To start, a confession: when I was getting promoted up the ranks within my previous company—eventually reaching CMO stature—I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.
For example, I’d never even put my hands on an AdWords campaign before, and suddenly it was my responsibility to execute an all-out audit of about five different campaigns going on at once that were in total chaos and bleeding money.
I didn’t have the slightest clue where to start… quality score? ad copy? landing page relevance? weeding out low-performing keywords? Or was it better to ditch it all and start from scratch?
But rather than freaking out and getting overwhelmed, I went to ask my best friend for advice: Google.
She helps me solve all of my other problems in life, so I didn’t see why this one would be any different.
She didn’t let me down.
I kicked ass optimizing conversions for the money spent on those AdWords campaigns and with loads of other responsibilities I’d never dealt with before that crept their way onto my to-do list.
The internet is amazing, really.
You can actually learn almost anything you can think of… and for FREE.
And with all the tutorials, it’s incredibly easy to turn theoretical knowledge into experience, just by following step one, then step two, then step three… you get the picture.
Here’s some of the best tutorials I’ve found to learn conversion rate optimization while climbing up the ranks of corporate marketing that, if you follow them, can turn you from a clueless child into the person that knows exactly what to do to increase conversions just by looking at a landing page optimization or an ppc agency campaign:
(Here’s another hint: most of these tutorials don’t require you to study section A before you can study section B. You just go to the section that has the information you need and start kicking some serious CRO ass in your own right.)
1) HubSpot’s Inbound Certification
After this free, open-to-everyone, 18-class course, you can take an exam and get a cool certificate and badge to display on your website, bio or email signature that labels you as a “Certified Inbound Professional.”
Instant credibility, and you’ll have all the knowledge about converting traffic into leads to back it up.
Since Hubspot’s software is all about getting more traffic and conversions, that’s exactly what you’ll be learning. Some of the conversion-specific modules include:
- Creating Content with a Purpose
- Enticing Clicks with Calls to Action
- The Anatomy of a Landing Page
- Guiding the Next Step With Thank You Pages
Now, I haven’t done this course, but I’m going to.
I’ve signed up and put a deadline for myself in my calendar. I’m particularly excited about the ‘Guiding the Next Step With Thank You Pages’ module because I love figuring out how to guide users down a value-packed funnel.
Getting another conversion from a customer after they’ve already converted once is like adding chocolate sauce on top of ice cream.
I know it’s going to be good stuff because when I was flailing through figuring things out in my corporate career, their Marketing Library saved my ass quite a few times.
(It seems like know they’ve guarded some of their marketing library content to account holders, but they’ve still got loads of valuable resources available for free download.)
2) Upworthy’s ‘How to Make that One Thing Go Viral’ SlideShare
Whether you love or hate Upworthy, it doesn’t matter.
You can’t deny that they’re masters of creating delicious headlines and cultivating content that matters to their audience.
The presentation is 51 slides long and includes some real-life, hands-on examples they’ve tried for themselves to prove their points.
It’s funny, easy to read, and helps you realize what it takes to develop content that’s both clickable, shareable, and turns visitors into conversions.
And when people love you enough to share your content, they stick around as sold-out customers or brand advocates that help you attract more brand advocates and sold-out customers.
I referred back to this presentation a lot while I worked as a Content Director, and implemented loads of its suggestions with the team of writers I worked with.
Slide 23 was by far my favorite… I never realized what kind of genius was waiting to be uncovered for headline titles if I only took the effort to actually write down the first 10 crappy ones that popped into my head.
The advice on images is incredible, too. (“Nobody cares about seeing your logo in a Facebook post. They want drama.”)
After implementing their advice a few times with your own pieces of content, you’ll really start to “get it” and become an expert in what works and what’s totally lame.
My personal ‘Aha!’ moment came after testing different headlines (after I’d written out 25 and picked the best ones) for the different audiences my business was serving.
Learning which audiences preferred emotional landing page headlines and which ones loved the numbers was incredible and empowering as a growing online marketer.
No one can deny that Copyblogger and it’s affiliated sites and products aren’t totally rocking it when it comes to making boatloads of money in online sales while supporting an online community that’s totally in love with them.
“Do I sound like a crazed fangirl? No? Ok, good.”
As a sort of intro into their deep expertise that goes beyond their blog posts, they offer a totally free 20-part email course on internet marketing that teaches the four pillars of online marketing success:
- Direct response copywriting
- Content marketing
- Have something worth selling
What makes the course worthwhile is that it isn’t just a bunch of self-proclaimed gurus preaching at you about what you should be doing.
They actually take you behind the scenes and show you how they’ve used the advice in the lessons to put their own marketing campaigns together for higher conversions.
In addition, you get access to a library of 16 high-quality ebooks, including:
- How to Write Magnetic Headlines
- How to Create Content That Converts
- Landing Pages: How to Turn Traffic into Money
- Email Marketing: How to Push Send and Grow Your Business
The “How to Create Content That Converts” ebook, for example, takes you through a section on how on-page copy (and getting people to convert from your content) is like dating and content marketing as a whole is like the art of seduction.
The more you figure out how to seduce people in your online funnel with great blog posts, downloadable guides, and emails, the more likely they are to convert into life-long loves.
When it comes down to it, a landing page is a collection of a bunch of things put together in a way that you can only hope will yield some conversions.
Like a jigsaw puzzle, if you will.
Except it’s not one of those jigsaw puzzles where the pieces only fit one certain way… anything can fit next to anything else, and it’s up to you to decide which of the endless combinations out there makes the most beautiful picture.
The teachers include some high-level names like Brian Clark from Copyblogger, Rand Fishkin from Moz, Joanna Wiebe from Copyhackers, Peep Laja from Conversion XL, Oli Gardner from Unbounce, and Michael Aagaard from Content Verve.
And rather than bog you down with theory, they cut right to the chase, dealing with the most important things first (like the 5 core elements all landing pages should have and the best converting call to actions [CTAs]) before moving on to finer things like design principles and A/B testing.
Basically, if you’re a total newbie, they make sure you’re getting conversions first and foremost and only then help you work on refining that conversion process.
Get the big puzzle pieces in place first, then work on putting the little pieces where they’ll do the most good.
And to be totally honest with you, even though I’m not a newbie anymore, I often refer back to their modules that correspond to whatever part of a landing page I’m working with at the moment, lead capture forms being the most recent one.
The actionable, hands-on advice is just that good.
This is a Udemy course put together by the Moz team… so you know it’s got to be good.
Before you write this one off because ‘keyword-stuffing is such horribly bad advice,’ keep in mind that SEO goes way beyond keywords.
In fact, SEO is way more than picking some good-looking keywords and forcing them into your landing page copy in hopes of getting some organic traffic… it’s also got a lot to do with your landing pages and funnel experience as a whole.
The better and easier the experience is, the more conversions you’ll get. Simple as that.
Within this course, only one module focuses on content-based SEO. Everything else is about user experience and brand interaction.
It’s definitely not the same SEO those scammy agencies that somehow miraculously uncover your hidden email address keep sending you spam mail about.
Here’s some of the other module titles to show you what I’m talking about:
- Remove Unnecessary Steps & Win More Likes, Shares and Conversions
- Top 4 Ways to Use Social Media to Earn Links
- UX Myths that Hurt SEO
- Personalization and SEO
To illustrate the value of on-page (non-keyword) SEO, I’ll tell you a story:
Once upon a time, when I was Content Director working with a Lead Designer on a website re-vamp, he stubbornly refused to put more than one CTA button on the entire page… hidden all the way down at the very bottom. For me, this simply wouldn’t do. I needed conversions, gosh darn it!
We argued about design aesthetics, user experience, and the need to actually get some more clients and he finally agreed to run a split test with me.
My CTA placement idea worked better, throwing his stuffy design theory out the window and winning us more email leads.
(Also, because our visitors from ads were better able to do what we promised them in our ad text, our AdWords quality scores – a reflection of SEO – went up. Not bad, eh?)
Facebook is a wonderful place to start a conversion-focused online marketing funnel, because your audience is hanging out on the site almost constantly (even if their boss tells them not to)—so having the knowledge to be able to take advantage of that opportunity is crucial.
This course starts its tutorials at square one, making sure you know the difference between a personal profile and a business page.
If that’s old news to you, don’t worry—they quickly move on to more in-depth conversion and advertising methods.
And by the end of the two total hours of lecture time, they’re taking you through surprisingly advanced strategies like cross-marketing with Twitter and promoting a sweepstakes that you’ll be able to implement to further improve your conversions, social reach, and cost per acquisition.
I don’t know what kind of conversion optimization recommendation list this would be if we didn’t mention something about A/B testing.
You can speculate as much as you want to about what types of things will work best with your site layout and your audience, but you never know until you try out different things.
This is a simplistic, step-by-step guide, but to be honest with you, that’s all you really need.
Once you do a few tests with the tutorial as a guide, you’re an expert enough and ready to roll on whatever kind of A/B test strikes your fancy.
Shrink 10,000 Hours to 100 or Less
In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell make the famous claim that in order to be a true genius at something, you need to spend 10,000 doing it.
That’s about five years of full-time work.
And while it’d be great to be a person who starts at an conversion rate optimization agency and comes to learn conversion rate optimization for example, it’s actually impossible. To compare, do you remember what pay-per-click management or SEO was like five years ago?
Not so relevant anymore, is it?
A more practical approach (at least, it seems to me), is to just keep chugging forward, educating yourself with tutorials like these, so you can become the go-to guy or girl within your company when it comes to online marketing… even if you are a total newbie.
The sky’s the limit, people.
If I could bootstrap my way to CMO, learning as I went, I’ve got no doubt that the smart, newbie marketers today can accomplish similarly wonderful things.
What about you? Do you have any favorite online marketing tutorials that saved your neck when your boss gave you a project you had no experience with?