Are Our Marketing Truisms True? We Asked the Data.

Are Our Marketing Truisms True? We Checked the Data.

They’re implanted in your brain.

I’m talking about those bits of conventional marketing wisdom that influence the decisions we make every day—most of the time without even coming up for debate.

In a meeting the other day, the LeadPages® marketing team tried an experiment. We decided to collaboratively compile a list of the marketing truisms we rely on in our work.

Within 5 minutes, we’d generated 35.

35 principles. Some of which we’d never even explicitly voiced to our teammates.

Now, some of these truisms were based on recent, reliable data that we’ve collected at LeadPages®. Because, if you haven’t noticed: we love data.

But others were things that we just tend to take for granted. Maybe we feel like we saw a study about them a few years ago. Maybe they’ve been handed down through the generations.

And when we reach for the data to back up these pieces of conventional wisdom, it’s not always where we thought it would be.

Today, I want to examine just a few of the truisms I’ve seen floating around in the guise of sound digital-marketing advice. Do they stand up to close scrutiny?

Let’s find out. And if you’re interested in seeing if they’ll hold true in your own business, we have a great place to start. Click below to get our free guide filled with 10 ideas for easy tests you can apply to your landing pages:

Click to Download the "10 Easy Tests" Guide

If you have LeadPages™, you don’t need to download this template – it’s already available to you inside your LeadPages account. Just log in and you’ll see how super easy it is to customize this page in seconds with no technical knowledge or skills, make it mobile responsive, integrate it with your email service provider or CRM, run A/B split tests, and publish it to Facebook, WordPress, or your own server.

1. In this mobile-saturated world, people don’t read anymore—that means keeping your copy as short as possible.

It’s true that people don’t typically read thoroughly online. You may have seen heat-map graphs like this:

F pattern

You know, the ones that look like someone used some really drippy paint to write a big ‘F’ across the screen.

They come from extensive eye-tracking studies that measure how people read websites, and the F-pattern they reveal has been demonstrated across thousands of pages. It indicates that just about every time you’re looking at a screen, you pay a lot of attention to the top of the page (where the headline or product image probably lives), read the first two blocks of text in detail, and then let your eyes wander down the page to quickly scan the rest.

If you’re the average website visitor, sometimes you go back for a closer look at the bottom part of the page—but most of the time, you scroll only about 60% of the way through any given piece, according to a study by Chartbeat covered by Slate.

Here’s the thing, though: people don’t let their failure to read the full page stand in the way of sharing or commenting on that page.

Last year, NPR demonstrated this with a brilliant April Fool’s prank. They created a blog post titled Why Doesn’t America Read Anymore? It read, in its entirety:

Congratulations, genuine readers, and happy April Fools’ Day!

We sometimes get the sense that some people are commenting on NPR stories that they haven’t actually read. If you are reading this, please like this post and do not comment on it. Then let’s see what people have to say about this “story.”

Best wishes and have an enjoyable day,
Your friends at NPR

Then, they shared it on Facebook and let the comments roll in.

And roll in they did. By the dozen. Whole arguments broke out about the causes of America’s supposed decline in reading comprehension.

Some more practical evidence about this phenomenon: the Chartbeat study mentioned above also looked at the relationship between reading a (real) article and sharing it on Twitter. It found that . . . there really wasn’t one.

People were about as likely to share an article after reading only the top of the page as they were when they’d read partway through.

chartbeat twitter

So does this mean you can cut way back on content? If your headline and intro text soak up most of the attention—if most people are only making it halfway down the page—why bother with the rest of the page at all?

Sorry, but you’re probably not off the hook.

Because, weirdly enough, other data suggests that people actually like longer content. A lot.

A study of 100 million articles analyzed by BuzzSumo and OkDork found that articles tended to get more shares the longer they were: articles between 3,000 and 10,000 words were shared about twice as often as those under 1,000 words. (The authors also mentioned that this falls in line with a previous New York Times study finding that its longer articles were shared more often.)

Average Shares by Content Length

And lest you think this is only relevant if you’re a blogger, we’ve seen similar results with traditional business landing pages. When we use our unique Sort by Conversion Rate feature at LeadPages®, we find that many of the highest-converting templates are several screens long.

A collaboration between Crazy Egg and Conversion Rate Experts took this to the extreme by making Crazy Egg’s homepage 20 times longer.

The results? A 30% jump in conversions.

Now, it’s important to note that they didn’t accomplish this by just dumping in a ton of text (although there was indeed plenty of text on the page). Graphics, colorful formatting, and video all helped keep readers engaged.

That meshes with another finding from that Chartbeat study: although on most pages visitors didn’t scroll all the way through, there were some major exceptions. When a page had videos and images throughout, visitors typically did make it to the end of the page.

The takeaway: If you have something amazing to say, don’t be afraid to say it with a lot of well-designed (and visually varied) content—assuming your page is mobile responsive and built around vertical scrolling. Consider testing a longer page against a shorter page and seeing which performs better.

2. Brand consistency is massively important, so make sure you use the same design and copy elements on everything you create.

Many marketing agencies will insist that consistency in your branding is absolutely crucial—that the look, colors, and messaging of every part of your online presence need to be perfectly aligned, lest customers lose trust.

People love to use examples like Apple and Coca-Cola to demonstrate this principle. And brand consistency is likely a major factor once you get into the big leagues, where every move you make is visible to just about everybody.

But on a smaller scale—where most of us marketers work and live—things are a lot less clear.

Like many companies, LeadPages® has a style sheet, which defines things like preferred fonts, colors, and line weights. This is helpful in making design decisions swiftly so that we’re not starting from scratch every time we create something new.

But we’re also always, always split testing to determine what page elements convert best. And when we find that something new consistently beats the established design . . . well, we let the numbers speak for themselves and we change the established design. Even if that means our new page looks a little different than the one we’d been using for months.

This is the sort of thing that’s hard to test in any way except piece by piece. But if you find yourself avoiding creating content because the prospect of making sure it all conforms to the look and feel of your homepage or logo is too daunting, it may be worth relaxing a bit.

Because when it comes to creating landing pages and lead magnets, signs point to prioritizing quantity. When you make a unique lead magnet for each blog post rather than offering just one time-tested one on every post, opt-ins rise (often as much as 20%–30%). And, according to a study by HubSpot, when you make 40 or more landing pages, you see your conversion rate take off dramatically.

That’s right. Forty. 4-0. (Luckily, LeadPages® comes with completely unlimited landing pages and no caps on traffic, so the only obstacle to achieving this number for our customers is making the time to sit down and generate those pages.)

From HubSpot
From HubSpot

Now, if it’s easy for you to reach that scale and apply consistent branding all across the board, go for it. But if applying strict consistency doesn’t noticeably boost your conversion rate, it should at least be making your marketing easier. Not more painful.

The takeaway: If this maxim has been holding you back, see what happens if you prioritize getting quality content done, period. Or, if you market to several niches, do some testing to see if you stand to gain by adjusting your messaging and imagery to target different demographics on different landing pages.

3. To reach today’s audiences, you need to substitute video for text wherever possible.

It’s been the Year of Video Marketing for several years running now, according to digital soothsayers.

And it’s undeniable that online video consumption is accelerating. Cisco has estimated that video streaming will account for 80% of internet traffic by 2019. (It’s currently at 64%.)

However, that doesn’t mean that the millions of people watching Netflix will automatically be more likely to seek out your marketing videos.

My suspicion? The value of video to your business will vary a great deal depending on your audience and what you’re trying to accomplish.

One potential problem with video is that it’s not scannable, and it’s not consumable in every context. (Personally, I’ll read thousands and thousands of words before I watch one 5-minute video, especially if it means locating my headphones or sitting through ads.) That might matter depending on your audience and goals, or it might not.

Video is also not quite as easy to optimize for SEO as text is. If SEO is a concern for you, consider using video to complement your text, rather than replacing it. Both search engines and YouTube’s ranking system prefer video with a transcription attached—so, at the very least, provide a transcript to make sure your desired keywords are being caught. (This is also worth doing simply to improve the accessibility of your content.)

We’ve noticed a few interesting things about video at LeadPages.

Our template library offers a variety of video-centric templates, and those work well for many users. But when we compare template conversion rates across all users, the highest-converting template don’t often feature videos prominently.

The LeadPages® blog team recently tried a split test to learn more about our ROI on our video posts. We A/B tested two versions of one of our template-giveaway posts, one that used a video, and one that used a combination of text description and animated gifs to convey the same information.

As it happened, we didn’t find a clear preference when we assessed conversion rates, and we’re looking forward to doing more testing in the future to see if that changes. In the meantime, we’ve used that information to feel more comfortable relying on other formats.

Although we have yet to discover a hard and fast rule about optimal video use, we did recently turn up some intriguing data on another visual information format. We’ve discovered that when we use animated gifs we’ve made on social media posts, we typically see 6–8 times more engagement than with any other kind of post.

The takeaway: Do some testing to see how much adding a video to your page actually adds to your conversion rate. But if you don’t have the resources to make a good-quality video, you’re probably okay focusing on the things you actually do well.

4. Site visitors need time to fully assess your product and the value it offers before opting in.

There’s a certain marketing philosophy that goes like this:

Potential customers are shy and easily startled creatures. They’ll bolt if you ask them to do something too soon. Instead, you need to make your approach quietly, wooing them gently with lots of content well before you present your call to action.

Are digital audiences like the shy chinkara? (Photo by Chinmayisk [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons)
Are digital audiences like the shy chinkara? (Photo by Chinmayisk [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons)

Undoubtedly, this is true of some customers. This is part of why it’s useful to have rich and varied content on your landing page. And this principle is to some extent built into the structure of many successful content-marketing campaigns.

However, even if someone is unlikely to make a purchase right away, they might well jump at the chance to opt in for something free. Maybe even before they’re entirely clear on what they’re getting.

You might notice that when you visit the LeadPages® blog for the first time, you’re greeted by an opt-in box offering a bundle of our 25 best templates of the year. This is easy to dismiss for visitors who aren’t interested, but about a fifth of them routinely are. And that’s before they’ve even seen any of the content on the page.

Similarly, in one split test we’ve covered, entrepreneur James Grandstaff was able to boost conversions substantially just by changing when his opt-in pop-up appeared. He initially had a LeadBox™ set to appear two minutes into the video on his page, so that leads had time to learn about his offer. But when he tested a version of the page that triggered the LeadBox™ immediately, he saw an 87% improvement in his conversion rate.

Neil Patel of CrazyEgg has reported that when he stripped down his personal homepage to three lines of text, one background color, and one extremely prominent call to action with accompanying form field, he saw engagement soar. Depending on what you want people to do, they may indeed be more likely to do it if you ask them right away.

The takeaway: To capture more leads faster, consider presenting a call to action immediately. (And, of course, keep track of your results to make sure that this approach resonates with your best prospects.)

5. Never put more than one call to action on a page.

This is a big one.

We’ve given this advice ourselves many times, which is because it often makes a lot of sense. For instance, if you have a landing page collecting traffic from an ad that promised one specific thing, you don’t want to lose that momentum by providing a host of other choices for leads to make.

But . . . is it always true?

Probably not. In fact, our own homepage at LeadPages® has two distinct calls to action: one for people who are ready to join immediately, and one offering a free four-step course.

Due to that second call of action, we get the chance to engage every day with people who would’ve otherwise passed through our homepage like ships in the night. And that means we have a better chance of working with them one day.

On our blog homepage, our calls to action are even more profuse. Some of these opt-in points are likely to appeal to people visiting the site for the first time; others will more likely capture return visitors.

Multiple calls to action also might make a lot of sense if you serve two distinct groups of customers. Say you’re a real estate agent—you might have a welcome-gate opt-in box on your landing page with different calls to action for home buyers and home sellers.

Intriguingly, this can even work in email. Marketer Aaron Bolshaw has written about an A/B test he tried over thousands of email sends, in which he found that adding multiple calls to action into an email boosted his engagements by 20% or more. His explanation? Offering an array of options “gives [subscribers] control over what content they want to consume.”

The takeaway: When considering whether you can bend the one-CTA rule, think about who’s viewing a given piece of content. If it’s likely to reach several groups with very distinct motivations, it may be worth offering something different to each. Test it out!

We could go on and on. And in fact, I’d encourage you to do so on your own, since that’s the best way to discover what will work for your audience. The next time someone tosses off a marketing rule of thumb that seems a little nebulous, ask yourself: where’s the data on that?

If you can’t find any, I’d recommend you create some.

That is, run a test of your own. LeadPages® makes this really easy with our split-testing tool, but you can also find other ways to get good evidence to influence your decisions. Click below to download a PDF packed full of ideas for finding out whether the truisms discussed here will hold true for your business and audience. It’s called:

Will conventional marketing wisdom hold true for you? Find out with these 10 easy tests:

Click to Download the "10 Easy Tests" Guide

If you have LeadPages™, you don’t need to download this template – it’s already available to you inside your LeadPages account. Just log in and you’ll see how super easy it is to customize this page in seconds with no technical knowledge or skills, make it mobile responsive, integrate it with your email service provider or CRM, run A/B split tests, and publish it to Facebook, WordPress, or your own server.

What marketing truisms do you think deserve to be put to the test—or perhaps debunked entirely? Let us know in the comments!