7 Mind-Numbingly Easy Marketing Changes You Probably Haven’t Made Yet

May 21st, 2014

badge-guest-post-FLATTERNobody in a sane state of mind can say that marketing is “easy,” but the truth is that sometimes we overcomplicate things.

It’s easy to become an information addict, thinking that the next piece of knowledge is what we need in order to blow the competition out of the water. The truth is, you probably already know most of the things you need to know to be a great marketer.

With that in mind, I decided to put together a list of 7 easy changes you can make in order to get results. You might have heard of some of these, and others will probably be new to you. All of them take minimal effort, but offer measurable value.

1. Blatantly Ask for Email Subscribers

There’s still nothing better than an email subscriber.

The average email gets opened by 30 percent of your subscribers. (tweet this)

Remember when we used to complain that Facebook only gets you in front of 16 percent of your subscribers? Yeah, that’s down to about 2.5 percent for most Facebook Pages these days. The average Twitter click through rate is 1.64 percent (if you’re lucky enough not to have too many followers). And big Facebook pages currently have a click through rate of, ahem, 0.14 percent.

Average click rates in email, meanwhile, hover between 3 and 4 percent, depending on industry.

If you actually want to reach your audience, email is the place to do it.

Odds are you probably have an email signup form somewhere on your site. But the sad reality is that you probably aren’t being blatant enough about it. Your email signup form needs to be front-and-center. Your email subscribers are really the life-blood of any inbound marketing strategy. Short of buying something, it is THE call to action.

So, here’s the secret to getting people to sign up. Are you ready?

Put the signup form where they will see it.

It might sound crazy, but a lot of your readers aren’t even seeing your signup form.

Here’s how people see your site:

Eyetracking

They aren’t looking at the sidebars. They aren’t looking at the header. They’re looking at your content. And that’s where you need to put your sign up form. Just above and just below your content. Maybe even in the middle of it, if you can handle doing it tastefully.

It’s also hard to have too many signup forms.

If you put a signup form at the top and bottom of your content, the top of your sidebar, in your About page, in your footer, and in your header, you will almost certainly get more signups, and as long as you aren’t interrupting the user experience, you probably won’t be irritating anybody either.

The truly surprising thing about signup forms is that there is no one spot on your site that will account for most of the signups. People sign up from the top, bottom, sidebar, or header, wherever it’s most convenient for them at the time.

The one place you can put a signup form that might irritate some visitors is in a pop-up.

Thankfully, pop-ups have come a long way since the late ‘90s. Newer popups don’t actually open in a new window, and don’t prevent users from clicking the back button.

One of my favorites? OptinMonster. wpBeginner was able to boost their subscription rate by 600 percent using it. The beautify of this form is that it doesn’t interrupt users while they’re looking at your content. Instead, it tracks cursor movements and shows the popup when it looks like you’re about to leave the site. It doesn’t prevent you from leaving the site – you don’t need to close the window to hit the back button. But it does remind you that you can sign up before you leave.

So, try this right now:

  • Sign up for OptinMonster or another pop-up with exit-intent technology, like Bounce Exchange. There’s also a free, open-source alternative with its own rudimentary exit-intent technology.
  • Put a signup form just above your content, and just below it.
  • Make the signup form about your visitor. What are they going to get out of signing up?
  • Make sure any popup you use is small enough to be closed on any device, including mobile.

If you don’t have an eBook to offer, or any value to exchange, do it anyway. Your signup rate won’t be quite as high, but it will still be higher than it is right now.

2. Increase Your Font Size

A successful site needs to do two things very well:

  • It needs to be memorable, which usually means doing something a bit different
  • It needs to be easy to use, and optimized to serve its primary purpose

Almost everybody reading this can accomplish a bit of both by increasing their font size.

Have you been to Forbes lately? Their default font size is now 16. And why shouldn’t it be? The primary purpose of the site is to be read. Almost nothing improves usability on the site more than increasing their font size. The same goes for Google itself, which recently boosted their font size in search results, along with several other design changes for usability.

Without the physical limitations of paper, there’s no reason not to go big.

This is also a quick and easy way to make your site friendlier on mobile devices, even if your site isn’t optimized for mobile. Without responsive design (which we do strongly encourage), a site with size 16 font is going to be easily readable on any device.

While there are clearly other changes necessary if you want to optimize your site for usability, nothing has more impact quicker than simply increasing your font size.

The biggest reason you should use a bigger font?

According to a study from the Humboldt University of Berlin, people are more emotionally impacted by large fonts than smaller ones.

So, try this right now:

  • Find the “p{}” section of your styles sheet, and insert a line that says “font-size: 17px;” (at least). Also, insert a line that says “line-height: 28px;” or so, 1.6 times as big as your font size, to keep plenty of whitespace between lines.

You can go much bigger than this before font size actually hurts usability. Words are the backbone of marketing, even outbound marketing. Why not make them as readable and emotionally impactful as possible?

3. Post Only Visual Content to Social Media

As good as massive, in depth guides like Shopify’s 50 Ways to Make Your First Sale are at attracting subscribers and links, they aren’t the kind of content that does well on social networks. When it comes to social networks, nobody even sees what you post anymore unless it’s in a visual format. (tweet this)

This is just how people are wired now.

Yes, things have changed a bit in the wake of the Facebook algorithm update. Article links now have almost the same reach as images for a large number of Pages. And yes, it’s true that article links in Facebook now include an image preview of the article, allowing them to take up just as much real estate as image posts. But despite changes in presentation, images still have the most penetration over time, and by far the highest engagement rate.

More important, however, is the fact that users psychologically filter out most of the non-visual content. And while article previews might give links a bit more visual emphasis, the previews obviously aren’t optimized to look good or mean anything specific to Facebook users.

The fact of the matter is that social networks just aren’t meant for in-depth content. Most people use social networks for bite-sized content only.

So what’s the solution?

It’s easy. Use lots of images in your blog posts, make sure they work well as good stand-alone bite-size pieces of content, and share them on social networks, with a link back to the source (your blog post).

Most images that do well on social networks have some of the following traits:

  • Surprising
  • Funny
  • Inspirational
  • Contain quotes
  • Cute
  • Useful
  • Relatable
  • Have a “WTF” angle
  • Most importantly, they convey only one message or idea, and stand on their own

One of the best ways to boost your social lift on these images is to not only post them to social networks, but post them in your blog posts as social embeds.

So, try this right now:

  • Post an image to Facebook or Twitter that will work as a standalone piece of content, and that will work well in the middle of a blog post. Make sure the image links back to your blog post’s permalink. Schedule the image to post at the same time as your blog post (or sooner if you like).
  • Embed the social post in your blog post so that people can Share it, Like it, or tweet it right from your blog. (You can embed a Facebook post from the arrow in the top right corner of every post. You can embed a tweet from the bottom right corner of every tweet.)

If you like, you can do the same with Vines, Pins, Instagrams, etc.

4. “Steal” Eye-Popping Headlines

A lot of marketers give advice like “make intriguing headlines, not keyword headlines,” but they rarely offer any advice about how to come up with headlines like these.

There’s an easy way to do this, and all the major publications use it. It’s called “stealing.”

Before you roll your eyes and hit the back button, let me be clear. You don’t want your headline to be an exact copy of anybody else’s. But if you start to pay attention to the way most good headlines are worded, you’ll start to realize that at least half of them are essentially based on templates.

Let’s take a look at Cosmo’s headlines, cutting out all the specific words:

  • Is This The Best [Noun] Ever?
  • The Most Amazing [Noun] You’ll Ever See
  • Video: Everything You Need to Know About [Noun] in One Minute
  • This [Example] is Genius
  • Should You Stop [Doing Something You Probably Do]?
  • 11 Empowering Quotes from [Important People]
  • All About [Event]

And let’s take a look at BuzzFeed’s headlines, doing the same:

  • What [thing/action] Should You Actually [have/do]?
  • This is What Happens When You [Do Something]
  • X [thoughs/actions] We’ve All [had/done] While [Doing Something]
  • Which [pop culture reference] Best Describes [something about you]?
  • It Finally Happened: [something people have been waiting for]
  • X Signs You [are part of a group]

Don’t you get the feeling you’ve seen all these before? That’s because I can pretty much guarantee you have:

Is this the best

Ahem…

Everything You Need

Why do these exact same headline formats keep showing up over and over again? Because they work.

So, try this right now:

  • Choose the basic topic of your next blog post
  • Visit your favorite mainstream website (or magazine)
  • Dig through the archives a bit
  • Find a headline that grabs your eyes, and adapt it to fit your subject

This won’t just make your headlines better; it will force you to write about your subject in more interesting, creative, and eye-catching ways.

5. Fix Your Most Popular Pages

The most popular page on your site probably isn’t a landing page. More likely, it’s a resource you put together, or even a random blog post you never expected to do this well.

But here’s the thing: When you built the resource, if you’re like most people, you designed it to attract as many visitors as possible, but you spent little or no time trying to optimize it for business value. Odds are good it’s also out of date or might not be a great place for beginners and new visitors.

Take a look at the user behavior flow for the page in Google Analytics. How many of these visitors are just bouncing off the page, never seeing anything else on your site, and never signing up for email updates?

What a waste.

So, try this right now:

  • Update any information that is now out of date and keep the resource fresh and useful
  • Link to any relevant pages elsewhere on your site that will give new visitors context
  • Smoothly transition from the article to a request to sign up for updates, instead of just ending the article and posting a signup form.
  • Place a list of additional resources at the bottom of the page
  • Use any skills you’ve learned in the meantime to make the page a better first impression

6. Cut out the Clutter

Feature-creep happens slowly, without us noticing. Our site starts out simple, but over time we hear about things, and we want to add more features to our site. We add navigation and social media widgets, we crowd the header and the sidebar and the footer with various calls to action.

Long before we realize it, our site becomes cluttered. It may or may not put users off, but the more calls to action we shove on the screen, the more invisible they become. This fact has been scientifically demonstrated. Give people too many options, and they will choose none of them.

So, try this right now:

  • Prioritize the three things that really matter: your search bar, your email signup form, and your paid product or service. Please, make it easy for users to find other things, but those things shouldn’t actually be competing for attention.
  • Cut the archives out of your sidebar and put them in a page in your header menu.
  • Remove all but one or two of your top resources from the sidebar. Put a “best content” or “getting started” page in your header menu if you want to share more.
  • Remove any pointless calendars, wordpress logins, and other widgets that distract users.
  • Remove any social network subscription boxes for networks that you aren’t heavily active on. Consider removing every subscription box except for the email subscription box. You can ask people to join your social networks at the end of blog posts, or in your emails.
  • Remove any social network “voting” buttons that have failed to show real impact on reach.
  • Consider removing your sidebar entirely, and orienting everything vertically. Mobile users won’t see the sidebar anyway. If it’s hard for users to find anything important without the sidebar, the mobile experience is going to be terrible.

This isn’t about removing features entirely. It’s about moving them into places that don’t vie for attention, so that only the most important features are left, and they don’t have to compete for attention.

7. Step Outside Your Industry

Inbound marketers like to say that “becoming an authority” is totally in right now. That’s basically true, but it’s so easy for marketers and bloggers to take this the wrong way.

And the whole thing is perpetuated by the “marketing blog” bubble we live in.

Let me explain.

A lot of content marketers produce content that isn’t really for their customers. Instead, it’s for other professionals in their niche. It’s to demonstrate that they are an “expert.” When it comes right down to it, the information that they’re providing is probably going to be more useful for their competitors than for their customers. This is not what they should be doing.

The marketing niche is a unique exception. Everybody in business needs to understand marketing. When we share marketing advice, it’s useful for our customers, as well as our competitors.

Most niches aren’t like that. Surgeons who blog about the best way to do surgery aren’t doing anything for their customers. The same goes for lawyers who blog about how to be a good lawyer, carpenters who blog about carpentry, and for professionals in virtually any other industry.

When we get industry myopia, it causes us to make two big mistakes:

  • We produce content that’s more useful for industry professionals than it is for our customers
  • We forget that our customers have a much broader range of interests, and that they spend a lot more time visiting sites outside of our industry than in it

So, try this right now:

  • Go to Google Correlate and find out what people search for who also search for products and services like yours.
  • Go to Amazon and find books that would be helpful for people dealing with problems like the one you solve, and look at Amazon’s suggested recommendations to see what other subjects they are interested in.
  • Start writing blog posts useful for your customers, not your competitors, and start promoting the content outside of your industry, in places your target customers are likely to hang out. Better yet, think about influencers who are likely to also be your customers. You’ll start to realize very quickly that you’ve been promoting yourself in the wrong places.
  • Repeat yourself more often. When you step outside of your industry, you’re reaching unique audiences. As long as you’re sending the same message to different people, you’re not putting anybody off. You’re also giving everybody the same first impression, and starting things off with your best idea, instead of whatever idea you happen to be working on at the time. (Note: I’m not talking about cut and paste content here. I’m talking about sending essentially the same message, but customized for each audience.)

To Recap

Here’s what I covered today:

  1. Put your email signup form where people will see it.
  2. Increase your font size so that it’s more than legible on any device, for people with any degree of visual acuity.
  3. Post only visual, bite-size content on social networks, and embed the social posts in your blog posts for better reach.
  4. Use tried and true headline formats used by the most successful content producers in the world, regardless of their industry.
  5. Edit your most popular pages to make a good first impression, get people to explore your site, and get them to sign up.
  6. Remove competing calls to action and navigation and put them somewhere where they won’t compete with the 3 things that matter: signup forms, site search, and products.
  7. Step outside of your industry. Write for your customers, not your competitors, and promote yourself with influencers who are more likely to be your customers than your competitors.

None of these changes is especially difficult, and all of them should have a noticeable impact on business. You should be able to do at least one of these today. If you do, or know somebody who should, I hope you’ll pass this along.

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