The Strategy Behind the Copyblogger Redesign

Applying web design to business goals is a serious business.

A few weeks ago — through the hard work and formidable talent of Rafal Tomal (our Lead Designer) — we launched a redesign of copyblogger.com.

There’s been a good bit of discussion around it, and a lot of good questions.

What’s changed? Why did we change it? And the big one — how is it all working out for the business?

Let’s answer those questions, and a lot more about the business end of design, right now …

In this episode Brian, Sonia, and I discuss:

  • Why redesign the site now? Why do it at all?
  • The 3 major goals of the Copyblogger redesign
  • Specific conversion stats, including one that hit 92%
  • How to think about design as it relates to business
  • The specific thinking behind each element of the design
  • The evolution of Copyblogger from blog to multi-million dollar business

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Please note that this transcript has been lightly edited for clarity and grammar.

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Robert Bruce: If you guys could redesign anything in the world, what would it be?

Sonia Simone: I would redesign rainbows and unicorns so I could extract more profit from them.

Robert: Hey, don’t hate on unicorns just because they choose to be invisible to you.

Robert: Wherever and whenever you are, welcome to the final episode for 2011 of Internet Marketing for Smart People radio. I am Robert Bruce and I am distinctly honored to be joined today by the irrepressible, the undeniable, the irresponsibly intelligent Sonia Simone and Brian Clark of Copyblogger Media.

Guys, we’re going to be talking about design and redesign, but we’re not coming at this from a designer’s perspective but from a conversion and overall business perspective. A couple of weeks ago you redesigned copyblogger.com. Why did we do it?

Strategic redesign from a business perspective

Brian Clark: Well, I will say that Rafal did an incredibly beautiful job on the actual design aspect of it, of course he always does, but I think he even outdid himself this time; at least that’s my opinion. I don’t know what you guys think. But from a business perspective, it was time.

We’re coming up on six years since I started Copyblogger in January of 2006, and during that time we started as a blog that launched essentially a new product line of business every year until we got to 2010 where we merged all the companies together that I was involved in, swapped out one and Brian Gardner came on with Studio Press and that was the beginning of Copyblogger Media.

At that point is when I wanted to do this redesign, but it was too soon because we had not yet released Premise, which was the third part of our online marketing trinity as I like to call it.

So it’s been planned for quite a while, but essentially we were a blog that launched businesses and now we’re a business that is powered by a blog, and I think the site needed to reflect that effect because there were just tons of people who subscribed to Copyblogger who just didn’t really get what we would do.

And of course we would mention our products in the content stream and we’d get comments like, “Oh, I didn’t know you guys did this.” So we clearly had a marketing problem as a company because a lot of people who visited the site and/or subscribed to Copyblogger just didn’t really have an idea of what we actually did as a company. And our products obviously are very tightly integrated with what we teach.
Our philosophy is we’re educating you for free so that you can get the most benefit out of our tools. So that was the business reason behind the redesign and like I said, it had been at least a year coming.

Robert: Yeah, and that’s the overall goal. Before we get into kind of what’s the early verdict here on some of these changes, do you want to talk about any specific sub goals that we had?

The 3 major goals of the Copyblogger redesign

Brian: Yeah, the number one goal as I kind of eluded to in the overall purpose was awareness. Awareness of what Copyblogger Media does as a company. And that kind of fueled every element, from the home page to the new post pages, to the way we assembled our landing pages, etcetera. So number one was awareness. You can’t buy a product if you don’t know that it exists.

Number two was to increase traffic to our product sites, and number three was to continue building our e-mail newsletter list for Internet Marketing for Smart People because the course had been doing very well; we had tried various things over the previous year, including this radio show, of bringing attention to the free 20 part course, and we also tried some other strategies where we had an under post box that was a teaser for the landing page for the course. And that had worked well and I wanted to see if we could do even better with that.

So really, those are the three goals. Awareness of products, more traffic to product sites, and more sign ups for Internet Marketing for Smart People.

Robert: Alright, so let’s move on then, and this is still early days, but what’s the early verdict? Are you willing to share any specific stats on how some of those things have been working out?

The results: increased product awareness and traffic stats

Brian: Yeah, sure. Just anecdotally, a lot of the feedback that we’ve gotten on the site through comments, through Twitter, Facebook, etcetera has been even more positive than I thought it would be. I think mainly from a lot of people because they are marketers, they’re interested in what we do as much as what we say and the reason behind it, and that’s of course why we’re doing this show.

So I thought I’d get more complaints because people sometimes don’t like change. Very minor in that regard; because essentially here’s the gist of the matter – the content experience with Copyblogger for the vast majority of people has not changed at all. In fact, some people out there don’t know we’ve even redesigned the site. Because they read by RSS or they read by e-mail, and you don’t have to visit the site if you don’t want to; if you don’t want to leave a comment or browse the archives or whatever.

So for most of our 155,000 subscribers the content experience hasn’t changed. From a social media standpoint, people come to Copyblogger from, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ to content pages. That’s what gets shared by the overwhelmingly vast majority. People are sharing posts, they’re sharing our tutorials, they’re not just saying, “Oh, go check out Copyblogger” and linking each other to the homepage. That happens occasionally but very rarely in the grand scheme of things.

And then finally, the only couple of comments I got were, “Well, I like to go to the homepage and just see what’s going on.” And they weren’t really complaints because they would sound kind of silly. You know, I’m like, “Update your bookmark to blog.”

We didn’t take anything away, we moved what would have been the old homepage layout to a brand new page called “blog”, and it’s in the top navigation. It’s actually more extensive than the old homepage was as far as the number of posts that are displayed because you can do that when it’s not your homepage.

So number one for me was we’re not changing anything about delivering the content that we do; in fact, we’re delivering more content in more formats than ever before in history and I’m very proud of that six years later. We also have to do what makes sense as a business and I think everyone who’s listening to this is interested in strategies and tactics that makes sense for the business.

So that being said, the content experience was still sacred. I think we managed to preserve that. The number one goal of awareness of the products, absolute home run. You can’t miss them, really and again, it’s really the evolution of both the site and us as a company.

If you recall, someone we’ve always looked to as inspiration – 37 Signals started off as a design firm with a blog that turned into a very popular blog that turned into a software company. Our homepage doesn’t really look like the 37 Signals homepage other than the placement of the product lines, right?

I think they have four, we’ve got three up there. I think that’s just a no brainer. I don’t see that as copying anyone because what alternative is there if you really want to create awareness of, “Hey, this is what we do.” Because a lot of people will come into a content page to comment or from Twitter or however they come in, and then they just click to the homepage to see what’s going on.

So it’s an ancillary exposure that I think is beneficial for everyone because again, the products are tightly integrated into what people come to Copyblogger for in the first place. That was a no brainer; I didn’t really have any doubts about that. The interesting thing I wanted to see and we’ve waited to have this show until I could get some meaningful feedback, but traffic to the products sites from Copyblogger has gone up 30% and it didn’t gradually happen. It happened the day the new redesign started.

Sonia: Pretty amazing.

Brian: And has continued since that time. It’s amazing. What’s even more amazing is because I’m not really worried about conversion at this point; again, awareness and traffic gets people aware that the products are there, they’re from us, and here’s what they do, here are the features, here are the benefits, all that kind of good stuff.

But the amazing thing is that the conversion rate has stayed the same. So what does that mean? That means more traffic, same rate of conversion, more conversion; more sales. So that to me was a pleasant surprise. I would have been fine if that didn’t happen right away.

Other interesting statistics; bounce rates stayed the same and time on site for Premise went up four seconds and, for Scribe, went down one second. So basically, everything has stayed the same except there are more people there, which is nothing but a positive outcome.

Think about design in relation to the evolution of your business

Sonia: I think that one of the things this redesign can show people and can teach people is that evolution from your primary identity being a blog to your primary identity being a business, and it’s just something I’ve seen a lot of people talking about. I’ve been talking about it a lot in whether it’s social media conversations or when I go out and give a talk, I think that blogs in general; we’ve come to an evolution in our understanding that there’s nothing wrong with a blog that’s just a blog.

That’s great if your goal is self expression or your goal is to let the world know what your cat had for breakfast. That’s fine; go for it. But the idea, how can I make money with my blog has kind of fallen away as we’ve started to understand that the question is how can I support my business with my blog. How can I make money with my business and use my blog to help out with that. And so this is a very natural evolution.

I think if we had tried this – Brian, what would you say – if we tried this two or three years ago I think it would have freaked people out.

Brian: Yeah, and it really wouldn’t have worked just because of the strange way that all these lines of businesses were created. But Copyblogger was mine and it was a launch platform, it was not the business, right? The very first year Chris Pearson and I launched Tutorial, which was a video site that was kind of riding the wave of the excitement about YouTube, that was pre-Google acquisition.

In six months we sold it for six figures. Pearson disappeared for a while and had fun and then I moved forward and partnered with Tony Clark in 2007 to launch Teaching Sells. In 2008 Pearson showed back up and said, “I need money.” We launched DIY Themes.

In 2009 Shawn Jackson and I launched Scribe. 2010 was really the big consolidation year, right? So we have Scribe, Premise is in development, I leave DIY Themes, Gardner comes over with StudioPress and again, that was basically my philosophical differences about what a theme framework should be, and I think it worked out well for everyone. We’re all still friends, everyone’s doing their thing.

Anyway, so at that point you had a consolidation of all these individual businesses that I had launched off the blog, which again, it’s a platform, it wasn’t the business. We had four different businesses, then you merge them together; we have one company, the blog comes into the company, and then all of a sudden you realize, “I have a completely different animal here.”

But that’s exactly what I wanted because I knew that once I had this team and the platform integrated with the products, then we could really start getting ambitious. Which, I know that drives some people crazy because they’re like, “Wait, you haven’t gotten ambitious yet?”

But yeah, this is what I do. I don’t have hobbies. It wouldn’t have worked logistically or probably even perhaps from a community standpoint because we were so heavily identified with blogging, but again, 37 Signals did it three years ago.

Robert: How’s the conversion looking on the Internet Marketing for Smart People course?

Strategies for dramatic subscriber growth and enhanced performance

Brian: Yeah, so that was the third primary objective and again, we started the radio show and kind of tied it together with the course because we talked about things that are relevant to the course and the course, of course, is comprehensive and better organized and free and all that good stuff.

So we really started to see an increase in subscribers a year ago, and then I experimented with removing the Genesis box as we call it from underneath each post. I said, “Copyblogger runs on Genesis.” There’s another one there now, and I replaced it with a teaser for Internet Marketing for Smart People that drove people to the landing page. And that boosted subscriptions dramatically. I mean, we started seeing dramatic growth in subscribers between the two strategies.

And so again, I had been planning a new homepage for product awareness and traffic for quite a while, and somewhere along the lines I said, “You know, the second part of that page should be the signup. I wonder if that would work as well as under post or better” because that allowed me to then go back and advertise one of our flagship products, which is Genesis, obviously, that Copyblogger runs on the Genesis framework.

So that was the thinking behind the experiment and for the first two weeks, conversions that were already enhanced from the previous strategy went up 92%. And it’s leveled off to right around 50% now. So it’s not only performing better than the last approach, but it’s performing substantially better. Because again, this is a good way to think for anyone out there; you think everyone is aware of what you’re doing or what you sell or what you offer, from great free stuff to great paid products, but they don’t. They don’t know.

We battle for attention just to get our content viewed. The stuff that’s circling your content often gets ignored, so you have to try different things in order to just make people who are interested. It’s not that they’re not interested; they just literally don’t see. Sonia, you may want to expand on that because we like to think everyone pays attention to our every word, but we’ve been at this too long; we know better than that.

Sonia: Yeah, I don’t know how many times I’ve said to myself, “Well, I don’t know if I should say this again because geez, I’ve said this like 20 times; people are going to get annoyed with me.” And then you sort of put it out there and people say, “Whoa, that’s amazing. I had no idea.”
And you’re like, “I’ve seen a comment from you every day for a year and you didn’t know that?”

Brian: Even your most engaged people; you can’t take it for granted.

Sonia: And that’s just the nature of the world we live in; we’ve got a lot of messages, and so we need to not be afraid, too. But you know, the other lesson I think running through that is you can definitely look at what somebody else is doing and say, “Hey, that’s cool. I’m going to try it out.” But nobody can tell you, “Here’s how to present your business to the public on the web.” I mean, we can give you best practices or ideas that work, but you have to try some stuff.

So I think a lot of people hang back and they try and think, “Well, I’m going to wait until I take this course or I get that piece of advice or I hire a consultant to tell me the perfect way to set it up.”

That’s exactly why WordPress is such a smart framework for a business website because it lets you try stuff and tweak stuff and experiment with your navigation; experiment with what’s going on in your homepage, experiment with where you’re putting calls to action and keep kind of moving stuff around and watch what happens rather than thinking,

Well, there’s one perfect way to do it and I’m going to wait to find that out or I’m going to hire a web designer to build me a static HTML site for five grand that’s going to cost me $500.00 every time I make a change.

That’s where most businesses are, even in 2011.

Brian: That’s a good point about the flexibility of WordPress because, going back to your earlier comment, three years ago if you came out with a homepage like this; I mean a lot of people were kind of floored by it because again, Rafal did such a great job and it’s certainly a different approach, but I don’t even know if it would be possible three years ago, but it would have freaked people out.

But really, WordPress is involved way beyond blogging software. We build all our sites on WordPress and Genesis. We can build anything with it at this point and I think we’re really just getting started with what we can actually do to make it more flexible and more integrated to where you don’t have conflict between various plug ins or worry about the fact that this great free plug in that a developer released for free is going to break and be unsupported in six months because he got all the links he wanted and doesn’t care anymore.

WordPress has come a long way, that’s in part to the core developers that make the underlying product, but also I think the evolution and maturity of the premium marketplace where people are seeing true needs as real publishers and providing solutions.

What kind of race are you running?

Robert: Alright, I want to get into the why of some of the specific elements of this redesign; go step by step down the homepage and talk about what these things are and why we chose to do them and present them the way we are.

But before we do that, there’s something else you should care about it; something else you should know. This show is brought to you by Internet Marketing for Smart People, which is the premiere online marketing course that is delivered straight to your e-mail inbox. This course takes the best of Copyblogger and systematically structures it for maximum understanding and chewability.

Sonia, you wrote an amazing lesson that drops in at number 17 for this course, and that lesson asks the question, “What kind of race are you running?” Can you give us a brief preview of that lesson and just a little taste of what folks can expect when they sign up for this course?

Sonia: Yeah, and that came out of me sort of wandering around this space of people who market their business online and in many cases, run and deliver their entire business online. And there are kind of two flavors.

There are sprinters and there are marathoners, so that’s what kind of race are you running. And you can have a little grocery store, you know it opens up every week, Monday through Saturday, or a Halloween store that’s opened four weeks before Halloween and they stay opened until October 31st and then they close. And so the online world makes this a much more workable business model.

So there’s the business like Copyblogger; we’re opened 365 days a year, we have products available and for sale all the time, we’re always bringing in new people. It’s very much kind of a steady, day in, day out, what you might call a traditional business.

There are also people who are in the game more for short bursts, and so this is what’s sometimes called the launch model, although launches are good tools for both kinds of business. But it may be in your business that you want to work your tail off four months a year and trust me, you’re going to just about kill yourself that four months.

It’s not like, “Oh, I’m going to send out three e-mails and then go back to the Lamborghini.” I mean, it’s work. But some people like to sort of – this is a little bit of the Four Hour Work Weekconcept. You bundle your work; you do it in intense, brief periods of focused activity and then you take long breaks. And so, you kind of need to know about yourself. Do you want to be a marathoner; do you want to show up every day? Or do you want to be a sprinter?

And some of the things that the lesson talks about is each one of those types can learn from the other and can make your business better and actually more enjoyable. So, that’s kind of that lesson in a nutshell.

Brian: Sonia, you need to write The Four Month Work Year, because we know people who do that. I don’t know anyone who works four hours a week, sorry Ferris.

Sonia: Including Tim Ferriss.

Brian: Especially Tim Ferriss. Tim works harder than all of us, and that’s saying something.

Sonia: As he’ll be the first to tell you.

Brian: The Four Month Work Year, I like that.

Sonia: Yeah.

Brian: Anyway.

Robert: Alright, if you guys want to get on the bus here and pick up this course, this free 20 part course which sounds like is soon to be a 21 part course and get the rest of what’s waiting for you there, just head on over to copyblogger.com, scroll down to the middle of our brand new homepage where you’ll see the headline “Grab our free 20 part internet marketing course.” Drop your e-mail address into the little box there and we are going to take care of the rest.

Okay guys, let’s get into the why of this new homepage and look specifically at each element. We did a basic overview of the homepage; all the different parts of it. So let’s just start and let’s get granular here. Let’s start with the nav bar.

The specific thinking behind each element of the design

Brian: Yeah, so we went with a much more streamlined top navigation bar. Over the years of Copyblogger it has been much larger and it always had a red accent. The feedback from my wife was, “Oh, that’s too radical to take away the red bar.” Of course, red’s her favorite color so I’m like, “Yeah, we’re getting rid of that.” And there’s an evolution that’s probably going to continue here, so this is actually a baby step because it’s not like we changed the color scheme or something radical like that.

So we made a thinner top nav; the navigation itself adds the new blog page. I think some people got the wrong impression because we made it after about and software, but again this is an evolution as a business. The blog itself has more content than ever.

So below that, and we kind of talked about the reasons why here, but to me anyone who has been following Copyblogger understands completely why you have that top line headline. I mean, we preach headlines more than anyone and yet all this time when we were a bloggy blog looking site, we never had basically a top line headline statement of what the business actually offers.

Robert: That is one big headline you are not going to miss.

Brian: Absolutely; that’s kind of the idea. And then of course, the three product lines, design, traffic, and conversion with the corresponding product – you know they’re there. You can’t miss them. Click through traffic has shown that traffic has jumped substantially from the site overall.

Now, we did not break down homepage versus interior pages, we’ll talk about that in a second. So we’re only tracking at this point overall traffic from Copyblogger to the product sites, which is really all we care about because we’re not necessarily concerned with where you come from as long as Copyblogger is doing a better job or making you aware of the products.

So you can jump off there on one or more visits to the homepage. If not, you scroll down and you’re like, “Well, where’s some content?” Again, with our goals, not only is the free 20 part course incredibly valuable, incredibly well regarded; we get a lot of nice feedback. I know Sonia, you get it directly. People e-mail you and tell you how much they’re getting out of it.

So corresponding between our business goals and actually providing organized, cohesive and comprehensive head start in internet marketing, because again, when you’re a blog and you have reverse chronological ordering, which is typical, you don’t know where people are jumping in. And we’ve seen this over the years over and over again where people are like, “I don’t get this” and even though we cross link, a lot of people won’t follow the links.

So the original thinking behind designing the course was, “What do you need to know so we can teach you more?” Right? And so there was, to me, a perfect congruency on the homepage between value for people and something that’s one of our business goals, which is to have more people educated with the fundamentals so that we can actually teach them more, and hopefully you’re in a position to use our products at that point.

So that was the idea behind putting the course second, as opposed to the next section which are the Copyblogger tutorials. If you remember the old design, for the first time they had moved into the classic red bar that was always in the header. So instead of just a design element, that red bar was designed to draw attention to our tutorials.

You know, we have a ten part Copywriting 101, I think Content Marketing, Sonia, is seven parts. We have the 28 page SEO Copywriting Report, a new tutorial on e-mail marketing. So anyway, these are our cornerstone content. That’s literally what we call it. It’s the foundational elements about what the site is about, and this is in addition to the 20 part course that kind of brings it all together.

So despite the emphasis on products, the homepage is not only still emphasizing content, it’s doing it in my opinion in a – and this is at least what I was trying to accomplish – in a way that says,

Hey, if you’re kind of scattered about what in the world all this is about, here you can follow this kind of a path to get yourself a fundamental body of knowledge so that some of our more advanced topics all of a sudden make sense to you.

So that was the idea behind positioning tutorials after the course. So if you’re already signed up for the course but you need a refresher, say on keyword research, right, or landing pages, then it’s right there, easily accessible. That this point there’s no opt in required for any of those tutorials, so it’s just all out there and freely available.

And then finally below that is where we feature the latest articles from the blog under the heading Online Marketing Advice. I don’t know if anyone noticed this other than you guys, but the homepage that launched on day one was changed by day two.

Robert: Several times.

Brian: Several times, right. Poor Rafal man, I drive him crazy. He likes to brag about how many revisions Clark gave him on various sites. Premise was the all time leader. Yeah, I think he almost quit.

Robert: It’s a badge of honor.

Brian: But yeah, there was this featured content area and then below it there were some more vertical recent content, and we’d broken it into popular articles and regular and I was just like, “Oh, this is a disaster.” It seemed like a good idea, and this is a great thing about not being tied to your design ideas, at least for me, because it seems like a good idea and then I see it and then I start thinking about it in the context of our audience and I’m like, “This is not good. This is just confusing.”

So we scaled it down just to the five most recent featured articles from the blog, which has automatic navigation but also manual navigation on each side. And then at the bottom the link to more recent articles takes you directly to the blog. So basically, it’s not a long scrolling page, but it basically covers with just a few strokes of the finger on the track pad, you can pretty much get the best of the best. You can get the most current content, you can get the course if you haven’t started it yet, and you can get the two books worth of content there under the tutorials.

Sonia: Yeah, I think you’re right.

Robert: We talked about this before, I think it was a few weeks ago, and this is in regard specifically to the top navigation bar. You’ll see links there to Facebook, Twitter, and RSS feed, but those things are a lot less prominent; our social networking outposts are a lot less prominent than they used to be.

Brian: Right. Probably the biggest change there is, and again, that is uniform throughout the site, but the biggest change that makes a difference, I think is when you talk about the interior post pages.

Robert: Yeah. Let’s do that, and for folks listening, if you’re on Copyblogger right now if you go up to that top nav bar just click Blog and let’s go over some of the elements here. The top navigation bar, like you said, is the same on these interior pages, but we see something very different. It’s a different take from the homepage on the next section down, “Our WordPress Solutions.”

Brian: Yeah. I would not want to dominate content pages or even the blog page with that big headline in the products. I mean, I could see perhaps a less elegant marketer doing that, but I just thought it was obnoxious. So what we did was create – again, Rafal did a fantastic job – it’s essentially kind of a unique sub navigation that has the text “Our WordPress Solutions” offset from below the Copyblogger logo with an arrow. And again, it points simply at buttons that say “Design, Traffic, and Conversion” with the respective product logos, or I guess they’re actually the icons.

Robert: Yeah, the favicon.

Brian: Favicon, right. It’s kind of like that approach to it. So it’s there, again it’s creating awareness, but it is very unobtrusive compared to other approaches, and from there then it starts to look like the old blog and post pages, except I think it’s much more elegant. Rafal should be on the show. He’s so humble that he wouldn’t’ say anything.

Copyblogger is more user friendly and has more content than ever before

Robert: We’ll talk to him, if I can drag him on here, we’ll talk to him about specific design elements from the design perspective. But right now we want to cover the business stuff, and one thing I’ll notice here is, for folks who have said maybe content is now taking a back seat on Copyblogger – totally untrue for a number of reasons that you’ve already covered, but when you hit this blog page we’ve increased the number of posts that are immediately available to anybody.

Brian: And more than that, the individual post pages themselves, when you’re actually reading a post, it’s so much more user friendly, the sidebar is less distracting. You do have a new approach to the general opt in to the blog at the top of the right hand side and again, that’s just critical. The positioning of that is perfect for eye tracking, the way you scan a headline from left to right. Your eye is drawn to the yellow. You have the social proof that we have a lot of people who are subscribed to Copyblogger.

I really like this concept that Rafal pulled off because I only gave him minimal instruction, but I said basically, generally, this is what I want and he just magic – it’s there. But I really like what he did. So it has that yellow part with the arrow above the actual opt in box where it says “Free Updates”.

So it’s similar to what we had before as far as the way it operationally works, but the yellow… It’s interesting because a long time ago we had a yellow sticky that was part of the original Copyblogger design way back. This is a different take on it, but it serves the same function. It’s an eye magnet and it contains an important message. It used to say the tagline; now it really just kind of reflects that we’ve been putting out good stuff for six years and that’s why 155,000 people or more now.

One thing – we made that number static because we switched from FeedBurner to FeedBlitz and it doesn’t work exactly the same way that we had it coded before and I’m just like, “You know, I’m not really worried about it. Just put over and if it’s substantially higher at some point we’ll change it.” I used to obsess about that number being real time, but I think we’ve earned the right at this point. Maybe I’m getting lazy, but I don’t think so. I think it serves its intended purpose.

Sonia: Yeah, and I think a lot of site owners will get stuck with that; where they have a live ticker and then FeedBurner or whatever your provider is goes down and then all of a sudden you have zero readers.

Brian: Yeah, that can be maddening and it started happening all the time with FeedBurner. Not the reason we moved, but it certainly doesn’t help.

Robert: Yeah, under that we have basic search form and an easy link – you know, go back to the archives, this takes you back to an archive page. But then we see the tutorials; those top end pillar content tutorials show up again in that sidebar.

Brian: Yeah. So we made the search box easier to find. Before it was a little bit lower down the sidebar and people would complain that they’d accidentally try to search in the e-mail form.

Sonia: I do that sometimes. I used to have problems with that.

Brian: The way it’s designed now, I would hope that would be impossible, but who knows? But it’s right there for you and Archives used to be a top level navigation, if you recall, and once we added Blog to the top level navigation that was enough. I didn’t want anything else up there. So usability wise, Archives being featured directly under the search box seems to be congruent to me. It’s actually a different way to search, by category and date instead of by keyword so I thought that was logically congruent.

And then yeah, right Robert, so you’ll see the tutorials from the homepage featured in a prominent spot on the sidebar, which is the way they used to be way back before we put them in the red bar on the top navigation. I thought when you feature them on the homepage, that putting them in a prominent place on the sidebar, the combination of those is probably more apparent to people than just the one location in the red sidebar. So that was my thinking there.

Robert: Yeah, and then we see our old faithful – this hasn’t changed much, if at all – the Popular Articles underneath Tutorials.

Brian: Right. So really, I think they end up about the same spot in the sidebar.

Robert: I think so.

Traffic leaks can leach important users away from your site

Brian: But what we took away, which you eluded to earlier, was we had our Twitter account with a link to Twitter and then below that we had “Give us a Like on Facebook”. Both of those social media mechanisms sent people away from the site. Now, I kept it that way because I thought it increased Twitter followers and Facebook likes, which is something that I wanted to take a look at. I remember Shawn Jackson, our CFO expressed concern. He was like, “Oh, isn’t that going to kill…”

And I’m like, “I don’t know; we’ll see.” But it was Derek Halpern, who I’ll give credit to; he’s like, “Clark,” you know how he talks. “Clark, you gotta take off that crap off your e-mail opt in. You’re killin’ me over here. You’re sending your traffic off. What are you doing?” Literally, that’s what he said.

Sonia: There were probably more swear words, but yeah.

Brian: Yeah, there might have been a few. That was a pretty bad New Jersey accent, too. But yeah, and I was like, “Yeah, I know you’re right.” I was like, “Well, when we do the redesign we’re going to take them down and see what happens.”

So not only do I think the sidebar is just so much cleaner and more usable, but Twitter followers are joining at the same rate and Facebook likes are pretty much the same, too. It doesn’t have any effect because when you think about it, your Twitter strategy for followers should come on Twitter. You’re providing value on Twitter, so we upped our content sharing on Twitter, mainly of other people’s stuff, not ours.

We’re producing the same amount of content ourselves. So we’ve upped the amount of content that we’re sharing because people follow you when they see you mentioned in someone else’s stream that they already follow. That’s the best way to get Twitter followers, not from your sidebar.

Now, during the early days of Twitter I ran Twitter contests, I just flat out asked people to follow us on Twitter. Sure, do some posts that also attract attention, but don’t drive people to Mark Zuckerberg and the Twitter boys from your sidebar when you really want them to subscribe, right?

And you don’t know if they’ve subscribed or not, so it’s a traffic leak, as Halpern would call it. So he was right about that, it hasn’t affected anything on the social media side, but it certainly gives us a much cleaner and much more focused sidebar. We’re focused on the value we offer on our site as opposed to sending people away to follow us somewhere else.

Robert: “Hey Clark, you gotta take care of those traffic leaks.”

Brian: Yeah, that’s what he said.

A simple and elegant footer says a lot about a business

Robert: Okay is that right? Okay. One last element here – well, there are a few things. We could obviously talk about this for a long time, but I did not want to miss the footer, which is something that kind of gets thrown away a lot of times and I like how Rafal did this. It’s similar to the past design in a couple of elements, but it’s very, very clean and yet it’s also another opportunity after somebody has gone either through the homepage or through a lot of the content on the site to see what we do as a business.

Brian: Yeah, it’s interesting because there are several people, including some of our good friends and business partners who use the footer real estate to just throw a ton of stuff in there.

Robert: Yeah, it got popular for a long time.

Brian: It’s like, overwhelming and I’ve never been a fan of that. I just don’t think that’s what the bottom of the page is for. So yes, Rafal did retain his very elegant restatement of the logo in I’d say it’s probably the same exact height – no, it’s actually a little bit taller than the top block area nav.

But yeah, so it’s just Copyblogger on the left and then you have the obligatory copyright notice. And people have been looking at footer lengths for year and year and years, especially in WordPress because that’s where attribution usually goes for themes and other things. So yeah, it says “Powered by Genesis, Scribe, Premise, and Synthesis for WordPress” and it’s just really simple.

Robert: Text only.

Brian: Text only, more of a statement of fact than anything. But really, if someone’s scrolling down and looking at that right lower level, they want to know what you’re using to run your website and we happen to be in the business of producing things to run websites on WordPress. So I think it’s very simple and elegant, but it probably has a positive effect when people are like, “Wait, what is all that stuff?”

Robert: Okay, any final thoughts on the redesign of copyblogger.com?

Brian: Well, we’re watching, learning, and testing as we go, as anyone should. So what we’ll do is probably do a show in the spring and revisit the results with hard data, but also talk about the tweaks that have been made in the interim because as Rafal knows, there will be some.

Robert: He’s waiting; he’s listening to this right now going, “Ugh.” Alright you guys, let’s get out of here. To all of you who have made it this far with us, we give you our great thanks. This has been the final show of 2011 and yes, whether you want it or not, we will be back next year to bring it to you again.

In the meantime, if this show has done something to you or for you we’d love it if you got over to iTunes and leave a comment or a rating there.

Thanks everybody truly, and we’ll see you next year. Ms. Simone, Mr. Clark; today you have truly begun to ring the bells of holiday cheer. Thank you.

Sonia: You are insane.

Brian: You really are.

Other listening options:

The Show Notes:

About the Author: Robert Bruce is Copyblogger Media’s Chief Copywriter and Resident Recluse.

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Comments

  1. Rafal killed it with the latest design!

    Glad to hear you guys discuss this, I had a few questions that got answered, good stuff.

  2. What gave IMFSP the 90% boost – the placement under the post, or the placement on the homepage? I couldn’t quite understand that.

  3. Looks pretty clean. Nice to hear about the traffic funnel difference. We’ve been penciling out a redesign for about six months now. Same thing, bringing the brand back to center and then funneling to the product/service sites.

  4. The new design is absolutely wonderful ! Brilliant work !

  5. Love the clean look of the home page.
    Suggestions:
    Consider having your Design, Traffic and Conversion boxes expand on rollovers to make it even cleaner.
    No body copy or video? What happened to engage?
    The 4 tiers are disengaging. I would think the course signup and tutorials would work better on a sidebar.
    New article scroll is awesome.

    Joe :D

  6. Nice work. The site loads extremely quickly. Glad to hear its meeting its design goals.

    Darren

  7. Wow, I recently changed to the Streamline Theme and grappled with plenty of the things you just discussed (of course I had all of those discussions/debates in my own head). I need to thank “Gardner”, as you call him, and the StudioPress team for the design.

    I have always run into real-estate-website-gurus who did not approve of my “education approach”, but the blog has really helped support my business engaging actual customers. Then it is up to me to sell their homes or help them buy one. To date, 46% of my closed sales originated from my blog.

  8. Great show, as always. I’m glad you pointed out a few strategies behind the design.

    As a graphic designer, I would probably did a few things differently but that would be only my point of view. You, as great marketers and copywriters, know your audience very well and gave me some tips how to make this design really working. That’s the point here… Create a nice looking base website and then tweak it again and again to improve the conversion. I’ve learned a lot while redesigning the Copyblogger site.

    As Brian said, I’m too shy to say anything publicly, so forget about it ;)

  9. Very helpful interview. Thanks for sharing the thinking behind the new design and navigation. The explanation about the tiny social icons made complete sense and as well as guiding me in some impending redesign has dispelled a recent dilemma for me about whether to advise one of my clients to have the big, bold social icons in their new site design on which they asked me to comment.

    Would you care to share the name of the font you use for Copyblogger? And does it come standard with the Genesis framework? Very attractive and readable – of course you know that :).

  10. Change can be good, especially if it proceeds according to a rationale plan. Copyblogger has a huge following and worth doing it right.

  11. I trully like the new design. It’s very clean. I think simple works better than advanced designs.

  12. I was one of the 3 people who kept refreshing the page on the first day. I’m glad you removed some of the jQuery slicks and content on the home page. It’s now both revolutionary and palatable.

    Great show! You’ve nailed Derek’s accent. :D

  13. When you say in this podcast you “had a different view of what a theme should be,” what is your view on what a theme should be?

    Have you talked or written about this before? If so, can you share the link?

    Thanks!

  14. You have a wonderful team to work with,glad you redesigned and yes please share whats your view on what a theme should be.

  15. Thanks for sharing the strategy behind that copyblogger. It helped us learn more about it.

  16. Guys, well done on the redesign – I think your goal to move from ‘a blog that products’ to ‘a business powered by a blog’ has been achieved beautifully.

    I’m a big Copyblogger fan and have been following your evolution for a while. Your success has been amazing. It shows what’s possible on the internet.

  17. This seems to be the way things are done these days, as far as website design is concerned.

    The emphasis seems to be on clear, easy to navigate site pages, minus the clutter.

    The 90% plus opt in increase due to changing the opt in box position from under posts, to the home page, is quite remarkable.

    Also, going by memory, the new site theme choice does look better. This option seems to look much clearer.

  18. My favorite part was the Derek Halpern impression.

  19. This would have been even better as a webinar with visuals.