Landing Page Makeover Clinic #10: HowtoWriteBio.com

Landing Page Makeover

Barbra Sundquist and her site, How to Write a Short Bio, makes it an even 10 for the Landing Page Makeover Clinic Series for 2007 (ok, with a little squeak into 2008.)

There are numerous copy and layout issues which I’ll explore in a moment. But I’m going to do this last makeover a little differently since it’s a great example of why a solid promotion plan is so critical—and why is should be crafted BEFORE anything else is done. I’m going to quote Barbra from time to time for this critique to give you a sense of her thinking along with my comments.

Here’s the background:

  • The Goal
    Increase sales from 8 to 45 bio templates per month.
  • The Problem
    Site is receiving several thousand visitors per month. Conversion is far less than 1%.
  • The Current Landing Page
    http://howtowritebio.com
  • Page/Ad that Generates the Click-Through
    99% of traffic generated through organic search from Google, other search engines
  • Template cost: $49.00

The Maven’s 10-Point Critique

Barbra says:

I have purposely made this page low-key from a sales point of view. I wanted it to appear professional but not too slick, and I really wanted to stay away from the ubiquitous “internet hyperbole”.

How to Write a BioClick image for larger view

1. Before you decide on whether a page needs to “shout or whisper”, you need to consider your target customer’s “problem” and their level of anxiety/need for your specific solution.

I think every online marketing newbie with a product/service to promote could have written what Barbra shared with me. (I’ve had big-time clients who should really know better come to me with similar thoughts.) I call this the “hold-your-nose” marketing approach. Low-key isn’t always good and sometimes slick is what you want to ultimately drive home your sale. If you’re not the target market for what you’re selling, take yourself out of the equation and leave your personal aesthetic at the door. Do your research, review your competition and begin your creative approach based on what your prospective customer needs, wants and expects when they land on your page.

Barbra says:

My idea was to provide good content on the left side, which would establish my credibility and quality, and then give people an easy way to order using the column on the right side.

2. Unless you’re already a web designer, use standard design conventions when formatting your landing page.

Yikes, this page is a visual mess. (Sorry, Barbra, but there’s no nicer way to say it.) It looks amateurish and I have no idea where to look or what to read first. Whether you use a one or two column format, your page has to give your reader visual cues and directions to follow. Your page has to look professional and polished. If you don’t want to hire a designer, think about buying a template or using a free service like Weebly. I’ve used templates successfully for many years. The simpler the design, the more professional it usually looks. You have many, many low-cost options available to you.

3. Use a 2-column format: 1 wide, 1 skinny.

Right now you have two columns of equal weight that compete with each other and confuse the reader. Try the wide-skinny 2-column format. The wide is for your main content/sales message. The skinny you can use to list the templates available as well as other sales supportive components. Get rid of the BUY NOW links and simply link the titles to your shopping cart.

4. Focus your content on the ultimate goal and then follow through.

When I take an initial quick read through your copy — just like any prospect — you give me a lot of detail on why a bio is important and some tips on creating one myself. That’s fine if you just want to provide basic information. But if you’re looking to generate template sales your content has to contain a strong and compelling SALES message. Otherwise you’ve positioned your templates as an afterthought.

How to Write a BioClick image for larger view

5. Craft a compelling headline and lead that will immediately resonate with your prospect.

Since we can assume that no one is casually browsing for how to write a bio, we can then write directly to the many benefits of using a pre-written template, such as “save time, effort, even if you’re not a writer.” Next to public speaking, writing can be a paralyzing act for many smart people. Even if someone IS a writer, writing about him/herself can be daunting. A template makes it super easy to write a professional bio in the right style and format without the headaches, etc. You do a little of this far, far below the fold. My guess is that not enough folks will read that far. Also, don’t forget to ask for the sale with a text link/button at least once per full screen.

Barbra says:

I’ve wondered if I should put a link to a sample product, since people might think that all they get is what is illustrated by the business coach sample in the article.

6. Show me the product, folks using the product, or the result of using your product — How about showing your own bio with a photo?

The current page is deadly looking in part because there are absolutely no visuals. Granted, your templates are simple documents but you can still add visual interest. Show a few screen shots of completed sample bios from a variety of nicely designed websites and blogs representing different trades and industries. Show images of sample bios from magazine articles or book jackets. Offer a before/after of what a prospective customer can expect. Remember, your customers aren’t buying a template, they’re buying “relief” and a helping hand toward a final goal.

Barbra says:

Of the approx 75 bios I’ve sold in the past 6 months, I’ve only been asked for a refund once. I think that speaks to people’s satisfaction. I also have lots of happy unsolicited testimonials that perhaps I should include on the page.

7. Build more credibility with testimonials. Mention your guarantee more than just once.

I think you’ve just answered your own question. Good content certainly is a credibility builder but you need to take it several steps beyond with testimonials and a strong guarantee repeated often.

8. Build more credibility and list your name, company name, address and phone number.

I don’t give up my credit card number or PayPal address to companies that don’t identify themselves and I know I’m not alone in that. If you’re concerned about privacy, rent a private mail box from the post office or the UPS store.

9. Conduct some pricing tests, $49 may not be your best price point.

Sometimes no matter how well we craft/design our message, our products don’t sell well because of price. Sometimes we price too low and sometimes too high. That’s why you need to test your price points. My reaction is that $49 for a template is too high considering I could pay someone to write a bio for me for $50. I’d test $9.95, $19.95, and $29.95. With practically no production or mailing costs, you realize almost all profit no matter what you price it at.

Barbra says:

Standard wisdom says “the money is in the list” and I realize I am missing an opportunity by not building a list with this site. But I am stumped as to why anyone would want to join a list for such a narrow niche … What would they be interested in beyond what’s on the site?

10. Think beyond selling the product to establishing the relationship.

Consider the demo/psychographics of the people who need to write a bio. Who are they? What do they do that they’d need a bio in the first place? What other business writing-presentation-speech tips, information, and products/services might they also need? Are there other sites offering complementary services with whom you could work? Repurpose some of your more informational product into a tip sheet and offer it in exchange for a first name and email address — then start brainstorming the possibilities.

My thanks to Barbra Sundquist for her patience and support of Heifer International.

Introducing the New Copywriting Maven Makeover Series for 2008

I’ve been dropping hints about the new series in both the #9 and #10 makeover posts, but here’s a little bit more before the big reveal in a few weeks.

One of the things that struck me about critiquing the previous 10 landing pages was how flawed many of the original marketing/promotion premises were. To paraphrase a hackneyed expression – “If you build it, big whoop-de-do.” The key is devising a smart promotion plan to not just drive traffic, but relevant traffic that’s ready to convert in some tangible, quantifiable manner.

That’s precisely going to be my focus for 2008, giving Copyblogger readers a chance to have their initial promo plans reviewed and made-over BEFORE a single word is written or formatted. How much fun will that be! So stay tuned for specific details by January’s end.

But Roberta, what about the landing pages?

For ready access to one of the best (if not THE best) resources on landing page writing, design and strategy, you’ll want to grab a copy of Marketing Sherpa’s Landing Page Handbook 2008 (aff) and keep it handy. Pricey? Yes. Worth every dime? Only if you’re really serious about crafting the most effective, response-generating landing pages you can. (Of course, I’m always available for a private Maven landing page consultation. Email me for details.)

Roberta Rosenberg is The Copywriting Maven at MGP Direct, Inc.

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Comments

  1. I love your makeovers and the wealth of information they provide as well as the useful sites you point to.

  2. perhaps the ‘Bios for Specific Jobs’ – could have been a simple pulldown menu (similar to the famous QuarkXpress dhtml menus.

    And the Header tags above each paragraph could have been larger – with alternating pastel colors for each paragraph.

    Also Pale blue does not appear to be an exciting color.

    Perhaps a corporate shade of Green for the Header Text would have been more compelling

  3. The makeovers are great because I really learn by seeing examples. This one was especially helpful to get my thinking in the right direction…esp. “Think beyond selling the product…”

  4. Great advice, I’ll be applying some of it to a project I have in the works.

  5. There’s no focal point on the page. My eyes don’t know where to look first. There needs to be more distinction between the different page elements and all of the links act as a distraction. I think Barbara would also benefit from narrowing her focus.

    Also, what’s her expertise? There is nothing that establishes her credibility on the landing page. She should include a short bio, headshot and a few relevant testimonials.

  6. Yes, I believe I already pointed out most of those issues, if not a few more :)

  7. “If you build it, big whoop-de-do.” – I couldn’t have said it better myself.

    Her target market needs to be enticed, they are tired, they are more than likely over-stretched,].

    When they land on her page…she’s got to give them enough pizzazz to at least make them WANT to read the page.

    And, as usual, your critique is right on point and her focus has to be to build a relationship and give them a compelling reason to consider her offer.

    Oh how I do enjoy watching you work your craft. Thanks for sharing your insight!

  8. “The key is devising a smart promotion plan to not just drive traffic, but relevant traffic that’s ready to convert in some tangible, quantifiable manner.”

    Brilliant idea. Ingmar Bergman, in reference to his film making, said that to him it is like throwing a spear and then figuring out how to get there. Upfront design of all aspects of the project is critical IMO to make sure you are going to get where you want to go. I think this is going to be a richly informative Makeover Series… count me in.
    All best, Jan

  9. Roberta,

    Thank you for your very helpful makeover. I’ll be implementing most of your suggestions.

    I had to laugh at your comment that the templates for sale seemed to be an afterthought. You are correct!

    Originally the article “How to Write a Short Bio” was on the resources page of my main website http://www.BecomeACertifiedCoach.com. One day I was looking at my stats and I noticed that the bio article was getting a lot of traffic.

    Ever the entrepreneur, I thought “hmmm…if there are that many people searching for how to write a bio, a certain percentage of them would probably want to purchase a template”. So I put the article on its own domain along with the templates for sale.

    One of my challenges with this site is finding that delicate balance between selling and providing useful information. As you noted above, 99% of my visitors come from organic search engine traffic. That’s because I have the #1 position in Google for “how to write a bio” and related phrases. And the reason why I have that #1 position is because of the useful information on the page. So I need to keep that in mind as I make changes.

    I checked out weebly.com for templates and the site looks great. I was all set to start recommending it to my clients, but unfortunately their support seems to be lacking. I’ve been trying to contact them for nearly a week and no response, so that does not bode well.

    Thanks again for your terrific makeover. I’ll keep you posted on my changes and the (hopefully) increased conversion.

    Best,
    Barbra

  10. I like your suggestions! Very usefull for my work. Thanks a lot!

  11. Barbra, you’re a great sport (and got a great critique).

    Roberta’s point #1 is one of my consistent favorites, and one of the hardest things to do–put yourself out of the picture and focus on your customer.

    I do sympathize with Barbra’s not wanting to do a typical yellow-highlighted, red-headlined squeeze page like millions of other horrible squeeze pages out there. But there are a lot of other options–for a good one, check out Brian’s free report that kicked off the Teaching Sells launch. No highlighting, but very solid persuasive structure.

    I was impressed by the Marketing Sherpa link, btw. A very convincing endorsement by Seth Godin, not too shabby.

  12. These are some awesome tips not only for her website, but to consider for any web site and helps with working through issues as I’m building out some of my work.

    Thanks

  13. Superb article, I’ve been following Marketing Sherpa (among others) for a long time and learned heaps, thanks so much for continuing to provide valuable information all these years – it has been incredibly helpful and informed many projects.

  14. Hi Roberta, a quick update to let you know that thanks to your critique I revamped my site and the sales continue to increase each month. Thank you again.

  15. Barbra, thanks for the update. It’s always good to hear when folks continue to benefit from their makeovers!

  16. Can I hear a WHOOP WHOOP! I am leaping like a deer right now and have the energy of a 10 cans of redbull!Woohaarr!!!

    Roberta Rosenberg, you are a silky smooth, heart pumping, awesome injection giving human being! I have read many a marketing blog in my day and this exceeds everything I have soaked up so far!Why? You are so generous with your content-tips and tricks plus you have a catchy/ quirky personality! Love it! You are now NUMBER ONE in my blog subscriber listings!Keep rocking this social media space MRS!

    High fives
    Sam Mutimer
    http://thinktankmedia.com.au/

  17. @Sam – thank YOU for the more-than-generous kudo! I’m overwhelmed, in a quirky sort of way :)

  18. Yes, I believe I already pointed out most of those issues, if not a few more