Nobody Puts CTA in the Corner

Content Marketing Tip_4.17.14

Social is sexy. Showing up on the first page of Google is sexy. Showing your client all the blog followers and site visits you’ve accrued is sexy.

Optimizing the 2 words on your button is not sexy…even when you start talking about the ooohs and aaahs of color change. And what about when you talk about call to action (CTA) location…or even 1st person tense? Nope, still not sexy.

Why not?

The minor differences between color, number of words and verb selection can dramatically increase your conversion rates. Don’t believe me, check out copyblogger’s 6 Proven Ways to Boost Conversion Rates of Your Call-to-Action Buttons. It really is a very in-depth and insightful read, emphasizing how the nuances in CTAs translated into improved conversion rates. If you have the time, I encourage you to read every word. But, here’s what I’ve seen work, mixed in with some great insights from copyblogger.

Avoid the generics: When creating your buttons, conventional wisdom says make them clear and concise. Tell your customer exactly what you want them to do and use common language. That’s why we see a lot of learn more, buy now, more info buttons. These may work, but challenge yourself (and your copy team) to explore different options.

Instead of more info, consider make me smarter or get brain juice. Instead of buy now, consider start the happy. If you’re concerned about losing clarity, you can try buttons with subheads that explain your more-interesting copy.

Blink test: Load your page with your eyes closed, then blink a couple times to get a very brief view of your website. What do you see? If it’s your CTA(s), you’re probably off to a good start. If you can’t see anything discernible, consider making your CTAs more noticeable. Make sure your desired course of action is the most prominent feature on each of your pages.

A/B Tests: This goes without saying, but run tests on all your buttons frequently. Go ahead and audit your site, challenging your copy and UX teams to develop better buttons/CTAs for every page. Run A/B tests to filter out the winners and the losers. Then, circle back 6 months from now and restart this process. Continuously test and improve your buttons. It’s an ongoing process.

Limit options: Your homepage is not a dump of all your content, products, information, etc. It’s a streamlined approach to encourage customers to pursue your content or offerings at a deeper level, filtering customers as appropriate. You’ll give customers information overload with too many buttons, CTAs, content, images, videos…and yourself a higher bounce rate.

This is where the copyblogger article gets very interesting. It cited the popular Jam Experiment in which researcher, Sheena Iyengar, set up 2 jam sample booths at a grocery store. One booth had 24 jam samples; the other had 6. The 24-Jam booth had many more visitors, but more patrons purchased Jams from the 6-Jam booth.

Iyengar completed another study, similar to the jam experiment. She asked participants to choose a chocolate from a box of 30 and other participants to choose a chocolate from a box of only 6. The participants who selected from the box of 6 were much happier with their choice. See the Chocolate experiment.

Incredible.

This can relate to your site. When you give people fewer choices (fewer links, buttons, CTAs), they feel more satisfied with their decision. They may feel like they’ve had a more complete experience.

Consider first person tense: Hats off to copyblogger for this tip. The smart folks suggest making your button complete this sentence. I want to ______________.

Copyblogger cited an example that tested the difference between Start your free 30 day trial and Start my free 30 day trial. One word difference, but the my option saw a 90% increase in click-through rates.

Amazing.

This is a tactic you rarely see, but Amazon has adapted this approach. And if Amazon is considering this tactic, it might at the very least be worth the “B” in your A/B test.

Remove the tedium: Buttons like register to learn more or sign up for info just sound tedious. Nobody wants to register or sign up…we want to explore and engage. Write buttons that capture that message. Consider buttons similar to:

I want more business
-Sign me up for inside tips

Short, sweet, daily tips
-Sign me up.

Find what works for you: These are some thought starters for creating better CTAs. But ultimately, you need to find your own groove withy your customers.

Simple Ecommerce Strategy to Improve Conversions

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Today’s tip is an ecommerce strategy to convert customers at a higher rate. Digital marketers are always looking for new ways to streamline the typical 3-step conversion process that forces customers to login/register, enter credit card information, and then shipping information. So, if you can, remove the most tedious step of all (entering the credit card information), and you may see fewer site exits.

It seems like such a simple idea, but the difference can be significant. The other day, I was ordering a pizza online at pizza hut, sitting on the couch somewhat dreading the idea of getting up to grab the wallet, remove the credit card, enter the number, verify the expiration date, etc, etc., – all as the Digiorno slowly started sounding better and better. Then, the site simply gave me the option to pay in-store when I picked it up. Such a simple little tweak in the ordering process made it easier for me to complete the transaction.

Remove unnecessary elements on conversion pages: A lot of webmasters include the social icons, email signups, blog alerts, RSS feeds, etc. on every page. These icons are great for generating leads and maintaining touch points with consumers. But, they serve no purpose on your conversion pages.

When a consumer is taking a deeper look at one of your products, they’re close to purchasing. Why would you distract them with an email newsletter? You may just be giving them an exit page. So, remove unnecessary items and make these pages all about purchasing that product. Make your “purchase” button the most recognizable asset on the page. Use large photos and text. However, you may want to keep your social icons on these pages to encourage your users to promote your pages and gain social shares. This can be especially important as social signals are becoming more strongly correlated with higher rankings.

Guest blogging with your white hat

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Guest posting is quickly becoming the latest SEO spam tactic (when not done correctly). It’s now on Matt Cutts’ (head of Google’s web spam team) radar, in every blog and essentially on every SEO/content marketer’s mind.

But, guest posting is not dead, spamming your fellow content creators so you can squeeze out a couple more links is dead – assuming it was ever alive. Some believe Google has been focusing on spam guest-blogging tactics for some time. But, what really set this off was when a spammer emailed Matt Cutts himself, soliciting a guest-blog/follow link opportunity on Cutts’ blog.

For those of you who aren’t as close to the SEO world as others – trying to spam Matt Cutts is far worse than just poking the bear. It’s tantamount to stealing the Queen’s crown and Instagramming YOLO pictures with it.

Cutts stated directly that if you’re guest blogging just to gain links, you should stop because this will quickly be recognized as a spam tactic. But, if you’re actually taking the time to add unique and quality content, you will continue to add value and boost your site. Here are some white hat tactics to help you further promote your content and SEO efforts with guest blogging.

Employ lead-nurturing strategies: In recent years, content marketers have implemented very sophisticated lead-nurturing platforms with improved software and more personalized content. Why not use these similar strategies with guest-blogging opportunities? Connect with fellow bloggers over content, include polls on your site, start valuable discussions on social sites to build relationships with reputable content creators in your industry. Then, look for ways to add value to their site. Perhaps through partnering to create content together. This way, you can stay on the white hat side of guest blogging and continue to amplify your content and earn links.

Encourage guest blogging on your site: It’s always easier to find guest bloggers for your site, and many SEOs ignore this practice. But, you can actually gain a link and even bring authority to your site – not to mention great content. Use your established relationships with content creators in your industry and invite select writers to guest post on your site.

Look for the right blogger, one who has established author authority (has a high PageRank) on Google +. Just like any other page, Google+ pages can actually carry PageRank. In fact, simply having an authoritative author tag an article on your site could actually increase your site’s PageRank. It’s vaguely similar to having a high PageRank site link to you. However, this author must have authority in the same industry.

How to check PageRank on G+.

This blogger will likely promote the article on his/her site, possibly giving you a link. So, in the end, you may get a link and a potential boost from an authoritative author on your site.

Low-quality sites: More times than not, where your guest blogging will determine if you’re spamming. If you mass email hundreds of webmasters on seedy sites, soliciting links/guest blog opportunities, you will be labeled as spam. In fact, these are the exact practices that Google will be cracking down on. However, if you target a few high quality sites, establish relationships and post original guest content, you will continue to enjoy the benefits of content amplification and authoritative backlinks.

More conservative web masters: Another aspect to consider is if guest blogging is even worth it. Major content sites like Huffington Post and New York Times may tighten restrictions on which authors they allow to guest blog. This will make securing quality guest blogging opportunities links even more difficult. At this point, you might just want to reallocate more efforts to creating great content for your site.

Why guest blog at all: Also, keep in mind if you create awesome content that gets shared and linked to, why would you want all those signals on someone else’s site? You’d want those links on your site.

New look for blog

New look for blog

Thanks for following and sharing the blog so far. But now, I’m amping it up a bit, bringing in a more-imagery based direction with shorter, more frequent posts. You’re busy, I’m busy – so I’m giving quick one line marketing tips, facts and opinions all in tight shots.

I hope you enjoy and keep following.

Leveraging Odd Human Fascinations to Boost Content

As humans, we are obsessed with the mundane details of others’ lives. Obsessed.

It’s a fact. A fact I didn’t buy into until very recently. I’ve argued against this professionally for years. I’ve created content strategies, purposely ignoring this insight. I’ve called blogs that successfully rely on this tactic, “flukes.”

More specifically, I’m speaking about blogs that give an inside look into the company’s business and their employees’ day-to-day lives. I’ve admitted that it works for some companies who are inherently interesting (like Google). But, it won’t work for smaller companies that aren’t as interesting, I argued.

My logic was solid: people care more about themselves than others. But, I was wrong, and I admit it. Now, I’ll prove it.

This will be the most popular post on my blog, simply because it’s the most personal. It’s the most relatable. As people, it’s infinitely interesting to discuss and follow the boring details of others’ lives. What TV shows do they watch? What blogs do they follow? What apps did they download? What did they eat for dinner last night? What are their inside jokes?

Why? Simply because these topics spin a web of connectivity, uniting unrelated people on common discussions. Anyone can chime in on a conversation about their favorite app, their most common meal – or even their inside jokes. Anyone.

For example, the wife and I eat bland chicken and rice about once a week with a little Lawry’s Seasoned Salt. We have this really weird habit of purposely mispronouncing all vowels, giving them an “oo” sound. To demonstrate, a microwave is a moocroowooove. Our favorite is to demand “no plooging” times, which means no using your cell phone (no plugging in). So, if we’re watching a movie, and I try to check the Cincinnati Reds score, I’ll get a verbal smack down via a swift and strong “NO PLOOGING!”

Weird, impossibly weird. I know. But, that last blurb is and will be the most interesting – the most socially valuable – paragraph on my entire site. It has more social currency than any of the in-depth SEO or digital strategies I write about.

How to leverage connectivity in your blog: Simple. Don’t overthink it. It has to flow naturally and be integrated into your content. Layers of reviewers, editors and directors touching it will make it feel forced and unnatural. Wil Wheaton (Ensign Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation) simply writes about his day. His Christmas Blog is a perfect example. It’s a personal and relatable article about his Christmas. After reading it, you can say that’s exactly what we do or more likely that’s exactly what our cats do.

Tell a continuous story: Edmunds (a car listing site) created a series of Long-Term Road Tests, reviewing cars. Instead of simply writing about car features, it asks its content creators to live with each car for a year, driving it at least 20,000 miles. This gives consumers an inside and personable look into each car complete with pictures. And guess what: Edmunds uses first person. One article about the 2014 Kia Cadenza details the story of three men cramming into the backseat. The legroom was fine, but the “hip room” was cramped. That’s a genuine and relatable insight that’s much better than just printing seat length stats.

Stop tip-toeing and go for it: GEICO is toeing the line into relatable, and personal content – but they’re far too cautious and unnatural. GEICO posts articles authored by its employees, discussing the company, its products, charitable organizations, etc. However, they’re not personal, and they are not relatable. This blog is designed to show an inside look at GEICO and what this particular employee is thankful for. But, it’s relatively shallow. The best the author can write is thanks for a company that celebrates employees’ achievements.

I want to hear something personal. Write about how you peed in your pants at work and your associates helped you conceal it. Write a personal tale about the fear of starting a new job, something interesting and relatable GEICO did.

The insurance industry has a golden opportunity to create relevant content and tips on improving safety (car, home, workplace), lowering rates or education on insurance. These are highly searchable terms, but no major company is making it personal. At best, we get shallow articles about “winterizing your home” or checking your oil before long drives. I want an article (perhaps even authored by your spokesperson, the Gecko) that walks me through winterizing my home, complete with pictures. I want something personal written by someone who recently did this. Note the difference.

Unrelatable content: Pipes may burst at 20 degrees, so it’s best to keep a little water running.

Relatable content: We heard we needed to keep a little water running if temperatures dropped below 20 degrees to keep our pipes from bursting. I remember frantically checking my weather app, and the day had finally come. It was almost exciting, running around the whole house turning every faucet on – but at the same time, my bleeding heart was wondering: we’re wasting all this water when there’s so many people in the world who don’t have fresh water. Meanwhile, my husband’s frugal heart was crying, as he tried to calculate what the extra usage would cost us. He’s so lame sometimes.

That’s the big difference.

You’re a friend, not a corporation: Remember this as you create your content and social media strategy. What would a consumer’s friend do? They’d probably post articles or photos about how they celebrated an employee’s birthday; they’d discuss the creative thinking behind their artwork or office building. They’d give you car maintenance tips, but they’d make it a personal story and not a lecture on, “do this, don’t do this.” They’d write about what the company means to them on a personal level. They’d invite you to tell them about your office space, creating a dialogue instead of one-way communications. Then, they might tell you (as a friend) that you could get more affordable insurance with us.

Predictive Content Marketing: It’s not a Crystal Ball, It’s a golden Opportunity

A shorter post this time, but definitely a worthwhile one. Predictive content marketing is an important topic all marketers should consider. Yes, it’s sexy to ride the upcoming trends and be considered pioneers. But, predictive content marketing can greatly improve your SEO and digital returns.

In a nutshell, predictive content marketing is simply creating content on things that don’t exist yet or aren’t quite commercialized. There’s essentially nothing online about these topics and the competition for keywords is very low. This makes it very easy to rank for these topics. Also, by the time your competition catches on, your content has already been live for a while and gaining links, social shares, etc. They’re playing catch-up, while you’re building an even larger presence. And, if you’re lucky, you’ll have that seemingly magical time where your customers catch on to the trend before your competition does. You’ll own the top spots on search engines and with the most engaged social members.

For example, the latest health trend or diet fits perfectly. Let’s say you’re a local restaurant in Columbus, Ohio. You’re small, you don’t have many reviews, you don’t rank well in search engines, and you can’t crack into the Google Knowledge Graph Carousel. See more on Knowledge Graph.

But you’re smart and proactive with your strategy. You hear about a brand new diet trend that’s gaining a little momentum but is still under the radar. Let’s just call this diet the Hatkins Friendly Diet. If it fits your theme, you research the merits of an SEO campaign targeted to rank for “Hatkins Friendly Restaurants in Columbus” and other related terms. Naturally, because the diet is brand new, no other restaurant in Columbus has a menu and very few sites are actually defining what this diet is. There’s basically nothing online about Hatkins Friendly Diet.

You have a golden opportunity to create content on Hatkins Friendly Diet and some menu items. Take a local angle with your content and write about the first Hatkins Friendly Restaurant in Columbus. Create a full page on your website and post Hatkins Friendly photos to your social pages and upload links/recipes on Pinterest. The opportunities are endless.

How to pick the trends: The obvious is researching search volume trends, analyzing buzz, etc. But, if you want to truly lead, you have to create the initial buzz. You have to train yourself to constantly look for these opportunities, and this is a change that’s not going to happen overnight.

The best place to start is with your customers. If you’re a restaurant, launch a promotion for the most creative new recipe/dish. Let users post their ideas online, and the top 5 most liked will be featured in your restaurant. The power of the crowd has much stronger social amplification than simply brainstorming a few new ideas. Let it grow and create the next big recipe, own it, and prove you own it with compelling content. It’s part predictive content marketing, and part developing new trends.

 

Brink of Creative Revolution in Content Marketing

One day in the 1960s, Bill Bernbach went to work at DDB and decided that advertising would no longer suck. It just wouldn’t be boring anymore. And that was it. Advertising became interesting, as agencies started recruiting creative minds to do more than rehash product points and instead make something interesting.

The same thing will happen with content marketing, and it will happen very, very soon. Ask any professional SEO in the world how to improve your SEO strategy, and the first thing 99% of them will tell you is to create great content. But, what happens when more and more marketers start investing in SEO and begin creating great content to improve their online presence? The bar for great content is raised higher and higher and higher. The level of creativity is raised.

Outside of the ardent SEO and inbound marketing circles, content is an afterthought. Companies are tiptoeing into blogs, leaving duties up to 3-month interns or passionate employees who just so happen to have some free time. But, those companies will soon be part of the past, and smart marketers will hire and pay for top-level talent to create content that’s flat out addicting.

I think we’ll see a few trends define this revolution.

Content concept: The best content platforms will have a cohesive theme that digs deeper than the tone or writing style, they have a concept, very similar to the way traditional advertisers create a marketing concept. For example, some companies are tying their spokespeople into blogs, some are relying on user-generated content. But, Coke is rising above all with its Coca Cola Journey content. Instead of sticking to the obvious blogs on Coca Cola recipes, best holiday Coke drinks, or even how Coke is made – the company thought bigger with a simple idea. The concept was to extend happiness to the world by posting optimistic articles. Coke invested heavily, plugging in 4 full-time hires with dozens of part-timers and freelancers. The result is a refreshingly addictive site that adds a smile…and at 1.2 million unique monthly visitors, Coke is making a prime content marketing case study.

The fall of the how-to article: The first idea is not always the best idea. When creating a content marketing platform, it’s always easy to come up with a bunch of how to articles in your industry. For insurance companies, it could be how to make car insurance cheaper, how to save money on renter’s insurance or how to combine insurance policies, etc. These articles are still valuable to your content strategy, in fact, they’re very valuable – but they are not your entire content strategy. They’re great for search terms and generating a one-time lead or click-through, but there’s really not a strong reason for visitors to come back tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. There’s no developing story. These articles have no legs. Progressive Insurance understood this when it created the YouTube sensation “Flo’s Sidekick” back in 2010. Users could submit videos explaining why they should be Flo’s Sidekick and appear in a national TV spot. The campaign led to tons of press (and links), impressions and submissions. But, more importantly, it gave people a reason to continue interacting with the brand. Users could keep checking back on the microsite to see new submissions and if their favorites were getting voted in.

Tools, not articles: Think about building a full experience for each individual user who comes to your site. If you’re in the finance sector, does an article like “How to save for retirement” build a unique experience? The answer, is no. This article should still be included in your content, but most financial providers dig deeper and create retirement and savings calculators, pulling information from your existing accounts. This is a fairly obvious example, and the cat’s out of the bag in the industry on this trend. But, these are the types of tools you should be thinking about.

Some tutoring companies build online practice questions that can help users track progress over time. For example, if you’re getting ready for the SAT, you can take practice questions and see how much time you’re putting in each week, how much faster you’re getting and how many more questions you’re getting right. Tools like this provide much more dynamic content than a general “How to improve your SAT score” article. And above all, it gives your users a reason to keep coming back.

The options are endless. Gyms and exercise equipment companies can create exercise regimens for people to follow over time, tying products seamlessly into the mix. For example, users can input their current health status, goals, time to goal, and how much time they’re willing to work out each week. The systems can create personalized work out plans, recommending to start with walking then upgrade to their brand of treadmill. You can even tie gamification into your tools to help users celebrate goals of losing 5 pounds, running a 9-minute mile, etc. These work seamlessly with social media. And in terms of engagement, repeat visitors, share-ability, etc – tools like this blow their generic article counterparts “How to lose 20 pounds in 6 months” out of the water.

My advice is simple, think deeply and challenge your team to come up with creative solutions that solve problems and go beyond the generic articles. But, still create those generic articles. They are the foundation of your content marketing plan…they are just not your entire content marketing plan.