June 11, 2015 | Sarah Danks

Hey hey! So remember when I told you about the Unbounce Feast in Chicago? Well, I think I’ve finally recovered from the food coma set about by the pure ambrosia of the event…yes, I realize it’s June 11th and that was June 5th. Cut me some slack — it was pretty intense!

Without further ado, here’s my recap of Friday’s events: the Unbounce Conversion Road Trip: Chicago Edition!


11am at the Gene Siskel Film Center
We grabbed our badges, waltzed past the concession stand (we were at a movie theater, after all) and photo “booth” area. Along the walls were tables and chairs upon which to sit and chat (or plug in a laptop and get some work done). Then there was the swag booth, complete with Moz “post-its,” Unbounce t-shirts (great quality!), and crocheted hats for your cat/bunny/newborn baby.


As tantalizing as the swag was, the next booth was the big hit: the Bing candy table. It looked like it went on forever — a myriad of orange candy choices, including about 20 pounds of orange sorbet Jelly Bellies (which were absolutely scrumpdillyicious! Also the cause of my major sugar high and resultant crash that afternoon).


Beyond the candy was the balloon modeling/twisting guy. For real. Angie Schottmuller not only got him to make her a monkey; she got a lesson on how it was done and made her own. Some other Road Tripper was carrying around a balloon blender, for crying out loud. Pretty sure the balloons were a hit.

Speaking of balloons, pretty soon it was time to find our (theater) seats and get settled in for the conference (all the seats had a big blue balloon attached to the back).

And then Ryan Engley took the stage.


Opening Remarks

Ryan Engley, Director of Customer Success at Unbounce
(AKA Suspenders)

The conference kicked off with a warm welcome, complete with a massive balloon pop (I asked the gentleman sitting next to me to pop mine; the amount of anxiety popping a balloon brings me is slightly more than that of opening a container of biscuit dough).

Also, Ryan was sporting a shiny new Black Hawks jersey (covering up his cute suspenders). He announced that the winner of the PageFights smackdown would win the jersey…

…and also promised not to wear it all day beforehand.


He then introduced Oli Gardner for the day’s first presentation.


The 12-Step Landing Page Rehab Program

Oli Gardner, Co-Founder of Unbounce
(AKA Mr. Landing Page, AKA The ScoTTish Lad) 

By God, don’t forget the Ts on your Scottish accent!

Oli’s not only a co-founder of Unbounce, he’s seen more landing pages than anyone on the planet (most of them pretty f**king awful, to boot). Ergo we can entirely trust the wisdom he imparts (landing pages are also a fetish for him, so…there’s that).

  • Visually, the fear of empty space = horror vacui. But don’t be afraid! Remove distractions to increase conversions.
  • It’s not about pretty design or ugly design — it’s about PERSUASIVE design. Persuasive design converts better.
  • Visual hierarchy = Get people to look at what you WANT them to look at on your site.

Use usabilityhub for usability testing.

“Don’t design to convert MORE customers; design to convert your IDEAL customer.”

Oli then talked about form-first design: the form on your website should basically be able to stand alone — if your visitors saw nothing else but the form, they should know what’s happening/going to happen when they enter their information.

Web form should have these 6 key elements:

  1. form headline
  2. sub-head
  3. benefits
  4. form
  5. CTA
  6. closer

Be aware of this: what we say & what people hear is very different:


Keep your attention ratio down — as it goes down, conversion goes up (don’t put lots of links leading OFF the page, why would you do that?). Also, copy informs design; not the other way around — so write your copy first and then design the landing page to fit the story.

  • Draw a circle around your CTA — does the content within that circle relate to/support it?
  • Deliver on the promise you made before the click.


And, the biggest take-away (in my humble opinion): NSAMCWADLP = Never Start A Marketing Campaign Without A Dedicated Landing Page.

After Oli came a Chicago local: Andy Crestodina.


Content, Conversions and Lead Generation

Andy Crestodina, Co-Founder of Orbit Media
(AKA The Nicest Guy on the Planet)

Andy’s a 12-year veteran of web strategy, a prolific blogger, and he wrote Content Chemistry: The Illustrated Handbook for Content Marketing. I think it’s safe to say this guy’s FAIRLY smart, good at what he does, and again, probably the nicest person you’ll ever meet.

First, he said, every marketer should know the funnel:

  • Awareness
  • Consideration
  • Action
  • Lead / customer

Don’t sell to your audience; help them make a buying decision. Keep in mind your ABCs: Acquisition, Behavior & Conversion

“The greatest trick in marketing is empathy.”

Think to yourself, are we empathetic as marketers? Using data-driven empathy means we can tap into our web visitors’ pain. Because if your website doesn’t have the answer, your users will find one that does. To that end, think of your website as the mousetrap; your content as the cheese (he had a bit of a cheesy theme. Har har).

Remember: Traffic X Conversions = Revenue

Andy also showed us the best website for grilled cheese on planet Earth (it’s the Grilled Cheese Academy, for those of you salivating to know).

Your title tag is your most valuable real estate!

  • Boost traffic quickly by improving SEO on pages that are ranking on Page 2 (you know, where all the dead bodies are stashed)
  • A unicorn cries every time a home page <title> is “Home”
  • Instead, on the home page <title>, tell your audience the website’s MAIN service/offering first; brand yourself second (brand/company name at end of <title>)

Bloggers: link to your new stuff from your old stuff. I mean, how often do we write a post and link to our OLD content in there? All the time — but be sure to link to the post you just wrote. So simple, but so effective.

“Instead of thinking OF your audience, think AS your audience.”

Mr. Crestodina also tossed out some analytics tips:

  • Use analytics data to make informed content decisions
  • Connect your traffic champs to your conversion champs
  • See where someone was right before they converted with the reverse goal path report
  • Looking for keyword queries? They’re in the Google Search Console

Testimonial content is “free” content — not marketing content. USE IT! But, wait. Where’s the worst place to put your testimonials? On the testimonials page!


Put your billboards on the freeways; not on the back roads. I.e., put your best content on the most-trafficked pages (or, as I’m fond of saying, “Don’t put a billboard in a corn field“).

Andy asked, “How much content would it take someone to fall in love with your competitor?” Pause, then his answer, “Publish more than that.”

And don’t forget: where there’s traffic, there’s hope!

After Andy’s animated speech, we got ready to learn about PPC stuff from Erin Sagin.


Hacking CRO, PPC Style: 5 Tips To 3X Your Conversion Rates

Erin Sagin, Customer Success Manager at Wordstream
(AKA Mizz Hulahoop, AKA The Cutest PPC Girl Ever)

Erin, certified in both AdWords and Bing Ads, has consulted on over 2,000 PPC accounts, to the tune of over half a billion bucks in annual ad spend. Is she qualified to talk pay-per-click? If she’s not, then I don’t know who is. Here’s what she had to say (other than thanking me after her preso for smiling up at her from the front row, which made my day).

  • Did you know the top 10% of PPC accounts convert 3-5x higher than the average?
  • Want to target affluent men? Try Bing ads!
  • Take advantage of FOMO (fear of missing out) in PPC — offers, end-dates, anything to create a sense of urgency.

PPC landing page(s) not converting? Maybe you’re bringing in the wrong visitors — pre-qualify them! Show them images/pricing/etc. BEFORE they click, so they know what to expect.

Want to know the power of re-marketing? Getting someone to say “screw it, I NEED this ice cream!” (To the tune of $56.00 worth. Yes, of ice cream.)


While testing is good, Erin says most A/B tests see a small lift at first (say, 5%), but then gains don’t persist. Why? Because people are testing stuff like font types, spacing of content, images, etc. Don’t test stuff like that; you have to make BIG changes to see BIG results.

Bigger is ALWAYS better, she says, so aim for a 3-5x increase, not a 3-5% increase.

So, what’s a good conversion rate actually look like? Top 10% of landing pages have 5x the average rate. FIVE TIMES.

And, of course, her 5 PPC Hacks:

  1. Prime site visitors to convert from the get-go
  2. Experiment with different offers
  3. Change your sign-up flow
  4. Use remarketing to convert abandoners
  5. Revitalize your mobile landing pages

In regards to mobile, Erin says, “fix your mobile landing pages or kiss your performance goodbye!

In a nutshell, this little PPC lady wow’d us with not only her tips but also her use of celebrity images and .gifs!

Next to take center stage was Lance Loveday.


Selective Hearing: When You Should & Shouldn’t Listen to Google To Get Better PPC Results

Lance Loveday, CEO of Closed Loop Marketing
(AKA The Family Man, AKA The Dude Who Sells Houses While Sitting at the Bar)

Lance is a diehard UX guy who loves focusing on those little details that offer the biggest wallop. He co-wrote Web Design for ROI and isn’t just the CEO of Closed Loop; he founded it, too. Beneath his down-to-earth, I’m-a-good-guy exterior lies a dude with a dry and hilarious sense of humor!

Okay, here we go.

The “ideal” settings for most AdWords advertisers = ideal settings for Google to make the most cheddar. Doing what AdWords/Google tells you to do is NOT in the advertisers’ best interests. Bottom line: check your default settings carefully.

For example,

  • Do you focus on the Canadian market? If not, opt out.
  • Do you build display ads? Do you even want to show up on the GDN? Might want to opt out.
  • Do you need broad match?
  • Do you want Google to optimize your ads for you?
  • Do you want Google to bid on your keywords for you?

Also, you can tighten up your AdWords budget by opting out of search network partners (not as great of conversion rates there anyway). Plus, create your own dashboard — make it what you need it to be.


Marketing — or media placement — what COULD go wrong? (Besides everything.)

  • Google’s mobile bid adjustment uses evil UX (think how to set mobile bids. How do I know to click on this dashy thing?)
  • Sometimes AdWords can make you feel “just a little dirty”
  • At a minimum, engage in remarketing and then move into exact match in AdWords

Lance might be a UX guy, but he certainly likes his data:


If you’re running mobile ads, target that traffic specifically. Don’t forget call extensions.

Also, test remarketing! Online marketing’s shifting to other channels — lead generation used to be 92% search; now it’s less than 60%.

You can tell a story with visual ads, test efficacy of image and video ads (and/or mixes of both).

Lance gave us an ah-ha moment when he said: buy your most valuable traffic first. Makes sense when you hear it, but how many of us are doing it?

Up next was Michael Aagaard.


How To Write Copy That Converts: Actionable Insights From 6 Years of Testing

Michael Aagaard, Founder of Content Verve
(AKA The Guy With All the Ink, AKA Parachute Man)

Michael, the online marketer formerly known as the founder of Content Verve, and very soon to be Senior Conversion Optimizer at Unbounce. This Danish dude has done literally thousands of hours of CRO. No big deal.

Oh, and not only is he an awesome speaker, he’s presented in more than 10 countries. He told me he spoke in Indonesia and was only there a total of 18 hours. It took him longer to get TO and FROM that country than the entire time he spent there. Suffice it to say this guy’s serious about imparting his conversion knowledge.

So here’s what he told us in Chicago:

First and foremost. Beware the WYSIATI. What’s that? It stands for What You See Is All There Is.

Basically, people quickly assess a situation based on a few elements. They form opinions quickly on what they see; building their own narrative without searching for additional information (i.e. snap judgment). You know, like someone thinking you’re getting “Hey Ho, Let’s Go!” tattooed on your arm…


If you mention spam on your landing page, your conversion rate WILL drop. Why?

Because the visitor wasn’t even thinking about spam, but then you went ahead and mentioned it, and now it’s all s/he can think about! Also, be careful of what you emphasize. If you HAVE to say spam, don’t bold it, make it all-caps, etc.

The human brain has 2 ways of thinking: intuitive or analytical.

  1. intuitive thinking = “ahhhh”
  2. analytical thinking = “arrrrrrgh”

System 1, or intuitive thinking, happens quickly. It’s an automatic response, emotional, happens in your subconscious. System 2, or analytical thinking, is a slower process. It involves effort, it’s our logical side taking over — it’s a conscious thought process.

“Create a conversion experience that facilitates cognitive ease.”

So, give people the path of least resistance; the easiest way of thinking.


With your copy, don’t make it harder to understand than it needs to be. Why confuse the reader with big words when straight-up telling them what you want is easier for everyone?

Marketing’s sweet spot: the small overlap betwixt the analytical and the creative processes

Personas are great, but usually are the result of a bunch of marketers sitting in a room. Build them off data instead.

You need to pay attention to more than just the landing page. Oh, and my personal favorite:

“Submit” is only a good CTA if you’re a dominatrix.

Next to climb up into the spotlight was Joel Harvey.


Lessons Learned From Mobile Optimization

Joel Harvey, Conversion Scientist
(AKA Not From LA, AKA Ketchup)

Joel’s not only the COO and CRO expert at Conversion Sciences, he’s from the future. Oh, and obviously, as you can see from the lab coat, he’s a scientist. A conversion scientist, that is.


So, lab coat = scientist. Scientist = smart. Smart = 50% less mistakes.

Here’s what Joel had to say about mobile optimization:

  • 50% of everything doesn’t work
  • Best practices = works all the time, everywhere. CRO = finding what works for YOUR unique situation
  • 7-10% of mobile visitors are in landscape mode

Mobile’s your first impression, but it shouldn’t be the LAST. Get an email from mobile visitors. He says responsive templates make (design) decisions for you that aren’t always good. Make sure that you’re giving your mobile users what THEY want; not what YOU think they want.

What should you test (first) on mobile?

  1. sticky headers,
  2. persistent CTAs,
  3. footer content, and
  4. be sure you optimize for the right goals.

iOS does NOT equal Android — behaviors of each vary. When you’re building responsive/mobile sites/pages, test for each of these. In fact, every mobile device = a new website. The way things look/work and what your mobile visitors sees varies depending on screen size and orientation.

Landscape vs. horizontal — how many of your mobile visitors are coming in via each mode? Once there, how many SWITCH? Is it because of a bad/less-than-optimal experience?

Test wifi vs NO wifi (speed). Test on 3G and 4G connections. Also, watch the bottom of your site — look for modals. You know, the pop-up thingy that annoyingly shows up at the bottom of your phone:


Watch out for this! Don’t design so important stuff could get “lost” behind it. 50% of mobile visitors scroll to the bottom of the page — make sure they’ve got something good to see (and CAN see it).


He also likened “mobilegeddon” to “Y2K”. Which is awesome.

Keep in mind: mobile optimization best practices don’t exist (yet). The only way to know what works for you on mobile is to TEST.

Oh, and probably the best thing of his presentation (IMO) was this:

“Avoid really stupid sh*t.”

I mean, c’mon — if marketers heeded that advice, would we really have as many issues as we currently do? (I’m not sure if that’s rhetorical or not.)

Last but not least, Angie Schottmuller took the limelight.


Dress Color & Other Mind-Blowing Physiology Keys to Conversion

Angie Schottmuller, Conversion Optimist
(AKA Hairspray, AKA Mizz StarWars)

Angie’s not only a good friend, she’s an awesome conversion rate optimizer. She was recognized last year by Forbes as one of the “Top 10 Online Marketing Experts to Follow;” was labeled a “Top Conversion Optimization Expert” from 2012-14 by Visual Website Optimizer and Optimizely; speaks at conferences everywhere; contributes articles to SEW, ClickZ and of course Unbounce…

…the list goes on. In a nutshell? This chick knows her CRO stuff. Here’s what she had to tell us.

98% of first-time visitors never come back to your website. So, basically you’re sucking at 1st impressions. Oh, and you’ve only got 17 milliseconds to impress them, by the way.

If you just “throw something up” on your website, you’re going to end up with throw up on your site. That leads to bounces…


…so, if the shoe fits.

She went on to say that we humans process visuals much quicker than copy. I.e., visuals are very important on the web. So, how can you tell if your web page packs a visual punch? Do the 6-foot test: stand 6 feet back from your landing page (on the screen of course) and see how it appears.

PS: your CTA should be the most visual element while doing this. If it’s not, better re-design. Overall, with landing pages, you have to be very clear about what the user is getting. When it comes to conversions, clarity trumps cleverness.

Want a good (and free) landing page assessment test? Ply a friend with drinks and then ask said drunk friend to use the web page. The video she showed us of an actual inebriated — and hilarious — girl doing this was worth the watch.

Some great advice:

  • Hero shot: it’s the easiest first impressive impression.
  • The human eye jumps 3x per second to find new info — so lead them to your CTA.
  • Your home page is NOT for conversion; it’s for segmentation!


Biologically, our eyes are trained to look for color complements. Which is why your CTA should ALWAYS be a complementary color to your site’s palette.


Not only should your CTA be a complementary color, it needs to be PURE color (no tints, shades or tone…those colors should only be used for non-CTA stuff).

Unfortunately, due to unforeseen time constraints, Angie was forced to end her presentation early. Granted, we’d already been served up a ton of great information, but the “wow” factor of some of her last slides went virtually un-seen:

Did you know most people use Google Analytics, ergo most people have an incorrect assumption of what bounce rate is? Google’s rate is defined as “a visitor who came to your website and took no further action before backing out again.” Do you know what they define as an “action?”

Clicking something. So, you can read more about this here (wherein I asked Angie’s — and other experts’ — opinion of what bounce rate is), but suffice it to say if you want to track ACTUAL bounce rate, you have to add event tracking to your code in order to be able to do so.

Angie was even nice enough to give you — for FREE — the code with which to do this: http://bit.ly.gaeventtrackingforcro.

After she had to exit stage left, it was time for the final portion of the day…

…a live landing page critique by Angie, Olie, Michael and David Kadavy.


Live Landing Page Smackdown

Angie Schottmuller, Oli Gardner, Michael Aagaard & David Kadavy

Again, due to time constraints, this live PageFights episode happened so quickly I barely had time to blink, much less jot any notes or Tweet anything out.

(Even the Moz note-taker Patrick Delehanty didn’t get a chance to jot down anything other than: “A smackdown the likes of which have never been seen was had.“)

In fact, there was only (barely) enough “time” for these CRO experts to rip apart — I mean, critique — 3 landing pages:

  • http://join.landr.com/music-mastering/ <– winner (I voted for this one)
  • http://offers.xoombi.com/content-promotion-ebook
  • http://kentucky.arccenters.com/

The smackdown ended (of course leaving us all wishing for more), and sadly it was time to leave the theater (there was a movie starting in less than 20 minutes so we had to skedaddle).

But, the good news was, the party was just about to start.


After-Party at 10Pin Bowling

6pm until last person standing.

Unbounce’s generousness continued around the corner to a happy hour(s) at 10Pin Bowling. Not only did they provide an open bar, they had BBQ and burger sliders and chips-and-guac-and-salsa for us to nosh on.


Right when I got there I was enlisted to put name tag stickers on people’s backs — this yes-or-no questions only name-game was most likely attempting to get us talking to one another…


…but frankly, after about 2 hours’ worth of trying to guess who I was, I became exhausted and was forced to eat more sliders and consume more beer. (FYI, turns out I was John Travolta, and yes, it took me no less than 2 hours to guess that. Yet another reason for me to NOT like the man.)

That being said, I had a great time chatting with the people trying to give me clues that I was an ugly, has-been actor!

People bowled, they talked, they laughed, they ate, they drank, and all in all it was a merry time! Everyone really enjoyed themselves; it was super-cool to be able to mingle and yak with the speakers — the celebrities, if you will (and I think you will) — and make new marketing friends.

Not only did attendees of this road trip conference gain some valuable CRO information, we made great connections and had what I think I can safely say was a blast.

Can’t wait for the next Unbounce conference, y’all!


(PS: Thanks to @crestodina for taking this awesome wide-angle pic so I could steal it!)

Until we meet again, new friends, remember: always keep a bottle of ketchup handy.



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