Tag Archive | "Conversion"

Email Testing: 7 tips from your peers for email conversion optimization

We recently asked the MarketingSherpa audience for tips on running effective email tests. Here are a few of the most helpful responses to consider as you start to develop an email testing program.
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How to drive conversion using a value proposition-focused testing strategy in email marketing

Value proposition is the maximized, optimized force of the perceived value that you are offering to potential customers. Many marketers, however, leave it on the website and forget about it in email. We’re busy testing this subject line or that, without any real strategy in mind.
A peer example in this blog post will show examples of how to formulate a testing strategy for every element of email marketing, giving you an advantage over the competition and driving conversion.

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Marketing 101: What is CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization)?

If you’re in advertising or marketing, it helps to have an understanding of what conversion rate optimization is. CRO can be a powerful tool to improve the success of every marketing campaign, initiative and website you work on.
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SearchCap: Bing Ads quality policy and conversion changes, Apple search ads & technical SEO

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.

The post SearchCap: Bing Ads quality policy and conversion changes, Apple search ads & technical SEO appeared first on Search Engine Land.



Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


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How "Message Match" Can Lift Conversion Rates by 212.74% [Case Study]

Posted by bsmarketer

Google offered to build a free mobile website for our past client. But rather than take them up on that very generous offer, they hired us to rebuild it for them (at about $ 20,000+ times Google’s initial estimate).

Smart or dumb?

The problem is that shoving an outdated legacy design onto a smaller screen won’t fix your problems. In fact, it’ll only amplify them. Instead, the trick is to zoom back out to the big picture. Then it’s a fairly straightforward process of:

  1. Figuring out who your customers are
  2. What they want
  3. And how they want it

That way, you can align all of the critical variables (thereby making your “messages match”) in order to improve their experience. Which, if done correctly, should also improve your bottom line; in the end, our client saw a 69.39% cost per conversion decrease with a 212.74% conversion rate lift.

Here’s how you can do the same.

How AdWords pricing works

AdWords is an auction. Kinda, sorta.

It’s an auction-based system where (typically) the highest bidder receives the best positions on the page. But that’s not always the case. It’s possible for someone to rank in the coveted 1–2 positions above you and actually pay less per click than you. (Not to mention convert those people at a higher percentage once they hit your site — but we’ll leave that until later.)

Any marketer worth their salt knows what’s coming up next.

The Quality Score begins to dictate effective pricing. It’s not the end-all be-all PPC metric. But it’s a helpful gauge that lets you know if you’re on the right path to prosperity and profits — or not. It’s a blend of several factors, including the expected click-through rate, ad relevance, and landing page experience. Ad Rank is used in conjunction to determine position based on an ad’s performance. (That’s the 30-second explanation, anyway.)

Years ago, Larry Kim analyzed Quality Score in-depth to determine just what kind of impact it had on what you pay. You should read the full thing. But one of the key takeaways was this:

Note that if your Quality Score is below average, you’ll basically pay a penalty — up to 64% more per conversion than your average advertiser. In a nutshell, for every Quality Score point above the average 5/10 score, your CPA will drop by 16%, on average. Conversely, for every Quality Score point below the average of 5/10, your CPA will rise by 16%.

gSbiVlC.png

(Image source)

Fast forward to just a few months ago, and Disruptive Advertising’s Jacob Baadsgaard analyzed their 2,000+ AdWords accounts (with millions in ad spend) to filter out a similar analysis. They ended up with strikingly similar results:

In fact, our results are strikingly similar to those reported by Larry Kim. If your quality score increases by 1 point, your cost-per-conversion decreases by 13% (Larry puts it at 16%). If your quality score decreases by 1 point, your cost-per-conversion increases by 13%.”

45KHbG9.png

(Image source)

Coincidence? Unlikely.

But wait, there’s more!

Jumping platforms for a second, Facebook introduced a “Relevance Score” recently. AdEspresso analyzed 104,256 ads over a 45-day period and saw a similar correlation between a higher Relevance Score and lower CPC rates. The inverse is also true.

szonvTY.png

(Image source)

Okay. Three different analyses, by three different people, across two channels, with three similar results. What can we learn from this?

That the alignment of your ads, your keyword or audience targeting, and your landing pages significantly influence costs (not to mention, eventual results). And what’s the one underlying concept that affects these?

Your “message match.”

How to get message match right

Oli from Unbounce is a masochist. You’d have to be anyway, in order to spend a day clicking on 300 different paid ads, noting message match along the way.

The final tally?

98% of the 300 ads Oli clicked on did NOT successfully match. That’s incredibly bad, as this doesn’t take any PPC ninja skills. All it takes is a little attention to detail. Because what is message match?

You use the same headline, description or value proposition, and image from your ad:

great message match ad

(Image source)

And include those same elements on the landing page people visit:

great message match landing page

(Image source)

Sure, you probably don’t want to use clip art in your ads and on your landing pages in 2017, but at least they’ve got the basics down.

When you think about this concept holistically, it makes perfect sense. In real life, the majority of communication is nonverbal. Fifty-five percent, in fact, comes down to your expressions, gestures, and posture.

Online you lack that nuance and context. It’s difficult (if not impossible) to strike the same emotional chord with a text-only headline limited to 25 characters as you can through audio and video. It (literally) pays to be as specific and explicit as possible. And while it could take hours to distill all of this down, here’s the CliffsNotes version.

Step #1: Your audience/keywords

AdWords generated about 68% of Google’s revenue in 2014. Last year they made $ 75 billion. So we’re talking billions with a B here.

A lot of that comes down to a searcher’s (1) intent and (2) urgency, where you bid on classically bottom-of-the-funnel keyphrases and convert ~2–10% of those clicks.

iIxPzsq.png

(Image source)

(Facebook’s kind of a different beast, where you instead build a funnel for each step.)

Even though it sounds trite, the best ways to come up with keyphrases is a deeper understanding of what makes your potential customers tick (besides doing the obvious and dropping your competitor’s domain name into SEMrush or SpyFu to see what they’re all bidding on).

A nice, actionable example of this is The Ad Grid from Digital Marketer, which helps you figure out which potential “hooks” should/would work for each customer type. build-traffic-campaigns-img5.jpg

(Image source)

From there, you would obviously hit the keyword research market with your Keyword Explorers and SEMrushes and then distill all of your information down into one nice, neat little package.

Again borrowing from the excellence of others, my favorite approach would be single-keyword ad group (SKAG) from Johnathan Dane at KlientBoost.

For example, one Ad Group would have a single keyphrase with each match type, like the following:

  • Broad: +marriage +proposal +planners
  • Phrase: “marriage proposal planners”
  • Exact: [marriage proposal planners]

This, unsurprisingly, seems time-consuming. That’s because it is.

Don’t worry, because it’s about to get even worse.

Step #2: Your ads

The best way to scale your PPC ad writing is to create a formula. You have different variables that you mix-and-match, watching CTRs and other metrics to determine which combination works best.

Start with something simple, like Johnathan + Klientboost’s example that incorporates the appropriate balance of keyphrase + benefits + action:

New-Ad

(Image source)

For bottom-of-the-funnel, no-frills keyphrases, sometimes simple and direct works best. You don’t have to get overly clever with reinventing the wheel. You just slap in your keyphrase in that little headline space and try to emphasize your primary value prop, USP, or benefit that might get people to click on your ad instead of all the others that look just like it.

Ad writing can get difficult and messy if you get lost in the intangible fluffiness of jargon.

Don’t.

Instead, focus on emphasizing concrete examples, benefits, and outcomes of whatever it is you’re advertising. Here are some of Digital Marketer’s hooks to borrow from:

  1. How does it compare the before and after effect?
  2. How does it make them feel emotionally/?
  3. How (specifically) does it improve their average day?
  4. How does it affect their status or vanity?
  5. Is there quantifiable proof of results?
  6. What’s the expected time to results (i.e. speed)?

You can then again strip away the minutia by boiling everything down to variables.

B4jsCwp.png

For more reading on this topic, here’s a deeper dive into scaling PPC ad writing on WordStream.

Step #3: Landing page

Okay — here comes the fun part.

Marketing efforts in general fail when we can only (or are only allowed) to make surface-level changes. Marketing doesn’t equal just advertising, after all.

Made a ton of updates to an AdWords account? Great. You’ll still struggle until you can take full control over the destinations those ads are sending to, and create new dedicated pages for each campaign.

In an ideal world, each of your SKAGs created above would have their own specific landing page too. If you’re good at math, that landing page total in your head just jumped another 5X most likely. But as we’ve alluded, it’s worth it.

You start with a single new landing page template. Then think of each element as its own interchangeable variable you can mix and match (get it?). For example, the headline, hero image, bullet points and CTAs can evolve or update for one type of customer:

Attorney insurance quotes

And be quickly duplicated/cloned, then switched out for another to increase message match as much as possible:

Dentist insurance quotes

Perfect. Another incredibly time-consuming task to add to your list to get done this week.

Fortunately, there are a few tricks to scale this approach too.

Possibility #1: Dynamic Text Replacement

Unbounce’s ready-made solution will allow you to create a standard landing page, and then automatically (or dynamically) switch out that content based on what someone just searched for.

You can enter these dynamic text fields using their visual builder, then hook it up to your AdWords account so you literally don’t have to lift a finger.

1QB4ZJG.png

(Image source)

Each section allows you to specify default text to use (similar to how you’d specify a fallback font for all browsers for example).

Possibility #2: Advanced Custom Fields

This one requires a little bit of extra leg work, but it makes technical people smile.

My company used Advanced Custom Fields + Flexible Content to create these variable options on the backend of WordPress pages, so we (and clients) can simply mass-produce unique content at scale.

For the example used earlier, here’s what switching out the Hero section on the earlier landing page example would look like:

Click and upload an image to a pre-formatted space. Select a few radio options for page placement. Easy-peasy.

Here’s what the headline and subhead space looks like:

Now making changes or updates to landing pages (to get message match right) takes just a few seconds per page.

We even build out these options for secondary calls-to-action on a page as well, like footer CTAs:

This way, with the click of a button, we can set up and test how different CTA options might work.

For example, how does simple and direct…

GuZqW8P.png

…compare with one of the hooks that we came up with in a previous step?

1fSB5Rt.png

For extra credit, you can combine these customizable features based on your inbound traffic segmentation with your exit intent (or overlay) messaging.

q4Y2EgA.png

How increasing PPC message match drives results

So back to the results.

After updating the ad account and making major modifications to our client’s landing page infrastructure, here’s what improved message match can deliver (in a competitive industry with mid-five figure monthly spend).

In 2015, before all of this work, the cost per converted click was $ 482.41 and conversion rate across all accounts was only 4.08%.

IfClUhB.png

During the same 30-day period in 2016 (after all of this work), the cost per converted click fell to only $ 147.65 and the conversion rate jumped to 12.76%.

2EZ7BjO.png

That means way more leads, for far less. And this just scratches the surface, because in many cases, AdWords conversions are still just leads. Not true sales.

We haven’t even discussed post-lead conversion tactics to combine all of this with, like marketing automation, where you would combine the same message match approach by sending targeted content that builds on the same topics or hooks that people originally searched for and converted on.

Or layering in newer (read: less competitive or expensive) options like Facebook, automatically syncing these leads to your aforementioned marketing automation workflows that are pre-configured with the same message match in mind.

The possibilities are endless, and the same laser-focus on aligning message match with each channel has the potential to increase results throughout the entire funnel.

Conclusion

When a sale is moved from offline to on, we lose a lot of the context for communication that we commonly rely upon.

As a result, the focus tends to shift more towards clarity and specificity.

There’s no greater example than looking at how today’s most popular online ad platforms work, where the costs people pay are directly tied to their performance and ability to “match” or align their ads and content to what people are looking for.

Clever vs. clear?

Who cares — as long as your messages match.

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SearchCap: Bing local bots, Yelp conversion & Google I/O recap

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.

The post SearchCap: Bing local bots, Yelp conversion & Google I/O recap appeared first on Search Engine Land.



Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


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Now you can schedule offline conversion imports in AdWords

Imports from files can be scheduled daily or weekly.

The post Now you can schedule offline conversion imports in AdWords appeared first on Search Engine Land.



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5 Lead Generation Ideas to Help You Increase Your Website’s Conversion Rates

Posted by lkolowich

It’s been years since the power’s shifted away from marketers and advertisers and in favor of Internet consumers. Now more than ever, people are empowered to choose their own experiences online. They’re actively avoiding ad content — and instead of living by advertisers’ rule books, they’re deciding what to click on, what to read, what to download, and what to buy … and what not to.

And they have a lot of choices.

When inbound marketers like us are looking to generate more leads from our website, we need to think not just about how to capture people’s attention, but how to capture it in a way that makes people want to learn more from us. A smart lead generation strategy includes creating valuable offers and experiences that fit seamlessly into the context of what people already like and want to do online. It’s the consumer’s world; us marketers are just living in it.

People read calls-to-action that say things like “Sign up here!” as basically synonymous with “We’re gonna spam you.” If you’re recycling these same old lead generation tactics over and over again, it’s quickly going to become white noise. But calls-to-action that fit into the context of what a person’s doing already? That’s smart marketing.

If you want to increase the conversion rate on your website, you need to get smart and creative with your lead generation tactics. Asking for blog subscriptions and gating high-quality content like comprehensive guides, ebooks, and whitepapers behind landing pages still works, but you have to be smart about where you’re offering them on your website. And they shouldn’t be your only lead generation plays.

There are many ways to get creative with lead generation to make sure you’re reaping the benefits of the traffic you’re working so hard to get. Here are some lead generation ideas for B2B and B2C marketers to try. Test them out, tweak them according to your audience’s preferences, and share your own ideas you have in the comments.

1) Put your calls-to-action in people’s natural eye path.

CTA placement can have a profound effect on the number of leads you’re generating from your site. And yet, not many marketers are spending a whole lot of time thinking about, testing, and tweaking CTA placement to optimize their conversions. Many claim that as long as they place their primary CTA above the fold, they’re good to go. (Side note: Even though putting primary CTAs above the fold is often considered a best practice, even that is still up for debate.)

Start your CTA placement tests by putting them where people’s eyes naturally go on a webpage. An eyetracking study found that when people read a webpage, we naturally start by looking in the upper lefthand corner of the page, and then move our eyes in an F-shaped pattern.

f-pattern-eye-tracking.jpg

[Image credit: Nielsen Norman Group]

Here’s what that looks like:

f-pattern-wireframe.jpg

[Image credit: Envato Studio]

You can capitalize on this natural eye path by placing important information in these key spots. Here’s an example of what that might look like on a website:

f-pattern-with-content.jpg

[Image credit: Envato Studio]

Notice how the business name is placed in the top left, which is where a person would look first. The navigation bar takes over the #2 spot, followed by the value proposition at #3 and the primary CTA at #4.

Does this order look familiar to you? When you’re browsing the web, you might have noticed that many of them put the primary CTA in the top right corner — in that #2 spot. Here are a few real-life examples:

prezi-business-homepage.png

[Prezi’s homepage]

uber-homepage.png

[Uber’s homepage]

barkbox-homepage.png

[BarkBox’s homepage]

In the last example from BarkBox, you’ll notice that the secondary CTAs still follow that F-pattern.

Keep this in mind when you’re placing your CTAs, especially on your homepage and your other popular webpages — and don’t be afraid to experiment based on how it makes sense for your own marketing story should be told.

2) Use pop-up and slide-in forms the right way.

Pop-ups have been vilified in the last few years — and quite understandably, too. Far too many marketers use them in a way that disrupts people’s experience on their website instead of enhancing it.

But pop-ups do work — and, more importantly, when they’re used in a way that’s helpful and not disruptive, they can be a healthy part of your inbound strategy. So if you’re wondering whether you should be using pop-up forms, the short answer is yes — as long as you use them in an inbound-y way. First and foremost, that means offering something valuable and relevant to the people visiting that site page.

When you’re considering what type of pop-up to use and what action should trigger them, think about how people are engaging with your pages. When someone reads a blog post, for instance, they’re typically going to scroll down the page to read the content. In that case, you might consider using a slide-in box that appears when someone’s scrolled a certain percentage of the way down the page.

Here’s a great example from a post on OfficeVibe’s blog about how managers gain respect. While I was scrolling, a banner appeared at the bottom of the screen offering me a live report of employee engagement — an offer that was perfectly relevant, given the post was aimed at managers.

officevibe-banner-pop-up.png

It felt helpful, not disruptive. In other words, it was a responsible use of a pop-up.

Similarly, someone who’s spending time reading through a product page might find value in a time-based pop-up that appears when a visitor’s been on the page for a certain number of seconds, like this one from Ugmonk:

ugmonk-pop-up.png

The most important takeaway here is to align what you offer on a pop-up with the webpage you’re adding it to, and make sure it’s actually adding substantial value.

If you’re looking for a good free tool to get started with inbound-y pop-up forms, I’d recommend you try HubSpot Marketing Free. We built the Lead Flows feature within this free tool to help marketers generate more leads across their entire website without sacrificing user experience.

3) Add anchor texts to old blog posts that align closely with your gated offers.

It’s common for business bloggers to add an end-of-post banner CTA at the end of every one of their blog posts, like this one:

hubspot-banner-cta-example.png

In fact, you might already be including CTAs like this on your own business blog posts. At HubSpot, we include an end-of-post banner CTA on every single one of our posts, and we also add slide-in CTAs to blog posts that prove themselves to convert visitors into leads at a high rate via organic traffic.

But let’s admit it: At first glance, these types of CTAs look a little bit like ads, which can result in banner blindness from our readers. That’s why it’s thanks to a recent study conducted by my colleague Pam Vaughan that our blogging team has added one more, highly effective lead generation tactic to their arsenal: anchor text CTAs.

In Vaughan’s study, she found that anchor text CTAs are responsible for most of our blog leads. On blog posts that included both an anchor text CTA and an end-of-post banner CTA, she found that 47–93% of a blog post’s leads came from the anchor text CTA alone, whereas just 6% of the post’s leads came from the end-of-post banner CTA.

What’s an anchor text CTA, you might be wondering? It’s a standalone line text in a blog post linked to a landing page that’s styled as an H3 or an H4 to make it stand out from the rest of the post’s body copy. On HubSpot’s blog, we’ll typically put an anchor text CTA between two paragraphs in the introduction, like this:

hubspot-anchor-text-cta-example.png

What makes anchor text CTAs so effective? Let’s say you search for “press release template” in Google, and you click on the first organic search result — which is currently our blog post about how to write a press release, which I’ve screenshotted above.

As a searcher, the next thing you’d probably do is quickly scan the post to see if it satisfies your search. One of the first things that’ll catch your eye is an anchor text that reads, “Download our free press release template here” — which happens to be exactly what you were looking for when you searched “press release template.” There’s a pretty good chance you’re going to click on it.

This is where relevancy becomes critical. The anchor text CTA works really well in this case because it satisfies the visitor’s need right away, within the first few paragraphs of the blog post. The more relevant the anchor text CTA is to what the visitor is looking for, the better it’ll perform. Simply adding an anchor text CTA near the top of every blog post won’t necessarily mean it’ll generate a ton more leads — and frankly, you’ll risk pissing off your loyal subscribers.

If you decide you’d like to experiment with anchor text CTAs, be selective about the posts you add them to. At HubSpot, we typically add them to old posts that rank well in search. We purposely limit our use of anchor text CTAs on brand new posts — because most of the traffic we get to those posts are already leads and some of the biggest fans of our content, whom we want to have the best possible user experience. (You can read more about anchor text CTAs here.)

4) Support the launch of a new campaign with a launch post and other blog posts on related topics.

Every time you launch a new marketing campaign, posting the good news on your blog should be a key part of your launch plan. It’s a great way to let your existing subscribers know what new content, products, and features you’re putting out there, and it also helps introduce these launches to brand-new audiences.

At HubSpot, we’ve found the best strategy for promoting campaigns on the blog is to write one official launch post, followed by a handful of follow-up posts that are relevant to the campaign but are written in the style of a normal blog post. We typically scatter these follow-up posts over the weeks and months following that initial launch.

When done correctly, launch posts and their supporting blog posts have very different formulas:

  • A launch post is between 150–300 words long. It includes a captivating introductory paragraph on the general topic or pain point the campaign is about, followed by a paragraph or two describing how the offer can help and a list of 4–6 bullet points on what the offer includes. It includes one or two in-line text CTAs leading to the campaign, followed by a banner CTA at the end of the post.
  • A supplemental blog post can take on any post format and length typical of what you’d normally publish on your blog, such as a how-to post, a list-based post, or a curated collection post. It includes an end-of-post banner CTA leading to the campaign, and an anchor text CTA in the introduction, if applicable.

Let me show you an example. Earlier this year, HubSpot partnered with Iconosquare to write an ebook on how to use Instagram for business. A few days after we launched the offer online, we published a launch post on HubSpot’s Marketing Blog specifically promoting it to our own audience. Here’s what that launch post looked like:

hubspot-launch-post.png

Notice it has a brief introduction of the topic, an introduction of the ebook as a helpful resource, a bulleted list of what’s inside the ebook, two in-line text CTAs pointing toward the ebook, and an end-of-post banner CTA.

Once we published that initial post, we published a series of follow-up blog posts about the same topic — in this case, Instagram for business — that supported the launch, but promoted it much more subtly. These posts covered topics like:

In each of these cases, we used keyword research to find long-tail keyword phrases related to our offer topic, and then wrote blog posts related to those highly searched terms and included CTAs to our offer.

The goal here? Both to expose our own audience to more content related to the offer and to expose our offer to a new audience: specifically, people who were searching for related topics on search engines, as we’ve found visitors who find our posts through organic search tend to convert at higher rates.

When you’re planning out your next campaign, be sure to include both a launch post and supportive, follow-up blog posts like these — and plan them all out using a blog editorial calendar like the simple one HubSpot’s blogging team uses with Google Calendar.

5) Use social media strategically for lead generation.

Top-of-the-funnel marketing metrics like traffic and brand awareness isn’t all social media is good for. It can still be a helpful — not to mention low-cost — source for lead generation.

In addition to promoting new blog posts and content to your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social sites, be sure to regularly post links to blog posts and even directly to the landing pages of offers that have historically performed well for lead generation. You’ll need to do a lead generation analysis of your blog to figure out which posts perform best for lead generation.

When you link directly to landing pages, be sure the copy in your social posts sets the expectation that clicking the link will send people to a landing page, like Canva did in this Facebook post:

canva-facebook-page.png

Contests are another way to generate leads from social. Not only are they fun for your followers, but they can also teach you a whole lot about your audience while simultaneously engaging them, growing your reach, and driving traffic to your website.

In addition to posting links to lead generation forms, you’ll also want to make sure you’re using the real estate for lead generation that’s available to you on the social networks that you’re using. On Facebook for example, use the feature available for Pages that lets you put a simple call-to-action button at the top of your Facebook Page. It can help drive more traffic from your Facebook Page to lead generation forms like landing pages and contact sheets.

dollar-shave-club-facebook-CTA.png

Here are more lead generation tips for Facebook, and for Twitter.

In addition to optimizing your webpages and social presence for leads, always be looking for opportunities to increase the traffic of your highest-converting pages by optimizing these pages for the keywords they’re already ranking for, and linking to these pages internally and externally.

I hope this list has helped spark some ideas for lead generation tactics to test for your own audience. If you’ve tried any of the tactics I’ve listed above, tell us about your experiences in the comments — and feel free to add more ideas to the list.

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AdWords rolls out Salesforce account linking for automated conversion imports

The conversion data import solution is coming out of beta.

The post AdWords rolls out Salesforce account linking for automated conversion imports appeared first on Search Engine Land.



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The #1 Conversion Killer in Your Copy (and How to Beat It)

easy ways to send the trolls away

What makes people almost buy?

What makes them get most of the way there and then drop out of your shopping cart at the last second?

What makes them stare at your landing page, wanting what you have to offer, and yet, ultimately, close the page and move on to something else?

It turns out there’s a hideous troll hiding under the bridge. Every time you get close to making a sale, the troll springs out and scares your prospect away. Get rid of the troll and your copy will start converting better than it ever has before.

The ugly, smelly, dirty, bad-mannered troll is prospect fear.

And it’s sitting there right now, stinking up your landing page and scaring good customers away.

Fear of wasting money

Remember when you were a kid and you went to that rinky-dink carnival that came through town? After eating all the cotton candy you could manage — and throwing it all back up again on the Tilt-a-Whirl — you checked out something called the midway.

Remember that persuasive fellow who convinced you to spend a whole month’s allowance throwing softballs at those damned milk bottles?

It looked so easy. He showed you exactly how to do it. Toss the softball, knock over the milk bottle, win a cool stuffed animal for a prize. Simple.

You spent quarter after quarter trying to do it yourself.

When all your quarters were gone, you got an inkling. It looked easy, but if you were actually standing at the throw line, it was pretty close to impossible. Now the carnival guy had all your money, and you didn’t even have an ugly green plush monkey to show for it.

The troll is born.

Fear of mockery

When the sting of the carnival wore off, you were innocently minding your own business and ran across an ad for a fascinating product called Sea-Monkeys.

They were little people! With tails! They looked pretty awesome on the cover of the package. You begged your parents to get them for you and told everybody you knew. Your little brother. Your best friend. Your entire third-grade class.

This was going to be so cool. The ad said you could even teach them to do tricks. You planned on getting them medicine, vitamins, special formulas, everything they needed to be the happiest pets ever.

You followed the instructions to the letter. You waited breathlessly. You told anyone and everyone how amazing this was going to be.

It turns out Sea-Monkeys are just brine shrimp. In no way do they resemble little people. They resemble fish food, which is what they are.

Your little brother, your best friend, and your entire third-grade class now thought you were an idiot. And they delighted in letting you know that at every opportunity.

The troll gets a little bigger.

Fear of feeling stupid

Every time we’re betrayed by a sleazy salesperson, we toughen up just a little. The troll grows. Our mistrust grows and our inclination to believe shrinks.

And then a content marketer shows up with a helpful article or podcast episode that will solve a problem that’s been really bothering us. Let’s call that content marketer … you.

We want to believe you. We want to get the benefit from what you have to offer. We want to have something — anything — work out the way it was promised.

We would love to be able to trust our own judgment.

But the troll keeps whispering in our ear, with his truly horrendous breath, how stupid we’re going to feel when we fall for that again.

How to kill the troll

Trustworthiness, lots of high-value content, and just plain old decency are your best weapons to combat the troll.

Everything on your site needs to show you can be trusted: Real contact information. Your photograph. Thorough responses to FAQs. Clear, reasonable calls to action.

Every detail matters, including hosting your site on your own domain and publishing content on a consistent schedule. Everything you do needs to build trust and kill the troll.

Unless you sell to 10-year-olds, your prospect has likely been kicked around many times by unscrupulous (or incompetent) businesses. Give the prospect any tiny reason to mistrust you and memories of all those wretched old experiences come back.

There’s an old joke that a second marriage is the triumph of optimism over experience. In fact, that’s exactly what happens every time you make a sale, especially to someone who hasn’t done business with you before.

So, let’s declare war on the trolls.

Prove you’re extraordinarily trustworthy by demonstrating your value, putting your customers first, and keeping your promises.

The troll is tough and hard to kill. But with dedication and commitment, we can chase him off once and for all.

Editor’s note: The original version of this post was published on May 29, 2009.

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