Everyone is familiar with annoying banner ads, newsletter popups, full-page ads, push notifications, and other methods designed to get you to click or subscribe. While these strategies have certainly generated revenue for publishers, they have annoyed users so much that some browsers have been developed specifically to block ads and prevent tracking. These trends underscore the importance of balancing revenue goals with user experience.
In this article, we will look at some specific techniques for capturing leads without compromising the user experience.
Lead Generation Strategies
Lead generation strategies involve two elements: An offer and an opt-in form. The best lead generation offers deliver enough value to readers that they not only provide their email address, but actively seek out the offer without having an opt-in form shoved in their face. In other words, they should treat lead generation as a part of the user experience rather than just as a way to collect emails or make money, and readers shouldn’t regret signing up.
Some popular lead generation offers include:
- Ebooks – Ebooks are a great way to educate potential leads and put them into a sales funnel for long-term follow-up. You can develop a single ebook on a topic that can be used as a lead generation offer for many related blog posts.
- Ecourse – Ecourses are another great way to educate potential leads via email. Unlike an ebook, ecourses enable you to engage leads through email on a regular basis, which might result in higher open rates for future sales pitches.
- Webinars – Webinars can produce a large number of warm leads and help you showcase your product or service to a live audience rather than trying to explain it in text content. You’ll also have their information for future follow-up in a sales funnel.
- Whitepapers – Whitepapers are an excellent way to educate audiences that may be looking for more technical details or tangible return on investment. These are used to help justify the purchase of a product or service.
These offers can be presented in many ways:
- Popups – There are countless types of popups, including modal windows, full-screen welcome mats, slide-in scroll boxes, floating bars, and others. Older pop-up styles (e.g. separate popup windows) are widely blocked by modern browsers.
- Forms – Sidebar forms and in-line forms are a great way to maximize conversion rates by including the form right in a piece of content. That way, a user doesn’t have to take two actions to sign up for an offer.
- Content Lockers – Publishers might lock content until a lead generation form is completed or declined. While this technique definitely grabs a reader’s attention, it can deter many readers from actually reading the article.
These presentation mechanisms can be triggered when a reader is about to exit, scrolls past a certain point, or after a certain amount of time passes. They can be targeted towards only new visitors, based on the referrer, or from retargeting settings. These various settings can help make the presentation less intrusive than simply popping up a sign-up screen as soon as a reader hits a piece of content.
How We Do Lead Generation
Audience Ops focuses on developing Content Upgrades for our clients, which are specifically created for each piece of content and provide added value to the reader. For example, a blog post about selecting the right financial advisor might lead a reader to feel that they need to take some notes for when they meet with one. A great Content Upgrade might be a printable checklist that they can use as a guide when speaking to a financial advisor.
In addition to the Content Upgrade’s content, it should have some level of attractive design. Many of the Content Upgrades that Audience Ops produces are PDF documents that a user receives via email after completing an opt-in form. Publishers with the resources may want to consider hiring dedicated design staff to make their own content upgrades more appealing from an aesthetic standpoint.
After a user signs up for a Content Upgrade, it’s equally important to make sure that it’s instantly delivered to fulfill your promise. Audience Ops has developed a WordPress Plug-in that we use for this purpose that integrates with email marketing tools like Mailchimp and Drip. If the user is signing up for a free course or lesson, it’s important to immediately start the auto-responder or drip campaign with an email to let them know they’re successful.
Striking the Right Balance
The biggest challenge with lead generation is striking a balance between being helpful and annoying. Since everyone is constantly bombarded by ads, readers are trained to ignore almost all forms of advertising, which makes it difficult to reach them with relevant lead generation offers. A full-page pop-up advertisement may be effective in getting a user’s attention, but the user experience could suffer if they’re not interested in the offer.
The first step in addressing this challenge is creating a baseline for comparison when it comes to reader attrition. Among other things, the time that a reader spends reading an article and whether or not they exit the website after reading it are good signs of user experience. A reader that hops onto a website for ten seconds and leaves probably didn’t find value in the content or were put off by an intrusive advertisement.
There are three simple steps to get started:
- Filter the content to where you plan to introduce the lead generation offers. If you’re using Google Analytics, they may be a separate report for the blog or just organic traffic to that blog coming from search engines or social media.
- Record the average time spent on page and bounce rates for these pieces of content.
- Setup conversion tracking for new lead generation efforts.
The second step is introducing various forms of lead generation for a few days or weeks, depending on your traffic, and seeing how the attrition rates compare. If the average time on page drops and the bounce rate increases, you can assume that the user experience has degraded and may want to consider a less invasive form of lead generation. If these rates stay roughly the same, you have probably found a technique that doesn’t harm the user experience.
The third and final step is comparing the conversion rates associated with each lead generation campaign with the visitor attrition that it caused. A low attrition rate is great, but if there are no leads being generated, then the campaign isn’t very valuable. You should aim to minimize attrition and maximize conversion rates in a way that makes the most sense for your organization and its target audience. The results will be different for every organization, depending on your audience demographics, web design, and various other factors.
The Bottom Line
Everyone has to deal with annoying banner ads, newsletter popups, full-page ads, and push notifications on a daily basis. Rather than making the internet a more annoying place, publishers should try to find ways to implement lead generation in a way that actually improves the user experience. These tips are a great start towards these goals, and at Audience Ops, we’re always striving towards them.