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Powering Business Sites with WordPress

I’m going to tell you a story you’ve probably heard before and it goes like this:

You have a friend who has a shop, a restaurant or a yoga studio. He has heard about the wonders of the Internet and one day, he asks you to help him set up a website for his business.

This is how it plays out in the beginning of your career, but the truth is, nothing really changes and soon enough, you have a new client.

It doesn’t matter if you do it as a favour or for money, you are going to pour your heart and soul into this project because you want them to succeed.

So what do you do?

  • You install WordPress.
  • You find a theme.
  • You paste some content.
  • You tweak the template here and there.
  • You make the client validate the site based on his aesthetic taste.
  • You listen to the client’s meaningless feedback.

The result? The site is online but not really making a difference for the business. The client will never be happy with the website and will say things like:
– “Why didn’t you create a Facebook page? Everybody is on Facebook!”
– “Why am I not the first hit on Google?”
– “What do you mean with which keywords? All of them!”
– “That green is not green enough.”
– “Why isn’t it as cool as this other website?” And then proceeds to show you Amazon.com.

I told you before this was a classic scenario and I’m sure that many of you have experienced it at least once.

A Better Approach

In order to succeed we need to change our attitude and our process. We must be mindful to never detach the business goals from the online presence. This happens way too often and it’s a source of frustration for many businesses that try their hand at online channels.

Let’s take a step back, take a pad of paper, a sharp pencil and let’s work old school:

  • Define reasonable goals.
  • Identify checkpoints and metrics.
  • Measure and improve.

First thing’s first – Business sites

Business site are websites designed to support a traditional business. These businesses primarily serve local clients in the area and they can afford investing a little bit of money in online marketing activities.

Define the goal

The first thing you should do when you acquire a new customer is to ask a simple question: “What do you need the website for?”

Let’s try it all together, repeat after me: “What – Do – You – Need – The – Website – For?”

This is where you’ll get the most surprising answers: To get new clients, to get visitors, to save money on advertising, to sell stuff, to have a URL for the business cards, to compete with Facebook or I don’t know, they told me I needed one!

Your first job is to clarify the goal of the website with your client. It won’t be easy, life isn’t easy. Life is simple, not easy, right? So, the first step is to help your client find out what the primary goal of their website is.

Define checkpoints and metrics: The Growth Funnel
The Growth Funnel is a business tool that serves as a framework to break down the entire relationship businesses have with their customers. It helps us identify where our weak points are and how we can improve our business. It’s a simple 6-step funnel that goes as follows:

Awareness

As soon as people know the shop is open for business we have met this goal. How do we do this? We could, for instance, put flyers up in the neighbourhood. Would that make people aware? Yes. Would that scale as the business grows? Not really. What is the equivalent of flyers in the online world? Display advertisement, local directories, Chamber of Commerce sites, Yellow Pages, Google AdWords, Google Search.

Acquisition

Can we consider people acquired when they visit the website? This is a classic mistake. It’s true if you have an online business, but not when you have physical business location. People are acquired when they call a phone number, they send an email or even better, when they walk into the shop.

Activation

People are activated if they become customers. They can buy something, take their computer in for repairs, lease a big copy machine.

Retention

People are retained if they come back and purchase again. Some people may sign a service contract for support, they may simply take another computer in for support and so on.

Referral

Customers are so happy about the service they tell other people and bring in more customers. They can also be invited to do so by a well-designed referral program.

Revenue

The final goal of every activity is to generate revenue in a sustainable and long-term way.

WOW, I though this was about websites and WordPress and we are all business here. As I said, first thing’s first, there is no business site without a business. Never detach your online strategy from the business you are trying to serve.

Now that we have all our steps in place, what do we do?

Landing pages 101

Imagine you go camping and you are looking for a pocket knife. You go to a shop and what do you ask for? A pocket knife, right?
Good, so the man at the counter shows you this knife, a luxurious kitchen knife, extremely well-designed and well-balanced. Wow, it’s an amazing knife, but would you take it with you to go camping? Of course not.
Oh, sorry, says the guy, you’re going camping, right? Then he shows you a top-of-the-line pocket knife with every tool under the sun and then some.

So why do you always settle for the first two options when you set up a website: A site so beautiful that it is basically useless or a website so packet with features that you can barely find what you are looking for.

Websites are tools, they need to be useful. Then they can be beautiful and eventually full of features. But first of all they need to be useful.

A business site, to be useful, needs to do one job and one job only: Get people through the door. How? By providing enough information, trust and reliability to the visitor and we do that with powerful landing pages.

100% of the traffic we care about comes from another site. They can be coming through display advertisement, directories, partners but most of all from Google AdWord or Google organic search. Direct traffic is not so important for conversion because if someone knows how to reach your website directly, then they are already willing to walk in the door.

In order to convert visitors into customers we need to have killer landing pages, each one of them sharply refined down to the very last pixel.

What do we need on every landing page?

A phone number
Big, easy to spot and clickable. Don’t shake your head, this is the most valuable thing you can put on the site. People trust phone numbers and will call. The phone number must be marked up in the code and clickable.

The address of the shop
Make it prominent. Don’t put a map, put an address and eventually a link to Google Maps. Maps slow down the page and nobody will ever use that map. People can click on the address if they need to.

Opening hours
It’s very important if you want people to show up. Phone numbers, addresses and opening hours must be marked up so Google can pick them up and show them on maps and local business listings. There are plugins that can do the job for you. For instance WordPress SEO by Joast does all of this.

Basic information about what people are looking for.
If you have a set of products or services, every product must have a dedicated page, with a clear call to action, like call or send an email.

These are basics, but just try to remember how many of the sites you visit do these basics right.

It should go without saying you need a responsive theme because if you cut off your mobile visitors you are out of business in no time.

A clear call to action
Define your call to action and put it on the landing page. It must be one and one only. Don’t pack landing pages with links and stuff. Just tell people what to do to contact you. It can be a phone call, or sending an email.

Measure all things

You cannot improve anything if you can’t measure it. So let’s start by measuring things. A few metrics are easy to measure, others are very difficult. We are dealing with a local business so we just need to focus on those easy-enough metrics that can be leveraged and make a real difference. Who is the king of online metrics? Exactly Google Analytics. We are going to see Analytics a lot here.

Acquisition

How many people call, send emails or walk into the shop and more specifically how many of them are coming from the website?

Three ways to have a pretty accurate estimate:
– Ask new clients how they found out about you.
– Have a full event tracking on Google Analytics. When people click on the email address or the phone number, track it.
– The hook: If you mention a special discount on your website, have people who walk in mention it.

Retention

One of the best ways to keep your customers engaged is to offer them a newsletter. Email marketing is really powerful. WordPress offers many ways to engage your readers via email:
– Jetpack offers email subscription to your content.
– Mailchimp for WordPress is a powerful plugin that integrates Mailchimp with your website, allowing you to have powerful email campaigns.

Once again, it’s very important to measure not just how many emails you send, the open rate and the click rate. What really matters is how many people come back to the business. Measure everything!

Design – Test – Verify – Improve

Here comes the most powerful advice of all: Test your assumptions. I know you are skilled developers, talented designers and amazing code poets but don’t take anything for granted when it comes to business sites. You know your audience but most of the time you know nothing about your client’s clients. Try different designs, different flow, and most of all iterate often on landing pages.

Design – Test – Verify – Improve – Iterate Fast.

Rethink business sites. Next time you have to deal with a business site remember these three things:

  • Define reasonable goals.
  • Measure all the things.
  • Online and offline go together.

One more thing…

Don’t be afraid of offering seemingly old-school solutions to your clients. The only thing that matters is offering valuable support for the business they’re running. Most of the time, they’re still stuck in the 70s. Taking them to 1995 with a solid email marketing strategy connected to their site can be a real game-changer. You don’t need ello for that!

Author: Luca Sartoni – Copy editor: Andrea Zoellner

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My presentation at WPVienna: “Elements of CRO”

Last night I presented “Elements of CRO” at Vienna WordPress Meetup. It was a great night with interesting questions e such a nice vibe. If you are in Vienna and you love WordPress you should join us. Check out the meetup group and join the gang, big things are coming up!

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The Rules of A/B Testing by Tyler Durden

1st Rule: You don’t talk about A/B Testing.

Don’t tell your visitors they are part of an A/B test. It would contaminate the test and would make them feel awkward. Try to hide the test as much as you can. If you have redirects or URL parameters showing up, make them not too obvious to the visitors.

2nd Rule: You DO NOT talk about A/B Testing.

Stop talking and start testing. Way too much time is spent discussing what to test and how to test and not enough time is actually spent testing stuff. Start small and iterate. Every minute without testing is a lost opportunity to learn something.

3rd Rule: If someone says “stop” or goes limp, taps out the test is over.

If you are testing on a large environment and someone reports an issue somehow related to your test, you stop it immediately. You fix the problem and then you start a new test. Tests need to be seamless, they should not disrupt the daily business.

4th Rule: Only two variations to a test.

If you’re not a master at testing, stick to a simple A/B test. Multi-variant tests are very difficult to master and require much longer to be statistically significant.

5th Rule: One test at a time.

Make sure you are running isolated tests. Keep them simple and iterate fast.

6th Rule: No header, no footer.

A/B testing works best if you limit your scope to simple elements of design or content. A/B test your copy, your images, your buttons. Only when you are a master try with complete user flows and bigger elements.

7th Rule: Tests will go on as long as they have to.

Significance, significance, significance. Keep your tests running as long as you have a statistical significance. Don’t cut corners and don’t cut tests short. It’s a good rule to keep tests running for a whole week, at least, in order to avoid short term seasonality in users’ behaviors.

8th Rule: If this is your first approach at A/B Testing, you HAVE to test stuff.

The only way to get good tests is to test often and fail quickly. Don’t spend too much time refining things at the very beginning, work on low hanging fruits and then work on the details, but definitely go and test NOW!

More about Tyler Durden

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How to Design Growth: Growth Hacking 101 at Seedcamp in Rome

Introduction: this presentation was performed on the 5th of June 2014, at Seedcamp in Rome. I want to thank Seedcamp, the organisation, Nicola Mattina, Giuliano Iacobelli, Carlos Espinal and my company, Automattic, for giving me the opportunity to speak in front of such a great audience.

Growth Hacking 101

Good afternoon! My name is Luca Sartoni, I work at Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com and many other products and today I’m gonna introduce you to Growth Hacking.

How many of you are from Rome, the eternal city? A couple of hours from here there is a lovely town called Assisi, where many many years ago San Francis used to shock the system with his unorthodox approach to religion.

Many of you, know this prayer, attributed to him:

“Lord, grant me the strength to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.”

How many of you knew this prayer before?

So, it turned out that this prayer was mistakenly attributed to San Francis, while in reality it was written by Reinhold Niebuhr, an american theologist about 700 years after.

You know, Abraham Lincoln was right when he said:

“The problem with quotes found on the internet is you have no way of confirming their authenticity.”

If the Internet tricks us on simple attribution of quotes, how can we make good decisions as entrepreneurs?
How can we focus on what matters and make the right choices if we don’t know what is right and what is wrong?

How many of you are entrepreneurs? How many of you have a startup?

So I have a question for you: what is a startup?

Paul Graham, Co-founder of Y-combinator seed capital firm defined a startup as a company designed to grow fast.

How to design growth

Adaptation

There are things that we can’t control. We have to deal with it. I know that it’s difficult to accept it as a fact, but this is how reality works. We cannot change how people behave, how people nurture and cultivate their interests, how they interact with devices and interfaces. Of course we can come up with interesting elements of design, we can dramatically change people’s life. Just imagine how Apple impacted our world since the introduction of the iPhone in 2007. But they just didn’t show up one day out of the blue. There were years of research and development, a strong vision and hard work.

In a single sentence: “Growth is a matter of culture”.

Culture

So first element for a strong growth by design is education. Hire diversity and focus on all the abilities that as a technical team probably you lack of.

At WordPress we say: “code is poetry”. That wants to be an inclusive statement. Everybody should be included in your developmentm process. Every single diverse input is precious and you cannot even imagine to start a global project if you don’t have those elements of contamination in your company’s DNA.

Hire anthropologists, philosophers, artists. Give them a technical platform and education. Teach them code, let them contaminate your company and you’ll have much more chances to succeed. You cannot a afford to have an solid technology company if you just rely on pure technology, you need people to resonate with other people.

Make sure that everybody understands how growth is relevant to their sigle contribution to the company and how they can deliver a better product.

A common misconception is that growth is all about user acquisition or all about revenues. This is dead wrong. It depends and it’s a case to case deal. There are projects that make sense to focus on acquisition only, other project are focused on revenues, other on more strategical indicators. This is something you need to define and then be honest to yourself.

If you jump from one metric to the other depending on what is good this week, you are not going very far. It can work for a few months but it’s not gonna work on the long run. Be honest with yourself and define your key metrics. They can change, but only as a result of a pivoting, not as a consequence of the weekly performance report.

In order to design your growth you need a scientific approach, contaminated with all the possible diversity you can. But the core of your approach needs to be mainly scientific.

Which tools we can borrow from science and apply to growth?

Tools

Let’s have a look at three must-have tools for growth: A/B tests, usability tests and sliding windows.

How many of you are familiar with A/B tests? Very simple: given a population, we randomly assign them to groups (bucketing) and we try different design elements or flows according to the groups they belong to. We analyse the results and we determine which element or flow worked best.

There is an entire universe behind A/B testing, and there are many cognitive traps you can fall into. So please study and improve your A/B testing processes. But let me give you three quick tips on how to avoid the classic mistakes: seasonality, meaningful measurement of impact, micro optimisation fallacy.

Weekly seasonality: it does not matter how much traffic you have, people on monday afternoon behave differently than on thursday morning. I always run tests for a week, at least. This helps me to have more complete sample of the population and helps to reach the statistical significance.

Meaningful measurement of impact: let’s say you have a complete marketing funnel like this, from awareness to revenues. Let’s say you run a test on the signup interface in order to increase activation. If your test involves a specific point of the funnel, use a relevant metric within the same segment of the funnel. If you measure revenues, for instance, there is a high chance to have meaningless results because many other variables are able to influence that metric.

Micro optimisation fallacy: this is a tricky one because it is a direct consequence of the previous step. If you do it right measuring within the same step of the funnel, there is a good chance that one day or the other you fall into this fallacy. This happens when you reach points of relative optimisation and you don’t realise that there are better opportunities just because you have a short sight. How to overcome this? Strong vision, bold decisions and experience.

Usability tests are big helpers on this. Are you familiar with usability tests?

They are easy to explain, very difficult to perform correctly.

You simply take real people and you ask them to try out your product. You ask them to perform key tasks and you study how they behave. Is sounds simple, right? Well, it’s not THAT simple but with a few tips you can get good results from the very first test.

Usability tests help you to find roadblocks and major fails. So, when it’s the right time to run usability tests?

When your site is ready for going live? NO
When your producs is almost ready for shipping? NO
When you MVP is almost ready? NO

The sooner the better! Ask people to try out stuff as soon as you have the idea. Ask them what they think of it. Gather costructive criticism as soon as you can.

As soon as you have a piece of interface, let them go through it, and keep looking where they get stuck. And then ask them why they got stuck.

The big advice I want to give you here is: don’t listen to them when they tell you how it should be done. I know, it sounds awkward but it’s true. If they were able to make it better, they probably would have made it better before you. They are not your engineers, they are your testers, so listen to them carefully about the problems they had, but most of the time their solutions are simply not good enough and they are not the right people for that.

Judge them by facts, not by their words. So if they say that something was easy to perform, don’t trust them. Measure how much time they spent on it and compare it with other people’s performances. When they find a major roadblock or say that something is broken, ask them questions to understand why they find it broken, not on how to fix it.

The third and last tool it’s important to know it’s very trivial. But very tricky at the same time: sliding windows.
Always compare metrics on a 28 days basis. This way you always include 4 weeks of data, you don’t have longer and shorter months and the comparison is always normalised.

Just to wrap up, let’s have a look at the serenity prayer, with a modern growth twist:

“Grant me the ability to adapt to the things I cannot change,
the culture to change the things I can,
and the right tools to know the difference.”

Thank you very much, if you have any question, drop a comment.