How Focused, Good Design Made Us $27,500

This is from a site we purchased in November of 2008.  We bought Holly for $,2500 (our most expensive acquisition at the time) because we saw serious potential:

1) Increase the site’s rankings (0bviously).  More visitors means more money.

2) Improve the site’s design.  We saw this as seriously low-hanging fruit and you’ll know why when you see the original site.  So…here’s the original:

Original really crappy design

You see what the site’s lacking?  Focus.

What is the visitor supposed to do when they land on this page?  Click on Adsense? Click on one of those cities listed below?  Try and find a hotel reservation through that form?  And why is there that welcome text there?  Visitors know what they want to do when they’re searching for hotel reservations…they want to make a reservation.  They don’t care about your site.  It’s obvious that the previous owner was adding that content for SEO purposes, but they put it in one of the most prominent spots on the site…bad new.

So here was our first pass with a redesign:

Holly in progress

Notice a few things.  Now answer this question in two seconds:  What do we want the visitor to do?

The site is monetized by doing lead generation for hotel reservations.  We’re using the a second-tier middleman.  What this means is that we’re generating leads for Middleman 2, who is paid by Middleman 1, who is paid by the hotels.  It’s obvious where we’ll go once we have traffic worth bragging about:  Middleman 1 (and perhaps a few deals wit specific hotels that would be very lucrative — those types of relationships are profitable, but that’s for a different post all together).

Anyway.  We offer some quick links to cities which sends them to the same page except it has the City form field already filled in.

What’s the real key here?  Giving the user what they want.  Anything else is much less profitable.

Our final design once we ironed out some kinks:

The final design of Holly

We took out the city bit in the form (it was distracting) and moved the familiar logos (familiarity is key when getting conversion from visitors) to the top.

What about content for SEO?  That’s all where I put the big black box.  What about other content?  Writers are adding content constantly, but the content always plays second-fiddle to the action we desire our users to take:  get a reservation.

What Have the Results Been Like?

Since we purchased the site, traffic is up 1,303%.  But that doesn’t tell us how well the new design is doing.  Here’s the key stat.  Before we purchased the site, revenue per visitor was two cents.  Our revenue per visitor for the prior 30 days is twenty-six cents.  A 1,200% increase.  We can’t wait to get our traffic higher so we can negotiate with a more profitable affiliate provider.

At any rate, do you see what a bit of design does to help you make money?  Instantly?  This is what makes flipping websites so unbelievably valuable.  If you buy the site for $2,500 and then turn around and increase its earnings by 1,200%… (remember, that increase can be attributed directly to the redesign itself, which took us three hours) what is the site now worth?  $30,000.

Link Cloaking – How cloaking affiliate links will make you more money

Link Cloaking

What the heck is link cloaking? To be as plain as possible, cloaking affiliate links is the art of showing your visitors an internal link when they mouse over an affiliate link so that the visitor doesn’t think they are leaving your site.

For example, one of the websites we used to run was a site that provided leads to online universities. We used a third party affiliate company to gather the leads. So when someone came to our site and wanted to request information from University of Phoenix they had to click on the “request info” button.

When they would do that they would be taken off of our site and to the third party affiliate company where they could fill out the form to request info. The url would be something like http://www.affiliatesite.com/affid=1234?schoolid=366.

So in order to make a more user friendly experience we started cloaking affiliate links by creating a php redirect that when they hovered over the “request info” button it showed the url destination to be http://www.oursite.com/univeristyofphoenix.

This type of link cloaking created a less stressful user experience so they would be more likely to click on the link. They still ended up on the same affiliate page but we found out that more people would click through to the page with the affiliate links cloaked.

Link Cloaking To The Next Level

After awhile we saw that there was a disconnect between the design of our site and the design of the affiliate pages we were sending our visitors to. We really wanted to create consistency as much as possible so we wanted somehow to keep the same design of the site on the affiliate page.

Since we couldn’t control the affiliates website we went to the next best thing. We used an iframe to keep the form where they request information on our site. This creates a smoother user experience.

link-cloaking

When you set up your affiliate pages using this link cloaking technology your website visitors don’t ever have to know that they are dealing with an outside website. Because the user experience stays completely seamless they will be more likely to fill out the form and thus we would make more money.

So if you are looking for a great way to cloak affiliate links, this has been one of the most successful ways that we have done it. The biggest thing to take away is that ultimately what we are doing is taking away any mental roadblocks our users might have before they get to the form. Good luck with your link cloaking strategies.

One simple change made a 40% increase in conversions

I have recently been running a test on one of my websites (LCD) to try to increase conversions. Trying to increase conversions is one of the 3 things you should always be doing.

The test I ran this time was a very simple one. On my sales page I have the main headline which is the attention grabber, then I have a smaller secondary headline that lists a bunch of benefits for the reader. Initially I had that secondary headline a lighter color of gray than the primary headline. As I looked at it I thought it looked kind of boring.

I noticed that many other websites had their headline in red. I’m no dumby, if everyone is doing it in red there must be a reason right? Well instead of jumping to that conclusion I instead decided to test it. So I tested making the secondary headline red against the original gray color.

The results were astonishing! Just by making that one simple change, my conversion rate went from about 2.6% on the original to over 4% with the red headline. That is a 40% increase in conversion rate. I didn’t have to spend any extra money or get any more traffic, I just made that one change and now the site makes more money. Test, test, test.

This test also goes to show you how important it is to grab the attention of the reader right away and get them involved in the conversation. When I look at the version with the red headline it grabs my attention and I start reading, and I wrote the thing.

Give the red headline a try. See if it makes a difference, but don’t take my word for it, test it yourself.