Monthly Archives: December 2013

7 Important Tweaks You Can Make to Improve Conversions


Website design is really an important and overlooked area of online marketing. Most people tend to make something that looks nice to them or they decide to pay a professional to design their sites and advertising, simply hoping for the best. However, there are some tweaks that research has uncovered which can dramatically improve the responses you get from your customers. Here’s what you need to know:

Heat Maps and Eye Tracking

This post is based on research I found on a number of other websites which were the results of extensive testing using eye tracking technology (i.e. they set up sites which they paid people to look at and they actually were able to track where the eyes looked) and heat map technology (in this case, it tracks where the mouse cursor tends to rest).

Both of these technologies are an excellent way to ensure that you are gaining the maximum input from your existing customers so that they will make more purchases and pay more attention to the things that are important to you.

The Eyes Have It

Okay, I’m being a bit whimsical here but have you noticed how a great many websites tend to make use of stock photography which includes models in the advertising? These photos were rarely shot specifically for the use of the company who is using them. Instead, they purchase the right to use the photos from a service which arranges for professional photo shoots.

You can even find many such photos on free photo services though I tend to shy away from them because I cannot guarantee that they actually have a model release. Anyway, the bottom line here is that many, many people are using these stock photos of people incorrectly.

The results of extensive testing show that people tend to look where eyes on the models are looking. In essence, if the model is looking directly at them, the person who is looking at the ad will tend to look directly back at the model (kind of odd since so many people have trouble looking someone straight in the eye in real life).

However, if the model is looking at the product being advertised, then the people viewing the ad will tend to glance at the product they’re looking at, which is after all what you want them to do. I think it’s probably the same sort of thing as we see when looking at someone in person. We tend to glance at whatever someone else is glancing at which is why when one person starts looking somewhere, others tend to follow along.

Notice where her eyes are looking

Notice that the model’s eyes are looking to the right where the product is located rather than looking straight at you.

Video and Photos are Big

Much as I hate to admit it since I make my living as a professional writer, people tend to look much more closely at video and photos than they do at text. What’s really odd though is that this works even for very basic videos, like the kind where small bits of text are set against a background where someone reads it or against music.

This is likely a result of the kind of media saturation that we all live with today. I mean, the art of reading a book has become more and more blasé as people have continued to look at movies and TV shows. I’ve always said that sound bites are the death of intelligence and they are – people can’t be well informed about a subject in 30 seconds.

That having been said, you still need well written text to surround your video and photographic content. If you just have photos or video without any text to explain things, people often start to look elsewhere. It’s also useful to note that the super long videos which don’t allow you to move on and make a purchase are not always effective.

In general, most people will sit through a couple of minutes of video but will want to see a buy option or even just text to skim through after that. If you think that a half hour video is going to be watched all the way through before you show a buy button or anything other than text, you’re likely to be disappointed.

Most people simply don’t have such a long attention span (again, think about how long a typical news broadcast is and make your videos work accordingly – there’s a reason most news reports are about 30-60 seconds long).

Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus

This is the title of an old book on how men and women can relate to each other. It suggests that men and women fundamentally think differently from each other. A classic example is that men tend to be fixers (i.e. you have a problem, let me suggest a way to fix it) as opposed to women, who more often than not simply want to commiserate rather than fix the problem.

The same axiom applies when selling products though. It should come as no surprise that knowing who your potential audience is makes a massive difference in the number of products that you’re likely to sell. If for example you sell products which are primarily aimed at women and you use a female underwear model to sell the product, you’re less likely to make sales than if you were to use a different kind of model (unless of course you were selling lingerie in which case, carry on).


However, even when selling less obvious products, you need to keep this in mind because the women will tend to focus on a different section of the page than the men will. Men tend to be drawn to the areas that appear “sexy” whereas women are more likely to look at the practical things. I don’t mean to sound sexist here at all by the way. This is just a fact of how men and women think.

Make It Symmetrical

People’s eyes tend to move from top to bottom when they’re looking over an ad. This means that if you want to keep people’s interest in your products, your best bet is to make things symmetrical. This means that you need to have your model holding the product below their face and then the name below that. It shouldn’t look awkward but it should ideally be symmetrical with easy to follow lines.

Along those same lines is the KISS principle which I always talk about here – Keep it Simple, Stupid. You need to keep your copy and your design simple. If people can’t figure out where their eyes are meant to go, they’ll often just leave your site and go elsewhere. It’s easy enough to figure out how to make this work – if ten people you ask to look at your site can’t seem to figure out what to look at and click on, you have a problem.

Why does this iPod ad work so well? It's symmetrical, with clean lines and it's also simple, giving people a clear idea where to focus their eyes.

Why does this iPod ad work so well? It’s symmetrical, with clean lines and it’s also simple, giving people a clear idea where to focus their eyes.

Most People are Leftists

Okay, not really. If the polls in the USA are right, people tend to split more or less down the middle between left and right. However, one thing that every single study has found is that people tend to look at the left side of a website first. This means that your advertising and most important material needs to be there rather than on the right side.

The irony is that for some reason WordPress (which is the most popular content management system) seems to insist on keeping the ads in the right side of the page. At least, that has been my general impression of most WordPress based sites. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to arrange to move your sidebar ads to the left within WordPress. Most themes let you do it without too much trouble.

You should however put less important things such as menus for your blog along the top or along the right side of the website in order to make sure that these things are not taking up the most valuable real estate. One exception by the way may be if you work in a language which is written from right to left (i.e. Hebrew or Arabic). In those cases, you’re most likely to see your best results putting important stuff on the right.

Hand Written Messages Add a Personal Touch

This is another one of those things that seem obvious but that too many people ignore. Handwriting style fonts often help to sell products. I’m not sure why that is, especially since these fonts are obviously just computer generated fonts which don’t seem to offer anything different but they have a visual appeal which people like.

That’s actually why you often see circles that look handwritten on professional squeeze pages and you also tend to see a lot of content written in handwriting. The most effective way to do this though is to actually have some text in regular fonts and “notes” pointing things out in a handwriting font.

This isn’t difficult to do using a program like Photoshop but many people don’t do it, either because they simply don’t realize how powerful this is or because they don’t know how easy it is to actually do the whole handwriting thing. You can easily add extra fonts to Photoshop and there are enough free handwriting style fonts that there’s no excuse not to do this.

Notice the hand written note and hand written style circle.

Notice the hand written note and hand written style circle.

By the way, on the same vein as this, you also definitely should consider putting in a photograph or yourself along with a signature. It needn’t be your real signature. A handwriting font signature will work fine. However, when people see this, it tends to give them a warm and fuzzy feeling as if they are buying from a real person rather than just a nameless, faceless corporation.

Money Back Guarantee

Okay this one is not strictly based on experiments using eye tracking or hot spots. It’s simply an observation that people tend to make purchases more often from sites offering an “iron clad” money back guarantee. The thing is, 98% of people will never actually take advantage of this money back guarantee at all. They simply want to know it’s there.

This is a matter of human psychology and I’ve written in this space in the past on this subject. People tend to notice if there’s a money back guarantee because we’re all afraid of getting stuck with a lemon of a product.

However, just as we’re all worried about being stuck with a lemon of a product, we also worry about not feeling foolish for having purchased a lemon to begin with. Thus there is this weird dichotomy going on where prior to purchase, we want the assurances that we can get our money back if it turns out this was not a good deal. However, once we’ve made a purchase, we tend to want to justify it and make ourselves feel good about the fact that we spent the money, making it very unlikely that we’ll take advantage of the money back guarantee.

The exception of course are the serial refunders, who will always do this in order to get the free stuff. However, you can easily identify these people and block them from future purchases of your products.

Obviously, not every product will lend itself to this model. Services for example generally shouldn’t be offered with no questions asked money back guarantees because the service has been performed and you can’t “restock” your time for having performed the service. However, in most cases, you can safely add a money back guarantee and know that it will increase sales without costing much in terms of refunds.

Have You Considered Free Tools?

free online tools

Quick – name the one indispensable tool that you use all the time for your SEO efforts. Maybe you named Google search. Or the Adwords keyword tool. Or maybe it’s Open Site Explorer or any of a large number of other free and paid tools that we all make use of every day in order to build our SEO profiles. We all use these things every day but few of us actually consider using them in a vastly different way.

Marketing By Giving it Away

I’ll assume that most of our readers here do have a business blog (and if you don’t, what are you waiting for? Pretty much every business on the planet can benefit from having a blog online). The odds are very good that you give away the content on your blog free of charge. By this I mean that you don’t have a pay gateway in order to access the material that you post there.

Ever think about why you do this? Of course, blogs are great for building your SEO profile since they are updated regularly and they also get you extra links which can increase the love you get from the Google gods. However, beyond that, blogs, at least if they’re well written and interesting can be great traffic drivers.

People come back to your site regularly to see what your latest blog post has to say and they may well stay to buy whatever it is that you have for sale. At least, that’s what most blog owners hope will happen. Some of us have blogs whose sole purpose is to sell the advertising that appears next to the blog posts in fact.

Now consider this: Almost every guy and his brother runs a blog these days. They’re ubiquitous and they can be difficult to attract traffic to since there is such a glut of blogs online. However, what you don’t see on every single website is a useful, even indispensable tool. Such items are typically the province only of the bigger websites, the ones that actually pull in a larger amount of traffic.

You Could Be One of Those Big Guys

I know what everyone is thinking – yeah, if I only had the money to build a server farm and to hire a team of engineers on the caliber of Matt Cutts, I too could have a powerhouse company offering all kinds of great tools to my customers. And you know what? Five years ago, you might even have been correct. It cost an awful lot of money to develop tools and to host them since you needed dedicated servers to do it.

However, today it’s possible to have a decent tool coded for you for just a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, depending on how complicated of a tool you want to create. Plus, you no longer need to spend thousands of dollars a month for dedicated server farms to host your tool. Amazon, Microsoft, Google and IBM are all offering cloud computing services which can be purchased on the fly.

This means effectively that you can work with your coder (I’ll discuss this in more detail shortly) to arrange for the new tool that you create to be hosted with one of the cloud computing services and then simply pay to scale it up as the need arises. Of course, it will still cost something but that’s where the advertising and freemium models come into play.

Making Money from the Tools

As I said, this isn’t going to be free. It’s simply affordable for the average business owner to do whereas before you might have needed venture capital to build a tool and get it hosted. However, you do still need to make money from your tools in order to make them worth your while. There are several options for doing this.

Option number one is simply to provide it for free and hope that people will stick around and purchase whatever else it is that you have for sale on your website. You might even include some advertising on your site for whatever those products may be. This is a risky option however since more and more people are becoming immune to advertising alone.

Option number two is what I like to call the freemium model. In essence, you give away basic services but then charge your customers who want more advanced services. A great example of this is the Open Site Explorer from SEOMoz. They allow you to do three searches per day for free but if you need more or more detailed information, you pay for it.

open site explorer

In addition to offering the freemium model of course, SEOMoz also offers their other services to people using the Open Site Explorer. This I believe is the best model.

Option number three is to offer an unlimited experience but have it heavily populated with annoyware. Pandora used to do something like this. They offered a free monthly unlimited listening plan but they included ads every few minutes and annoying pop ups to remind you how wonderful their premium service, Pandora One is (I quickly tired of it and am now a loyal Pandora One subscriber BTW. I can’t live without my Pandora radio).

Pandora today decided to make the system even more limited for the freebie seekers by offering a maximum number of hours per month.

Getting Ideas

I’ve discussed in the past how to get ideas for offline tools that you use to build your links up through shareware sites. This works pretty much the same way. The single best way to get ideas for tools that people would need in your niche is to visit forums dedicated to your niche and see what kind of questions people are asking. Find a way to create a tool to address their concerns and you’ll have your idea for a tool.

Getting It Coded

Finally, there is the question of how to get a tool coded. This again I’ve covered in greater detail elsewhere when discussing how to get offline tools coded. The best way to go about this is to visit a website like Elance or Guru and to find yourself a good coder from the third world.

Finding programmers

Just make sure their English language skills are adequate to understand what you need and make sure that they have some decent feedback already.  You can usually get your project built for a fairly small sum of money and have them set it up with an easy to use backend hosted on one of the cloud computing services which are now proliferating online.

8 Ways to Improve Your Facebook Marketing


Given the recent introduction of the Hummingbird Update into Google’s ecosystem, it’s more important than ever to seek out multiple sources of traffic. This means doing things like building up your guest postings on other popular websites and of course, building up your social media presence so that you are able to grab people from Facebook.

I’ve been doing some research and found some great, simple tricks that you can use to increase the effectiveness of the Facebook campaign you already have for your company (and if you don’t happen to have a Facebook page, what are you waiting for? Get to it!). Here are 8 simple tweaks that you can use to drive more traffic:

Consider Dropping by Other Facebook Pages

First and foremost, if you haven’t been doing this already, it’s a lot like doing good old fashioned SEO. Basically, you want to identify the Facebook pages which are most relevant to your own niche and which have lots of followers and then go ahead and start visiting them. Engage with the people who come there and offer your own expert advice (you are an expert, right?).

This can be even be done as if you were the Facebook page rather than with your own personal profile so that people who see your (hopefully useful and not spammy) comments will click the link to see what else you have to say.

As I said, this is really no different from the old comment on high quality blogs kind of thing. Rather than simply commenting on these blogs exclusively in the hopes of pleasing the Google gods, you should also be trying to leave an insightful comment within the first 10 comments or so. If you do so, many people will click your link to see who you are.

With Facebook it’s even easier since pages have timelines just like personal profiles. This means that if you can leave an insightful comment rather than a spammy comment, it’s likely to attract likes and stay at the top of the timeline longer than if you were to leave a great  comment on a blog but you were number 85 and buried so deep that even the webmaster might not see what you had to say.

Put a Call to Action in Your Cover Photo

I credit the good folks at Kissmetrics for putting me onto this amazing tip, one I plan to incorporate myself in my Facebook pages very soon. Basically, you can use your cover photo (which is after all the very first thing that your customers are going to see) as a giant ad.

Mind you, you cannot arrange to have a click take people directly to your website but you can do something almost as good. You can make the cover photo (which can be changed after all) into an ad promoting your product. When people click the cover photo, they’ll see your description, which can in fact include a link back to your website where the product is sold.

Another method which I had heard of and even used myself in the past involves using an arrow to point to a link on your Facebook page. Basically, since you can have links just below the cover photo, you can then use the cover photo to include an ad which promotes a product that you have for sale. As you can see, George Takei does this by simply pointing an arrow to the link promoting his latest book.

George Takei

Either way, this is an opportunity not to be wasted since the cover photo is easy pickings for you and a place where you’ll see the most impact from your Facebook page.

Link Your Personal Page and Business Page

This is really a no brainer but many people seem to forget to do it. We all have Facebook friends and they all have Facebook friends, not all of whom are our own Facebook friends. Why not make use of this fact to promote your business page to your friends and family who might just spread the word to the people they hold nearest and dearest (or whom they just happen to remember running into at a party sometime and decided to friend them for the heck of it).

Basically, all you need to do is ensure that your personal Facebook page includes a link to your Facebook page. You can do this by mentioning in your personal page that you own such and such a business and then including the link to the Facebook page. You can also ask any employees that you may have to do the same.

By the way, here’s a nice little bonus tip: If you do this, then whenever you leave a comment on a website that uses Facebook comments, you will  have automatically created a link to your Facebook page on that website. Whenever I leave a comment on Facebook, it always includes a clickable link to my Personal Finance website’s page.

Fill In the Short Description

Every Facebook page includes what they call a “short description.” Basically, it a sentence or two about your website and about the page for people to see what it’s all about. It will come up when people do a search for specific topics and will also be displayed if people hover over a link to see what the page is all about.

Filling in this extra piece of information can actually help you in two different ways. First and foremost, it’s possible to simply improve the number of people who are visiting your page by making the short description engaging and interesting. Think of as the same kind of deal like when you do a meta description for a blog post. The more interesting the description, the more likely you are to get click throughs.

In addition, you can also include a shortened URL link (i.e. or any of the thousands of other services. Or just roll your own). This allows you to provide an additional link directly to your own web page where you can hopefully get people to  make an additional purchase and or engage with your company so you can reel them in as a customer.

Try a George Takei

Like a great many Trekkies, I follow George Takei’s page on Facebook. Of course, today the man is also an advocate for gay rights and has really remade himself into an online personality and kind of a gay spokesman. However, one of the things I’ve noticed about him which I think works to his advantage is that he doesn’t try to be really sophisticated in what he posts on his page.

Instead, Takei posts a mix of simple trivia and irreverent photos and comments on his Facebook page. This allows him to connect with a very wide audience. I’ve seen some Internet marketers using a similar approach to their Facebook pages. They try to put up simple photos which will allow people to connect with them rather than trying to be sophisticated with lots of verbiage.

This is typical of the kind of thing Takei posts on his Facebook page.

This is typical of the kind of thing Takei posts on his Facebook page.

Facebook is after a place where people come to be entertained as opposed to informed and so it tends to lend itself much more to the visual kinds of cues that Takei uses on his page than to the kind of material you might find on this blog, which is meant to offer up long form, informative articles as opposed to simply offering up short, pithy comments.

Feature Your Customers

Another great way to get your customers to actively engage with  your Facebook page and to share it with their friends is to engage with your customers. There are lots of ways to do this. For example, you could always feature their comments and or questions on your Facebook page, allowing them to have a spot in the so called limelight. This will encourage them to tell their friends about the feature on your site that they got.

In addition, this makes customers feel as if they actually have a stake in your company and the success of your page rather than just being someone else you sell products to. You could even take this a step further and actually set up a contest related to your particular niche. Almost any niche can do this by the way.

For example, you might want to create a contest to see who has the most interesting question for your dental practice and then use the questions that are submitted to discuss various procedures that your office offers, some of which people may not be aware of.

Finally, there is the age old option of doing the whole birthday thing. People love getting a shout out on their birthdays and often, they’ll click like on a birthday greeting that you post with a mention of their name. This does three things for you.

First, it gets you onto their timelines because if they write a thank you (quite common), it gets you onto their timeline allowing your company to be seen by their friends. Second, it allows you to generate good will with potential customers and current customers. Third, it makes it more likely that you’ll end up in their timelines because when they click like, it means that Facebook is more likely to feature your posts in their streams.

Caption This Photo

Another favorite on Facebook is getting people to caption a photo that you post on your page. This gets people to try to come up with the greatest, craziest or just plain unique idea they can think of and this again will get you featured on their timelines. The nice thing about this idea is that you can actually engage with people on almost any level and it’s something simple that they can get into (see George Takei above).

In addition to offering your customers a way to get involved with you by offering to caption a photo that you post, you can do the reverse and ask your customers to come up with a photo that fits a caption that you create. The idea is really simple and will generate lots of good will and more importantly, mentions of your company on their timelines.

You can also encourage your customers to like the photo in question and to share it to their friend’s timelines in an effort to get them to have their friends get in on the action also. The bottom line with tis is to keep the photo interesting and open to multiple interpretations while still keeping it somewhat within the niche of your own web page.

Try a Buzzfeed

We’ve all seen the Buzzfeed lists that seem to proliferate on everyone’s Facebook timelines. These lists are usually funny and include a list of things which allow people to nod their heads in agreement as they smile while they go through them. The great thing about this though is that you can either roll your own Buzzfeed like post or just post directly onto the site itself with a link back to your own site.


In essence, you need to create a list of short, pithy comments which are no longer than a sentence and then find appropriate images to represent those sentences in a funny way. As can be seen on Buzzfeed, they actually include little animated gifs with bits from TV shows and films. I’ve never been clear on the legality of this but since they keep doing it, I’ll guess (but I’m no lawyer so don’t quote me on this) that such usage is consider “fair use.”

Now, as I said, you can roll your own and then post the link to your Facebook page. However, I’m more inclined to simply use the community feature on Buzzfeed and create one with a link in the author section back to your own site. The advantage of this is that it allows you to gain some exposure on Buzzfeed while keeping your own website’s character the same as it always has been.

Either way though, you do want to use this as a way to improve the number of people who will engage with your Facebook page by actually posting a link to your completed work on the page and allowing people to like it and share it.

by EricHammer, on       Comments are off for this post