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SearchCap: EU search results preview, Google URL inspection tool update & Bing Ads page feeds

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



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12 Methods to Get from Blank Page to First Draft

If you’re like me, after taking some time off from writing, you’re refreshed and champing at the bit to translate…

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Using a New Correlation Model to Predict Future Rankings with Page Authority

Posted by rjonesx.

Correlation studies have been a staple of the search engine optimization community for many years. Each time a new study is released, a chorus of naysayers seem to come magically out of the woodwork to remind us of the one thing they remember from high school statistics — that “correlation doesn’t mean causation.” They are, of course, right in their protestations and, to their credit, and unfortunate number of times it seems that those conducting the correlation studies have forgotten this simple aphorism.

We collect a search result. We then order the results based on different metrics like the number of links. Finally, we compare the orders of the original search results with those produced by the different metrics. The closer they are, the higher the correlation between the two.

That being said, correlation studies are not altogether fruitless simply because they don’t necessarily uncover causal relationships (ie: actual ranking factors). What correlation studies discover or confirm are correlates.

Correlates are simply measurements that share some relationship with the independent variable (in this case, the order of search results on a page). For example, we know that backlink counts are correlates of rank order. We also know that social shares are correlates of rank order.

Correlation studies also provide us with direction of the relationship. For example, ice cream sales are positive correlates with temperature and winter jackets are negative correlates with temperature — that is to say, when the temperature goes up, ice cream sales go up but winter jacket sales go down.

Finally, correlation studies can help us rule out proposed ranking factors. This is often overlooked, but it is an incredibly important part of correlation studies. Research that provides a negative result is often just as valuable as research that yields a positive result. We’ve been able to rule out many types of potential factors — like keyword density and the meta keywords tag — using correlation studies.

Unfortunately, the value of correlation studies tends to end there. In particular, we still want to know whether a correlate causes the rankings or is spurious. Spurious is just a fancy sounding word for “false” or “fake.” A good example of a spurious relationship would be that ice cream sales cause an increase in drownings. In reality, the heat of the summer increases both ice cream sales and people who go for a swim. That swimming can cause drownings. So while ice cream sales is a correlate of drowning, it is *spurious.* It does not cause the drowning.

How might we go about teasing out the difference between causal and spurious relationships? One thing we know is that a cause happens before its effect, which means that a causal variable should predict a future change.

An alternative model for correlation studies

I propose an alternate methodology for conducting correlation studies. Rather than measure the correlation between a factor (like links or shares) and a SERP, we can measure the correlation between a factor and changes in the SERP over time.

The process works like this:

  1. Collect a SERP on day 1
  2. Collect the link counts for each of the URLs in that SERP
  3. Look for any URLs are out of order with respect to links; for example, if position 2 has fewer links than position 3
  4. Record that anomaly
  5. Collect the same SERP in 14 days
  6. Record if the anomaly has been corrected (ie: position 3 now out-ranks position 2)
  7. Repeat across ten thousand keywords and test a variety of factors (backlinks, social shares, etc.)

So what are the benefits of this methodology? By looking at change over time, we can see whether the ranking factor (correlate) is a leading or lagging feature. A lagging feature can automatically be ruled out as causal. A leading factor has the potential to be a causal factor.

We collect a search result. We record where the search result differs from the expected predictions of a particular variable (like links or social shares). We then collect the same search result 2 weeks later to see if the search engine has corrected the out-of-order results.

Following this methodology, we tested 3 different common correlates produced by ranking factors studies: Facebook shares, number of root linking domains, and Page Authority. The first step involved collecting 10,000 SERPs from randomly selected keywords in our Keyword Explorer corpus. We then recorded Facebook Shares, Root Linking Domains, and Page Authority for every URL. We noted every example where 2 adjacent URLs (like positions 2 and 3 or 7 and 8) were flipped with respect to the expected order predicted by the correlating factor. For example, if the #2 position had 30 shares while the #3 position had 50 shares, we noted that pair. Finally, 2 weeks later, we captured the same SERPs and identified the percent of times that Google rearranged the pair of URLs to match the expected correlation. We also randomly selected pairs of URLs to get a baseline percent likelihood that any 2 adjacent URLs would switch positions. Here were the results…

The outcome

It’s important to note that it is incredibly rare to expect a leading factor to show up strongly in an analysis like this. While the experimental method is sound, it’s not as simple as a factor predicting future — it assumes that in some cases we will know about a factor before Google does. The underlying assumption is that in some cases we have seen a ranking factor (like an increase in links or social shares) before Googlebot has and that in the 2 week period, Google will catch up and correct the incorrectly ordered results. As you can expect, this is a rare occasion. However, with a sufficient number of observations, we should be able to see a statistically significant difference between lagging and leading results. However, the methodology only detects when a factor is both leading and Moz Link Explorer discovered the relevant factor before Google.

Factor Percent Corrected P-Value 95% Min 95% Max
Control 18.93% 0
Facebook Shares Controlled for PA 18.31% 0.00001 -0.6849 -0.5551
Root Linking Domains 20.58% 0.00001 0.016268 0.016732
Page Authority 20.98% 0.00001 0.026202 0.026398

Control:

In order to create a control, we randomly selected adjacent URL pairs in the first SERP collection and determined the likelihood that the second will outrank the first in the final SERP collection. Approximately 18.93% of the time the worse ranking URL would overtake the better ranking URL. By setting this control, we can determine if any of the potential correlates are leading factors – that is to say that they are potential causes of improved rankings.

Facebook Shares:

Facebook Shares performed the worst of the three tested variables. Facebook Shares actually performed worse than random (18.31% vs 18.93%), meaning that randomly selected pairs would be more likely to switch than those where shares of the second were higher than the first. This is not altogether surprising as it is the general industry consensus that social signals are lagging factors — that is to say the traffic from higher rankings drives higher social shares, not social shares drive higher rankings. Subsequently, we would expect to see the ranking change first before we would see the increase in social shares.

RLDs

Raw root linking domain counts performed substantially better than shares at ~20.5%. As I indicated before, this type of analysis is incredibly subtle because it only detects when a factor is both leading and Moz Link Explorer discovered the relevant factor before Google. Nevertheless, this result was statistically significant with a P value <0.0001 and a 95% confidence interval that RLDs will predict future ranking changes around 1.5% greater than random.

Page Authority

By far, the highest performing factor was Page Authority. At 21.5%, PA correctly predicted changes in SERPs 2.6% better than random. This is a strong indication of a leading factor, greatly outperforming social shares and outperforming the best predictive raw metric, root linking domains.This is not unsurprising. Page Authority is built to predict rankings, so we should expect that it would outperform raw metrics in identifying when a shift in rankings might occur. Now, this is not to say that Google uses Moz Page Authority to rank sites, but rather that Moz Page Authority is a relatively good approximation of whatever link metrics Google is using to determine ranking sites.

Concluding thoughts

There are so many different experimental designs we can use to help improve our research industry-wide, and this is just one of the methods that can help us tease out the differences between causal ranking factors and lagging correlates. Experimental design does not need to be elaborate and the statistics to determine reliability do not need to be cutting edge. While machine learning offers much promise for improving our predictive models, simple statistics can do the trick when we’re establishing the fundamentals.

Now, get out there and do some great research!

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Are You Making These 7 Mistakes with Your About Page?

Good old Google. They do like to keep life interesting for web publishers. You may have heard rumblings about a recent update that wreaked havoc on a lot of “your money or your life” sites — the ones that talk about health, fitness, finances, or happiness. That update appeared to look at the credibility of
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Ask the SMXperts — Page Speed, Site Migrations & Crawling

Three #SMXperts answer questions from the Advanced Technical SEO session at SMX Advanced and share their insights on JavaScript and structured data, two topics at the forefront of website development and search engine ranking.



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4 Reasons Why People Stop Reading Before the End of a Page

Every page you create has a purpose. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a sales page, a subscription page, an about page, a blog post, or any other kind of page. You publish it for a reason. You want something to happen. Maybe you want someone to share the page on social media. Or you want
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SearchCap: EU domains at risk, mobile page speed & search pictures

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

The post SearchCap: EU domains at risk, mobile page speed & search pictures appeared first on Search Engine Land.



Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


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Reading Between the Lines: A 3-Step Guide to Reviewing Web Page Content

Posted by Jackie.Francis

In SEO, reviewing content is an unavoidable yet extremely important task. As the driving factor that brings people to a page, best practice dictates that we do what we can to ensure that the work we’ve invested hours and resources into creating remains impactful and relevant over time. This requires occasionally going back and re-evaluating our content to identify areas that can be improved.

That being said, if you’ve ever done a content review, you know how surprisingly challenging this is. A large variety of formats and topics alongside the challenge of defining “good” content makes it hard to pick out the core elements that matter. Without these universal focus areas, you may end up neglecting an element (e.g. tone of voice) in one instance but paying special attention to that same element in another.

Luckily there are certain characteristics — like good spelling, appealing layouts, and relevant keywords — that are universally associated with what we would consider “good” content. In this three-step guide, I’ll show you how to use these characteristics (or elements, as I like to call them) to define your target audience, measure the performance of your content using a scorecard, and assess your changes for quality assurance as part of a review process that can be applied to nearly all types of content across any industry.


Step 1: Know your audience

Arguably the most important step mentioned in this post, knowing your target reader will identify the details that should make up the foundation of your content. This includes insight into the reader’s intent, the ideal look and feel of the page, and the goals your content’s message should be trying to achieve.

To get to this point, however, you first need to answer these two questions:

  1. What does my target audience look like?
  2. Why are they reading my content?

What does my target audience look like?

The first question relies on general demographic information such as age, gender, education, and job title. This gives a face to the ideal audience member(s) and the kind of information that would best suit them. For example, if targeting stay-at-home mothers between the ages of 35 and 40 with two or more kids under the age of 5, we can guess that she has a busy daily schedule, travels frequently for errands, and constantly needs to stay vigilant over her younger children. So, a piece that is personable, quick, easy to read on-the-go, and includes inline imagery to reduce eye fatigue would be better received than something that is lengthy and requires a high level of focus.

Why are they reading my content?

Once you have a face to your reader, the second question must be answered to understand what that reader wants from your content and if your current product is effectively meeting those needs. For example, senior-level executives of mid- to large-sized companies may be reading to become better informed before making an important decision, to become more knowledgeable in their field, or to use the information they learn to teach others. Other questions you may want to consider asking:

  • Are they reading for leisure or work?
  • Would they want to share this with their friends on social media?
  • Where will they most likely be reading this? On the train? At home? Waiting in line at the store?
  • Are they comfortable with long blocks of text, or would inline images be best?
  • Do they prefer bite-sized information or are they comfortable with lengthy reports?

You can find the answers to these questions and collect valuable demographic and psychographic information by using a combination of internal resources, like sales scripts and surveys, and third-party audience insight tools such as Google Analytics and Facebook Audience Insights. With these results you should now have a comprehensive picture of your audience and can start identifying the parts of your content that can be improved.


Step 2: Tear apart your existing content

Now that you understand who your audience is, it’s time to get to the real work: assessing your existing content. This stage requires breaking everything apart to identify the components you should keep, change, or discard. However, this task can be extremely challenging because the performance of most components — such as tone of voice, design, and continuity — can’t simply be bucketed into binary categories like “good” or “bad.” Rather, they fall into a spectrum where the most reasonable level of improvement falls somewhere in the middle. You’ll see what I mean by this statement later on, but one of the most effective ways to evaluate and measure the degree of optimization needed for these components is to use a scorecard. Created by my colleague, Ben Estes, this straightforward, reusable, and easy to apply tool can help you objectively review the performance of your content.

Make a copy of the Content Review Grading Rubric

Note: The card sampled here, and the one I personally use for similar projects, is a slightly altered version of the original.

As you can see, the card is divided into two categories: Writing and Design. Listed under each category are elements that are universally needed to create a good content and should be examined. Each point is assigned a grading scale ranging from 1–5, with 1 being the worst score and 5 being best.

To use, start by choosing a part of your page to look at first. Order doesn’t matter, so whether you choose to first check “spelling and grammar” or “continuity” is up to you. Next, assign it a score on a separate Excel sheet (or mark it directly on the rubric) based on its current performance. For example, if the copy has no spelling errors but some minor grammar issues, you would rank “spelling and grammar” as a four (4).

Finally, repeat this process until all elements are graded. Remember to stay impartial to give an honest assessment.

Once you’re done, look at each grade and see where it falls on the scale. Ideally each element should have a score of 4 or greater, although a grade of 5 should only be given out sparingly. Tying back to my spectrum comment from earlier, a 5 is exclusively reserved for top-level work and should be something to strive for but will typically take more effort to achieve than it is worth. A grade of 4 is often the highest and most reasonable goal to attempt for, in most instances.

A grade of 3 or below indicates an opportunity for improvement and that significant changes need to be made.

If working with multiple pieces of content at once, the grading system can also be used to help prioritize your workload. Just collect the average writing or design score and sort them in ascending/descending order. Pages with a lower average indicate poorer performance and should be prioritized over pages whose averages are higher.

Whether you choose to use this scorecard or make your own, what you review, the span of the grading scale, and the criteria for each grade should be adjusted to fit your specific needs and result in a tool that will help you honestly assess your content across multiple applications.

Don’t forget the keywords

With most areas of your content covered by the scorecard, the last element to check before moving to the editing stage is your keywords.

Before I get slack for this, I’m aware that the general rule of creating content is to do your keyword research first. But I’ve found that when it comes to reviews, evaluating keywords last feels more natural and makes the process a lot smoother. When first running through a page, you’re much more likely to notice spelling and design flaws before you pick up whether a keyword is used correctly — why not make note of those details first?

Depending on the outcomes stemming from the re-evaluation of your target audience and content performance review, you will notice one of two things about your currently targeted keywords:

  1. They have not been impacted by the outcomes of the prior analyses and do not need to be altered
  2. They no longer align with the goals of the page or needs of the audience and should be changed

In the first example, the keywords you originally target are still best suited for your content’s message and no additional research is needed. So, your only remaining task is to determine whether or not your keywords are effectively used throughout the page. This means assessing things like title tag, image alt attributes, URL, and copy.

In an attempt to stay on track, I won’t go into further detail on how to optimize keywords but if you want a little more insight, this post by Ken Lyons is a great resource.

If, however, your target keywords are no longer relevant to the goals of your content, before moving to the editing stage you’ll need to re-do your keyword research to identify the terms you should rank for. For insight into keyword research this chapter in Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO is another invaluable resource.


Step 3: Evaluate your evaluation

At this point your initial review is complete and you should be ready to edit.

That’s right. Your initial review.

The interesting thing about assessing content is that it never really ends. As you make edits you’ll tend to deviate more and more from your initial strategy. And while not always a bad thing, you must continuously monitor these changes to ensure that you are on the right track to create a highly valued piece of content.

The best approach would be to reassess all your material when:

  • 50% of the edits are complete
  • 85% of the edits are complete
  • You have finished editing

At the 50% and 85% marks, keep the assessment quick and simple. Look through your revisions and ask the following questions:

  • Am I still addressing the needs of my target audience?
  • Are my target keywords properly integrated?
  • Am I using the right language and tone of voice?
  • Does it look like the information is structured correctly (hierarchically)?

If your answer is “Yes” to all four questions, then you’ve effectively made your changes and should proceed. For any question you answer “No,” go back and make the necessary corrections. The areas targeted here become more difficult to fix the closer you are to completion and ensuring they’re correct throughout this stage will save a lot of time and stress in the long run.

When you’ve finished and think you’re ready to publish, run one last comprehensive review to check the performance status of all related components. This means confirming you’ve properly addressed the needs of your audience, optimized your keywords, and improved the elements highlighted in the scorecard.


Moving forward

No two pieces of content are the same, but that does not mean there aren’t some important commonalities either. Being able to identify these similarities and understand the role they play across all formats and topics will lead the way to creating your own review process for evaluating subjective material.

So, when you find yourself gearing up for your next project, give these steps a try and always keep the following in mind:

  1. Your audience is what makes or breaks you, so keep them happy
  2. Consistent quality is key! Ensure all components of your content are performing at their best
  3. Keep your keywords optimized and be prepared to do additional research if necessary
  4. Unplanned changes will happen. Just remember to remain observant as to keep yourself on track

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The Anatomy of a $97 Million Page: A CRO Case Study

Posted by jkuria

In this post, we share a CRO case study from Protalus, one of the fastest-growing footwear companies in the world. They make an insole that corrects the misalignment suffered by roughly 85% of the population. Misalignment is the cause of most back, knee, and foot pain. Back pain alone is estimated to be worth $ 100 billion a year.


Summary

  • We (with Protalus’ team) increased direct sales by 91% in about 6 months through one-click upsells and CRO.
  • Based on the direct sales increase, current run-rate revenue, the “Virtuous Cycle of CRO”-fueled growth rate, and revenue multiple for their industry, we estimate this will add about $ 97 million to the company’s valuation over the next 12–18 months*.
  • A concrete example of the Virtuous Cycle of CRO: Before we increased the conversion rate and average order value, Google Adwords was not a viable channel. Now it is, opening a whole new floodgate of profitable sales! Ditto for at least two other channels. In part due to our work, Protalus’ annual run-rate revenue has grown by 1,212% in less than a year.

* Protalus’ core product is differentiated, patent protected, and high margin. They also have a strong brand and raving fans. In the Shoes & Apparel category, they’re most similar to Lululemon Athletica, which has a 4x plus revenue multiple. While Nike and Under Armor engage in a bloody price war and margin-eroding celebrity endorsements, Lululemon commands significantly higher prices than its peers, without big-name backers! Business gurus Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger often say that the true test of a defensive moat around a business is “Can you raise prices without hurting sales?” Protalus has this in spades. They’ve raised prices several times while simultaneously increasing units sold — from $ 39 to $ 49 to $ 59 to $ 69 to $ 79 to $ 99 to $ 119.


One-click upsells: A 21% sales boost

When we do engagements, the first order of business to uncover low-hanging fruit growth opportunities. This accomplishes two things:

  1. It helps the client get an immediate ROI on the engagement
  2. It earns us goodwill and credibility within the company. We then have wide latitude to run the big, bold experiments that produce huge conversion lifts

In Protalus’ case, we determined they were not doing post-purchase one-click upsells. Adding these immediately boosted sales by 21%. Here’s how we did it:

  • On their main sales landing page, Protalus has an offer where you get $ 30 off on the second pair of insoles, as well as free expedited shipping for both. About 30% of customers were taking this offer.
  • For those who didn’t, right after they purchased but BEFORE they got to the “Thank You” page, we presented the offer again, which led to the 21% sales increase.

Done correctly, one-click upsells easily boost sales, as customers do not have to re-enter credit card details. Here’s the best way to do them: The Little Secret that Made McDonalds a $ 106 Billion Behemoth.

Below is the final upsell page that got the 21% sales increase:

A screenshot of a cell phone Description generated with very high confidence

We tested our way to it. The key effective elements are:

1. Including “free upgrade to expedited shipping” in the headline: 145% lift

The original page had it lower in the body copy:

Google Experiments screenshot showing 145% lift

2. Adding celebrity testimonials: 60% lift

Google Experiments screenshot showing a 60% lift

Elisabeth Howard’s (Ms. Senior America) unsolicited endorsement is especially effective because about 60% of Protalus’ customers are female and almost one-third are retired. We uncovered these gems by reviewing all 11,000 (at the time) customers’ testimonials.

3. Explaining the reasons why other customers bought additional insoles.

See the three bulleted reasons on the first screenshot (convenience, different models, purchasing for loved ones).


Radical re-design and long-form page: A 58% conversion lift

With the upsells producing positive ROI for the client, we turned to re-designing the main sales page. The new page produced a cumulative lift of 58%, attained in two steps.

[Step 1] 35% lift: Long-form content-rich page

Optimizely screenshot shows 35% lift at 99% statistical significance

Note that even after reaching 99% statistical significance, the lift fluctuated between 33% and 37%, so we’ll claim 35%.

[Step 2] 17% lift: Performance improvements

The new page was quite a bit longer, so its “fully loaded” time increased a lot — especially on mobile devices with poor connections. A combination of lazy loading, lossless image shrinking, CSS sprites, and other ninja tactics led to a further 17% lift.

These optimizations reduced the page load time by 40% and shrunk the size by a factor of 4x!

The total cumulative lift was therefore 58% (1.35 x 1.17 = 1.58).

With the earlier 21% sales gain from one-click upsells, that’s a 91% sales increase (1.21 x 1.35 x 1.17 = 1.91).


Dissecting the anatomy of the winning page

To determine what vital few elements to change, we surveyed the non-converting visitors. Much of the work in A/B testing is the tedious research required to understand non-converting visitors.

“Give me six hours to chop a tree and I’ll spend the first four sharpening the axe.” – Abraham Lincoln

All CRO practitioners would do well to learn from good, ol’ honest Abe! We used Mouseflow’s feedback feature to survey bouncing visitors from the main landing page and the check-out page. The top objection themes were:

  1. Price is too high/product too expensive
  2. Not sure it will work (because others didn’t work before)
  3. Not sure it will work for my specific condition
  4. Difficulty in using website

We then came up with specific counter-objections for each: A landing page is a “salesmanship in digital print,” so many of the techniques that work in face-to-face selling also apply.

On a landing page, though, you must overcorrect because you lack the back- and-forth conversation in a live selling situation. Below is the list of key elements on the winning page.

1. Price is too high/product is too expensive

This was by far the biggest objection, cited by over 50% of all respondents. Thus, we spent a disproportionate amount of effort and page real estate on it.

Protalus’ insoles cost $ 79, whereas Dr. Scholls (the 100-year-old brand) cost less than $ 10. When asked what other products they considered, customers frequently said Dr. Scholls.

Coupled with this, nearly one-third of customers are retired and living on a fixed income.

“I ain’t gonna pay no stinkin’ $ 79! They cost more than my shoes,” one visitor remarked.

To overcome the price objection, we did a couple of things.

Articulated the core value proposition and attacked the price from the top

When prospects complain about price it simply means that they do not understand or appreciate the the product’s value proposition. They are seeing this:

The product’s cost exceeds the perceived value

To effectively deal with price, you must tilt the scale so that it looks like this instead:

The perceived value exceeds cost

While the sub-$ 10 Dr. Scholls was the reference point for many, we also learned that some customers had tried custom orthotics ($ 600 to $ 3,000) and Protalus’ insoles compared favorably.

We therefore decided our core value proposition would be:

“Avoid paying $ 600 for custom orthotics. Protalus insoles are almost as effective but cost 87% less.”

…forcing the $ 600 reference point, instead of the $ 10 for Dr. Scholls. In the conversion rate heuristic we use, the value proposition is the single biggest lever.

We explained all this from a “neutral” educational standpoint (rather than a salesy one) in three steps:

1. First, we use “market data” to explain the cause of most pain and establish that custom orthotics are more effective than over-the-counter insoles. Market data is always more compelling than product data, so you should lead with it.

C:\Users\jkuri\AppData\Local\Temp\SNAGHTML32c02fc1.PNG

2. Next, like a good trial lawyer, we show why Protalus insoles are similar to custom orthotics but cost 87% less:

C:\Users\jkuri\AppData\Local\Temp\SNAGHTML32c1e5dd.PNG

3. Finally, we deal with the “elephant in the room” and explain how Protalus insoles are fundamentally different from Dr. Scholls:

C:\Users\jkuri\AppData\Local\Temp\SNAGHTML32c39c19.PNG

We also used several verbatim customer testimonials to reinforce this point:

C:\Users\jkuri\AppData\Local\Temp\SNAGHTML32c7042b.PNG

C:\Users\jkuri\AppData\Local\Temp\SNAGHTML32c8a047.PNG

Whenever possible, let others do your bragging!

Attacked price from the bottom

Here, we used a technique known as “break the price down to the ridiculous.” $ 79 is just 44 cents per day, less than a K-cup of coffee — which most people consume once or twice a day! This makes the price more palatable.

C:\Users\jkuri\AppData\Local\Temp\SNAGHTML32cd1f37.PNG

Used the quality argument

The quality technique is from Zig Ziglar’s Sales Training. You say to a prospect:

“Many years ago, our company/founder/founding team made a basic decision. We decided it would be easier to use the highest quality materials and explain price one time than it would be to apologize for low quality forever. When you use the product/service, you’ll be glad we made that decision.”

It’s especially effective if the company has a well-known “maker” founder (like Yvon Chouinardat at Patagonia). It doesn’t work as well for MBAs or suits, much as we need them!

Protalus’ founder Chris Buck designed the insoles and has a cult-like following, so it works for him.

Dire outcomes of not taking action

Here we talked about the dire outcomes if you do not get the insoles; for example, surgery, doctors’ bills, and lost productivity at work! Many customers work on their feet all day (nurses, steelworkers, etc.) so this last point is highly relevant.

C:\Users\jkuri\AppData\Local\Temp\SNAGHTML3717c03d.PNG

Microsoft employed this technique successfully against Linux in the early 2000s. While Linux was free, the “Total Cost of Ownership” for not getting Windows was much higher when you considered support, frequent bugs, less accountability, fewer feature updates, and so on.

2. Not sure the product will work

For this objection, we did the following:

Used Dr. Romansky

We prominently featured Dr. Romansky, Protalus’ resident podiatrist. A consultant to the US Men’s and Women’s soccer teams and the Philadephia Phillies baseball team, he has serious credibility.

C:\Users\jkuri\AppData\Local\Temp\SNAGHTML371d6ed4.PNG

The “educational” part of the landing page (above the fold) is done in “his voice.” Before, only his name appeared on a rarely visited page. This is an example of a “hidden wealth” opportunity!

Used celebrity testimonials on the main landing page

Back in 1997, a sports writer asked Phil Knight (Nike’s founder): “Is there no better way for you to spend $ 100 million?”

You see, Knight had just paid that staggering sum to a young Tiger Woods — and it seemed extravagant!

Knight’s answer? An emphatic “No!” That $ 100 million would generate several billion dollars in sales for Nike over the next decade!

Celebrity testimonials work. Period.

Since our celebrity endorsements increased the one-click upsell take-rate by 60%, we also used them on the main page:

C:\Users\jkuri\AppData\Local\Temp\SNAGHTML372a0993.PNG

C:\Users\jkuri\AppData\Local\Temp\SNAGHTML3728f545.PNG

Used expert reviews

We solicited and included expert reviews from industry and medical professionals. Below are two of the four we used:

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These also helped address the price concern because some site visitors had expressed discomfort paying so much for an over-the-counter product without doctor recommendation.

3. Not sure the product will work for me

This is different from “Not sure the product will work” and needs to be treated separately. If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the years, it is that everyone thinks their situation is one-in-a-million unique!

We listed all the conditions that Protalus insoles address, as well as those they do not.

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In addition, we clearly stated that the product does not work for 15% of the population.

By conspicuously admitting this (NOT just in the fine print section!) you are more credible. This is expressed in the Prospect’s Protest as:

“First tell me what your product CANNOT do and I might believe you when you tell me what it can do!”

4. Difficulty in using the site

Several visitors reported difficulty using the site, so we used Mouseflow’s powerful features to detect and fix usability issues.

Interestingly, the visitor session recordings confirmed that price was a big issue as we could clearly see prospects navigate to the price, stare incredulously, and then leave!

Accentuate the customers’ reasons for buying

Most of the opportunity in CRO is in the non-converting visitors (often over 90%), but understanding converting ones can yield crucial insights.*

For Protalus, the top reasons for buying were:

  • Desperation/too much leg, knee, or back pain/willing to try anything (This is the 4M, for “motivation,” in the strategic formula we use)
  • The testimonials were persuasive
  • Video was convincing

On the last point, the Mouseflow heatmaps showed that those who watched the video bought at a much higher rate, yet few watched it.

We therefore placed the video higher above the fold, used an arrow to draw attention, and inserted a sub-headline:

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A million-dollar question we ask buyers is:

“Was there any reason you ALMOST DID NOT buy?”

Devised by Cambridge-educated Dr. Karl Blanks, who coined the term “conversion rate optimization” in 2006, this question earned him a knighthood from the Queen of England! Thanks, Sir Karl!

It’s a great question because its answer is usually the reason many others didn’t buy. For every person who almost didn’t buy for reason X, I guarantee at least three others did not buy!

Given the low response rates when surveying non-converting visitors, this question helps get additional intelligence. In our case, price came up again.

*Sometimes the customers’ reasons for buying will surprise you. One of our past clients is in the e-cigarette/vaping business and a common reason cited by men for vaping was “to quit smoking because of my young daughter.” They almost never said “child” or “son”! Armed with this knowledge, we converted a whole new segment of smokers who had not considered vaping.

Speed testimonials

One of the most frequently asked questions was “How soon can I expect relief?” While Protalus addressed this in their Q&A section, we included conspicuous “speed testimonials” on the main page:

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For someone in excruciating pain, the promise of fast relief is persuasive!

Patent protection exclusivity & social proof

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Many of Protalus’ site visitors are older and still prefer to buy in physical stores, as we learned from our survey. They may like the product, but then think “I’ll buy them at the store.” We clarified that the product is only available on Protalus’ site.

Mentioning the patent-protection added exclusivity, one of the two required elements for a compelling value proposition.

At its core, landing page optimization isn’t about optimizing pages. A page just happens to be the medium used to optimize thought sequences in the prospect’s mind.

Dr. Flint likes to say, “The geography of the page determines the chronology of thought sequences in the prospect’s mind.” As shown above, we repeated the social proof elements at the point of purchase.

Tying it all together

After systematically addressing each objection and adding various appeal elements, we strung them all in the cohesive long-form page below.

We start with a powerful headline and Elisabeth’s story because it’s both intriguing and relevant to Protalus’ audience, which skews female and over 55. The only goal of a headline is to get visitors to read what comes next — NOT to sell.

The product’s price is not mentioned until we have told a compelling story, educated visitors and engaged them emotionally.

Note that the winning page is several times longer than the control. There is a mistaken belief that you “just need to get to the point” because people won’t read long pages. In fact, a previous consultant told Protalus that their sales were low because the “buy button” wasn’t high enough on the page. :-)

Nothing could be further from the truth. For a high-priced product, you must articulate a compelling value proposition before you sell!

But also note the page is “as long as necessary, but as short as possible.” Buy buttons are sprinkled liberally after the initial third of the page so that those who are convinced needn’t “sit through the entire presentation.”


Acknowledgement

We’d like to thank team Protalus for giving us wide latitude to conduct bold experiments and for allowing us to publish this. Their entrepreneurial culture has been refreshing. We are most grateful to Don Vasquez, their forward-thinking CMO (and minority owner), for trusting the process and standing by us when the first test caused some revenue loss.

Thanks to Hayk Saakian, Nick Jordan, Yin-so Chen, and Jon Powell for reading drafts of this piece.


Free CRO audit

I can’t stress this enough: CRO is hard work. We spent countless hours on market research, studied visitor behavior, and reviewed tens of thousands of customer comments before we ran a single A/B test. We also solicited additional testimonials from industry experts and doctors. There is no magical silver bullet — just lots of little lead ones!

Results like this don’t happen by accident. If you are unhappy with your current conversion rate for sales, leads or app downloads, first, we encourage you to review the tried-and-true strategic formula. Next, we would like to offer Moz readers a free CRO audit. We’ll also throw in a free SEO (Search Engine Optimization) review. While we specialize in CRO, we’ve partnered with one of the best SEO firms due to client demand. Lastly, we are hiring. Review the roles and reasons why you should come work for us!

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!


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