Dec 21, 2007

How to Rock your Conversion Rate with high contrast buttons

Your a smart cookie; you know that using buttons for your 'add to cart' and 'checkout' navigation will increase conversions. It's just a fact - people are more likely to click on a button than they are a hyperlink.

But not all buttons are created equally. Are you aware that on most websites, red buttons will usually convert more online traffic than blue buttons? This has nothing to do with the colour red; rather it's owed to the fact that high contrasting buttons are more easily seen and have higher CTR's. Thus, for a pink website, a blue button would be the better choice. Pretty straightforward stuff.
But there is one rule you must follow to prevent an aesthetic nightmare and benefit from better buttons.

How to rock your conversion rate with high contrast buttons
The first thing to do is use them sparingly. Personally, I like using bright red buttons for the key navigation steps that lead to a sale i.e. the "add to cart" button "checkout" buttons. These are the actions you want your visitor's to take. For actions you don't want your customers to take, but still warrant a button, a more diffused version of your high contrast button or perhaps a neutral grey button would be the ideal choice.

The right way to mix two button schemes
The emphasis here is for people to press the checkout button. "continue shopping", 'delete' and 'update' are less likely to earn you a sale; thus, they remain subservient to the site design.

The Wrong way
Not only is this an aesthetic nightmare, but you are promoting actions you don't want people to take, like pressing the "delete" button.

Sep 9, 2007

Google is going to kick aside Timewarner like they were a mom and pop shop.

It's nice to see that Google has held steadfast to their goal of becoming the mother of all monopolies. But after reading leading SEO expert, Bill Slawski's analysis of GPAY, it dawned on me that we are only five years away from Google being hand over fist the biggest bank in the world.

Basically, GPAY is going to allow you to use your cell phone as
1) a digital credit cart that will be accepted anywhere plastic credit cards currently are today (no need to worry about that pesky waitress taking more than a carbon copy anymore )
2) a way to make off line purchases through your cell phone (lets say you want to buy a sweater from a catalog, you just type in the 7 digit text message/authorization approval code into your cell phone and Voila! Google charges your credit card, pays the company selling the sweater and gives them your billing address. Sweet!)
3) A convenient way to pay parking meters, buy soda from vending machines etc.. without having to burden yourself with small change.
4) Even strippers will benefit since this digital credit card will work (undoubtedly) in ATM machine's as well.

I'm excited because this is going to mark the dawn of a new era in e-commerce. No longer will e-commerce be confined to just internet advertising . Commercials; magazine ad's, newspaper ad's, even billboards will all be fair game now. Likewise, catalog companies and infomercial campaigns will be able to rake in more money as well (and cut down on telemarketing), if they can negotiate the e-commerce arena with some grace. As I've predicted before though, Google and Yahoo will likely have a duopoly on all e-commerce at that point.
This will probably be the biggest boost to the US economy since the advent of e-commerce in the 90's.

I will bet you one share of Google stock, that within 7 years of now, Google will have a public approval rating (in the USA) significantly higher than any president in the history of this country.
Your going to love what Google does for you, I guarantee it.

1)Kiss your cell phone bill, your house phone bill, those damn surcharges for text messaging, long distance charges to Tokyo, and your broadband/dsl bill farewell. That is an extra $200 a month; probably one of the bigger tax breaks for your average American. Google is going to setup a worldwide infrastructure that will give everyone free broadband access. This has been rumored for some time now, and given all that is at stake, Google can't Afford NOT to give the world free phone and broadband. The profits from all the increased cell phone advertising, offline advertising, and associated credit card processing would justify financing this endeavor easily.

When Google pulls this off, they are going to be in the perfect position to make GPAY the most commonly use credit card in the world. I'll be eating popcorn and watching CNN (or youtube probably) when that day happens. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and right now, Google is a moral and ethical company. Never have I seen a 10,000 pound gorilla so well behaved. I have faith that the masterminds running Google will take every step conceivable so that the company will never sway ethically from their corporate philosophy. I think that Google's management finds the thought of their offices being corrupt reprehensible.
Honestly, they remind me of our nation's forefather's.

Jun 19, 2007

Where's the marketing message?

They say that with websites; you have 8 seconds to capture the readers attention before they bail. 8 seconds to display a pull-based marketing message.

But for push based marketing: whether an ad on a bus bench, something in the paper, or my case, the ad on the back of a movie stub – you don’t have the luxury of 8 seconds. 8 seconds is an eternity to look at a billboard when driving, or an ad on a matchbook cover. You really only have a second, maybe 2 if you are lucky. So its best to keep the message you send short, and sweet. No glitzy stuff.

That is not what AMC theaters did when advertising private movie screenings for events on the back of their tickets. I had this ticket stub lying around my apartment for months, maybe years. It kept on showing up, I saw the back of it a gazillion times. Every time I saw it, I only gave it a second of my time – long enough to read ‘VIP’ and then lose interest. It wasn’t until last week that I, for some unknown reason, read the entire ad. I had no idea that one could show theater movies at private parties and events. How cool is that?

Look at the back of the stub yourself – a lot of stuff to read, huh? Between the fancy shmancy image, the logo, the extraneous VIP headline – there is no way a customer can read and digest the advertising message in 1 second.

The back of a movie stub

But, what if AMC just had a short line of text on the back of their tickets; accompanied by the relevant contact information. They wouldn’t be selling anything, they would just be informing prospective customers of a service. They could have had my business – had I known.

How I would have done it

Don’t bullshit customers

Learn about the breakthrough marketing secret created by neuroscience! Yes, make millions of dollars without even trying. This system is fool proof! Ask Sherry Ann who made 9 billion dollars within a day of purchasing our system. Its that easy!

Okay, most of you probably figured out that the above was complete bullshit. But who honestly has never seen this type of copy before? Sure it works sometimes. A sucker is born every minutes; so the ancient adage goes. But most consumers are not suckers – and treating them as such will lose you a sale.

Consider this: displaying negative customer reviews (testimonials) on you website can increase sales – according to several marketing case studies. Why? Because people want to read authentic customer testimonials – not advertising. And by displaying the occasional negative customer review, you are proving the veracity of your advertising. You are proving that you speak the truth.

Personally, I think the younger generations are better at detecting bullshit than older one’s. That is because younger generations have grown up in a world more saturated with advertising – they are more trained to zone out bullshit. Take the above video. Probably a joke by some kids.

May 16, 2007

How adding usability can create marketing relevance

You may have heard: vertical businesses are the new trend for e-commerce - thanks to their natural advantage in niche marketing. While a large scope, horizontal, business can do anything a small vertical can – it is much more SEO/marketing intensive.

The new horizontal stores I see these days always have one thing in common: a lack of relevant content for both browsers and Google. In the past, when metatags were more important, these stores performed well in the search engines. And at the time, they were relevant to what the users wanted.

But as the internet continuously grows; Google continuously finds new ways of identifying the most relevant content for its users. Relevance by itself is not enough for your business to succeed these days – you must be able to communicate that relevance at faster than light. For this reason, it is imperative you match your navigation, titles, and page headlines exactly with what the visitor is searching for.

Sites like this have no chance of advertising via Google anymore - not even for PPC advertising. Why? It is just a laundry list of products; none being named after keywords users are typing in.

How many people do you think are typing in the category headline: ' Skin & body cosmetics'?

Answer: 0

How about the headline on the product page: Indulona Antibacterial


The 800+ customers searching for 'anti aging cream' everyday will never find this store through google; even though, they sell that exact product. Too bad this store didn't conduct any keyword research when planning their information architecture :(

What if your information architecture is just to vast? Well, in that case, I recommend adding another navigation scheme:

Now we have two navigation schemes. 1) clicking on the product names to the left 2) browsing through the category image pages. Remember, different users browse in different ways, take a look at Victoria Secret's website if you want elaboration.

Aside from increasing usability; this type of category page gives you more marketing latitude and opens up the doorway to countless niche markets. In addition, Search engine marketing, and PPC marketing are once again possible to compete in.

Example of a landing page that exploits a new marketing niche

For that brave spammer out there who has sent me 5 billion unsolicited Viagra emails in the past 10 months. You will be part of my spam box always…

Unfortunately, I don’t think my spammer friend ever achieved the 0.00036% conversion rate typical of SPAM email. Considering a competitor using PPC advertising would convert traffic ten to hundred thousand times better than him: does he even have a chance of breaking into the industry? The answer is no. The only businesses that profit from Spam are the bulk email companies peddling it.

Is there any chance for an underdog to compete in the online Viagra market? After all, several hundreds of companies compete over the keywords of Viagra and erectile dysfunction. That online niche is completely filled to capacity.

To find a new online niche for Viagra; it will be necessary to uncover a traffic stream with needs that are met by the benefits of Viagra. To find such a traffic stream: conduct some keyword research and scrutinize the different keyword phrases being Googled.

Keyword Research for Viagra

Current niches

  • Viagra ~ 1.4 million
  • Erectile dysfunction ~ 350k

Untapped niche markets

  • Making love ~ 200k
  • Kama Sutra ~ 1 million
  • Sex position ~ 500K

Next step is creating a relevant landing page for each of these search terms. We are going to illustrate this with the keyword ‘Kama Sutra’. Although Viagra may not be a relevant product to everyone searching for 'Kama Sutra’; the non existent PPC demand for this keyword means dirt cheap advertising and a superior ROI.

Want Unforgettable Sex?
Enjoy Discount Viagra And Imbibe
In Sex That Eclipses Kama Sutra

Get unforgettable sex

Enjoy sex on a new plane and take Kama Sutra farther than ever before. Discounted Viagra empowers you for a new level of love so strong that it will burn itself into your memory.

Untapped marketing niches can be found everywhere on the net. Although it is hard for us to see right now; e-commerce is still in its adolescence and is immature when compared to conventional retail. After all, keywords are scarcer than even the trendiest retail stores.

May 9, 2007

I wish I read this article a year ago....

The Problem With Ecommerce: Don’t Build Your Own Ecommerce Engine
...... The reality is that it would take several man-years to even come close to matching the features that a mature ecommerce application would have.
This article could have saved me a lot of time. I honestly had no idea how difficult rewriting the core code of osCommerce is as I always thought that the real challenge behind designing the perfect site was in the usability and architecture - not the actual coding!

At least now I understand why the state of E-commerce on the web is so backwards. Finding experts in website usability design, online Marketing and Sales, and hardcore osCommerce coding is nearly impossible to do. It has taken about a year for me and all I had to do was find a kick-ass programmer!

I'm not sure if my e-commerce opus was worth the nightmare. While usability design is extremely important, it can only increase your sales linearly. Marketing & Sales are what give you the geometric increases in business. At least I will be getting an e-commerce site 4 generations ahead of my closest competition; compared to my site, they will look like the Taliban.

May 2, 2007

Google product search soon to seduce online businesses

Say hi to the future of e-commerce and finish your mother’s day shopping at the same time – here comes Google product search. The pieces on the chess board are almost in place. How long do you think it will take Google to align their product search, their checkout, and their various social networking sites? Not long - I guess I will be working for Google soon. :(

As an alternative, I can can choose Yahoo as an employment option - as what ever Google is doing, Yahoo is always a step behind. I mention the possibility of Google checkout and yahoo checkout becoming a best practice for PPC, in a marketing forum. I never thought this would be correct because the rules of e-commerce were changing.

All things considered, I think Google checkout and Yahoo checkout will soon dominate the internet for online transactions. In fact, objects are already in motion. Why else would Google checkout and yahoo checkout be offering free processing until 2008? Price wars are a rookie move – don’t think for a moment that Paypal and Google aren’t aware of the stakes they are playing for.

May 1, 2007

Don't make your customers think: use blue hyperlinks

Personally, I have always felt that when you choose your sites color scheme, the rule of thumb is to use blue hyperlinks. This is because blue hyperlinks have the highest click through rates. People are conditioned to recognize blue text as a hyperlink – there is no thinking involved, the recognition is immediate.

As Steve Krug said in his famous book - don’t make your customer’s think! While black hyperlinks are as widely recognized as blue hyperlinks – black hyperlinks take a few moments longer to recognize. Whether it is a split second, or several moments: any extra thinking you demand of your customer makes them less likely to trust you. Since lack of trust is a leading reason preventing online purchases, the answer is simple. Don’t make your customer’s think! Use underlined blue hyperlinks.

Apr 18, 2007

Creating hyperlinks that boost customer trust

When I was a neophyte to e-commerce; I remember monsterwebdesign telling me that that the best place for your privacy policy to appear is above the fold. But this practice is about as backwards as your Doctor using live leaches to clean an infected wound. Sure it might get the job done; but you aren’t going to win over your customer’s trust – that’s for sure.

By the way, the reason you need to make your policies readily available, is because many customer’s just don’t trust you. Whether it’s with giving you their email address or their credit card information; you need to reassure them. The solution to this problem is not displaying a laundry list of policies above the fold – but by providing the appropriate policy only when a concern becomes relevant.

Example 1) You are selling a product that has a money back guarantee - how should you inform your customer's of your return policy?

which looks more professional and straightforward to you?

Example 2) You want to convince your customer that they are safe from being spammed if they give you their email address:


Example 3) You want to assure your customer that it is safe to pay via credit card over the computer. You need to prove to them that some computer hacker living in Norway is not going to intercept their credit card information and then sell their identity online inorder to feed a crystal meth addiction.


As far as dealing with customer concerns; relevant hyperlinks are the way to go. Mark my words, this will be a textbook part of web design in ten years.

Apr 14, 2007

Hacker safe logo only good for bad sites

I have been getting lots of questions recently regarding the significance of using a hacker safe logo. In short, a hacker safe logo will only boost your sales if you do a lousy job of reinforcing customer trust during the checkout.

And what signifies a bad site - in the context of hacker safe? If the 'https' found in your browser is the only clue that a purchase is secure.

If you want further elaboration, check out this post I wrote a few months ago.

Apr 6, 2007

Exploiting keyword research with relevant marketing

Pimping out low value keywords ain't easy. Finding them is though - all you need is a keyword research tool and a little due dilligence on Google. Once you identify a low competition keyword, with reasonable traffiic, think long and hard if there is any possible way for you to exploit it. Look for keywords that represent desire's or need which can be fullfilled by the benefits of your product. The less the demand for those keywords, the higher your ROI the more fun the challenge is.

For example lets say you are selling auto induction kits (700 keywords a month). Why would you want to compete in that kind of grind? Instead, create an ‘auto air filter’ landing page, and market to 3,600 keywords a month that there is less competition over. But wait, we can take it further still: consider the benefit to gas mileage auto air filters provide your car. Wow! Between gas mileage, mileage, and driving mileage – you have well over 50,000 searches a month. Yes, it is a test of your persuasiveness in constructing a landing page with scent trails – but you have so much to gain and so very little to lose.

Turning traffic into sales

“If you build it, they will come”. Unless you can go back in time to the 90’s, this is flat out wrong. For an e-business to succeed in today’s competitive business environment; you need to have more than just a laundry list of products listed in virtual space. You need products that fulfill a need – your marketing must add value. Easier said than done, right? Actually, it is nearly impossible to add value to a product through marketing alone. That is because there can be no distinction between sales and marketing in today’s e-commerce website.

The most common faux pas I see is when entrepreneurs design an online store, write great (or horrible) copy for each product, and then implement ppc advertising while hoping they will be the next This is backwards marketing – both literally and figuratively.

Want to know what separates the boy’s from the men? Here is the secret. You figure out your advertising angles first, then you write relevant copy in the form of landing pages. While this is really just bringing relevancy, your most beloved Google will measure each landing page by quality score – so don’t skimp on any of the details.

Apr 3, 2007

Got white input fields?

Believe it or not, the color of your fields influences your conversion rate. Usually only by a little though - like by 0.1% Considering that you must first test a multitude of colors to obtain such a result, I do not recommend this tweak for the smaller businesses out there.

That is unless of course your website uses a gnarly color scheme. Every now and then I see a website with a color scheme so deviant, white is a clashing color. Yet they never bother to change the background color of their fields to something else - even when it causes a headache to look at.

Take for example. They have a great site design and sell high quality merchandise for artists ( best place to purchase stencils in the U.K. ). However, the artistic look they capture dies as soon as the customer reaches the checkout and gets a migraine.

How do you think field background colors are affecting your online business?

Desigining fixed 800X600 e-commerce sites is an extinct best practice

Times have changed since this was established as a best practice. As few as 5 years ago, 800X600 was the most common computer resolution, used by over 50% of web users. Today that number is closer to 10%, and unlike 5 years ago, it is usually a concession for poor eye sight ( often signifying older users ).

2002 Screen resolution statistics

49% 800X600
38% 1024X768
5 % unknown

2007 Screen resolution statistics (recorded from Taming The Beast)

51.80% 1024×768
12.04% 1280×1024
10.88% 800×600
8.83% 1280×800
3.58% 1152×864

Back in 2002, you could count on the vast majority of internet traffic to sport one of two resolutions: 800X600 or 1024X768. Higher resolutions were too uncommon to even consider. Had higher resolutions of 1280X1024 been a reality five years ago, there is no way that 800X600 would have ever been established as a best practice. The reason? 800X600 fixed width websites look horrible when viewed at 1280X1024. They seem to make use of only 1/3 of the computer screen and make for a painful user experience. It is a given that this will drag down conversion rates (unless you target people with narrow angle glaucoma).

Adaptive width, the new design standard

For the modern online business, you need a site design that looks good in any resolution. Therefore, the new best standard is to use an adaptive width site design that will scale to any resolution. An adaptive width website looks good on any screen size, from 800X600 to 1600X1200.

Second best choice to Adaptive Width?

If designing for an adaptive width is not an option, I would recommend a 1024X768 fixed width design as your next best choice. Why? For one, it is the lesser of two evils. More and more people sport high resolutions of 1280X1024 than low resolutions of 800X600. Hence, a fixed width design of 1024X768 will frustrate less internet traffic than an 800X600 design would. If you need further reason for embracing a 1024X768 design standard, your must indulge in a few assumptions about demographics.

Low resolutions of 800X600, in most cases, signifies users with impaired vision or low income. Assuming poor vision is more common in senior citizens, we can characterize 800X600 browsers to be primarily composed of older users who are statistically less likely to buy online. Compared to high resolution browsers, who have the money and desire to use the newest technology, it seems 1024X768 is a better design standard as far as fixed width is concerned.

Apr 2, 2007

Buttons and your Conversion Rate

When people put their OSCommerce stores up for review, the most common way I see them shoot their conversion rates in the foot is with a weak call to action. What is a call of action? Well, if you are selling something, the ‘add to cart’ button is your call of action. If you are trying to obtain email subscriptions, the ‘subscribe’ button would be considered your call to action. But for this article, we are just going to look at how to improve conversion rates through the design and placement of the ‘add to cart button’.

A lot of research has shown that you can increase your conversion rate through a stronger call of action. Think about it, how is someone going to buy something from you if they cannot find the ‘add to cart’ button? Case study after case study has shown that ‘add to cart’ buttons which are more attention grabbing improve a websites conversion rate.

Aside from the product image, the ‘add to cart’ button should be the first thing your visitor’s see. It should be as big as aesthetics permit, and should contrast enough with your site so that it literally seems to pop out at you. It should be above the fold, near the price and product image, and should appear again at the bottom of long product descriptions. A good rule of thumb is to make sure that your call of action can be easily seen to someone who is standing away from the computer on the other side of the room.

If you are currently using a 'buy it now' hyperlink, an annoying graphic, or a button that is subservient to your color scheme - you are losing easy sales. I've seen case studies citing a 300% increase in conversion rates - just by overhauling the 'add to cart' button.

Mar 29, 2007

How to use hyperlinks like a kung-fu master

If you want to learn whether your SEO company actually knows a thing or two about marketing, see if they forgot to use embedded hyperlinks. If so, it is a dead give away that your SEO company sucks at what they do. These dinosaurs use to rule Internet marketing, but they started going extinct when a Google algorithm hit them several years ago.

So, if you want to increase your sales, it is up to you to learn how. I can teach you how to raise your conversion rate by crafting hyperlinks like a kung fu master. So read carefully.

Like kung fu, you will learn hyper link usage by watching my examples. Study hard grasshopper!

The wrong way of using hyperlinks (in a random article I wrote)
If you play Texas hold em for large stakes of money, it is imperative you be aware of the various methods a card cheat could employ against you.
  • Peeking the top card of the deck or using marked cards
  • The second deal
  • Engaging in collusion with other players

Just because this is what you are used to seeing does not mean anything. Don’t write copy this way. The only way you could possibly make this even more backwards is, god forbid, displaying html URLs’s.

Here is the correct way of using hyperlinks. When you employ this method, you increase the chance someone clicks onto a scent trail which funnels sales and reduces page abandonment rate. Also, if you wish to one day aspire to a black belt in hyperlink usage, you must learn this first. So follow your Sensei.

The responsible way to use hyperlinks
If you play hold em for large stakes of money, it is imperative you be aware of the artifices that can be employed against you. Unless the crooked gambler possesses sleight of hand skill; the hustle is usually simple collusion between a couple players.

Professional card cheats prefer an information advantage
obtained through peeking the top card or marking the cards in play. These cheats are difficult to detect as they are often good enough to beat you on the square if they wished to. And they never cheat during the first game.

Some card cheats combine their knowledge of the top card with false dealing to obtain an even greater edge. With knowledge of what the burn card is and with the ability to keep it via second dealing, you are 5 times more likely to make your hand.

You found this second paragraph with the embedded hyperlinks more interesting, didn't you? Good! You are now ready to use hyperlinks as a blue belt.

Mar 28, 2007

Tunnel vision and crappy marketing

Marketing impotence really sucks – it leaves the client unsatisfied and humiliates you as a person. For a marketer, there is only one thing to do when you are locked seeing things in one perspective – resign.

Microsoft’s marketing department has not been able to see the big picture since they got those bean bag chairs back in the 80’s. My guess is that this video is a personal attack by some marketing firm.

Mar 27, 2007

E-commerce coming to a Myspace profile near you

You are probably either laughing or shaking your head. My first impression was that Newscorp was scrounging around for that extra nickel. But this is not a joking matter. This is online necromancy between e-commerce ans social networking. Who knows what it could mean for the future of e-commerce?

Though your internet marketing firm will tell you different – these are uncharted waters for marketing experts. Understand that while Myspace and Ebay are nothing special by themselves, joining them is going to give birth to a new life form. Experts say that this synergy will ‘leverage the social network’. But I don’t think anyone has even begun to map out all the possibilities that lie in waiting.

So how could leveraging a social network help your e-commerce site? Too illustrate, pretend for a moment that a popular e-commerce platform, such as OScommerce, had a social network of its own to leverage. Certain weaknesses would be turned into strengths. For example, currently many OScommerce stores find difficulty obtaining customer reviews. Not an issue with a social network, as customer reviews would be as inevitable as comments are on Myspace. Plus, you would be getting better reviews that leverage your conversion rate even higher.

When I say that these are ‘uncharted waters’ for internet marketers, I am referring to the hidden opportunities that await to be discovered or exploited. For example, take the under used practice of writing copy tailored for a visitors personality type. Data from a social network could allow an edge in profiling personalities, whether by keywords and click paths or other means entirely. The other side of this coin is the ability for social networks to provide more relevant advertising.

What do you think social networks mean for e-commerce? Something limited to giants like Ebay, or the future of e-commerce?