How to track conversions like a pro

Driving more traffic is only good if you’re driving the right traffic. Columnist Ryan Shelley outlines three simple conversion goals you can track that will give you powerful insights into how your users are interacting with your website.

Please visit Marketing Land for the full article.

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3 ways to ensure your marketing technology stacks up

Putting together a marketing technology stack can be exciting, but with so many vendors and so much functionality, it can also be overwhelming. Columnist Jim Yu has some advice to guide your tool selection.

Please visit Marketing Land for the full article.

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Getting Started with Behavioral Email Marketing

When sending out automated emails to your list, how personalized are they?

I’m not talking about things like $firstname, or order by $date for free shipping – but actual personalization based on their behavior.

According to MarketingSherpa, 39% of marketers found that sending emails automatically based on user behavior was their most effective email marketing strategy. At the same time, DMA reports that emails triggered by behavior were responsible for 30% of revenues in 2014, up from 17% in 2013, and that 77% of ROI comes from segmented, targeted and triggered campaigns.

Let those numbers sink in a minute.

The potential for making the most of behavioral email marketing is wide open, and yet, according to eConsultancy, only 20% of marketers are using behavioral targeting.

email segmentation marketers surveyOnly 20% of marketers surveyed use behavioral targeting (Image Source)

Why is that? Let’s take a closer look at the core issues and learn how to get started with behavioral email marketing.

Getting the Big Picture with Behavioral Tracking

Oftentimes, marketers want to start behavioral targeting, but they have no idea how or where to start. The first step, if you haven’t done so already, is to monitor how people are interacting with your brand.

Kissmetrics can deliver this kind of invaluable behavioral analytics data. Like the brain of your behavioral marketing outreach, it seeks out and stores details about your visitors, including:

  • Who they are, and when they converted
  • What they viewed, where they clicked on your website, and when they purchased
  • Group visitors based on shared criteria
  • Identifies where people are dropping off before converting
  • Whether or not they submitted any forms, conducted any live chats, and so on

Because of this powerful people-based analytics platform, you can tailor your behavioral email triggers to suit precisely what your audience is looking for.

Decide Which Customer Actions Warrant an Email

Now, not all of these points will be email “action-worthy”, so it’s up to you to figure out what actions the user takes (or doesn’t take) that are worth sending an email. You may have even seen this kind of behavioral targeting at work when you sign up for a service, but don’t complete your profile or don’t verify your email address. If the company is smart, they’ll send you an automated email reminding you to do so.

But re-targeting the user in this way isn’t the only way to leverage behaviorally targeted emails. You can also send out targeted messages, for example, when a customer:

  • Submits a form to download your white paper, video, case study or other free item
  • Views certain content on your web page. If they spent some time browsing the FAQ, you can set up a behaviorally targeted email to check in and see if they have any specific questions
  • Leaves an item in their cart without checking out. You could send them a reminder email with a small discount, remind them of limited stock (or that their cart will expire) and so on

Remember, with behavioral email marketing, it’s the customer at the wheel — not you. They’re making choices while interacting with your content. Behavioral marketing is designed to act on those choices with the kind of engagement that increases conversion rates, grows profits and vastly improves customer retention.

Unearthing More Behavioral Email Trigger Opportunities

Once you start collecting and analyzing the information that you gather on your customers, new opportunities for behaviorally targeted emails will percolate to the surface. You’ll start getting all kinds of great ideas on how to guide users back into your service. To help get you started, however, here are some of my favorites:

The “Getting Started” Email

Also known as an “onboarding” email, this message is usually sent after you create an account or register for a service. It’s designed to get you clicking and interacting with the service as quickly and fluidly as possible. Here’s an awesome example from Stocksy, a stock photography site:

Image Source

Notice how they’ve carefully curated images on a specific theme – then encourage you to click through and check them out for more design inspiration. Here’s another example from Airbnb:

airbnb sonoma email giftImage Source

If you’ve been browsing trips to wine country, this targeted email can help make your tour much more palatable through the offer if discounts, local guides, special attractions and more.

The Notification Email

The notification email is generally just a canned response from your account or user management software that tells people their username and password, and maybe has a link to some documentation to get started. That’s where most of the getting started process ends — which results in a lot of confused or frustrated users.

Instead, encourage them to take the first step toward trying out your product by offering more of a guided, hands-on tour. If you have a SaaS, walk them through using it by helping them to create their very first _____ — such as a website, playlist or campaign. This sort of guided, pop-up tour will help them feel more at ease, and can also give you even more valuable data for your behavioral targeting goals.

The Icing on the Cake Email

These are the unexpected but highly welcomed emails that encourage better customer retention. Here’s a great example from Shopify that lets users extend their free trial of the service:

shopify free trial extended emailImage Source

Another example comes from TurboTax, which is designed to pique the user’s curiosity about how much their tax refund could be, before they ever see a check in the mail:

turbotax sign in email notificationImage Source

It also promotes the benefits of using the TurboTax service, but without being overly “sales-y” or pushy. Rather it shifts the focus onto the customer and their end goals – which revolve around getting the biggest refund possible at tax time.

The Reward Email

Everyone loves getting an unexpected reward — even if it’s a digital “good job!” Here’s an example of an email from Withings, which is a Fitbit-style product that helps inspire healthy habits by tracking your activity. Here, you can see a user has won a badge for taking 8,000 steps in a day, and unlocked the Marathon reward. They can also share their progress on Twitter or Facebook.

withings reward emailImage Source

The Recommendation Email

Oftentimes, great customer service from a company is enough to get you to recommend them. But what if the brand sweetened the deal? Bombas, which sells socks online, provides free socks, with no limit, to people who tell their friends about them. Those friends get a discount on socks, and the referrer gets more socks. And we all know you can never have enough socks.

bombas refer a friend emailImage Source

Transactional Emails

Did you know that transactional emails (receipts, shipping notifications, etc.) are opened up at 8x the rate of regular emails? With this in mind, it’s worth going through the ones your company sends and doing away with those dusty old “order confirmed” messages, to make every note you send one that not only thanks the customer for their order, but does so in a way that’s more akin to having a conversation than making a statement.

So Just How Do I Set All This Up?

Until now, behavioral email targeting was difficult to set up because so many pieces of technology had to communicate with each other. With the new Kissmetrics Campaigns, behavioral targeting via email (and other channels) is built right in, so you can customize precisely when automated emails are sent to your customers, based on their behaviors. It’s better targeting, discovery, engagement and retention all rolled into one.

Be sure to check out the detailed article link above to learn how to use this new feature to the fullest, and be sure to share your behavioral targeting email success stories with us in the comments below!

About the Author: Sherice Jacob helps business owners improve website design and increase conversion rates through compelling copywriting, user-friendly design and smart analytics analysis. Learn more at and download your free web copy tune-up and conversion checklist today!

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The Career-Expanding Discovery Many Profitable Writers Have Made

"This skill enables your professional life as a well-paid writer." – Stefanie Flaxman

The struggle when I started my freelance writing service business looked like this:

  • I was fascinated with crafting words that accurately conveyed a message.
  • I hadn’t extensively studied journalism or entertainment writing because those weren’t career paths I wanted to pursue.
  • I knew that offering basic content writing services for businesses — filling up pages with words — would not pay high rates.

And I completely understood why filling up pages with words was not valued. Nothing is worse than paying for a service that doesn’t produce results.

When writers charge low fees for content writing that doesn’t persuade prospects to take action, two dangerous things happen:

  1. It’s difficult to support yourself through your writing services.
  2. Your clients don’t make new sales.

If a client thinks that the money they paid you was a waste because they didn’t make it back in sales, they’ll view you as interchangeable with any other writer — and there’s probably someone else who charges even less than you for a comparable lack of results.

This situation perpetuates the cycle of writers thinking that making a living off of their craft is unrealistic and businesses devaluing writers because they aren’t familiar with the power of the right words.

When clients see what the right words can do, though, everything changes.

Smart businesses value copywriting

To end the disappointing cycle, you need to offer the proper balance of content marketing and copywriting.

As Jerod wrote yesterday:

“Copy’s for closers.”

Once I learned about copywriting, my writing business benefitted in two main ways:

  1. I was able to write copy that persuaded people to hire me.
  2. I had a skill set that justified competitive rates and delivered a return on investment for clients.

If the work you do for a client makes them a profit that exceeds the cost of paying you, everyone wins. You get paid what you’re worth and they are happy to pay high rates for your services.

Copyblogger’s Certification program teaches you how to be the kind of writer that businesses value.

If you’re interested in joining our list of Certified Content Marketers who we recommend to businesses, make sure to add your email address at the end of this post. You’ll be the first to know when the program reopens to new students.

3 resources to help you take control of your writing career

If you’re anything like I was, you’re looking for enjoyable, artistic writing work, but you’re also disciplined and practical.

So, you’re asking yourself questions like:

  • What types of new clients would I like to retain in the next year?
  • Am I open to learning new skills to attract those types of clients?
  • How can I prioritize the different steps I need to take?

You may even be thinking about possibilities down the road like becoming a different type of entrepreneur or joining a larger organization. (I joined the Copyblogger team after running my freelance business for six years.)

Here are three resources that will help you bridge the gap between the writing career you have now and the one you want in the near future.

7 Real-World Ways to Think Like an Artist for Better Content Marketing

"We make good sentences by starting with awful sentences." – Sonia Simone

Somewhere along the line, we got the idea that marketing was another word for lies. Don’t buy it.

Smart marketers don’t accept the excuse of “It’s just marketing” to hide the truth or produce crummy work that benefits no one.

Wise marketers embrace art as integral to what they do, as much as strategy and execution are.

5 Writing Techniques that Stir Your Audience to Action

"You’ve got to stir something in them before they’ll do something." – Brian Clark

Emotion moves us to act.

In fact, the Latin root for the word emotion means “to move,” because emotions motivate what we do. We don’t necessarily want to make them seethe with anger or burst into tears, though.

The goal is not necessarily to get someone to feel, but rather to want — and to act on that want.

How to Run a Sustainable Writing Business (Where the Backbone of Success Is Simply … You)

"Knowing the business of writing and content marketing gives you an advantage over other (directionless) writers." – Stefanie Flaxman

The success of a writing business depends on so much more than your ability to write.

It’s often difficult to balance writing for your existing clients and attracting new clients. Consequently, your writing income may vary at different times throughout the year and the work you love to do never quite feels sustainable.

Whether you’re just starting your writing business, or you’ve been building it for a while and are hoping to make it more financially secure, these 15 tips support a healthy, productive solopreneur venture.

Writers: Looking for even more proven ways to position yourself for greater success?

Our Certified Content Marketer training is a powerful tool that helps you learn new writing strategies and position your business for greater success.

We’ll be reopening the program to new students very shortly — add your email address below to get all the details. Registration will be open for a limited time, so procrastination is not advised. :)

Find out when our Certified Content Marketer training program reopens:

The post The Career-Expanding Discovery Many Profitable Writers Have Made appeared first on Copyblogger.

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Stop calling ‘ad tech’ advertising

Advertisers are investing heavily in ad tech, but contributor Daniel Meehan points out that even highly targeted advertising using the latest algorithms and audience data won’t accomplish anything if the advertising format, message and creative are not engaging.

Please visit Marketing Land for the full article.

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When ‘Fear’ Works & When it Backfires

Fear works.

Except for when it doesn’t.

There’s no better way to force prospects to pay attention than by striking the fear of God into them. It interrupts patterns and interests the unaware.


That doesn’t mean it always works.

In fact, in many cases using fear or negative messaging can actually backfire.

Here’s why, and how to do it correctly.

Why do we do what we do?

We used to be cavemen. Cavewomen too.

At least, that’s what science says.

In these primitive times, there was no cold brew. No netflix. No alco… well, there was probably something fermented of some sort.

But there were harsh conditions. The environment was unstable. And they were constantly surrounded by scary beasts.

So life was probably pretty straight-forward. Here’s the GTD ‘next action’ list of a caveperson millions of years ago:

  1. Don’t get eaten.
  2. Don’t fall off a cliff.
  3. Find food.
  4. Fornicate. (Hey — we all got here somehow. This is science people!)

Today we’re not much different. Except monsters and cliffs have been replaced by bosses and email respectively.

Pain and pleasure are the primary motivators of human behavior. Humans gravitate towards pleasure while avoiding that which causes pain.

Fear is a stressor; a reaction to anything that’s threatening, dangerous, or likely to cause pain. Which explains why fear-based messaging has long been used in marketing and advertising: People don’t want pain. Triggering their fear for pain incites them to action.

A reported 25% of Americans have “high stress levels,” with another 50% reporting “moderate stress.”

Stress signals can chemically alter your brain. Your emotional processor (the amygdala) sends bright, flashing WARNING signs to your critical command center (the hypothalamus), which instantly decides whether you should run like hell or suit up like a gladiator.

hypothalamus cerebral cortex amygdala areas in brainImage Source

But response to fear is highly personal, the same way not all fear are created equal. What George will run away from John may tackle with gusto. Different people react to the same stressful situation differently (or ‘fight’ vs. ‘flight’).

And here’s the kicker.

The Harvard Health Publications says that “chronic activation of [the ‘fight or flight’] survival mechanism” is bad for the health. You don’t want to be that company people associate with negativity. Therefore, incessant badgering of your target audience with fear-based marketing can be catastrophic for your company’s overall brand health.

Even though it almost always works in the short-term.

Does fear-based marketing work?

Yes. Fear-based marketing works.

(Wow that was easy. On to the next section…)

Just kidding, but seriously. It does.

Turns out Gordon Gekko was onto something: Greed, and its inverse, fear, does matter.

(What — you think the stock market goes up and down based on math alone? Don’t make me laugh.)

Inciting fear has been proven to be the absolute best way to grab attention. And in a world where millions of blog posts go out and trillions of emails are sent daily, grabbing attention is freaking critical!

Exhibit A comes courtesy of ConversionXL which comes courtesy of QuickSprout (there’s a meta joke in here somewhere):

fear vs how to headline

The first subject line resulted in a 65% conversion lift. You see this so often that it’s not even surprising anymore.

Here’s Victoria’s Secret emphasizing how long this deal is going to last — three times on the same page:

  1. “Ends tomorrow!”
  2. “Today only!”
  3. “Last Day!”

victoria's secret 3 deals on one page

(Yes, this is just a bad excuse to conduct “research” on Victoria’s Secret’s website.)

So yes. Fear works.

There’s no going around that. So might as well give credit where credit is due. However, while it does work… you can only push it to a point. Go beyond that point and it’s sure to backfire.

Messaging based on fear isn’t empowering. It’s not always delightful. It’s fo sho clickbait-y. It manufactures urgency to re-create a ‘fight or flight’ response.

And sometimes can be perceived as dishonest.

But can fear backfire?

Fear works… until it doesn’t.

Until it backfires and works against you.

Several experiments from (again, searching for a meta joke) have proven this time and time again.

First up, two tweets.

One with a “positive, empowering message” and another that focused on the pain of potential loss. Turns out, the first fun loving one won. (Say that ten times fast.)

positive vs pain tweetImage Source

Next up, a CTA. The first was negative and fear based. The second focused on “peace of mind.”

CTA test negative vs peace of mindImage Source

Once again, the positive message was victorious.

Ok one last example. Norton antivirus compared two campaigns: one that incited fear vs. another that tried to “empower” customers.

fear vs customer empowermentImage Source

And the winner?

customer empowerment winning messageImage Source

Incredibly, the soft, touchy, feely one won. And check out that difference!

So… WTF. What’s going on? One minute fear works. And the next it doesn’t. What’s going on? posits:

“The most effective marketing campaigns focus on the impact of action, rather than the result of inaction. Our goal is to create positive (non negative) momentum in the psychology of our customer’s mind.”

Turns out that while fear works wonderfully in order to first get attention, it starts to backfire when it comes to a transaction.

When you optimize for sales from customers (and not just emails or blog post headlines) the nuance appears. That context can make all the difference.

Fear can also backfire during certain times of the year. For example, the holidays. During this blissful time, positive emotions tend to fare better.

A Fractl study in the Harvard Business Review, visually illustrates this. The most shared content related most to anticipation, surprise, trust, and joy (so happiness overall). While fear-based ones were a ghost town.

most shared contentImage Source

Focusing on what people are going to get during this time pays off. (As opposed to what they might miss out on or the ‘cost of inaction’).

Why people want (to buy) reassurance

People don’t need your thing.

So there’s only one reason they buy: to solve a pain point. One that kinda bothers them but isn’t life or death.

What they don’t want, is to be disappointed. They don’t want to take a chance on your thing and be sorry they purchased it. They want to know it’s going to work like it should. It (and you) will be there when it (and you) should.

Fear mongering sometimes crosses that line. Exhibit B comes courtesy of a Gallup poll that showed car salesmen are trusted more than your local politicians (and at this rate, the White House most likely, too).

That’s why 81% of people look to peers for decision making (as opposed to branded messages).

So there’s a line. Somewhere. Under all of those fear-based headlines.

Fear works wonderfully at capturing attention. There’s almost nothing better. But… too much, too often can be harmful.

Negative messaging might pique the interest of those ‘cold’ prospects who lack need awareness (for your product or widget). Fear makes them sit up and take notice. It makes them realize — for the very first time — that they might have a problem that needs to be solved.

Outbrain ran a study on 65,000 paid links in order to find out which worked best: positive or negative messages (in syndicated ads).

The results weren’t even close. Negative ones crushed it (by 60%).

positive vs negative superlatives in titles

Sometimes, people need that shot of adrenaline in order to stop and pay attention.

fear based messaging in breast cancer advertisementImage Source

But ‘warmer’ ones who already ‘get it’ don’t need the same heavy-handed approach.

Another study compared a few different headlines. They were:

  1. Passionate about betting? We are too.
  2. Make More Money on Your Bets — Get Free Betting Tips
  3. Stop Losing Money on Your Bets — Get Free Betting Tips

Unsurprisingly by now, the second and third (positive and negative) ones dominated the first generic one.

But… the positive message outperformed the negative one.

betting expert headline testsImage Source

The positive one focused on what people were going to get (as opposed to what they were going to lose out on).

That’s where you back off a bit. Switch the value proposition to what your widget will bring them (as opposed to what NOT having it will do to them). Otherwise it becomes overkill. And it backfires.

old sledgehammer resting on table


Fear-based messaging works. In many cases.

It plays upon our evolutionary biology; stimulating our fight or flight response in order to get us to take notice.

However… it also requires the right context. Many studies have shown that negative message works wonders when you’re targeting people who might be unaware of what your widget does. Unaware that they even have a problem or need for what you do in the first place.

But. When it comes to ‘warmer’ traffic who does understand, fear can backfire.

These people see through the fear mongering. They’re looking for reassurances instead. They want the truth. They want to know what they’re going to get out of it. The value or end result.

About the Author: Brad Smith is the founder of Codeless, a B2B content creation company. Frequent contributor to Kissmetrics, Unbounce, WordStream, AdEspresso, Search Engine Journal, Autopilot, and more.

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