Entrepreneurs often talk about the dream of making money while sleeping. Well, internet marketing legend and co-founder of Crazy Egg Neil Patel has it down to a science, literally. Neil A/B tests everything and only implements the practices that he finds work best. He reveals some amazing insights on how to boost your conversion rates, maximize your blog post shares, and optimize your opt-ins. Check out this episode for these valuable knowledge drops and more!
Hello, and welcome to another exciting episode of Marketing Speak. I’m your host, Stephan Spencer and I have here today Neil Patel. A good friend of mine. We’ve known each other for I think about a decade now. Met him in the conference circuit, SEO, and search marketing conferences and he’s got tons of stories actually. Maybe we’ll get to hear some of his crazy amazing stories, but he’s the co-founder of Crazy Egg, the co-founder of Kissmetrics, still involved with Crazy Egg, and top SEO and social media expert, has been for years. He’s currently writing a book about a business topic. Can’t get into too much detail because it’s super-secret. He’s spoken hundreds of events, he’s got quite a popular blog, multiple blogs actually, in the hundreds of thousands of visitors per month. Mentioned quicksprout.com gets 800000 visitors per month. It’s quite impressive. He’s been featured in the Wall Street Journal as a top influencer online, he is an expert at testing and conversion as well, and just an all-around good guy, so welcome Neil. Thank you for coming and joining us today.
Thanks for having me.
Awesome, so if you could just maybe share a little bit about your story of how you got to where you’re at now because you weren’t always as successful as you are now. You got, I think a pretty fun story of building up your empire.
Yeah, so I started off similar to actually you. I was an SEO consultant and from there I figured out that SEO wasn’t scalable. I didn’t mind doing SEO but I didn’t really love it. I like talking about it, I like teaching, but I didn’t care to help hundreds of companies do their SEO online. It wasn’t my passion. I just enjoy growing companies. As I was doing SEO I realized that there’s a lot of businesses out there that didn’t know how to improve their sales, their conversions, so from there I started creating software companies, analytics companies like Crazy Egg, Hello Bar, Kissmetrics, to all help companies improve their revenue from their websites using conversion data, usability data and a lot of analysis tools to figure out how businesses could adapt or design the content, the text to increase their sales.
You’re really about making money while you sleep, less about trading hours for dollars, because that’s what consulting is. You teach somebody some conversion or SEO trick and they make a bunch more money but you just get paid by the hour. That’s not ideal.
Yeah, it’s not ideal at all.
What sort of advice do you have for our listeners about making money while you sleep, because you got these great software as a service platforms that you’ve developed over the years? It’s a great money-making model, but it’s not the only one. Any advice for money while you sleep?
Find something you’re passionate about that really helps people and that’s scalable.
Yeah. You can do anything. You can even sell ebooks and make money while you sleep. You just got to find something you’re passionate about that really helps people and that’s scalable. If you can sell the same thing over and over again, you’re much better off than if you’re trading hours for money.
There’s a bit more to it than just saying, “Well I’m going to sell an ebook online or something.” You have to think through your sales funnel, your marketing funnel. Any tips or suggestions for funnel optimization?
Most people when they’re trying to sell, they think they can pop up a proctor service on the website and they’ll generate sales, and that is true. You can, but you’re way better off if you actually build a connection with your reader, your visitor, your potential customer. The way you can do this is, when they go to your website try to offer them something of value, like a course, an ebook, for free in exchange for their email. Then, from there you can send them free advice, contact them over seven days or 30 days, get to know them, and then you can end up selling them on stuff. It’s a much better sell than if you try to sell them something right away. Think of conversion optimization and funnels like dating. If you ask a random person on the street to marry you today, they probably will say no even if they think you’re the most attractive person in the world. If you get to know someone, kind of like a funnel, take them through steps and motions, like you do a date, then from there you do a bit more or you go to dinner or lunch, you meet their family, then eventually you move in together and then you get married. Sales work similar. It’s just at a much faster pace, but if you get to know your potential customer, you help them out, you build a bond with them and then you ask them to make a purchase, they’re much more likely to actually do the purchase.
Let’s say that we get somebody on an email list. Feel free to share or not share the size of any of your email lists, but if you have a pretty decent-sized email list, you can extract a lot of money out of that list. The money is in the list, right? Any advice around email list optimization and email sequence optimization for higher revenue?
With email lists, one, don’t email out to people that aren’t opening your emails. It just starts causing a lot of your emails to go into the spam box. Two, make sure your list is actually qualified, like double opt-in. If you’re forcing them to give you their name and email, what you’ll find is, yes, you’ll have way more quantity but the list won’t convert as much. People start marking it as spam and then all your emails are going to go into the spam box.
You also, if you’re trying to get more sales out of your email list, use casual subject lines. A friend writes casual subject lines. Something that’s business-oriented is usually more professional. You’re much more likely to open an email from a friend, so lower-case letters in the subject line typically works better than using uppercase. If you do a few of those things, add P.S’s at the bottom of your emails and then you can link to your sales page. That should help quite a bit.
The other thing that you should consider doing is making your emails in a conversational tone. Using the words “you”, or “I”, keep your paragraphs short, that also helps. Another thing is don’t ask for the buy right away. I usually sequence out emails once every two, three days, I educate and then, after the third or fourth email ask for the sale.
Do you have an example of a particular email campaign that really crushed it or a launch that really crushed it?
I don’t recall the emails. Ryan Deiss wrote some emails for me a while back. It was over a year ago. It did really well. I think it was driving in $100000 in income in a day or two. It did really well. It would have added at least a million or two million bucks a year in revenue if I kept going with it. I just didn’t care to sell product.
All right. Okay, so it’s like, “Ah, I don’t need that extra million.” It’s okay.
Don’t get me wrong. I love money and I need it. I just don’t like the concept of selling products online.
Digital products, ebooks, and stuff. It does well. People can make a ton of money from it. It’s just not my cup of tea.
Yeah. You’re more of a software guy. What about sales copyrighting? You said Ryan wrote some of your email sequences for you. You’re writing your own blog posts though correct, or are you using a ghostwriter?
No, I write them myself.
There’s a special technique for writing high-converting blog posts. You’ve done a lot of testing, you’ve found the length really makes a difference, longer posts tend to work better than shorter posts. Do you want to elaborate on that?
If you get to know your potential customer, you help them out, you build a bond with them and then you ask them to make a purchase.
Yeah. I started writing three to 500-word posts when I started off, then when I started writing 1000 word posts I got more traffic. Then my average was 1500 to 2000, and I kept going with that for years. Then, on my personal blog, neilpatel.com, I tested out writing 5000-word posts, and I noticed even more traffic. Then I went back to QuickSprout and now I just write maybe 5000-word posts. I’ve also tested out guides, like 30000 words and stuff like that. It becomes a bit too much after a while, and it doesn’t do as well as if you just wrote 5000-word posts. I don’t know if that’s the ideal amount, but I work pretty well.
Wow. That’s daunting. Our listeners might be thinking Geez, I really don’t have the time for that.
Not that bad. I can write a 2000-word post in less than an hour.
Really? What your secret for that, because personally, if I’m writing an article or blog post for Search Engine Land, I am just … I don’t know, maybe it’s just me. I get a little anal about it and I spend hours and hours writing that thing. It’s not a good trade of time for money to put that kind of time into the article writing, but I’m a perfectionist, I guess.
Well, the real trick is no trick. I just have been blogging so long that I’m fast at it now. I’ve been blogging consistently for probably over eight years.
How often do you blog? How many blog posts a week do you write?
Daily. I write at least five a week minimum.
You’re writing at least five, five-thousand-word blog posts a week?
They’re not all five thousand words, but I probably crank out at least ten blog posts a week. I crank out a lot of thousand-word blog posts that I publish on forums and stuff, but those only take me 30 minutes to write because they’re much more basic and their readers aren’t advanced, so it’s not technical, so those are really easy. Then I send it to an editor and they just clean it up.
One technique I use, because I don’t like looking at a blank screen or blank sheet of paper when I’m writing something is, I will either dictate. I used to have an assistant who would come into my office and she wrote shorthand. She would take my dictation via shorthand. Then she would write it up and massage it into a draft article or blog post that I would then review and tweak and publish. It is so much easier than just staring at a screen and like, “Ah …” I get this writer’s block if I’m staring at a blank screen, so that worked for me but I can’t possibly crank out a thousand-word blog post in a half-hour, even if it’s super basic. You got a special skill there Neil.
In the funnel, we add more steps to boost conversions.
You get good after a while, but also practice on your typing speed too. That helps a lot. When I type, I can type at least 80 words per minute. I’m a pretty fast typer. That helps a lot.
You’ve got a lot of experience with testing and conversion optimization. In fact, before we started recording you were just giving me some tips on my website redesign I’m working on right now. One tip that you shared was to have images with a natural-looking smile, that that converts better. What sort of surprising tests have you conducted and found maybe counter-intuitive?
More steps. In the funnel, when we add more steps it typically boost conversions more than when you just have a one-page form.
Okay, so if it’s a checkout process, conventional wisdom is a two-page checkout process. You talking about extending that out into more than two steps or you talking about other conversion events besides making a purchase?
Let’s say if I have a purchase or a cart page. If I ask him to put everything on one page, I typically get fewer sales than if the first step was just “give me your name and email” and then asking for the rest on the next step.
Right. That makes sense. In fact, thinking about it more like us provide some sort of assessment tool or personality test or whatever, and they’re answering questions, profiling themselves essentially, store that in your CRM along with their first name and email that you collect in the first step, or maybe on a later step, but you give them a personalized assessment or recommendation plan based on the answers that they give, or you give them their personality type or whatever. I find that is a pretty effective technique as well.
Any other conversion advice that you’d recommend, other than let’s say having a natural-looking smile in your photos?
It’s always test copy, I find that copy affects conversions more than anything else.I find that copy affects conversions more than anything else. Click To Tweet
I remember there was a study from Conductor that showed that headline preferences, the best ones were ones that started with a number, so you got a typical Buzzfeed type of headline where you’ve got number plus some very provocative adjective plus your keyword phrase. Boom, now you got your headline. Those perform well. The worst performers were the question-based headlines, which I find counter-intuitive. I thought they would perform better. Any stories or findings from your testing around headline formulas that work well?
What we found is keeping them short, like six words or so, does really well. Making sure it’s clear, concise, using adjectives helps a lot. Make sure there are no double-meanings with the words you’re using, but you got it right. Numbers work well. Odd numbers typically do better than even is what we’ve seen. It’s all testing. It’s different for each and every site. If you do a lot of these things then you’ll figure out what works well for you and what doesn’t.
What sort of tools do you recommend that our listeners use for testing and what kind of tests are we talking about? Are we talking about A B split tests? Are we talking about multi-variate tests?
No, I usually just do A B split tests, and you can use tools like Optimizely for that.
Make sure that your headlines are clear and concise.
Right, so Optimizely, that was founded by a former Googler who worked on Google website optimizer. Good guy, Dan Siroker, you still use Optimizely, or do you develop in-house tools as well that you just use internally?
Internally, we have our own tools, but Optimizely is good. A lot of people can end up using it. We’ve used it in the past as well but we have our own tools because we have to measure the lifetime value of the customer and churn and we take all those things into consideration when running A B tests and it’s too hard to use an external tool that does it all and gives you that data.
Let’s talk about social media and how to really leverage that, because you are a power-user, a top influencer, and have been for many years. In the intro, I mentioned that you were featured in a journal on Wall Street Journal about power-users, influencers online. At the time you were, I think in the top 100 of all Digg users when it was a popular, important site. Maybe first of all share your story around what it takes to become a top power-user, a top Digg user, because it wasn’t just like, “Oh, I spent a few hours, and boom. I’m a top influencer on Digg.” It was a lot of work, right?
It was a lot of work and you’d have to come up with topics and continue to submit them and make sure that the home page was a network with other users and members. You get to know them because that way you’re getting the right votes in your stories. You have to time things right, beat people to the punch with getting good stories and submitting them. I did extremely well on sites like Digg during it’s peak and after a while I just slowed down as it lost its popularity. It drove a lot of traffic. You’d go on the home page of Digg and every time you’d get 30 to 50000 visitors just all coming to your site at once. It was really nice.
Yeah. That is very nice. Digg is no longer a thing but Reddit is a force to be reckoned with. That’s the homepage of the internet, kind of. Are you a top influencer on Reddit or have you moved onto focus on other things?
I focus more on business operations and meetings and emails and things like that. Most of my days are meetings, emails and phone calls.
Do you have staff who build-up that power-user status on social sites? How do you get stuff out to go viral and so forth?
I do not. We usually just go…we’ll go find companies that specialize and we’ll pay them.
The concept of using a power-user top influencer who pushes your post into Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Reddit, and so forth is still very important and viable on my marketing approach. Correct?
That’s correct. Yes.
You’re using outside contractors or agencies to do those pushes for you. Maybe share a story of a particular post that went crazy viral and what the business impact of that was.
We did a post years and years ago for someone. It was for a life insurance company called lifeinsure.com. It was “the 21 things you didn’t know about death.” It was stuff like, actually when someone passed away they can still hear you for like 8 more seconds or something like that. There’s a lot of interesting facts like that, and the article went viral, creating a lot of backlinks and Life Insure at that time started ranking for the key term “life insurance” on page one at Google.
Great, and it’s not just the article doing well in the search engines, because that wasn’t the point. It was to get the home page of lifeinsure.com to rank on page one at Google for life insurance, and you achieved that for your client pretty quickly I think, right?
Yeah. It took less than six months.
Yeah. That’s impressive, and it stayed there for years. Until they did a redesign and screwed everything up, and then it fell completely off of the Google search results.
That’s correct. They don’t even rank anywhere near the top anymore. I don’t even know what page they’re on. They changed a lot of stuff.
The big break was when you got that article on the top of Digg
That’s right. Digg’s home page was the big break.
You got so much traffic that it probably would bring down most servers, but it goes away very quickly, so you don’t want to rely solely on the traffic coming in from that push. It’s not really about that. It’s about reaching influencers who happen to see it when it hits the front page of Reddit or it becomes popular on StumbleUpon or whatever. Then it will propagate into the blogosphere and blogosphere’s a big eco-chamber, so bloggers blog other people’s stuff and embellish or paraphrase and stuff like that so it continues to have a life of its own even months and months after, even if it was on the front page of Reddit for 12 hours or something. It still can continue to live on and propagate in the blogosphere for months afterward.
Yep. No, totally. Once you get it up there, still does well, people link to it, they talk about it and it does well for a long time after.
I love giving that example. I remember you telling me about the “21 things you didn’t know about death” article and how well that did. People don’t seem to get it, to see that or to hear the story about this. I would never do that because my customers would never buy from me after reading that article. It’s like they’ll never see that article.
That’s correct. They really wouldn’t, so it’s like, who cares? Pop it up. It’s interesting. It’ll increase the authority of your overall site.
It’s about getting the homepage and these top landing pages and the category pages and top-selling product pages to rank.
Right. It’s the rising tide that lifts all boats. Every single one of your landing pages will benefit, your entire domain authority will benefit because you got this viral blog post, got a ton of links. It especially helps if you have good internal linking structures so that you’re efficiently passing page rank around so that viral article passes page rank directly onto some of your top landing pages instead of being three or four clicks away. You oftentimes have to explain it a couple of times, that no no, This is not about getting that article to rank in Google. It’s about getting the homepage and these top landing pages and the category pages and top-selling product pages to rank.
You did a lot of, it’s almost like sniping on Ebay, but it’s sniping of really top viral articles that you’d found online before everybody else found it and submitted that today, because you have to be first out of the gate to submit something in order for it to get accepted. That model is still relevant that you have to be a very early mover to find the top viral stuff to build up your reputation on a social site. Any tools or techniques that are valuable for somebody to build up their online stature on a social site?
You can just use tool like Hootsuite or Buffer. They help just make things a bit easier so you can start scheduling. They’re simply measured, which tells you when your readers want stuff or when your followers want a post. You can also use things like Buzzsumo, which tells you what type of content people like, what they don’t.
What about tools that help capture upcoming trends, trending topics and things before everybody else does or particular viral videos?
I actually don know how to find stuff before it goes viral. Upworthy is good at it. They search YouTube and they find all these videos before they’re supposed to be popular. They have a formula. I usually just use Google trends and it tells me what’s going to trend right now, what is trending, but at that point, it’s too late. Everyone already knows about it.
There are some techniques and I think they’re super secret. It’s the century club users that know all that stuff. For our listeners who don’t know what the century club is, on Reddit, if you have over 100000 link karma points you are in the century club, and it’s very rare to be in the century club. It takes a ton of effort, the sort of stuff we’re talking about, like living in front of your computer, keeping tabs on all the trending topics and everything, finding the coolest videos and info-graphics and articles and listicles and so forth and posting those through your social channels before everybody else does and getting you stuff to hit the front page of Reddit. It’s a huge asset to have a lot of link karma. On Reddit, this is a particular metric in Reddit specifically, and they also have comment karma. Century club users, they know these secret ways of finding stuff. There’s Imgur and there are tools, I don’t use them, I have some power-users who use them, they keep the stuff close to their chest. It’s tough to get a lot of information out of them about the tools they use to mine through sites like Imgur to find the viral images that are just starting to trend. It’s a whole other world. I think you’re smart in just outsourcing that now and not trying to spend too much time on it your self. It is a huge time suck.
I enjoy doing stuff that’s not always on the computer or work-related. I don’t have enough time to just be on the internet 24/7. I wish I did. It’s fun, but I do enjoy life outside the work world.
You’ve really changed your look over the years and your lifestyle and so forth. You’re very open with your blog posts about behind the scenes stuff, like for example how what you wore affected how much money you earned, and you were sharing specifics around income and your wardrobe and so forth. That’s a very popular post. Maybe you could recap a little bit about it. It’s an interesting story.
Yeah. I thought it would be a fun experiment to see if clothes actually affect how much money you make. So one thing, a lot of people say, “Hey, if you dress nice you have more confidence,” and that’s true, but let’s assume you already have the confidence. What I ended up finding out is the nicer you dress, assuming it’s classy, not like “bling.” If you have gold everywhere it’s a bit too much, but the nicer you dress in the business world, the more successful people think you are. The more successful people think you are, the more they want to work with you. In addition to that, what I found is people want to associate themselves with you because they’re like, “Wow. This guy looks really good. He must be successful. If we work with him, his success will probably rub off on us too.” We found that the nicer I dressed, the more money I ended up making.
What would be your most expensive outfit?
I don’t know. Maybe a suit or something. Clothes are expensive in general, assuming you want nice clothes. The jacket I’m wearing right now, I think is four or five thousand bucks. Just a normal leather jacket. It’s just [grey [00:26:41].
Yeah. I’ve got a shirt that was 2000 bucks, and when I first bought I’m like, “Seriously? Should I spend this? This is crazy,” because I’m not into showing off, but I totally get your point, that if you show up in a way that is impressive, that people think, “Oh, this guy or gal has already made it and they must know their stuff.” It implies that you are already very successful and you know your stuff. You must be a thought leader. Yeah, interesting. We didn’t talk about Hello Bar at all, but you’re a co-founder of that as well. Maybe you could just quickly describe what that is for our listeners and why it would be something you’d want to incorporate into your site.
Yeah, Hello Bar is a simple way to generate more sales from every visitor that you have. It’s free, doesn’t cost money. When you have a website, sometimes you’re missing key elements that drive people to your money pages. That could be a pricing page, a lead page, whatever it may be. With Hello Bar it adds bars, sliders, popups, exit popups, page takeovers, whatever you want in classy and tasteful ways that start driving visitors to the pages that make you more money.
If I go to quicksprout.com, which is one of your sites, at the very top there’s this orangish reddish bar that asks, “Do you want more traffic?” Then you got the button, “Yes, I want more traffic.” By the way, I love your popups that say, “No, I don’t want anymore traffic” to X out of the popup. No, I don’t need anymore traffic. I’m happy with whatever traffic I’ve got. Ah, that’s painful to click that.
Exactly. It works really well.
What’s a really good conversion rate on an exit pop? Because people hate those. They’re about to leave your site, and then this exit pop up comes up. They work, and it’s like, “Yeah, I don’t do it because people complain. They hate it and I hate it. I don’t want to see it, so I’m not going to put it on my own site.” You’re leaving a lot of money on the table. Maybe you could elaborate a bit more on how much you’re leaving on the table by missing out on these popup opportunities.
Yeah. You usually can increase your conversions by ten, 20% from whatever it is, by just using some of these popups. Huge difference.
That is a lot of money for somebody who’s doing pretty well already online to not incorporate popups and Hello Bar type things on your website. There’s a lot of conversion tips and techniques that could up conversion rates by double-digit percentages if you just take the time to try them out, test them, see what works. Cool, so let’s wrap up here. If you could offer one piece of advice that would be the most impactful and important thing for somebody to do to improve their online marketing, what would that be?
Good content is timeless and always drives good traffic in the long run.
Write really good content. Really good content is timeless and always drives good traffic in the long run.
But it’s not just about having the content. There’s this old adage, “If you build it they will come.” It comes from this movie, and then people would use that as a quote for what to do in online marketing in the early days. Build it and they will come, and then it turned out it didn’t work at all because you create this great content and then no one would find it because your website has zero authority. There’s a little more to it than just create awesome content.
You got to promote it as well, but if you really do go above and beyond with the content creation, you’ll typically do way better. People will read it, they’ll stick with it, they’ll want to share it. Yes, you have to promote content. You should spend half your time promoting it, so if you spend an hour writing, spend another hour promoting. Real content, that’s great. Always ranks well. If you Google “online market” I think I’m number one or two. Why? Because the page that ranks has a lot of great content.
Really put effort into creating awesome content. Don’t just use article spinners and auto content generation tools, because not only is that low-quality content that alienates your users, but Google is so onto that sort of nonsense these days, with their artificial intelligence algorithms, it just pays to invest the time in creating awesome content. Content marketing is the key. Thank you, Neil. It’s been awesome having you, and listeners, we’ll catch you on the next episode of Marketing Speak. I’m your host, Stephan Spencer.
Your Checklist of Actions to Take
Build a funnel that allows you to develop a relationship with the viewer.
Stop sending out emails to people in your list that aren’t opening them.
Keep your email paragraphs short and conversational.
Create an email subject line that you would write to a friend.
Try out writing long-form content pieces. Around 5000 words converts really well.
A/B test what works best for you on your site for best conversion.
For your headshots, natural-looking smiles on your site look the best.
Dress for success really works. Try it out.
Partner up with an influencer and promotional contracting team to get your posts out there.
Try out an exit pop-up on your site.
About Neil Patel
Neil Patel is the co-founder of Crazy Egg, Hello Bar and KISSmetrics. The Wall Street Journal calls him a top influencer on the web, Forbes says he is one of the top 10 online marketers, and Entrepreneur Magazine says he created one of the 100 most brilliant companies in the world. He was recognized as a top 100 entrepreneur under the age of 30 by President Obama.
Neil Patel is an entrepreneur who knows how to get results. He’s started several multi-million dollar businesses, and is at the top of his game at creating conversion funnels that run themselves.