I’m pleased to announce the availability of WordPress 3.7 Beta 1.

For WordPress 3.7 we decided to shorten the development cycle and focus on a few key improvements. We plan to release the final product in October, and then follow it in December with a jam-packed WordPress 3.8 release, which is already in development. Some of the best stuff in WordPress 3.7 is subtle — by design! So let’s walk through what we’d love for you to test, just in time for the weekend.

Automatic, background updates. 3.7 Beta 1 will keep itself updated. That’s right — you’ll be updated each night to the newest development build, and eventually to Beta 2. We’re working to provide as many installs as possible with fast updates to security releases of WordPress — and you can help us test by just installing Beta 1 on your server and seeing how it works!

When you go to Dashboard → Updates, you’ll see a note letting you know whether your install is working for automatic updates. There are a few situations where WordPress can’t reliably and securely update itself. But if it can, you’ll get an email (sent to the ‘Admin Email’ on the General Settings page) after each update letting you know what worked and what didn’t. If it worked, great! If something failed, the email will suggest you make a post in the support forums or create a bug report.

Here are some other things you should test out:

  • If you’re running WordPress in another language, we’ll automatically download any available translations for official WordPress importers and the default themes. (More to come here.)
  • Our password meter got a whole lot better, thanks to Dropbox’s zxcvbn library. Again, subtle but effective. Strong passwords are very important!
  • Search results are now ordered by relevance, rather than just by date. When your keywords match post titles and not just content, they’ll be pushed to the top.
  • Developers should check out the new advanced date queries in WP_Query. (#18694)

This software is still in development, so we don’t recommend you run it on a production site. I’d suggest setting up a test site just to play with the new version. To test WordPress 3.7, try the WordPress Beta Tester plugin (you’ll want “bleeding edge nightlies”). Or you can download the beta here (zip).

As always, if you think you’ve found a bug, you can post to the Alpha/Beta area in the support forums. Or, if you’re comfortable writing a reproducible bug report, file one on the WordPress Trac. There, you can also find a list of known bugs and everything we’ve fixed so far.

Happy testing!

WordPress three seven
Saves your weary hand a click
Updates while you sleep

If I were to name the most hated promotion-related topic among online business owners and solo-preneurs (I guess that’s the new trendy term), it would have to be SEO.

SEO is difficult (and if you think otherwise then try ranking for “weight loss”), unclear (no one is 100% sure what to do), and there’s no truly dependable all-time great advice (the space is always changing). On top of that, you don’t get immediate feedback on your efforts.

I can honestly say that I hate SEO. And it’s not just a clever expression to get you interested. I really do.


It just so happens that SEO is still one of the most important elements of every website’s promotional arsenal and the thing that is likely to give us the biggest ROI.

Long story short, even with the hatred, I just had to find a way to learn SEO in some shape or form that’s understandable to me, and which I would be able to actually apply. The result?

The new hub

Everything I’ve learned, I’ve put into a new hub page that’s just been published a minute ago. It’s all about understandable SEO advice for normal people.


If you are interested in becoming the next top dog at SEO or the next all-knowing SEO expert then unfortunately this resource isn’t for you. However, if you just want to learn how to build your site’s visibility in the search engines and bring new leads into your businesses then I invite you to jump in.

Without further ado, here’s the link:

What’s your experience?

What’s your story and background with SEO? Or better yet, what’s your personal attitude towards it? Hate it? Love it?

SEO and Web Traffic Down-to-Earth Talk – New Hub Page Launches | newInternetOrder.com

In a previous post, Thijs made quite a fuss about how many conversion-testers do not know their business. He stated that both the execution as the interpretation of testing showed serious flaws. His major point was that the way we deal with this conversion-testing is not scientific. At all. Time to define scientific. Time to explain the theory behind the tests we use to optimise our conversion.

Joost asked me to look into these conversion rate-tests because of my expertise in statistics and research design. In a previous life, I was a criminologist studying criminal behaviour in very large scaled datasets. I learned a lot about (crappy) research designs and complicated statistics. My overall opinion of the conversion rate tests is that these tests are amazing, beautiful and very useful. But… without some proper knowledge about research and statistics, the pitfall of interpreting your results incorrectly is large. In the following article, I attempt to explain my opinion (formulating 3 major arguments) in detail.

1. Research design is beautiful but NOT flawless

As I started to investigate upon the test-designs of conversion rate testing, I was astonished and delighted with the beauty of the design of A/B-testing. Most of my own scientific studies did not have a research design that is that strong and sophisticated. That does not mean, unfortunately, that testing and interpreting results is easily done. Let me explain!

An experimental design

A/B-testing uses what is called an experimental design. Experimental designs are used to investigate upon causal relations. A causal relationship implies that one thing (e.g. an improved interface) will lead to another thing (e.g. more sales). There are variations in experimental designs, but I would like to leave the explanation of the experimental designs for another post (e.g. the true experimental design, the quasi-experimental design).

For the understanding of this post you only need to know that there have to be two groups in an experimental design. One group is exposed to a stimulus, while the other is not. All (literally all!) other conditions have to be identical. Changes between groups can then be assigned to the stimulus only.

In A/B-testing it is thus of utter importance that both groups are identical to each other.
This can be achieved most easily through randomization. As far as we know, randomization is used by most providers of conversion-testing. The visitor either sees your website in version A or in version B. Which version is provided, is based on pure coincidence. The idea is that the randomization will ensure that both groups are alike. So far, the research-design is very strong: the groups are identical. In theory, this is an experimental goldmine!

Period effects mess with your results

However… randomization will only ensure identical groups assuming that you have enough visitors. Sites with small groups of visitors could simply choose to run their tests for a longer period of time. But then…all kind of changes in population could occur, due to blog posts, links or the news in the world. Randomization will still take care of differences between groups. However, there will be differences within your population due to all kind of these period effects. These differences within your population could interact with the results of your A/B-tests. Let me explain this last one:

Imagine you have a site for nerds and you try to sell plugins. You’re doing an A/B-test on your checkout page. Then you write a phenomenal blog about your stunning wife and a whole new (and very trendy) population visits your website. It could be that this new population responds differently on the changes in your checkout page than the old nerdy population. It could be that the new population (knowing less about the web) is more influenced by usability-changes than the old nerdy population. In that case, your test-results would show an increase in sales based on this new population. If the sudden increase in trendy people on your website is only for a short period of time, you will draw the wrong conclusions.

Running tests for longer period of times will only work if you keep a diary in which you write down all possible external explanations. You should interpret your results carefully and always in light of relevant changes in your website and your population.

2. Test-statistic Z is somewhat unreliable

Working on my PhD I had to do all kinds of analyses with skewed data. In my case, my data contained 95 % of law-abiding citizens (thank god), while only 5% committed a crime. Doing statistical data analyses with these skewed data required a different statistical approach than analyses with ‘normal’ data (with a 50/50 distribution). My gut feeling told me that conversion rate testing actually faces the same statistical challenges. Surely, conversions are very skewed. A conversion rate of 5 % would be really high for most sites. Studying the assumptions of the z-statistic used in most conversion rate tests confirmed my suspicions. The z-statistic is not designed for such skewed datasets. It will become unreliable if conversions are below 5 % (some statistical handbooks even state 10 %!). Due to skewed distributions, the chance of making a type I error (concluding that there’s a significant difference, while in reality there is not) rises.

That does not mean that the Z-statistic is useless. Not at all. I do not have a better alternative either. It does mean however, that the interpretation becomes more complicated and needs more nuancing. With very large amounts of data the statistic regains reliability. But… Especially on sites with small amounts of visitors (and thus very little conversions) one should be very careful interpreting the significance. I think you should have at least 30 conversions a week to do proper testing. Note: that is my opinion, not a statistical law!

Stopping a test immediately after the result is significant is a bit dangerous. The statistic just is not that reliable.

In my opinion, not the significance, but the relevance should be leading in deciding if changes in your design lead to an increase in conversions. Is there a meaningful difference (even if it is not significant) after running a test for a week? Yes?  than you are on to something… No? than you are probably not on to something…

3. Interpretation must remain narrow

Important to realize is that the conclusions you can draw from the test results, never outgrow the test environment. Thus, if you are comparing the conversion using a green ‘buy now’ button with the conversion using a red version of the button, you can only say something about that button, on that site, in that color. You cannot say anything beyond that. Mechanisms causing an increase in sales because of a green button (e.g. red makes people aggressive, green is a more social colour) remain outside the scope of your test.

Test and stay aware

Conversion tools are aptly called ‘tools’. You can compare them to a hammer; you’ll use the hammer to get some nails in a piece of wood, but you won’t actually have the hammer do all the work for you, right? You still want the control, to be sure the nails will be hit as deeply as you want, and on the spot that you want. It’s the same with conversion tools; they’re tools you can use to reach a desired outcome, but you shouldn’t let yourself be led by them. It is of great importance that you’re always aware of what you are testing and nuancing results in the light of period effects and relevance. That actually is, the scientific way to do conversion rate optimization.

Perhaps, packages and programs designed to do conversion testing should help people making their interpretations. Moreover, I would advice people to test in full weeks (but not much longer if you do not want to pollute your results with period effects). Next to that, people should keep a diary with possible period effects. These effects should always be taking into account while interpreting test results. Also, I would strongly advice to only run tests if a website has sufficient visitors. Finally, I would advice you to take the significance with a grain of salt. It is only one test-statistic (probably not a very reliable one) and the difference between significant and non-significant is small. You should interpret test results taking into account both relevance (is there a meaningful difference in conversion) and significance. 

This post first appeared on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

In response to a growing demand from people who wanted “bigger” licenses, we’ve added a couple of license options for our plugins. All of them now have a 50 site and a 100 site license option too, at a discount.

We’ve also added a Complete SEO bundle that contains our Premium SEO, Local SEO, Video SEO, and Video Manual plugins for an even bigger discount. I hope this helps some of the development agencies out there!

This post first appeared on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

Just a week ago or so, I published an article on whether or not sending spam works for grey-area entrepreneurs. Just in case you missed it and you don’t feel like reading it right now, let me just say that in conclusion, spam works and brings serious profits.

Anyway, I decided to follow up on the topic and point out some specific types of spam we’re attacked with on a daily (again, that’s daily) basis. I’m publishing this list as a kind of a strange resource just to keep us on our toes when going through our inboxes.


Now, the list has a particular order. I start off by pointing out the types of spam that have the best chance of tricking us, and then move on to some of the more obvious ones.

1. “Delivery fail” spam

The idea of this type of spam mail is to pretend that it’s sent from your email delivery server as a result of a failed messaging attempt on your part.

For instance, in a genuine situation, when you try emailing a nonexistent email address, your server will return the message to you along with a mail delivery failure header.

What spammers try to do is send fake such notices and attach a malicious file pretending to be the original message. So when you open this attachment, you get a virus.


A general rule is to simply not open any failed delivery notifications if you can’t recall sending the email in the first place.

2. Sneaky spam

Sneaky spam is when the spammer uses a common social media notification subject to lure you into opening the email. Here’s an example:


The “You Have: [1] Unread Message” is probably the perfect book example of a sneaky subject line. The link inside the email is, of course, a fraudulent one.

And one more thing. I encourage you to click the spam button on anyone who sends such emails, even if it’s someone you initially opted in to get messages from.

3. The “Re:” trick

This is one of the older approaches in email spam, but it’s still easy to get tricked by it.


The subject line is just meant to convince us that we are the ones who initiated the conversation. Then, if we open the email, the author moves on to something completely unrelated right away (usually to some offer).

4. PayPal spam and other payment-related spam

PayPal spam is when a spammer pretends to be PayPal and emails you about some changes in your account or some new transfers that need to be “authorized.” If you do get tricked and click the link in the email, you will be redirected to a fake PayPal site that’s been set up to steal your login and password.

Other payment-related spam messages work the same way, but there’s just no direct mention of any specific payment processor.


5. General outreach spam

Every once in a while, you will get some poorly targeted email outreach. Like I did a couple of weeks ago; the screen I shared last time:


This type of spam could actually work if only the spammer had done a better job at researching who are they sending the email to.

6. General affiliate crap spam

I really have nothing against affiliate marketing, but some stuff that people send out is just plain ridiculous. Like this thing, for example:


The way this sort of email gets created is fairly simple: (1) start with an unbelievably world-changing headline, and (2) promote some crappy affiliate offer right away.

7. “Biz op” spam

Very similar to affiliate spam, only the headline is more down-to-earth and the message usually tries to point us directly to a given site instead of using an affiliate gate.


The main principle is still the same though: Make some money without breaking a sweat.

8. Fake gifts and prizes

The story is always the same … “Hey you won something, click here to collect the prize!”


‘Nuff said.

9. Rolex spam

You’re likely to receive a handful of those every month. Rolex spam is still one of the big three most profitable spam markets (something I talked about in the previous post).


10. The old school of spam

The old school of spam is about stuff like Viagra and porn. This never gets old. And although these two are the most profitable spam markets, I don’t think that it’s because people get tricked into clicking the links inside the emails.

It’s much more probable that one in a couple of million recipients is simply in need of some pills or entertainment, and they click on the links consciously.

(Sorry, no screenshot here…)

11. ?

That’s it for my list. If you have any ideas for no. 11, don’t hesitate to let me know.

10 Types of Spam to Be Aware of When Browsing Your Inbox | newInternetOrder.com

I read a lot of articles about A/B tests and I keep being surprised by the differences in testing that I see. I think it’s safe to say: most conversion rate optimization testing is not scientific. It will simply take up too much space to explain what I mean exactly by being scientific, but I’ll publish a post on that next week, together with Marieke.

I’ll be very blunt throughout this post, but don’t get me wrong. A/B testing is an amazing way to control for a lot of things normal scientific experiments wouldn’t be able to control for. It’s just that most people make interpretations and draw conclusions from the results of these A/B tests, that make no sense whatsoever.

Not enough data

The first one is rather simple, but still a more common mistake than I could ever have imagined. When running an A/B test, or any kind of test for that matter, you need enough data to actually be able to conclude anything. What people seem to be forgetting is that A/B tests are based on samples. When I use Google, samples will be defined as follows:

a small part or quantity intended to show what the whole is like

For A/B testing on websites, this means you take a small part of your site’s visitors, and start to generalize from that. So obviously, your sample needs to be big enough to actually draw meaningful conclusions from it. Because it’s impossible to distinguish any differences if your sample isn’t big enough.

Having too small a sample would be a problem with your Power. The power is a scientific term, which means the probability that your hypothesis is actually true. It depends on a number of things, but increasing your sample size is the easiest way to make your power higher.

Run tests full weeks

However, your sample size and power can be through the roof, it all doesn’t matter if your sample isn’t representative. What this means is that your sample needs to logically resemble all your visitors. By doing this, you’ll be able to generalize your findings to your entire population of visitors.

And this is another issue I’ve encountered several times: a lot of people never leave their tests running for full weeks (of 7 days). I’ve already said in one of my earlier posts, that people’s online behavior differs every day. So if you don’t run your tests full weeks, you will have tested some days more often than others. And this will make it harder to generalize from your sample to your entire population. It’s just another variable you’d have to correct for, while preventing it is so easy.


The duration of your tests becomes even more important when you’re comparing two variations against each other. If you’re not using a multivariate test, but want to test using multiple consecutive A/B tests, you need to test these variations for the same amount of time. I don’t care how much traffic you’ve gotten on each variation; your comparison is going to be distorted if you don’t.

I came across a relatively old post by ContentVerve last week, because someone mentioned it in Michiel’s last post. Now, first of all, they’re not running their tests full weeks. There’s just no excuse for that, especially if you’re going to compare tests. On top of that, they are actually comparing tests, but they’re not running their tests evenly long. Their tests ran for 9, 12, 12 and 15 days. I’m not saying evening this would change the result. All I’m saying is that it’s not scientific. At all.

Now I’m not against ContentVerve, and even this post makes a few interesting points. But I don’t trust their data or tests. There’s one graph in there that specifically worked me up:

Test Content Verve

Now this is the picture they give the readers, right after they said this was the winning variation with a 19.47% increase in signups. To be honest, all I’m seeing is two very similar variations, of which one has had a peak for 2 days. After that peak, they stopped the test. By just looking at this graph, you have to ask yourself: is this effect we’ve found really the effect of our variation?

Data pollution

That last question is always a hard question to answer. The trouble of running tests on a website, especially big sites, is that there are a lot of things “polluting” your data. There are things going on on your website; you’re changing and tweaking things, you’re blogging, you’re being active on social media. These are all things that can and will influence your data. You’re getting more visitors, maybe even more visitors willing to subscribe or buy something.

We’ll just have to live with this, obviously, but it’s still very important to know and understand it. To get ‘clean’ results you’d have to run your test for a good few weeks at least, and don’t do anything that could directly or indirectly influence your data. For anyone running a business, this is next to impossible.

So don’t fool yourself. Don’t ever think the results of your tests are actual facts. And this is even more true if your results just happened to spike on 2 consecutive days.


One of the things that even angered me somewhat is the following part of the ContentVerve article:

My hypothesis is that - although the messaging revolves around assuring prospects that they won’t be spammed – the word spam itself give rise to anxiety in the mind of the prospects. Therefore, the word should be avoided in close proximity to the form.

This is simply impossible. A hypothesis is defined, once again by Google, as “a supposition or proposed explanation made on the basis of limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation.” The hypothesis by ContentVerve is in no way made on the basis of any evidence. Let alone the fact he won’t ever pursue further investigation into the matter. With all due respect, this isn’t a hypothesis: it’s a brainfart. And to say you should avoid doing anything based on a brainfart is, well, silly.

This is a very common mistake among conversion rate optimizers. I joined this webinar by Chris Goward, in which he said (14 minutes in), and I quote:

“It turns out that in the wrong context, those step indicators can actually create anxiety, you know, when it’s a minimal investment transaction, people may not understand why they need to go through three steps just to sign in.”

And then I left. This is even worse, because he’s not even calling it a hypothesis. He’s calling it fact. People are just too keen on getting a behavioural explanation and label it. I’m a behavioural scientist, and let me tell you; in studies conducted purely online, this is just impossible.

So keep to your game and don’t start talking about things you know next to nothing about. I’ve actually learned for this kind of stuff and even I’m not kidding myself I understand these processes. You can’t generalize the findings of your test beyond anything of what your test is measuring. You just can’t know, unless you have a neuroscience lab in your backyard.

Significance is not significant

Here’s what I fear the people at ContentVerve have done as well: they left their test running until their tool said the difference was ‘significant’. Simply put: if the conversions of their test variation would have dropped on day 13, their result would no longer be significant. This shows how dangerous it can be to test just until something is significant.

These conversion tools are aptly called ‘tools’. You can compare them to a hammer; you’ll use the hammer to get some nails in a piece of wood, but you won’t actually have the hammer do all the work for you, right? You still want the control, to be sure the nails will be hit as deeply as you want, and on the spot that you want. It’s the same with conversion tools; they’re tools you can use to reach a desired outcome, but you shouldn’t let yourself be led by them.

I can hear you think right now: “Then why is it actually working for me? I did make more money/get more subscriptions after the test!” Sure, it can work. You might even make more money from it. But the fact of the matter is, in the long run, your tests will be far more valuable if you do them scientifically. You’ll be able to predict more and with more precision. And your generalizations will actually make sense.


It all boils down to these simple and actionable points:

  • Have a decent Power, among others by running your tests for at least a week (preferably much more);
  • Make your sample representative, among others by running your tests full weeks;
  • Only compare tests that have the same duration;
  • Don’t think your test gives you any grounds to ‘explain’ the results with psychological processes;
  • Check your significance calculations.

So please, make your testing a science. Conversion rate optimization isn’t just some random testing, it’s a science. A science that can lead to (increased) viability for your company. Or do you disagree?

This post first appeared on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

After nearly 7 million downloads of WordPress 3.6, we are pleased to announce the availability of version 3.6.1. This maintenance release fixes 13 bugs in version 3.6, which was a very smooth release.

WordPress 3.6.1 is also a security release for all previous WordPress versions and we strongly encourage you to update your sites immediately. It addresses three issues fixed by the WordPress security team:

  • Block unsafe PHP unserialization that could occur in limited situations and setups, which can lead to remote code execution. Reported by Tom Van Goethem.
  • Prevent a user with an Author role, using a specially crafted request, from being able to create a post “written by” another user. Reported by Anakorn Kyavatanakij.
  • Fix insufficient input validation that could result in redirecting or leading a user to another website. Reported by Dave Cummo, a Northrup Grumman subcontractor for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Additionally, we’ve adjusted security restrictions around file uploads to mitigate the potential for cross-site scripting.

We appreciated responsible disclosure of these issues directly to our security team. For more information on the changes, see the release notes or consult the list of changes.

Download WordPress 3.6.1 or update now from the Dashboard → Updates menu in your site’s admin area.

WordPress SEO PremiumWe’ve been working hard here at Yoast to offer you a Premium version of our WordPress SEO plugin with some really cool new features. But they’re not done yet. So we didn’t want to release WordPress SEO premium just yet either. However: more and more people are asking us for paid support on the plugin. So we’ve decided to do a pre-release: starting today you can buy WordPress SEO premium to get access to our support desk. We’ll be rolling out the beta for the premium plugin in the coming weeks to those who’ve bought the premium plugin and to a small set of trusted testers.

The pricing for what will be our main premium plugin is slightly over the Video SEO and Local SEO plugins: $89 for a single site, $169 for up to 5 sites, $329 for up to 20 sites, all of these per year. You get all the plugin upgrades and access to our email support desk.

So what are these Premium features?

We’re working hard on two things:

  • Google Webmaster Tools integration, which retrieves crawl errors from Google Webmaster Tools.
  • Redirect functionality, which allows you to solve the errors found in Google Webmaster Tools, and do any other redirects you need.

Especially the redirect functionality is not easy to do well. It’s not weird that the other plugins available to do redirects often bring down sites, we’ve found it’s one of the most complex things we’ve done with WordPress so far.

Do you need those features? In our opinion: yes. Of course. Otherwise we wouldn’t build them. Most people aren’t even aware of the errors Google finds on their site, finding and fixing them is one of those things you can do to stay ahead of your competition.

What does “support” mean?

In our case, support means that you can email us, and we’ll answer. We’ll help you set up the plugin on your site if something is not working and we’ll give you advice on specific settings you have questions about. If you find bugs, we’ll prioritize the fixing of bugs of paying customers over bugs of non-paying customers.

I don’t think you need more of a reason to buy the plugin, but over time, we’ll be adding more premium-only features.

Want to buy now? Go ahead.

1 year upgrades & support:

This post first appeared on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!



Yes, today we’re all over online snake oil salesman! Maybe you’ve noticed that I quite enjoy writing posts on the dark side of online business, or more precisely, the dark side of online business education. In other words, I love to stumble upon some hip new douchebag marketer techniques, also known as online snake oil salesmen (in memory of their idols from back in the day in the wild west).

Anyway, I’ve decided to compile these 10 commandments of an online snake oil salesman. This post was not written for pure entertainment though. Each commandment presents a common practice done by real people who call themselves marketers. Try to look at this list as a big warning sign – whenever you see someone using a technique described in here, they may indeed be a snake oil salesman.

Warning. This is a reverse tutorial. I actually don’t want you to take part in anything I’m describing in this post.

1. Thou shalt employ crack-head price lowering

I love this technique. Here’s how it plays out (it’s easier to explain this with an example):

  1. You come to a sales page and see an offer.
  2. The offer isn’t that impressive so you decide to leave.
  3. As soon as you hover your mouse over the “x” button a pop-up appears with a new deal and a slightly lower price.
  4. You still don’t want a part in this so you click the “x” button to close the window, but…another window appears with one more discount.
  5. That’s a “no” again.
  6. Another window appears; this time trying to convince you to subscribe to an email list.
  7. And the craze continues for a couple more steps…

I’m sure you’ve seen those sales pages a number of times. The offers just keep returning like a crack-head who needs some drug money, hence the name.

2. Thou shalt get on board every product launch in thy niche

Everybody knows this. To make serious money, you have to promote everything there is in your niche to promote. Period. And I mean, jump on any crappy product launch out there. Promote the big guys as well as the wannabe snake oil salesmen. In a word, everything.

The best way to do it? Your email list.

3. Thou shalt send only promotional emails

That one’s obvious. These days, no one has time to produce their own original newsletter content, so the only way out of this is to send promotion, exclusively. But here’s the kicker, you don’t even need to write those promotional emails yourself. Every launch or affiliate product will come with a set of pre-written email templates that you can use successfully.

Those templates are deceptive as hell, by the way. They promise one thing, only to send the reader to a webpage where the only thing they can do is buy some crap product.

Here’s an example of such an email >>


4. Thou shalt spam

Contrary to a common belief, spam is extremely profitable.I’m sure you can buy a list of email addresses off Craigslist to get started… And let’s face it, emails are not the craziest thing you can get on Craigslist.

5. Thou shalt use boiler rooms to sell stuff

Believe it or not, Alec Baldwin is not the only one involved in the boiler room business.(The Boiler Room – movie starring Alec Baldwin, for which he won an Oscar despite being in the movie for only 7 minutes!)

There’s a really big number of marketers using modern boiler rooms as part of their so-called business. The procedure is this: they get some email addresses, sell them to an “agency” (= a boiler room), and then they begin calling people up, targeting senior citizens specifically and offering them all kinds of BS.

6. Thou shalt use sales videos that are supposed “to go down soon”

Hey, this video will go down! Seriously, you guys!


I don’t know what’s the deal with this, but for some reason, more and more people believe that the only thing they have to do at the beginning of a sales video is to say something like:

Hey, you need to act fast because I’m only testing this offer and this video will go down soon. Heck, it may not even be online the next time you visit this page.

Oh really? Really? There’s not one time when I saw a video promised to go down that actually went down.

7. Thou shalt always quote the exact amount of money you’ve made

Does this sound familiar to you:

Here’s how I made exactly $16,456.37 and how you can do the same.

You obviously have to quote the size of your wallet to the nearest cent, otherwise people won’t believe that you’re for real.


8. Thou shalt align yourself with genuine experts

There’s no simpler way to distract someone and pretend you’re not an online snake oil salesman than to align yourself with genuine experts. All it takes is quoting a legitimate study here, mentioning a well recognized name there, or better yet, lying about knowing someone credible personally, and it’s a home run. For instance, one of the lamest ways of doing this is to use a fake “as seen on” block on your sales page. Like these.

9. Thou shalt publish only fake product reviews

Fake product reviews are those that have been written without actually putting your hands on the product.Such reviews are written purely from the promotional material that’s available for the product, and are designed to show the product in the best light possible.Fake flaws are another common thing in this department (flaws that are very insignificant and have no impact on the overall impression of the product).

10. Thou shalt steal content and say it’s yours

Stealing content is way too easy these days. What you do is take an article published anywhere on the web, and I do mean anywhere, and then put it through a translator, to say, Spanish. Then, to English again, and voila! You have a shiny new piece of content that’s slightly reworded and much more unreadable than the original.Now, the trick is to publish this piece on as many spam blogs as you can, and pointing all links back to your money site – the one with your constant promotion on fake promises.


{Reality check}

There we have it, my 10 online snake oil salesman commandments. I’m really amazed at how many people actually try to do business online using the techniques and tactics described above.

I know that apparently they do work and can bring big profits, but come on… Is annoying 95% of your audience really THE way to do business online?

Again, this was a reverse tutorial, which means that I don’t want you to do anything that was described in this post. This is just a warning sign of sorts, so you can have your finger on the pulse and notice any suspicious figure who tries to trick you into buying some snake oil.

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The 10 Online Snake Oil Salesman Commandments | newInternetOrder.com

Every website needs a proper call-to-action. Since I wrote the first version of that post way back when we have often been referring to that same post. It seems very hard to add focus to a homepage, somehow. I might be going out on a limb here, but I also think theme developers should design with this in mind. A lot of themes are designed to clutter a page with widgets and buttons that totally reduce focus on the main items on a page. Don’t even get me started on image sliders and video backgrounds

We’re building sites not just to entertain people, but also to let them buy or do something. A site needs a great user experience to get people to use it. Increasingly, we see that UX is an integral part of the SEO process, not to mention conversion. So in this regard, we can all agree that a homepage needs a great call to action (CTA). Now that you have a visitor clicking that main button or link on your homepage, you should think of what happens next. The visitor lands on a second page. One of your goals is met; you prevented a bounce. Now you need to convert that visitor into a customer or subscriber.

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Every page has a call-to-action

Although a call-to-action is very important on a homepage, of course there could, or perhaps should, be a CTA on every page of your website. The contact form has a call-to-action, of course. A quote form in the sidebar has a CTA. Buttons for your own products, like in our sidebar, have or even are call-to-actions.

For every page on your website, you should decide if there is a CTA related to the content of that page, or that the content is solely for informational purposes and that call-to-action should be to achieve something else.

Let’s go over some call-to-actions you might encounter while going over your website:

Product page

Product page call-to-actionThis should be the obvious one. Every product page needs an ‘Add to Cart’ or ‘Buy Now’ call-to-action. That button, as in most cases this is a button, needs to stand out, is usually accompanied by an ‘amount’ select box and is present in all shops. Otherwise, the shop is merely a catalog.

In my experience, eCommerce shops tend to cram all kind of things around that button:

  • Social share buttons;
  • way too large size options (people will find these anyway);
  • related products;
  • color options.

I am sure you can come up with more clutter like this. Don’t get me wrong: these items should be available, I just highly doubt they need to take the focus away from the ‘Add to Cart’ button. Just make them a lot smaller than the call to action and locate them a bit further away from that button.

The image above is an extreme example of a designer trying a minimal approach. One of the main reasons I dislike it is because I had to scroll to see the ‘Add to shopping bag’ button. I would create a block with all the options, but choose the right form elements to reduce clutter, keep the form options short and compact and focus on the important stuff. A select list for color, a select list for size, some code logic to make sure only available stock is shown.

I think that would be my main show stopper, by the way. Seeing the product I want, clicking to a product page and landing on a page that says ‘Out of stock’ instead of ‘Order now’. At least give me some alternatives, but rather tell me when it will be available again (approximately) and maybe even give me an option to reserve the item. Read more about eCommerce usability and UX in our ultimate guide.

Quick Quote or Contact form

Quick Quote FormThere are quite some sites out there that have a form in a sidebar to ‘Request a quick quote’, or ‘Quick contact’, like the one on the right. Now slap me silly and call me Susan, but if I have to fill in all these fields, that is not a quick contact to me. Let’s be honest, what do you need to know? Email and name, perhaps? Just ask that.

Now, I recently had a discussion with someone who shed a different light on this. The guy in question pointed out that the form was intentionally a bit longer to filter the entries. In his opinion, people that were willing to fill in the extra fields were more likely to become serious customers. If there are just a few fields, it’s too easy to fill in the form and hit ‘Send’.

This is, of course, a matter of quality over quantity. And it is related to the product or service at hand as well, but he certainly had a good point here.

It does not imply the form on the right is the form I would prefer. Why split up first and last name? Why ask email address and telephone number? Even a form that asks for more details can be more focussed than this.

Besides that, the Send button is also a not really appealing. ‘Send’ feels just a lot less right than ‘Please contact me!’. That will also enlarge the button to make it stand out more.

Text on your call-to-action

When thinking about text for your CTA button, there are a few things that are important:

  1. First of all, you need to be sure you’re using an active voice. An active voice is action-oriented, and so literally calls people to action. And that’s exactly what you want. Make people want to click your button!
  2. Make sure your button text is specific to what people are doing. ‘Send’ is just too generic. Use something like “Sign up!” for a newsletter, or “Contact us” for a contact form. The text has to explain what the button will do.
  3. Use small and simple words. You need to keep your button text as simple as possible. People have to understand what it means immediately.
  4. Lastly, creating urgency can convince people to click your call-to-action. You can do this by, for instance, having limited time offers or by telling people how your product can help them or solve their problems now. This can even be a text next to your call-to-action.

But just like Frank Luntz put on the cover of his book Words That Work: “It’s not what you say, it’s what people hear.” So you definitely need to test whether all these tips will actually work for you. There’s no guarantee that what has worked for us, or any other company, will work for you.

Contact details

If the main goal of your website is getting in touch with potential buyers, the main concern on the website is to make it absolutely clear how you can be reached. List your phone number and please don’t be afraid to be a bit bold:


This works in more than one way:

  • In a responsive design, the telephone number can be inserted right below the logo so that the mobile visitor can get in touch right away;
  • even if people do not click it, the very presence of it makes that a visitor is confident you can be reached in case of any problems, lowering barriers to buy at your online shop;
  • of course, people will be able to call you without the hassle of turning your website inside out to find your phone number;
  • a local number might stimulate local buyers to buy at your place.

Regarding that last one, Peninsula Air Conditioning told us that the general 1300 number did not emphasize enough that it is a local business and customers had told him that. Changing to the local number, created recognition and increased trust in the website.

Of course, they created a secondary, textual call-to-action right below the local number, to assure visitors from other cities than Sydney, that the company could still help with their air conditioning needs.

It’s a nice example that the CTA on your contact page does not always need to be something you can click.

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Subscribe to newsletter

The last example I would like to mention in this post is the Subscribe to Newsletter option. Again, you only need an email address for that. Even if you would want more details, you can always ask for these later.

The subscribe to newsletter call-to-action can be on every page, below every post or after every check out page. The main difference between the contact or quote form mentioned above is that it is a lot less clear what the consequences are. It’s quite clear that filling out a contact form leads to the company contacting you.

The newsletter subscription might result in an email a day or once per fortnight. It might be an email listing just excerpts of posts on a website, or it might be something ‘extra’ for subscribers. Being clear on what’s going to happen after subscribing, reduces the barriers to trust you with my email address. Making clear that you will not send any spammy emails also helps a great deal, for obvious reasons.

In conclusion

All in all, there are many call-to-actions to be defined after that one on the homepage. And these are equally important. I am sure you have forgotten these on projects. I am also sure your customers cannot always be convinced of the need for that second call to action. They might be too modest, or they focus on a matching design way too much. Blending in a call to action is never the right choice. (Ghost buttons, anyone?)

Enlighten me with your thoughts on this in the comments below. I’d love to see some examples of great call-to-actions as well, but please please me with designs gone wrong. There are plenty of those out there!

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