Tag Archive | "Study"

7 Search Ranking Factors Analyzed: A Follow-Up Study

Posted by Jeff_Baker

Grab yourself a cup of coffee (or two) and buckle up, because we’re doing maths today.

Again.

Back it on up…

A quick refresher from last time: I pulled data from 50 keyword-targeted articles written on Brafton’s blog between January and June of 2018.

We used a technique of writing these articles published earlier on Moz that generates some seriously awesome results (we’re talking more than doubling our organic traffic in the last six months, but we will get to that in another publication).

We pulled this data again… Only I updated and reran all the data manually, doubling the dataset. No APIs. My brain is Swiss cheese.

We wanted to see how newly written, original content performs over time, and which factors may have impacted that performance.

Why do this the hard way, dude?

“Why not just pull hundreds (or thousands!) of data points from search results to broaden your dataset?”, you might be thinking. It’s been done successfully quite a few times!

Trust me, I was thinking the same thing while weeping tears into my keyboard.

The answer was simple: I wanted to do something different from the massive aggregate studies. I wanted a level of control over as many potentially influential variables as possible.

By using our own data, the study benefited from:

  • The same root Domain Authority across all content.
  • Similar individual URL link profiles (some laughs on that later).
  • Known original publish dates and without reoptimization efforts or tinkering.
  • Known original keyword targets for each blog (rather than guessing).
  • Known and consistent content depth/quality scores (MarketMuse).
  • Similar content writing techniques for targeting specific keywords for each blog.

You will never eliminate the possibility of misinterpreting correlation as causation. But controlling some of the variables can help.

As Rand once said in a Whiteboard Friday, “Correlation does not imply causation (but it sure is a hint).

Caveat:

What we gained in control, we lost in sample size. A sample size of 96 is much less useful than ten thousand, or a hundred thousand. So look at the data carefully and use discretion when considering the ranking factors you find most likely to be true.

This resource can help gauge the confidence you should put into each Pearson Correlation value. Generally, the stronger the relationship, the smaller sample size needed to be be confident in the results.

So what exactly have you done here?

We have generated hints at what may influence the organic performance of newly created content. No more, and no less. But they are indeed interesting hints and maybe worth further discussion or research.

What have you not done?

We have not published sweeping generalizations about Google’s algorithm. This post should not be read as a definitive guide to Google’s algorithm, nor should you assume that your site will demonstrate the same correlations.

So what should I do with this data?

The best way to read this article, is to observe the potential correlations we observed with our data and consider the possibility of how those correlations may or may not apply to your content and strategy.

I’m hoping that this study takes a new approach to studying individual URLs and stimulates constructive debate and conversation.

Your constructive criticism is welcome, and hopefully pushes these conversations forward!

The stat sheet

So quit jabbering and show me the goods, you say? Alright, let’s start with our stats sheet, formatted like a baseball card, because why not?:

*Note: Only blogs with complete ranking data were used in the study. We threw out blogs with missing data rather than adding arbitrary numbers.

And as always, here is the original data set if you care to reproduce my results.

So now the part you have been waiting for…

The analysis

To start, please use a refresher on the Pearson Correlation Coefficient from my last blog post, or Rand’s.

1. Time and performance

I started with a question: “Do blogs age like a Macallan 18 served up neat on a warm summer Friday afternoon, or like tepid milk on a hot summer Tuesday?

Does the time indexed play a role in how a piece of content performs?

Correlation 1: Time and target keyword position

First we will map the target keyword ranking positions against the number of days its corresponding blog has been indexed. Visually, if there is any correlation we will see some sort of negative or positive linear relationship.

There is a clear negative relationship between the two variables, which means the two variables may be related. But we need to go beyond visuals and use the PCC.

Days live vs. target keyword position

PCC

-.343

Relationship

Moderate

The data shows a moderate relationship between how long a blog has been indexed and the positional ranking of the target keyword.

But before getting carried away, we shouldn’t solely trust one statistical method and call it a day. Let’s take a look at things another way: Let’s compare the average age of articles whose target keywords rank in the top ten against the average age of articles whose target keywords rank outside the top ten.

Average age of articles based on position

Target KW position ≤ 10

144.8 days

Target KW position > 10

84.1 days

Now a story is starting to become clear: Our newly written content takes a significant amount of time to fully mature.

But for the sake of exhausting this hint, let’s look at the data one final way. We will group the data into buckets of target keyword positions, and days indexed, then apply them to a heatmap.

This should show us a clear visual clustering of how articles perform over time.

This chart, quite literally, paints a picture. According to the data, we shouldn’t expect a new article to realize its full potential until at least 100 days, and likely longer. As a blog post ages, it appears to gain more favorable target keyword positioning.

Correlation 2: Time and total ranking keywords on URL

You’ll find that when you write an article it will (hopefully) rank for the keyword you target. But often times it will also rank for other keywords. Some of these are variants of the target keyword, some are tangentially related, and some are purely random noise.

Instinct will tell you that you want your articles to rank for as many keywords as possible (ideally variants and tangentially related keywords).

Predictably, we have found that the relationship between the number of keywords an article ranks for and its estimated monthly organic traffic (per SEMrush) is strong (.447).

We want all of our articles to do things like this:

We want lots of variants each with significant search volume. But, does an article increase the total number of keywords it ranks for over time? Let’s take a look.

Visually this graph looks a little murky due to the existence of two clear outliers on the far right. We will first run the analysis with the outliers, and again without. With the outliers, we observe the following:

Days live vs. total keywords ranking on URL (w/outliers)

PCC

.281

Relationship

Weak/borderline moderate

There appears to be a relationship between the two variables, but it isn’t as strong. Let’s see what happens when we remove those two outliers:

Visually, the relationship looks stronger. Let’s look at the PCC:

Days live vs. total keywords ranking on URL (without outliers)

PCC

.390

Relationship

Moderate/borderline strong

The relationship appears to be much stronger with the two outliers removed.

But again, let’s look at things another way.

Let’s look at the average age of the top 25% of articles and compare them to the average age of the bottom 25% of articles:

Average age of top 25% of articles versus bottom 25%

Top 25%

148.9 days

Bottom 25%

73.8 days

This is exactly why we look at data multiple ways! The top 25% of blog posts with the most ranking keywords have been indexed an average of 149 days, while the bottom 25% have been indexed 74 days — roughly half.

To be fully sure, let’s again cluster the data into a heatmap to observe where performance falls on the time continuum:

We see a very similar pattern as in our previous analysis: a clustering of top-performing blogs starting at around 100 days.

Time and performance assumptions

You still with me? Good, because we are saying something BIG here. In our observation, it takes between 3 and 5 months for new content to perform in organic search. Or at the very least, mature.

To look at this one final way, I’ve created a scatterplot of only the top 25% of highest performing blogs and compared them to their time indexed:

There are 48 data plots on this chart, the blue plots represent the top 25% of articles in terms of strongest target keyword ranking position. The orange plots represent the top 25% of articles with the highest number of keyword rankings on their URL. (These can be, and some are, the same URL.)

Looking at the data a little more closely, we see the following:

90% of the top 25% of highest-performing content took at least 100 days to mature, and only two articles took less than 75 days.

Time and performance conclusion

For those of you just starting a content marketing program, remember that you may not see the full organic potential for your first piece of content until month 3 at the earliest. And, it takes at least a couple months of content production to make a true impact, so you really should wait a minimum of 6 months to look for any sort of results.

In conclusion, we expect new content to take at least 100 days to fully mature.

2. Links

But wait, some of you may be saying. What about links, buddy? Articles build links over time, too!

It stands to reason that, over time, a blog will gain links (and ranking potential) over time. Links matter, and higher positioned rankings gain links at a faster rate. Thus, we are at risk of misinterpreting correlation for causation if we don’t look at this carefully.

But what none of you know, that I know, is that being the terrible SEO that I am, I had no linking strategy with this campaign.

And I mean zero strategy. The average article generated 1.3 links from .5 linking domains.

Nice.

Linking domains vs. target keyword position

PCC

-.022

Relationship

None

Average linking domains to top 25% of articles

.46

Average linking domains to bottom 25% of articles

.46

The one thing consistent across all the articles was a shocking and embarrassing lack of inbound links. This is demonstrated by an insignificant correlation coefficient of -.022. The same goes for the total number of links per URL, with a correlation coefficient of -.029.

These articles appear to have performed primarily on their content rather than inbound links.

(And they certainly would have performed much better with a strong, or any, linking strategy. Nobody is arguing the value of links here.) But mostly…

Shame on me.

Shame. Shame. Shame.

But on a positive note, we were able to generate a more controlled experiment on the effects of time and blog performance. So, don’t fire me just yet?

Note: It would be interesting to pull link quality metrics into the discussion (for the precious few links we did earn) rather than total volume. However, after a cursory look at the data, nothing stood out as being significant.

3. Word count

Content marketers and SEOs love talking about word count. And for good reason. When we collectively agreed that “quality content” was the key to rankings, it would stand to reason that longer content would be more comprehensive, and thus do a better job of satisfying searcher intent. So let’s test that theory.

Correlation 1: Target keyword position versus total word count

Will longer articles increase the likelihood of ranking for the keyword you are targeting?

Not in our case. To be sure, let’s run a similar analysis as before.

Word count vs. target keyword position

PCC

.111

Relationship

Negligible

Average word count of top 25% articles

1,774

Average word count of bottom 25% articles

1,919

The data shows no impact on rankings based on the length of our articles.

Correlation 2: Total keywords ranking on URL versus word count

One would think that longer content would result in is additional ranking keywords, right? Even by accident, you would think that the more related topics you discuss in an article, the more keywords you will rank for. Let’s see if that’s true:

Total keywords ranking on URL vs. word count

PCC

-.074

Relationship

None

Not in this case.

Word count, speculative tangent

So how can it be that so many studies demonstrate higher word counts result in more favorable rankings? Some reconciliation is in order, so allow me to speculate on what I think may be happening in these studies.

  1. Most likely: Measurement techniques. These studies generally look at one factor relative to rankings: average absolute word count based on position. (And, there actually isn’t much of a difference in average word count between position one and ten.)
  2. As we are demonstrating in this article, there may be many other factors at play that need to be isolated and tested for correlations in order to get the full picture, such as: time indexed, on-page SEO (to be discussed later), Domain Authority, link profile, and depth/quality of content (also to be discussed later with MarketMuse as a measure). It’s possible that correlation does not imply correlation, and by using word count averages as the single method of measure, we may be painting too broad of a stroke.

  3. Likely: High quality content is longer, by nature. We know that “quality content” is discussed in terms of how well a piece satisfies the intent of the reader. In an ideal scenario, you will create content that fully satisfies everything a searcher would want to know about a given topic. Ideally you own the resource center for the topic, and the searcher does not need to revisit SERPs and weave together answers from multiple sources. By nature, this type of comprehensive content is quite lengthy. Long-form content is arguably a byproduct of creating for quality. Cyrus Shepard does a better job of explaining this likelihood here.
  4. Less likely: Long-form threshold. The articles we wrote for this study ranged from just under 1,000 words to nearly as high as 4,000 words. One could consider all of these as “long-form content,” and perhaps Google does as well. Perhaps there is a word count threshold that Google uses.

This is all speculation. What we can say for certain is that all our content is 900 words and up, and shows no incremental benefit to be had from additional length.

Feel free to disagree with any (or all) of my speculations on my interpretation of the discrepancies of results, but I tend to have the same opinion as Brian Dean with the information available.

4. MarketMuse

At this point, most of you are familiar with MarketMuse. They have created a number of AI-powered tools that help with content planning and optimization.

We use the Content Optimizer tool, which evaluates the top 20 results for any keyword and generates an outline of all the major topics being discussed in SERPs. This helps you create content that is more comprehensive than your competitors, which can lead to better performance in search.

Based on the competitive landscape, the tool will generate a recommended content score (their proprietary algorithm) that you should hit in order to compete with the competing pages ranking in SERPs.

But… if you’re a competitive fellow, what happens if you want to blow the recommended score out of the water? Do higher scores have an impact on rankings? Does it make a difference if your competition has a very low average score?

We pulled every article’s content score, along with MarketMuse’s recommended scores and the average competitor scores, to answer these questions.

Correlation 1: Overall MarketMuse content score

Does a higher overall content score result in better rankings? Let’s take a look:

Absolute MarketMuse score vs. target keyword position

PCC

.000

Relationship

None

A perfect zero! We weren’t able to beat the system by racking up points. I also checked to see if a higher absolute score would result in a larger number of keywords ranking on the URL — it doesn’t.

Correlation 2: Beating the recommended score

As mentioned, based on the competitive landscape, MarketMuse will generate a recommended content score. What happens if you blow the recommended score out of the water? Do you get bonus points?

In order to calculate this correlation, we pulled the content score percentage attainment and compared it to the target keyword position. For example, if we scored a 30 of recommended 25, we hit 120% attainment. Let’s see if it matters:

Percentage content score attainment vs. target keyword position

PCC

.028

Relationship

None

No bonus points for doing extra credit!

Correlation 3: Beating the average competitors’ scores

Okay, if you beat MarketMuse’s recommendations, you don’t get any added benefit, but what if you completely destroy your competitors’ average content scores?

We will calculate this correlation the same way we previously did, with percentage attainment over the average competitor. For example, if we scored a 30 over the average of 10, we hit 300% attainment. Let’s see if that matters:

Percentage attainment over average competitor score versus target KW position

PCC

-.043

Relationship

None

That didn’t work either! Seems that there are no hacks or shortcuts here.

MarketMuse summary

We know that MarketMuse works, but it seems that there are no additional tricks to this tool.

If you regularly hit the recommended score as we did (average 110% attainment, with 81% of blogs hitting 100% attainment or better) and cover the topics prescribed, you should do well. But don’t fixate on competitor scores or blowing the recommended score out of the water. You may just be wasting your time.

Note: It’s worth noting that we probably would have shown stronger correlations had we intentionally bombed a few MarketMuse scores. Perhaps a test for another day.

5. On-page optimization

Ah, old-school technical SEO. This type of work warms the cockles of a seasoned SEO’s heart. But does it still have a place in our constantly evolving world? Has Google advanced to the point where it doesn’t need technical cues from SEOs to understand what a page is about?

To find out, I have pulled Moz’s on-page optimization score for every article and compared them to the target keywords’ positional rankings:

Let’s take a look at the scatterplot for all the keyword targets.

Now looking at the math:

On-page optimization score vs. target keyword position

PCC

-.384

Relationship

Moderate/strong

Average on-page score for top 25%

91%

Average on-page score for bottom 25%

87%

If you have a keen eye you may have noticed a few strong outliers on the scatterplot. If we remove three of the largest outliers, the correlation goes up to -.435, a strong relationship.

Before we jump to conclusions, let’s look at this data one final way.

Let’s take a look at the percentage of articles with their target keywords ranking 1–10 that also have a 90% on-page score or better. We will compare that number to the percentage of articles ranking outside the top ten that also have a 90% on-page score or better.

If our assumption is correct, we will see a much higher percentage of keywords ranking 1–10 with an on-page score of 90% or better, and a lower number for articles ranking greater than 10.

On-page optimization score by rankings

Percentage of KWs ranking 1–10 with ≥ 90% score

73.5%

Percentage of keywords ranking >10 with ≥ 90% score

53.2%

This is enough of a hint for me. I’m implementing a 90% minimum on-page score from here on out.

Old school SEOs, rejoice!

6. The competition’s average word count

We won’t put this “word count” argument to bed just yet…

Let’s ask ourselves, “Does it matter how long the average content of the top 20 results is?”

Is there a relationship between the length of your content versus the average competitor?

What if your competitors are writing very short form, and you want to beat them with long-form content?

We will measure this the same way as before, with percentage attainment. For example, if the average word count of the top 20 results for “content marketing agency” is 300, and our piece is 450 words, we hit 150% attainment.

Let’s see if you can “out-verbose” your opponents.

Percentage word count attainment versus target KW position

PCC

.062

Relationship

None

Alright, I’ll put word count to bed now, I promise.

7. Keyword density

You’ve made it to the last analysis. Congratulations! How many cups of coffee have you consumed? No judgment; this report was responsible for entire coffee farms being completely decimated by yours truly.

For selfish reasons, I couldn’t resist the temptation to dispel this ancient tactic of “using target keywords” in blog content. You know what I’m talking about: when someone says “This blog doesn’t FEEL optimized… did you use the target keyword enough?”

There are still far too many people that believe that littering target keywords throughout a piece of content will yield results. And misguided SEO agencies, along with certain SEO tools, perpetuate this belief.

Yoast has a tool in WordPress that some digital marketers live and die by. They don’t think that a blog is complete until Yoast shows the magical green light, indicating that the content has satisfied the majority of its SEO recommendations:

Uh oh, keyword density is too low! Let’s see if it that ACTUALLY matters.

Not looking so good, my keyword-stuffing friends! Let’s take a look at the PCC:

Target keyword ranking position vs. Yoast keyword density

PCC

.097

Relationship

None/Negligible

Believers would like to see a negative relationship here; as the keyword density goes down, the ranking position decreases, producing a downward sloping line.

What we are looking at is a slightly upward-sloping line, which would indicate losing rankings by keyword stuffing — but fortunately not TOO upward sloping, given the low correlation value.

Okay, so PLEASE let that be the end of “keyword density.” This practice has been disproven in past studies, as referenced by Zyppy. Let’s confidently put this to bed, forever. Please.

Oh, and just for kicks, the Flesch Reading Ease score has no bearing on rankings either (-.03 correlation). Write to a third grade level, or a college level, it doesn’t matter.

TL;DR (I don’t blame you)

What we learned from our data

  1. Time: It took 100 days or more for an article to fully mature and show its true potential. A content marketing program probably shouldn’t be fully scrutinized until month 5 or 6 at the very earliest.
  2. Links: Links matter, I’m just terrible at generating them. Shame.
  3. Word count: It’s not about the length of the content, in absolute terms or relative to the competition. It’s about what is written and how resourceful it is.
  4. MarketMuse: We have proven that MarketMuse works as it prescribes, but there is no added benefit to breaking records.
  5. On-page SEO: Our data demonstrates that it still matters. We all still have a job.
  6. Competitor content length: We weren’t successful at blowing our competitors out of the water with longer content.
  7. Keyword density: Just stop. Join us in modern times. The water is warm.

In conclusion, some reasonable guidance we agree on is:

Wait at least 100 days to evaluate the performance of your content marketing program, write comprehensive content, and make sure your on-page SEO score is 90%+.

Oh, and build links. Unlike me. Shame.

Now go take a nap.

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The E-Commerce Benchmark KPI Study: The Most Valuable Online Consumer Trend of 2018 Revealed [Video]

Posted by Alan_Coleman

The latest Wolfgang E-Commerce Report is now live. This study gives a comprehensive view of the state of digital marketing in retail and travel, allowing digital marketers to benchmark their 2018 performance and plan their 2019 strategy.

The study analyzes over 250 million website sessions and more than €500 million in online revenue. Google Analytics, new Facebook Analytics reports, and online surveys are used to glean insights.

Revenue volume correlations

One of the unique features of the study is its conversion correlation. All website metrics featured in the study are correlated with conversion success to reveal what the most successful websites do differently.

This year we’ve uncovered our strongest success correlation ever at 0.67! Just to give that figure context: normally, 0.2 is worth talking about and 0.3 is noteworthy. Not only is this correlation with success very strong, the insight itself is highly actionable and can become a pillar of your digital marketing strategy.

And the stand out metric is (drumroll, please!)…

Number of sessions per user.

To put it plainly, the websites that generate the most online revenue have the highest number of sessions per user over 12 months. Check out the video below to get a detailed explanation of this phenomenon:

Video transcript available below

These are the top factors that correlated with revenue volume. You can see the other correlations in the full study.

Click to see a bigger version

  • Average pages per session (.37)
  • Average session length (.49)
  • Conversion rate by users (.41)
  • Number of sessions per user (.67)
  • Percentage of sessions from paid search (.25)

Average website engagement metrics

Number of sessions per user Average pages per session Average session duration Bounce rate Average page load time Average server response time
Retail 1.58 6 3min 18sec 38.04% 6.84 1.02
Multi-channel 1.51 6 3min 17sec 35.27% 6.83 1.08
Online-only 1.52 5 3min 14sec 43.80% 6.84 0.89
Travel 1.57 3 2min 34sec 44.14% 6.76 0.94
Overall 1.58 5 3min 1sec 41.26% 6.80 0.97

Above are the average website engagement metrics. You can see the average number of sessions per user is very low at 1.5 over 12 months. Anything a digital marketer can do to get this to 2, to 3, and to 4 makes for about the best digital marketing they can do.

At Wolfgang Digital, we’ve been witnessing this phenomenon at a micro-level for some time now. Many of our most successful campaigns of late have been focused on presenting the user with an evolving message which matures with each interaction across multiple media touchpoints.

Click through to the Wolfgang E-Commerce KPI Report in full to uncover dozens more insights, including:

  • Is a social media engagement more valuable than a website visit?
  • What’s the true value of a share?
  • What’s the average conversion rate for online-only vs multi-channel retailers?
  • What’s the average order value for a hotel vs. tour operator?

Video Transcript

Today I want to talk to you about the most important online consumer trend in 2018. The story starts in a client meeting about four years ago, and we were meeting with a travel client. We got into a discussion about bounce rate and its implication on conversion rate. The client was asking us, “could we optimize our search and social campaigns to reduce bounce rate?”, which is a perfectly valid question.

But we were wondering: Will we lower the rate of conversions? Are all bounces bad? As a result of this meeting, we said, “You know, we need a really scientific answer to that question about any of the website engagement metrics or any of the website channels and their influence on conversion.” Out of that conversation, our E-Commerce KPI Report was born. We’re now four years into it. (See previous years on the Moz Blog: 2015, 2016, 2017.)

The metric with the strongest correlation to conversions: Number of sessions per user

We’ve just released the 2019 E-Commerce KPI Report, and we have a standout finding, probably the strongest correlation we’ve ever seen between a website engagement metric and a website conversion metric. This is beautiful because we’re all always optimizing for conversion metrics. But if you can isolate the engagement metrics which deliver, which are the money-making metrics, then you can be much more intelligent about how you create digital marketing campaigns.

The strongest correlation we’ve ever seen in this study is number of sessions per user, and the metric simply tells us on average how many times did your users visit your website. What we’re learning here is any digital marketing you can do which makes that number increase is going to dramatically increase your conversions, your revenue success.

Change the focus of your campaigns

It’s a beautiful metric to plan campaigns with because it changes the focus. We’re not looking for a campaign that’s a one-click wonder campaign. We’re not looking for a campaign that it’s one message delivered multiple times to the same user. Much more so, we’re trying to create a journey, multiple touchpoints which deliver a user from their initial interaction through the purchase funnel, right through to conversion.

Create an itinerary of touchpoints along the searcher’s journey

1. Research via Google

Let me give you an example. We started this with a story about a travel company. I’m just back from a swimming holiday in the west of Ireland. So let’s say I have a fictional travel company. We’ll call them Wolfgang Wild Swimming. I’m going to be a person who’s researching a swimming holiday. So I’m going to go to Google first, and I’m going to search for swimming holidays in Ireland.

2. E-book download via remarketing

I’m going to go to the Wolfgang Wild Swimming web page, where I’m going to read a little bit about their offering. In doing that, I’m going to enter their Facebook audience. The next time I go to Facebook, they’re now remarketing to me, and they’ll be encouraging me to download their e-book, which is a guide to the best swimming spots in the wild west of Ireland. I’m going to volunteer my email to them to get access to the book. Then I’m going to spend a bit more time consuming their content and reading their book.

3. Email about a local offline event

A week later, I get an email from them, and they’re having an event in my area. They’re going for a swim in Dublin, one of my local spots in The Forty Foot, for example. I’m saying, “Well, I was going to go for a swim this weekend anyway. I might as well go with this group.” I go to the swim where I can meet the tour guides. I can meet people who have been on it before. I’m now really close to making a purchase.

4. YouTube video content consumed via remarketing

Again, a week later, they have my email address, so they’re targeting me on YouTube with videos of previous holidays. Now I’m watching video content. All of a sudden, Wolfgang Wild Swimming comes up. I’m now watching a video of a previous holiday, and I’m recognizing the instructors and the participants in the previous holidays. I’m really, really close to pressing Purchase on a holiday here. I’m on the phone to my friend saying, “I found the one. Let’s book this.”

Each interaction moves the consumer closer to purchase

I hope what you’re seeing there is with each interaction, the Google search, the Facebook ad which led to an e-book download, the offline event, back online to the YouTube video, with each interaction I’m getting closer to the purchase.

You can imagine the conversion rate and the return on ad spend on each interaction increasing as we go. This is a really powerful message for us as digital marketers. When we’re planning a campaign, we think about ourselves as though we’re in the travel business too, and we’re actually creating an itinerary. We’re simply trying to create an itinerary of touchpoints that guide a searcher through awareness, interest, right through to action and making that purchase.

I think it’s not just our study that tells us this is the truth. A lot of the best-performing campaigns we’ve been running we’ve seen this anecdotally, that every extra touchpoint increases the conversion rate. Really powerful insight, really useful for digital marketers when planning campaigns. This is just one of the many insights from our E-Commerce KPI Report. If you found that interesting, I’d urge you to go read the full report today.

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How We More than Doubled Conversions & Leads for a New ICO [Case Study]

Posted by jkuria

Summary

We helped Repux generate 253% more leads, nearly 100% more token sales and millions of dollars in incremental revenue during their initial coin offering (ICO) by using our CRO expertise.

The optimized site also helped them get meetings with some of the biggest names in the venture capital community — a big feat for a Poland-based team without the pedigree typically required (no MIT, Stanford, Ivy League, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft background).

The details:

Repux is a marketplace that lets small and medium businesses sell anonymized data to developers. The developers use the data to build “artificially intelligent” apps, which they then sell back to businesses. Business owners and managers use the apps to make better business decisions.

Below is the original page, which linked to a dense whitepaper. We don’t know who decided that an ICO requires a long, dry whitepaper, but this seems to be the norm!

A screenshot of a cell phone</p>
<p>Description generated with very high confidence

This page above suffers from several issues:

  • The headline is pretty meaningless (“Decentralized Data & Applications Protocol for SMEs). Remember, as David Ogilvy noted, 90% of the success of an ad (in our case, a landing page) is determined by the headline. Visitors quickly scan the headline and if it doesn’t hold their interest, bounce immediately. With so much content on the web, attention is scarce — the average time spent on a page is a few seconds and the average bounce rate is about 85%.
  • The call to action is “Get Whitelisted,” which is also meaningless. What’s in it for me? Why should I want to “Get Whitelisted”?
  • A lack of urgency to act. There is a compelling reason to do so, but it was not being clearly articulated (“Get 50% OFF on the tokens if you buy before a certain date.”)
  • Lack of “evidentials”: Evidentials are elements that lend credibility or reduce anxiety and include things like mentions in trusted publications, well-known investors or advisors, industry seals, association affiliations, specific numbers (e.g. 99% Net Promoter Score), and so on.
  • Too much jargon and arcane technical language: Our research using Mouseflow’s on-page feedback feature showed that the non-accredited-investor ICO audience isn’t sophisticated. They typically reside outside of the US and have a limited command of English. Most are younger men (18–35) who made money from speculative activities on the Internet (affiliate marketing, Adsense arbitrage, and of course other crypto-currencies). When we surveyed them, many did not initially understand the concept. In our winning page (below), we dumbed down things a lot!

Below is the new page that produced a 253% gain in leads (email opt-ins). Coupled with the email follow-up sequence shown below, it produced a nearly 100% gain in token sales.

Winning page (above the fold):

Here are few of the elements that we believe made a difference:

  • Much clearer headline (which we improved upon further in a subsequent treatment).
  • Simple explanation of what the company is doing
  • Urgency to buy now — get 50% off on tokens if you buy before the countdown timer expires
  • Solicited and used press mentions
  • Social proof from the Economist; tapping a meme can be powerful as it’s always easier to swim downstream than upstream. “Data is the new oil” is a current meme.

More persuasive elements (below the fold):

In the second span (the next screenful below the fold) we added a few more persuasive elements.

For one, we highlighted key Repux accomplishments and included bios of two advisors who are well known in the crypto-community.

Having a working platform was an important differentiator because only one in 10 ICOs had a working product. Most launched with just a whitepaper!

A survey of the token buyers showed that mentioning well-known advisors worked — several respondents said it was the decisive factor in persuading them to buy. Before, the advisors were buried in a little-visited page. We featured them more prominently.

Interestingly, this seemed to cut both ways. One of the non-contributors said he was initially interested because of a certain advisor’s involvement. He later chose not to contribute because he felt this advisor’s other flagship project had been mismanaged!

We also used 3 concrete examples to show how the marketplace functions and how the tokens would be used:

When your product is highly abstract and technical, using concrete examples aids understanding. We also found this to be true when pitching to professional investors. They often asked, “Can you give me an example of how this would work in the real world?”

We like long-form pages because unlike a live selling situation, there’s no opportunity for a back-and-forth conversation. The page must therefore overcorrect and address every objection a web visitor might have.

Lastly, we explained why Repux is likely to succeed. We quoted Victor Hugo for good measure, to create an air of inevitability:

How much impact did Victor Hugo have? I don’t know, but the page did much better overall. Our experience shows that radical redesigns (that change many page elements at the same time) produce higher conversion lifts.

Once you attain a large lift, if you like, you can then do isolation testing of specific variables to determine how much each change contributed.

13% lift: Simplified alternate page

The page below led to a further 13% lift.

The key elements we changed were:

  • Simplified the headline even further: “Repux Monetizes Data from Millions of Small Enterprises.” What was previously the headline is now stated in the bullet points.
  • Added a “5 Reasons Why Repux is Likely to Succeed” section: When you number things, visitors are more likely to engage with the content. They may not read all the text but will at least skim over the numbered sub-headlines to learn what all the points are — just like power abhors a vacuum, the mind can’t seem to stand incompleteness!

We’ve seen this in Mouseflow heatmaps. You can do this test yourself: List a bunch of bullet points versus a numbered list and with a compelling headline: The 7 Reasons Why 20,0000 Doctors Recommend Product X or The 3 Key Things You Need to Know to Make an Informed Decision.

C:\Users\jkuri\AppData\Local\Temp\SNAGHTML26c90c7c.PNG

Follow-up email sequence

We also created a follow-up email sequence for Repux that led to more token sales.

C:\Users\jkuri\AppData\Local\Temp\SNAGHTML4824f99e.PNG

As you can see, the average open rate is north of 40%, and the goal attained (token sales) is above 8%. According to Mailchimp, the average email marketing campaign open rate is about 20%, while the average CTR is about 3%.

We got more sales than most people get clicks. Here’s a link to three sample emails we sent.

Our emails are effective because:

  • They’re educational (versus pure sales pitch). This is also important to avoid “burning out” your list. If all you do is send pitch after pitch, soon you’ll be lucky to get a 1.3% open rate!
  • They employ storytelling. We use a technique known as the “Soap Opera Sequence.” Each email creates anticipation for the next one and also refers to some interesting fact in previous ones. If a person would only have opened one email, they are now likely to want to open future ones as well as look up older ones to “solve the puzzle.” This leads to higher open rates for the entire sequence, and more sales.
  • The calls to action are closer to the bottom, having first built up some value. Counterintuitively, this works better, but you should always test radically different approaches.

Email is a massively underutilized medium. Most businesses are sitting on goldmines (their email list) without realizing it! You can — and should — make at least 2x to 3x as many sales from your email list as you do from direct website sales.

It takes a lot of work to write an effective sequence, but once you do you can run it on autopilot for years, making money hand over fist. As customer acquisition gets ever more competitive and expensive, how well you monetize your list can make the difference between success and failure.

Conclusion

To increase the conversion rate on your website and get more sales, leads, or app downloads, follow these simple steps:

  • Put in the work to understand why the non-converting visitors are leaving and then systematically address their specific objections. This is what “research-driven” optimization means, as opposed to redesign based purely aesthetic appeal or “best practices.”
  • Find out why the converting visitors took the desired action — and then accentuate these things.
  • Capture emails and use a follow-up sequence to educate and tell stories to those who were not convinced by the website. Done correctly, this can produce 2x to 3x as many sales as the website.

Simple, but not easy. It takes diligence and discipline to do these things well. But if you do, you will be richly rewarded!

And if you’d like to learn more about conversion rate optimization or review additional case studies, we encourage you to take our free course.

Thanks to Jon Powell, Hayk Saakian, Vlad Mkrtumyan, and Nick Jordan for reading drafts of this post.

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Digital Marketing News: Preferred Platform Study, B2B Influencers & Blockchain For Marketers, & Travelers Turn To Instagram

Marketing Charts Platform Usage Graph

Social Media Marketing Update: Preferred Platforms and Content Types in 2018
A multitude of the latest trends in social media marketing have been detailed in a new report from Social Media Examiner, revealing that Instagram has surpassed a declining Twitter in overall popularity, while B2B marketers continue to prefer LinkedIn. MarketingCharts

Study: Millennial travelers’ Instagram use has grown 375% since 2013
U.S. millennial travelers have turned to Instagram 375 percent more than they did in 2013, according to new research on social media usage among travelers, while Google stayed the top overall travel site. Marketing Dive

Facebook Releases Latest ‘Topics to Watch’ Report, Highlighting Key Trends
U.S. marketers now have access to Facebook’s latest list of topics to watch, as the social media giant released its “Topics to Watch” list for April, 2018, including the fastest-growing conversation topics on the platform. Social Media Today

A leaked look at Facebook’s search engine for influencer marketing
A glimpse inside Facebook’s possible future influencer marketing search engine plans has been published, including a branded content marketing tool. TechCrunch

The Best Days and Times to Post on Social Media [Infographic]
The most successful times and days for posting social media content have been examined in new study data from Unmetric, showing differing posting sweet spots for Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. MarketingProfs

Instagram Officially Launches Ability to Re-Share User Posts in Stories
All Instagram accounts have been given the ability to re-share public user posts to Instagram Stories, with a new “Create a story with this post” feature, the company recently announced. Social Media Today

May 25, 2018 Instagram Statistic

2018: The year of influencer marketing for B2B brands
B2B influencer marketing has come into its own so far in 2018, and is expected to play significantly in predicted total brand spending of $ 101 billion by 2020, which Michael Brito explores. Marketing Land

What Blockchain Could Mean for Marketing
Digital marketers could benefit from learning how blockchain technology is making waves in the marketing world, and Harvard Business Review has examined the expected forthcoming data-driven boom. Harvard Business Review

Facebook updates Ads Reporting & introduces new ‘creative reporting’
Facebook has introduced expanded ad and creative reporting options, rolling out to all advertisers over the next month. Marketing Land

Adobe Buys Magento for $ 1.68 Billion to Target E-Commerce
Adobe has agreed to purchase Magento in a $ 1.68 billion deal aimed at boosting Adobe’s e-commerce market share, the firm announced Monday. Bloomberg

ON THE LIGHTER SIDE:

Being Agile Marketoonist Cartoon

A lighthearted look at being agile, by Marketoonist Tom Fishburne — Marketoonist

Try Not to Laugh: 7 Hilarious Ways to Use Humor in Your Emails — Sleeknote

MoonPie’s Social Media Strategy Has a Secret Ingredient: Character — Skyword

TOPRANK MARKETING & CLIENTS IN THE NEWS:

  • Ashley Zeckman — 20 Experts Give Their Best Advice for Engaging Email Copy That Converts — Delivra
  • Lee Odden — 33 Marketing Quotes to Keep You Motivated — Depositphotos
  • Lee Odden — Conférence Marketing de contenu: créativité et engagement au cœur des stratégies (In French) — Infopresse
  • Caitlin Burgess — 10 Tips for Saving Time and Getting Better Results with Your Content Marketing — Small Business Trends

Please join us once again next week, when we’ll have a new array of the latest digital marketing news, and in the meantime you can follow us at @toprank on Twitter for even more timely daily news. Also, don’t miss the full video summary on our TopRank Marketing TV YouTube Channel.


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The post Digital Marketing News: Preferred Platform Study, B2B Influencers & Blockchain For Marketers, & Travelers Turn To Instagram appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®

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Study: Google Assistant most accurate, Alexa most improved virtual assistant

While one new study on voice assistants compares the quality of different providers’ answers, the other drills into Google’s data sources for 22 verticals.

The post Study: Google Assistant most accurate, Alexa most improved virtual assistant appeared first on Search Engine Land.



Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


Search Engine Land: News & Info About SEO, PPC, SEM, Search Engines & Search Marketing

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How We Got a 32% Organic Traffic Boost from 4 On-Page SEO Changes [Case Study]

Posted by WallStreetOasis.com

My name is Patrick Curtis, and I’m the founder and CEO of Wall Street Oasis, an online community focused on careers in finance founded in 2006 with over 2 million visits per month.

User-generated content and long-tail organic traffic is what has built our business and community over the last 12+ years. But what happens if you wake up one day and realize that your growth has suddenly stopped? This is what happened to us back in November 2012.

In this case study, I’ll highlight two of our main SEO problems as a large forum with over 200,000 URLs, then describe two solutions that finally helped us regain our growth trajectory — almost five years later.

Two main problems

1. Algorithm change impacts

Ever since November 2012, Google’s algo changes have seemed to hurt many online forums like ours. Even though our traffic didn’t decline, our growth dropped to the single-digit percentages. No matter what we tried, we couldn’t break through our “plateau of pain” (I call it that because it was a painful ~5 years trying).

Plateau of pain: no double-digit growth from late 2012 onward

2. Quality of user-generated content

Related to the first problem, 99% of our content is user-generated (UGC) which means the quality is mixed (to put it kindly). Like most forum-based sites, some of our members create incredible pieces of content, but a meaningful percentage of our content is also admittedly thin and/or low-quality.

How could we deal with over 200,000 pieces of content efficiently and try to optimize them without going bankrupt? How could we “clean the cruft” when there was just so much of it?

Fighting back: Two solutions (and one statistical analysis to show how it worked)

1. “Merge and Purge” project

Our goal was to consolidate weaker “children” URLs into stronger “master” URLs to utilize some of the valuable content Google was ignoring and to make the user experience better.

For example, instead of having ~20 discussions on a specific topic (each with an average of around two to three comments) across twelve years, we would consolidate many of those discussions into the strongest two or three URLs (each with around 20–30 comments), leading to a much better user experience with less need to search and jump around the site.

Changes included taking the original post and comments from a “child” URL and merging them into the “master” URL, unpublishing the child URL, removing the child from sitemap, and adding a 301 redirect to the master.

Below is an example of how it looked when we merged a child into our popular Why Investment Banking discussion. We highlighted the original child post as a Related Topic with a blue border and included the original post date to help avoid confusion:

Highlighting a related topic child post

This was a massive project that involved some complex Excel sorting, but after 18 months and about $ 50,000 invested (27,418 children merged into 8,515 masters to date), the user experience, site architecture, and organization is much better.

Initial analysis suggests that the percentage gain from merging weak children URLs into stronger masters has given us a boost of ~10–15% in organic search traffic.

2. The Content Optimization Team

The goal of this initiative was to take the top landing pages that already existed on Wall Street Oasis and make sure that they were both higher quality and optimized for SEO. What does that mean, exactly, and how did we execute it?

We needed a dedicated team that had some baseline industry knowledge. To that end, we formed a team of five interns from the community, due to the fact that they were familiar with the common topics.

We looked at the top ~200 URLs over the previous 90 days (by organic landing page traffic) and listed them out in a spreadsheet:

Spreadsheet of organic traffic to URLs

We held five main hypotheses of what we believed would boost organic traffic before we started this project:

  1. Longer content with subtitles: Increasing the length of the content and adding relevant H2 and H3 subtitles to give the reader more detailed and useful information in an organized fashion.
  2. Changing the H1 so that it matched more high-volume keywords using Moz’s Keyword Explorer.
  3. Changing the URL so that it also was a better match to high-volume and relevant keywords.
  4. Adding a relevant image or graphic to help break up large “walls of text” and enrich the content.
  5. Adding a relevant video similar to the graphic, but also to help increase time on page and enrich the content around the topic.

We tracked all five of these changes across all 200 URLs (see image above). After a statistical analysis, we learned that four of them helped our organic search traffic and one actually hurt.

Summary of results from our statistical analysis

  • Increasing the length of the articles and adding relevant subtitles (H2s, H3s, and H4s) to help organize the content gives an average boost to organic traffic of 14%
  • Improving the title or H1 of the URLs yields a 9% increase on average
  • Changing the URL decreased traffic on average by 38% (this was a smaller sample size — we stopped doing this early on for obvious reasons)
  • Including a relevant video increases the organic traffic by 4% on average, while putting an image up increases it by 5% on average.

Overall, the boost to organic traffic — should we continue to make these four changes (and avoid changing the URL) — is 32% on average.

Key takeaway:

Over half of that gain (~18%) comes from changes that require a minimal investment of time. For teams trying to optimize on-page SEO across a large number of pages, we recommend focusing on the top landing pages first and easy wins before deciding if further investment is warranted.

We hope this case study of our on-page SEO efforts was interesting, and I’m happy to answer any questions you have in the comments!

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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:

C:\Users\jkuri\AppData\Local\Temp\SNAGHTML372ff274.PNG

C:\Users\jkuri\AppData\Local\Temp\SNAGHTML37315c55.PNG

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.

C:\Users\jkuri\AppData\Local\Temp\SNAGHTML37353580.PNG

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:

C:\Users\jkuri\AppData\Local\Temp\SNAGHTML373cd9dc.PNG

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:

C:\Users\jkuri\AppData\Local\Temp\SNAGHTML37a1de17.PNG

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

Patent protection exclusivity & social proof

C:\Users\jkuri\AppData\Local\Temp\SNAGHTML37494993.PNG

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!

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The E-Commerce Benchmark KPI Study 2017: 15 Essential Takeaways

Posted by Alan_Coleman

Is your website beating, meeting, or behind the industry average?

Wolfgang Digital’s 2017 E-Commerce Benchmark KPI Study is out with an even bigger sample size than ever before. Analyzing 143 million website sessions and $ 531 million in online revenues, the study gives e-commerce marketers essential insights to help benchmark their business’s online performance and understand which metrics drive e-commerce success.

This study is our gift to the global e-commerce industry. The objective is to reveal the state of play in the industry over the last 12 months and ultimately help digital marketers make better digital marketing decisions by:

  1. Better understanding their website performance through comparing key performance indicators (KPIs) with industry benchmarks.
  2. Gaining insights into which key metrics will ensure e-commerce success

You can digest the full study here.

Skim through the key takeaways below:


1. Google remains people’s window to the web, but its dominance is in decline.

The search giant generates 62% of all traffic and 63% of all revenue. This is down from 69% of traffic and 67% of revenue in last year’s study. In numerical terms, Google is growing — it’s simply that the big G’s share of the pie is in decline.

2. Google’s influence is declining as consumers’ paths to purchase become more diverse, with “dark traffic” on the rise.

This occurs when Google Analytics doesn’t recognize a source by default, like people sharing links on WhatsApp. Dark traffic shows up as direct traffic in Google Analytics. Direct traffic grew from 17% to 18% of traffic.

3. Consumers’ paths to purchase have gotten longer.

It now takes 12% more clicks to generate a million euro online than it did 12 months ago, with 360,000 clicks being the magic million-euro number in 2017.

4. Mobile earns more share, yet desktop still delivers the dollars.

2017 is the first year mobile claimed more sessions (52%) than desktop (36%) and tablet (12%) combined. Desktop generates 61% of all online revenue, with users 164% more likely to convert than those browsing on mobile. Plus, when desktop users convert, they spend an average of 20% more per order than mobile shoppers.

5. The almighty conversion rate: e-commerce sites average 1.6%.

E-commerce websites averaged 1.6% overall. Travel came in at 2.4%. Online-only retailers saw 1.8% conversion rates, while their multichannel counterparts averaged 1.2%

6. Don’t shop if you’re hungry.

Conversion rates for food ordering sites are fifteen times those of typical retail e-commerce!

***Correlation explanation: The most unique and most useful part of our study is our correlation calculation. We analyze which website metrics correlate with e-commerce success. Before I jump into our correlation findings, let me explain how to read them. Zero means no correlation between the two metrics. One means perfect correlation; for example, “every time I sneeze, I close my eyes.” Point five (0.5) means that as one metric increases 100%, the other metric increases 50%. A negative correlation means that as one variable increases, the other decreases.

From our experience compiling these stats over the years, any correlation over .2 is worth noting. North of 0.4 is a very strong correlation. I’ve ranked the following correlations below in order of strength, starting with the strongest.

7. Sticky websites sell more (0.6).

The strongest correlation in the study was between time spent on a website and conversion rate (0.6 correlation). By increasing time on site by 16%, conversion rates ramp up 10%. Pages per session also correlated solidly with revenue growth (0.25).

8. People trust Google (0.48).

According to Forbes, Google is the world’s second most valuable brand. Our figures agree. People who got more than average organic traffic from Google enjoyed a savagely strong conversion rate (0.48). It seems that when Google gives prominent organic coverage to a website, that website enjoys higher trust and, in turn, higher conversion rates from consumers.

9. Tablet shoppers love a bit of luxury (0.4).

Higher-than-average tablet sessions correlated very strongly with high average order values (0.4). However, pricey purchases require more clicks, no matter the device.

10. Loyal online shoppers are invaluable (0.35).

Your best-converting customers are always your returning loyal customers. Typically they show up as direct traffic, high levels of which correlated very strongly with conversion rates (0.35).

11. Speed matters (0.25).

005Onsite Engagement.jpg

Average site speed was 6 seconds. This is far higher than the generally recommended 2 seconds. There was a strong inverse correlation between average page load time and revenue growth (0.25). Reducing the average load time by 1.6 seconds would increase annual revenue growth by 10%.

12. Mobile is a money-making machine (0.25).

009Revenue Growth.jpg

Websites that got more mobile pageviews (0.25) and more tablet pageviews (0.24) grew revenue faster.

13. Email pays dividends (0.24).

002Source-Rev.jpg

Email delivers three times as much revenue as Facebook on a last-click basis. Those who get more traffic from email also enjoy a higher AOV (0.24).

14. Bing CPC represents a quick win (0.22).

Websites with a higher share of Bing CPC traffic tend to see a higher AOV (0.22). This, coupled with lower CPCs, makes Bing an attractive low-volume high-profit proposition. Bing has made the route into Bing Ads much easier, introducing a simple one-click tool which will convert your AdWords campaigns into Bing Ad campaigns.

15. Pinterest can be powerful (0.22).

Websites with more Pinterest traffic enjoyed higher AOVs (0.22). This demonstrates Pinterest’s power as a visual research engine, a place where people research ideas before taking an action — for example, planning a wedding, designing a living room, or purchasing a pair of pumps. The good news for digital marketers is that Pinterest recently launched its self-service ad platform.


Black holes

We used Google Analytics to compile the report. Once installed correctly, Google Analytics is very accurate in the numbers it does reports. However, there are two areas it struggles to report on that digital marketers need to keep in mind:

  1. Offline conversions: For 99% of our data set, there is no offline conversion tracking setup. Google is introducing measures to make it easier to track this. Once marketing directors get visibility on the offline impact of their online spend, we expect more offline budget to migrate online.
  2. Cross-device conversions: It’s currently very difficult to measure cross device conversions. According to Google themselves, 90% of goals occur on more than one device. Yet Google Analytics favors the sturdy desktop, as it generates the most same-device conversions. The major loser here is social, with 9 out of 10 Facebook sessions being mobile sessions. Instagram and Snapchat don’t even have a desktop version of their app!

Google is preparing to launch enhanced reporting in the coming months, which will give greater visibility on cross-device conversions. Hopefully this will give us a clearer picture of social’s role in conversion for our 2018 study.

The full report is available here and I’d love to answer your questions in the comments section below.

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Ecommerce: Northwestern University study on how online reviews affect sales

Northwestern University’s Spiegel Research Center recently conducted research into how online reviews influence sales. The Spiegel Center’s Executive Director and Research Center share some of their discoveries to help ecommerce marketers improve conversion in the extensive interview in this MarketingSherpa blog post.
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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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