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The Long Form Sales Page Cheat Sheet – Online Course Edition

 

You’ve spent a lot of time putting your online course together. And, you’ve no doubt thought through the whole launch process – building your list, writing blog posts, setting up email campaigns.

The list goes on and on.

The one thing that you’ve shoved under the rug and left to the last minute is the sales page. If you’re one of the few people who hasn’t, I’m sending you a virtual round of applause.

Why? Because it can feel like one giant pain in the ass – for lack of a better phrase.

When you’re not sure how much copy you need, what should go on it, and how to make it convincing, putting one together isn’t the most enticing of propositions.

Lucky for you, I wrote a post over on the Unbounce blog that talks all about when you need a long form sales page and the biggest pitfalls to avoid.

Definitely check it out to see examples of what to do and what to avoid. But before you do, here’s a graphic I created to keep in your back pocket next time you have to sit down to write your next sales page.

 

Feel free to share the graphic and let me know what you think.

How to Review Your Own Website Copy

How to review your own website copy

Just about every website has them. No matter how well thought out a website is, there are things get missed. Overlooked. Forgotten.

Especially when it comes to copy, it’s so easy to slap some words on the page and be done. You know what you’re talking about. Seems pretty obvious to you and your team what you want people to do on your site.

Isn’t it painfully obvious to everyone else?

 

If only your website visitors were mind readers…

 

The reality is that your website visitors are more than likely:

  • Distracted by the 5 – 10 other windows open on their browser, the phone ringing, kids crying, boss asking them questions, and so on
  • Impatient to find exactly the information that they want compounded by all of the above distractions
  • Ready to move on to greener pastures at a moment’s notice if they don’t get what they need without having to work too hard

That’s why it’s so important to set aside some time to review your own website copy and make sure it’s doing what it needs to do. All you need is a pen and some paper or grab the simple spreadsheet I put together to take notes on what and where copy should be changed.

 

How to pick low hanging fruit and make no brainer copy changes

 

You can call it a review, an audit of sorts, or – if you want to be technical – a heuristic analysis, of your site. Basically, you want to look at the copy (and ideally the usability aspects too) of your site in a structured and methodical way in order to establish how easy you’re making it for your visitors to achieve their goals on your site.

Yes, your customers’ goals are what matter here. Because if they can’t get from Point A to Point B or Z with the least amount of trouble, you run the risk of them not buying your product, opting into your email list, or starting that free trial.

Believe it or not, you can make big gains simply by taking into account 4 key pieces of the conversion copy puzzle.

Let’s break it down so you have an idea of what you should be asking yourself when you look at the main pages of your website.

 

#1: Clarity

 

Being clear is important. In fact, it’s really important. Research has shown that when information is presented in ways that are conceptually, visually, and linguistically less complex, people judge it to be more true.

This means telling your visitors what they need to know in a way that is easy to understand not only improves your odds that they will feel confident that they have landed in the right spot but will believe what you’re saying as well.

Get rid of the technical jargon in your copy whenever possible. Cramming the page full of multi-syllabic words that only a handful of people know the meaning of won’t help you get your message across.

[clickandtweet handle=”jenhavice” hashtag=”” related=”” layout=”” position=””]Making your copy simpler to understand isn’t about dumbing it down or never being clever.[/clickandtweet] Tweet this!

It’s about getting your point across and helping your visitors make decisions quickly and easily.

 

Low Hanging Fruit: Do you have a clear headline that expresses your value proposition?

 

One of the biggest culprits in the lack of clarity department is poorly executed headlines. It’s also one of the easiest things to fix that can make a big impact on conversions or simply getting people to stay on the page.

Anytime your visitors land on a page of your website, they should know where they are and what’s in it for them. Let’s take Unbounce’s home page headline as an example.

unbouncehomepage

 

When you read their headline and sub-headline, you know immediately where you’ve landed, who the site is for, and what you’re likely to find there.

Take a look at the copy on your site and ask yourself:

  • Is your value proposition clearly expressed as soon as someone lands on the page?
  • Is your copy full of industry speak or jargon?

#2: Motivations

 

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that our websites should be built for our customers – not ourselves. Sure, your website needs to bring in sales and/or leads for you but if it isn’t speaking to what your customers want deep down, that’s not going to happen.

So, your copy must key into what your customers are truly looking for when they pop on your site.

Spoiler alert: If you’re merely writing things like “Saves time” or “Get more cash in your pocket,” you’re not digging deep enough.

 

Low Hanging Fruit: Do your benefits strike a chord with your customers?

 

Why are your customers coming to your site and looking to buy your product or solution? Yeah, they probably do want to save time… but so does everyone. The way I figure out how to get to the heart of what customers want is to keep asking why until there’s no more why’s left.

For instance, let’s say you’re selling a weight loss and exercise program designed specifically for young, college aged women. Why would these women be interested in your program?

They want to lose weight.

Why do they want to lose weight? Because they want to get rid of the Freshman 15 they put on.

Why do they want to get rid of those 15 pounds? Because they can’t fit into their skinny jeans anymore.

Why do they want to get back into their skinny jeans? Because they feel more attractive and look healthier when they can wear what they want to wear.

Why do they want to feel more attractive and look healthier? Because they will be more confident.

Ahh… now we’re getting somewhere. The real benefit from your program isn’t weight loss, it’s confidence boosting.

Take a look at the top of the LinkedInfluence sales page. It’s an online program to help people learn how to use LinkedIn.

 

Linkedinfluence landing page

 

These bullet points immediately tell you as the potential buyer what you’re truly getting from the course. It’s not just about learning how to navigate LinkedIn but how to use it to derive these pretty compelling benefits.

Take a look at your copy and ask yourself:

  • Am I addressing my customers’ why?
  • Does the page have bullet points or sections that highlight what my customers want to get out of my product or solution?

#3: Hesitations and Concerns

 

I’ve talked about friction and ways to reduce it several times on the blog. You can read about it here and here. One of the main ways of reducing friction so that your customers feel more comfortable engaging with your site is by addressing their major concerns.

How do you alleviate someone’s hesitations? One of the best ways is by giving them the right information at the right time during their customer journey process. Think of it this way, it’s tough to make a decision you can feel good about if you don’t have answers to your most important questions.

 

Low Hanging Fruit: Are you telling people where they’re going when you ask them to take action?

 

One of the easiest things you can do to improve conversion rates on a page is by simply letting people know what’s going to happen when they click a button.

Here’s a call to action box at the end of Copyblogger’s posts.

Copyblogger call to action

 

It tells you exactly what you will get and where you will be taken when you click on one of the course options.

Take a look at your copy and ask yourself:

  • Am I giving my customers enough information to make a decision or take action on my site?
  • Does my copy reduce their anxiety or add to it?

#4: Distractions

 

This last item touches upon more than copy. This is where I want you to think about all the things that may be distracting people from understanding what you’re telling them or being able to easily take action.

For instance, highlight the most important messaging and place it in its relative order of importance. Your value proposition generally will be incorporated into your headline and sub-headline. Tucking it into the middle of the page will make it more difficult for your customers to find it.

 

Low Hanging Fruit: Do you have elements on the page that you can’t give a good reason for them being there?

 

This is where I’m going to tell you to ditch the rotating sliders, animation, tiny fonts, and huge blocks of dense text. All of these items make it much harder for people visiting your site to focus on why they came in the first place.

[clickandtweet handle=”jenhavice” hashtag=”” related=”” layout=”” position=””]Everything on your site should have a purpose. If it doesn’t, it’s just a distraction.[/clickandtweet]  Tweet This!

Take a look at your copy and ask yourself:

  • Are there elements on the page that are distracting my visitors from either understanding my message or taking action?
  • Does everything on the page serve a purpose?
  • Am I using a font size that you need a magnifying glass to read?

Go forth and get your analysis on

Do you have some low hanging fruit on your site that you can easily pick off? Use this blog post to get you started and this simple spreadsheet I put together for you.

You can add whatever pages from your site you want to evaluate. Take notes and let us know what you find.

 

Why Your Call To Action Copy Isn’t Converting

 

How often have you started filling out an online form and then stopped?

Or…

You were ready to click the buy button… then suddenly decided not to?

You’re not alone. It happens too often. Website users routinely abandon what they’re doing at the most critical moment – namely taking action exactly when it counts most…

  • No signing up for that email list
  • No putting in those credit card details
  • No filling out a contact form

Why?

Because the copy needed to reduce whatever friction the user is feeling that’s getting in the way of him taking action isn’t there.

 

There’s good friction and bad friction – and not much in between

 

When we’re talking about interactions with your website, friction isn’t generally a good thing. Friction means anything that’s making it more difficult for your users to get things done on your site.

Typical things that cause friction are:

  • Slow page loading times
  • Links that don’t work
  • Poor navigation

Add to that list any of the small bits of copy – otherwise known as microcopy – within and surrounding your calls to action that don’t help your visitor accomplish what he wants.

Instead of lighting a fire under your visitors’ backsides to buy those sweet new pair of boots or opt into an uber informative autoresponder series, the copy is leaving them cold.

 

Write your call to action copy with your visitor in mind

 

This may seem obvious but it’s not being done on the vast majority of websites.

Michael Aagaard, a CRO copywriter who has made it his mission to test button copy, has come to the conclusion that you need to be asking yourself these 2 questions before you can optimize your calls to action:

  • What is my prospect’s motivation for clicking this button?
  • What is my prospect going to get, when he/she clicks this button?

The answers to these questions will give you the direction you need not only to create more effective copy for your buttons but for all the copy in and around your various calls to action.

 

Real world examples from the copy trenches

 

You’ve got the questions to ask… but, now what?

Let’s take a look at 3 different areas around your calls to action that can create friction and some ways to deal with them.
1) Hesitations and objections

There are several things that can cause people to hesitate when they are ready to trip that trigger. These include such things as:

  • Not knowing if there are hidden costs
  • Wondering about if and how a purchase is guaranteed or can be returned
  • Feeling uneasy about the site’s security

Getting people beyond these hesitations generally requires either some reassurance or language that keys into how the call to action is relevant to them. Joanna at Copyhackers calls these “click triggers.”

 

Bullet points that reassure

In a test she did for Friendbuy.com, she created 3 variations of copy around the free trial sign up button. The control version had no click trigger copy surrounding it. The first variation included a brief testimonial, while the second had 2 bullets designed to stomp out any objections.

Why your call to action copy sucks

Variation C – The Winner

The above variation beat the control by 34%. Letting people know that they did not have to enter a credit card in order to start their trial significantly helped to reduce the barrier to entry.

Giving a reason if you want more information

Most people hate filling out forms and resent giving away any more information about themselves than they have to. In a 2012 benchmark study by the Baymard Institute, the researchers found that every single subject during the checkout usability test complained about a website that asked for too much personal information.

However, for those websites that gave a clear reason for wanting something like a phone number – test subjects were far more willing to provide the information.

Why your call to action copy sucks

The big takeaway here is that an explanation can go a long way to reduce anxiety when it comes to filling in forms. Make it clear why you need the information and what it will be used for without making people hunt for it.

 

2) Where’s the value?

Giving people a reason to click a button or fill in a form is one way of alleviating friction. Another is to let them know the benefit or value behind taking action.

Why your call to action copy sucks

In this test by Michael Aagaard, he increased the amount of sign ups to his email list by 83.75% simply by telling people what they would get after giving their emails.

How many times have you thought about signing up for an email list only to wonder if you’re really going to get anything you actually want after doing it?

Apparently, quite a few people wonder the same thing. By being explicit about what your visitors can expect from signing up, chances are they will be more likely to do so.

 

3) Control and ownership

Make the experience all about your visitors. That seems to be a key finding with so many of the websites I work on and the tests conclusions I see.

In a test on a landing page, Michael Aagaard and the folks at Unbounce found that by changing the button copy from 3rd person to 1st person they were able to increase the click through rate by 90%.

Why your call to action copy sucks

Is it because people feel as though subconsciously they have more control over the decision making process when the action is posed in the 1st person?

Or, does it suddenly make it all about them? – appealing to the very human desire to feel important.

Why your call to action copy sucks

You can read more about this test on Copyhackers.

Take a look at the above treatment. This is part of a test I worked on with Joanna at Copyhackers. We initially only changed the headline to the above and kept the original button copy that read “Sign up now.”

While the first variation trended up, we were only seeing a marginal lift.

Once we added the new button copy – placed in the 1st person and showing people a real benefit attached to clicking (who doesn’t want to see outfits they’ll love?) – conversions skyrocketed to nearly 124%.

Whatever the reason, more people felt inspired to hit that button with the tweaked copy.

And the moral of the story is…

 

The words you choose in and around your calls to action can make a huge difference.

But.

Take all of these examples as a place to start not end when it comes to your own copy. What works on one site won’t necessarily work on another.

Go back to those questions I referenced above. Then, apply them to your site’s calls to action. You’ll want to consider any customer research you’ve done. It’s there that you’ll find the answers to those questions.

So you can start making some well thought out changes to test.

Has this inspired you to take another look at your website’s copy?

The Skinny on Conversion Rate Optimization

 

If you’ve been reading about online marketing and websites recently, you’ve probably come across the words “conversion” and “optimization” a lot.

Yeah, they’re kind of like the new “it” words… the cool kids on the block. Remember when keyword search and SEO were all the rage?

That’s pretty much what’s happened to these guys.

What does Conversion Rate Optimization mean?

Let’s simply start with conversions as they relate to websites, landing pages or even emails. A conversion happens when someone takes an action on your site that you wanted to happen.

For instance, this can be as simple as signing up for your email list, clicking on an “add to cart” button or filling out a form.

These actions are what we measure and hope to optimize or improve. Therefore, Conversion Rate Optimization – or CRO for short – is the process of analyzing qualitative and quantitative data to understand and improve the performance of your website.

Think of CRO as a systematic way to figure out what’s preventing your visitors from doing the things you want them to do on your site – then, fixing them.

 

It’s not just about conversions…

There are loads of marketers out there telling you that you’ve got to “convert” more. “Get people to convert,” they say.

Sounds good. Right?

The thing is that just getting more conversions doesn’t necessarily mean increasing revenues and your profits. As Peep Laja from ConversionXL has noted,

…but the goal should never be to boost conversions. Just lower your prices by 99%, and conversions will go instantly up – but you will lose money. So in the end the question we’re asking is ‘how can we increase revenue, and do so at profit?’

You need to be thinking about the goals and objectives for your website and how that fits into the larger picture of your overall business strategy.

A whole lot of moving parts

CRO from soup to nuts can be a very complicated and time consuming process. It involves:

  • Qualitative research (customer surveys, user testing, interviews, heuristic analysis)
  • Quantitative research (Google Analytics mining, mouse tracking data, etc.)
  • Hypotheses, A/B and multivariate testing
  • Implementation of changes

And, that’s just the extremely abbreviated list. The fact of the matter is that you’ve got to collect good data and understand how to interpret it correctly in order to make meaningful changes.

What this means for your business

Attention spans have shrunk and website visitors have become more savvy.

Basically, more and more people expect faster results online while having less patience completing their goals.

Usability and clarity of messaging is critical. Whether people realize it or not, they are constantly making decisions based on interaction costs with a web page. If there are too many competing images, the fonts are too small, the information is irrelevant or difficult to interpret, you’re placing undo cognitive load on your visitors.

As the web usability expert, Steve Krug, says,

Don’t make me think.

When you design, build and write copy for websites or landing pages that require people to figure out how to get things done, you’re going to lose out in the process.

Start optimizing, even if you’re site is small

Here’s the deal. No matter the amount of traffic you have on your website you can run split tests (running one version of a page against another to see which one is more effective.)

But, with very little traffic the time it takes your test to get to statistical significance could be so long – say 6 months – that it makes no sense to do. You need to get enough good data over a reasonable period of time – otherwise, you’ll be setting yourself up for making poor decisions.

Low traffic doesn’t mean you can’t still optimize. You’ll have to rely more heavily on qualitative research.

This is where heuristics, heat maps and customer interviews come into play.

Not sure what any of those entail? Stay tuned for upcoming blog posts where I’ll talk about the qualitative research end of things, how you can use it to improve the copy as well as the overall usability on your sites.

In the meantime, check out these resource posts for more information:

How to do conversion optimization with very little traffic? ConversionXL

6 of my all time favorite conversion rate optimization case studies Crazy Egg

What conversion rate optimization experts often forget about: the customer lifecycle Kissmetrics

Have you spent any time trying to optimize your site?

 

 

How to Make the Most of Social Proof on Your Website

How to make the most of social proof on your website

Just this morning, I was looking for a plumber online. Plumbers, electricians, painters – these are the types of people that I really don’t like to hire without a recommendation.

The first thing that goes through my mind is:

“Is this person any good?” Then… “Is he honest?”

…and, my least favorite, “Should I keep my 80 pound dog by my side the whole time in case this guy is a nut?”

Without a referral from a trusted source handy, I searched the Internet and looked at several websites.

Most of them were terrible (the ones that actually had websites.) They had little information and no testimonials.

I wanted social proof – something telling me that other people had used one of these guys and happily lived to tell the tale.

Social proof done right makes a difference

There are various forms of social proof you can have on your website.

Testimonials, reviews, Twitter or Facebook follower numbers, just to name a few…

…and, they help with conversions. Big time.

Robert Cialdini, the guy who literally wrote the book on the psychology of persuasion, names social proof as one of the six principles that makes up its foundation. Think laugh tracks for sitcom television shows. While annoying, they work.

People have a tendency to follow the herd. It’s no different when visiting websites. We like to know that others have taken the leap – hired, bought, etc. – first before making a decision.

But… yeah, there’s a but in all of this.

Like most things, you need to put some thought into how you present social proof on your website. Otherwise, you might find it doing more harm than good.

Add a photo to testimonials (whenever possible)

For various reasons, it may not be possible to add a photo along with a testimonial on your site. However, if you can, do it. Here’s why.

A 2012 study called Nonprobative photographs (or words) inflate truthiness – don’t be put off by the title, Stephen Colbert didn’t write it – found that people placed more weight on information when a photograph was attached. This study included photographs of lesser known celebrities where claims were made. Those claims made alongside a photo were more likely to be deemed true.

One of the best ways to utilize testimonials on websites is by embedding tweets.

They provide a degree of legitimacy in so far as they come via a third party application, Twitter. Here are two that I’ve placed on my main Service page. They give insight into why these people have been happy with my work and they are clickable. Anyone can reach out to these women and ask their opinion directly.

Negative social proof is worse than no social proof

Adding a Facebook or Twitter counter that notes how many followers you or your business has is fine as long as it reads more than a handful of people.

My friend Francisco over at Social Mouths has a lot of Facebook followers. He does an excellent job of showcasing the fact that there are 19,000 reasons why you should be listening to what he has to say.

Visual Website Optimizer ran a test to see if removing social sharing buttons on an e-commerce site’s product pages would increase conversions. Taloon.com, a Finland based hardware store, had Facebook and Google+ sharing buttons on each of their product pages with zero to very few shares.

Simply by removing those share buttons, the company was able to increase click through rates on their product pages by nearly 12%. In this case, less was definitely not more.

Make your testimonials easy to read

Words of admiration are wonderful but big walls of text are not. If your clients write you a testimonial in the form of a novel, chances are your visitors won’t read it.

The reality is that most people scan websites to get just enough information to fulfill their needs. Psychologists call this “satisficing.” You can read more about it within the context of website usability and copy on the Nielsen Norman Group site.

Like any website copy, create easily digestible chunks of information with relevant sub-headlines for your testimonials.

Think of these sub-heads as micro synopses for your testimonials. Summarize in a few words what the main message of the testimonial is so that your visitors can quickly key into what’s most important to them. For instance, one visitor might find the fact that you always deliver on time more critical than your amazing creativity. If you can alert people to it in a sub-head, they may be more likely to read the entire testimonial.

Stop procrastinating…

If you don’t have any testimonials or reviews on your website, start working on getting some. The best time to ask for them from clients is right after you’ve completed a project. Be specific in what you would like them to talk about – even loosely frame something.

Basically, make it as easy as possible for your clients or customers to write something good about you. Don’t make them work or it might not happen.

Finally, pepper those words of praise throughout your site where they are the most relevant. If you’ve got great reviews for a particular product, make sure they go with the corresponding page.

So tell me. How have you used social proof on your website? Do you think it has made a difference?

 

How to Optimize Your Pop Up Copy for Better Conversions

If you’re one of the businesses utilizing a pop up on your website, no doubt you’ve seen how well they can increase your conversion rates. Email sign ups, special offers – they work so well because they bring whatever your call to action is front and center.

What if I told you that you can effectively better the results you’re already getting?

Plus, it’s not difficult. It merely requires you to spend a bit of time tweaking your pop up copy and doing a bit of testing.

You might want to take a second look at what you’ve got popping up on your site.

Give your headline the attention it deserves

Whether you’re coming up with a value proposition for your website’s home page, a title for a blog post or the headline in a pop up, your wording needs to be clear but compelling. Give people a distinct reason for taking action.

Reebok A/B tested it’s email opt in pop up to see if a more “benefits oriented” headline would increase sign ups to their newsletter. The only change made to the form was the headline from “Join the Reebok Newsletter” to “Join and Save!”

The new headline increased conversions by 40%. Clearly, the incentive to save money trumped the promise of only getting a free newsletter.

Tell people what they will get by taking action

One of the biggest conversion killers is lack of specificity. When people don’t know why they should click on something or what the benefit will be in doing so, they are more reluctant to press a button.

A test of the the pop up used on Shoemoney.com found that by detailing exactly what  visitors would receive by giving their email addresses, opt ins increased by 29% and 31%. The overall winner was the most specific.

If the incentive to sign up is a free downloadable guide with information someone coming to your website will find relevant, then go ahead and state that.

For example:

Download my free guide – 7 Steps to Making Pies with Flakier Crusts

is better than

Download tips and hints on baking better pies

The first example lets you know exactly what you’re getting and makes it clear it’s free. There’s less friction because there’s no guesswork.

Personalize the button copy

Believe it or not, the copy used on click through buttons can affect conversion rates dramatically. Just by changing the button copy from “Start your 30 day free trial” to “Start my 30 day free trial,” the folks at Unbounce were able to see a 90% increase in click through rates on their landing page.

How can using the word “my” instead of “your” make such a difference in conversions?

Perhaps, it has to do with giving people a sense of ownership in the process. At the point of action, the visitor is referred to in the first person. “I” get to press the button as opposed to someone else.

It pays to test

While these types of changes seem insignificant on paper, the results are staggering when implemented. The best part is all of them can be done in a matter of minutes.

Spend a bit of time looking at your pop up and ask yourself these questions:

Does it have a clear and compelling headline?

Is it easy for people to understand what the benefit is of taking action?

How can I change my button copy to reflect the first person singular?

Then, test out your changes. See how the new version compares with the control. You might be surprised at the results.

Final thoughts…

I don’t use a pop up any longer on my site. Considering they do help with things like newsletter sign ups, you’re probably wondering why I’ve gotten rid of mine.

I wanted to try something different that was still top of mind but not as “in your face.” So, I now use a bar at the top of the page – Foobar plugin for WP – that follows the visitor as he or she moves down the page.

I like it because it’s far less intrusive but still gets the job done. Is the bar working as well as the pop up?

Honestly, it’s not. But, I decided to forsake a few sign ups so as not to irritate more than a few visitors.

Here is where you need to decide what’s most important in achieving your business goals. For an e-commerce site, having a pop up that kicks in before a customer leaves with an incentive may create far more sales to offset the potential annoyance of a few people. A well timed and worded pop up in that instance makes sense.

In the end, keep an eye on user experience and continually make assessments about what’s working and what isn’t. Just because something is a good idea for one site, doesn’t mean you’ll get the same results.

I’m curious. What’s your feeling on website pop ups?