I talk to a lot of people who operate an online business.
The majority could best be described as a cog in the machine, an integral part but not exactly leading from the front.
When I do meet an entrepreneur who has created their own business, it’s incredibly exciting. These are people who dream big, chase their passion and live with a terrifying risk-to-reward ratio.
Whilst I always enjoy talking to these passionate and ambitious business men and women, the majority are still searching for their killer idea. They’re often at the stage of experimentation and still looking for that big idea that’s going to make all the difference.
They have some great ideas, but can’t yet say they’ve got the experience that makes them an authority.
But it’s not always the case.
I’ve recently connected with Hayden Miyamoto of NoHatDigital. Hayden’s a serial entrepreneur who has an incredible insight into what makes an online business successful.
It all started for Hayden when he single handedly took an online furniture store to over $1m in yearly sales.
Since then, Hayden’s been creating e-commerce and niche sites — once he established more than 3,000 in under a year — coaching numerous online entrepreneurs and even developed an SEO and domaining technique that’s grown into a 9-figure industry.
Hayden’s current goal is to help online entrepreneurs leave the confines of corporate misery through his NoHatDigital website. The site offers an Online Internship program as well as an offline community at the NoHatDigital community mansion in Valle de Bravo, Mexico.
In this interview, Hayden shares his CRO secrets and insights into online businesses and what it takes to turn an underperforming web page into a conversion powerhouse.
Hayden, can you start by telling us a little about NoHatDigital?
My specialty has always been creating innovative systems that have a network scaling effect. I’ve tried to implement a network scaling model with the NoHatDigital community by creating what is, as far as I’m aware, the only community that actively seeks out partnerships with our audience.
I’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of smart, hard-working people looking to get started online over the years, but they often lack a few important fundamentals.
- They lack the confidence to move forward with an idea.
- They lack the discipline to focus on 1 thing and avoid “shiny object syndrome.”
- They lack the knowledge, specifically in product design and CRO, to get high enough visitor values to see a strong return on their traffic generation strategies.
I try to fill in those 3 weaknesses as my side of the partnerships with the NoHatDigital community members.
We’re also a physical community in Valle de Bravo, Mexico. We’ve got a giant mansion which we open to any of our community partners. Right now we have 12 people here, including the aforementioned partners and various digital nomads running their own businesses.
You’ve built numerous ecommerce and niche sites and once set up more than 3,000 in under one year. How does CRO compare to other digital marketing efforts in the contribution to their success?
CRO is the highest ROI activity you can engage in. It is the base of your success in online business.
It’s also very complicated and requires a lot of work. I’ve created a CRO report which both I and my partners fill out for every 10,000 visitors to each site. The report is basically an ongoing record of previous test results, my projections for the future and the lessons learned.
So even for low-traffic sites, you’d recommend a focus on CRO over traffic-driving efforts such as PPC?PPC and CRO go hand in hand. One without the other is a waste of time and money.
I would, however, recommend experimenting with different combinations of CRO and PPC before heavily investing in any campaigns.
I’m curious about the CRO report you mentioned, how do you identify each site’s key areas for testing?
I break my funnel down into stages and look at every potential drop-off point. These points form the base for all future tests.
I’ll create a spreadsheet based on the potential drop-offs and predict the rates, then I’ll come up with multiple ideas for each conversion point and their projected improvements.
After all of my projections and improvements, I’ll focus the bulk of my effort on improving the point that I believe has the highest ROI.
When you’ve identified your drop-off points, do you measure only those micro conversions, or instead measure the effect on the macro?
I always measure both. Sometimes there are subtle changes that may not affect your macro conversions, but rather the net goodwill you generate.
You can only measure these sort of improvements through surveying your customer base, which is something you should do often.
Have you found one element that, when optimized, provides a good lift across all niches? Or is every site completely individual in its needs?
There are plenty of blanket improvements you can make to a proper site (one not made for AdSense). I’ve found that removing features tends to increase conversions on those left behind, as it helps focus prospect’s attention.
Keeping people within the active content area and selling them there with CTAs that are relevant to the content tends to perform better than popups or CTAs outside the active content area. There are, of course, exceptions to this, but this is generally true.
For most CROs, the final goal is going to be making a sale. What other conversion targets are worth tracking?
Almost all my current businesses are lead-gen and not ecommerce, so my first micro-conversion is getting a signup. I then have a micro-conversion for every single possible point of drop-off.
If it’s a freemium course, for example, I’ll check what percentage of people actually start the course, what percentage refer a friend, what percentage view the upgrade page and what percentage go through each part of the checkout process.
If you don’t measure every point of drop-off, you can’t create hypothesis on increasing each area. What can’t be measured, can’t be managed.
One of the risks many marketers face is maintaining a consistent tone when optimizing. How do you control the trade-off between experimentation and consistency in your messages?
I don’t feel the risk is great. Or rather, the reward far out-weighs the risks.
If you’re testing large elements like pricing or packaging of deals and making big changes, it can be more apparent. But generally speaking, I focus on the overall conversion. I’ll not deviate too far from a general tone, but I will keep progressing in the direction of the test that brings the greater lift.
There’s a fine line between optimization and exploitation. Any tips on how to optimize your content without making it feel too salesy?
It depends on your industry. If you’re in an industry that is very salesy and constantly selling the dream, then I’d recommend taking a more honest approach. Being frank and to-the-point and not being salesy will be a breath of fresh air. It will help you find a loyal following.
In most large industries, I feel like transparency and being genuine will do better in the long-term than selling the dream. Internet consumers are now wise to the various schemes and exaggerated claims associated with the hard sell.
The only way you’re able to tread the salesy line is to inject a little humor and personality in your messages, but that only goes so far.
Have you ever gotten to a point when the tests aren’t working and it’s time for a full redesign?
All the time, I prefer A/B testing over multivariate as my businesses generally don’t have millions of visitors coming through them each month. I’ve found that smaller changes over time are often less effective than massive overhauls, so I’ll do a massive overhaul a few times a year and measure how it effects user interaction.
You’ve been doing this for a while now, have you noticed any major developments in CRO best practices or audience habits?
Surveying and getting customer service involved is becoming more of a best practice now. In terms of audience habits, you’ve really got to focus on optimizing for the mobile user, but that topic’s extensive and could fill a few dedicated articles on its own!
I also find that some previous best practices are becoming less and less important. The fold, for one, is much less of a concern. It’s still important but not integral to a site’s success. Site speed is another area that seems to have less of an effect as time goes by.
Is there any major secret to CRO success you’ve discovered over your career?
Outline your micro-conversion points, then try to remove one or more by combining them. It’s a small change that can have massive improvements.
Thanks for your time Hayden!