Over the last week I’ve completed 28 free blog conversion reviews as part of our blog conversions competition (I offered free reviews for any unsuccessful entrants).
The purpose of these reviews was to help people get more email optins on their blogs and to do so I have created this 12-part conversion review checklist.
Here’s what Allan from Less Accounting said about the tips:
Anyway enough about me and how smart I am. I’m also super generous I have put all of the main points from the review in this post below and I’m also giving away access to the actual 12 page review template that I used for all of these reviews.
It’s a live Google Doc that you can use to review your own site or download and pass onto your web developer or marketing person.
Enter your email below to be sent the live doc or continue on to the main points in the post below.
I won’t be covering why you might want to optimize for email optins in this post, that may be a future post but I think it’s pretty well accepted that this is the best thing to optimize for on a blog.
1. Conversion rates
Overall new visitor to email optin best practice
- Best practice range 5-10%
- Most blogs I have seen 1% or less
The WP Curve blog converts at 6-8% as a whole. But the homepage isn’t optimized for email optin and I’m not using any aggressive tactics (pop-ups, welcome gates etc).
*Note it’s very hard to provide guidelines for this as there are a lot of factors that influence it.
2. Overall theme
Best practice tips
- Nice clean simple design (see 9 inspirational startup website designs)
- 1 page 1 goal (if possible)
- Limited clutter (no unnecessary sidebar widgets)
- Optin stands out in colour and depth or in some other way
- Visual cues towards opt in (like arrows, eyes looking etc if practical)
- Proof provided if possible
3. Popular pages
Make sure your top pages are optimized for email optin (check Analytics for top pages). Generally the top pages will include:
- Blog homepage
- About page
- Resources page
Another tip here is to have less top menu items thereby funnelling visitors into your highly optimized top pages.
4. Optin level
The following points all relate to the optin (any optins) on the site.
Clear value proposition
Value proposition tips
- Optin is highly relevant (Very important, relevant to the reader and related to your business)
- Optin is valuable in the eyes of the reader
- Optin is simple and clear
- The value is backed up by proof (logos, testimonials, images etc)
I’ve used QuickSprout‘s optin as best practice example here for the headline but really this optin is best practice on all of the points discussed here.
- Benefit driven (‘Free Course’ is a feature ‘Double your traffic’ is a benefit).
- Data filled (if practical)
- Social proof (Neil includes this in other parts of his site very well)
- Who is it for (if practical)
- Grabs attention
Dot points or supporting copy
- Specifically what the benefits / features are
- Who it’s for if not specified in the headline
- Social proof (if practical)
- Logos / security / memberships / clients / risk reduction (if practical)
- Deal with objections if possible
- Adding credibility
- People can work
- Don’t take focus away from Opt in
Also in the example on the right notice the quality of the design, the professional CD / book images (makes you feel like you are getting something valuable), the subtle down arrow pointing to the email form (neatly integrated into the design).
Optin call to action button
- Button stands out in colour
- Looks like a button (bevels, large, shadow text etc)
- Text is benefit filled and action-oriented (Don’t use ‘Submit’)
5. Optin locations
Test and use the optin locations that get the best results. Here are some guidelines with a few popular locations for email optin boxes.
The sidebar is the most popular place for an optin box but is often forgotten about once readers scroll down the page so consider testing other options as well. It’s generally accepted to still keep an optin there (I don’t have one in mine at the moment though).
Blog homepage top (feature box)
These convert well and are great for new blog readers. They also don’t prevent readers from navigating the blog as normal.
This replaces the homepage with an optin for new visitors (that can be skipped – unless you are super aggressive like Andrew Warner from Mixergy). Either way it’s a pretty aggressive strategy to not give people what they expect to get from your homepage. Generally I avoid them but they do convert very well.
Again pretty aggressive but will generate conversions. Generally I avoid them because they stop readers doing what they expect and what they want to do on your site.
I like this one, you will notice it on the right of my posts as you scroll down. It converts very well and doesn’t stop the reader from reading the current post (unless it comes up over the content of the post in which case you might as well just do a pop-up).
It’s great for promotions but it kind of kills the design so I use it sparingly. It is a very good way to funnel traffic to your highly converting pages.
After every post it’s a great place to put an email optin. I have a standard one on all posts and some posts get a specific optin which increases relevance and drives up conversions (like the post you are reading for example :).
If you have something specific this can be useful. I used this above to offer people the review template before they read the post as some people will prefer to just have access to the document. I’ve set it up so it doesn’t take people away from the post so they can continue reading.
6. Tracking and monitoring
Testing is everything in conversions so you have to have your tracking set up properly. Here are 2 tips.
- Use Google Analytics event conversion tracking on all optin forms (see Actionable Analytics Guide).
- Our free C Metrics plugin will tell you what content is working the best for you and help you work out how to entice people with optins (by working out the type of content that appeals to them). It also lets you know your highest converting content so you can make sure those are the posts you focus on (thereby increasing your conversion rate).
7. Popular posts
Don’t have a widget that links to ‘recent posts’ or ‘top posts’ (which are usually just the posts with the main comments. Funnel people to the posts that you know convert the best.
By definition if people are converting on those posts then the content must be good so you aren’t doing your readers a disservice.
More traffic to your highest converting posts will boost your conversions. There’s no rules to say you can’t link to landing pages in here or other content that requires an optin.
Our free Smart Top Posts plugin will connect to Analytics, figure out your highest converting posts and list those in your sidebar.
8. Landing pages
Landing pages have massive conversion rates. Here are a few guidelines:
- Use Landing pages particularly for offsite promotions – They work well for guest posts and Slideshare presentations, youtube videos etc.
- Check out Unbounce.com or Leadpages.com for easy landing page creation tools.
- Make sure tracking is enabled so you can test conversions!
I also like to split test pages which is very easy with the ‘Content Experiments’ feature in Google Analytics.
9. Content sharing
If it’s not easy to share your content then you won’t be getting enough ‘new’ visitors. If you are just getting the same visitors, your conversions will be lower since they would have seen your offer multiple times (and either rejected it or accepted it – either way they wont be opting in again).
- A lot of blogs have static sharing icons at the end of the post. I prefer the Digg Digg sharing plugin that follows people down the post. It clutters the page a bit but it increases sharing by being available all the time.
- Popular blogs like KissMetrics and Unbounce display the share total count on their blog homepages. This increases click through (social proof) and enables people to share easily from the homepage.
- Use clicktotweet.com to get people tweeting specific things from within your post (see example below)
Click here to Tweet this —> “Conversion tip – Use clicktotweet.com to get people tweeting specific things from within your post – more here –> http://goo.gl/93Tqm”
10. Video conversions
11. Content tips
For more help on this I suggest you check out the Ultimate guide to creating content that converts.
The guide covers everything I possibly could cover on creating content to convert more readers to email subscribers.
12. Anything else?
There are always other things that are reducing conversions that can’t be captured somewhere above. Some of the things I came across in the reviews included:
- No favicons (looks unprofessional – professional design converts better).
- Just generally unprofessional design.
- Blogs not using Google Authorship (lower search engine click throughs means lower conversions).
- SEO Titles on posts not picking up the title of the post itself (this impacts what comes up when people try to tweet the post – you want your best headlines tweeted for maximum click through. See the Practical Guide to Content-driven SEO for a basic setup steps for this.
Remember to test
All of these points are general tips and your best conversions will come from ongoing testing. If you have any comments on the post or conversion tips that have worked for you (or haven’t) then please comment below, I’d love to hear them.
Download the blog conversion review template for free
Enter your email below and I will send you the full review template which enables you to run through all of these points with your developer or marketing person.