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Episode 5

CRO strategies from a seasoned expert

Joining us for this episode is one of our Marketing United 2018 speakers, Ayat Shukairy. She's the co-founder of Invesp, where she helps companies like eBay, 3M, the Special Olympics, DISH Network, and Discovery create websites that people fall in love with while at the same time increasing online sales.

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Ayat Shukairy


Hosted By

Jeff Slutz


In this Episode:

  • How to provide a cohesive experience from the inbox to your website
  • Copywriting advice for headlines, buttons, ad copy, and more
  • Common mistakes marketers make that kill conversions


  • Oftentimes, there’s a lack of continuity between an offer on an ad and a landing page on a website.

  • Whenever it comes to copy, it depends on the vertical you’re targeting and knowing your customer. What are the trigger words that impact them?

  • A lot of tests become false positives. It’s usually because you didn’t isolate the right variable, or you didn’t run the test long enough.

Episode Transcript

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Jeff: Hello, everyone, and welcome to Emma’s “Behind The Glasses,” the podcast where we bring you conversations with some of the top thought leaders and marketers in our industry today. I’m Jeff Slutz, the senior content strategist here at Emma and with us today is Ayat Shukairy, co-founder of Invesp where she helps companies like eBay, 3M, Special Olympics, Dish Network, Discovery, just to name a few of them, create websites that people fall in love with while at the same time increasing online sales for those companies, a total win-win. She is also the co-author of an bestselling book called “Conversion Optimization.” And I saw Ayat speak about conversion rate optimization at our Marketing United Conference back in April and she is an absolute expert in this stuff, so I am really excited that I get to pick her brain today. So hello, Ayat, and thanks for joining us.

Ayat: Hi, Jeff. I’m glad to be here.

Jeff: And I’m excited you’re here. I know you’re out in Istanbul right now so it’s probably in the middle of the evening out there, so we appreciate you taking that time out of your evening to talk to us today, so.

Ayat: Yeah, no problem at all.

Jeff: Cool. All right. So, you know, we’re an email marketing company. Our audience is, obviously, very interested in email so let’s give the people what they want and talk a little email. So on one side, you know, you have the “email is dead” crowd. You know, “Email’s been around forever, it’s boring. I don’t want to spend time on email.” But on the other, you know, you have folks saying that it’s literally the most valuable channel that they have in their marketing arsenal. So where do you kinda see email fitting in to the current marketing landscape?

Ayat: I definitely find it very funny when people say, “Email is dead,” because, you know, just like when I look at some of the stuff out there, like, I think like 88% of B2B marketers, they say that email is the most effective form of lead generation. So, I mean, it’s definitely not dead. It’s far from being dead. Even when it comes to teens or millennials, you know, their usage of email is actually quite high. It’s obviously not as high as possibly like, you know, older people but at the same time, still it’s being used and it’s very relevant. So I think email is here to stay for a while, but of course, it’s gonna change and adapt to some of the current technologies. So that’s definitely something that any type of marketer that’s working with email needs to, you know, to kind of account for. All marketing activities across the board are becoming a lot more advanced, there’s a lot more techno…you know, technological advances, you know, AI, and all of these different technological advances that are impacting different forms of marketing. So certainly, it’s important for anybody who’s using email to stay in touch and know about those advancements and adapt in order for them to kind of stay relevant and keep customers and visitors engaged.

Jeff: I’m very glad that you said it was funny that people said email is dead and that you don’t agree with it because if you did agree, we’d probably have to pull the plug on the podcast right now. But you know, I think that’s a great point. And one of the other things about email is that it’s very reliable. It gives you that, you know…there’s a lot of new technology that come along and advances, but with email, it’s the one channel with, maybe along with SMS where you know your audience is actually gonna get that message. They might not necessarily open on it, they might open it, they might not necessarily click through, but you know they at least received it. And when you think about things with, you know, like Facebook’s recent…another change to their algorithm which basically outright killed organic reach, I think just having that reliability is gonna be so key for marketers going forward.

Ayat: Yeah, absolutely. And I think it’s just…it’s about, you know, not about saying that a form of marketing is dead but how can I make it more useful in, you know, whatever vertical I’m operating in? How can I increase, you know, open rates and click rates? And you know, is it the copy, is it the design? How is it being delivered exactly to the end, you know, customer or receiver? Those are the questions that you should be asking, but you know, to kind of eliminate it, I feel like, you know, a lot of people sometimes jump to these drastic conclusions and it’s never a good idea.

Jeff: It’s all about getting the clicks, too, that you put “email is dead” out there, people are like, “Oh, that’s provocative,” and people wanna click on it, so it’s kind of classic clickbait.

Ayat: Yup.

Jeff: So in terms of, you know, optimizing your email and making it fit with the rest of your marketing, one of the things that frustrates me more than anything is if I see a great-looking email, I click through, and the landing page has this…either looks like crap or it does not line up with the email at all, or vice-versa. Somebody has a beautiful website but the email they’re sending just looks terrible. It’s like this clearly haven’t invested in it. So I’m curious, from your perspective, you know, what are some best practices for marketers to kind of make sure there’s a cohesive experience between email and the website?

Ayat: So what I would say is that, you know, and this is kind of like common mistakes that we see people do in general when it comes to any source of traffic or any marketing channel where visitors are coming from and they land on a specific landing page or website, there’s that lack of continuity between the messaging that was on the email and then the messaging that they see on the website, or the landing page. So, you know, if it’s like there’s an offer, you wanna make sure that they see that offer clearly prevalent there on the landing page. You know, a lot of time, people like to do a lot of different things with landing page and put a lot of different messages there so it really drowns out kind of ultimately the reason why they got there.

Another issue is that, you know, sometimes you might have several different campaigns running so people are coming from like, you know, Google AdWords, they’re coming from email, and they’re all landing on the same page. Well, the messaging in each of those might be a little bit different so you wanna kind of account for that and make sure, “How can I make sure to maintain scent in the best way possible so that somebody who’s coming from that message they clicked, they’re actually very motivated.” How are they motivated? They’re very interested. How can I make sure to give them what they want and let them see exactly what they came to this page to see? So I think that’s probably one of the more frustrating things that I see and I find it surprising that until now, this still occurs and this still happens. So, I mean, I think that this is probably one of the biggest things that I see between email and landing pages.

Jeff: That’s a really good point too because, you know, when you’re communicating via email and you’re sending someone to a landing page, that’s very different than if you’re communicating via, like, a display ad. You know, you’re getting a lot more context from the email than you would be from some, you know, kind of a clickbaity ad headline. So what’s your recommendation there, is that, would you literally create separate landing pages for each of those channels or is it just really making sure you can somehow unify the message within that single landing page?

Ayat: I think it depends on what type of campaigns you have running. Of course, you know, if you’re gonna be spending a lot on whether it’s email marketing or whether, you know, like ad campaigns, then certainly, I would separate them. I mean, if you have a budget, obviously, some people don’t have the budget to do it. I would separate from those different sources of traffic because the visitors are a lot different. You know, the message that you’re able to communicate in, you know, an ad is very different than the message that you’re gonna be communicating in email. So certainly, if you’re able to and you have the budget, I would recommend separating them and having different landing pages. But that’s not practical for a lot of companies. It’s not practical for a lot of smaller businesses so it’s just a matter of making sure that the messaging is still relevant whether they’re coming from this source of traffic, this ad campaign, or this email, they see that messaging kind of, you know, follow through. There’s that continuity between, you know, what they’re seeing, the headlines that they’re seeing, the copy that they’re seeing on the ads and the email, and then on the landing page itself. So it could be a little bit tricky when you have lots of different sources of traffic getting to the same exact page but it’s really important because you wanna maximize on those customers, make sure they don’t bounce once they see the messaging that is not relevant to what they saw before.

Jeff: That’s a very good point. It would certainly make my life a lot easier as a writer if we had separate pages for every channel, but that’s neither here nor there. A little bit of a selfish question on my part, though, is since we’re on the topic of copy and writing. I am writer by trade and, you know, one of the toughest things about my job, really, is coming up with, you know, that perfect headline or that button copy or something that’s gonna really increase conversions. Do you have some sort of copy writing advice for us sterling web writers out there?

Ayat: You know, I think like whenever it comes to copy or…it always depends on, obviously, like, you know, the vertical that you are operating in and the market that you’re operating with. Knowing the kind of like the customers, like in my customer base, I’m aware of kind of some of the trigger words that impact them. So one of the activities that we actually do when we take on a project is we really try to understand really that market very well and try to really kind of get a sense of what are those trigger words that are going to impact them more than other words. And those are kind of some of the terminology that we’ll probably use within the copy or within the headlines or within the call-to-action button so that we can ensure that visitors will, you know, be persuaded to kind of move forward throughout the website.

But I think…so it’s kind of like twofold. Number one is you have to kind of obviously know really well, and understand the market very well in order for you to create copy that’s going to resonate with them. And the second thing that you wanna do is you wanna just do a lot of brainstorming as well. So come up with like, you know, a couple of different concepts and of course, we’re big, you know, proponents of A/B testing and A/B testers. See which impacts the visitor, which is going to kind of move them forward and get them, you know, more likely to click.

Jeff: I’m glad you brought up testing because, you know, we’re huge proponents of it here. We do a lot of testing on our end and I think a lot of marketers would like to test more but either they don’t know where to start or maybe they think they don’t have the time, so what are some of those like tried and true testing strategies that you would recommend folks put in place when it comes to their landing pages? Like, what are some ideas of things they could test that are pretty easy to get up and running?

Ayat: So I mean, the thing is with testing, and I’m always saying this nowadays is that like CRO and the way that people perceive it, and the way that people perceive testing, I think because of the thought that, you know, the idea of like always be testing, that became really popular in, like, you know, the early 2000. So that impacted, I think, CRO really negatively because a lot of people thought, “Hey, you know what? I’m gonna test like, you know, the call-to-action buttons. I’m going to be testing, you know, this, you know, image,” or something very simple, and it just didn’t have the impact that people were expecting. They didn’t see the 259% increase in conversion rate as a result of doing that, because it’s not going to give you that result. You know, testing those small items won’t give you that result.

So my suggestion when it comes to testing is that you have to approach it…I know that some…it’s a resource. It takes up a lot of resources. However, you have to approach it scientifically because ultimately, it’s a test. So it’s like any scientific test and I have to think about it that way. So A, is I need to make sure that I’ve done kind of my due diligence and I’ve done the research to say that, you know, I’ve identified a specific problem on the site and that’s what I’m going to be testing. I don’t wanna randomly come to the website and be like, “Okay. You know what? Let’s just make it purple today,” you know, with no kind of knowledge or scientific, you know, research that I’ve done to kind of lead me to that specific conclusion. So I think that that’s extremely important and that’s I think what is kind of like a piece that’s lacking, that a lot of people don’t necessarily put in the time and effort to research and understand. “Okay. What are the issues? What are we seeing in analytics? Where are the pages that are not performing very well?” If you conduct kind of just a walkthrough through the website, you’d be surprised about the number of issues that could come up, that would give you kind of some pause and some questions. So that would be kind of my first answer is that, you know, just do your due diligence. Research before you actually go ahead and test because you can’t expect CRO to be effective and to give you results that you are looking for and the increased conversion rates if you haven’t done that.

And then the second thing is, you know, don’t test too many elements at once. Try to, again, be very scientific about it in the sense that you wanna make sure you limit the number of variables when you’re testing. A lot of tests end up being false positives so you think that they’re going to outperform or the testing engine tells you that it’s giving you an increase, but then, you implement it and it doesn’t. So the reason for that could be, number one, is you haven’t done the research or you’ve tested too many elements and you can’t really isolate what really impacted the site. Or it could be that you just didn’t test it long enough. You know, you didn’t reach a sample size to give you that statistical significance.

So those are really key things when it comes to testing. I know it’s probably not the answer you wanna hear because people wanna do something like really quick and really fast but if you take your time with testing and if you do, you know, kind of like more research and you really spend more hours on it, you’re going to see a better result and you’re gonna see kind of those conversion rates go up consistently. And you won’t give up on the CRO program like a lot of companies we know. They start testing and they don’t see the results right away because they’re doing it wrong and then they give up on it altogether. So it’s something that you just have to continue doing and continue improving so you can continue engaging your visitors when they come to your site.

Jeff: That’s such a great, honest answer because you’re right. That’s probably not the answer marketers will want but it’s the answer marketers need right now because… We’ve experienced that on our own end where, you know, we’re just doing, you know, testing just the headline, or testing a button copy, or just swapping out an image. And really, you’re only seeing, if you see any difference at all, it’s just like a percentage point. If you let it run long enough, it really pretty much evens up because you’re not really making a big impact on the page. But we did have, it’s like, “Well, man, this is kind of frustrating. Everything we do, it ends up having the same result.” So we did take a step back and we applied more of that scientific research on one of our landing pages where we initially had the form was on the left side of the page. It looked nice with the layout and the design. But we did some research and found that, you know, when you flip it to the right, more people are having success there and also, it’s just more natural for how our brains work and how we read from left to right, we’re used to kind of landing on the right side of the page. And we did that flip and then we actually saw some real measurable results and increases in our conversion rates. So that is totally aligning…your answer is totally aligning with what we’ve been experiencing on our own and, you know, kind of real world, trying to implement a testing program, so.

Ayat: Yeah. And what I’d add to that, Jeff, is that I don’t think that you shouldn’t test headlines or you shouldn’t test call-to-action buttons. I definitely think that you should and you might see a very slight increase because, like you said, one of the things that we do when we’re kind of testing is we say, “Can somebody notice it within five seconds?” You can notice the test within five seconds and certainly, you know, it’s not gonna have that big splash and that big impact and that, you know, increase in conversion rate. But it doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t be testing those elements. Certainly, yeah, if I have them and I know that I need to, like, you know, change the copy or I wanna see if this type of, you know, copy resonates better, then certainly, move forward with that. But at the same time, don’t expect to see those, you know, 20%, 30% increases in conversion rates.

Jeff: You know, you guys are obviously experts in this and what you do and you’ve helped…you know, we’ve named some of your clients before and you certainly don’t have to name names here but I think it’s really helpful to hear some before and afters of some ways that you have, kind of, used that research to help folks increase their results. So can you talk through a couple of, you know, some success stories that you’ve had implementing these programs?

Ayat: Yeah, definitely. Actually, a really interesting client, we worked with them back in 2010, and you know, helped them increase their conversion rate. They were probably like at maybe like a 1.5% conversion rate. And by the time they ended the program, they had reached around 2.5% conversion rate. And at the time when they had signed with us as well, they only had one guy who was doing all of their marketing. He was doing the email marketing. He was doing all their AdWord campaigns. He was doing their CRO. He was doing everything. So then, fast forward, a few years later, they came back and they told us, “You know, we wanna engage you guys again. We basically, like, you know, increased our team. We learned a lot from you guys the first time. We increased the number of people that are just dedicated to CRO, you know.” Of course, marketing altogether was increased but just dedicated to CRO, they had 10 people that were just dedicated to working on CRO and testing.

But they wanted to kind of like grow their program a little bit further. So they worked with us as well, and you know, their conversion rates, of course, by that time, because they had been doing so much testing and doing conversion rate optimization throughout those years, had increased to around, like, you know, eight percent. So that’s definitely a major, kind of like, success story and to see kind of how they took their learnings, they grew their team, they kept on doing it, and then they came back to kind of get, you know, another set of eyes to kind of help them refresh their program again.

And then there was another client that we had that they were at around, maybe like 20…they sell furniture online and, you know, they were making around $20 million in revenue. By the time we finished CRO with them, they had reached $40 million in revenue. So, I mean, the impact that conversion rate optimization can have on a company is great. So if you’re not doing it, you definitely need to think about it, think about ways to not only fix the problems on your site but just ways to continuously engage visitors. And because, you know, a lot of times I say like, “Okay. You know, websites are pretty much, if you look at like, you know, for example, just eCommerce or even like lead-gen websites, they’re pretty much like the same format. You know, yeah, the copy is gonna be a little bit different here and there but it’s always the same experience.”

Whenever we go to a website and we have a different experience and we’re really engaged and we’re like, “Whoa, that was, like, something completely different than anything that I’ve experienced,” that sticks with you and that’s something that you’re gonna be talking about. So giving those experiences are…is extremely important because everything has become so commoditized, and even websites have, to a certain extent. So I would…you know, those are kind of a couple of examples.

Jeff: That’s great. And I’m sure that poor soul who was doing all of the marketing by himself or herself is very thankful for the help that you gave them to get more of a team there. That sounds terrifying.

So yeah, let’s talk a little bit about client service. You know, we have a lot of customers who, you know, they work for marketing agencies. So what’s your advice when you’re, you know, working with a client who either doesn’t agree with your recommendations or you’re not quite seeing eye-to-eye on the strategy? What sort of works for you when it comes to those client relations?

Ayat: So on the flip side of success stories, I’ll tell you that any project that has not been successful in, you know, all the years that I’ve been doing conversion rate optimization, have been the projects where you don’t have complete buy-in from all the stakeholders. So that is so key and so important. And actually, part of our process even is just to make sure that everybody that’s involved in the process that’s going to be impacted by the website buys into the idea of conversion rate optimization. Because once you don’t have buy-in and there is that one person that is just not happy with what’s happening, they don’t agree with it, they’re not on board, they’re going to really impact the project negatively. So I would say, number one, is before you start anything with any type of company, just try to make sure that all the stakeholders have that buy-in.

I would even say, you know, for example, like the developer that you’re going to be working with because we work with, you know, for instance, developers on the client side. Or the designer that you’re going to be working with, if you’re working with a designer on the client side, make sure that they’re aware and that there is buy-in from them, you have a conversation with them, you educate them. Whatever it is, just to make sure that there is that buy-in.

The other thing that we do is, in terms of like just overall process, we try to make it very collaborative because we wanna make sure the customer is involved. Ultimately, it is the face of the company that we’re changing when it comes to the website. So they’re going to be impacted by it and they wanna make sure that, you know, it meets their standards. So we have a conversation before we even launch a test especially if it’s kind of like a larger change. We’ll make sure we have a conversation. We show, you know, mock-ups so that there is that, you know, agreement. If they have any feedback, we take that feedback as well into consideration.

So I think, you know, when you’re doing some of these marketing initiatives, especially when it is impacting the website or the branding in some way, shape, or form, you wanna make sure that you have those conversations always with the clients so that they’re happy, they’re on board, it makes sense, they…you know, they’re completely buying into what you’re telling them.

Jeff: That’s really a great point about…there’s the danger when there’s a single point of contact on either side on either the agency or the client side. If they found that…I mean, when you have…you’re running the risk if there’s a game of telephone, everything’s being relayed. And you’re right, not all of the stakeholders are involved in those initial conversations and coming to that agreement. That’s huge, to try to get at who all is going to be touching this project, who’s gonna be impacted by this project, and make sure everybody is on board and that’s not just being funneled through one person or one particular point of view.

So shifting gears a little bit, a little bit of a fun question I like to ask folks who appear on “Behind The Glasses,” is that marketers, we love to throw around our industry buzzwords whether they mean anything or not. So I’m curious, what is your least favorite marketing buzzword or trend that you’re hearing a lot about right now?

Ayat: I would say, probably, like, “growth hacking,” “helpful” also, you know…I don’t know if I’m completely like I’m at the point where I completely dislike it but it’s just a buzzword that’s just also I feel like overused, which is “influencer,” because, obviously, influencer marketing has gotten really big so people are talking about it all the time. So those are some of the words that just like, sometimes when I hear them, I’m just like, “Okay, I don’t want to read this article.”

Jeff: I’m with you on the hacking part because I’m like, you know what? If you’re doing marketing correctly or if you’re doing great marketing, you don’t have to hack anything. You don’t have to trick the system, for lack of a better term. So it’s just like, ah, it’s just everywhere. You don’t have to hack all the stuff.

Okay. One final question for you. Since 2017 is winding down, obligatory question actually, is do you have any predictions for us? What’s the one thing that marketers should be preparing for in 2018?

Ayat: Well, you know, a lot of the companies that I work with are eCommerce and I know that right now, voice recognition and AI capabilities are becoming really big so I know that that’s gonna have a direct impact on that experience for customers and for, of course, you know, the marketers and companies. So I mean, and I think it’s just important to always be aware of those latest trends and make sure that you’re ahead of the game to kind of incorporate some of that into whatever company you have or whatever offering you have because, you know, customers, they’re getting served all these different, you know, these different marketing initiatives and we have to make sure that we’re kind of up to date with all of that.

Jeff: Ayat, this was great. Lot of fun, smart stuff in here so I really do appreciate you taking the time to join us and this is gonna be really valuable for our listeners, so thanks so much. All right. Take care. Bye-bye.

Ayat: Bye.

Jeff: So if you’d like to learn more about Ayat or the services she has to offer, we encourage you to check out her website at That’s They also have an awesome blog on that site so be sure to check that out for more great tips about conversion rate optimization. And since 2017 is winding down, this is the last podcast we’ll be recording this year. So no worries, “Behind The Glasses” will be back and better than ever in 2018. We have a great roster of guests lined up that I am really excited about.

And shameless, Emma plug alert, but we just released one of my favorite content pieces that we do every year, the top 12 emails of 2017. In it, we share some of the best emails to land in our collective inboxes and we highlight both the marketers that created them and the strategies they use that make those emails so good. So if you wanna see some awesome email examples, definitely check that out along with a ton of other great Emma content at That’s And that’s all for this episode. So thanks so much for joining us and stay tuned for more from “Behind The Glasses” in 2018. Bye.

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