9 Things You Can Do Right Now to Improve Your Display Ads

Testing, validating and iterating display ads can be tedious — so much so that it’s easy to keep pushing that project deeper into your To Do pile.

Don’t let procrastination get the best of you, or your business.

Here are 9 actions you can take this very moment to optimize the performance of your ads.

Take these steps one at a time. I’ll list out what specifically you need to do so that you can work from a road map, not waste time with vague advice.


Know What Ad Sizes Work Best and Where to Put Them

Let’s start off with something deceptively obvious.

Not all ad sizes are created equal.

In fact, the medium rectangle (300×250) and the leaderboard (728×90) together make up for nearly a third of all ad impressions, according to Stefan Maescher.

These ad sizes are the ones most likely to earn you a return on your ad spend.

Cristina Calderin, now a manager over at Thought Catalog, told a brief story at Study Break Media about how she helped a publisher redesign a site for optimized ad revenue.

The biggest changes: They ditched the leaderboards (most of which were below the fold) and replaced them with above-the-fold medium rectangles.

“Now the site only has 2 units per page,” she wrote. “Again, I must restate, they did not experience a significant increase in traffic, yet ad revenue nearly doubled.”

What you can do:

  • Take inventory of what ads you’re buying and where they are placed.
  • Try upgrading to above-the-fold medium rectangles or leaderboards one at a time.
  • Calculate whether the difference — if there is one — justifies the return on investment.


Understand What Colors Mean to People

I wish there were a better way to put this, but color selection is often a red herring when it comes to conversion optimization.

Countless words have been written about how yellow communicates feelings of warmth and happiness, and blue connotes trustworthiness.

Gregory Ciotti at Help Scout debunks most of that supposed insight.

“The truth of the matter is that color is too dependent on personal experiences to be universally translated to specific feelings,” he says.

Instead, he advises marketers to consider colors only in relation to the message or the offer.

For instance, green naturally would complement an ad for organic seed packets because it is an easy leap for most of us to connect that color with growing plants. Blue, on the other hand, might create some cognitive dissonance.

At the same time, green might be such an obvious choice that your competitors have all gone with it. In that case, going for a deeper green or even a brown might differentiate your ad.

“When it comes to picking the ‘right’ color, research has found that predicting consumer reaction to color appropriateness in relation to the product is far more important than the individual color itself,” Gregory says.

What you can do:

  • Test a different dominant color for an individual ad to see whether it makes a difference.
  • Think about a color that resonates with your message, but don’t overthink it.
  • Make sure your call to action still stands out. In all likelihood, you’ll need to adjust your secondary color to harmonize with your dominant color. Here is a handy color reference guide if you plan to do the design work yourself.


Make Your Call to Action Short and Direct

SwellPath senior account manager Heather Benson wrote a piece in 2014 on display ad best practices, and she emphasized a couple of times how important it is for marketers optimizing for click-throughs to make their CTAs stand out and demand action.

“Your ad must have a clear CTA,” she wrote. “CTAs are typically in the form of a button to make it standout from the background color. If you don’t have your CTA in a button format, make sure it’s a different color to help it draw the eye of your audience. Keep the CTA short and sweet and be direct, for example ‘Shop Now,’ ‘Buy Now,’ ‘Sign Up,’ or ‘Learn More.’”

Of course, each of those CTAs encourages the viewer to take a different action.

That action must align with whatever is on the other side of the click (i.e. on the landing page), but how you phrase that could be a differentiating factor.

“Sign Up” and “Get Your Free Ebook” could deliver users to the same page, but one might outperform the other.

I think you know what this means.

What you can do:

  • Split test CTAs that are remarkably different.
  • Narrow in and split test top-performing CTAs with one that is subtly different.


Give Your Ad an Obvious Frame

The content of your ad must either fill out its allotted space, or it must have a frame clearly marking its boundaries.

“People’s eyes are naturally drawn to a subject inside a frame,” the 99designs team writes. We will return to 99designs in just a moment, by the way.

“If your ad is white, it’s a common practice to put a 1 pixel gray border around the ad. If it’s not white, you can still use subtle borders … which make it pop just a little more.”

What you can do:

  • Make sure your ad has a full background that stands out from its surroundings.
  • If your ad has a white background, add a thin gray border around it.


Maintain the Scent from Ad to Landing Page

If you optimize for click-throughs, the landing page on the other side of the click needs to match the scent the ad lays down, conversion expert Peep Laja recommends.

“One of the best ways to improve landing page conversions is to create and maintain scent,” he writes. “Make pre-click advertisements and post-click messages look and feel the same.”

Let’s take a simple example of how scent works.

Here is a 300×250 ad the University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business is running at the time of writing on Google’s ad network:

Scent Ad

Here is the landing page where this ad takes you:

9 Things You Can Do Right Now to Improve Your Display Ads

Everything lines up in a way that is expected and causes no friction:

The color scheme is the same.

The same logo appears right at the top of the landing page.

Even the pioneer metaphor rolls over to the landing page with the headline about “courageous business leaders” and a photo of the school with the Front Range in the background.

What you can do:

  • Make sure your ad copy matches your landing page copy, Peep advises. “The closer, the better. Verbatim would be best.”
  • Make sure the ad’s message aligns with the landing page’s central message, he says. The University of Denver example stretches this a tiny bit by talking about “getting to know you” in that first subhead.
  • Finally, make sure the designs align, Peep says, as the examples above clearly do.


Crowdsource a Variety of Ad Designs with 99Designs

If you are starting a campaign from scratch, it’s daunting to imagine all the time you could spend finalizing a design, testing and iterating.

Instead, just use 99Designs to crowdsource a great deal of that work for you.

It costs a few hundred dollars — which for some of you might be a bargain considering time spent — and delivers potentially dozens of design options within a week.

There are two tricks with 99Designs that can add considerable value to this process:

  1. As Tom Demers at WordStream points out, you can say upfront in your contest that you will choose two winners. When you have two ads you like, put them head-to-head in a split test. You’ll get a deal on buying two ads, and you’ll have empirical data about how they perform.
  2. After the contest is run, there will be design submissions left over that are more or less worthless to the designers. Offer to scoop those up at a discounted price, then continue testing all the variations you buy.


See What Your Competitors Are Doing

There are several free and paid tools that essentially allow you to spy on your competition to see where they advertise and what idea they are testing:

  • WhatRunsWhere will show you what ads are working for your competitors and where those ads are running. Base price: $249 / month (there is a $1 trial)
  • Moat allows you to search a competitor by name, and it will show you the ads that company is running right now. For example, here are Volvo’s current ads. Base price: Free
  • Adbeat targets agencies and publishers both with its repository of advertising data. Base price: $249 / month
  • AdGooroo can deliver a variety of competitor insights, including estimates of their ad budgets, their click-through rates and the keywords they target. Price unavailable
  • SocialAdNinja tracks 3 million-plus ads to deliver similar intelligence as the others on this list, but the company charges less. Base price: $147 / month


Integrate Retargeting Into Your Campaign

Retargeting opens up the power and scope of display advertising to leads who are a little further along in your sales funnel.

They know your company, they know your offer, yet they’ve failed to become customers for one reason or another.

The potential exists to make good money off of these leads — Laura Sima-Sirban at Bannersnack reports retargeting campaigns show an average ROI of $10 for every $1 in ad spending.

Google offers retargeting within AdWords, and here are three more options if you are advertising outside of that platform:

  • ReTargeter lets you retarget users on display ad networks, social ad networks such as Facebook, and even on CRMs. Base price: $500 / month for the DIY product
  • AdRoll says its platform gives you access to 98% of the surface internet, meaning you can reach out via Yahoo! ads, Facebook, or most of the smaller ad networks. Base price: About $2,000 / month
  • Perfect Audience has perhaps the most attractive pricing because it has no minimum spend nor any setup fees. Instead, as with AdWords, you just set a budget and pay as you spend. Base price: None


Maybe Just Ignore Most Advice About Best Practices

Finally, a little tip on keeping things in perspective: Sometimes advice is good, and sometimes it’s worth ignoring.

Miami-based production agency Digitaland touched on this in a recent post about banner ad best practices (and why you should ignore them).

The team’s second and third points — questioning the importance of color and knowing when to ramp up the urgency in a CTA — I’ve already touched on.

Two other points from that piece worth noting:

  • Photography might not be the best way to go for your ad’s image. “In fact the wrong photo can sometimes do much more harm to a campaign than good,” the team writes. “This is rich media, after all, and animation is a good alternative to photography.”
  • Click-through rates don’t necessarily equal conversions. Instead, consider all the harder-to-measure benefits of a good ad such as increased brand recognition or product awareness.

I am interested to hear your thoughts on this.

Gauher Chaudhry

Low-Converting Landing Page? Test These 17 Things Right Now

There is now a mountain of evidence that proves we don’t know as much as we thought we did about conversion optimization.

Our guts and opinions give us plenty of ideas, but they are informed by their own biases.

Fortunately, it is relatively simple to validate any hunches that come from your intuition. It’s just a matter of recognizing that your own ideas are mere hypotheses, and a variety of tools exist to test those hypotheses.

That, in essence, is what A/B testing a landing page is — a science experiment.

Below are 17 elements on your landing page you can split test right now to validate whether they’re working. Once you get real-life feedback on your landing page and make the necessary adjustments, conversions will follow.


Test Your Headline

Let’s start this list with a classic from Signal v. Noise.

Back in 2009, when Highrise was just a couple of years old, the 37signals team ran a series of tests on the app’s landing page, targeting the header and the subhead.

Five variations of each were written, and the 25 permutations were shown to 4,000 site visitors each.

This was the control, and it performed the worst:

“Start a Highrise Account
Pay as you go. 30-day free trial on accounts. No hidden fees.”

The winner beat that one with 30% higher conversions:

“30-Day Free Trial on Accounts
Sign-up takes less than 60 seconds. Pick a plan to get started!”

We can use our 20/20 hindsight vision to perhaps figure out why one beat out the other, but that’s missing the point: Test a variety of headlines, and you’ll know for sure which works rather than have a more-informed gut feeling.


Test the Style of Your Copy

Kevin Holesh at Smashing Magazine also recommends testing h1, h2 and h3 copy, especially if this is your first A/B test because it’s such low-hanging fruit.

If you’re ready to get more comprehensive in your testing, though, he points out that the overall style of your copy could use a little scrutiny.

Maybe you’ve got more hype in your copy than necessary, for example. Kevin recommends writing a second version with a different tone and style in mind.

The difference will appear subtle, sure, but the payoff could be huge.


Test the Value Proposition Itself

Sometimes, people find they have a great product or service on its own, and they charge a fair price for it, but still too few visitors convert.

In one landmark case study, the Conversion Rate Experts demonstrated how Crazy Egg’s old landing page was leaking money precisely because it failed to fully communicate the software’s value.

“In order to prove what a bargain it was, we dived into academic research surrounding heatmaps and eye tracking,” which is exactly what Crazy Egg does.

“Though each technology has its champions and detractors, we discovered research from Carnegie Mellon University that indicated an 88 percent correlation between eye movement on a page and subsequent mouse movement in that zone.

“At the same time, we determined that the cost to conduct a formal eye-tracking study can run into six figures and take months to complete.”

This opportunity cost angle was something Crazy Egg’s marketing team had failed to communicate, and it was one of four major tweaks the Conversion Rate Experts crew made to the landing page.

When they were done, the page itself was about 20 times longer than the control, and conversions went up 363%.

If your page isn’t converting as well as you think it should, take a look at how well you sell your offer.

You might have a stronger value proposition than you realize.


Test Your Images

Atlanta-based designer Darren Weik has a number of good examples of conversion optimization through A/B testing on his old Design Toads blog.

Here is one that really stood out.

Logistics company DHL found it got a 15% bump in leads just by swapping out a photo of a male delivery driver with a photo of a female delivery driver.

“The verbiage was exactly the same in both ads, but it was the picture of the woman that generated greater interest,” Darren wrote.

Actually, testing images is its own conversation, but here is one other idea: Test a stock image versus a unique image you created or commissioned.

Think about it. If you use a relevant stock image, you have competitors for whom that image would be similarly relevant. If a site visitor recognizes your photo on a competitor’s site, they are going to experience some cognitive dissonance, at the very least.


Test the Page’s Layout

Low-Converting Landing Page? Test These 17 Things Right Now
Forget comprehensive overhauls of your landing page’s layout; even little tweaks can make a big difference.

In one particularly interesting case study, Michael Aagaard at Content Verve got nearly 65% more downloads for an ebook just by shuffling around the placement of his testimonials.

“On the control variant, I placed all four reader testimonials right under the sign-up form,” he wrote. “The idea being that testimonials have most impact when positioned in close vicinity to the call-to-action.

“For the treatment, I decided to place two of the testimonials higher on the page, so they would assume a more prominent position. The idea being that first time visitors who aren’t familiar with ContentVerve.com need an extra nudge, in the form of social proof, to make the right decision.”

His hypothesis was having above-the-fold social proof would reinforce whatever desire the visitor might have to download his free ebook.

It turns out he was right.

Having two testimonials above the fold and two below — while keeping the rest of the layout as it was — resulted in 64.53% more conversions.

The takeaway: If you have information lower on your page that you think might potentially influence action by being up higher, test that hunch.


Test Your Testimonials

To follow up on the note above, it might be worth testing the quality of your testimonials by editing some out.

“I know it can be really hard to be critical of your testimonials,” Joanna Wiebe of Copyhackers says.

“But the cold, hard truth is that, if you want your testimonials to be more effective than simply showing that you have a handful of satisfied users, you should start getting critical with them. Know what you want from a testimonial, and ask your customers for them.”

She goes on to recommend that you never should be shy about asking for a good testimonial. It helps to remind customers and clients that you’ve got a small business, and their words can help.

“…they’ll not only be more likely to give you one – but they’ll also feel really good about doing so,” she says.


Test Your Call to Action

As with images, you could test and refine your CTA eternally.

One thing is almost a guarantee, though: Making your call to action as clear as possible will improve your conversion rate.

Online retailer Fab found this out the hard way, Samantha Mykyte writes at Wishpond.

The company’s control page featured an image of a shopping cart with a plus sign to indicate “Add to Cart.”

As intuitive as that probably sounded to the designer, visitors appeared confused by the meaning of that CTA. Simply changing the wording to “Add to Cart” resulted in a 49% increase, according to Samantha.

When testing your own CTA, try to first identify opportunities to make that action clearer.

Afterward, you can begin to experiment with strange phrasing (“Put this in my cart!”) or even first person vs. second person tests (“Put this in your cart!”).


Even Test the Attributes of Your Button

CRO experts will often make tongue-in-cheek jokes about changing the color of your button, but it’s a hypothesis worth testing.

In April 2015, Inbound.org hosted a big AMA where several conversion optimizers answered questions and talked shop.

The button thing came up a few times.

Oli Gardner offered some good advice, noting that above all your button needs to actually look like a button.

Forest for the trees, right?

Here are some nuanced button attributes Oli noted:

  • “proximity to other elements: what you write close to your button can impact its use
  • surrounding element design: directional cues pointing at a button can make a button appear more buttony
  • clickability: ghost buttons are a massive design trend, and the buttons simply don’t look clickable in the truest sense. Will we train ourselves so this doesn’t matter? Perhaps.
  • interaction: rollover state – is there a strong contrast when you mouseover?
  • interaction: rollover cursor change – does the cursor change to provide feedback based on link conventions?”


Test Any Social Proof Signals

Low-Converting Landing Page? Test These 17 Things Right Now
Derek Halpern from Social Triggers wrote a nice case study for DIYthemes about how social proof actually hurt conversions on one of the site’s opt-in forms.

It sounds counterintuitive, but that’s exactly why we test.

DIYthemes discovered through split testing that removing the phrase “Join 14,752 others and get free updates!” from an email opt-in box actually doubled the number of people who signed up.

“My gut suggests that including a social proof message above the email sign-up form hurts conversions because it interrupts your visitors,” Derek wrote. “Additionally, the social proof may give readers a reason not to subscribe. Even though our numbers are respectable (almost 15,000), that may not be compelling enough for people.”

The lesson here is you should never assume anything. Test, measure and validate instead.


Test the Length of Your Form

Form length has long been one of the best low-hanging fruits of CRO.

The team at MarketingExperiments has a slide deck showcasing some examples of how they’ve boosted conversions just by optimizing the forms on clients’ pages.

One example comes from the website of a luxury home builder that had a call to action requiring visitors to fill out a form for more information.

The control was a button that, when the visitor clicked it, dropped them off at a “Request More Information” form. Lead generation thus required two steps once the visitor decided he or she wanted more information.

The alternative was a simple form in the same spot where the original button was in the right sidebar. The shortened form collected just basic information — first name, last name, email address — and ultimately drove more leads.

“By minimizing friction through reducing the number of steps and fields, the treatment outperformed the control by 166%,” the MarketingExperiments team writes.


Test Inline Validation on Your Form

You would do well to test all the points of frustration a web form can offer.

Case in point: Forms tend to convert better when they give the user feedback during the information input process.

This is called inline validation. You’ll recognize it from online ordering forms, for example, when the form warns you that you’ve entered an incorrect ZIP code or phone number format.

The trick is knowing where and how to employ inline validation, Luke Wroblewski — now a Product Director at Google — wrote at AListApart.com.

It doesn’t make sense to have inline validation on a name field; no one wants a robot judging the spelling of their name.

But maybe validating an email address format could guide users through the form better. Maybe changing the field border from red to green when you create a sufficiently long password is helpful.

Read Wroblewski’s post if you have a complicated form.


Test Whether You Need Your Navigation Menu

Another site that doubled its conversions with one tweak was South African kitchen tools retailer Yuppiechef.com, which Paras Chopra covered in a case study over on the Visual Website Optimizer blog.

The Yuppiechef.com team actually discovered that removing the navigation bar from one of its landing pages upped conversion rates from 3% to 6%.

“Simpler is better,” the team told Paras. “Try [to] assist the user in focusing on their primary objective by eliminating distractions.”

Now, pardon the tired refrain, but do understand why you shouldn’t go out and just remove your nav bars.

For one thing, Yuppiechef.com is a big retailer with lots of navigation options. Its nav bar presents many more choices than “About,” “Blog,” and “Contact.” Perhaps that made a difference.

Either way, it’s important that you test this option. Maybe your page’s visitors respond better to navigation options (or social proof, as in the example above this one).

There is only one way to find out.


Test the Number of Options You Give Visitors, Period

Kerry Butters at Business2Community provides one case study that underscores some of the psychology at work. She notes how server solutions provider Power Admin discovered the selling power of removing choices from potential customers.

“The test basically found that when presented with too many choices, people actually made none and simply left,” Kerry writes. “Power Admin took a look at its own site and decided to apply the principle to its navigation system, which was presented via lots of textual links.”


Try Adding Price Anchors

Let’s get down to the actual act of selling something via your landing page.

One sticking point for many of your otherwise qualified visitors may be your price.

Your visitors might not actually have any clue what a fair price would be for the thing you are selling, but just having a big “$97” at the end of your sales page might still rub them the wrong way.

Price anchoring allows you to put that price into context by offering price tiers.

“In retail stores, obscenely high-priced items (such as a $5,000 handbag) make everything else (such as similar $1,000 handbags) look affordable,” Geoff Austin writes at Selz.com. “Similarly, more $500 shoes will be sold when $1,000 shoes are displayed next to them.”

So, if you’re selling an ecourse, an example Geoff uses in his post, try offering three packages, with the middle package being the one you ultimately want to sell.

Sandwich that package with a cheaper one and a more expensive premium version.

He offers a pricing ratio of 1x, 2.5x and 5x for that three-tiered offers.

So, if you’re selling a $97 ecourse, test a cheaper option at two-fifths the price ($37 would do it), plus a premium package that should be double the primary offer ($197 in this example).


Test Reference Pricing

Amazon and T.J.Maxx have both made a killing for years with this trick.

Reference pricing simply lists what the standard retail value of an item is, then lists what you are charging for it.

“Reference pricing is especially effective at discount stores, where shoppers are already on the lookout for bargains,” Hadley Thompson at Brainy Click writes.

“When a dress price tag says it would have cost $170 at a top retailer but is available for only $85 at TJ Maxx, the effect is to make the shopper think they’ve discovered a tremendous bargain — even if that’s not actually the case.”

Those strikethrough prices on Amazon.com do the same thing, and this is probably the best way for you to communicate a reference price on your own landing page.


Test Freemium Offers vs. Free Trials

There is a subtle difference between offering a free trial and offering a freemium service.

Darrin at Layered Thoughts digs into the psychology in a really great post. The main point is this, he writes:

“With both freemium and free trials, your job is to convince a potential customer that your product is worth paying for.

“With a freemium option, you will be creating your own friction by making your customer treat you like all of their other free services they use, making it hard for you to ultimately convert them.

“With a free trial, you have much more control over the sales process and funnel and can architect everything around the VALUE of your product and the BENEFITS it will bring to your customers (once they sign up).”

So, let’s say you’ve got a software as a service business.

Perhaps you’ve got a freemium offer in which visitors can check out basic features at no cost, save for maybe their email address, but too few basic-tier customers are opting in to the paid service.

You could test a free trial option by giving visitors 7-day access to the whole service, which — as Darrin said — might allow you to really drive home the value your SaaS provides.

I, personally, would be curious to know which approach worked better.


Gauher Chaudhry


images by:
Samuel Zeller / Unsplash
Eric Terrade / Unsplash
Elizabeth Lies / Unsplash

How To Start Your Own Health Supplements Business

I consider myself to be a serial entrepreneur and whenever I see a great opportunity to build a business, I go for it.

About 18 months ago, I decided to dive into the health supplements business with two other partners. The reason being is that this is a growing market with a lot of substance to it.

We were able to rocket pass the million dollar mark in sales in our first year and it’s one the fastest growing online opportunities available to anyone online.

And here’s what just some of the trends show us…

vitaminsNutritional supplements have grown from $32 billion in sales in 2012 and are expected to almost double all the way to $60 billion per year by 2021.

Now you may wonder why a nutritional supplements opportunity has caught my interest since we have all known about the natural health field for years.

And that is a great question I want to answer here.

This alone told me to start getting involved. And with ecommerce sales growing at a 20% compounded annual growth rate, it helps us understand how lucrative this market continues to become.

Now let me show you where the pulse of the market is being driven from; 76 million baby boomers who hold 50% or more of the whole USA disposable income.

This market is hungry for solutions to help them through their golden years.

They are buying hundreds of nutritional products every day so they can look and feel younger, improve their skin, lose weight, live heathier and longer as well as pain free.

The list goes on.

This demographic is extremely concerned about the massive costs related to keeping up with their health costs and are looking for healthy alternatives to staying well but with a good quality of life.  This uncertainty of maintaining a good quality of health is what drives the market and is an on-going self-replenishing, evergreen market.


– Weight Loss
– Heart Health
– Cognitive Health
– Joint Health
– Energy
– Digestive Health
– Sports Nutrition
– Immunity
– Protein

And many more as this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Each area of these health solutions can be segmented into various demographics of the market population which gives us numerous opportunities to find success in the nutritional supplement business.

Another point of view I have also noticed from being a traffic expert is this. In the various markets, this trend of buyers is easier to find now with all of the social media sites and outlets we have. We know where they dwell and have many ways to reach them.

This offers a perfect aim for any market you want to target with supplements.

It also sets the stage for building a sellable asset because once you are established, bigger nutritional companies may offer to buy your company. It happens all the time.

Now while you may not want sell your asset, it’s always nice to know that you have a growing business that is accruing and building value along the way.

And here’s one of the most rewarding aspects of owning a nutritional supplement ecommerce business. Your customers will continually reorder the same products over and over plus add new ones on to their monthly orders.

This not only tells you that they appreciate your products and services… but it’s this built-in repeat business that can automate much of your income.  All that said, let me add one more very important observation to keep in mind that helps sustain a supplement business, long-term.

And that is, you do not have to reinvent new wheels or constantly seek out the newest, trendy here-today -gone-tomorrow products.  No, not in the supplement industry, because most of it is built on well-grounded, faithful product selections from the supplements they know, want and trust.

And all you have to do is give them what they are already looking for and you can have a thriving, nutritional, ecommerce business. One that can grow for years because the market is huge and growing so fast, there’s room for new companies to sprout up.

Although we do not sell on the Amazon marketplace, there are hundreds of marketers selling health supplements through an Amazon Seller Central account. It is mind boggling how many health supplements are sold on Amazon every single day.

I hope this post gives you some ideas and insights.

If you want to see more information on the things I touched on and even beyond, then I highly recommend you watch these training videos from Buck Rizvi, who grew his supplement business to $10 million in just 18 months.

Click Here To Watch

These videos will only be available for a limited time.


Gauher Chaudhry

10 Quick VSL Hacks That Can Triple Your Sales

There was a time not too long ago when the video sales letter was spoken about with a sort of hushed reverence.

Take your written sales letter, turn it into a video, double your money.

I’m glad that’s done with.

Now, we’re left with something a lot more useful: An understanding that a VSL can convert a nice percentage of targeted leads into customers. If you do it right.

This post is for those of you with a decent VSL that’s almost there, but just needs a nudge in the right direction.

Below are 10 proven hacks that have doubled, tripled, even quintupled sales for others. Some of these can be done with a few clicks. Others involve more substantial changes.

Take them one at a time, testing each as you go.

I’ll be excited to read about your results in the comments.

Set Your Video to Autoplay

Ryan Deiss at DigitalMarketer.com — probably one of the best people online for video sales letter tips — broke down 43 split tests he had run on a variety of landing pages, and one thing he discovered sounds a little counterintuitive.

Eighty percent of the time, an autoplay video would beat out videos that users have to click to play.

To many people, autoplay is annoying, right? Maybe we’ve left our speakers on full blast, and the video catches us off guard.

But there is a subtle magic in removing a user’s ability to manually initiate video play.

“A click–to–play video reduces the control you have over your message,” Ryan wrote. “More often than not, click-to-play allows the prospect to procrastinate watching the video… and they never actually watch it.”

If you host your video on YouTube, setting up autoplay is easy. You just have to tweak the HTML in the video’s embed code.

Step 1: On your video’s YouTube page, click “Share,” then click “Embed” to arrive at the screen where you can grab the embed HTML code.
10 Quick VSL Hacks That Can Triple Your Sales

Step 2: Copy the embed code and paste it on your VSL page.
10 Quick VSL Hacks That Can Triple Your Sales

It’s going to look something like this:
iframe width=”853″ height=”480″ src=”[YouTube Video URL]” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen

Step 3: Add ?rel=0&autoplay=1 to the code.
Tag it on to the end of the YouTube video URL, inside the quotation mark:
iframe width=”853″ height=”480″ src=”[YouTube Video URL]?rel=0&autoplay=1” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen

That’s it. Be sure to test autoplay vs. click-to-play on your own VSL, as one person’s own experience will seldom translate.

Hide the Video Controls, Too

Again, this is about limiting the user’s ability to control your message.

If your offer doesn’t resonate with the viewer, the viewer is going to bounce off your page, anyway. If it does resonate, hiding the video controls just removes an unnecessary variable.

There are two ways to hide video controls.

Option 1: Startup consultant Wayne Gilchrist put together a helpful video in 2014 that shows you how to hide the video controls and the video info bar by tweaking the HTML, as before.
Here’s the sample embed code again:
iframe width=”853″ height=”480″ src=”[YouTube Video URL]” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen

To remove the controls, add the parameters ?controls=0 to the end of the URL, again inside the quotation mark. This is the new sample embed code:
iframe width=”853″ height=”480″ src=”[YouTube Video URL]?controls=0” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen

If you also want to get rid of the info and have a clean video, you can add &showinfo=0 right after the controls parameter. That makes the new code look like this:
iframe width=”853″ height=”480″ src=”[YouTube Video URL]?controls=0&showinfo=0” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen

Option 2: That’s the hard way. If you’re into coding fundamentals, it’s a nice trick to know.
For the rest of us, YouTube has recently made this process much easier. Right on Embed screen, you can simply uncheck the boxes that read “Show player controls” and “Show video title and player actions”:

10 Quick VSL Hacks That Can Triple Your Sales

Split test the various combinations here — autoplay, hide controls, and/or hide info — to see whether any one option outperforms the rest.

There Are Three Emotional Frameworks for Building Your Script — Choose One

Now, let’s dig a little deeper into your video sales letter’s script.

First, some psychology. Lewis Howes has a video interview with VSL expert James Wedmore in which Wedmore lays out what makes video so powerful from a neurolinguistic programming perspective.

Basically, there are three modalities of learning, Wedmore says: Audio, visual and kinesthetic — that refers to feeling, both in terms of physical touch and emotional feeling.

Videos tap into all three modalities.

“You see the words on the screen, visual; you hear the words; and you FEEL the tonality,” he says.

Let’s address how to set up that kinesthetic modality first. I’ll go over tonality in just a moment.

Vishen Lakhiani at Mindvalley Insights says a script has three available frameworks for really tapping into how your viewer feels.

Option 1: The Open Approach
Project confidence, power and a sense of being influential in your word choice. Position yourself as an expert, talk about what the viewer will learn, and back up what you say with findings and insights.

Option 2: The Emotional Approach
Focus on deep pain points that gnaw at a person’s emotions. “Envision the time you were at your lowest low and what changed your life around: your product,” Lakhiani says.

Option 3: The Anger Approach
This is a classic frame from American politics: Rally the viewers’ anger against some status quo, and speak passionately about why your product or service fights back against that moral wrong.

Use This Proven Formula For Sequencing Your Script

After you’ve found your emotional frame, it’s time to write the script from headline to CTA.

This is the single most important aspect of your VSL. Fortunately, MarketingBlogger.com’s David Frey shared his 12-step sales letter formula on MarketingProfs more than a decade ago, and it’s worked thousands of times over.

Seriously, bookmark this page, print it out if you need to, and work through it step by step until you’ve got the first draft of your sales letter.

Tell Viewers Right Upfront What They Will Get Out Of Watching Your Video

David’s 12-step sales letter does a good job of explaining this, but you have to be more explicit with a video audience.

You have to tell them — upfront — why they should watch this video that just began to autoplay.

“If you ask the audience for their time, you’ve got to give them something,” says content marketing agency Sumer’s CEO, Michelle Salater.

“To do this, use your VSL to teach something. Begin your script by explaining to the audience that, if they watch the video until the end, they will discover how to improve their lives in some way or another.

“Be brutally candid about the results they’ll get from your strategies. In giving them value up front, you leverage your expertise, and steer them toward the purchase point.”

Learn How to Develop an Authoritative Tone

Let’s go back to Wedmore’s point that a viewer needs to feel the tonality from the speaker in the video.

If you are planning to speak on behalf of the product or service you are selling, it’s crucial that you nail that tonality.

The team at UK-based consultancy People Alchemy have a great tutorial on speaking authoritatively, and I want to highlight two points they make.

First, speak with your deeper voice. The deeper resonance a professional speakers has comes from the pharynx (“If you imagine that you are gargling marbles and speaking at the same time, you will get a good approximation,” they write) and the chest itself.

Practice speaking aloud, and feel with your own hand where your voice resonates. If you can relax and let your voice boom from inside your chest, you will sound much better on camera.

Also, watch the ends of your sentences. Americans tend to have a rising inflection at the ends of sentences, which makes even simple declarative statements sound like questions.

Likewise, don’t let the end of your sentence tail off, as if it ran out of momentum before the last three words.

Or, Just Hire Out the Voiceover Work

“Good voice-over artists are like good graphic designers — they make your company seem extremely professional,” the team at Conversion Rate Experts noted in a case study they did a few years back.

All other things being equal in a VSL, a professional-sounding voice will outperform a non-professional voiceover 999 times out of 1,000.

Below are just a handful of places where you can hire a voiceover artist in minutes:


Inject Credibility Into Your Video

This goes back to what David Frey wrote in his 12-step sales letter formula: You need to be specific about who you are and why you are a credible source of information.

Longtime internet marketer Jim Edwards has his own 10-step formula for VSLs, and he has three examples of how you can highlight your own credibility:

  • “I’ve got 23+ years’ experience buying and selling investment properties, my own properties and my clients’ properties.”
  • “I spent 10 years as a mortgage broker and realtor, so I know the inside story most people will never tell you.”
  • “I know how the system really works and will pull back the curtain to explain why houses do or don’t sell, and how you can sell your house yourself relatively easily.”


Have a Transcript or At Least a Bullet-Point Summary — In Fact, Test Each One

Finally, it is worth testing to see whether your viewers respond to having the option of simply reading your sales letter.

“I might not watch a video, but I will read a transcript,” Laura Crest at SEO copywriting firm Success Works says.

“And I have converted on sites that have video transcripts, because I have been able to read, and the company in question has given me that option.”

There are two options here, and both can be tested pretty easily.

Option 1: Paste the whole sales script below your video.
If the viewer is interested but not in a position to watch the video (say at work), this gives them the option of hitting pause or turning down their speaker volume, then simply reading what you’ve got to offer.

Now, if you have a long video, this might not look so great

Rule of thumb: 150 written words equals about one minute of video time. If your VSL is 12 minutes long, that’s an 1800-word sales letter. Some products and some markets will accept that; others won’t.

That’s why you should try out an alternative.

Option 2: Distill that script down to bullet points.
“If you don’t want to provide a transcript for whatever reason, consider including a really good, content-rich bullet point summary,” Crest says.

“At least that way, the folks who don’t want to sit through your video have some context, and something to think about. Otherwise, they’re liable to bounce out of your site and not visit it again.”

Decrease The File Size of the Video

This one is deceptively obvious — deceptive because so many people never think to do this.

If you have a huge HD video, it might simply load too slowly for some viewers.

“So many times you slap up a video up there and the file size is too big,” IMScalable’s Justin Brooke says.

“So when someone is watching your presentation, they’re having to deal with buffering, or the video quality is not loading correctly, or the load time of the video is so long that they’re leaving before they even watch your video.”

Here are two methods for reducing video sizes in both Windows and Mac using the software that comes standard on those machines.

For Windows users:

  1. Open Windows Movie Maker, and import your video.
  2. Grab your video, and drag it down into the timeline.
  3. Click “Save to my computer,” then designate the file size you prefer in the Save Movie Wizard.

For Mac users:

  1. Open iMovie, and import your video.
  2. Drag your video down into that program’s timeline.
  3. Click “Share,” then click “Export Movie…”
  4. You’ll be prompted to save with specific ratios and quality settings. Adjust those as you see fit, then save your video.


Gauher Chaudhry

Lead image by Steve Jurvetson

The Truth About Selling Physical Products On Amazon

For the longest time, I never cared about selling physical products on Amazon. Even though I have met dozens of successful entrepreneurs making over $50k a month selling products on Amazon.com, it was not enough for me to put any focus into it at the expense of other projects.

I look at Amazon as just a traffic medium when it comes to building an online ecommerce presence.

I just feel that there is a much bigger market outside of Amazon if you build your own ecommerce platform and drive paid traffic from places like Google Adwords and Facebook.

What makes Amazon an attractive place to sell your physical products is that they handle all the shipping, merchant processing, customer service and inventory management.

So that is a huge benefit in the sense that Amazon can be your one-stop shop for selling your physical goods.

It was only when one of my employees, David, had excess time that I told him to go through some Amazon training and see if we could make this business model work.

So I put him through the popular Amazing Selling Machine (ASM) training course and within the first week he had already selected a product to promote.

Baby bowls with suction cup bottoms.


We decided on the baby market because it is evergreen and appears to be a popular category on Amazon.com.

At the time of his research, there were two popular baby bowl products.

A single bowl set and a 3-bowl set.

The hardest part of the whole process was finding a reputable manufacturer in China to create quality bowls for a good price.

Most Chinese factories automatically assume that buyers from North America want the cheapest price, at the expense of the quality.

We explained to these Chinese factories that we were more concerned about quality and made sure that we got samples to test the quality of the bowls.

Most importantly, we wanted to test that the suction cups at the bottom of the bowls would hold firm on a flat surface.

The samples we received varied from very poor to really good quality.

The only big question we have was what bowl set we were going to sell: the single-bowl or the 3-bowl set?

In the end, we decided to order 500 of each and see what set would sell the fastest.

We quickly designed some really “ghetto” looking packaging and had the bowls shipped to Amazon.

Now, I wasn’t involved in the Amazon process at all.

David did everything including trying to get some sales using Amazon Sponsored Ads to drive traffic to our listings.

We started getting traction almost immediately with 7-8 bowl sales a day.

We ended up spending only about $20 on sponsored ads as we were getting most of the traction from the listing from natural Amazon traffic.

I found this very odd considering we had zero reviews.

We also discovered that the 3-bowl set was outselling the single bowl set by 5-to-1. (Guess what we will be focusing on?)

Now I am a big proponent of building an audience up first before launching any product because this can give you a lot of momentum.

We had already a rather large audience of mothers with children under the age of three, so we knew we could generate a lot of interest for our baby bowls.

We ran a “promo code” for our bowls and sent it out to our audience.

The response was unexpected.

Within the first one hour, we had given away 100 promo codes and within days generated over forty “5-star” reviews.

That was enough to propel our ranking on Amazon and start generating as much as $800 a day in sales.

This continued on and we soon realized we were going to run out of inventory on the 3-bowl set.

We jacked up the price on the 3-bowl set hoping to slow down sales, but it didn’t and we actually ended up with a fatter profit margin.

In the first 30 days (March 2015), we ended up grossing over $10,000 and could have easily done over $20,000 (in April) if we hadn’t run out of inventory on the 3-bowl set.

In the end, this is a good problem to have.

I found the whole process fascinating, namely because I didn’t do anything.

David, just did what the ASM course taught and implemented each step.

We are now looking to venture into other baby products and grow a line of baby products on Amazon and eventually build our own ecommerce store outside of Amazon.

Here is some takeaways we have learned so far from this experiment:

1. Having an existing audience is a great launching pad for your Amazon product.

2. Having a quality product will result in 5-star ratings, which will propel your sales.

3. Have really good pictures of your products and pay attention to your headline and description.

4. Sourcing from China can be a long process. Be patient. We used a sourcing agent, which can make a world of difference with regards to communication and saving on sample shipping costs.

Jason and Matt are reopening their Amazing Selling Machine (ASM) training and you can watch their first Amazon training video by clicking this link.


Gauher Chaudhry