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You can run only a limited number of tests on your landing pages. Moreover, as recently mentioned by Tim Ash, you have hidden costs associated to testing: time spend, efforts to set up/measure the test, negative results (short/long term).

So, this post will detail which key topics to monitor within your web analytics program or webmaster tools and the steps to take in order to fix what is obviously broken.

Here is a quick list of subjects you might have to identify to schedule your testings:

1) Scrolling behavior: for example, how much of a page is actually seen by a visitor? According to a recent study published by Jakob Nielsen, Web users spend 80% of their time looking at information above the page fold. Although users do scroll, they allocate only 20% of their attention below the fold. Per his conclusion, the implications are clear: the material which is the most important for the users’ goals or your business goals should be above the fold. Users do look below the fold, but not nearly as much as they look above the fold.

Google Browser Size is a visual tool to determine what percentage of visitors can see the various areas of your website without needing to scroll.

Google Browser Size is a visual tool to determine what percentage of visitors can see the various areas of your website without needing to scroll.

Additionally to your web metrics system, Google Browser Size, will give you the opportunity to visualize what portion of users can see a given spot on your own website without scrolling (see the image above).

2) Eye tracking: even if your web designer might think that you will ask to compromise on his landing page, understanding how prospects will process visual elements (and in which order) is essential. As pointed out in a previous post about usability, you can use the “attention heatmap” (predictive technology vastly promoted by Fen-Gui and AttentionWizard) or look at the “click density heat map report” (aggregating click tracking method offered by Google Analytics or by specialists like CrazyEgg, ClickTale or Pagealizer).

3) Path Analysis/link analysis: on average, consumers visit 2.5 Web sites prior to making online purchases, and 42% visit 3 or more sites during their research process (according to a Jupiter Research from April 2008). It is critical for you to apprehend how people are moving through the landing page if multiple exploration paths are possible. Additionally, are they looking to your “About Us” footer link prior to entering the checkout process (indicating a credibility problem)? Are they visiting the “More info” link (demonstrating that your product is complex and/or you might not have all the relevant arguments in your original landing page)?

Google Site Performance tool is one of the resources that webmasters should use to evaluate their site speed which is now a new ranking factor for Google's Search Engine. Other options are offered by Pagespeed Firefox add-on or Yahoo!'s YSlow.

Google Site Performance tool is one of the resources that webmasters should use to evaluate their site speed which is now a new ranking factor for Google's Search Engine. Other options are offered by Pagespeed Firefox add-on or Yahoo!'s YSlow.

4) Page loading time: as it is now official that Google is cautioning the site speed as a new ranking factor, you should make sure that both your SEO & lead generation landing pages are not taking ages to load. No, I am not a Google Evangelist (you have alternatives: Yahoo! with Yslow or Pagespeed, an open-source Firefox Add-on), but, a very effective solution is the Google Site performance in your webmaster tools. As you can see on the picture above, Google is measuring this data since November 2009 when Matt Cutts officially pre-announced at Pubcon that this will be a new factor roll-up for Google’s Search Engine.

It is a logical decision for a Search Engine. Moreover, the load time of your landing pages was already specified as part of guidelines for the navigability components to determine the Quality score of Google Adwords.

5) Field and form analysis: observing at how your prospects are filling out forms (e.g. newsletter, registration). For example, what fields get completed first, what last, which field is causing errors (maybe you should provide more contextual explanation) and when do visitors abandon the form? This is crucial to improve lead generation capture or increase your shopping cart completions.

After this data-driven introspection, you should think over the following actions:

A) Clarify and simplify: can you reduce extra or overly verbose copy? Can you remove graphics or navigational elements unrelated to the conversion? Can you increase the size of your call to action buttons? Can you remove several form fields?

B) Tweak your wording for headline, caption and call to action button: can you have a specific headline linked to your ad group (or email message incentive or affiliate’s value proposition)? Can you rephrase the captions under your hero shot? Can you challenge your call to action button with various declinations: “Shop Now”, “Buy Now”, “Add to Cart”, “Get It Now”?

C) Play with your graphic elements: do pictures of people (e.g. lifestyle) favorably impact your sales? Do you have the critical offer elements such as “Free Shipping”, “Satisfaction guarantee”, “Secured transactions”?

D) Demystify your body copy: do you need to reduce or add more details to your page? Is prose better than bulleted points for your visitor type? Which order of text bullets is the best combination?

As a conclusion, you should remember that your landing page should reply to these 3 questions within a specific associated timing from a user’s perspective:

Where am I? – (1/20 second to first seconds).

What can I do here? – (1 to 8 seconds)

Why should I do it? – (8 seconds to several minutes or days)

As identified in a previous post, there are around 20 possible reasons for shopping cart abandonment and 12 tips to minimize the drop-off spots in your checkout process.

To facilitate the comprehension of these critical principles, I have designed wire-frames with step-by-step explanations on how to enhance your checkout flow and increase the completion rate of your online orders.

Checkout Process Usability wireframes: single-screen shopping cart - step 1 (sign in)

Checkout Process Usability wireframes: single-screen shopping cart - step 1 (sign in)

Checkout Process Usability wireframes: single-screen shopping cart - step 2 (shipping address & delivery options)

Checkout Process Usability wireframes: single-screen shopping cart - step 2 (shipping address & delivery options)

Checkout Process Usability wireframes: single-screen shopping cart - step 3 (billing address & payment options)

Checkout Process Usability wireframes: single-screen shopping cart - step 3 (billing address & payment options)

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Checkout Process Usability wireframes: single-screen shopping cart - step 4 (review information & place order)

Checkout Process Usability wireframes: single-screen shopping cart - step 4 (review information & place order)

Checkout Process Usability wireframes: single-screen shopping cart - order confirmation (order details, login request & re-engage customers)

Checkout Process Usability wireframes: single-screen shopping cart - order confirmation (order details, login request & re-engage customers)

In the US, 25% of internet audience (50 millions) passes through a shopping engine.
Close to 75 % of traffic goes to the TOP 7 websites.

If you’re looking to increase your ROI, this research identifies key insights that will sharpen your marketing decisions.

Throughout the presentation, Matthieu Dejardins explored the following questions/points:
– Why shopping engines?
– Who are the Comparison sites users?
– Shopping engines challenges
– Pre-launch checklist & what does it takes?
– Top 10 Data Feed Optimization Tips
– Vertical Segment for search engines
– Which CSE? Amazon & bing opportunities
– Which results to expect?

Up to 8 seconds & 15 words to convince visitors.

This is a comprehensive research with data, best practices and latest trends in Landing Page Optimization.

Areas covered includes:
– Definitions & business needs
– Considerations: human being limitations
– Goals and key actions expected from users
– Tactics for improving your conversions
– Case Studies: Vonage, PDF Suite, Netgear
– Dynamic Landing page mechanism
– B2B landing page feedback

Why Shopping Search Engines?

According to Econsultancy.com Comparison Shopping Engines Survey, retailers spend approximatively 11% of their online marketing budget on shopbots while agencies say that on average their clients spend 14% of online budget on this channel respectively representing 10% and 16% of online sales.

Study from Forrester Research Brands Should Embrace Search Engines and Comparison Web Sites  showing that the average Comparison Search Engine user is a savvy and trusting buyer looking for complex products sold by either retailers or manufacturer.

The average Comparison Search Engine user is a savvy and trusting buyer looking for complex products sold by either retailers or manufacturer.

Top 3 reasons are:

1/ Place your products in front of browsing consumers during the exploratory phase, just before purchasing becomes intentional.
2/ Effectively present a unique value proposition (brand identity) to shoppers exploring buying options (pay per click based)
3/ Ensure consumers see your products on every available channel including Search Engines (SEM or SEO) or marketplaces (eBay, Amazon).

Who are the Comparison sites users?

According to a study from Forrester Research, they are savvy, trusting buyers. Search engines and Comparison Search Engines (CSE) users differ from the average consumer in behavior, spending more time online, sending and receiving more emails. These consumers trust their sources – both peer-generated content and commercial messages – more and are less price-sensitive.
They research complex products. Hardly any consumer used search engines or CSE as information sources for simple products like cosmetics – they just go to the store for those. The heavy traffic on these sites comes from consumers researching complex products like mobile phones, audio equipment, etc. Adding up the info sources, it is clear that consumers use multiple sources to research complex products.

Which Comparison Engines to consider?

According to a study published in May 2009 by the CPC Strategy LLC among Internet Retailer’s Top 500, Google Product Search leads in market penetration with 72.2%. Shopping.com and Pricegrabber follow with rates of 53.8% and 50.6% respectively with Microsoft’s snagging 30.2% of the top 500 market.

In US, 25% of internet audience (50 millions) passes through a shopping engine. Close to 75 % of traffic goes to the TOP 7 shopbots (please refer to the spreadsheet below). According to tailor-made data aggregation originated from Comscore, Nielsen and Google AdPlanner, the US Top 5 list considered among all sources of information is:
1/ Yahoo! Shopping
2/ Shopzilla / Bizrate
3/ Shopping.com
4/ Nextag
5/ Google Product Search

Top 10 Shopping Engines per audience - 25% of the US internet audience (nearly 50 millions) is passing through a shopping engine. 75% of the traffic goes to the top 7 shopbots.

Top 10 ranking per audience - 25% of the US internet audience (nearly 50 millions) is passing through a shopping engine. 75% of the traffic goes to the top 7 shopbots.

Amazon & bing.com opportunities

To drive traffic, we should use our XML feed for:
1/ Amazon.com – in December 2008, by surveying more than 500 online consumers, Channel Advisor found out that 93% of online shoppers are Amazon buyers; 80% of these buyers also use Amazon as their most trusted product research destination. There are 2 ways to integrate your products:
a) Marketplace: merchants list products with final checkout by Amazon (CPA: $0.99 + 6% sales net)
b) Product Ads: merchants list products on Amazon and drive consumers back to their sites as opposed to having to buy through Amazon (CPC: $0.7 – daily budget).

2/ Bing Shopping – allowing advertisers to sell on a cost-per-acquisition (CPA) basis and Cashback offers. Direct customers are rewarded by having a % amount of cash on every transaction & Microsoft is also keeping a fee on these sale. See example below with AT&T (35%), eBay/Paypal (8%), TigerDirect (7.3%), HP (3%), etc.

Microsofts Cashback Program through their Bing search engine allowing new AT&Ts customer to get 35% off the iphone 3GS in June 2009.

Microsoft's Cashback Program through their Bing search engine allowing new AT&T's customer to get 35% off the iphone 3GS in June 2009.

In Dec. 2008, out of the 100 online retailers ranked by Internet Retailer as the “Hot 100 Retail Web Sites”, 75 had an affiliate programs.

38% of the 75 top Internet retailers chose CJ, 23% went with Google Affiliate Network, 18% with LinkShare, 13% run their programs on in-house-based platforms and 3% market through ShareASale.

Why an affiliate program?

In December 2008, out of the 100 online retailers ranked by Internet Retailer as the “Hot 100 Retail Web Sites”, 75 had an affiliate program.

38% of the 75 top Internet retailers chose Commission Junction, 23% went with Google Affiliate Network, 18% with LinkShare, 13% run their programs on in-house-based platforms and the last 3% went through ShareASale.

The EPC (Earnings Per Click) 7 days and 3 months averages as a Key Performance Indicator for affiliates and provided by affiliate networks such as Commission Junction.

The EPC (Earnings Per Click) 7 days and 3 months averages as a Key Performance Indicator for affiliates and provided by affiliate networks such as Commission Junction.

Top 5 reasons are:

1/ Expand reach – sell your products & services via a wide range of websites (PPC, SEO, Blogs & Forums, CashBack, Reward Program, Coupon, Email, etc). According to Commission Junction, merchants increased revenue from 15% to 40%.

2/ Brand exposure – raise perceptions of brand with exposure on quality 3rd party sites.

3/ Measurability & accountability – use of tracking tools combined with your web analytics & sales data to see the big picture and measure ROI.

4/ Reduce costs/financial risks – affiliates offer merchants a virtual sales force. The CPA (Cost Per Action) performance model is very cost effective in this respect.

5/ Inform Marketing Activities – learn from affiliates what is working in terms of pricing, offer, product, proposition and landing page. You can also check their efficient PPC ads.

Key factor – EPC (Earnings Per Click):

This Key Performance Indicator represents the earnings per one hundred clicks sent by affiliates to the merchant’s website. Most of affiliate networks provide merchants and affiliates with this EPC figure.

For example, thanks to this KPI, we can see that with a 5% revenue sharing Adobe generated a payout of $27.49 as an average for every 100 clicks sent by the affiliate during the last 3 months. On the other side, Apple, offering only a 1% revenue sharing, was more interesting as it generated an earning of $38.44. No doubt about which brand an affiliate should promote? Keep this in mind.

Which top publishers to consider before selecting your network?

Forget the pareto’s rule (20:80) and the long tail theory. It is most likely that the leading 6 to 10 super-affiliates accounts for 80% of your sales. This is why you should offer them a wide creative inventory (banners & text links), run bonus campaigns (to reward highly productive affiliates) and give them personalized attention (specific landing page, exclusive coupons or anything else).

According to the E-consultancy US Affiliate Census report, Paid search or pay-per-click advertising (PPC) is the most significant category for US affiliates (48%), marginally ahead of true content (SEO) on 46 % in terms of the amount of revenue they help to generate. Blogs and forums are an important category for 40% of affiliates. Social networking (24%), cashback & reward (23%), email marketing (20%) and coupon codes (19%) are the next most important methods.

Top 20 affiliate publishers per audience and ranking that should be considered before to choose your network.

Top 20 affiliate publishers per audience and ranking that should be considered before to choose your network.

Affiliate network comparison

The different types of charges for merchants can broadly be broken down into the following areas:

  • Set-up/technical integration costs – The up-front cost of setting up an account with a network typically varies from $500 to $5,000.
  • Transaction fee (over-ride charge) – The majority of networks charge a transaction fee from 20 to 30% for their services. This means that for every commission fee payable to an affiliate, the network must receive x% on top of this payment.
  • Monthly Management charges – top networks generally impose management charges on their merchants between $50 to $1,000 a month.

While choosing your network, please remember that multiple networks work for merchants and affiliates. From a pure administration perspective, despite the cost, dealing with one or several networks is far easier than dealing with a multitude of different affiliates.

The different types of charges for merchants are summarized into this affiliate network comparison between Commission Junction, Linkshare, Google Network & ShareASale

The different types of charges for merchants are summarized into this affiliate network comparison between Commission Junction, Linkshare, Google Network & ShareASale

In Dec. 2008, out of the 100 online retailers ranked by Internet Retailer as the “Hot 100 Retail Web Sites”, 75 had an affiliate programs.

38% of the 75 top Internet retailers chose CJ, 23% went with Google Affiliate Network, 18% with LinkShare, 13% run their programs on in-house-based platforms and 3% market through ShareASale.

Attention Wizard.com by SiteTuners.com is a predicting software that simulates human visual processing to your Web page by creating a heatmap to eliminate any likelihood of site flow disruption.

AttentionWizard.com by SiteTuners.com is a predicting software that simulates human visual processing to your Web page by creating a heatmap to eliminate any likelihood of site flow disruption.

This week after the Affiliate Summit in NYC, Tim Ash from SiteTuners.com strongly promoted at SES San Jose his brand new TERRIFIC project for e-marketers called Attentionwizard.com. Probably based on the Fen-Gui’s technology, the software is using best-in-class landing page practices (thanks to programmed “artificial intelligence algorithms”!) to simulate human visual processing and show a heat map study of your own landing pages. You just have to upload a screenshot or mockup landing page image and you get instant feedback about fine tuning your design!

You will be able to identify the key elements in your body copy, eliminate any likelihood of site flow disruption and finally maximize your conversions. You will be able to play with hero shots, call to action buttons (e.g. Free Trial, Buy Now, Add To Cart for US, Add to Baskets for UK), etc. Does it means that there are no need for A/B or multivariate testing? Not sure…

In essence, it will entitle companies to spend more time building a great value proposition for the customer, so let’s call it a “win-win solution”:) I know that this “predicting technology” is unique but I am not paid by SiteTuners, so  but let’s mention similar projects that are already available (not only for “Beta Program Application”…):

CrazyEgg.com – which is tracking clicks to design your heatmap with plans from $9 to $99/month

ClickTale.com – also aggregating heatmap based on clicks from $0 to $790/month

Pagealizer.com – again same technology registering clicks from with plans from $9 to $99/month

Top 25 tips for Lead Generation Landing Pages applied to a template. Do not forget the golden triangle which is the most important and scanned part of the page starting from the top left to the top right side of the page then down diagonally to the bottom left of the page just above the fold.

Top 25 tips for Lead Generation Landing Pages applied to a template. Do not forget the golden triangle which is the most important and scanned part of the page starting from the top left to the top right side of the page then down diagonally to the bottom left of the page just above the fold.

1/ Make sure your graphics match any creating leading to them (e.g. banner ad or email).
2/ Do not overload your landing page with so many choices that they make no choice and bail.
3/ Arial or Verdana fonts were purposely designed for computer screens. Brief your designers…
4/ We still can’t read black on white text as well as we can read white on black text. Avoid the Adobe.com style, please.
5/ We cant’s read WORDS THAT ARE ALL IN CAPS as well as we can read words that combine upper and lower case (the brain has to read them letter by letter).
6/ Making a Web site less navigable will seem horribly counter-intuitive to most people, but that’s what you may need to keep your visitors from getting distracted. You should remove the distracting vertical navigation bars, header tabs, hotlink-heavy footers (e.g. Vonage landing page studied in part #1).
7/ Make sure that critical elements inside the upper 450 pixels of the pages are visible to almost all visitors without scrolling. In short, keep them. TweetDeck and Registry Cleaner are very nice examples.
8/ A click on a product should result in more information about that product or a bigger shot of the item. Still a lot of offer-related graphics on the landing page visited are not clickable.
9/ Your company logo should be in the upper left corner of the screen to establish people are in the right place.
10/ Telephone numbers can help your landing page conversions in two ways: some consumers simply prefer to call in (e.g. for questions or for security/privacy); many consumers simply trust a landing page more if there’s a phone number (e.g. show you are willing to be contacted).
11/ Your headline should exactly match the headline clicked from (or search engine keyword term a visitor used to find you) as much as possible. Exactly matching verbiage is far better than a close match.
12/ Get ride of words such as “we” and “our” in favor of words like “You” and “Your”. Incoming readers want to know about themselves.
13/ People read the tops and bottoms of paragraphs and/or bulleted items before they read the middles (if they bother to read the middles at all) and then they often stop reading and skip on to the next thing. Your 1st and last items will be the most read.
14/ The 2nd most important headline is your call to action on the submit button itself. It should match the headline. Call-to-action-buttons should be in the best sense, be like aggressive sales people. You will find a collection of pretty various call to action buttons on this blog
15/ Put enough content above the fold (20-300 words, critical images, conversion click link) so visitors can make a bail/no-bail decision without scrolling or visiting more pages.
16/ The human eye is happiest reading text in a 10-12 or larger point typeface.
17/ The use of images, especially people, as well as the entire “page clutter” concern, is vastly different between thee US and Asia. This was even understood and overused repeated by Symantec:)
18/ In initial test, according to Marketing Sherpa, 6% of total homepage visitors clicked on the link to view the video testimonial. These visitors tend to be busy executives from medium-sized companies. Their willingness to watch a video indicated that this tactic was appealing.
19/ Most of the landing page employed a simple-two column design. Fewer columns generally outperform more. More columns equals to confusion. The eye may not be sure where to look. That’s why Google’s main (organic) search results and Amazon’s product search results are always in a single-column list. Human eyes are trained to comprehend a list of things in vertical list format. Body copy paragraph should be less longer than 4 1/2 lines.
20/ Columns of text should be no longer than 40-60 characters wide (preferably layout multiple vertical columns). However, it is not recommended to build too much vertical columns. Your body copy should not digress or otherwise go off point. It’s meant to explain the headline and conversion offer. If you lose focus, you loose conversions. It’s that simple.
21/ Add “About Us” blurbs to every conceivable entry point. Merchant Brand matters. The content in it emphasize why people should buy from you rather than someone else offering the exact same item. Those reasons go beyond price alone.
22/ Your landing page shoud also include a good place, in the footer or even before in your body copy, to pop in all that feel-secure info (HackersSafe, Verisign, money back guarantee, etc). It’s also a great place to put any evidence of tangible offline existence, such as a photo of your flag store or a real-life customer service person waiting to answer questions.
23/ Also have the classical pack at the bottom of the page: Privacy Policy link, Legal Notice (required for France) and FAQ.
24/ Try to implement specific web analytics KPIs to measure your landing page efficiency: clicks per lead 1 (number of clicks required to start the first step of your check-out process) & clicks per sale (number of click required for a sale) for the all performance.
25/ Do not forget to test (start with A/B testing before multivariable testing) and play with most important elements: headline (ideally it should be dynamic), pictures, call to action buttons, body copy modifications, etc.