Fewer than 25 percent of businesses express satisfaction with their conversion rates. That’s pretty depressing. Conversion rate optimization (CRO) doesn’t improve your conversion rates overnight, but it sets you up for success. Part of CRO involves optimizing your calls to action for conversions. How is the best call to action for conversions? There’s no single call-to-action formula that can magically convince most of your leads to convert, but if you’re willing to get to know your audience, experience with different CTAs, and test variations, you’ll get closer to the conversion rates you want. We’ll be covering lots of information, so…
Once Upon A Time: Using Story Structure For Better Engagement
Stories form the connective tissue of our lives. They’re our experiences, our memories, and our entertainment. They have rhythms and structures that keep us engaged. In this article, we’ll look at how those same rhythms and structures can help us enrich and enhance the user experience.
In his seminal work Hero With A Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell identified a structure that rings true across a wide variety of stories. He called this “The Hero’s Journey,” but his book explaining it was 300+ pages so we’ll use a simplified version of Campbell’s work or a jazzified version of the plot structure you probably learned about in elementary school:
The ordinary world/exposition is where our hero/protagonist/person/thing/main character starts. It’s the every day, the safe, the boring, the life the hero already knows.
The inciting incident is the event or thing that pulls or (more often) pushes the hero into the story. It’s what gets them involved in the story whether they want to be or not.
In the rising action/preparation phase, the hero prepares (sometimes unknowingly) for the ordeal/climax which is when they go up against the villain (and prevail!).
After the hero prevails against the villain, they must return to their ordinary world and bring back the new knowledge and/or mythical object they got from/for defeating the villain.
Finally, in the Resolution, we tie up all the loose ends and throw a dance party.
We can apply this same structure to the experience of the user or — as I like to call it — the “user journey.”
Where the user starts (their every day).
They have a problem they need solved.
They’ve found your product/service/website and they think it might work to solve their problem, but they need to decide that this is the product/service/website will solve their problem. So in this step they gather facts and figures and feelings to determine if this thing will work. It could be deciding if the type of video game news covered on this site is the kind of news they want to consume or deciding whether this type of pen will solve their writing needs or whether the graphic design prowess of this agency can make their new website super awesome.
The fight to make a decision about purchasing that pen or adding that news site to your regularly checked sites or contacting that agency for a quote.
The Road Back
Decision made, the road back is about moving forward with that purchase, regular reading, or requesting the quote.
Where they apply your product/service/website to their problem and it is mightily solved.
If we consider this structure as we look at user interactions, there are lots of ways we can put ourselves in the user’s shoes and optimize their experience, providing support (and sometimes a good shove) exactly when they need it.
Here are some techniques. Some apply to just one part of the User Journey while some apply to several parts at once:
Journey With Your Users
Stories take time. Movies aren’t done in two minutes; they take two hours to watch and absorb. They are a journey.
If you always only ever shout “BUY! BUY! BUY!” you may make a few quick sales, but you won’t encourage long-term loyalty. Journey with your users, and they’ll count on you when they have a problem you can solve.
InVision’s newsletter journeys with you. In this recent newsletter, they sent an article about Questlove and what we can learn from him concerning creativity. If you click through, other than the URL, the word “InVision” does not appear on the page. They’re not pushing the sale, but providing relevant, interesting content to the main audience of people who use their products. I haven’t yet been in the market for their services, but if/when I am, there won’t be much of an Ordeal or fight for approval. They’ve proven their worth as a traveling companion. They’re someone I can count on.
Journeying with your users can take many forms, only one of which is content marketing. You could also build training programs that help them move from beginner to expert in using your app or site. You could add high touch parts to your sales process or specific technical support that will help you come alongside your user and their needs. In contexts of quick visits to a website you might use visuals or wording that’s down-to-earth, warm, welcoming, and feels personable to your main audience. You want to show the user they can count on you when they have a problem.
Give ‘Em A Shove
Users need an inciting incident to push them into the user journey, often more than one push. They have a lot going on in their lives. Maybe they’re working on a big project or are on vacation or their kid played frisbee with their laptop. They may have lost or never opened your first email. So don’t hesitate to send them a follow-up. Show them the difference between life without your product or service and life with it. Heroes are pushed into a story because their old life, their ordinary world, is no longer tenable given the knowledge or circumstances they now have.
Nick Stephenson helps authors sell more books (and uses the hero’s journey to think through his websites and marketing). Last fall he sent out a friendly reminder about a webinar he was doing. He gets straight to the point reminding us about his webinar, but provides value by giving us a way to ask questions and voice concerns. He also lets us know that this is a limited time offer, if we want the new life his webinar can bring we’ve got to step into the story before it’s too late.
Give your users more than one opportunity to buy your product. That doesn’t mean shove it down their throat every chance you get, but follow up and follow through will do wonders for your bottom line and help you continue to build trust. Many heroes need a push to get them into the story. Your users may need a shove or well-placed follow up email or blaring call to action too.
Give Out Magic Swords
By now you know your users will face an ordeal. So why not pass out magic swords, tools that will help them slay the ordeal easily?
Whenever I have tried to use Amazon’s Web Services, I’ve always been overwhelmed by the choices and the number of steps needed to get something to work. A one button solution it is not.
But on their homepage, they hand me a magic sword to help me slay my dragon of fear.
They use a 1-2-3 graphic to emphasize ease. With the gradient, they also subtly show the change from where you started (1) to where you’ll end (3) just like what a character does in a story. My discussion above could make this ring hollow, but I believe they do two things that prevent that.
First, number two offers lots of 10-minute tutorials for “multiple use cases” There seems to be meat there, not a fluffy tutorial that won’t apply to your situation. Ten minutes isn’t long, but can show something substantially and “multiple use cases” hints that one of these may well apply to your situation.
Second, number three is not “You’ll be done.” It’s “Start building with AWS.” You’ll be up and running in as easy as 1, 2, 3. At step 3 you’ll be ready to bring your awesome to their platform. The building is what I know and can pwn. Get me past the crazy setup and I’m good.
Find out what your user’s ordeal is. Is it that a competitor has a lower price? Or they’re scared of the time and expertise it’ll take to get your solution to work? Whatever it is, develop resources that will help them say Yes to you. If the price is a factor, provide information on the value they get or how you take care of all the work or show them it will cost them more, in the long run, to go with a different solution.
No One is Average
So many stories are about someone specific because we can identify with them. Ever sat through a movie with a bland, “everyman” character? Not if you could help it and definitely not a second time. If you sell to the average person, you’ll be selling to no one. No one believes themselves to be average.
Coke’s recent “Share a Coke” campaign used this brilliantly. First, they printed a wide variety of names on their products. This could have backfired.
My name isn’t Natasha, Sandy or Maurice. But it wasn’t “Buy a Coke,” it was “Share a Coke.” And I know a Natasha, a Sandy, and a Maurice. I could buy it for those friends for the novelty of it or buy my name if I found it ( “John” is so uncommon in the U.S. it’s hard to find anything that has my name on it besides unidentified men and commodes.)
So often we target an average user to broaden the appeal for a product/service/website, and to an extent, this is a good thing, but when we get overly broad, we risk interesting no one.
You Ain’t The Protagonist
You are not the protagonist of your website. You are a guide, a map, a directional sign. You are Obi-Wan Kenobi on Luke’s journey to understand the force. That’s because the story of your product is not your story, this isn’t the Clone Wars (I disavow Episodes I-III), it’s your user’s story, it’s A New Hope. Your users are the ones who should take the journey. First, they had a big hairy problem. They found your product or service that solved that big hairy problem. There was much rejoicing, but if you want them to buy you aren’t the hero that saves the day, you’re the teacher who enables them to save their day. (I am indebted to Donald Miller and his excellent “Story Brand” podcast for driving this point home for me.)
Zaxby’s focuses on how they’ll help you with messages like “Cure your craving” and “Bring some FLAVOR to your next Event!” The emphasis on “flavor” and “your” is borne out in the design and helps to communicate what they do and how they will help you solve your problem. But “you”, the user, is the hero, because you’re the one bringing it to the event. You will get the high fives from colleagues for bringing the flavor. Zaxby’s helps you get that victory.
Furthermore, we’re all self-centered, some more than others, and frankly, users don’t care about you unless it helps them. They only care about the awards you’ve won if it helps them get the best product or service they can. They are not independently happy for you.
At a recent marketers event I attended, the social media managers for a hospital said one of their most shared articles was a piece about the number of their doctors who were considered the top doctors in the region by an independent ranking. People rarely shared the hospital’s successes before, but they shared this article like crazy. I believe it’s because the user could say, “I’m so great at choosing doctors. I picked one of the best in the region!” Rather than “look at the hospital” users were saying “look at me!” Whenever you can make your success their success you’ll continue your success.
Celebrate Their Win
Similar to above, their success is your success. Celebrate their success and they’ll thank you for it.
Putting together any email campaign is arduous. There are a thousand things to do and it takes time and effort to get them right. Once I’ve completed that arduous journey, I never want to see another email again. But MailChimp turns that around. They have this tiny animation where their monkey mascot, Freddie, gives you the rock on sign. It’s short, delightful, and ignorable if you want to. And that little celebration animation energizes me to grab the giant email ball of horrors and run for the end zone yet again. Exactly what Mailchimp wants me to do.
So celebrate your user’s victories as if they were your own. When they succeed at using your product or get through your tutorial or you deliver their website, throw a dance party and make them feel awesome.
The Purchase Is Not The Finish Line
The end of one story is often the beginning of another. If we get the client to buy and then drop off the face of the Earth that client won’t be back. I’ve seen this with a lot of web agencies that excel in the sales game, but when the real work of building the website happens, they pass you off to an unresponsive project manager.
Squarespace handles this transition well with a “We got you” email. You click purchase, and they send you an email detailing their 24/7 support and fast response times. You also get the smiling faces of five people who may or may not, have or still work there. And it doesn’t matter if they work there or never did. This email tells the user “We’ve got you, we understand, and we will make sure you succeed.”
This harkens all the way back to journeying with your user. Would you want to travel with the guy who leaves as soon as you got him past the hard part? No, stick with your users and they’ll stick with you.
We are storytelling animals. Story structure resonates with the rhythms of our lives. It provides a framework for looking at user experience and can help you understand their point of view at different points in the process. It also helps you tweak it such that it’s a satisfying experience for you and your users.
You got to the end of this article. Allow me to celebrate your success with a dance party.
Have you ever used a plugin and wished it did something a bit differently? Perhaps you needed something unique that was beyond the scope of the settings page of the plugin.
I have personally encountered this, and I’m betting you have, too. If you’re a WordPress plugin developer, most likely some of your users have also encountered this while using your plugin.
Here’s a typical scenario: You’ve finally found that plugin that does everything you need — except for one tiny important thing. There is no setting or option to enable that tiny thing, so you browse the documentation and find that you can’t do anything about it. You request the feature in the WordPress plugin’s support forum — but no dice. In the end, you uninstall it and continue your search.
Imagine if you were the developer of this plugin. What would you do if a user asked for some particular functionality?
The ideal thing would be to implement it. But if the feature was for a very special use case, then adding it would be impractical. It wouldn’t be good to have a plugin setting that only 0.1% of your users would have a use for.
You’d only want to implement features that affect the majority of your users. In reality, 80% of users use 20% of the features (the 80/20 rule). So, make sure that any new feature is highly requested, and that 80% of your users would benefit from it, before implementing it. If you created a setting for every feature that is requested, then your plugin would become complicated and bloated — and nobody wants that.
Your best bet is to make the plugin extensible, code-wise, so that other people can enhance or modify it for their own needs.
In this article, you’ll learn about why making your plugin extensible is a good idea. I’ll also share a few tips of how I’ve learned to do this.
What Makes A Plugin Extensible?
In a nutshell, an extensible plugin means that it adheres to the “O” part of the SOLID principles of object-oriented programming — namely, the open/closed principle.
If you’re unfamiliar with the open/closed principle, it basically means that other people shouldn’t have to edit your code in order to modify something.
Applying this principle to a WordPress plugin, it would mean that a plugin is extensible if it has provisions in it that enable other people to modify its behavior. It’s just like how WordPress allows people to “hook” into different areas of WordPress, but at the level of the plugin.
A Typical Example Of A Plugin
Let’s see how we can create an extensible plugin, starting with a sample plugin that isn’t.
Suppose we have a plugin that generates a sidebar widget that displays the titles of the three latest posts. At the heart of the plugin is a function that simply wraps the titles of those three posts in list tags:
While this code works and gets the job done, it isn’t quite extensible.
Why? Because the function is set in its own ways, there’s no way to change its behavior without modifying the code directly.
What if a user wanted to display more than three posts, or perhaps include links with the posts’ titles? There’s no way to do that with the code above. The user is stuck with how the plugin works and can nothing to change it.
Including A Hundred Settings Isn’t The Answer
There are a number of ways to enhance the plugin above to allow users to customize it.
One such way would be to add a lot of options in the settings, but even that might not satisfy all of the possibilities users would want from the plugin.
What if the user wanted to do any of the following (scenarios we’ll revisit later):
display WooCommerce products or posts from a particular category;
display the items in a carousel provided by another plugin, instead of as a simple list;
perform a custom database query, and then use those query’s posts in the list.
If we added a hundred settings to our widget, then we would be able to cover the use cases above. But what if one of these scenarios changes, and now the user wants to display only WooCommerce products that are currently in stock? The widget would need even more settings to accommodate this. Pretty soon, we’d have a gazillion settings.
Also, a plugin with a huge list of settings isn’t exactly user-friendly. Steer away from this route if possible.
So, how would we go about solving this problem? We’d make the plugin extensible.
Adding Our Own Hooks To Make It Extensible
By studying the plugin’s code above, we see a few operations that the main function performs:
It gets posts using get_posts.
It generates a list of post titles.
It returns the generated list.
If other people were to modify this plugin’s behavior, their work would mostly likely involve these three operations. To make our plugin extensible, we would have to add hooks around these to open them up for other developers.
In general, these are good areas to add hooks to a plugin:
around and within the major processes,
when building output HTML,
for altering post or database queries,
before returning values from a function.
A Typical Example Of An Extensible Plugin
Taking these rules of thumb, we can add the following filters to make our plugin extensible:
add myplugin_get_posts_args for modifying the arguments of get_posts,
add myplugin_get_posts for overriding the results of get_posts,
add myplugin_list_item for customizing the generation of a list entry,
add myplugin_get_some_post_titles for overriding the returned generated list.
Here’s the code again with all of the hooks added in:
$args = array(
'posts_per_page' => 3,
// Let other people modify the arguments.
$posts = get_posts( apply_filters( 'myplugin_get_posts_args', $args ) );
// Let other people modify the post array, which will be used for display.
$posts = apply_filters( 'myplugin_get_posts', $posts, $args );
$output = '
foreach ( $posts as $post )
// Let other people modify the list entry.
$output .= '
I’m adding a lot of hooks here, which might seem impractical because the sample code is quite simple and small, but it illustrates my point: By adding just four hooks, other developers can now customize the plugin’s behavior in all sorts of ways.
Namespacing And Context For Hooks
Before proceeding, note two important things about the hooks we’ve implemented:
We’re namespacing the hooks with myplugin_.
This ensures that the hook’s name doesn’t conflict with some other plugin’s hook. This is just good practice, because if another hook with the same name is called, it could lead to unwanted effects.
We’re also passing a reference to $args in all of the hooks for context.
I do this so that if others use this filter to change something in the flow of the code, they can use that $args parameter as a reference to get an idea of why the hook was called, so that they can perform their adjustments accordingly.
The Effects Of Our Hooks
Remember the unique scenarios I talked about earlier? Let’s revisit those and see how our hooks have made them possible:
If the user wants to display WooCommerce products or posts from a particular category, then either they can use the filter myplugin_get_posts_args to add their own arguments for when the plugin queries posts, or they can use myplugin_get_posts to completely override the posts with their own list.
If the user wants to display the items in a carousel provided by another plugin, instead of as a simple list, then they can override the entire output of the function with myplugin_get_some_post_titles, and instead output a carousel from there.
If the user wants to perform a custom database query and then use that query’s posts in the list, then, similar to the first scenario, they can use myplugin_get_posts to use their own database query and change the post array.
A Quick Example Of How To Use Our Filters
Developers can use add_filter to hook into our filters above (or use add_action for actions).
Taking our first scenario above, a developer can just do the following to display WooCommerce products using the myplugin_get_posts_args filter that we created:
Aside from using apply_filters, we can also use do_action to make our code extensible. The difference between the two is that the first allows others to change a variable, while the latter allows others to execute additional functionality in various parts of our code.
When using actions, we’re essentially exposing the plugin’s flow to other developers and letting them perform other things in tandem.
It might not be useful in our example (because we are only displaying a shortcode), but it would be helpful in others. For example, given an extensible backup plugin, we could create a plugin that also uploads the backup file to a third-party service such as Dropbox.
“Great! But Why Should I Care About Making My Plugin Extensible?”
Well, if you’re still not sold on the idea, here are a few thoughts on why allowing other people to modify your plugin’s behavior is a good idea.
It Opens Up the Plugin to More Customization Possibilities
Everyone has different needs. And there’s a big chance your plugin won’t satisfy all of them, nor can you anticipate them. Opening up your plugin to allow for modifications to key areas of your plugin’s behavior can do wonders.
It Allows People to Introduce Modifications Without Touching the Plugin’s Code
Other developers won’t be forced to change your plugin’s files directly. This is a huge benefit because directly modifying a plugin’s file is generally bad practice. If the plugin gets updated, then all of your modifications will be wiped.
If we add our own hooks for other people to use, then the plugin’s modifications can be put in an external location — say, in another plugin. Done this way, the original plugin won’t be touched at all, and it can be freely updated without breaking anything, and all of the modifications in the other plugin would remain intact.
Extensible plugins are really awesome and give us room for a lot of customization possibilities. If you make your plugin extensible, your users and other developers will love you for it.
Take a look at plugins such as WooCommerce, Easy Digital Downloads and ACF. These plugins are extensible, and you can easily tell because numerous other plugins in WordPress’ plugins directory add functionality to them. They also provide a wide array of action and filter hooks that modify various aspects of the plugins. The rules of thumb I’ve enumerated above have come up in my study of them.
Here are a few takeaways to make your plugin extensible:
Follow the open/closed principle. Other people shouldn’t have to edit your code in order to modify something.
To make your plugin extensible, add hooks in these places:
around and within major processes,
when building the output HTML,
for altering post or database queries,
before returning values from a function.
Namespace your hooks’ names with the name of your plugin to prevent naming conflicts.
Try passing other variables that are related to the hook, so that other people get some context of what’s happening in the hook.
Don’t forget to document your plugin’s hooks, so that other people can learn of them.
Here are some resources if you want to learn more about extending plugins:
I’d guess that over half of the e-commerce stores I visit use entrance popups to advertise their current deal. Most often it’s a discount.
What is an Entrance Popup and What’s Wrong With Them?
They are as they sound. A popup that appears as soon as you arrive on the site. They’re definitely the most interruptive of all popups because you’ve not even had a chance to look around.
I get why they are used though because they work really well at one thing – letting you know that an offer exists, and what it is. And given high levels of competition for online dollars, it makes sense why they would be so prolific.
The intrusion isn’t the only point of frustration. There’s also the scenario where you arrive on a site, see an offer appear, you find it interesting and potentially very valuable (who doesn’t want 50% off?), but you want to do some actual looking around – the shopping part – before thinking about the offer. And when you’re forced to close the popup in order to continue, it’s frustrating because you want the offer! You just don’t want it right now.
So, given the fact that they are so common, and they’re not going anywhere anytime soon, and they create these points of frustration, I’ve been working on developing a few alternative ways to solve the same problem.
The one I want to share with you today is called “Maybe Later”.
“Maybe Later” is a Solution to Increase Engagement and Reduce Frustration
As you saw in the header image, instead of the now classic YES/NO popup – the one that gets abused by shady marketers (Technology isn’t the Problem, We Are.) – “Maybe Later” includes a third option called, you guessed it!
It’s more than just a third button, here’s how it works (I’ll refer to the sketch opposite):
The popup appears when you enter the site. You can choose “No” to get rid of it, “Yes” to take advantage of it, or “Maybe Later” to register your interest but get it out of your way.
When you click “Maybe Later” a cookie is set to log your interest.
Now while you are browsing the rest of the site, a Sticky Bar – targeted at the cookie that was set – appears at the bottom (or top) of the page, with a more subtle reminder of the offer, so that you know it there and ready if you decide to take advantage of it.
If you decide against the offer, you can click “No thanks” on the Sticky Bar, the cookie is deleted, and the offer is hidden for good.
The core purpose of this idea is to put the control back with the shopper while creating an effective method for the retailer to engage with you, with your permission.
When you have more than a single button, it’s important to establish visual design cues to indicate how the hierarchical dominance plays out. For you as a marketer, the most important of the three buttons is YES, MAYBE LATER is second, and NO is the least.
You can create a better user experience for your visitors by using the correct visual hierarchy and affordance when it comes to button design. In the image below, there is a progression of visual dominance from left to right (which is the correct direction – in Western society). Left is considered a backward step (in online interaction design terms), and right is a progression to the goal.
From left to right we see:
The NO button: is designed as a ghost button which has the least affordance and weight of the three.
The MAYBE LATER button: gains some solidity by increasing the opacity
The YES button: has a fully opaque design represented by the primary call to action colour of the theme.
You can achieve a similar level of dominance by making the secondary action a link instead of a button, which is a great visual hierarchy design technique. What I don’t like is when people do this, but they make the “No thanks” link really tiny. If you’re going to provide an option, do it with a little dignity and make it easy to see and click.
See the “Maybe Later” Popup-to-Sticky-Bar Model in Action
Alrighty, demo time! I have a few instructions for you to follow to see it in action. I didn’t load the popup on this page as it’s supposed to be an entrance popup and I needed to set the scene first. But I’ll use some trickery to make it happen for you.
Follow these instructions and you’ll see “Maybe Later” in action:
Please note: this is desktop only. Reason being is that Google dislikes entrance popups on mobile. Sticky Bars are the Google-friendly way to present promos on mobile, so they work, but the combo isn’t appropriate.
Click the “Maybe Later” button and the popup will close.
Refresh that page and you’ll see a Sticky Bar with the same offer appear at the bottom.
Come back to this page.
Refresh this page and you’ll see the Sticky Bar here too.
Click “No thanks” to get rid of it when you’ve had enough
Here’s the entrance Popup you will see:
And the Sticky Bar you will see following that:
How to Use “Maybe Later” on Your Website
If you’d like to give it a try, follow the instructions below in your Unbounce account. (You should sign up for Unbounce if you haven’t already: you get Landing Pages, Popups, and Sticky Bars all in the same builder).
Caveat: This is not an official Unbounce feature, and as such is not technically supported. But it is damn cool. And if enough people scream really hard, maybe I’ll be able to persuade the product team to add it to the list. And please talk to a developer before trying this in a production environment.
Step 1: Create a Popup in Unbounce
Step 2: Add “Maybe Later” Script to the Popup
Add the following script “Before the body end tag”, replacing “lp-pom-button-50” with the id of your “Maybe Later” button, and unbounce.com with your own domain.
Set up the URL targeting for where you want the Sticky Bar to appear. This might be every page on your e-commerce site, or in my case just this post and another for testing.
Step 8: Set Cookie Targeting on Sticky Bar
Set the Trigger to “Arrival”, Frequency to “Every Visit”, and Cookie Targeting to show when the cookie we’re using is set. (You’ll see how it’s set in the next step).
Step 9: Add “Maybe Later” Code to Your Website
This is some code that allows the Popup and Sticky Bar to “talk” to its host page and set/delete the cookie.
// On receiving message from the popup set a cookie
window.onload = function()
var eventData = JSON.parse(e.data);
// Check for the later message
if (eventData === 'later')
document.cookie = "mlshowSticky=true; expires=Thu, 11 May 2019 12:00:00 UTC; path=/";
if (eventData === 'laterForget')
document.cookie = "mlshowSticky=; expires=Thu, 01 Jan 1970 00:00:00 UTC; path=/;";
// Listen for the message from the host page
Step 10: Enjoy Being Awesome
That’s all, folks!
What Do You Think?
I’d love to know what you think about this idea in the comments, so please jump in with your thoughts and ideas.
It’s 2018 already, and countless front-end developers are still leading a battle against complexity and immobility. Month after month, they’ve searched for the holy grail: a bug-free application architecture that will help them deliver quickly and with high quality. I am one of those developers, and I’ve found something interesting that might help.
We have taken a good step forward with tools such as React and Redux. However, they’re not enough on their own in large-scale applications.
Once upon a time, “Pay-Per-Click (PPC)” referred to a digital marketing practice where companies were charged each time somebody clicked on their search engine ads.
But with the rise of social, display and programmatic platforms, PPC marketing has expanded to involve more than search engines alone. These days, PPC specialists run paid campaigns across a variety of channels, and while the territory has changed, the reporting tactics haven’t.
Why your PPC reports aren’t awesome
You’re not alone if you find that the following things are holding you back from the advanced PPC reporting of your dreams.
1. The same words are used for different things
Most PPC specialists still end up pulling the same reports about the same quantitative metrics from Google Analytics. The problem is that different platforms (Facebook Audience Insights, Google AdWords Dimensions tab, Google Analytics, Bing Reporting) speak different languages.
Each platform’s PPC attribution models are different, their user data tracking is different, even some of their definitions are different.
Just look at how we measure “clicks.” On Adwords or Bing, a “click” means someone clicked from an ad through to your website. Meanwhile on Facebook, a “click” could mean clicking from an ad through to your Facebook page, your website, or just reacting to the ad itself.
With different platforms and tools telling you different things, it’s pretty easy to make inaccurate conclusions about your PPC performance.
2. Your reports rely purely on baseline metrics
Tactics and terminology aside, these quantitative metrics don’t paint the full qualitative picture. Seeing that your click-through rates have increased doesn’t necessarily explain why.
If you saw that the cost of bread went down one day, you wouldn’t blindly assume that production of wheat got cheaper overnight. You would look into the expiry date, the shelf date and examine the product to try to understand the story behind the numbers.
So what do your metrics actually mean, and how can they help you drive more qualified traffic to your site? We’re here to help you generate insights from your PPC reports and show you how PPC performance can impact your landing page strategy.
How to Build PPC Reports that Actually Are Awesome
You want your PPC reports to provide takeaways that you can use to optimize your campaigns. There are a few measures you can take, together or on their own, to better understand your campaign performance.
Determine a baseline and track conversions by channel
Surprise, surprise! A conversion is one more metric that differs by channel. This is partly because each platform has a different attribution model, and partly because users have different intentions and behaviours per platform.
For example, cost-per-clicks (CPCs) tend to be cheaper on Bing because there is less competition and a higher conversion rate due to an older demographic:
On the other hand, it’s easier to max out impression share and budget on Bing because there is less overall search volume compared to Google:
Similarly, a user landing on your website through a non-branded keyword is less likely to convert than someone clicking through a branded keyword. It can be even harder to identify intent through social platforms, as users scrolling through feeds may come across your ad and engage out of interest but not be ready to convert.
Establishing platform-specific KPIs is an essential step to ensure you know what success looks like on every channel.
Qualify your visitors and monitor by segment
Given that each individual user’s intention varies by platform, it’s important to target your ads where they will be best received.
Instead of assuming every interaction is equal, use your platform insights to identify key audience groups and segment for target personas.
Monitor how your paid traffic fluctuates overall and by target audiences:
How do your audiences convert differently across various platforms?
How do you measure success differently between your branded and non-branded search campaigns?
How are you targeting different user segments through social campaigns?
A great way to identify whether you’re attracting relevant traffic is by keeping a close eye on your Search Query Report in AdWords and Bing. This report allows you to see exactly what people typed into the search engine when your ad appeared, so that you can adjust your keywords accordingly.
Track absolutely everything
Are you noticing an abnormal bounce rate or reduced number of sessions week over week through a specific source or medium? Setting up event tracking through Google Tag Manager can help you better understand on-site behavior and create custom metrics.
Your primary conversion may be an e-commerce purchase, but that doesn’t mean newsletter sign ups aren’t valuable. Tracking micro-conversions can give you a clearer idea of how people are engaging with your site and where there might be gaps in information.
If you’re doing cross-channel online advertising (which you no doubt are), it’s important to be able to see all your metrics visualized in one place. It makes it easier to draw analyses and gather insights to then share with colleagues or clients.
PPC Reporting + Landing Pages = Even More Awesome
Of course, it’s not enough to just put your conversions and KPIs into a beautiful report — it’s what you do with your PPC insights that matters.
Let’s say you spent years learning how to make smart investments. You met with stockbrokers, studied the market and opened a brokerage account. Would you expect money to just start rolling in? Of course not — because you actually have to invest to see results.
Similarly, in order to make the most of your PPC insights, you have to act on them.
Begin by applying insights from your PPC metrics into your landing pages. You want to customize your landing pages to meet the needs of your key audiences so you can give users exactly what they’re looking for.
In this example of a landing page for a music school, the instrument type is swapped out depending on which ad is clicked.
Say a website sells furniture. If one user searches for “modern leather sofas” and another for “comfortable leather couches,” the ad copy for each result should reflect the search language.
The ads could then take users to the same landing page, but DTR would generate different titles or subheading text accordingly to match these original search terms. Everything else on the page may be the same, but both users would feel like they found exactly what they were looking for. This keeps landing pages hyper-relevant (and high-converting), and saves hours of redundant work.
Want to preview how you can use DTR to ensure relevance from ad to landing page? Try it out.
This makes it easier to see exactly what is affecting your Quality Score and which area you should improve on, whether it be ad relevance, landing page experience or expected CTR.
By syncing up your ads and landing pages, you can provide a frictionless experience to users and increase conversions.
Strong landing pages can also improve PPC performance as they increase Quality Score and landing page relevance, which lowers your CPC and increases ad ranking. This way, the users receive information that is highly relevant to what they are searching for.
Now to put a now on it
When all is said and done, landing pages should be A/B tested so you know which on-page factors lead to higher conversion rates. That way, your next PPC campaign can be informed by your landing page results, and your future landing pages can be informed by your PPC campaign performance. If that’s not a beautiful full circle, then we don’t know what is.
Do you ever think about how much money you might be wasting on Facebook? I’ve done it. And I’ve hated myself for it. It happens. You pour time and money into an ad campaign only for it to fall flat on its face. Often, that’s not your fault – it can be difficult to stand out on a site that has billions of users. At the same time, Facebook is an undeniable marketing juggernaut. Its reach is unlike any other site, and it’d be silly not to use it. So there’s an important question: How do you leverage the platform…
This week, I spent two jam-packed days at Unbounce’s fourth-ever Call To Action Conference. The one-track event featured some of today’s most influential digital marketing speakers like Mitch Joel, Kindra Hall, and Rand Fishkin.
Session topics ranged from integrity in marketing, to performance marketing success, to the marriage of SEO and conversion optimization. But most shared a common theme: Don’t forget about the real person behind that click.
Knowledge bombs were dropped, important conversations were had, and actionable insights were shared. So, in today’s post, I’m going to share some of my most important takeaways from CTA Conf.
If you attended the conference, please share your favorite takeaways in the comments below!
Unbounce Co-Founder, Oli Gardner, kicked things off on the first day.
Fun fact: Due to technical difficulties, Oli ended up acting out his entire opening video sequence (and most of the subsequent videos in his presentation). He handled the hiccup like a pro, of course, and launched into a great session on data-driven design.
One of the strongest points that Oli made was that digital marketing trends self-perpetuate, regardless of whether or not they are helpful to a user.
I know we, as data-driven marketers, ‘know’ this fact. We complain about ‘best practices’, and buzzwords, and yet we still get totally caught up in trends.
Remember when explainer videos became the end-all, be-all for homepages?
What happened? Hundreds of blog posts were written about explainer videos, and hundreds of explainer videos were produced to talk about how great explainer videos are. And then, every homepage on the internet featured an explainer video.
But…were all of those explainer videos really what customers needed? In some cases, but certainly not in all.
Instead, Oli spoke about the need to “mend trends”, and make design decisions based on data, rather than the most popular trend at the time.
We hold the same view at WiderFunnel. You can A/B test explainer video after explainer video. But to create truly impactful experiences, you have to go back to the research phase.
Use the data you have to drill into what you think are you most important business problems. And test hypotheses that attempt to solve for those problems.
2. Choose people, not personas
I’m not a big fan of personas. I’ve never kicked it with a persona.
– Wil Reynolds
But, without personas, how do I write the right copy for my customers at the right time?!
Conversion copywriter extraordinaire, Joel Klettke, spoke about how to read your customer’s mind. He emphasized the need to get past user personas and keywords, and focus on customer motivation instead.
We get stuck behind our screens, and start writing about ‘synergies’ and features that our customers really don’t care about.
– Joel Klettke
He outlined a framework for getting your customers to tell you about their pain points, anxieties, desired outcomes, and priorities, in their own words:
Note: I didn’t dig too deeply into the framework, here. But Joel put together a resource for CTA Conf attendees, and graciously gave me the green light to share it. Check it out here!
On Day 2, Claire Suellentrop built on this idea of the dated persona.
She explained that marketers collect many data points about our prospects, like…
Gender, age, location
Title, company, industry
Married, no kids, one puppy
…but asked whether or not all of that data actually helps us determine why a real human being just bought a new backpack from Everlane.
As an alternative, she suggested the Jobs To Be Done framework. JTBD refers to your customer’s struggle to make progress on something. When your customer overcomes that struggle, the job is done, and they have made progress.
The framework looks a little something like this:
“When ____________ (event that triggers the struggle), help me ______ (struggle / job) so I can __________ (better life / done).”
To identify your customers’ struggle, Claire suggests actually asking your customers. She outlined several sample questions:
“Take me back to life before [product]. What was it like?”
“What happened that compelled you to start looking for something different?”
“What happened when you tried [product] that made you confident it was right for you?”
“What can you do now that you couldn’t do before?”
One of my favorite speakers on Day 1 of CTA Conf was Kindra Hall. (Not surprising, as she is the storytelling expert).
Kindra dug into strategic storytelling in marketing. According to her, you should use a story every time you need to communicate value in your marketing.
Storytelling is powerful because real life humans are attracted to great stories. (And marketers talk to people after all).
Stories, according to Kindra, stick with us and make us do stuff because storytelling is a co-creative process.
“As I am telling you my story, you are creating your own in your mind. I am giving you my words, but you are meeting me half way, and we are creating a shared memory,” Kindra explained.
The most powerful moment in her talk came when she challenged the audience with the biggest storytelling mistake:
Too often, we allude to the story, but don’t actually tell it.
– Kindra Hall
She showed two example videos to illustrate her point. In the first, a company founder almost told her compelling story about losing both of her parents, but glossed over the details. The result was a pretty video, with pretty music that almost created feeling.
In the second video, the founder told her full story, explaining how losing her parents shaped her company and product. The difference in emotional impact was kind of incredible.
And making your customers feel is a huge part of making your customers act. Because we — consumers, people, humans — don’t buy products or services…we buy feelings.
Founder of Seer Interactive, Wil Reynolds, danced his way onto the stage, and delivered a really strong talk on SEO, conversion optimization, and the importance of people signals.
He didn’t mince words, explaining that marketers too often put conversions before customers. We ask “how do I get?” when we should be asking, “how do I help my customer get what they need?”
When you do an amazing job on search, you get to help people who are lost solve their problems.
– Wil Reynolds
Wil painted a picture of how we, as marketers, are letting our own wants override solving our customers’ problems. In the world of search, Wil pointed out that Google rewards pages that solve the searchers’ query. So solve the searchers’ query!
Much like we allude to stories, but often don’t tell them, we talk about listening to our customers, but often don’t really listen.
Instead of showing them product comparisons when they search “best CRM platform”, we pay to show them a landing page that claims “My product is the best! Get in my funnel!”
This isn’t just an issue in search or performance. In conversion optimization, there is an emphasis on velocity over user research. There is pressure to test more, and test faster.
But, we must take the time to do the research. To get as close to our customers’ problem, and tailor our marketing experience to their needs.
Building on Wil’s session on Day 1, SEO wizard, Rand Fishkin, gave the audience actionable tips around how to optimize for searcher intent.
Rand pointed to conversion optimization.
At its core, conversion optimization is about getting into your customers’ minds, and testing changes to get closer to the best possible customer experience. To give your customer what they need, you must soothe their pain points, and provide a solution.
You can apply this same concept to SEO: If you 1) gain a deep understanding of what searchers are seeking, and 2) determine why some searchers come away unsatisfied, you can optimize for searcher task accomplishment.
Unfortunately, Rand pointed out, there is still a conflict between SEO and CRO, because conversion rate and searcher satisfaction are sometimes in direct opposition.
For example, let’s say you want to get more blog subscriptions, so you add a pop-up to your blog post. This may lead to a higher conversion rate on the page, but lower searcher satisfaction. Some readers might bounce, which may lead to lower organic traffic.
But, Rand ended on a high note:
You can win with long-term thinking. By always asking, ‘are we building a brand that’s helping people succeed?’
One of the final speakers on Day 1 was marketing thought-leader, Mitch Joel, who shook things up a bit. Mitch spoke about what it means to be disruptive (and how to not fear disruption).
When I ask C-Suite marketers to define disruption, the definition is never consistent. In fact, I often don’t get a definition of disruption, I get a definition of destruction.
– Mitch Joel
He asked, if disruption is the big bad wolf, who are the heroes in this marketing story?
Well, like the three little pigs, Mitch discussed three ways to be disruptive rather than be disrupted:
Transformation: Business transformation is not your products or services, etc. It’s inside out. And it starts with technology. You need to be using the same tech, same form of communication that your customers are using.
Innovative marketing: Innovation is not re-allocation of resources. It isn’t investing more in Google Adwords versus another channel. Real innovation is about making and creating new products and experiences that we can use to market with.
Micro-transactions: Marketers and businesses get caught up in the macro transaction, in the purchase. But we live in a world of micro-transactions. This is the customer journey, and it is extremely important to understand.
Mitch Joel emphasized the fact that if you can apply these ‘three little pigs’ to your business model, you will be in a great place, though he recognized that it’s not always easy.
Senior Conversion Optimizer at Unbounce, Michael Aagaard, closed out the two-day conference. His message was a simple but powerful warning against the trap of confirmation bias.
We, as humans, are not interested in information, but confirmation.
– Michael Aagaard
Confirmation bias refers to our tendency to search for and recall information in ways that confirm our existing beliefs, hypotheses, and expectations. And it is a threat to data-driven marketing.
When you A/B test, you are searching for objectivity. You are trying to figure out which variation your users prefer, outside of your own opinions and beliefs about what works best.
But it’s rarely that simple, even if you are a pro.
Michael showed us a landing page that he analyzed for a client, featuring a stock photo hero image. He said he had railed against the photo, and shown the client examples of the hundreds of other stock photos featuring the same model.
But, when he tested the landing page, he found that the original version, featuring the ‘terrible’ stock photo, was the clear winner.
“Maybe,” he said, “users don’t spend hours scouring the internet for stock photo sinners like I do.”
He urged the audience to be bold enough to be wrong, to challenge our hypotheses, and get out of the marketing bubble when we are trying to solve problems.
If we don’t get out of the marketing bubble, we end up making assumptions, and designing experiences for ourselves.
– Michael Aagaard
Go hang out with your customer success teams and sales teams; get outsider input on your ‘great’ ideas. Go find your own natural skeptic, and challenge your hypotheses.
Were you at CTA Conf 17? What were your most important takeaways? Who were your favorite speakers, and why? Let us know in the comments!
2017 will forever be known as the year Google adopted a mobile-first strategy. Some people will think of that way, at least. Probably not too many, actually, but that doesn’t lessen the significance of the shift. Your mobile web strategy is now, simply, your web strategy. Why is this so important? By late 2016, more than half of all Google searches were conducted from mobile devices, and over 77% of web searches are through Google. So when the company announced this year it would prioritize mobile sites over desktop to determine relevance and ranking, it was kind of a big…
If you’re an active social networker, you already know that travel photos and social media go together like… aerial shots of brunch and social media.
So when we decided to throw a social media contest together for our upcoming Call to Action Conference, it seemed only fitting to make it travel themed. Not just because we like taking 10-second mental vacations by staring at pretty pictures of pretty places. But because Unbounce has done a little travelling itself.
After expanding to the German, Brazilian and Spanish markets over the past year, we opened an official Berlin office in January. Four walls, front door, ever-flowing kaffee and all. We’re thrilled that this year’s conference is the first we’ll host as a truly international company — and we want to celebrate by putting you on a plane with a free ticket to Call to Action Conference 2017.
What we want to know is:
What’s your favourite place in the world?
Tweet and/or Instagram a photo of wherever that may be (be it from your iPhoto gallery or Google Images, we can’t tell and we don’t care) with the caption:
“Fly me to #CTAConf @unbounce and make me love Vancouver as much as I love [insert location]”!
The winner will be announced at noon PST on Friday, June 3rd and receive a $1,000 flight voucher as well as a free ticket to Call to Action Conference, worth $999.
Click below for more contest details if you want them. And if you’re thinking, “What is CTAConf and why do I want a ticket to it?” then see what all the hoopla’s about.