Poker is a game of strategy and just like conversion optimisation unless you have a clear strategy you are sure to lose.
When I was optimising a major poker website and app I decided I needed to get under the skin of the average player. One of the ways I did this was by learning to play poker and joining competitor sites to compare the user experience. As I became more experienced at the game, I realised that there are many lessons that can be applied to conversion optimisation strategy.
Understand the basic rules:
If you don’t know the hand rankings for poker you are going to make a lot of bad decisions and lose money quickly.
Similarly for conversion optimisation strategy you need to understand basic web conventions and have a clear process for optimisation and testing. This will help ensure that you can spot obvious problems with your site and you have a systematic approach to improving the performance of your sites. This will avoid random testing and improve your chances of making the best decisions to increase conversion. If you want to read up on this subject check out my post on the optimisation process and some awesome books to read.
Many good poker players can be very aggressive at times. This can unsettle their opponents. However, it can also put off novice players and make them abandon the game.
With conversion optimisation strategy you need to assume that most new visitors are unaware of your brand. If you are overly aggressive you may win over some brave souls, but you will probably scare off the majority of your new customers. People don’t like feeling they are being pushed into making a snap decision. Pop-ups are almost universally employed on poker websites in an attempt to get visitors to take action. But these can often just annoy visitors. Conversion should be a pleasurable experience for the visitor and we should avoid over reliance on any single approach.
To make the best decisions, it is essential to be calm, logical and to consider the probabilities of hand strength and the likelihood of other cards being revealed at each stage of the game. However, in reality many players struggle with the maths and let their emotions drive their decision making.
The behaviour of website visitors is no different to poker players. Visitors are heavily influenced by their emotional state, environment and what they think other people are doing. This all influences how they interpret content and functionality on your site. Conversion optimisation strategy should allow for the fact that most users are more concerned about potential losses than gains. Use money-back guarantees or free trials to reduce the perceived risk of customers making a poor decision.
We are generally poor at doing mental maths, so spell out bonuses or offers in simple terms so that users don’t have to work anything out. Use psychological hooks in your content to engage visitors at a non-rational level. This is often more important and influential than the purely logical reasons why we buy. This quote I recently came across sums up what we are dealing with:
“Few people are logical. Most of us are prejudiced and biased. Most of us are blighted with preconceived notions, with jealousy, suspicion, fear, envy and pride.” Dale Carnegie
Predictable reduces cognitive strain :
A good poker player changes their tactics on a regular basis to avoid being too predictable. This works because people dislike having to deal with constant and random behaviour. It creates uncertainty which humans try to avoid at all costs. It also makes people impatient and prone to making irrational decisions.
For conversion optimisation strategy it is also important to get a balance. Ensure you don’t have too many surprises on your website that may distract or disrupt the user flow. Follow standard web-conventions when appropriate and don’t distract visitors with too much content. Clutter and offering too many choices can cause cognitive strain.
Have a clear strategy and be disciplined:
To be a successful poker player you must have a game plan as otherwise you will constantly be changing your approach in response to other players. Only play when your starting hand meets certain criteria and don’t bet unless your hand is strong enough to justify it. Review the probability of getting a winning hand at each stage of the game and know when to fold.
Conversion also requires a clear strategy to formulate hypothesis and prioritise budgets according to the chances and value of success. There must to be a potential for a significant ROI for any A/B test.
Ensure you don’t waste effort on trying to improve conversion on poorly performing pages that don’t have the traffic or potential to justify the resource. Know when to cut your loses and move onto a more promising opportunity. Sometimes it is more profitable to to focus on your better performing pages that don’t require a large up-lift to give a handsome ROI. Prioritisation is key to your success as you will never have enough time or resources to test everything.
Respect your opponents as in a majority of cases at least one competitor will have a better hand than you. Take time to observe your competitors to see what you can learn. Copy and adapt loosely, but don’t replicate what your competitors do as otherwise your site will look exactly like theirs.
It is naïve to suggest you should never copy your competitors because it won’t work on your site. Sure, not everything will work, but if you are selective and use ideas in the right context they may enhance your user experience and improve conversion. But don’t assume they have done their homework and tested new designs. A/B test them before you roll out things you copy. Also look outside of your competitors for inspiration. Most new features are likely to be adopted in other sectors first before they get to your small area of the web. You should then apply A/B testing when appropriate to validate whether an idea will benefit your site.
Don’t treat all visitors the same:
There are many different kinds of poker players and to get the best result you need to understand their tactics and behaviour. Good players will adjust their behaviour accordingly.
To improve conversion you also need to segment your customers to tailor and personalise the user experience. If you treat everyone the same you can expect average conversion. Employ customer research, web analytics, and analyse your data warehouse to better understand and segment your visitors. Develop a more relevant and personalised user journey.
Use game mechanics to engage visitors:
Poker is one of the most difficult games to master. It requires a good deal of skill, an understanding of human behaviour and a large amount of luck. However, we love games and mastery is one of our strongest motivations.
As part of your conversion optimisation strategy have you considered using gamification on to improve the user experience and conversion? Why not use gamification of steps in your user journey to engage visitors and to create interest towards your conversion goals. This can be as simple as providing regular and positive feedback or prizes (e.g. badges or loyalty points) to recognise task completion and reward behaviour that leads towards your conversion goals. Make your website fun and interesting when appropriate and visitors may want to return more often.
Poker sites bombard visitors with welcome bonus offers and tournaments with big prizes for the winners. However, for the vast majority of players who won’t be making a fortune out of poker the user experience is what matters.
This means a good conversion optimisation strategy needs to be built around a strong value proposition. Use a heuristic evaluation to check how well the user journey is relevant and provides clear directional cues on interacting with the game mechanics. This should also identify if the application has minimised friction by avoiding distractions and anxiety. Urgency is also often forgotten about to nudge players to act quickly when required.
The whole user experience needs to be pleasurable and aligned with customer expectations if you want to encourage visitors to return to your site or app. This is the same for any online business and is often forgotten in the rush to get short-term sales. The danger is that too much attention is given to fancy new product features and website changes when the basic game experience may also need some attention. Fix your user experience first before trying to be persuasive or personalise your site.
Ensure challenges are realistically achievable:
Poker sites have in the past been notorious for offering bonuses that require levels of game play that are totally unrealistic for the average user to attain. Pokerstars, and 888 now offer instant release bonuses.
Other companies, such as Betfair, continue to promote offers that are highly complex and difficult to release. Making a task too difficult to achieve for your average customer creates disappointment and resentment. Ensure your conversion optimisation strategy considers what is best for customers and not just your organisation.
Winning involves luck:
Poker involves a fair amount of luck as even the strongest starting hand can turn to nothing when new cards are revealed that link to what another player has in his or her hand. Conversion also requires a reasonable amount of luck.
In terms of conversion optimisation strategy we are also poor at predicting which new designs will perform better than an existing page design or user journey. For this reason companies like Google and Netflix, who are in the mature phase of testing, often have test failure rates of 80% to 90%. Scale matters when you can’t rely on low-hanging fruit and so it is important to ramp up the number of tests you run to generate a few big wins. The more tests you run the greater the likelihood you will get lucky.
For a customer to buy at any moment in time requires that they are ready to act. If your proposition is not perceived to have the highest chance of helping them meet a current goal they are likely to go elsewhere. If a visitor gets distracted by a more urgent and pressing goal you will also probably lose them. Competitors are also constantly trying to move the goal posts in their favour so don’t be surprised if your conversion rate is in a constant state of flux.
Trust is just as important online as it is offline. That’s why many people use website rating reputation tools to check out websites, links and files before they decide to interact with them. Website owners can also use these tools to check the rating of their own sites to identify if they have a potential problem with how their site is rated by users or search engines.
Sites can leverage user generated content via customer ratings and reviews to display customer feedback on adverts and on your website. This can help build your brand reputation and improve your conversion rate. However, let’s first look at website reputation checkers which many people rely on to check if they can trust a website.
Customer Rating & Review Software:
Customer review software is important because research shows that customer recommendations drive 20% to 50% of all purchasing decisions.
Customer review software improves your visibility in search engines and social media and increase click-through rates.
Online word of mouth or user generated content can be a powerful influence on visitor behaviour. Due to our social nature people are heavily influenced by the behaviour and opinions of others. This is why indicators of social proof, such as testimonials and product ratings and reviews can be so persuasive on websites. Customer review software therefore facilitates social sharing and influencer marketing.
Customer Review Software Builds Credibility:
People use social proof as an indication of trust. If a site appears popular and has good ratings and reviews it provides trust and reassurance to visitors that it is likely to be a genuine site. Customer review software helps to automate this process and can deliver a good return on investment through increased sales.
When there are no rating and reviews visible on a site this can raise anxiety in the minds of users. Why are there no reviews? Is this a genuine site as there are no customer ratings and reviews? Customer review software has become so well established on major sites like Amazon and AO.com that the absence of such software can cause concern among website visitors.
People also know that a site with a good reputation is less likely to sell faulty or sub-standard goods or services because they might damage their brand reputation if they did so. Customer ratings and reviews are especially influential when we are faced with uncertainty, such as when buying something for the first time. This is why displaying ratings and reviews using customer review software can be so powerful.
A large number of ratings and reviews can help build trust and credibility of your site and provides guidance for customers on which products people are most satisfied with. This helps to reduce anxiety about your site and the suitability of the products you sell.
Recommended Customer Review software:
Our recommendation for a customer review software is Trustist Reviews as this is an innovative, but competitively priced solution which has been developed by people who have previously worked in e-commerce. They understand how users respond to reviews and the challenges faced by marketers to effectively use product ratings and reviews.
E-Commerce Customer Review Software:
Here are ten of the most popular e-commerce customer review software platforms to help build trust and credibility on your site.
A new but innovative approach to customer rating and reviews platforms. It will set up and aggregate existing reviews and customer testimonials from the web and social media to immediately get stars in your search results. The simple copy and paste code snippet integration means that all maintenance, including making changes to respond to policy updates from Google, is handled by Trustist.
You will also get stars in your natural search results for your website (not on their site). This will generate more traffic and higher click through rate. Trustist will provide you with a platform to collect on-going reviews using email and your websites. This helps keep the content current and will provide SEO benefits.
No costs are shown on the site, but I understand they are highly competitive and it is well worth getting a quote for comparison purposes. It is ideal for large and small e-commerce retailers.
Offers a suite of applications via a cloud based user generated content engine that helps you capture, manage and respond to customer input to grow your business by displaying ratings and reviews.
This covers 5 core products;
Conversations encourages customers to review products, ask questions, give answers and share stories.
Connections manages responses to shopper questions & reviews across their network of retail sites.
Local makes authentic customer reviews available on your website and on the sites of local providers that carry your brand.
Curations pull authentic, moderated social media content into your buying experience by displaying it on your website.
Media engages active shoppers online and in-store via their ad targeting technology.
Bazaarvoice claim their clients see an average 65% lift in revenue per visit and 52% uplift in conversion on product pages with ratings and reviews. They also see a 98% average conversion uplift when shoppers engage in Q&A on major retail sites. Has over 3,500 clients.
A customer ratings and reviews software solution that provides qualified reviews from real customers who have made a purchase from your organisation. Every review can be shared across social platforms and with the Feefo Facebook app you can automatically position reviews into the heart of your social engagement strategy.
As a Google Licensed Content Partner, Feefo submits ratings and reviews on behalf of merchants to be included in to Google’s listings. Offers a Free trial period to try out the service.
The system is available in English, French, German, Spanish and Japanese. Free 30 day trial available.
TestFreaks is a Swedish-based ratings and reviews platform that allows organisations to proactively collect customer reviews. Seller reviews are also collected and moderated by TestFreaks to ensure impartiality in maintained.
The platform allows you to instantly achieve critical mass for product rating and reviews as thousands of expert and consumer review sources and will match them to your product feed. Their question and answer feature allows site visitors to post questions and receive answers directly from your customer support team. It is used by online retailers in over 30 countries.
Trustpilot is a community-driven customer review platform from Denmark, but is now established in over 60 countries, including the UK and U.S. The software allows organisations to proactively collect both product and seller reviews from customers.
In the UK the e-commerce retailer AO.com extensively uses Trustpilot reviews on its whole site, including on category and product pages. Trustpilot offer a free basic version to create a profile page and collect customer reviews. The subscription service allows you to create customisable review invitations, share content on social media and integrate the platform with your internal business systems.
Trustpilot collects 20,000 new reviews each day or over 750,000 each month. It has a total database of over 26 million reviews of 152,000 businesses and counting.
I’ve read some mixed reviews on Trustpilot if your site doesn’t have a high volume of visitors. The service costs from around £10,000 a year and so calculate your likely response rate to ensure it is value for money.
Customer ratings and reviews software that captures four types of user generated content; ratings and reviews, community questions & answers, visual reviews (phone-based capture) and micro-reviews at point-of-sale. The platform integrates with your business systems to deliver a personalised user experience that captures more content than most other review software on the market.
A suite of solutions including product ratings and reviews that is deeply integrated with social media which means that it is easy to share customer reviews with your business’s Facebook page and Twitter account which drives qualified traffic.
The core features cover:
Review generation – Delivers automated, fully-customisable and mobile responsive emails after purchase which includes upsells in all review request to increase lifetime value. A one-step submission process also increases the number of reviews received.
On-site – Full customization of widgets, with all reviews labelled with a trust badge, the ability to ask buyers questions and includes in-depth information on each reviewer to help buyers qualify relevance.
Retention – Focus on lifetime value of each customer through the use of post-purchase coupons, ability to comment on reviews and community Q&A.
Marketing – Social integration allows you to automatically share your best reviews on Facebook and Twitter to increase their reach. Yotpo ads and email upsells leverage your reviews to bring quality traffic to your site.
SEO – Increases your SEO visibility by showing your reviews and ratings on Google and offers the ability to display your reviews across Google Shopping and search with product listing ads.
Unlike other customer review and rating platforms, SoftwareHow has an expert team testing each piece of software and writing an honest review about that product. Their reviews, tips and how-to guides are all based on thorough testing and personal experience. Even if a great software has an annoying problem, they won’t hide the fact from you. Their reliability and thoroughness are what makes their reviews valuable, and different from most review sites.
Website Rating Software & Reputation Tools:
These tools protect your online browsing from malicious websites that can attempt to steal data or infect your device. Many of the tools are backed by professional security software companies and allow users to surf without having to worry about security. The browser extensions are often free and give users an additional level of security when browsing.
One of the most popular website rating tools which blocks malware and phishing sites if a user clicks on a malicious link by mistake. It protects users if they mistype a web address and helps direct them towards the correct site. Download protection scans downloads and alerts users if there is a known risk. Finally, security check notifies users if their firewall and antivirus are activated before they surf.
A free website rating reputational lookup tool that will check the domain or URL for phishing and malware issues against the Google Safe Browsing and Phishing Tank lists. It also checks if the domain or URL is containing malicious code, harmful programmes or is a phishing site.
A free website reputation checker site that allows you to search by IP, domain or network owner for real-time threat data. The Talos IP and Domain Reputation Center claims to be the world’s most comprehensive real-time threat detection network.
This a free website reputation checker which scores websites based upon factors including the site’s age, historical locations, changes and indications of suspicious behaviour identified through malware behaviour analysis. The tool is adept at keeping pace with new types of criminal attacks that appear and then go very quickly or try to stay hidden.
A free website reputation rating tool which runs a file or domain name against several dozen search engines at once and so provides an overall detection rating. Virus Total’s main strength is that it receives around one million submissions a day. New problem files and domains should be identified very quickly.
A free website rating tool from Webroot which offers web classification and reputation rating, IP reputation, real-time anti-phishing, streaming malware detection, file reputation checking, mobile security SDK and mobile app reputation checking.
This is a free Chrome extension for a secure browsing environment which displays a website security icon next to every URL and reputation alerts for suspicious sites. The tool relies on user generated trust and reputation and users can rate a site on reliability, privacy, child safety and overall trustworthiness.
Finally, website reputation rating tools are increasingly capturing feedback from users to rate the trust and reliability of websites. This means that website owners needs to monitor these tools to ensure they are not penalised by these service providers.
Visitors have also become accustomed to major websites such as Amazon displaying product ratings and reviews on relevant pages. This has led to a huge increase in user generated content and an expectation that genuine sites automatically display ratings and reviews to assist users.
This means that sites that fail to encourage customer ratings and reviews may be less trustworthy. It also likely that conversion rates will not be as high on sites that fail to display customer ratings and reviews. We recommend Trustist Reviewer, but always check out other solutions to get comparative quotes and gain that trust.
Comments Off on How Culture influences Website Design
This post explores the science of how culture influences website design and conversion rate optimisation. Marketing is about persuading visitors to take action. But what if your visitors come from a range of different countries and cultures? Will one strategy work for all visitors even though they come from different cultures? Design and culture are highly interrelated and yet little allowance is often made for cross-cultural differences.
Culture has a deep and pervasive influence on how people perceive and react to web content. For global brands it is important to consider how culture influences website design because they attract visitors from many different countries and cultures. They need to understand how people from different cultures interpret, and respond to such variants as colour, language, images and technology to be able to serve optimal content.
Design does not evolve in a cultural vacuum. For example, McDonald’s has a separate website and uses different colours for every country they operate in. They do not attempt to have a consistent brand design and website for consistency’s sake. They appreciate that culture influences website design because culture affects how people respond to different design and communications.
The most influential research studies on cultural differences in communication were conducted by the anthropologists Geert Hofstede while at IBM and Edward T Hall when he taught inter- cultural communications skills at the US State Department. Their research studies are a must for anyone wanting to understand how culture influences website design. Their work provides many important insights into how design and culture are highly interrelated.
A Framework for Understanding Culture:
Professor Geert Hofstede conducted probably the most comprehensive study of how cultural values vary by country between 1967 and 1973. Whilst working for IBM he analysed data from over 70 countries. He has since used studies, such as the World Values Survey, to validate and refine his cultural dimensions theory. This identifies 6 cultural dimensions that can be used to explain observed differences between cultures. This can be used to help align design and culture to avoid mistakes when creating an experience for a specific culture.
How is power distributed in a culture? The Power Distance Index is the degree to which people accept and expect inequality in a society. Cultures that score low on this dimension will seek to reduce the level of inequality and expect justification for where it does exist.
2. Individualism versus collectivism
Is a person’s self-image defined by “I” or “we”? In Western cultures, we tend to focus on the needs and wants of the individual. Conversely, Eastern cultures place the needs of the collective ahead of individual.
Does a culture have a preference for achievement, heroism, assertiveness and material rewards? If so, to what degree? In this context, femininity translates to collaboration, modesty, caring and quality of life.
4. Uncertainty Avoidance
How comfortable does a society feel with uncertainty and ambiguity? A high score indicates a society that has formal rules and policies and are often intolerant of unorthodox behaviour and ideas. They also like to plan for every eventuality and are more concerned about product specifications than societies that score lower on this dimension.
5. Long Term Orientation
This describes a culture’s time orientation – long-term vs short term. Scoring low means a culture favours long-standing norms and is suspicious of societal change. Cultures that score high are pragmatic and take a long-term view of business.
6. Indulgence versus Restraint
Does a culture restrain or indulge in fun and instant gratification? A high score means a culture
encourages instant gratification and enjoying life and having fun. Low scores reflect strict social norms which suppress indulgent behaviour.
Free Resource on Cultural Differences:
By measuring how different cultures compare on these six dimensions we can better understand the common ways culture influences website design. Data from over 100 countries has been made available by the Hofstede Centre. This is very useful if you’re trying to boost conversions by aligning design and culture to improve the customer experience in a cross-cultural context.
For instance, this chart shows us that Japan scores much lower on individualism than the United States. This suggests that web content in Japan needs to focus more on the community and relationships, rather than showing pictures of individuals in isolation. Japanese people don’t like to stand out from the crowd and are more likely to put the needs of society before personal preferences.
Their high score for masculinity reflects their competitive drive for excellence and perfection, together with a strong work ethic. These values should be reflected in web content through both high quality imagery and messaging about how the product quality cannot be beaten.
At 92, Japan is one of the most uncertainty avoiding countries in the World as they like to plan for every eventuality. This means Japanese people usually won’t make a decision until they have reviewed all the facts and figures. Risk assessment and planning tools, as well as detailed and fact based information, could help boost conversions in this cultural context. Design and culture must be aligned here as otherwise visitors will seek the information they are looking for elsewhere.
6 Dimensions of Culture – Country Comparison
Cultural Preferences and Facebook
Art preferences are affected by cultural norms and tends. For example, a study of over 400 Western and East Asian portraits found that the subject’s face on average made up around 15% of the total area of the picture in Western art compared to just 4% on average in East Asian portraits.
However, one study that analysed Facebook profile photos found that 12% of Americans’ photos lacked any background – compared to only 1% of photos from the Far East. Both our art and Facebook profiles reflect our cultural ideals and preoccupations that influence our behaviour in all kinds of ways. This is just another way that design and culture are interrelated and this occurs in all aspects of society.
Western culture emphasizes individualistic and independent traits. People focus on their own face and pay less attention to the background. Eastern culture emphasizes communal and interdependent traits. There is more of a tendency to include context (e.g. the background) and other people in their pictures.
Low context and high context cultures relate to a number of cultural traits, including commitment, trust, overtness – and even time. Design and culture can be easily aligned here by identifying whether the society has many unwritten rules or people leave little to interpretation.
Monochronic vs Polychronic Cultures:
People in low context cultures often have a monochromic perception. This means they see time as tangible and sequential. They follow strict time schedules, focus on one task at a time and set deadlines that they aim to meet at all costs.
High context cultures tend to have a polychronic perception of time where it is more fluid. Punctuality and structure is less important and deadlines are seen as more flexible and people work on multiple tasks at once.
So how can we apply these insight to ensure culture influences website design when we launch in a new country?
Since monochronic societies dislike clutter and fluidity, a simple design with a clear action should work well. Things like:
A clear hero image.
Short bullet point messaging.
Clear focus on the product.
In polychronic cultures, rich context can be displayed using:
Multiple graphics, icons, boxes, and animation
Check out Chinese e-commerce website Taobao on the left and compare it with the UK’s John Lewis site. Both are very successful e-commerce sites, but vastly different website design approaches due to the cultural values of the countries they operate in. It is wise to consider monochronic and polychronic cultures when designing a user experience for cross-cultural websites. This will ensure culture influences website design in an appropriate and sympathetic way.
Brands that align design and culture are normally more successful because their websites and apps are designed according to local cultural preferences rather than trying to impose the cultural norms and traditions of the brand’s home country.
In his book, Drunk Tank Pink, the American psychologist Adam Alter suggests that colours have meaning partly because they are associated with practically every pleasant and unpleasant object on Earth.
As a result our interpretation and preference for colours is strongly influenced by factors such as language, climate, gender, age and context. For example, the way languages categorise colours are not universal (e.g. Russian has two words for blue). Some colours are also used to express moods and feelings in some languages which inevitably affects how we perceive them.
Colours Mean Different Things to Different Cultures:
In 1999 American researchers investigated how people from 8 countries perceive different colours. The analysis allowed researchers to generate a colour spectrum of meaning with red at one end and the blue-green-white cluster at the other end. Red is associated with hot/vibrant and the spectrum gradually moves towards calm/gentle/peaceful that the blue-green-white cluster is associated with.
Testing by international search and conversion agency Oban International suggests that cultural preferences for particular colours may also be driven by strong national associations and brand identities taken from individual sectors of the economy. Joe Doveton tested this hypothesis in Germany where brands such as Siemens, Mercedes and Audi are renowned for promoting engineering excellence as an integral part of their USP.
In tests for global air charter company Chapman Freeborn, they discovered a strong preference among German visitors for a silver button and a big dislike for a red button. Silver in Germany is synonymous with the Mercedes brand. Red may be associated with the old Soviet Union which at one time controlled East Germany. Again, this is why it is important to align design and culture.
Germany – Silver CTA/UK – Red CTA
Use Localised Copy For Personalisation & Conversions:
Your value proposition is the most important element of your communication. The danger of using direct translation, especially for keywords, is that you will end up with copy that uses words out of context. The term “mobile” for example is fine in the UK, but people in the United States refer to mobile phones as “cellphones”. In Germany people use a different word again, “handy” and in France “portable”. The same term can also have multiple meanings in a language.
Understanding your customers is the best way to craft a great value proposition. However, your customers preferences’ will likely vary according to their culture. This is where you can use qualitative research to learn new insights and validate or challenge your existing ideas on how to improve conversions by aligning design and culture. You can then use A/B testing to evaluate different copy and images to identify the best performing messages.
Pro tip: use loanwords in your copy – they’re often left out of copy that is directly translated.
Fonts often have visceral connotations behind them, and they often vary culture-to-culture. For example in the United States people relate Helvetica with the US Government and the IRS because it is commonly used on tax forms. This again demonstrates how design and culture can heavily influence how visitors view something as simple as a font.
Another example is how logographic language cultures use smaller, tightly packed text, confusing American readers. That’s because the language itself (e.g. Japanese) communicates a lot of information in just a few characters. Further, as Japanese doesn’t have italics or capital letters it is more difficult to create a clear visual hierarchy to organise information. So web designers often use decoration or graphic text to create emphasis where required.
For more on font psychology read this post by Alex Bulat.
Further complicating the issue of conversion across cultures, we have the distinction between bi-culturalism and multi-culturalism.
Bi-Culturalism and Multi-Culturalism:
In the 2010 US Census over 6 percent of the population (over 2 million citizens) associated themselves with two or more ethnic or racial groups. Psychologists have discovered that bi-cultural people engage in frame switching, which means they can perceive the world through a different cultural lens depending upon the context of the situation and whether it reminds them of one culture or another.
So we can’t assume people coming from a different culture (e.g. Vietnamese Americans), will retain all the same preferences as individuals still living in their native culture. Web analytics may help you identify potential bi-cultural visitors.
Even across monocultural people there are strong contrasts in values and behaviour. The concept of honour tends to be more strongly associated with East Asia than the West. However, even in the United States honour is known to influence behaviour more in southern and western states than in the northern states. All this goes back to understanding your customer’s journey and aligning design and culture.
We can’t assume people will all be using the same technology in different geographical markets.
In Africa, for example, mobile commerce is much more established in certain sectors, (e.g. banking), because of a lack of fixed-line internet infrastructure.
For various reasons, iPhones have failed to establish a large market share in Spain, so Android and other operating systems more relevant to the Spanish mobile user.
Browser usage is also fragmented at an international level.
In large parts of Central Africa, Opera is the dominant browser.
The major search engines use different algorithms for different countries and languages.
Although Google has increased its penetration in Russia, the local search engine, Yandex, is still an important search engine in the country.
In China, Google is not used at all, with Baidu being the top search engine with a market share of over 50%.
For more details of search engine market share see an article from extraDigital.
There are different payment methods. This means having a single cashier or ecommerce check-out design is unlikely to be optimal for a global audience.
In Europe, credit card penetration is much lower in Germany, Netherlands and Poland. For cultural reasons many Germans dislike credit and as a result the single most popular payment method (38%) is (ELV).
In the Netherlands a similar payment option, iDeal, is the referred method of payment for 55% of online shoppers.
Security-conscious Russians still like to use cash as a quarter of them use Qiwi to make online payments. This allows people to deposit cash into ATM style machines and then make payments online without having to transmit sensitive bank or credit card numbers over the internet.
Even in Turkey where credit and debit cards are very popular (87% market share) you won’t see Visa or MasterCard on most cards.
In Islamic countries Sharia law prohibits the acceptance of interest or fees for loans and so potentially limits the use of credit cards and other Western style financial products. The expansion of Islamic banking is making e-commerce more accessible to Muslims, but again adds to the complexity of online payment processes and demonstrates the importance of aligning design and culture.
Websites that use identical content and colours across all countries and cultures are at a major disadvantage because of the impact diversity of values, norms and other differences have on how we interpret the world. Here are the key takeaways for optimising a global website by aligning design and culture:
1. Research competitors:
To obtain a feel for whether your website is out of sync with the local culture conduct a competitor review of sites in the country concerned. This will give you the opportunity to look for similarities across your competitors’ websites that may indicate areas for A/B testing. (Just don’t copy your competitors; they don’t know what they’re doing either).
2. Focus on colours and words:
There is sometimes a tendency to focus on purely transactional matters (e.g. payment methods) when adapting websites for an international audience. This is a mistake and I would recommend paying attention to your website colours and the language you use to ensure the site conforms to local preferences.
In addition, use local contacts, such as colleagues and suppliers to obtain feedback on your site in different countries. I’m surprised how often I come across websites and apps where it is obvious that a key page or journey has not had input from someone in the targeted country. Don’t fall into this trap as it is dangerous to rely solely on website experts who are not embedded in local culture.
4. Consider cultural dimensions and context:
Utilise the country comparison tool to understand the cultural dimensions of your audience and how contextualised your website needs to be. The more your website can reflect local cultural preferences the more likely your visitors will happily engage and interact with your content. However, use testing to ensure you validate your hypothesis as there needs to be a return on investment as otherwise you may be better spending your money elsewhere.
4. Serve targeted content:
A/B testing is also ideal for evaluating the use of dynamic content to target images and messages that are responsive to how different cultures see the world. This allows you to increase conversions by using geo-targeting (i.e. based upon country IP address) or other cultural indicators and let the data guide your website design.
Both of these Hertz websites are on the same domain and root directory (Hertz.com), but have different languages, visuals and appropriate text.
5. Analyse customer behaviour:
Cultural targeting has perhaps the greatest potential for your existing customers where you can track and analyse their behaviour over time. Use your customer database to analyse behaviour by cultural indicators to see if you can identify key cultural drivers to their behaviour. Alternatively try A/B testing personalisation based upon cultural differences to see what impact this has on your KPIs.
Due to the increasing influence and spread of cultural preferences across the globe there are likely to be opportunities to segment by cultural indicators even in your home country. There are strong cultural and racial indicators, such as customer names, that you can utilise to segment your customers by and test the performance of targeted content.
Given the complexity of the human psyche and the pervasive power of cultural influences on our behaviour it is dangerous to assume anything when trying to improve website performance. Make A/B and multivariate testing your friend and guide in the multicultural jungle.
Business – Get your visitor’s attention by explaining your
product or service is less than two minutes
Crowdfunders – Having a video as part of a funding campaign
often helps raise double the money than if you don’t have a video to explain your proposition and business plan.
Authors – Can benefit from having an engaging and
entertaining book trailer.
Marketers – Communicate your latest service or content using
Contests – Grab attention for promotions or contests using a
You can then use your video on your website and drive more traffic to your website by uploading it to YouTube and sharing it on social media. Crazy Egg has a video on their homepage and they estimate it generates an additional $21,000 a month in new income. At the bottom of this post you will find verified links to over 100 explainer video companies.
Types of Explainer Videos:
1. Live Action Video:
A non-animated video can be good if you are selling a tangible product or a people-oriented service, such as a design agency or consultancy. People love to see what a product looks like in context and having the people who your customers would interact with in a video may help establish an emotional connection.
However, live-action videos do restrict you to the real world and so special effects are limited and unless you have a large budget your location is also going to be local.
2. Animated Explainer Videos:
This type of videos allows for much more creativity in your visual story and they are easier to edit or refresh if you need to adapt them at a future date. Animated videos are particularly good for explaining services and intangible products, such as digital tools or
If you don’t have a physical product or object to show you can use an animated video to construct a compelling narrative about how your solution will be the answer to your customer’s problem.
3. Whiteboard Explainer Videos:
This is where the animation is hand drawn and erased using a whiteboard. It is popular because of its simplicity and the low cost of producing such a video. However, they can be very compelling and powerful at telling your story.
4. Kickstarter Videos:
Almost every Kickstarter project has an explainer video because it’s a great way to sell an idea and persuade people to part with their money. They do tend to be longer than your average explainer video, but Kickstarter does give you easy access to lots of examples of explainer videos.
Ok, if you are convinced you want to use explainer videos it is important that you have a reliable process to create a video. Outlined below are six steps people normally follow to produce an awesome explainer video.
Step 1: Get Script Right First:
The main determinant of whether your video will improve conversion or revenue is how good the script is. The audio script needs to engage and persuade viewers that what you are communicating is relevant to them and worth staying with until the end of the video. You are likely to be better at understanding your product or service than a video studio or freelancer. So a draft script should be generated from within your organisation to capitalise on this knowledge.
The aim of the video should be to answer any important questions that your potential customers may have within two minutes. If you can’t do this within the time you should review the amount of detail that you are going into or the scope of the video.
Step 2: Understand Customer Goals and Concerns:
It is important that you take a step back at this point and assess how well you understand your potential customers or reader’s needs. Your visitors come to your site to complete a task or achieve a goal. To allow you to structure your script you need to be able to answer some or all of the following questions about your visitors by conducting some research:
What tasks are they looking to complete by coming to the site?
If they didn’t complete their main tasks, what prevented them from doing so?
What information is missing from the page?
What is their biggest concern about the product or the site?
What, if anything, is unclear or confusing on the page?
What is their number 1 reason for wanting to buy the product?
You can use tools such as SurveyMonkey or Qualaroo to ask your website visitors questions and see my post how to use Voice of Customer tools to boost conversion for other providers. This should help you identify the main barriers to customers purchasing and what questions you could seek to answer in the video. By better understanding the topic from your customer’s perspective you are more likely to press the right buttons and deal with potential objections.
Step 3:The Script:
To keep your video to within two minutes it necessary to plan your script carefully so that you deal with the most important customer objections and effectively communicate why your product/service will meet their needs.
This should communicate what your organisation does or the product/ service that you are promoting. Ensure it states a clear and important benefit.
Introduce the problem:
Outline the problem that potential customers have using the language expressed in your visitor research.
Explain your solution:
Answer the problem with how your product or service provides a solution and again try to use some of the language customers used in your Voice Of the Customer research.
Focus on important features:
Make sure you communicate how some of your product’s features solve specific and important problems.
Call to action:
Ensure you include a clear and compelling call to action at the end of the video so that people are clear what to do next.
Demonstrate why customers can have confidence in your organisation by displaying trust signals. This should be evidence such as well-known clients or partners, awards or other independently verified seals of approval. A free trial offer can also reduce the perceived risk from the customer’s perspective of making a wrong decision.
To retain viewer interest you should aim to have a video of 90 seconds or less. As a script of between 110 to 140 words should translate into a minute of video, you may want to aim for around 165 to 210 words in total.
Other things to consider are:
Communicate your most important message and value proposition in the first 30 seconds
Use 2nd person language, using words such as “you”, “your” and “yours”
Avoid jargon and technical words to keep the language simple
and easy to understand.
The tone of voice should be appropriate for the subject and your audience. This usually means that people choose a casual, conversational tone of voice.
Step 4: Choose A Narrator:
You can find your own voice-over, perhaps you have a brand ambassador or local celebrity, who has done adverts for you before. Alternatively you can ask your video studio or freelance to suggest someone for you. Either way they need to have clear diction and a tone of voice that aligns with the subject matter and your audience.
Step 5: Create Your Video.
Here you have a number of options from leaving it all to a professional studio to producing your own animated video using a do-it-yourself website. However, given that it is good practice to A/B test your video and you are unlikely to produce the optimal video on your first attempt, I suggest you keep the cost to the minimum. You are likely to have to tweak or even make new videos as part of the optimization process. Further, if your product changes fairly frequently you may be forced to make new videos on a regular basis.
The main options are:
1. Professional Studios:
A studio will be more expensive than a freelancer or DIY option, but they do have the advantage that they can often also help with such tasks as choosing a narrator and background music. You will find entries for over 100 explainer video studios near the bottom of this post.
This option tends to be cheaper as freelancers have to be more competitive to get the business and don’t have the high overheads of a digital studio. You can either search the internet for a freelancer or use a crowd source website.
3. Do It Yourself:
If you have the time and inclination you can create your own animated videos. Websites such as GoAnimate, Videoscribe and PowToon provide you with easy to use solutions and advice on how to go about this process.
Step 6. A/B Testing Video:
It is always wise to A/B test your video for a number of reasons. A great video can certainly engage visitors and improve conversion, but a video that is on the wrong page, is too long, has a poor script or lacks a compelling call to action can in some cases reduce conversion. So you may have to test more than one video to find one that improves conversion and then you should continue to adjust the video to test different versions or calls to action to optimise the video.
Check that you have analytics tracking for your video. If you use video players such as Sproutvideo and Vimeo they provide analytics to allow monitoring of how many unique impressions and plays your video receives. These video players can also tell you the location of viewers and the type of device that visitors are using. This can help you with deciding how to amend your video to further improve your conversion rate.
For your video to be successful it is important to follow a clear process and set an appropriate budget for creating your explainer video. By following the steps outlined above you will increase the chance that your video will be both relevant and engaging for your website visitors. You will also have allowed for A/B testing to further optimise your video content and be flexible enough to respond to product changes.
Here are some great examples of different templates of business explainer videos that you may find useful.
Top Explainer Video Companies:
Here is a list of over 90 studios and explainer video companies for you to choose from. I have checked every link personally to ensure they are all relevant to explainer videos.
Content creators – Connecting you with the world’s largest community of film makers. A global crowd of 100,000 classified filmmakers, backed up by a team of awesome professionals. Clients: Fiat 500, Smeg Factory, Santal, Rio Mare
Create animated explainer videos with and without characters, website or web app walk-through using screen recordings, mobile app walk-through and video graphics based around statistics. Clients: UserReport, Heebo.com, Postify
Explainer video company which produces tailor-made animated videos and offers unlimited revisions. The company has also produced a series of educational videos on inbound marketing, including What is inbound marketing?Clients: Walmart, McKesson, AMEX and Red Bull
When people talk about A/B tests they often refer to call to action button changes and landing page tests. They also sometimes talk about only changing one element on a page at a time to ensure you can tell exactly what generated the difference between the two experiences. This last point of view can be quite misleading and could hold back your optimisation programme.
This brings us to the question of what are the main types of A/B tests that you should be including in your testing roadmap. I’ve outlined below six testing approaches to consider and you should be employing all of them to optimise your site and improve conversions.
1. Innovation A/B Tests:
Unless you happen to work for Google or some other mega website you have to change more than one element at a time if you are to make quick progress in your optimisation journey. Innovation or re-direct A/B tests allow you to experiment with something completely different. This gives you the opportunity to ensure the new page is more aligned to your business goals. The idea is that you can leave all the baggage of the existing page behind and design a radical new experience that will allow you to leapfrog to a much higher conversion rate.
Find an important web page, one with lots of traffic and a conversion rate that you believe can be significantly improved upon. You can then use a heuristic evaluation of the page to identify areas for improvement and use the other stages of the optimisation process to gather further insights to help you construct your new innovative design.
As the design is radically different from your existing page you may want to manage the risk of running A/B tests on this page. You could begin the test by only sending a relatively low proportion of traffic to the new variant. Once the test has been running for a few days and you haven’t seen a big drop in your conversion rate you can increase the proportion of traffic to the variant to reduce the time it will take for the test to complete. However, be careful with this approach as it could result in Simpson’s Paradox where the overall conversion rate hides differences between sub-groups.
2. Optimise and Multivariate Tests:
Once you have found a new innovative design that performs better than you existing page you should look to dissect it to understand how you can further enhance its effectiveness. Provided you have sufficient traffic multivariate testing (MVT) could be used. Unlike A/B tests, MVT allows you to change content within multiple sections of the same page and compare all the possible combinations against each other. For example if you wanted to test changing two sections on a page and have two variables for each section that would generate 8 combinations.
2 x 2 x 2 = 8
However, adding just one more variable in a single section increases the test combinations from 8 to 12.
2 x 2 x 3 = 12
MVT’s have the advantage that they allow you to isolate many small page elements to understand their individual impact on conversion. You can also evaluate interaction effects between multiple independent elements to find compound effects. This can save you time as you don’t have to create and test many different variations for a page element that might not even have much impact upon your conversion rate.
On the downside MVTs require more traffic to achieve statistical confidence than A/B tests. If you don’t have the traffic to support a complex MVT limit the number of combinations or conduct a series of A/B tests instead. With MVTs you need to ensure that all variations within each section make sense together. Once the MVT has identified which page elements contribute most to conversion you should validate the winning combination using A/B tests to check that they deliver the promised uplift.
Although you may now have a high performing page, how do you know that all the elements on the page are in the best location? Some of the elements on the page could be poorly performing from a conversion perspective because they are in a sub-optimal location. Perhaps your main call to action is too far down the page or testimonials are taking prime real estate above the fold and they would be equally as effective further down the page.
Never assume that elements are in the best locations. Your visual analytical tools, such as click and mouse movement heatmaps, should provide evidence that certain elements are not getting the attention you might expect. You can then work with your web designer and developers to create A/B tests that challenge the existing location on the page. Try moving elements to different locations on the page but ensure that the page flow still works as otherwise that could influence the test result.
4. Inclusion/Exclusion A/B Tests:
Is that auto-rotating carousel really improving conversion? This is the stage in your page optimisation process where you start turning off elements on your page to identify the conversion influences. If you remove your carousel from your homepage and you see a positive impact on conversion this tells you that you either have a poorly designed carousel or that you could use that prime real-estate for other conversion influencing assets.
These types of A/B tests are ideal for pages like your home page that have many different elements on them and could benefit from being de-cluttered. Having unnecessary assets on a page can be distracting and reduce engagement at an important stage in the user journey. If an element is removed and there is no impact on conversion this could also be considered for removal or it could be moved to a less important page or location.
When removing an asset that has a negative impact on conversion you know to retain it as showing it clearly improves conversion. However, you should then do follow-up A/B tests on this element to determine the best design for this type of asset.
Be cautious about removing assets that when removed show a positive impact on conversion if the element relates to specific use cases or conversion goals. Maybe the element has been poorly designed or is difficult to understand. If you have any evidence that this might be the case try some A/B tests with different designs before deciding to remove it from the page.
5. Segment and Target Your A/B Tests:
If you treat all your visitors the same you can only expect to have an average conversion rate. By definition some of your A/B tests will better meet the needs of certain visitor segments. As a result they may convert significantly higher for one group, but less well for other types of visitors. To further improve your conversion rate you should evaluate how you can segment and target your A/B tests to create experiences designed to better satisfy the needs of individual customer groups.
This approach will also boost your conversion rate because it leads to a much more dynamic website that responds to the needs of different user segments. Set up key visitor segments (e.g. new and returning customers) in your analytics that you want to analyse and target with different content. This allows you to analyse your test results to identify customer segments that performed significantly better than your average conversion uplift. You can then serve your winning test experience to all those visitor types that are more responsive to your new content.
Content automation is increasingly encroaching into this space and although it is a great tool, it is not a silver bullet. You can only automate the content you have and if this is not optimal and engaging automating it will be of limited or no value. You should use A/B testing to identify relevant and engaging content. This can allow you to understand how individual visitor segments respond to different user experiences. This will improve your chances of producing content that benefits from automation and is responsive to customer needs.
6. Test Iteration:
To avoid random and ad-hoc testing you should always base your tests on insights gleaned from previous tests or test additional assets following-on from an initial test. Testing is a continuous process that enables your website to evolve gradually to better satisfy your customer needs and provide new insights to enhance your content marketing. A test and learn process is a much more scientific approach to website improvement than completely redesigning your website from scratch.
By using these strategies to create a systematic plan for optimising key pages on your site you are more likely to deliver substantial and sustainable uplifts in conversion. Each type of test is designed to provide specific insights and allow you to further enhance your conversion rate.
Never assume you have come to the end of your journey as your competitors will look to respond to your optimisation strategy and disruptive technologies may change customer behaviour. You will need to continue the optimisation process if you want to respond to changing visitor needs.
Comments Off on 12 Must Read Digital Marketing Books
Here are twelve brilliant digital marketing books that will give you insights into conversion rate optimisation, marketing, design, usability and the psychology of visitor behaviour. These are excellent books for helping you define your strategy and identify insights to develop hypothesis for website/app and landing page design and optimisation.
The first three books are specifically on conversion optimisation. Each book brings a different perspective to the subject.
When I received this book in the post I thought it looked a bit dry and basic. It sat on my shelf for a few months. The more I read whole chapters I realised that this is a gold mine. It’s one of the most detailed digital marketing books you will ever read.
It is crammed full of ideas on what you should be testing and is especially good for outlining a systematic process for optimisation. Without a consistent and data driven approach to optimisation you will struggle to maintain focus. You will certainly not achieve an optimal return on investment (RIO) from your A/B tests and Multivariate Testing (MVT) tools.
Rich explains everything from investigating your analytics, and choosing tools, to putting together a testing plan for a page or journey. As well as being great for understanding the process of optimization there is a lot of detail on what to test. You can tell that Rich has a massive amount of experience. He holds nothing back to help you identify areas and approaches to testing. I found this book particularly good for developing check lists of how and what to test.
Chris Goward founded website optimisation specialists Widerfunnel and he shares their approach. Despite it being a fairly thick book I found I struggled to stop reading it. Chris brings insights from a wide range of sources and has a holistic approach to the process.
This is the most strategic of digital marketing books I’ve come across. It has a brilliant chapter on persuasion and models of human behaviour. The Lift Model that Widerfunnel employ has been widely adopted as best practice for heuristic evaluation of a page.
Chris’ book is also brilliant for dealing with objections to testing and how to engage people in the process of optimisation. There is also a huge number of examples of tests and many vivid images to illustrate the nature of these experiments. I found Chris is particularly good at advising how to develop strong hypothesis before you go ahead with an experiment. A weak hypothesis is often the cause of many unsuccessful tests. Although we learn from our failures you do need a regular stream of successful tests to convince your stakeholders to maintain their support.
A classic digital marketing book, as landing pages are the bread and butter of our trade. This book is a comprehensive guide on how to optimise the beginning of your funnel. Visitors can land on a multitude of pages, so it is important to seek to optimise them all.
Many people think that landing pages are simple to design and optimize. When you read the book you will get a better appreciation of how complex this process is. Tim and his co-authors take you thorough and systematic process of optimization.
This book is much more than landing page optimisation. Sure, it covers the seven deadly sins of landing page design. But it also outlines Tim’s conversion Ninja toolbox that helps you diagnose problems, identify psychological mismatches and fixing site problems. Other chapters include the strategy of what to test and the mechanics of testing. The book also has many practical examples and ideas for your testing roadmap.
95% of our thoughts, emotions and learning occur in our subconscious mind. Research suggests that our subconscious mind has often made a decision well before we become consciously aware.
Roger helps us understand how our brain works and how to translate this into improving our marketing and products. He has carefully extracted and summarised the insights from hundreds of interesting pieces of research on how to influence people using key behavioural drivers.
This is one of the easiest digital marketing books to read. It’s a great book for marketers who want a short-cut to understanding what can influence our brain and how this can be translated into marketing strategies.
Roger recommended this book to me over Twitter. The book is structured around seven drivers of behaviour:
The need to belong
The power of stories
Carrots and sticks
The desire for mastery
Tricks of the mind
It’s one of those books that you find difficult to put down as it’s packed full of interesting and useful insights. It’s also easy to dip into to find a particular topic. After each insight has been explained there is short summary of the related strategy, which assists you in digesting the important learning from each sub-section. It makes it easy for you to pinpoint relevant content if you want to return at a later date.
One of the most well known digital marketing books you will come across. It is a relatively short book to make it easily digestible for people who are involved in building websites and apps. Steve’s mantra is about keeping it simple and focuses on a few key things that everyone should know.
The book begins by setting out a few guiding principles of web usability, “it should be self-evident. Obvious. Self-explanatory”. This might appear basic advice, but it is amazing how often simple principles are forgotten. The advice given is an excellent understanding of how people browse the web and how they interact with content and navigation elements.
An important aim of the book is to make the reader understand that usability testing does not need to be complicated. Steve is a great believer in doing-it-yourself. One usability test is 100% better than none. He also makes a critical point that “Focus groups are not usability tests”. Focus groups are a potentially misleading method of research. They are inappropriate for evaluating the usability of a web page or user journey.
This is an excellent book for you to grasp they key principles of how and why people interact with user interfaces. The book has useful statistics and insights that support the design rules outlined.
The first chapter “We Perceive What We Expect” begins with how perception is biased by experience, current context and goals. Jeff explains how our brain filters our perceptions accordingly and the importance of considering mental processing when designing a user interface.
Other topics covered in the book include how our vision is optimised to see structure, limits on attention shape our thoughts and actions and much more.
If you are interested in understanding the psychology of how human decision making is subconsciously influenced by our names, labels, colours, etc… this is a brilliant book to read. You will be shocked by how our behaviour and perceptions are affected in obscure and surprising ways.
Adam provides some fascinating and useful insights that can be used to challenge design thinking and develop hypothesis for A/B testing new customer experiences. All too often we assume that most people view the world in the same way that we do, but this book explodes that myth. Perhaps not the most obvious of digital marketing books but sometimes I think you need to look outside your topic of interest to find new and useful insights.
This is another classic text and should be on any list of digital marketing books because it deals with psychological persuasion. The 6 principles of persuasion are now widely adopted by many digital marketers. There is a constant flow of articles based upon these psychological weapons.
Commitment and consistency,
However, the book is still worth reading as Cialdini uses detailed research to explain some ordinary and extraordinary cases of persuasion. Each individual principle is a complex construct that Cialdini carefully unwraps.
You will be shocked by the nature of some of the behaviour Cialdini uncovers. Many famous and infamous events are dissected and explained using Cialdini’s deep understanding of human psychology. The book is useful for generating ideas on how to make content more persuasive, but also how to avoid falling foul of people who are trying to manipulate you for their own personal gain.
I’ve noticed this book on almost every reading list I have come across on social media. Given this was written over 70 years ago you might wonder why it is on a list of digital marketing books. Well, when I read it I was amazed at how informative and useful it is. These principles are applicable to online as well as offline marketing.
This book is a brilliant and practical guide to human behaviour and how to get the most out of people, whether you are trying to persuade or just motivate them. It is highly applicable to website optimization. Why should you treat people any different when they come to your site than you would if they turned up at the door to your office? I highly recommend this book to to improve all aspects of your life. I’m sure it will also help generate some powerful ideas for improving your website and how you communicate with your customers online.
Phil Barden is a knowledgeable marketer who brings together the latest psychological and neuroscience research and combines it with his marketing expertise. This is a fascinating and highly practical review of what we now know about what drives people to buy products and brands. Although this not an obvious choice for digital marketing books it is an insightful read on the science of buyer behaviour.
Source: Decode Marketing
From a marketing perspective his research into the 6 key implicit (psychological) goals that drive brand purchase is invaluable. The psychological goals outlined in the book offer an essential framework for positioning a brand and evaluating the relevance of proposed marketing communications. It challenges a lot of the myths created by listening to what consumers say are important to them. This gives you a reality check so that you can avoid some of the traps many marketers have fall into.
An excellent book for understanding our ‘herd instincts‘ and how far reaching and ingrained the influence of others is in driving our behaviour. This book explodes many myths about economics, word of mouth marketing, market research and human nature. A must read for all marketers and anyone interested in human behaviour. Mark is an experienced advertising executive and puts his research into context by offering practical advice on how to apply herd theory in a competitive business environment.
Keyword research remains an essential part of SEO strategy for both organic and paid traffic optimisation. With the Hummingbird update long-tail keywords became more important to SEO. As a result keyword research needs to consider optimising a website on a semantic level to inform a site’s architecture and segment site topics into thematic areas. It’s important to allow for how search engine spiders crawl sites to deliver relevant content on the search engine results page (SERPs).
This has made keyword research more complex but it is still an important element of SEO strategy. Below are 18 of the more popular keyword tools that are often recommended by SEO experts. But first here is a 6 step guide to how to do keyword research:
1. Identify important topics to your business.
Draw up a list of all the important and relevant topics that relate to your business. Start with general topics (e.g. landing page optimisation & web analytics) for your keyword research.
2. Produce a list of keywords for general topic.
These should be keyword phrases that you consider, it will be important to rank on SERPs. The key here is to capture all your ideas as this won’t be the final list of keywords. Remember to use your web analytics to identify what keywords your site is already getting found for.
3. Examine related search terms.
Go to Google and start typing one of your phrases and see what related search terms are suggested by Google. These suggestions may generate more ideas for new keywords that you hadn’t previously considered. You can also take them a step further by typing some of the related search terms into Google to see what their related search terms are.
4. A mix of head terms & long-tail keywords.
Head terms are short keyword phrases, usually one to three words. Long-tail keywords tend to contain three or more words. People generally search using head terms more frequently and so they tend to be more competitive and harder to rank compared to long-tail terms. On the other hand long-tail terms are more specific and give you a better understanding of what people are really looking for. For this reason your keyword research needs a good mix of both types of terms.
5. How do your competitors rank on keywords?
Undertaking keyword research into what your competitors are targeting is useful from two perspectives. It can provide ideas for reviewing your own list of keywords. Additionally, where you are both targeting the same keyword it means that you may have to work harder to improve your own ranking.
However, don’t just copy the keywords that your competitors target, they may not always be relevant and it will also make it more difficult to improve your rankings. By targeting keywords that your competitors are ignoring may give you a quick win by allowing you establish high ranking for these terms due to a lack of competition. Use tools like SEMrush and others outlined below to find out which keywords your competitors are ranking on.
6. Keyword list reduction.
Use tools such as Google AdWords Keyword Plannerto reduce the number of terms in your list. This will help to ensure you are focussed on terms that have reasonable number of searches (i.e. neither too little or too much). Use Google Trends to find out their trend history and forecasts so that you don’t remove terms that have potential in the future.
Track historical rankings and view graphical representation of how a keyword is ranking over time. Allows you to automate your SEO monitoring, track local rankings and recover (not provided) keywords.
30 day Free trail for keyword research is available. The Basic plan is priced at $24 a month and offers 100 keywords and up to10 domains. The Plus plan costs $49 a month for up to 250 keywords and 50 domains. The Pro, their most popular plan costs $99 a month for 1,000 keywords and 100 domains. The Enterprise plan starts at $450 a month for 5,000 + keywords and unlimited domains.
This Free tool is from CoSchedule and will analyse headlines for length, how powerful or emotionally engaging the words are, how uncommon the words are and provide recommendations to improve your headline.
A Free Adwords keyword research tool that allows you to search for keyword and ad group ideas, get historical data, see how a list of keywords might perform and set up a new keyword list by multiplying several keywords together.
An easy to use keyword research tool from SEOChat.com for identifying longer and more specific phrases to narrow targeting. Enter a term and it will generate a list of the most popular keyword phrases that all begin with the base word – using Google, Amazon, YouTube and Bing “suggest” data bases. The tool generates phrases for every letter of the alphabet. Choose a phrase and then move to the next step to generate more phrases.
Is a Free keyword research tool that allows you to view what people have been searching for with Google. It graphs how often a term is used over time and how this varies geographically. It allows you to generate predictions of how search volumes are changing. You can also compare more than one term to view their relative popularity.
Provides insights into competitors’ effective keywords, ad copy and budget. A highly recommended tool for finding out what your competitors are up to.
Free trial available for all plans. For keyword research the Silver plan costs $69 a month with unlimited searches and 10,000 data exports a day. The Gold plan comes in at $99 a month for unlimited searches, 50,000 data exports a day and 10 competitor alerts. For additional services such as daily landing page and web page monitoring, the Campaign plans costs $129 (Pro) and $299 (Premier) a month.
One of the most popular keyword research tools that provides keyword search statistics from all the major search engines. It will provide the search phrases that people use to find a product or service. It should help you identify the search terms driving traffic to your competitors.
The Standard plan is currently at a special discount price of $29.95 per month for up to 3 domain research results and 20 projects. The Professional plan costs $199.95 per month for up to 100 domains and unlimited number of projects. Both plans allow up to 1,500 searches a day, with 1,000 results displayed and 10,000 terms per project.
This is a free keyword research tool that allows you to generate a list of all possible keyword phrases. Just type in your list of keywords and the tool will produce a list of every phrase variation possible.
A simple tool that requires you to enter the following information :
1: Primary keywords
2: Secondary keywords
The Free version is excellent for finding out what people are looking for as it produces around 750 suggestions for each keyword. The suggestions generated depend on the specific Google domain and language that you select.
The Pro plans start from $48 a month and offer:
Up to 1,440+ keywords from Google and YouTube, 1,875+ from Bing, 3,750+ from App Store returned for a single search.
On average 2x more keywords than in free version
Google search volume
Level of competition on Google AdWords
Suggested bid on Google AdWords
Ability to export all the data to a CSV file
Ability to sort keywords by any parameter
The Lite plan ($48 a month) offers 2 times more keywords than the free plan and the ability to export data in CSV. The Pro Basic ($68 a month) also gives you search volumes to understand how popular a keyword is. In addition Pro Plus ($88 a month) provides CPC and competition on AdWords.
Essentials is their standard keyword research tool. The suggest function will show you where the specified domain ranks for a particular keyword, plus you can add and tag keywords using the tool.
The Essentials plan costs $69 a month for limited access to their database, $2,000, up to 1 year of visibility history, up to 3 countries, up to 10,000 rankings per report and current historic keyword rankings.
The Suite Business ($2,000 a month) is an integrated SEO solution built for smaller brands and beginners. This provides complete visibility history, all countries, up to 20,000 rankings per report and historic keyword rankings for the last 6 months. Additionally this provides content and site structure optimization, extensive backlink analysis and other services.
Prices for their Suite Enterprise and Suite Ultimate plans can be obtained by request.
The industry standard keyword research tool identifies your main competitors based upon the keywords you plan to target. Click on your competitors and it will show you what other keywords they target ad to and the ad copy they use. Highly recommended for seeing who your top paid and organic competitors are for the keywords you plan to use.
It allows you to easily combine and visualise SEMrush data to compare competitive domains and estimate keyword difficulty. For projects it enables you to launch global campaigns and view all the key metrics regarding competitors, keyword rankings, and on-page health in once place.
Plans start from $69.95 per month for Pro which offers 10,000 results per report, 3,000 reports per day, 5 projects and the ability to track 500 keywords. The Guru plan which costs $149.95 per month provides up to 30,000 results per report, 5,000 reports a day, up to 50 projects and the ability to track 1,500 keywords.
Finally, the Business plan comes in at $549.95 per month and delivers up to 50,000 results per report, 10,000 reports per day (for each of 4 users), unlimited projects and resources for tracking up to 6,000 keywords.
A great tool for identifying all the places where your competitors show up on Google. It will show you all their keywords and the ad variations they have employed. Excellent for understanding your competitors’ most profitable keywords.
The Basic plan costs $79 a month with unlimited keyword and domain results, track up to 400 keywords, over 9 years of AdWords and organic history, and 250 sales leads and domain contacts. Professional costs $139 per month, and offers everything in the Basic plan in addition to rank tracking of up to 800 keywords and access to their API.
Lastly the Agency plan is priced at $999 per month and delivers unlimited custom reporting and keyword rank tracking. Further, you can search monthly data which allows you to track a domain’s weekly rank updates on keywords that you select. You can save up to 47% on the cost of a plan by choosing an annual subscription.
StoryBase have spent 3 years creating this very easy to use keyword tool. It now has more than 5 billion long-tail keywords, 100 million question keywords and 2 billion related LSI keywords.
A free plan is available for a single user with to 10 searches a month, 15 results per search and one list. A starter plan for a single user costs just $9 a month with unlimited searches, up to 400 results per search and ten lists. The Premium plan for up to 5 users costs $79 per month for unlimited searches, up to 1,000 results per search, 1,000 lists and offers priority support.
A Free tool that allows you to run a limited number of searches in its massive keyword database. A fast tool which holds over 1 trillion keywords in its database. Excellent for long-tail keyword suggestions.
The biggest mistake people make with conversion rate optimisation is not having a well-defined process to ensure a systematic approach to improving success metrics such as revenues or sales.
Without such a process you are almost certainly going to fail to fully benefit from A/B testing and achieve consistent and sustainable gains in your conversion rate. Conversion rate optimisation is far more than running experiments, it requires a systematic and evidence based approach to improving your digital customer experience. Follow this nine step approach below and you are much more likely to see measurable and significant benefits from conversion rate optimisation.
You can’t improve what you don’t measure. It’s critical that you have web analytics on your site to monitor unique visitor numbers on all your pages and begin measuring conversion goals such as downloads, registrations, add to basket and other relevant transactions.
Once you have your web analytics integrated and goals set up you can start to see what visitor numbers you have on different pages and how your conversion rate varies from one page to another. This will guide your attention in setting up a conversion rate optimisation programme. You can focus on the pages that matter and identify if you have sufficient traffic to conduct A/B tests to compare the performance of different designs.
Ok, so your site is slow to load, you have a few bugs on your website and intermittent downtime. Poor page load speed has a direct impact on conversion rate optimisation and can be resolved using well defined strategies. Bugs and outage time create anxiety and frustrations which will destroy trust and credibility in your site. Unless you fix these problems first you will not fully benefit from improvements to your site. It is imperative that you give priority to resolving these issues before trying to optimise your site via A/B testing and improvements in functionality.
There are some great tools like BugMuncher that allow customers to inform you of problems with your customer experience, but don’t rely on visitors to tell you about problems as the vast majority won’t and will just go to one of your competitors’ sites instead.
Load speed is important because we all have limited patience and many visitors will exit your site if it takes more than a second or two to load. Google rankings also take into account site speed and so your SEO will also suffer if you have a slow loading site.
Go into your Google Analytics account and select Behaviour > Site speed > Page timings. Choose the Document interactive time as your key metric as this measures the time it takes for the site to be usable. This is more relevant than the content load time as that measures the number of seconds until every element on the page has been loaded.
As a rule of thumb if your site loads within 3 seconds that is pretty good performance. More normal is between 4 to 7 seconds, but don’t be satisfied with that, look to reduce it. Anything more than 7 seconds and you definitely should be looking to take action to reduce the time your visitors have to wait to interact with your website. Begin by looking at those pages with the highest amount of visitors so that you focus on where you can have most impact.
Use Google Developers PageSpeed Insights or alternative tools to investigate how to improve page load times. Put your score into context create a league table by getting your competitors’ speeds for a comparative page. This will also identify which competitors have the fastest load speed and so you can explore how they achieve such quick interaction times.
Cross-Browser and Device Testing:
Despite our best intentions it is unlikely that your website user experience and functionality will work perfectly for all browsers and devices. Use your web analytics to see how your conversion rate varies for each type of device by all browsers you support. This will help identify where your customer experience and functionality is not what it needs to be for each device. Running reports across device is not sufficient as averages will hide the real performance of your site.
Use one of the many cross-browser testing tools on the market to evaluate how your site behaves in each of the browsers you support. These tools will save you a lot of time and money be allowing you to quickly see images of your website across multiple devices and browsers.
The Lift Model is a a great tool for conversion rate optimisation. Use it to help undertake an experience-based heuristic evaluation of the potential shortfalls of your customer experience. This is best carried out in a group of 3 or more people to benefit from the different experience and skills in your organisation. Involve people from key areas of the business that assist you in the process of making changes or developing new designs.
Bringing in people from other areas will help get their buy-in to the changes proposed and they are also likely pass on their enthusiasm for optimization to some of their colleagues. This may make the whole testing process run more smoothly as people generally respond positively to a collaborative approach.
Beginning with pages that have most visitors and potential for improving conversion go through a heuristic analysis as follows:
1. Value proposition
What is your value proposition communicating to visitors, both in terms of points of difference from your competitors and from a psychological perspective to motivate them.
How relevant is the content to the user, does it meet their expectations, how does it relate to the source of traffic?
How clear are your messages, what the next steps are, the visual hierarchy and CTAs?
What about the page could create anxiety, doubts or concerns among visitors
What content is not assisting conversion and may be distracting visitors?
Does the page create a sense of urgency to take action now rather than later?
Step 4: Web Analytics:
Getting the most out of you web analytics is crucial for conversion rate optimisation. Don’t assume your web analytics are measuring everything perfectly and where possible use multiple analytics tools to validate your findings. You are bound to find some issues with how your analytics are set up, and get your developers to investigate and rectify these problems when you can.
Averages lie so always segment your reports using appropriate metrics such as user type, source of traffic, demographics etc. One you have set up goals, segments and events in your web analytics you should also establish conversion funnels to identify drop-off points.
Always have a clear question or hypothesis to challenge before you start generating reports using your web analytics. This will help avoid you producing interesting but not actionable data.
With your web analytics you should be seeking to answer questions like:
Where do most visitors arrive on my site?
What are the most popular user flows on my site?
What are the conversion rates for the most frequently
visited pages by new and returning visitors?
Where are the biggest drop-off points in user journeys?
What is the impact and performance of every widget and feature on a page?
What are the demographics of your visitors and how do their conversion rates compare for your pages with the highest amount of traffic?
For more details about using web analytics for conversion rate optimisation see my post; 18 free and paid for web analytics solutions. This includes an explanation of how to get the most out of your web analytics and has a summary of each of the top solutions.
Step 5: Visual Analytics.
It is essential to get a visual perspective of how visitors interact with your site as numbers don’t tell you everything. Get access to click heatmaps, session recordings and form analytics for your site. I use Hotjar which is a highly cost effective conversion rate optimisation tool as it also features user feedback polls and surveys. For a summary of how to use these tools and entries for the top providers check out my post on visual analytics solutions.
Many offer free plans that allow you to check out their service without any obligation. These tools can provide invaluable insights into user behaviour and engagement on your website. The main services that are worth getting access to are:
Mouse movement and click heatmaps:
These heatmaps provide an indication of where specifically on a page users focus their attention, what they hover over and what they click on. You can usually include the average fold height and scroll reach on the heatmap to see how this impacts upon user behaviour. If visitors are not clicking on a CTA or widget on the page this will show you what they are engaging with. Use these heatmaps to challenge or support your heuristic evaluation of a page. But make sure you have a sufficiently robust sample size, usually around 2,000, but ideally more like 5,000 visitors, to provide a reliable measure of user behaviour.
Scroll and attention heatmaps:
Scroll heatmaps show a visual representation of the proportion and time visitors spend scrolling down the page before they navigate away. They confirm if your page is encouraging users to go below the fold and what proportion of visitors see each section of the page.
Attention heatmaps are similar except they are configured to show a visual representation of how long visitors spend on each part of the page. Knowing the drop-off rate of visitors as they go down the page helps you understand how much visibility different elements of your page are receiving and whether you need to move or change content on the page.
Session replays are probably the most underutilised feature for conversion rate optimisation. They allow you to watch video recordings of individual user sessions to gain a better understanding of how visitors interact, scroll, click and navigate on your site. Examine real visitor behaviour that is not inhibited by test conditions and will allow you to identify areas where sign-posting, information architecture and navigation are sub-optimal.
However, as it’s very time consuming to watch one video after another this feature is not used as much as it should be. So, make sure you schedule time into your diary to regularly view some session recordings and give access to as many people as you can. You will be surprised what you can learn about user behaviour with this feature.
Most tools offer advanced search filtering to allow you to find videos of customers who complete or drop out of pre-defined or post-defined business process, scenario or funnel. This can include registration form or check-out abandonment.
This is a must for any website that has any type of registration or information collection process. Form analytics provides metrics of how effective and easy to complete your form is and gives you a breakdown of each field within it.
Typically form analytics allow you to measure the overall completion rate of your form, abandonment rate, engagement rate, time from start to form completion, time spent in each field, which fields are most often abandoned, which fields are most frequently left blank when the form is submitted and what order are fields filled out. You should also be able view session recordings of visitors completing or abandoning your form.
Step 6: Voice Of The Customer Feedback.
Your most important source of feedback on the performance of your site is your visitors. Your site is designed for them and so their expectations and understanding of your site are paramount to conversion rate optimisation. Whatever you do though, don’t use focus groups as this is an online experience and it is important that you retain that context.
The best time to ask people questions about your website is when they are navigating their way around it and can provide an immediate and accurate view of what they think about it. The human brain is notoriously poor at recalling details after an event, so concentrate on people who are browsing to understand the issues they face when trying to complete a task.
People come to a website with a task in mind and so you should aim to use these tools to discover more about what they are trying to achieve, whether they completed their objective in full and what barriers they hit during their user journey. This should help you generate ideas for conversion rate optimisation and may support your earlier heuristic analysis.
Exit and abandonment surveys:
Carrying on with the theme of capturing feedback in the moment of the experience, exit and abandonment surveys are also powerful ways of gathering insights about a specific event. Whether they are about close their browser or have abandoned their basket invaluable insights may be gleaned from engaging them with a feedback form at this critical moment in the user journey.
The great thing about a live chat facility is that it can allow you to respond to visitors in real-time and so can have an immediate impact on the success of your conversion rate optimisation programme. You can also use it to gather voice of the customer feedback. This could be as simple as asking your chat hosts about what visitors have most problems with or use it to specifically engage in qualitative research.
Give your chat hosts a few simple open ended questions to ask visitors on certain pages or processes and see what they come back with. You will be surprised how keen visitors can be to give feedback to someone who is keen to listen.
For recent customers where you have their email address you have the advantage of being able to send them links to a survey. As they are relatively new customers focus on understanding their perception of your value proposition. What attracted them to your website, what do they see as its strengths, and which competitor’s sites do they also visit or buy from? This can improve your understanding of what areas of your value proposition may attract new customers to your site.
The key thing to remember about surveys though is to ensure you get a larger enough sample size to provide reliable data. Unless you get at least a minimum of 100 responses you may be in danger of putting too much weight on the views of a small section of your customer base. Try and collect some demographic data in your questionnaire so that you can compare the profile of respondents with your overall target audience. This will help you understand how representative your respondents are of your overall visitor base.
Step 7: Usability Testing:
As Steve Krug mentions in his classic book about usability Don’t make me think, one user testing your site is better than no users. However, for any successful conversion rate optimisation programme it is important you don’t rely on a single user to test your site. Don’t rely on people in the office to test your site as there are likely to be too close to your website and probably won’t be representative of your average user.
If you decide to recruit people to do usability testing in a lab or meeting room make sure you observe and listen to what people say, rather than asking too many direct questions. People naturally post-rationalise decisions they make, but this won’t necessarily reflect how they behave in reality.
There are many online usability testing tools that allow you to recruit people remotely, whether to evaluate a new design or your existing website. It’s important here to give respondents a suitable task to complete so that you have a clear understanding of the context of their feedback.
You can use a tool such as Hotjar to recruit visitors yourself and then arrange to share screens via Skype. Alternatively you may prefer to employ an online usability provider such as UserTesting.com to recruit and conduct the research for you. There are also companies such as UserZoom.com who will provide a comprehensive suite of usability services from card sorting to help with website architecture to full site usability testing.
If you prefer to watch videos of your real users talking about your website or evaluating new designs you may want to consider UserBob. Video can be very powerful with your stakeholders to bring issues to life from the user’s perspective.
Step 8: Evaluate & Prioritise.
Any conversion rate optimisation programme can live or die on how resources are prioritised. So it’s important that you list all your ideas, issues and opportunities and place each of them in one of five buckets.
Where there is a clear opportunity for a conversion rate optimisation experiment. You may have some strong hypothesis, but if it’s not a no brainer for everyone you may require evidence to get resource to implement or to convince colleagues that it will increase conversion significantly enough. Where the idea affects a business critical process (e.g. check out) you should test it to manage the risk that it could reduce rather than improve conversion.
Where you find problems in your analytics and reporting that mean you can’t track everything you need for evaluating the performance of your website.
3. Create a hypothesis:
You’ve identified an issue with a page or a journey but there is no clear solution to the problem. This will benefit from gathering more data and collaborating with other people in the organisation to generate hypothesis that can form the basis for a test plan.
This may be a no-brainer or a small opportunity to improve conversion. Where there is little, if any, risk to conversion and it requires little effort to fix then you are best implement it rather than waste valuable resource testing it.
Where you are not sure what the nature of the problem is or you need to do more testing to better understand the journey. This will often also require more data collection, whether it is web analytics or Voice Of the Customer.
Next we undertake a process of prioritisation to ensure your conversion rate optimisation programme uses resource effectively. It’s essential that it has the most impact on revenues or other success metrics. This will help your ROI as you begin with the issues that can have a big impact and leave the less salient ideas for another day.
I use the Widerfunnel approach of evaluating issues on the basis of PIE (Performance, Impact and Ease). See my post on how to prioritise A/B testing ideas for details, but you can use these criteria for quickly rating each item on a scale of 1 to 5.
About how bad the page is now, is there potential for a big improvement. Your heuristic analysis should have identified these pages as having fundamental problems.
Measured by the number of visitors going to this page and the cost of traffic that you send their.
About how much time and effort it will take to fix it or develop a test variant. If it’s going to take a number of months to get the resource and it could be difficult to implement then you need to give this item a lower rating so that you can get on with some of the important but easy things to fix.
9. A/B Testing:
Even if your website does not have high traffic levels, you can use A/B testing to gather data to inform your decision making. Why make changes without testing when you can use free A/B testing tools like Google Optimize? It’s better to use A/B testing as a research tool and accept lower statistical confidence levels than make changes based on a hunch. Every website is unique and so you can’t assume that just because something works on one website that it will also work on your website.
The nine steps outlined above will ensure you have a systematic approach to conversion rate optimisation and will improve your chances of success. You should now have many potential items to fix, test or investigate. This will allow you to increase your test run-rate and focus on the things that really have an impact. Repeat this process every six to twelve months depending upon how quickly you get through your list of actions.
I would also present a summary of your conversion rate optimisation strategy and findings to your senior stakeholders. This will help-ensure you have buy-in from them. It is also valuable to present this if you plan to test anything that challenges existing brand values or other politically sensitive aspects of the site.
Thank you for reading my post. I hope you found this post useful and if you did please share using the social media links at top and bottom of this page.