It’s about time that we take a step back and have a little chuckle at ourselves. Image via Shutterstock.
Plenty of products and services help people, making them healthier and happier. For those things, marketing is great — but sometimes, the way we talk about ourselves is absurd. Yeah, I said it, it’s absurd, but it’s all right because this post has a happy ending (stay tuned).
If you work in any sort of marketing role, you might have noticed that as a collective, we’ve done something incredible:
We’ve turned buzzwords into real, salaried jobs.
You can be a Growth Hacker these days, or a Content Marketer. If you work somewhere really cool, you might even be a Conversion Ninja. Plenty of people do these jobs (myself included) and one day we’ll have the awkward pleasure of explaining to our grandchildren what it was like being paid to be a Solutions Architect, or a Dev Mogul.
“Neat, grandpa! Did you invent a new form of calculus?”
“No, son. But I had over 25,000 Twitter followers. I was an influencer.”
This is the part-time nihilist’s guide to all those marketing terms you hate (but need). It might also clarify why your parents will never understand what the heck your job is.
Homer gets back to basics with marketing. Video: Fox.
Disclaimer: This post tears down marketing terms and the idea of becoming an influencer. We hope that it is popular and that you share it. We see the irony, and we’re disgusted by it, so just move on, okay?
Being considered an “expert” or a “genius”
To be considered an expert in most other professions, you need to have studied and practiced for years and years and years. You study, you’re tested, you pass, you advance. After what feels like a lifetime of this, people trust you as a voice of authority, as an expert.
Pro tip: Inclusion in a listicle or roundup guarantees automatic employment — should you want it — with some of the most prestigious companies in Silicon Valley.
There are expert marketers, of course: people who have been to school, who dedicate their lives to the craft of combining insight and communication into the most irresistible calls to action. But if you’ve got a profile photo, maybe a Linkedin Premium account, and a byline on somewhere like Unbounce (Hey, that’s me!), you might be considered an expert.
This will do one of two things to you:
It’ll make you lazy, because you’ll think that you’ve reached the top of the mountain. (By the way, there’s no top. There’s no mountain either.)
It’ll scare the crap out of you, and you’ll work your ass off to become a genuine expert, or at least, someone with useful insights.
I hope for everyone’s sake that it’s the second one.
Bonus option: You’ll develop a nasty case of Imposter Syndrome, where you’ll live in constant fear of being called out. It’ll make you triple your efforts, but it’ll never be enough.
Pursuing “thought leadership”
As a marketer, when you have a good idea, you call it a thought leadership piece and you milk it until it’s red and sore. Never mind the idea that “thought leadership” sounds like some sort of mind control, it’s just damned impressive that we managed to turn the act of having ideas into a tool for marketing.
In a way, being considered a thought leader is a lot like being considered an expert. Not so long ago there were real thought leaders, people like Albert Einstein and Martin Luther King Jr.. Now, all you need to do is tip that scale from 9,999 followers to 10,000 and praise, be! You’re a thought leader.
“One of us, one of us, one of us.” Video: Fox
Free infographics and ebooks
The only real way to tell whether a post is legitimate — whether the author’s really serious about the information they’re giving you — is to check for an associated infographic or ebook. At Unbounce, they call these in-post giveaways Conversion Carrots. Some other places call them Lead Magnets. I call them necessary evil.
“Can we make it go viral?”
I once worked at a place where a department, armed with five grand, asked us if we could make them a viral video. In their defense, they didn’t understand the process of how something becomes viral (another gross marketing term), so points at least for the thought. But directly asking for a viral video, or setting out with the intention of making a viral video, is like marrying a stranger for the tax benefits, and not because you love them.
Hey bud, if you RT me, I’ll RT you.
As a marketer, you want eyeballs. You’re hungry for eyeballs, you want to pour them all over your website. Some people have lots of eyeballs looking at them; those people are called influencers, and if you’re kind to them, sometimes they’ll let you borrow their eyeball collections.
People with a lot of eyeballs in their collection tend to be good at making things go viral. They often make infographics and eBooks, as well. They are the Aaron Orendorffs of the world (Hey, man!), and they are all-powerful.
“We simply could not function without his tireless efforts.” Video: Fox
“Epic,” “unicorn,” “guru,” etc.
No, it’s not. No, they’re not. No, you’re not.
“We need more user-generated content.”
The idea behind user-generated content is sound; it’s word-of-mouth for a digital age. Having a strategy to develop user-generated content, though?
Do you ever watch those videos publications like Gothamist do on some donut shop in Brooklyn that’s been around for 140 years? You think, “Wow, they must have a lot of user-generated content!” No, they just make great donuts. If you want your users to generate more content, just make stuff they like.
“Can’t get enough of that Sugar Crisp!” Video: Fox
Time to follow in mommy and daddy’s footsteps?
For over 20 years my dad spent most of his days with his hands plunged into ice water, gutting and slicing one fish at a time. I spend my days trying to get prospects to type their names into a CTA form field. In those final years before the sun explodes and we’re all plunged into an every-man-for-himself scenario, who’s going to be more useful? My money’s on the old man.
I told you that there was a happy ending, and in a way, the sun exploding and annihilating everything from Mercury out past Pluto is a happy ending. It’s a reminder that we’re all in this together, from your parents and their grinding manual labor jobs, to us word-pickers and graph-checkers who moan when we can’t find the right long-tail keywords to optimize conversion rates. One day everyone that’s left will go together, burning up with all the finest email lists, and all the leads. It’s all going to be fine.
People make some great stuff, and for the short time we’re here, it’s up to us to help get it in front of as many of the right people as possible. That’s your job, and it’s a fun one.
What are some of the marketing terms you hate to need? Drop them in the comments below, then download this free infographic. Jokes, there’s no infographic.
2015 may have been touted as the year of the video in the marketing world, but despite that, branded videos have continued earning their space within every marketer’s toolkit throughout the entirety of 2016. While it may seem that only big companies have the resources at hand to create extraordinarily well made branded videos, you should not let the highly visual, artistically edited elements convince you that you cannot replicate a similar video for your business. You do not have to be a world-class creative mind with a massive budget to produce viable video content that people actually want to…
Let’s face it: video marketing is getting harder. And social media platforms like Facebook are making it even more complex. From evergreen content to “disappearing” videos, there’s a lot of content out there and you need to cut through the noise. But there’s still plenty of opportunity. According to Vibhi Kant, Product Manager at Jie Xu: people spend more than 3 times watching Facebook Live video when they’re actually live. That’s a lot of attention waiting to be tapped into. Twitter first opened the doors for live video with Periscope. But according to our own stats from within the Unmetric…
You can pound your keyboard for months – trying to craft perfect copy that succinctly explains your product or service, but sometimes all you really need is a great explainer video. Something that sits front and center on your home page and delivers your message perfectly. Something like this: You can go to one of the many explainer video companies, you can hire a freelancer, or you can try to make one yourself. Each of those options has its pros and cons. A company might be expensive, but you’ll get a quality video. Freelancers are cheaper, but it’s hard to…
On Sunday, June 19, the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Golden State Warriors in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. The franchise, founded in 1970, had never won an NBA championship.
A few weeks after the Cavs’ victory, Nike released a spot called “Worth the Wait”.
As of this article being published, the video on YouTube has over 5.6 million views.
Every time I watch this video, my throat tightens and I tear up a little. I’m not from Ohio (in fact, I’m from a notorious rival state), the Cavs are not my team, I’m not even a huge basketball fan. But this ad makes me feel. It taps into something deeply human, feelings of community and triumph.
Nike is incredible at this. From their 2012 “Find Your Greatness” campaign to their 2014 ad for the World Cup “Winner Stays” (which has more than 40 million views on YouTube), Nike knows how to elicit emotion.
And it’s clear they spend big bucks to do it. Why?
Because Nike knows that we — consumers, people, humans — don’t buy products or services…we buy feelings.
Comfort. Acceptance. Power. Freedom. Control. Love. We are all longing to find satisfaction for our intangible desires. If you can provide a payoff for your prospects’ unspoken needs, you will find yourself handsomely rewarded.
If you’re a marketer, chances are you’ve heard about the ‘old’, ‘middle’ and ‘new’ brains in relation to how we make (buying) decisions. The 3 brains refer to the structure of the brain in relation to its evolutionary history. Here’s a brief overview.
In the 1940’s, Paul MacLean popularized the triune brain theory, where he categorized the brain into 3 parts: Reptilian (old, sensory), Limbic (middle, emotional) and Neocortex (new, rational).
The reptilian brain evolved first and controls the body’s core functions from heart rate to breathing to balance. It’s called the reptilian brain because it includes the brainstem and cerebellum (the main structures found in a reptile’s brain).
The limbic brain came next and includes the hippocampus, the amygdala and the hypothalamus. This is the part of your brain that records memories of behaviors that produced pleasant or unpleasant experiences: it’s responsible for your emotions and value judgements.
The last to evolve, the neocortex is credited with the development of human language, abstract thought, imagination and consciousness. It includes the two large cerebral hemispheres and has almost infinite learning abilities.
So, which of the 3 brains buys?
In classic economic theory, consumers are rational economic actors who make choices after considering all relevant information, using the new brain. While this may well hold true for large purchases, like insurance or a house, recent research has pointed to the power of our older brains in everyday purchase decisions (like buying that pair of Nikes).
Neuroscientist Joseph LeDoux explained “…the wiring of the brain at this point in our evolutionary history is such that connections from the emotional systems to the cognitive systems are stronger than connections from the cognitive systems to the emotional systems.”
LeDoux is suggesting that our brain waves flow from old brain to new brain, meaning our decision-making processes are much less rational than we’d all like to believe.
Moreover, feelings happen before thought and they happen far faster.
We have gut reactions in three seconds or less. In fact, emotions process sensory input in only one-fifth the time our conscious, cognitive brain takes to assimilate that same input. Quick emotional processing also happens with cascading impact. Our emotional reaction to a stimulus resounds more loudly in our brain than does our rational response, triggering the action to follow.
In recent years, the science dubbed neuromarketing has begun to emerge; it “bridges the study of consumer behavior with neuroscience”. The first piece of neuromarketing research was published in Neuron in 2004 by Read Montagne, Professor of Neuroscience at Baylor College of Medicine.
Dr. Montague studied a group of people as they drank either a Pepsi or Coca Cola while their brains were scanned with an fMRI machine. The results suggested that a strong brand (like Coca Cola) could “own” a piece of a person’s frontal cortex.
The brain is responsible for all consumer behaviors…we only use about 20% of our brains consciously. Worse, we do not control the bulk of our attention since we are too busy scanning the environment for potential threats. Because nothing matters more than survival, we are in fact largely controlled by the ancient part of our brain know as the R-complex or the reptilian brain.
Morin goes on to quote neuroscientist Antonio Damasio who said, “We are not thinking machines that feel, we are feeling machines that think.” We are proud of our thinking abilities, but the fact of the matter is, our brains have relied on instinct for millions of years.
Research would suggest that we can optimize our marketing messaging by speaking to consumers’ reptilian brains.
The old brain’s responsiveness to openings and finales
The old brain’s affinity for visuals
The old brain’s responsiveness to emotional persuasion
And we’re back to emotions. To that Nike ad that makes me cry. And then really want some Nikes.
Note: Neuromarketing is not without its critics who voice ethical concerns akin to those that arose in the days of subliminal messaging. There are concerns that this research could lead to manipulation of consumers. It’s up to the marketing community to use this know-how to benefit the consumer first. With great knowledge, comes great responsibility.
System 1 and System 2
Dual-process theory is another cognitive theory about how we make decisions; it originated in the 1970’s and 1980’s and has been developed in more recent years.
The “dual” refers to the 2 cognitive systems we use everyday. In 1999, Professor of Applied Psychology at the University of Toronto, Keith E. Stanovich dubbed the two systems (rather generically) System 1 and System 2 in order to label the 2 different sets of properties. The terminology stuck.
This table showcases clusters of attributes frequently associated with the dual-process theory of higher cognition.
Characteristics to note within the intuitive process are fast, nonconscious, automatic, and experience-based decision making. In other words, our intuitive cognitive system is easier, requiring less focus and energy.
It follows that, if you can tap into your customers’ natural affinity for old brain, system 1 decision making, you’ll most likely see an uptick in conversions.
The level of dominance of each process at a particular time is the key determinant of purchasing decisions. Visitors are more likely to add a product to their cart when the emotional process takes control as they are directed by ‘how it feels’ and not ‘is it worth it.’…Advertising is above all a way to groom the emotional state.
It happens often: during our Explore phase, a client’s users will tell us (via surveys and other forms of qualitative feedback) that they want more information to…well…inform their purchase. Users often vocalize a desire for more description, more specs, presumably so that they can make a rational, thoughtful decision.
We also often have clients who come to us, assuming that their users need more information to make a purchase decision, particularly if their product is technically complex. And yet, time and time again, we test more information against a Control and more information looses.
Get rid of half the words on each page, then get rid of half of what’s left.
Of course, you must take this suggestion with a grain of salt. Your users may, in fact, respond to more information versus less (we’ve seen that too!) but given all of the research that points toward “we buy feelings and rationalize our decisions later” it’s certainly worth testing more concise product descriptions, information hidden behind tabs, etc.
We can’t all be Nike, and Nike’s tactics certainly wouldn’t work for all of us. But when you’re considering your customers’ decision-making, be sure to take into account how you can up the feels.
In his book, You Should Test That!, Chris Goward discusses the “Intangible Benefits” of your Value Proposition. This is where the feelings associated with your brand sit. The question is, how can you highlight these intangibles?
Test video case studies and testimonials against written ones (visuals appeal to the old brain). Test copy that emphasizes your credibility and trustworthiness (alleviate consumer anxiety), test copy that emphasizes social proof (tap into consumer FOMO and yearning for community). Make your users feel: happy, sad, afraid, connected, angry.
Because we don’t buy things. We buy feelings.
How do you make your users feel? How do you emphasize the intangible benefits of your offering? Let us know in the comments!
Not everything that glitters is gold. Only by testing can you know for sure if you’ve hit the jackpot. Image via Shutterstock.
So far, video backgrounds have been implemented fairly successfully on websites (they add a certain cool-factor, right?), but there is some debate over whether or not they should be used on landing pages. While video backgrounds may look beautiful, initial research reveals that they could prove too distracting for some landing pages, and could contribute to lower conversion rates.
As is the case with most new innovations in web design, it can be tempting to use this new technology without a clear understanding on how it affects conversion.
Nonetheless, marketers love video backgrounds: they are modern, appeal to the inner design ego in all of us and have already been hailed as one of the biggest design trends of 2016. Trendy marketers have made it clear that they definitely want to use them on landing pages.
In fact, when Unbounce released video backgrounds as a built in feature, it become one of the most popular discussions in our community. Ever. And, when we opened it up for beta testing, we got some pretty enthusiastic responses.
Like Jon here…
And, of course, Gary…
So, video backgrounds on a website? Go for it. But video backgrounds on a landing page? Not so fast.
Here’s why: Video backgrounds can make pages load slower and distract visitors from your Call to Action (CTA). And since every great landing page has only one end goal (conversions), it begs the question: Should we nix the idea of using video background altogether?
Well, not entirely.
Like anything else you implement on a landing page, you’re going to want to test that puppy out thoroughly to see what effect (if any) it has on conversion rates.
Here at Unbounce, we’ve been testing out the use of video backgrounds on landing pages. Based on our results, we’ve come up with some guidelines outlining when to use a video background versus a static hero imageand best practices for applying a video background.
When should you use a video background on a landing page?
I looped in Unbounce’s senior conversion expert, Michael Aagaard, to explain how using a video background on landing pages has worked for us:
We’ve been experimenting with video backgrounds for a while now. What we see is a tendency for video backgrounds to work well on landing pages where the goal is to communicate a certain “vibe” or “feeling.
In other words, video backgrounds could work well on landing pages that promote a unique atmosphere, like a conference, performing arts event or restaurant.
Video backgrounds can help demonstrate a hard-to-describe experience or atmosphere.
When shouldn’t you use a video background on a landing page?
Aagaard explains that video backgrounds could have an adverse effect on landing pages when there’s a complex sales offer at stake. When that’s the case, he recommends concentrating on the landing page copy to convince users to convert:
With more complex offers where you need to read a lot of copy in the first screenful, video backgrounds can be a bit distracting.
Copy has a direct and measurable effect on landing page conversions. If your offer requires a lot of explaining, use your words rather than running the risk of distracting visitors with video.
The Unbounce house rules for using video backgrounds
Landing pages are different from websites, and thus deserve their own set of laws for applying video backgrounds. Here’s our (not-yet-foolproof) list of ground rules for using video backgrounds on a landing page. Is this a comprehensive, complete, end-all, be-all list? Of course not! Join the dialogue and add your own rules and/or lessons learned in the comments below.
1. Avoid major distractions
Keep the conversion goal front and center. The video background content should always support the overall goal of the page. ConversionXL founder Peep Laja has a similar opinion:
Video that doesn’t add value works against the conversion goal.
Essentially, video backgrounds shouldn’t distract visitors from the primary goal of the page — rather, they should supplement or enhance the CTA.
The video background on this landing page enhances the CTA without distracting visitors.
2. Contrast is essential
In most cases, you’ll want to have some text layered on top of the video background — make sure it’s legible and easy to read throughout the entire video loop. Generally, aim for a strong light/dark contrast between the video background and the copy.
One way to ensure full, legible contrast is by applying a solid, monochromatic filter on top of the video. Not only does this look super professional, but also the color contrast makes the text, form and CTA on the landing page really pop.
The monochromatic filter applied on top of this video background makes the text and CTA really pop. BTW, like this ^? Log into Unbounce to use this brand spankin’ new template.
3. Short loop
A 5-10 second video loop should be enough time to get the point across without sacrificing quick load time.
Keep in mind that a background video will be playing on a constant loop. If the video is too short, the loop will appear disjointed or incomplete. On the other hand, if the video is too long, the viewer may click away from the website, or onto another page before the video has had a chance to work its magic in eliciting the desired emotional response.
Look for (or produce) a simple looping background that is relevant to the content of your landing page. There are many libraries of stock video clips online (here’s a pretty good roundup). If you can’t produce your own footage, make sure to double-check the copyrights associated with any video before you use it.
The general rule of thumb is that sound should always be muted (on all Unbounce pages, audio is turned off by default). If, for some reason, you need to add sound to your video background, don’t autoplay the video with sound — let viewers press play when they’re ready.
5. Remove visual controls
As long as the video content is relevant and the quality sufficient, there should be no reason for landing page visitors to press play or pause.
So, if you follow all of our House Rules, placing a video in the background of your landing page should increase conversion, right? Or, at the very least, it won’t actually hurt conversion… right?
Video backgrounds are still in the early days of their inception and, like any good data-driven marketer, you’re going to want to take it for a test drive before committing fully.
A/B testing is both an art and a science. It’s also very unpredictable. Most marketing departments, usability specialists, designers and management rely on a mixture of experience, gut instinct and personal opinion when it comes to deciding what makes a delightful marketing experience for their customers.
We recommend running an A/B test to compare how your page performs with a video background compared to a static image. Start by segmenting a small portion of traffic towards the page — just to be safe.
At the end of the day, it’s your customers and your brand that will decide what converts best.
If you’ve ever worked in an agile environment, chances are you’ve had your share of “retrospectives” — meetings where people write what made them “glad,” “mad” or “sad” onto different-colored notes, post them onto a board, arrange them in groups and — most importantly — talk about them.
These meetings are straightforward, as long as everyone is in the same room. But if you’re working with a locally distributed team, things can get a bit tricky. Let’s address this by creating a virtual version of our board to allow team members in different locations to hold their retrospective just as if they were in the same room.
And given how powerful video is in the online conversion process, “best practice” articles are everywhere…
But this is not one of them.
Instead, here is a list of worst practices. So you know what to avoid.
Because it’s easy to screw up your conversions with video and waste enormous amounts of time and money in the process.
With that in mind, let’s dive into six ways to make landing page videos that suck… and exactly what you should be doing instead.
1. Don’t educate
As stressed above, videos are one of the most effective tools to propel people toward that conversion.
But there’s a catch.
When Wyzowl surveyed over 230 companies for their State of Video Marketing 2016 study, 72% of respondents reported that video “improved the conversion rate of their website.” That’s up from 57% last year.
However, when those same companies were asked, “What is the primary reason you use video?” a mere 23% actually answered to “increase conversions.”
By a landslide, the number one reason was to “educate customers.” And though this finding applies to websites in general and not just landing pages, it does provide a key insight: A high-converting video is one that’s focused on meeting people’s real needs (i.e., educating them)… not on converting them.
The difference is subtle, but has huge implications. If your goal is to simply “get the click,” your video will reflect that. It’ll inevitably be about you and your product, you and your service, you and your email list, you and your social media account, you and your…
You get the idea.
If you want your landing page video to suck, then don’t educate your audience.
If you want it to shine, then teach your audience something valuable.
Sticker Mule, for instance, takes an educational approach with its video:
In less than a minute, Sticker Mule subtly creates demand by presenting its “transfer” stickers — also known as “vinyl-cut stickers or vinyl lettering” — as a medium for your most intricate designs.
Namely, Sticker Mule educates its audience about how “after one year of research and testing [its] developed a one-of-a-kind process” that not only reduces cost but makes application easy. As pointed out, you “Simply remove the backing, set it on the surface, rub it, and then slowly pull the transfer tape off to reveal your design.”
In other words, Sticker Mule teaches its audience exactly how to use the product, with an emphasis on simplicity and durability. And as Sticker Mule CEO Anthony Thomas told me, “After adding this video to our website, we saw our conversion rate go up by 17%.”
The videos are about how to use landing pages to capture leads… and not only is there a call to action on the page itself (“Send me new episodes”) but also the videos capture leads using Wistia’s Turnstile email collector. (I’ll say more about CTAs in point four.)
For now, here’s a snapshot of the latest numbers for The Landing Page Sessions:
Even more impressive than views, however, are the conversions. When the first video was less than a month old, Wistia reported, “Thus far, with three released episodes, [the] campaign’s videos have received over 3,000 views and captured over 600 email addresses.”
2. Don’t make it simple
If you want your landing videos to suck, then go for complexity.
Complexity can take many shapes: technical complexity, messaging complexity, production complexity…
Consider telaFirm, the now out-of-business telephone verification service:
Notice the jargon-heavy language in response to the question, “How do I get started?”: “Verification is easy for you and your customer. telaFirm’s service is integrated into your existing website via a convenient, platform-independent API.”
In addition, instead of focusing on a single problem, a single solution and therefore a single call to action, the video attempts to pack an explanation of all telaFirm’s services into 2:22. For instance, at 1:28 they introduce “PhoneTrace,” and again rely on unnecessarily complex and technical language: “Another telaFirm advantage is the optional ability to detect and block VOIP numbers through our PhoneTrace solution …”
While initially seductive — especially if you’re going for depth — complexity is a conversion killer. It confuses, overwhelms, dilutes value and doesn’t give your audience a compelling reason to act.
The antidote is simplicity.
And this is true across the board. After surveying more than 7,000 consumers and interviewing hundreds of marketing executives and other experts globally, Harvard Business Review discovered that what makes consumers sticky — “that is, likely to follow through on an intended purchase, buy the product repeatedly, and recommend it to others” — is one common characteristic:
We looked at the impact on stickiness of more than 40 variables, including price, customers’ perceptions of a brand, and how often consumers interacted with the brand. The single biggest driver of stickiness, by far, was “decision simplicity” — the ease with which consumers can gather trustworthy information about a product and confidently and efficiently weigh their purchase options. What consumers want from marketers is, simply, simplicity.
The king of video simplicity is Dropbox. Here’s exactly what its first landing page looked like:
The video is banal, a simple three-minute demonstration of the technology as it is meant to work, but it was targeted at a community of technology early adopters … If you’re paying attention, you start to notice that the files he’s moving around are full of in-jokes and humorous references that were appreciated by this community of early adopters.
Drew [Houston, founder and CEO of Dropbox] recounted, “It drove hundreds of thousands of people to the website. Our beta waiting list went from 5,000 people to 75,000 people literally overnight. It totally blew us away.”
Fast forward to today and DropBox’s videos are still just as simple — if not more. Now its videos focus more on the customers and how the product itself can simplify their lives with organization, connectivity and storage.
In other words, where telaFirm focuses on the features, Dropbox zeroes in on the benefits.
But what if you have a particularly complex industry or product?
Don’t fret. Even complex ideas can be put into simple terms, especially if you use video.
Take Choozle’s video for example, whose advanced digital advertising tool is explained using simple imagery, focusing on the main benefits and — of course — starting with the pain point and addressing how the company resolves it.
To ensure your video keeps it simple, ask yourself:
Am I zeroing in on the benefits rather than the features?
If I do include features, is the language easy to understand for a complete outsider?
Are there any technical terms that I need to explain… or cut entirely?
Does my video center on one problem, one solution and one call to action?
3. Don’t tell a story
The worst thing to do is build your video around your product.
This is profoundly counterintuitive, especially when you consider the videos featured above. But, as Drew Houston explained regarding Dropbox:
To the casual observer, the Dropbox demo video looked like a normal product demonstration, but we put in about a dozen Easter eggs that were tailored for the Digg audience. References to Tay Zonday and ‘Chocolate Rain’ and allusions to Office Space and XKCD. It was a tongue-in-cheek nod to that crowd, and it kicked off a chain reaction. Within 24 hours, the video had more than 10,000 Diggs.
The point is that Dropbox’s landing page video had a host of connection points that resonated with the story its target audience already identified with. This is exactly why the Easter eggs worked. The references and allusions were tailored to reach the company’s target audience by calling subtle attention to the message: “Dropbox is just like you. We love the same things you love. Our story is your story.”
But, how do you create a compelling story when time is of the essence?
To create a compelling story, you need four ingredients: a goal, a hero, a problem and a supporter. The following graphic is a simplified version of what’s known as the Hero’s Journey or the Fairy Tale Model from Storytelling: Branding in Practice:
But what does this look like in an actual landing page video?
First, the goal or mission: In order to grow, online business need to “build and maintain relationships with people interested in its product or service.”
Second, the hero: The business owners themselves.
Third, the obstacle: Spending money to get visitors only to have them “scroll, click, leave, and never come back.” The video also includes two other common obstacles: lack of time and lack of expertise. However, every obstacle is framed as an obstacle to the original mission.
Fourth, the supporter: Notice that GetResponse is not the hero. Instead, the business owner is the protagonist (at the risk of sounding like a freshman English professor). GetResponse’s only role is to help guide the hero toward the solution, and that’s exactly how each feature is presented — not as an abstract function, but as a key benefit to move the hero toward the original goal.
4. Don’t have a compelling CTA
Compelling CTAs are the holy grail of landing pages… the same is true for video.
The truth is you can have the most educational, story-driven and downright enjoyable landing page video, but without a click-worthy CTA, it’s all for nothing.
To start, your video’s CTA should align not only with the content of the video itself, but also with the landing page. This doesn’t just mean being consistent. More importantly, it means being singular. Naturally, you can have more than one button. But make sure every button has the same driving outcome, and make it incredibly clear what you want the user to do is also at the top of the list.
This is where design principles come in, namely what Oli calls the attention ratio. He explains that an effective landing page should have one goal and just one way to get there. This increases the chances of your lead taking your desired action.
So, what’s this mean for your landing page video? Only give your audience one option. Eliminate all else.
You can use your videos as creative calls to action that promote your best content, guide leads along the buyer’s journey, gain subscribers, bring viewers to your website and even gather their contact information.
To do this, there are essentially two approaches available: off-video CTA and in-video CTA.
For the first approach, take a look at Wistia’s landing page. The central goal is to drive leads to request a demo. The team uses their landing page video as a supportive resource to provide educational information, as well as to offer a push toward their goal of getting those demo requests. However, be wary of not using a contrasting color for your CTA, like the one below.
Watch the video. Request a demo. Image via Wistia.
Here’s another great example that includes using a full form right next to the video as a way to unlock it:
Check out that sexy directional cue. Image via Unbounce.
For the second approach, you can experiment with adding CTAs within your videos as gates.
Gating your video before it starts will pre-screen leads. Are they actually interested in viewing your video? Or are they just meandering around the web? Using a gate in the middle of your video is like giving them a teaser and then asking, “Want more?” Gating at the end of video will mean you’ve already qualified a viewer’s interest, so you have the opportunity to push them deeper into the sales funnel with more force.
While the video itself isn’t on a landing page but rather a microsite, Unbounce took this approach by adding a gate to its first Landing Page Sessions video at the two-minute mark using Wistia’s Turnstile:
The off-video version (A) converted at 6%, which is pretty impressive. However, the in-video version (B) dominated, yielding an 11% conversion rate for “the same sample traffic.” That’s an 83.3% increase.
Whatever method you choose, in the end, your CTA is the golden lever to your conversions. It’s what ultimately prompts your visitor to deliver themselves unto the heaven that is your product. So make sure you make it clear, easy and relevant.
5. Don’t pay attention to the page design
Another huge conversion killer is investing all your time and energy in one amazing video… but ignoring how it appears and functions on the page.
So how do you build an effective video landing page and not just an effective landing page video?
First, keep the design simple and consistent. Do this by matching the font, color scheme and overall feel of the page to the video itself.
Next, make the video the hero by using size as its dominating factor. Size is perceived as relative to importance, so naturally, if you want your audience to watch the video, make it the most prominent element on the landing page.
Simply stated: The bigger something is, the more noticeable it is. Size is related to Dominance, but the difference is that Size is relative to everything on the page — or page section, as opposed to its proximal relatives. Hence, the largest thing on the page can be perceived as the most important.
CrazyEgg’s previous landing page is a phenomenal example of this principle in action:
What’s more, Neil Patel reported that video drove “an extra $21,000 a month in new income.”
6. Don’t disable autoplay
Enabling autoplay is like forcing your way into your visitors’ world… without their permission.
It’s no secret that video-marketing experts Maneesh Garg, Sarah Nochimowski and Maneesh Garg all hate autoplay. And when Ask Your Target Market posed the question, “What do you think about videos that play automatically on sites like Facebook and Instagram?” the results were clear:
Admittedly, those number apply more directly to social media. But the sentiments behind them are nearly universal.
Full-stack marketing agency KlientBoost has a whole list of landing page video commandments, the first being “Do. Not. Autoplay. (Or Thou Shalt Be Smited).”
Autoplay is intrusive. It’s pushy. And nobody likes to have to unexpectedly scramble for the volume knob. Resist the urge to overwhelm your audience with the video that you’re excited about showing. Disable autoplay and instead make your play button obvious and prominent.
Make your landing page video suck…
There you have it.
Six surefire ways to make sure your landing page video sucks:
Don’t make it simple.
Don’t tell a story.
Don’t have a compelling CTA.
Don’t pay attention to the page design.
Don’t disable auto-play
Of course, if you would like to make landing page videos that convert like wildfire… might I suggesting doing the exact opposite.
If you have your own examples of landing page videos that suck (or some that don’t), be sure to share them in the comments.
Web accessibility is about people. Successful web accessibility is about anticipating the different needs of all sorts of people, understanding your fellow web users and the different ways they consume information, empathizing with them and their sense of what is convenient and what frustratingly unnecessary barriers you could help them to avoid.
Armed with this understanding, accessibility becomes a cold, hard technical challenge. A firm grasp of the technology is paramount to making informed decisions about accessible design.
How do assistive technologies present a web application to make it accessible for their users? Where do they get the information they need? One of the keys is a technology known as the accessibility API (or accessibility application programming interface, to use its full formal title).
Reading The Screen
To understand the role of an accessibility API in making Web applications accessible, it helps to know a bit about how assistive technologies provide access to applications and how that has evolved over time.
A World of Text
With the text-based DOS operating system, the characters on the screen and the cursor position were held in a screen buffer in the computer’s memory. Assistive technologies could obtain this information by reading directly from the screen buffer or by intercepting signals being sent to a monitor. The information could then be manipulated — for example, magnified or converted into an alternative format such as synthetic speech.
The arrival of graphical interfaces such as OS/2, Mac OS and Windows meant that key information about what was on the screen could no longer be simply read from a buffer. Everything was now drawn on screen as a picture, including pictures of text. So, assistive technologies on those platforms had to find a new way to obtain information from the interface.
They dealt with this by intercepting the drawing calls sent to the graphics engine and using that information to create an alternate off-screen version of the interface. As applications made drawing calls through the graphics engine to draw text, carets, text highlights, drop-down windows and so on, information about the appearance of objects on the screen could be captured and stored in a database called an off-screen model. That model could be read by screen readers or used by screen magnifiers to zoom in on the user’s current point of focus within the interface. Rich Schwerdtfeger’s seminal 1991 article in Byte, “Making the GUI Talk1,” describes the then-emerging paradigm in detail.
Recognizing the objects in this off-screen model was done through heuristic analysis. For example, the operating system might issue instructions to draw a rectangle on screen, with a border and some shapes inside it that represent text. A human might look at that object (in the context of other information on screen) and correctly deduce it is a button. The heuristics required for an assistive technology to make the same deduction are actually very complex, which causes some problems.
To inform a user about an object, an assistive technology would try to determine what the object is by looking for identifying information. For example, in a Windows application, the screen reader might present the Window Class name of an object. The assistive technology would also try to obtain information about the state of an object by the way it is drawn — for example, tracking highlighting might help deduce when an object has been selected. This works when an object’s role or state can easily be determined, but in many cases the relevant information is unclear, ambiguous or not available programmatically.
This reverse engineering of information is both fallible and restrictive. An assistive technology could implement support for a new feature only once it had been introduced into the operating system or application. An object might not convey useful information, and in any case it took some time to identify it, develop the heuristics needed to support it and then ship a new version of the screen reader. This created a delay between the introduction of new features and assistive technology’s ability to support it.
The off-screen model needs to shadow the graphics engine, but the engines don’t make this easy. The off-screen model has to independently calculate things like white-space management and alignment coordination, and errors would almost inevitably mount up. These errors could result in anomalies in the information conveyed to assistive technology users or in garbage buildup and memory leaks that lead to crashes.
From the late 1990s, operating system accessibility APIs were introduced as a more reliable way to pass information to assistive technologies. Instead of applying complex heuristics to determine what an on-screen object might be, assistive technologies could query the accessibility API for specific information about each object. Authors could now provide the necessary information about an application in a form that they knew assistive technology would understand.
An accessibility API represents objects in a user interface, exposing information about each object within the application. Typically, there are several pieces of information for an object, including:
its role (for example, it might be a button, an application window or an image);
a name that identifies it within the interface (if there is a visible label like text on a button, this will typically be its name, but it could be encoded directly in the object);
its state or current condition (for example, a checkbox might currently be selected, partially selected or not selected).
The first platform accessibility API, Microsoft Active Accessibility (MSAA), was made available in a 1997 update to Windows 95. MSAA provided information about the role and state of objects and some of their properties. But it gave no access to things like text formatting, and the relationships between objects in the interface were difficult or impossible to determine.
In 1998, IBM and Sun Microsystems built a cross-platform accessibility API for Java. Java Swing 1.0 gave access to rich text information, relationships, tables, hyperlinks and more. The Java Jive screen reader, built on this platform, was the first time a screen reader’s information about the components of a user interface included role, state and associated properties, as well as rich text formatting details.
Notably, Java Jive was written by three developers in roughly five months; developing a screen reader through an off-screen model typically took several years.
Accessibility APIs Go Mainstream
In 2001 the Assistive Technology Service Provider Interface (AT-SPI) for Linux was released, based on the work done on Java, and in 2002 Apple included the NSAccessibility protocol with Mac OS X (10.2 Jaguar).
Meanwhile on Windows, the situation was getting complicated. Microsoft shipped the User Interface Automation (UIA) API as part of Windows 7, while IBM released IAccessible2 as an open standard for Windows and Linux, again evolved from the work done on Java.
Accessibility APIs existed for mobile platforms before touchscreen smartphones became dominant, but in 2009 Apple added the UI Accessibility API to iOS 3, and Android 1.6 (Donut) shipped with the Accessibility Framework.
By the beginning of 2015, Chrome OS stood out as the most mainstream platform lacking a standard accessibility API. But Google was beta testing its Automation API, intended to fill that gap in the platform.
Modern Accessibility APIs
In modern accessibility APIs, user interfaces are represented as a hierarchical tree. For example, an application window would contain several objects, the first of which might be a menu bar. The menu bar would contain a number of menus, each of which contains a number of menu items, and so on. The accessibility API describes an object’s relationship to other objects to provide context. For example, a radio button would probably be one “sibling” within a group.
Other features such as information about text formatting, applicable headers for content sections or table cells and things such as event notifications have all become commonplace in modern accessibility APIs.
Assistive technologies now make standard method calls to the operating system to get information about the objects on the screen. This is far more reliable, and far more efficient, than intercepting low-level operating system messages and trying to deconstruct them into something meaningful.
From The Web To The Accessibility API
In browsers, the platform accessibility API is used both to make information about the browser itself available to assistive technologies and to expose information about the currently rendered content.
Browsers typically support one or more of the available accessibility APIs for the platform they’re running on. For example, on Windows, Firefox, Chrome, Opera and Yandex support MSAA/IAccessible and IAccessible2, while Internet Explorer supports MSAA/IAccessible and UIAExpress. Safari and Chrome support NSAccessibility on OS X and UIAccessibility on iOS.
The browser uses the HTML DOM, along with further information derived from CSS, to generate an accessibility tree hierarchy of the content it is displaying, and it passes that information to the platform accessibility API. Information such as the role, name and state of each object in the content, as well as how it relates to other objects in the content, can then be queried by assistive technologies.
We have an image, rendered as part of a paragraph. A browser exposes several pieces of information about the image to the accessibility API:
It has a role of “image” (or “graphic” — details vary between platforms). This is implicitly determined from the fact that it is an HTML img element.
Its name is “My cat”. For images, the name is typically derived from the alt attribute.
A description is available on request, at the URL meeow.html (at the same “base” as the image).
The parent is a paragraph element, with a role of “text.”
The image has a “sibling” in the same container, the text node “Rocks!”
An assistive technology would query the accessibility API for this information, which it would present so the user can interact with it. For example, a screen reader might announce, “Graphic: My cat. Description available.”
(Does a cat picture need a full description? Perhaps not, but try explaining that to people who really want to tell you just how amazing and talented their feline friends actually are — or those of their readers who want to know all about what this cat looks like! Meanwhile, the philistines among us can ignore the extra information.)
Most HTML elements have what are called “roles,” which are a way of describing elements. If you are familiar with WAI-ARIA, you will be aware of the role attribute, which sets a role explicitly. Most elements already have implicit roles, however, which go along with the element type. For example:
While roles are typically derived from the type of HTML element, the name (sometimes referred to as the “accessible name”) of an object often comes from one of several different sources. In the case of a form field, the name is usually taken from the label associated with the field:
In this example, a button has the “radio button” role. Its accessible name will be “Reposado,” the text content of the label element. So, when a speech-recognition tool is instructed to “Click Radio button Reposado,” it can target the correct object within the interface.
The checked attribute indicates the state of the button, so that a screen reader can announce “Radio button Reposado Checked” or allow a user to navigate directly between the checked options in order to rapidly review a form that contains multiple sets of radio buttons.
Authors have an important role to play, providing the key information that assistive technologies need. If authors don’t do the “right thing,” assistive technologies must look in other places to try to get an accessible name — if there is no label, then a title or some text content might be near the radio button, or its relationship to other elements might help the user through context.
It is important to note that authors should not rely on an assistive technology’s ability to do this, because it is generally unreliable. It is a “repair” strategy that gives assistive technology users some chance of using a poorly authored page or website, such as the following:
<p>How good is reposado?<br>
<!--BAD CODE EXAMPLE: DON'T DO THIS-->
<input type="radio" id="fantastic" name="reposado" checked >
<input type="radio" id="notBad" name="tequila"><br>
<input type="radio" id="meh" name="tequila" title="meh"> Meh
Faced with this case, a screen reader might provide information such as “second of three options,” based on information that the browser provides to the accessibility API about the form. Little else can be determined reliably from the code, though.
Nothing in the code associates the question with the set of radio buttons, and nothing informs the browser of what the accessible name for the first two buttons should be. The for and id attributes of the <label> and <input> for the first button do not share a common value, and nothing associates the nearby text content with the second button. The browser could use the title of the third button as an accessible name, but it duplicates the nearby text and unnecessarily bloats the code.
A well-authored version of this would use the fieldset element to group the radio buttons and use a legend element to associate the question with the group. Each of the buttons would also have a properly associated label.
<fieldset><legend>How good is reposado?</legend>
<!-- THIS IS A BETTER WAY TO CODE THE EXAMPLE -->
<input type="radio" id="fantastic" name="reposado" checked>
<input type="radio" id="notBad" name="reposado">
<label for="notBad">Not bad</label><br>
<input type="radio" id="meh" name="reposado">
Making this information available through the accessibility API is more efficient and less prone to error than relying on assistive technologies to create an off-screen model or guess at the information they need.
Today’s technologies — operating systems, browsers and assistive technologies — work together to extract accessibility information from a web interface and appropriately present it to the user. If appropriate content semantics are not available, then assistive technologies will use old and unreliable techniques to make the interface usable.
With thanks to Rich Schwerdtfeger, Steve Faulkner and Dominic Mazzoni.
One of the things I absolutely love about split testing is its inherent ability to humble opinions of even the most seasoned testers. Sometimes even the most well researched hypotheses fail.
This is the strongest reason why companies must test everything from offer copy to page design, instead of relying on gut instinct or personal preferences. In this post, I’ll share some case studies that either saw huge opinion disparity among the WhichTestWon community, or whose results absolutely shocked our editorial team and Testing Awards’ judges.
Social Proof Is Not the End-All-Be-All
Can you guess which of these two versions of an in-line form generated more opt-ins for a well-known Web design blog?
As of today, 71% of the WhichTestWon community picked the version on the left – the one with social proof copy – as the winner. When I present this test to live audiences at conferences, usually 90-95% of attendees pick the social proof version.
However, they are all wrong. The variation at the left — without the subscriber count — saw 122% more newsletter opt-ins than its social proof counterpart. In a world where we are jaded by the user counts of Facebook, Twitter, etc…it seems that 14k visitors wasn’t compelling enough to get prospects to act.
Normally we see companies just add social proof without testing it because virtually every blog post and ‘social media expert’ has told them it will help conversions. Thankfully the team at this site tested this before implementation, or they would have missed out on a lot of opt-ins – more than double the opt-ins in fact.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a ton of value in social proof. For one, it is great at reducing a visitor’s anxiety and can give your brand a sense of authority. The trick is finding out where it is best to publish your social stats and what exactly is worth sharing. Should you post newsletter subscribers, Facebook likes, awards, or all of the above? Simply put: test it out. Never add something blindly; you don’t know how it will impact the bottom line.
Icons May Be Trending, but they Might Hurt Conversions
Icons have been making a major comeback in web design. Overall, icons have been useful, especially when they are used as a replacement for bullets in stylized lists. The team at Build.com wanted to find out whether icons would be a useful navigational tool…the results surprised them.
Here are the two versions of the header they tested, one with icons and one without:
The challenger variation included icons that represented different category pages on the site. The team believed that an increased focus on navigation with their most visited categories would increase interactions and sales. However, the version without the icons saw 21% more product purchases.
Why? We suspect that although the icons provided a sleek navigation pane, overall they likely added more clutter that confused the visitor.
Security Seal on a Lead Gen Form Test
The highest point of friction on any lead generation page is the form itself. You need to identify the optimal number of form fields, choose an intuitive design, and add visible privacy policies and/or security icons to reduce anxiety.
These are well-known best practices that all lead gen marketers understand… and that’s probably why 74% of the WhichTestWon community guessed the wrong winner for this A/B test.
The variation without the TRUSTe logo next to the button got 12.6% more completed forms. Yes, the ‘submit’ button did shrink to accommodate the TRUSTe logo; but, we strongly suspect the primary cause for this lift has to do with the logo itself.
Trust seals can be essential to your conversion rate; the real trick is knowing where and when to place them.
In this particular circumstance, the TRUSTe logo was the wrong security seal at the wrong time. Visitors are used to seeing this seal, and others like it, directly in a shopping cart; not on a top funnel lead generation form. It’s quite likely that many of them suspected a payment transaction when they saw the trust seal here.
Remember, context is the key!
If Your Conversion Rates are Falling, Put on a Happy Face?
CRO specialists and designers love using faces! I get it; faces are the first thing the eye identifies when it looks at a web page. Numerous eye tracking studies support this claim.
However, sometimes a human face can be too much of a distraction. So, you need to test when you add faces to your page to make sure they aren’t competing with your important headlines and calls to actions (CTAs).
Here’s an example:
The version without the image won 24% more form completions. This wasn’t a perfectly clean test. There were some slight alterations in copy but nothing too dramatic. To tell you the truth, I’m more of a fan of the story behind this test than the actual unexpected results. However, it’s not the first or the last test we’ve seen where removing a face increased conversions.
What’s perhaps most amazing is that at the time of this split test HubSpot was about to make it a mandatory practice to include a person’s image on each of their landing pages. On some level this makes sense, they had found that some of their pages performed better with people’s pictures. However, what’s true for some pages may not always be true for all pages. Luckily, this test casted a seed of doubt and the company changed their design mandate.
Before you create any new landing page or design policies, please test beforehand…you have no idea just how many conversions you could leave on the table.
Video Icons – Product-Centric or Person-Centric?
Here is another case that tests whether using a face is appropriate.
The version of this Autodesk product page that used faces got 50% fewer video clicks. Nothing else on this page changed except for the video preview image. I am not anti-faces on websites; I simply want you to test before you implement!
Needless to say, the testing team was surprised by the results. So they ran a user survey to try to figure it out. The responses showed that Autodesk’s prospective buyers were more interested in seeing how the product worked over individuals talking about the product.
This just comes down to a case of knowing your audience and that best practices are not one-size-fits-all!
Leaders in the testing field have all been stumped by the unexpected results before, and will be stumped again. The trick is to understand what to do after your test goes counter to your hypothesis or flat-lines.
Your next steps may include evaluating a litany of things such as your hypothesis, technology, source traffic, device…the list goes on. You need to learn if the test itself was flawed – or if your understanding of what your visitors really want from the page was flawed. Either way, you’ve learned something valuable.
Remember testing is an evolving process, future iterations are borne from our successes and our failures.
Keep testing my friends! There are so many variables to consider while running a test, it is no wonder that we often see lifts or losses where we least expect it.