Inside a Marketers’ Mind: Introducing the new bg Theory site with explanations of our redesign
When we first launched bg Theory almost two years ago, we did so very quickly. In less than a week, we had a site, company infrastructure, servers, and revenue.
Since I knew WordPress very well, we used WordPress as our CMS. I took a blog template I liked and spent a day modifying the CSS and other files.
When we first launched, our offers were mostly focused on in-house training and the AdWords Seminars. Over the past two years, I’ve written a book, changed the seminars from a one day to two day product, and we’re adding a brand new AdWords training and PPC tools product.
As we added or changed each product, I just kept adding new custom pages. Our WordPress install became so convoluted that we had:
- 8 page templates
- 2 blog templates
- 3 headers
- 3 footers
- 4 sidebars
In the interest of time, as like most of you, we are overly busy – these templates were calling php includes, iFrames, etc, and just becoming more and more complex to try and keep straight, let alone update properly.
And just like many marketers, we fell into a similar trap. Our work was much better for people we worked with than ourselves.
Some simple rules of conversions that everyone should follow:
- Each page should have a primary goal.
- A page might have more than one goal, two or three is OK – more than that overwhelms people
- The most real estate on your pages should be dedicated to your primary goals, the second amount of page space to your secondary goals, etc
- Every page of your website is a segmentation page until someone converts.
- Information should be clear and concise.
- Easy-to-read and digest information is more important than a gorgeous website design.
- Easy-to-read also means that your links and content should be easy to read for those who are color blind (color blindness is more common than many people think), or need to view webpages in larger font sizes than your default
- Each page of your site should provide value for your company
- We have some blog posts which have over 78,000 views, and many with over 10,000 views yet our blog was not well monetized
- I’m not a hard sell person – I prefer to educate and let the revenue follow (your monetization efforts might be different – that’s OK)
- However, our blog was not leading to many conversions (the revenue was nice; just not what it should be for our page views)
- Tracking is essential. If you can’t track something then you can’t optimize it.
When I examined our analytics to look at revenue by page and traffic source combination (this examines each page and who sent you the traffic, one without the other is useless) and made sure we had at least 500 visitors for each combination. We had some combinations where the value was nearly $0.00 and other’s where the value was nearing $50 (and if you filter to only include at least 100 visitors minimum some combinations were nearing $100). That’s a dramatic difference across a site.
It became even worse when examining some traffic sources where their value was nearly $0.00 on some pages, and more than $20 on other pages.
That is too much of a variance. Some of your pages will be worth very little, and some of your traffic sources are worth very little.
A traffic source often shows the quality level of visitors. The pages show quality level of conversion potential. Large variances need to be examined and improved if possible (and some pages will always be low or some always high).
Define Your Company
Not enough marketers really define their primary goals.
- An agency
- A consultant
- A full service bid management company
- A design company
While we do consulting, speaking, in-house training, etc – our primary mission is to empower as many companies as possible with the information necessary to make their online marketing efforts successful.
Our primary goal is not to get consulting clients, or even in-house training. While those two objectives lead to revenue – it’s not scalable revenue.
Our goal is to empower as many companies as possible. Therefore, we want to highlight the ways we scale PPC learning:
- Advanced AdWords Book
- AdWords Seminars for Success
- The new project about to launch: Certified Knowledge – online, on-demand training & tools
How will you reach your audience?
Once you’ve decided what your company does, you need to determine how you will reach your audience.
This step is the coordination of your website and your marketing channels.
For instance, with the seminars, Google links directly to our seminar pages. Since Google is passing some of their credibility to us – the seminar pages do not need to offer as much credibility nor showcase different offers because someone came to the site looking for a specific offer. Therefore, we mostly focus on testimonials.
Coordinating your marketing channel with your design
If you are doing email marketing, are your landing pages extensions of the email offer?
If you have a blog, which often pulls traffic from various sources, do you show your offers on those pages to try and monetize the traffic? Do you show some credibility items on those pages to showcase why a reader should be engaged with (or even link to) your company?
If you are doing PPC, you have extensive control of the landing page – so are you controlling the message and navigation to increase conversions?
Even for SEO, you might create certain aspects of your pages to ensure that your pages can be crawled and rank; however, traffic for traffic’s sake is useless. Traffic that converts is useful. Even your SEO focused pages should be aligned with your company’s goals.
Credibility Does Matter
There are a lot of affiliate offers in the marketing training space. As many of you have seen, there are promises of internet riches that can be accomplished with a website and a week of work. When an offer seems to good to be true…
Therefore, we need to showcase why we’re different than the other get-rich-quick schemes.
Obviously, if Google is promoting the seminars directly – than we can use some of that credibility.
I wrote a book published by Wiley/Symbex (the publishers of the dummies, hour a day, and mastering series – not some random publishing house); and while it is revenue generation – a published book is also a credibility element (in addition, the foreword is by Fred Vallaeys, the Google AdWords Evangelist).
I have more than a decade of experience, and have worked with many types of companies – so we need to highlight the experience.
Some ways in which you might be able to increase credibility include:
- BBB member
- Association membership
- VeriSign logo
- Reviews & testimonials from your users
- Industry certifications
Bringing it all together – The New Site
Our new site is not quite finished yet. We will be making a few more improvements ov
er the next couple months; and redesigning our logo sooner than later. However, the main design has changed significantly and built around the rules up top.
First off, you must know the limitations and features of your content management system. While hand coding all your HTML will give you the most control over every aspect of your site – it’s too much work for most people. Therefore, we’re still using WordPress.
Before you should start your design, list your constraints:
- Time: I did not want to spend more than two days redesigning the site
- As I’m personally putting many thousands of dollars into Certified Knowledge (and having a custom design created for the site which will go live in a few weeks); I wanted to do the bg Theory redesign cheaply
- Because of the time limit; I wanted to use the same CMS so that I did not have to import a database into a new system and have to go through the entire site to fix problems
- Because of the money limitation; I wanted to find a basic WordPress template that fit the needs and then I could recode the CSS and pages myself (with a max of two days of work).
- I wanted a different sidebar based upon where someone was in the site.
- I wanted some pages without a sidebar (which I can make happen by changing the calls inside a WordPress page).
- I only wanted one sidebar. Our previous site had two sidebars which lead to too much information on a single page – breaking the rule of a goal per page.
- As our seminar and speaking schedules are always updating, it was imperative that it was very easy to update these schedules.
- The old site had custom pages that were built off of 880px width that we did not want to find and re-code. Therefore, the new site had to be at least 880px wide (in fact, this turned out to be one of the biggest changes for the template as we had to widen everything).
I did some research, picked a theme that I liked (in fact, it’s the placeholder theme for Certified Knowledge); and started customizing.
Here’s the decisions I made along the way in choosing how to layout the custom elements of the design.
Our desktop site (we have a mobile version as well) is broken down into a handful of items that we can customize:
The header: The main links across your site
- We don’t link to all the pages of our site. We choose only a handful for very specific reasons:
- Home: Everyone wants to see a home page navigation
- Blog: Our main source of traffic, a nice source of credibility, and the reason many people come back to the site
- AdWords Seminars: Our top product and top credibility source
- PPC Tools & Training: Our newest product and one we want to start promoting
- AdWords Book: Our lowest revenue product, but second highest credibility product
- Speaking: This one was a choice. We could have put up our consulting or in-house training link just as easily as speaking. However, speaking is both a credibility issue and marketing opportunity.
- As I personally have more than 600 hours of public speaking experience (and that counts speaking at a single SES or SMX session as only a few minutes – that 600 hours is actual time spent standing in front of a group and actually interacting with them); this seems a natural fit.
- Contact: Obvious choice; make it easy for people to contact you (also why we have the phone number on every page)
- About: Learn about why you should choose our marketing products
- We have many more pages we could have added to this navigation. However, we choose to slim down the choices that help fit our main marketing objectives: To educate as many businesses as possible about marketing. So every page is about marketing, credibility, or contacting us. So even pages such as ‘subscribe to the blog’ are not on the main navigation. If someone’s in the blog we will push this, but not when they are in other pages looking up marketing training. In pages like that; the subscribe link is a distraction.
- We wanted the phone number on every page for customer support requests
- We wanted a search box across the entire site that was highly visible as our site is often searched
I’m not a designer; I’m a coder and marketer. Therefore, the logo is not what will be there in a few weeks. It’s a placeholder logo to match the feel of the site; but something else will replace that section of the header.
The Main jQuery
This is the big blue section That links to ‘Certified Knowledge,’ ‘AdWords Seminars’, ‘Advanced Google AdWords Book’ and then has the rotating images; which are also links into those various pages.
- The images within the jQuery are linked to actual pages. The images rotate automatically. Therefore, the images were chosen based upon what we’re trying to promote.
- We have 4 images for Certified Knowledge – our scalable revenue.
- We have 1 image of me, for credibility.
- We have 2 images of our seminars; our current highest revenue and since they are supported by Google – also have credibility.
- We have 2 images for the book; again credibility and some revenue (and since the book has coupons for the seminars and Certified Knowledge, we can also pull a higher monetization from the book sales)
- Not all people will realize that you can click on those images to be taken to an internal page. Therefore, in most of the images we added buttons so people would realize they could be clicked.
- Even the real estate devoted to the jQuery is in-line with our site’s conversion goals.
- Normally, I’d tell someone this is too much. You have three products – pick one that’s your primary, another one that’s your secondary, etc. However, our seminars are location based so not everyone can attend. The book is low revenue; but high credibility. Certified Knowledge is scalable revenue. Therefore, we used the links and images to showcase our various products and credibility across many pages.
- Since the seminars are well known; our main secondary objective (besides revenue) is to increase awareness of these other products.
The question then became: where do we add this big header across our website?
The jQuery appears on the main page; which makes sense as your home page should be a segmentation page that shows what you do and provides easy navigation further into your site. In the case of our site, if we were to count all the links on the homepage; which is 20; 6 are for Certified Knowledge, 4 are for the seminars, 3 are for the book, etc. So even the number of possible paths is in-line with where we want to increase our visibility
It appears on the
blog pages so that these previously under-monetized pages will help create additional visibility for the products. The goal of the jQuery on these pages is to increase visibility for our training products. As it’s a blog, the revenue won’t be as high as other pages; however, this will create a lot more awareness for some of our other products. We’ll measure the analytics on these pages to see if it’s successful. If yes, then good. If no, then I’ll work on a different blog page design.
It does not appear on the AdWords Seminar pages. These pages receive a lot of traffic directly from Google’s website. Since the jQuery steals attention away from the page; we wanted the seminar pages to have as high a conversion as possible so decided not to add it to those pages.
It does appear on the other pages of the site at present. As Certified Knowledge and the book both lead to other websites, it made sense to showcase credibility on our other training methods and increase awareness, especially for the book and Certified Knowledge as they are new products. Over time, we’ll measure the effectiveness of the jQuery on these pages and either remove it or change it to be more specific to particular pages.
The Blog Sidebar
- People read blogs for information first.
- Blogs can be monetized, but it’s often a longer process.
- Blogs do increase credibility.
- The top of the sidebar is about sharing information. Make it easy to pass your content around. This is also expected on a blog site; so makes sense to highlight it.
- Information sharing is also important for credibility. These days, people expect marketers to be on FaceBook and Twitter – therefore, while it’s another conversion type (and we are tracking all social clicks to 3rd party sites); it also helps to increase credibility for someone who is in marketing.
- The recent posts. Make it easy for people to see other content.
- Blogs we like. Blogrolls and featured links are common on sidebars, and there are sites we think deserve some link love; so we kept this to help engage the community and other blogs.
- The blog has more pages than the rest of the site combined – there are 979 posts. I was worried about our SEO efforts as we’re removing a lot of links from our homepage. Therefore, much of the sidebar is still deep links into categories to flatten out the site crawl.
- As the jQuery is on the blog pages, we decided not to feature the other training methods we have. One thing we will test is adding the upcoming seminar
The Page Sidebar
- This sidebar only appears on pages about training, about us, contact, etc. It does not appear on the blog pages.
- People who are visiting non-blog pages are generally a higher conversion rate for us. They are not just blog readers (not to disparage blog readers – I’m one and the community is essential)
- We did not want to overwhelm these visitors with a long blog sidebar about posts and categories, etc. These visitors are more interested in being trained through a non-blogging source.
- Therefore, as the seminars are the current highest source of revenue; we highlight that schedule first.
- As we offer a lot of training, and some people skip headers (our jQuery) ; we added a sidebar about ‘How do you liked to be trained’ with the options for reading, in-person, on-demand video. We will test this headline and this sidebar extensively to see what increases conversions and interest.
- Social icons. This is our worst conversion activity – leave the site to increase our social followers. However, it is a much better conversion than absolutely nothing (a visitor just leaving the site). And as social does increase credibility for our industry; we added the social icons and are tracking these clicks separate from the same icons on the blog pages.
The Home Page
- This is the most visited page of our site.
- The page needs to easily convey what we do and how someone can get more information on that training type
- We wanted a very clean page that removed just about everything on the page that did not increase revenue
- The page is dominated by the jQuery; which has links and features of our training abilities
- The bottom of the page showcases our top products we want visibility for (our Seminars and Certified Knowledge)
- As many people come to our site for the blog; and this use to be highlighted on the main page, we decided to showcase the new blog posts over the book. The book is in the jQuery; so it is already being showcased to some extent.
- Buttons. Most of the images in the jQuery are buttons, but for those who scroll down further on the page, we added buttons (which often lead to higher CTRs than links) underneath these featured products. However, bloggers are more willing to hunt for information, so the links to the recent blog posts are plain links and not buttons.
- The footer. Basic information.
That’s it. A clean, sparse,, information-packed homepage. We removed a lot of information that use to be on our homepage. We’re tracking every single click on this page to see it’s effectiveness. If an individual element is not effective, then I’ll change it.
The Search Results Page
- Search is used a lot on our site; therefore, we needed to make sure there was a custom search page
- As the vast majority of our search results lead to blog pages; and almost all searches originate on the home page or blog page – we wanted to have this page look like the blog results with the jQuery on top.
- As we measure the profit potential of each page, the jQuery might be removed from this page so that the search results are highlighted without other distractions.
The 404 page
A 404 page is what someone sees when a page cannot be found on the website
No matter how hard you try, on a large website (ours is more than 1000 pages, so medium size) you will have people arriving at broken pages. The trick is to tracking these pages so you can clean up your URLs over time.
- One of the cardinal rules about SEO is that not found pages should return 404 results and not 200 (which means the page exists) OK results
- Therefore, the first aspect was to make sure when someone gets to a not found page is that they see a custom 404 page
- The default WordPress 404 page is not very usable. Therefore, we added a search box and some custom text to the page to make it more friendly
- We’re tracking all 404 results so we can see if it’s an internal link issue or other reason people arrive at these pages
Top Product Pages
We have a significant amount of testimonials both in written and video formats for our seminars. These pages sometimes run at greater than a 10% conversion rate. We’ve tested layouts and messages with them over the past two years, so we really did not want to mess with these pages at the moment.
Therefore, these pages do not call our sidebars or the jQuery. These pages are focused around conversions.
Some interesting stats on the event pages:
- When someone watches at least one video at the top of the page, they generally watch more than 6 minutes of information (which is testimonials and other interviews, etc that we’ve done).
- As the benefit message (in the videos) and the registration form are above the fold; but the page is very long; we have the same signup process at the bottom of the page. Adding the signup at the bottom of the page increased conversion rates. Adding the signup form in the middle of the page did not significantly impact conversions.
For the main seminar page:
- We currently have three instances where someone can click from the overview page to an individual event page. We originally had two; and after testing we found that the third even listing increased conversion rates.
- On the actual seminar pages; we have two different places where you can start the ordering process. We tested having three instances on the individual event pages; but having a third ticket box did not affect conversion rates at all.
Everything is still a work in progress
Because we’re tracking all the links clicked across the website, and can then measure which links are effective and which are not – this design is a work in progress. The new template system I set up across our website (each of these elements, sidebars, jquery, top nav links, etc) are very easy to change for an individual page or for a series of pages.
Once we do enough testing that we’re comfortable with the final concept; then we might engage an actual designer to clean up the site, images, etc.
The Page Templates
To make the site easy to change, I simply made several templates:
- Home page – self explanatory
- Blog post page without jQuery and blog sidebar
- Blog post page with jQuery and no blog sidebar
- Page with jQuery and sidebar
- Page with sidebar and no jQuery
- page with no jQuery and no sidebar
- Page with jQuery and no sidebar
This is very simple to do in WordPress. You just change the template to not call the sidebar, or to call a section of a site – and then that section will not (or will) be called.
Now every time we create a page, we can just decide which page template we want. Do we want the jQuery shown on the top of the page? If yes, then use that template. Do we want a very wide blog post with no sidebar? If yes, then we use that template.
While most of the pages and posts are based upon only 4 templates, the others exist to make it very easy to manipulate pages going forward, and we can even test some small changes to individual pages and posts by manipulating which sidebar or jQuery is being called to the page.
We’re not done with the site yet, we still have a handful of things to finish:
- Removing all PayPal processing and integrating another payment processor
- Keeping all conversion activity on the site for tracking (we’re using an easy-to-use simple integration for our seminar pages, but as these occur offsite we can’t see all conversions)
- Redesign the logo. I know what I can’t do – and image design is not my strength. We’ll do a redesign of the logo that matches the new color scheme and focus of the website.
- Increase the content on Leslie’s about page. Leslie’s page is in the top 50 pages viewed on the site; and yet much of her experience in event marketing, traditional media, project management, etc are not really called out.
- Add a ‘top post’ feature to the blog section to showcase some of our best content.
- Test which pages lead to each conversion type
- Change more calls to actions into buttons
- On the blog post pages, institute a jquery tab at the bottom of each post so you can choose what you want to do:
- Leave a comment
- See related blog posts
- Share this information
- Subscribe to the blog
- Currently, the bottom of most blog posts are messy with too many options. We’ll still give the users options, but we’re going to consolidate them into an easy to navigate system.
- Others we don’t yet know as we don’t have the metrics yet
The Total Cost of the Redesign
- 2 days (define as you will for your own time)
- WordPress (the CMS) – free
- Blog template $49
- FileZilla (for FTPing) – free
- PowerPoint for image creation (I’m really not a designer; I made every image on the site except for a few of the buttons in PowerPoint). Already owned – so free. However, I could have used GIMP which is an open source image program.
- Cool Text for button design.
- $100 – the cost we’ll pay a designer to redesign our logo (which I could have done in GIMP; but it’ll look better done professionally).
2 days and $149 is the entire cost of this redesign. A 0.05% (that’s one conversion per 2000 visitors) increase in conversion rates (for a book sale, Certified Knowledge subscription, or AdWords Seminar signup) will make the time well spent. A 1% to 2% increase in conversion rates for just a single AdWords Seminar (let alone across the entire website) will pay for the cost of a high priced designer.
I can also say a semi-techy without design skills can make a decent site with freely available web tools.
The Final Result?
I have no idea on the effectiveness – yet.
We launched this design less than two weeks ago, so we definitely do not have enough data yet to make any decisions.
While the reasons for each decision (at least I believe) are sound, design creativity only brings you so far. The metrics ha
ve to tell you if you were right or wrong and then will give you the data to make adjustments accordingly.
We are tracking everything – so we’ll know small details like the CTR of each jQuery image so that we can add and remove images based upon their effectiveness.
If it seems that we’re on the right track with conversions, then we’ll probably have someone come in and do a nice pretty design based upon what is working. If it doesn’t work, then we’ll try again with a different layout scheme.
However, I can finally say as marketers we’re finally putting our skills together for ourselves – even if it’s just small changes. If it raises conversion rates, then it’s all worthwhile.
We are only the designers and owners of the site; not necessarily the users of the site. What really matters is your opinion. What do you think of the new design?
Note: The results are in: How the redesign lowered conversion rates, but increased revenue.