Since I joined the Unbounce family three years ago, our marketing team has grown from seven to 35. The content team alone has grown from two to 12.
That kind of growth comes with a lot of potential to do exciting things.
But scaling a team quickly also uncovers inefficiencies, and results in a helluvalotta growing pains.
Which is fine, really. I’m not much of a jock, but I know that without pain there is no gain.
2016 in particular was a really productive year for the content team at Unbounce. We were able to fix a lot of inefficiencies in our processes, and experiment with things that we just didn’t have the bandwidth for before.
In short, we pulled the plug on what wasn’t working and doubled down on what was working.
If you’ll allow me to, I want to share some of our biggest takeaways with you. In part because I wanna show off our gains (#humblebrag), but also because I wanna prevent your pains.
(P.S. Much of this progress can be attributed to an improvement methodology we started using called the Improvement Kata, which could be the subject of its own 10,000-word post. …But you can learn all about it in this 60-minute webinar.)
Process improvements: If something is painful, it’s because it’s broken
When I began work at Unbounce in 2014, I was the main person dedicated to the blog. I spent my days writing, editing and making sure that we maintained our historically high editorial standards.
But I was doing this in a silo, so when we began onboarding more team members who were to contribute to the blog, things started to feel a little painful.
Suddenly, it was evident that we needed new processes. And the only way to fix inefficiencies was to first diagnose them:
I was spending too much of my time working with external contributors and responding to queries that I couldn’t focus on content that contributed to big picture business objectives
I was used to being a lone wolf, but now my team members needed visibility into which posts were in the pipeline (and at what stage)
With more team members, prioritization of content pieces was becoming more difficult
After listing all the pains, we started looking for solutions as a team.
What did the doctor(s) order? You can read about all our process improvements in this post, but here are some of my personal favorites:
We killed our “Write For Us” page.
We refused to take on any post that didn’t first have a fully fleshed-out pitch (you can steal the template for it below).
Produce better content by getting off on the right foot
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But my favorite change was one that alleviated a ton of pain…
Treat blog posts like campaigns
When I started blogging in 2008, the #1 piece of advice I was given was to establish a posting frequency and then stick to it.
But last year, at marketing conferences and across the web, I began to hear whispers of something different: publish less, but publish deeper.
This suggestion was attractive to me because I’d been working hard for two years to make sure that our editorial calendar was filled with back-to-back actionable articles. I was able to maintain a frequent publishing schedule, but this resulted in me neglecting something far more important: a sound distribution strategy.
We were working hard to create awesome content, but weren’t making the time to be sure that people would take notice.
So in 2016, we started experimenting with treating blog posts like campaigns.
What do I mean by this? Taking the time to plan, write and promote epic posts — the kind of stuff that makes your CMO drop their work and share the post in a department-wide email — even if it means dialing back on publishing frequency.
Determine the goal of your post so you can determine later whether or not it was successful (and guide the content of the post).
Do keyword research if appropriate so your post will continue to get organic traffic.
Loop in influencers who can help you amplify your content after you hit publish. Include quotes — as Andy Crestodina said in his keynote at Content Marketing World, “An ally in content production is an ally in content distribution.” Beyond that, start thinking about distribution strategy before you write a single word.
Create custom blog assets that you’d like to see in your own social media feeds. Think of how you can create a consistent design experience across all channels.
Distribute according to a predetermined plan. Milk all your channels for everything they’re worth.
We get so much more out of posts when we take this well-rounded approach — we feel happier and more strategic (instead of feeling like we’re on a content farm). It feels less painful and it actually feels like less work. Here’s another great bit I heard at Content Marketing World:
Optimization is such a core part of our business — we preach it in our webinars, on our podcast, on the blog. “Always be testing” echoes through the hallways to the extent that it’s become a bit of a cliché.
Yet, when it came to actually conducting tests on our blog and other content, we were quicker to make excuses than make time for optimization. Not because we were slackers — quite the opposite — but because we were too focused on furiously pumping out content to take a step back and take a look at the bigger picture.
Until we decided to just do it ✔️️ and were inspired to launch a two week optimization experiment. For the experiment, we halted publishing and focused entirely on optimizing evergreen content. In a nutshell we:
Researched top traffic posts
Freshened up the content of the post to keep them evergreen
Optimized those posts for lead generation (this part was key)
You can read all about our experiment (and how it resulted in 700 new leads for us) in this post. Or just grab the checklist below and get started.
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Our main takeaway? Optimization isn’t just for conversion rate optimizers and performance marketers. Content marketers stand to gain a lot by taking a step back, too. Even if it means temporarily forgetting about your editorial calendar.
Everyone is aware of certain inefficiencies and pains within their organization or on their team, but seldom do we make the time to take ownership of these and actually resolve to fix them.
I’d encourage you to take a step back and think about what hurts and what bandaids you have at your disposal. It may seem daunting or like a lot of work at first, but I think you’ll find that it pays off in the long run.
With great power comes great responsibility. This week I found some resources that got me thinking: Service Workers that download 16MB of data on the user’s first visit? A Bluetooth API in the browser? Private browser windows that aren’t so private at all?
We have a lot of methods and strategies to fix these kinds of things. We can give the browser smarter hints, put security headers and HTTPS in place, serve web fonts locally, and build safer network protocols.
If it’s still snowy where you live, then you’re probably tired of the cold weather by now. Winter may be in full swing but that shouldn’t stop us from hunting for inspiration. While the gray days always seem to find a way to make us more and more anxious for springtime to finally arrive, it’s also a time we can use to reflect on our work and perhaps better decide what it is that we hope to improve or change in the next months.
As the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Human beings are highly visual creatures who are able to process visual information almost instantly; 90 percent of all information that we perceive and that gets transmitted to our brains is visual. Images can be a powerful way to capture users’ attention and differentiate your product. A single image can convey more to the observer than an elaborate block of text.
Creating that singular piece of graphic design that users will first interact with each time they encounter your product can be intimidating. A beautiful, identifiable and memorable app icon design can have a huge impact on the popularity and success of the app. But how exactly does one make a “good” app icon? What does that even mean? Fear not, I’ve put together some tips and advice to help answer these questions and to guide you on your way to designing great app icons.
Building user interfaces on the web is hard, because the web and, thus, CSS were inherently made for documents. Some smart developers invented methodologies and conventions such as BEM, ITCSS, SMACSS and many more, which make building user interfaces easier and more maintainable by working with components.
Happy new year! I hope you had a good start and can feel positive about what 2017 might bring. As mentioned in the last edition of the past year, I don’t like New Year’s resolutions too much, but I’d like to point you to something that Marc Thiele wishes for this year:
“So my wish then also is, that you reflect and ask yourself, if you want to post the text or maybe even just have another, a second look on the text you are about to post.
Winter means getting out your scarf and a cozy hat to brave the cold — if you’re located in the Northern hemisphere that is. For all those occasions when your projects may need to get dressed up a little, we are happy to present to you the free Clothing Icon Set created by the design team at Creativebin today. The set includes 40 icons with everything ranging from shirts, pants and dresses to a blazer, hat and even a scarf.
‘A-ha!’ moment (n.): An insight that leads to more substantial revenue lift and profitable growth for your company (e.g. the moment all Optimizers live for).
At WiderFunnel, our mission is create profitable ‘A-ha!’ moments for our clients every day.
Last year, I created a five-part ‘A-ha!’ moments series: Five mini blog posts focused on five of our favorite insights from 2015. Well, turns out 2016 was also full of ‘A-ha!’ moments that were too good to keep to ourselves.
This post explores five of WiderFunnel’s favorite ‘A-ha!’s from the past year. I hope that they inspire you as you begin planning your 2017 experiments!
‘A-ha!’ #1: Using color psychology to increase conversions
If you follow WiderFunnel, you probably know that we are not big fans of conversion optimization ‘best practices’ like “all calls-to-action should be orange”.
Because, frankly, best practices may not be the best thing for your business. They must be proven in your business context, for your users.
That said, this first ‘A-ha!’ moment comes from a color isolation test. But, the ‘A-ha’ isn’t the result, it’s the why behind the hypothesis.
One of our clients provides an online consumer information service — users type in a question and get an Expert answer. Once a user asks their question, they have entered a four-step funnel:
Step 1: Ask the question
Step 2: Add more information
Step 3: Pick an Expert
Step 4: Get an answer (aka the checkout page)
We have been testing on each step of this funnel, but this particular experiment was on the all-important checkout page, the final conversion.
What can the right color do?
For each WiderFunnel client, we create a customized growth program, however, each program is built with our proven Infinity Optimization Process™. The process cycles between two phases: Explore (information-gathering) and Validate (testing and proving).
Research on consumer behavior, psychological principles, and persuasion techniques is a huge part of the Explore phase. Our Strategists use this research, along with several other information touchpoints, when developing hypotheses.
This past year, one of WiderFunnel’s favorite bloggers and researchers, Nick Kolenda, published a giant piece on color psychology. Kolenda looked at 50 academic studies on color, and compiled his findings. According to him, certain colors can inspire certain actions.
In the case of this client, Optimization Strategist, Nick So, wanted to see if adding a subtle, subconscious visual cue to the checkout page would be more motivational for users. He was looking, specifically, at warm colors.
Persuasion principle: Warm colors (with high saturation and low brightness) increase arousal because they trigger impulsivity, and tend to increase behavioral responses.
The test: Isolation I and isolation II
In the first isolation, Nick decided to put warm colors to the test.
Hypothesis: Increasing prominence of the checkout area by using a color linked to increasing action and responses will improve visual clarity of the page and increase conversions.
In the variation, Nick removed all other background colors and added a warm orange background to the payment section. And it worked! This variation saw a statistically significant 2.82% increase in conversions.
We wanted to validate this insight across audiences, so Nick created a second isolation for this client’s mobile users.
He tested the Control against two variations: Variation B (the warm color isolation) was built on variation A, so Nick was able to track the isolation properly. In this experiment, the color change was responsible for a 2.7% lift in conversions, almost the exact same increase as in the desktop test.
It’s always amazing how such seemingly subtle psychological cues and persuasion elements can have a big potential impact on user behavior. We are fortunate to be able to have a client that has the traffic, trusts us, and understands testing enough to allow us to run an isolation on such an interesting concept.
– Nick So
‘A-ha!’ #2: Sometimes, all your users need is a clear next step
You may have heard the phrase “if content is king, revenue is queen”…
Our second ‘A-ha!’ moment comes from testing we have been doing with one WiderFunnel client: A content site that provides information for the individual investor. This client offers a ton of free resources on its website to help users stay on top of their finances.
Of course, they also offer subscription services, such as their newsletter and professional advisor service, which provides premium stock-picking advice to users. Our goal is to help this client increase profitable conversions.
When we began testing with this client, there were many different paths that users could take after landing on an investing article. And there was almost no indication that there were professional services available (which is how this client makes money!)
The WiderFunnel Strategy team did an initial LIFT analysis of the site-wide navigation, which revealed several problems, like:
There was not a clear, primary call-to-action in the nav (Clarity)
There was a general lack of urgency (Urgency)
The menu drop-down for “Stock Picks” had one, ambiguous dropdown (Anxiety)
If someone is ready to spend money, it is not clear how to do so (Clarity)
We wanted to test giving users a clear action to take in the site-wide navigation. This way, a user who wanted more would know which path to take.
We tested adding a “Latest Stock Picks” call-to-action in the nav (replacing the “Stock Picks” dropdown); the assumption was that users of this client’s site are looking for stock-picking advice, specifically.
Hypothesis: Creating a clear “Latest Stock Picks” CTA in the site-wide navigation will cause more users to enter a revenue-driving funnel from all parts of the site.
We tested two variations, each of which featured the “Latest Stock Picks” call-to-action. But, in each variation this CTA took the user to a different page. Our ultimate goal was to find out:
If users were even aware that there are premium paid services offered, and
Which funnel is best to help users make a decision and, ultimately, a purchase?
With variation A, we added the “Latest Stock Picks” CTA in the nav. This call-to-action sent users to the homepage and anchored them in the premium services section. (This is how the functionality of the original dropdown worked.)
This section provides a lot of detail about this client’s different offerings, along with a “Sign Up Today” call-to-action.
With variation B, we wanted to test limiting choice. Rather than showing users a bunch of product options, the “Latest Stock Picks” CTA sent them directly to the professional advisor sign up page (this client’s most popular product).
Both variations beat the control, with variation A resulting in an 11.17% lift in transactions with 99% confidence and variation B resulting in a 7.9% increase in transactions with 97% confidence.
Interestingly, because variation B was built on variation A, we were able to see that it actually decreased transactions by 3.3%.
So, what does this mean? Here are a few takeaways we plan to explore further in 2017:
Users may have been unsure of how to sign up (or that they could sign up) due to lack of CTA prominence on the original site-wide navigation
It is also possible that Urgency was a motivator for this client’s users: Changing the “Stock Picks” drop down to a “Latest Stock Picks” CTA increased urgency and led to more conversions. This wasn’t a clear isolation but it’s good evidence to follow-up with!
Users prefer some degree of choice over being sent to one product (as seen with the decrease in transactions caused by variation B)
But the main moral of this ‘A-ha!’? Make sure your users know exactly where to find what you’re selling. ‘Cause content without conversions is just free publishing.
Earlier this year, I published a case study on WiderFunnel client, weBoost. WeBoost is an e-commerce retailer and manufacturer of cellular signal boosters.
This case study explored several tests that we had run on multiple areas of the weBoost site, including a series of design tests we ran on their product category page. Our third A-ha! moment takes up where the case study left off in this series…
A quick refresher
Originally, the weBoost product category pages featured a non-traditional design layout. A large image in the top left corner, very tall product modules, and right-hand filters made these pages unique among e-commerce catalog pages.
We decided to test displaying products in landscape versus the long, portrait-style modules. According to a Baymard study of e-commerce sites, technical products are easier to compare in a horizontal layout because there is more space to include specs. This was variation A.
In variation B, we wanted to explore the idea that users didn’t need to see a product details page at all. Maybe the information on the category page was all users needed to make a confident purchase.
Variation B was built on variation A, with one isolated change: We changed the primary visual call-to-action from “View Details” to “Add To Cart”.
In a backward ‘A-ha!’ moment, variation A (based on the Baymard study) decreased transactions by -9.6%. Despite our intentions, the horizontal layout might have made it more difficult for users to compare products.
But! Variation B, with the add-to-cart focus, saw a 16.4% increase in transactions against the control page. It turns out that many users are actually comfortable adding products to their cart right from the category page.
Variation B moved more users further through the funnel and ultimately resulted in a large uptick in transactions, despite the negative impact of the horizontal layout.
After comparing variation A to variation B, WiderFunnel Optimization Strategist, Michael St Laurent, estimated that the “Add To Cart” call-to-action was actually worth a lift of 28.7% in transactions.
The follow-up (and subsequent ‘A-ha!’)
We knew that the horizontal layout led to a decrease in transactions and we knew that the horizontal layout plus the isolated CTA change led to a sizable increase in transactions.
So, we ran the obvious follow-up experiment: We tested a variation featuring the vertical module design with the add-to-cart focused call-to-action. We expected to see at least a 29% increase in transactions. We used variation B from the previous test as the Control, following proper Design of Experiments.
As predicted, when we tested the “Add To Cart” call-to-action on the vertical modules, we saw a whopping 38.1% increase in transactions (more than double the 16.4% increase we observed with the horizontal layout, and 9 percentage points more than the estimate).
It never gets old to see isolations at work. The ‘A-ha!’ moment here is that no test ever has to be a ‘loser’. If you structure your tests using isolations, you will be able to track the potential impact of each change.
This entire time, we were assuming that users needed more information to make a technical product selection. We were focused on making the specs easier to compare, when there was an entire segment of the audience that was ready to put the product in their cart without more investigation. Sometimes you have to challenge your assumptions. In this case it paid off!
– Michael St Laurent, Optimization Strategist, WiderFunnel
‘A-ha!’ #4: De-emphasizing price reduces user anxiety
One of our clients is Vital Choice, a trusted source for fast home delivery of the world’s finest wild seafood and organic fare, harvested from healthy, well-managed wild fisheries and farms.
Our fourth ‘A-ha!’ moment from 2016 came out of the testing we did with Vital Choice on their product detail pages and revolves around de-emphasizing price, in favor of value proposition points.
While the results may not be surprising, the WiderFunnel Strategy team would not have prioritized this particular test if they hadn’t done extensive user research beforehand. Because we took the pulse of Vital Choice users, we were able to reduce anxiety and provide more motivation to purchase.
Let’s say you wanted to order a few organic, grass-fed American Wagyu beef patties from the Vital Choice website. You would have eventually landed on a detail page that looked like this (the Control in this experiment):
As you can see, price is displayed prominently near the ‘Add To Cart’ call-to-action. But, during the Explore (information gathering) phase, WiderFunnel Optimization Strategist, Dennis Pavlina, identified several common themes of barriers to conversion in user survey responses, including:
Price: Users love Vital Choice and the excellent quality of their products, but they often mention the premium they are paying. For many users, it is a ‘treat’ and a ‘luxury’ to buy from Vital Choice. Price-related themes, such as discount codes or coupons, also came up often in surveys.
Shipping: Users often express concern about how frozen perishable items are shipped, particularly in warmer climates in the U.S.
If we could reduce user anxiety in these two areas, we believed Vital Choice would see a surge in conversions.
Hypothesis: Adding relevant value proposition points that justify the price and quality of the product, and adding copy to reduce anxiety around shipping in close proximity of the order area on the product page, will increase conversions.
It was unclear what users would receive in their shipment i.e. how it would be shipped to them, how long it would take, etc. (Anxiety)
There were no prominently displayed value proposition points to justify the price of the product. (Value Proposition)
There was a lot of emphasis on the price of the product. (Anxiety)
This variation led to a 3.3% increase in conversions and a 2.7% increase in average order value, resulting in almost $250,000 in estimated additional annual revenue.
Conversions were up for almost every goal we tracked: Visits to checkout (step 2), visits to checkout (step 3), visits to checkout (step 4), total visits to cart, and average order value. But they were down to unique visits to cart.
The most interesting part of analyzing results was noticing that, although unique visits to cart were slightly down, there was a large increase in total visits to cart. It’s a surprising pattern. We hypothesize that users may have been more confident and willing to purchase more items at once, when anxiety was reduced.
– Dennis Pavlina, Optimization Strategist, WiderFunnel
The fact that de-emphasizing price worked for Vital Choice users isn’t what made us say, ‘A-ha!’. But, the proven power of listening to, and addressing their users’ stated concerns, did. When in doubt, ask your users.
A-ha! #5: Quick view, long delay
A-ha! number 5 comes from testing we did with another one of our clients, a large retailer of sports goods, footwear, and apparel. We have been working with this company for more than a year to optimize their e-commerce experiences, with the goal of increasing transactions.
Like on many e-commerce sites, users on this client’s site could view product details directly on the category page, using a Quick View functionality. When a user hovered over a product, they would see the product details in a Quick View window.
In our final ‘a-ha!’, we explore what (so often) happens when you test a common practice.
Distraction is a very common barrier to conversion; often, there are elements on a client’s page that are diverting visitors away the from the ultimate goal.
For Michael St Laurent, the Quick View option on this client’s category page was a potential distraction.
The more visual cues and action options your visitor has to process, the less likely they are to make a conversion decision. At WiderFunnel, we have found that minimizing distractions such as unnecessary product options, links, and extraneous information will increase your conversion rate.
– Michael St Laurent
So, he decided to put his theory that the Quick View is an unnecessary distraction to the test.
Hypothesis: Disabling the Quick View functionality will result in reduced distraction and ultimately, more conversions.
The Control in this test was the client’s original category page, featuring the Quick View functionality.
In the Quick View, users could quickly move from product to product on the category page without going to a product page itself.
We tested this control against a variation that removed the Quick View functionality completely.
It turns out the Quick View functionality was, indeed, distracting. Disabling it resulted in more product exploration as well as more transactions; transactions increased by 4% (a big lift for a high-traffic company like this one!)
If your site has a functionality, like Quick View or a rotating banner, you should probably test it! While ‘flashy’ functionalities are…well…flashy, they are rarely what your users want, and may be preventing your users from actually purchasing.
At the end of every month, the WiderFunnel Strategy team shares their favorite ‘A-ha!’ moments from the past four weeks. Sometimes, the ‘A-ha!’ is an exciting result and big lift for a client, sometimes it’s a twist insight, sometimes it’s a ‘losing’ test that inspired a winning test.
As Chris Goward explains,
There’s no downside to communicating what you’ve learned from every test. If you view your optimization program as a strategic method for learning about your customers and prospects – for truly understanding their mindset – rather than a tactical tweaking program, you can take a broader perspective and find the gains in every test.
I hope that these ‘A-ha!’ moments inspire you to do the work, structure your tests properly, and learn constantly in 2017. And I encourage you to share your favorite ‘A-ha!’ moments in the comments section below.
Many people find it difficult to get their minds back into work after a holiday season filled with love, food, and friends. May 2017 bring you a healthy and inspiring adventure. As for that kick-start inspiration, I hope this article will help get you back in the creative mindset.
Further Reading on SmashingMag: Inspiring Illustrations With Plenty Of Bright Colors Colorful Inspiration For Gray Days How To Create A Water Lily In Illustrator Anglepoise This is just genius!