Signals in the Noise – Issue 47

For two and a half years, every two weeks I sifted through over 140 blog posts and podcasts that talk about how to build successful online businesses. I found the best content, summarized it, added a bit of my commentary, and delivered it to the inboxes of entrepreneurs around the world…for free. I’m no longer writing Signals in the Noise issues (because my business partners and I are focusing on other parts of Clarity Lab), but please enjoy these archived issues. There’s a ton of useful information in them!


1. Pop dead gorgeous.

“Google has announced that it will begin cracking down on ‘intrusive interstitials’ on January 10, 2017, because this type of ad ‘can be problematic on mobile devices where screens are often smaller.’ Google will be potentially penalizing — i.e., lowering the rankings — of these web pages. Google said ‘pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly.'” Barry Schwartz, from Search Engine Land, explains the latest concern that should wake up most online marketers: Google’s about to start penalizing sites that have pop-ups on the mobile version of their site.

If you’re using a pop, like SumoMe’s List Builder, to present an opt-in form for something free on the mobile version of your site (like we do at Clarity Lab), you should remove it or make it cover a lot less screen real estate on the mobile version of your site by January 10th, 2017. I think we should all get together and mail Google thousands of pop-up greeting cards on January 11th, that say “Thanks, Google!” in three dimensions.

Pop-ups for email list building work, annoying as they are. This move by Google is good, though, lest we all turn our sites into this hilarious mockery of list building techniques.

Category: search engine optimization


2. Hashtags are #worthless.

“5% of the 300 million + monthly users are spam. This means that 15 million monthly spam users spam tweet and like 1,000 times a month. 14.95 Billion false notifications are generated per month.” That’s Ryan McCready, at The Next Web, with the results of research he did on how widespread the spam bot problem is in Twitter. What does this mean for your business? Hashtags don’t work. They just attract spam bots that create bad data for your business decisions. The solution? Stop using hashtags. The upside here is that I finally know why I’m so popular on Twitter. I’m huge in Botville.

Category: social media marketing


3. Switch your wagon to a star.

Part of the way I find the best content to share with you in these newsletters is by subscribing to a lot of newsletters and blogs from great content creators and top entrepreneurs. And because we focus on helping relieve tech tool headaches for online entrepreneurs here at Clarity Lab, I have a habit of always checking what email marketing platform everyone is using when they send me their content marketing emails. Infusionsoft and Aweber show up a lot (I’ve been using Aweber for this newsletter for a couple years), but there’s one that I keep noticing popping up more and more when I check to see what online entrepreneurs are using to send out their emails: Ontraport.

Ontraport is an “all-in-one” marketing automation platform that handles email marketing, payment processing, membership site creation, affiliate sale tracking, and customer relationships management. Marie Forleo and Brendon Burchard both switched from Infusionsoft to Ontraport a couple of years ago, and I’ve noticed a lot of other people making the switch as well. It’s definitely worth checking out..

Category: software


4. Show your flu colors.

I’ll level with you: I absolutely suck at picking colors out to create a color palette to use for things on a website. Without handy tools like Coolors, which help you easily pick out combinations of colors that go well together, our website’s color palette would probably resemble the Toys R Us logo: all primary colors that shout wildly at each other. I stumbled on Coolors a few days ago when I was faced, yet again, with having to pick up a color for something on our website that would not be the equivalent of me singing off key. It’s a great color tool…one of my favorites now.

Category: software


5. Hierarchy of leads.

“New research from Bain & Company, published in the September issue of Harvard Business Review, extends Maslow’s hierarchy of needs by identifying 30 fundamental attributes they’re calling “elements of value” that drive consumer decision making. Their elements are divided into four categories–functional, emotional, life changing, and social impact–and explain the inward and outward-facing needs consumers seek to have met.” Inc.’s Larry Kim with a new pyramid of 30 needs that your customers have. Are you meeting them?

I read through the infographic in this post, and it looks like a pretty useful tool for high-level strategic planning. I’ve been a big fan of Maslow’s framework for decades, but it’s always been a bit…awkward to apply it to a business context. This reframing of the model definitely helps, but after a deeper analysis of the base level of needs in this new version, which includes things like “saves time, makes money, integrates” I found a serious omission: caffeinates.

Category: psychology and marketing


6. What comes around goes around.

“Carousels, image rotators, sliders, featured content modules, whatever the hell you want to call them — they’re everywhere on the web. There’s a 95% chance you’ve created one. But despite being so omnipresent, little is said about our splashy little auto-rotating frenemies. Let’s fix that.” That’s Brad Frost, raising questions about the effectiveness of auto-rotating image rotators that endlessly rotate on your homepage, and how to create them if you absolutely must use them. My hunch? Leave carousels where they belong: at the amusement park. They look like ads to site visitors, and these days, anything that looks like an ad gets ignored. That’s why I dress like a car insurance ad when I go to parties. It allows me to avoid small talk, which puts me in introvert heaven.

+ Want some research proof that people ignore carousels? Here you go.

Category: website usability


7. Copytight formulas.

“You should be using copywriting formulas whenever you write anything. They eliminate the guesswork that makes a lot of bad copy, bad copy. They will help you face the Blank White Page without cowering. They’ll help you generate A/B test ideas faster. They’ll help you pinpoint what’s going wrong in a button… in a headline… or even in a video script.” Joanna Wiebe, from Copyhackers, with the most extensive list of copywriting formulas (which are like page structure starters) that I’ve ever seen put together in one place.

Unless you write copy for websites, emails, opt-in pages, or sales pages every day, when you sit down to write, it’s super hard to get your head in the copywriting mind space. Having formulas like this makes the process so much easier and faster. Even with formulas like this, copywriting always feels like putting my head in a woodworking clamp for 4 hours, while I try to design sentences and paragraphs that need to accomplish a lot of things in a small space. It’s enjoyable though…in a painful kind of way.

Category: copywriting


8. Change the subject.

“Yesware’s data scientists analyzed 115 million emails for a full year to identify email subject-line strategies that work and those that don’t. ‘We looked specifically at most and least used words and formats in comparison to most and least effective.’” Fast Company’s Stephanie Vozza, with the latest results from Yesware’s big data crunch, which shows what’s working best these days to increase open rates of marketing emails.

The email inbox is still the most powerful tool for any online business, but it only works if people open your emails. And that? Makes email subject lines one of the most critical hinge points in your marketing strategy.

I often spend 30 minutes writing 10 or 20 different possible subject lines for some emails. I’ll then pick the one that seems like it will perform the best. For these Signals in the Noise newsletter emails, I take a different approach though: I choose the section of this newsletter that has the most interesting or funny headline, and I move that to the first section of the newsletter. Then I use that headline as the email subject line.

To date, using this email subject line technique for these Signals newsletters, the most opened issue had a subject line that read “Hello from the other side.” I used that right when that Adele song was just released. That song was playing everywhere on the planet nonstop for weeks. So, I guess you guys like Adele. (I do too.)

Category: email marketing


9. Old McDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I CRO.

“As I see it, there are a small amount of people who really understand conversion rate optimization (CRO). Then there’s another small group of people who really don’t understand it, but are still publishing blog posts about it. This creates confusion for the vast majority of people – those who are interested in increasing their revenue through CRO, but have no idea how to do it because of misinformation and conflicting advice.” That’s Alex Birkett, growth marketer at ConversionXL, clearing the fog of confusion around what CRO is and how to effectively accomplish it.

The upshot is that it’s a lot more than just running a few A/B split tests on different button colors, or headlines, on a sales page. His piece is a bit on the advanced end of the marketing spectrum, but if you think you’ll ever want to grow your business by optimizing it with split tests, read it. You’ll save yourself a lot of time being misled by people who don’t actually have a solid grasp on how to go about optimizing a website to increase conversion rates.

Category: conversion optimization


10. Crack a trial.

“202 people signed up for the $1 trial and 38 of those people converted to $500-per-year customers. That’s a total of $19,000 in additional revenue. On the surface, $19k seems like a substantial amount, and it is. However, the $1 trial sign-ups and the conversion were a good bit lower than I would have forecasted.” That’s Bryan Harris, with the results of what happened when he tried a new product launch tactic recently, called a $1 Free Trial, and generated an extra $19,000 per month of recurring revenue.

The basic approach is this: after your product launch window ends, you send a brief one-day offer to the people on your list who didn’t buy the product you were launching. In that offer, you give them a chance to try your product for a week for $1.00. Once that week is over, they’re automatically converted to a regular monthly subscription unless they cancel their trial (and that’s all above board, meaning, you let them know that they’ll automatically have a monthly subscription start at the end of the free trial unless they cancel.)

This approach can give the folks who had an objection to buying your product that was based solely on the product’s price, a chance to try it out without worrying about the cost. If your price was too high for them, the $1 free trial will often convert a lot of fence sitters into potential customers, and then paying customers after the free trial is over.

This approach worked pretty well for Bryan Harris, but he learned that it didn’t really address the main objection that people had to buying a new app he recently launched. Read his short post and the update at the bottom to find out what their main objection was. Tesla should do a $1 free trial. I’d have the funnest week-long road trip of my life.


You made it! The bottom of the newsletter. You’re awesome.

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Here’s to you kicking ass with your business this week!

All the best,
~Forest Linden
Signals in the Noise
Co-founder @ Clarity Lab


p.s. You can find the archive of past issues right here.

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