group changes into one and remove unused changes.

In conjunction to consolidating code, when making changes via the Visual Editor, keep the scope of your changes to the most specific HTML element possible. Rather than selecting “#mainbody” to modify the attributes of a sub-element, select that sub-element to begin with.

7. Temporarily hide the <body>

No matter how fast your website is, if your original content is loading before your variation code has time to run, you will experience FOOC. To get around this, you’ll need to quickly hide, then show the <body> of your page.

In your experiment-level JavaScript, force Optimizely to run the following:

abtesting-fooc-11Hide the body of the page as quickly as possible by forcing it at the experiment-level.

This hides the <body> as fast as possible, assuming you’ve placed the snippet at the top of the <head>. Then, in your variation code, put a fail-safe (say 3 seconds) to show the body again if something goes wrong.

Insert your variation code after that.

Finally, make the body visible again. Note the 500 millisecond timer on this one. Keep it as low as possible, just enough to avoid a flicker. After all, FOOC is still better than a really slow loading website.
abtesting-fooc-12

Be sure to customize your timers to make sense for your website and the test you’re running.

This gets rid of any flashing of original content (assuming your snippet is not loading asynchronously or too late on the page). The potential drawback is a perceived slowness of the website on first load. That’s why you set a timer to make sure the body is shown before a set threshold.

8. Learn front-end development fundamentals

For those of us who never made it past the “Hello World” lesson in JavaScript 101, it’s a good idea to round out your front-end development knowledge. You don’t need to become a coder, you just need to be able to understand how it works.

It takes no more than a weekend to learn the basics of HTML, CSS, JavaScript and jQuery — the building blocks of DOM manipulation. Head to a free (and fun!) resource like Codecademy to get started.

abtesting-fooc-13Brush up on your front-end development.


Starting here, most of us will need a front-end developer’s help (I’ll admit, I got help from our dev team for this part). If that’s not an option, don’t worry: with the tips above, you should be able to launch FOOC-free tests. Like this article so far? Let me know! 


Now on to steps 9 through 11:

9. Use CSS as much as possible

By default, Optimizely and VWO visual editors produce your edits via jQuery, even for simple things like changing colors. CSS is a faster way to go, whenever feasible.

Instead of this:

abtesting-fooc-14
Do this in the Edit Code window:

abtesting-fooc-15
And add this to the Experiment CSS (or an external stylesheet):

abtesting-fooc-16
10. Cache your selectors

The DOM is slow. To avoid making redundant calls to it, store selectors you’ll be re-using as jQuery objects. In the example below, 3 changes are being made to the same selector.

abtesting-fooc-17Cache selectors you’ll be re-using to avoid going back into the DOM.

11. Code your variations in raw JavaScript

A/B testing visual editors spit jQuery into the code window. jQuery was created to overcome cross-browser issues and save development time. It’s a library of JavaScript shortcuts.

To change the background color of an element in jQuery it goes something like this:

$('.cta').css('background', 'red');

Now the same thing in raw JavaScript:

document.querySelectorAll(".cta")[0].style.backgroundColor = "red";

While the development time savings is significant, it comes at a cost. As with any JavaScript library, jQuery code runs slower than raw JavaScript.

How much slower? Depends on what you’re doing. Without much digging, I found a non-scientific test that resulted in a difference of 60x in performance between jQuery and JavaScript. It’s not significant evidence, but it points to potential speed gains.

Coding some or parts of your variations in raw JavaScript also means that your dev team will have to put in extra time to produce your A/B tests. You’ll want to strike a balance between improving code efficiency and productivity. For more on the topic of JavaScript and jQuery, I urge you to check out this very informative thread on StackExchange.

If you’re using one of the newer schmancy JavaScript frameworks, there are options for writing variation code. Here are some resources to help:

Watch the accompanying Opticon presentation here.

  • Optimizely has published quite a bit on how to deal with sites using angular or other single page app-type situations.

Are those all of the ways to reduce the chances of FOOC? Certainly not. Feel free to add suggestions or questions in the comments below. We can make this an AMA of sorts, regarding FOOC.

FAQs about FOOC

  • Can I use asynchronous loading to avoid FOOC? You can try, but it probably won’t work. Asynchronous loading addresses a separate issue: helping with overall site speed, not FOOC. Given the speed of modern CDNs, snippets loading synchronously should be the least of your concerns. But, if you’re like our neighbors here in Vancouver, PlentyOfFish, with a bajillion users hitting their site at the same time, you may want to be considerate of what and how things load on your pages.
  • Can I use a server-side / proxy testing tool to avoid FOOC? You could, but say good-bye to most of the benefits of a client-side tool.
  • I noticed a major slow down when I added XYZ A/B testing tool on my website. Should I switch to a more popular tool like Optimizely or VWO? Perhaps. There are some tools out there that don’t use distributed CDNs and that include jQuery by default in their snippet. Yes, some will slow down your website.

PS: If you’re an Optimizely power-user, consider checking out a project by WiderFunnel Labs, Liftmap, a great way to increase your A/B testing velocity by managing your CRO workflow.

* As opposed to Flash of Unstyled Content, which refers to a separate problem, usually unrelated to A/B testing.

The post 11 ways to stop FOOC’ing your A/B tests appeared first on WiderFunnel.

Link:   11 ways to stop FOOC’ing your A/B tests

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How to Create Credible Content (Even if No One Knows You Exist!)

We all have them. Those marketing mavens and industry gurus we follow for insights and ideas on how to build our business better. But what makes them worth following, and what can you learn from their efforts? Credibility can’t be bought. You can’t run down to the store and purchase a gallon drum of the […]

The post How to Create Credible Content (Even if No One Knows You Exist!) appeared first on The Daily Egg.

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How to Create Credible Content (Even if No One Knows You Exist!)

The Dreaded AdWords Plateau and What You Can Do About It [PODCAST]

inpost
Are your AdWords campaigns plateauing? Image via Flickr.

Have you ever run a PPC campaign that was working pretty well, but never seemed to get to the next level?

You may have experienced what PPC insiders call the “AdWords Plateau,” the point where your campaigns are maintaining their value, but are no longer driving the kind of growth you need.

So, do you just sit back and rest on your laurels? Heck no! We want your campaigns to always be converting better. That’s why in this episode of the Call to Action podcast, we talk to Igor Belogolovsky, co-founder of Clever Zebo, about advanced AdWords tactics that can push your campaigns up and off the plateau.

You will learn:

  • Why categorizing your campaigns based on product can be holding you back.
  • The importance of geography in AdWords.
  • How one company added a call extension and increased mobile leads by 110%.

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Read the transcript

In this episode: Dan Levy, Unbounce’s Content Strategist, interviews Igor Belogolovsky, co-founder of Clever Zebo.

Stephanie Saretsky: Hey podcast listeners, I’m Stephanie Saretsky and you’re listing to Call to Action, a podcast about creating better marketing experiences — powered by Unbounce.

Are you running PPC campaigns? Are your results pretty good but you never seemed to be able to get them to be even better? You may have experienced what PPC insiders call the “AdWords Plateau,” the point when your campaigns are maintaining their value, but aren’t doing any better and aren’t doing any worse. So, do you just sit back on your laurels? Heck no! We want your campaigns to always be converting better. That’s why our Content Strategist Dan Levy got in touch with Igor Belogolovsky, co-founder of Clever Zebo, about advanced AdWords hacks that can push your campaigns up and off the plateau. Take a listen to this.

Dan: Before we get into brass tacks, let’s talk about the infamous AdWords performance plateau. What is it, and how do I know if I’ve reached it?

Igor: You know, if you’ve been advertising on AdWords for a long time and have been trying different tweaks in your campaign, and you come across that moment where you’re sort of like, “Hmm, no matter what I do, I can’t seem to get the number of conversions up from week to week, can’t seem to get this CPA down any further.” That’s kind of what I think of as the plateau. And if you’ve optimized AdWords campaigns for a while, it happens and it comes pretty quickly if you’re good at this.

Dan: So what are some signs that you’ve reached a plateau and it’s time to try something new?

Igor: Honestly, I think the biggest thing is that those metrics are staying steady. Can’t seem to get over a certain number of weekly conversions, can’t seem to get under a certain CPA. If other metrics are staying unchanged or you can’t get them higher or better than they were last week, that’s definitely a sign. Especially if you’re doing rigorous testing in the account. If you’ve got an A/B test on your ads live at all times and still, no matter what, you’ve got incumbent ads always beating the new variants, that’s an indicator that the account’s in pretty good shape. It means that things might have plateaued.

Dan: And of course, things are in good shape, then – it’s a good problem to have, but you always want to be optimizing and doing better, of course. So, one of the more common challenges that I think performance marketers find themselves butting up against has to do with the volume. Can you explain why I might want to get more campaign traffic and what I can do to get that?

Igor: So everybody’s looking for more traffic if it’s qualified. It’s easy to spend money on AdWords on traffic that isn’t qualified, so put that asterisk next to the idea of more traffic and why you would want it. But let’s say that you’re getting good traffic through AdWords and you want to get more of it. Basically, there’s two ways that you can get more traffic through AdWords. #1 is expanding your keyword approach and different topics that you want to capture searchers on. #2 is actually creating better performing campaigns. So you might only be able to get a certain percentage of the impression share available on your terms if your ads are not kind of very historically vetted and have been shown to Google to perform really well. Once you pass that test — once you kind of show Google that you can drive consistent performance and you’re going to keep spending in that area and you’re going to outperform in a consistent way the other competitors in that space — you’re going to be able to get more volume. Because Google will trust your ad. Google will know if they serve it a certain number of times a day, they’ll make a certain amount of money from people clicking that ad and you’ll be happy from the results from a conversion standpoint and ROI standpoint. So it’s not a risk for Google. So those are the two main ways to increase traffic.

Dan: And of course, getting more traffic, though, usually means spending more money. How do you know if it’s worth cranking up the budget for that?

Igor: Well, like any performance marketer, I would tell you that if you’re making more money than you’re spending, you’re in good shape. But that’s where people start talking about the concept of lifetime value. You know, sometimes the conversion that you’re tracking in AdWords doesn’t trace all the way back to the credit card or the revenue that comes back to your business. So when you’ve got a sophisticated enough model, when you can take into account lifetime value, if you can feed that back into AdWords through their offline conversions import feature, you can really be in good shape to understand your overall ROI.

Dan: Well, the next tactic, now that we’ve got the basics down, the next one that you look at in your post has to do with lowering cost per acquisition. Most marketers manage CPA by campaign or keyword and ad group. But you’re right that this means that you’re prioritizing search topics over the searcher herself or himself. What do you mean by that?

Igor: So if you’re just adjusting bids based on a specific keyword, basically what you’re telling Google is red shoes are converting better than blue shoes. What you’re ignoring, potentially, is the person that’s typing that in and what experience they’re going to have when they click through to your site. So in the case of an ecommerce site, where maybe you’ve got a high-ticket item and a very considered purchase, maybe the desktop version of the site converts better than mobile, because sometimes it’s tougher to make an ecommerce buy on your mobile device. It’s small and there’s a lot of different options. And so if you’re not optimizing bids at the device level, for example – and there are other dimensions too like geography and we’ll talk about that later – then you’re really doing yourself a disservice to just focus on the thing being searched and not also the searcher and what experience they’re having coming to your site.

Dan: Ultimately, you’re trying to reach a person, so user intent is something that I think maybe some marketers forget about but really should be driving your campaign for the most part, right?

Igor: Absolutely.

Dan: I’d like to dive into device type. Can you take us through what making bid adjustments looks like in the context of a mobile campaign?

Igor: So we just talked about the example of an ecommerce site where you might have a better desktop experience than mobile, and thus your mobile CPA might be higher so you might want to adjust your bids down on mobile to account for that. There’s also the possibility that your mobile experience is the primary experience and you want to bid up on the mobile ads. So an example of that might be that you’re advertising for your restaurant and you want somebody to set up a reservation on OpenTable. That’s something that people often do on their mobile device and they want to have a map handy of the restaurant. They’re not going to be doing that as often from their desktop. So in that scenario, you might bid up by 50 percent on mobile devices and not so much on desktop.

Dan: Another way to adjust bids is by geography, since some products and services convert differently in different places. I get how someone selling raincoats would want to focus on Seattle rather than Phoenix, for example. But could you explain why a marketer in a less tangible place-based industry like SaaS or healthcare or education would want to adjust their bids geographically?

Igor: Yeah, it’s a really good question. But you’d be surprised when you go into the dimensions tab in AdWords. Sometimes it’ll go into a campaign and California has a $40.00 CPA and in Illinois, we’re looking at a $150.00 CPA. Like why would that be? But it happens. The raincoat example is the one that Google kind of gives and that makes sense to everybody. In software as a service, it might be something more subtle. For example, we have a client that’s in usability testing software. And they get a lot of university students going and searching for their software to go and play around with the idea of usability testing and what it means. And those university students aren’t going to be great converters. But you know, in the name of education, they’ll go and click through and look around. And so you might have, in a university town like Berkeley, California, a lot of people kind of going that route and so not converting as often. Whereas across the bay in San Francisco where you have lots of tech startups, there might actually be buyers of the usability testing software. For them, you might have a lower CPA and better converting numbers. So that’s just a scenario where in micro geography, you might have higher bids for San Francisco where you have the tech startups and lower bids for Berkeley, which is a college town.

Dan: That makes sense. Google suggests that you make bid adjustments in the 15 percent range. Why – what’s so magical about that particular number? Do you know?

Igor: That’s a good question. Google usually suggests this; the reps often talk about the 10 to 15 percent range. And I think the reason really is that Google AdWords is a sensitive machine. And if you go in and start tweaking levers at 30 or 50 percent bid increases, there’s not as much stability to that and it can take longer to learn. Whereas if you go gradually, you can learn more and I think you can learn more quickly. I think gradual is the key to a lot of things in AdWords, not just the adjustments.

Dan: So it’s sort of Google giving a hint a little bit about how their algorithm works there?

Igor: I think so.

Dan: Yeah, a lot of AdWords is reading the Google tea leaves, isn’t it?

Igor: I think so.

Dan: The last conversion that you suggest optimizing your AdWords campaign for is click-through rates. Before we get into some of the techs about how to do that, when might you find yourself in a situation where it makes sense to optimize for clicks?

Igor: Yeah. So I think the main caveat here is of course, clicks are good but conversions are better, right? So it’s not that I’m saying you want to go out and get as many clicks as possible, because that can be expensive. But click-through rate has long been known to be the main determinant of Quality Score, which is Google’s 1 to 10 scale of how good of a search result your ad is, in the end, as an experience for the visitor. And the better experience that your ad provides, the more often Google is going to serve that ad, and also the less Google is going to charge you to put that ad in the top three spots because they know that it’s going to get clicked because it’s just such a good quality ad. And so by getting your click-through up and optimizing for clicks, you’re actually going to improve that Quality Score and hopefully take it to the 7, 8, 9, 10 out of 10 range. And that’s really going to help you from a cost perspective and from an impression share perspective. I would say the other reason to optimize for clicks is just if you’re in a very competitive SEM landscape. So if you’re in real estate, if you’re in legal, every qualified click counts. And so getting that impression share optimizing for clicks can be the life blood of your account.

Dan: Yeah, Quality Score I guess is another one of those things that’s a little bit mysterious and Google doesn’t give a whole lot of advice about how to get that up. So I suppose anything counts.

Igor: Exactly.

Dan: So let’s talk about ad extensions, which are one of the key ways that you can set up your PPC campaigns and set them apart from noobs and competitors. So what are ad extensions? What do they look like and why should marketers get really excited about them?

Igor: There’s a couple of different types of ad extensions. I’ll just call out a few. There’s site links, which are up to four different links that will show up underneath your ad headline and will point to specific content on your site; so not just to the landing page that your main ad headline links to, but to an “about us” page, or a partnership integrations page or testimonials page or something like that. The other exciting thing about the site links extension, though, is that it really gives you more real estate on the page. So if you are fortunate enough to have your ads show up in those top three spots in Google, you’re going to take up more room when they show those four site link extensions and so you kind of get more billboard real estate out of that.

Dan: Is there a tradeoff there, though? Because you’re also distracting people from getting to that landing page where the conversion actually takes place, no?

Igor: That’s a really good point and something I’ve had to attack with a client this week — you might have people going to another place on the site that’s less of a direct path to conversion. And so what that tells me is: man, every page on this site has got to have a strong call to action. Even if you’re telling people about your great quality of work and where your product is made and all that type of more informational stuff, you’ve got to have a call to action on the page and be able to point people toward the conversion that way. Otherwise, the site links could well distract more than they add.

Dan: Wouldn’t it depend, then, on where the user that you’re targeting is in your customer lifecycle? Like if it’s a little bit more of a lead gen or brand awareness play, then those site links getting that attention might be worth it. But if you’re looking for that conversion, then maybe not?

Igor: Yeah, that can absolutely make a difference. Another way the companies will use it is that a player like Zappos might have a site link that’s all about their free returns and how you can return something for 365 days out of the year. They might think that if they work that into their 35 character description one line, that’s okay. But having a whole site link and page and description of that policy can be really beneficial for them because that’s one of the big reasons that people buy from Zappos.

Dan: Interesting. So in a way, it’s just a way – well, I guess that’s why it’s called an extension, right? It’s a way to extend your ad and your messaging without –

Igor: Absolutely.

Dan: – messing up your peppy headline, I guess.

Igor: That’s right. And there’s a couple other versions of the extension, also. There’s location extensions for brick and mortar business to show the location of it, there’s call extensions which will bring in a phone number right there into your ad. And there’s a callout extension, which is not a clickable piece of text but it allows you to put a couple of dinger benefits right below your ad about your service.

Dan: I wanted to ask you about the call extension. Can you talk about how an organization called A Place for Mom added a call extension and increased their mobile leads by 110 percent in the process?

Igor: Yeah, absolutely. So A Place for Mom is one of Google’s case studies and they’re in elder care. And you know, at the end of the day, it’s pretty obvious. You add a call extension, you allow people who are searching for information about your service on mobile to call in rather than using the form on your site. And of course they’re going to call so it makes sense that they were able to increase calls. But I think that the real takeaway from this one is that calls can be a much more qualified lead than somebody who just fills out a form on your website. Because what ends up happening is sales teams that call on leads that submit through a landing page form, they’ll usually find that at least half of the submissions are not good leads for whatever reason; either they can’t reach them on the phone number, or by the time they get a call from the sales rep, they’ve filled out three other forms of competitors and so they’re going with a different option. Somebody who’s calling you right there on the spot, they’ve made a lot more effort to pick up the phone and get in touch with you. And something like eldercare in this example — there are lots of other businesses like this. It can be something that people want to talk through on the phone and not just read a couple of bullet points on a landing page and submit a form. And so these people that are calling are treasured leads. They should be viewed as a lead that maybe would be willing to pay three or four times as much to Google to get that lead.

Dan: Yeah. Again, it goes back to that user’s intent and where they are in your funnel, and whether it makes more sense to get them on the phone right away, or what you really want to be doing is getting their email address so you could continue to nurture them through the funnel until it’s time to maybe ask for that big conversion. So yeah, in most cases, the conversion doesn’t happen over the phone but it does happen on that landing page. Can you leave us with one tip for optimizing your PPC landing pages for more conversions?

Igor: Yeah. You know, I think that the last couple years, the trend has really been minimalist text: the idea that people don’t read so much on a landing page and really having a bare bones form where we don’t ask for a lot of fields. So the trend has been don’t ask too much of the consumer. But there’s a flip side to that. I think trustworthiness is one of the main reasons that people do choose to give their information on a landing page. And so sometimes it can take a little bit of content to build that trust. So I guess maybe the tip is this: if I see a great testimonial with a picture of the person that it’s coming from, and it’s from somebody who is just right in my demographic. So I’m a cofounder of a marketing firm. If I see this tool that – I’m looking at their landing page – is used by an executive at a marketing agency and he’s saying, “Man, this tool saved us a bunch of money and you’ve got to try it,” coupled with a lot of other landing page elements that kind of build out the case for that tool, I’m much more likely to convert than if somebody is just using a snappy headline, a really short form, and really bare bones content.

Dan: Yeah, it’s amazing how many marketers still don’t include that sort of social proof on their landing page. That said, our cofounder Oli used to say that 99 percent of marketers still aren’t even sending their AdWords traffic to a dedicated landing page. I think recently he said it’s gotten a little bit better so it’s more like 98 percent. I don’t know what you’re seeing, but where do you think we are, actually, with the state of AdWords and using dedicated landing pages for PPC campaigns, and why do you think most – or why do you think more marketers still aren’t doing it?

Igor: It’s something that’s been changing a lot and certainly there’s really sophisticated companies out there that are building out highly specific landing pages for every search term. I think that, at the end of the day, it takes resources to build these dedicated pages. And so in the spirit of minimum viable product and kind of straw manning something together to get proof out of AdWords before you go and put a lot of technical resources behind it, a lot of companies and a lot of our clients will build kind of the minimum viable landing page approach, which will not necessarily be super specific, keyword by keyword and ad group by ad group. And once they see that work well, one of the optimization steps that we recommend, months down the road after that, is to build out a very specific approach. But it can be really tough to get technical resources devoted to that type of thing and you have to believe in Google AdWords, you have to believe in landing pages that are highly tailored and really put the money there and make it happen and make it beautiful.

Dan: If only there were a tool to help you easily build landing pages.

Igor: Wild idea.

Dan: Shameless plug. Cool. Well, thanks for sharing all these really insightful tips and for the great post, Igor. It was great to chat.

Igor: Dan, thank you.

Stephanie: That was Igor Belogolovsky, co-founder of Clever Zebo.

Transcript by GMR Transcription.


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The Dreaded AdWords Plateau and What You Can Do About It [PODCAST]

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