Squidoo, Hubpages and Wizzley users make money through ad revenue and affiliate commissions. Many of us who come to these sites with basic writing skills are shy about sales lenses. We take a pussyfooting approach instead: we write on something we love, and include links to products that might interest our audience.
I call this second approach coincidental sales: you’re not writing a product review, just hoping that visitors will stop what they’re doing (reading your article) to buy. Obviously, this isn’t quite as effective as the direct sales approach, but there are ways to tweak it.
My very first two reliable sales lenses were my Thoth article, an essay on Egyptian mythology, which I’d divided up with some Amazon product thumbnails more as visual decoration than to sell anything, and my “How to take your pet on a plane” article, where I included a spotlight on a particular pet product I use.
In the former case, I learned that you can break sales modules “best practices” — a keyword-rich header or caption for search engines, a large picture and personalized review for people — if the textless thumbnail images are so puzzling, intriguing, or provocative that people tend to click on them. Another excellent example is posters or signs that obviously have funny captions, but are slightly too small to read. I shamelessly use a block of Zazzle “demotivational posters” on my Funny Signs lens for exactly this reason. (I don’t get many Zazzle sales, but at least I get clickouts). People click images. Surprisingly, they even click images which are decorative elements on the page. Getting them to Amazon is like getting people inside a department store — it won’t guarantee a sale, but it’s a start. And again, on Squidoo, clickouts boost lensrank.
The second lens I mentioned above, the “pets on a plane” lens, was useful in that it showed me there was a market for a particular product. Multiple “coincidental” purchases of the same product meant I should break the lens off and create an actual sales lens devoted to that product.
Direct sales lenses, however, are more powerful. People use the web to buy things. Don’t be embarrassed to help them. After all, you search the web to buy things all the time yourself, correct? If you provide useful, actionable information that can help someone find what they’re looking for, then you’ve earned your pay more than half those folks wearing orange, green or blue aprons in big box retail stores.
With sales lenses, you have to:
- Identify the product in the opening sentence, or declare what kinds of products your page covers.
- Establish yourself as trustworthy and knowledgeable. Polished prose helps.
- Stay brief, focused, and to the point. They want information to help them decide whether to make a purchase. Give them that information. Don’t give them something else.
- “Talk benefits, not features.” The most valuable lesson I’ve learned on sales is that people want to know what’s in it for them, not how many whoosiwhatsits it has.
- Use crisp, eye-catching graphics, if you can.
- Don’t go overboard. Less is more. People who are shopping are in a hurry; they don’t want to plow through more than they absolutely must. So you don’t have to be exhaustive and comprehensive. Just give them the most useful benefits, the most important points. (You might do this at the top of the lens, with a spotlight, and then go in more depth for those who pass the first big shiny BUY button without committing.)
- There is nothing wrong with having a BUY button near the top of the page for those who make their minds up quickly, and another at the end after you’ve covered it in more depth.
I am learning to create two kinds of sales lenses.
“Best Of X” or “Top Five/Ten X”
You’re not just pushing them to buy, buy, buy. You are serving as a concierge, researching all the products of a certain kind (Digital SLR cameras, e.g.) and presenting your recommendations for the top five or ten. Basically, you’re being a one-person Consumer Report, saving your readers time and effort by helping them find the product that will best suit their needs.
In this case, you start by saying you’re going to review the best [cameras, kitchen utensils, cars, books, dog breeds, software, or other thingies] for X, Y, and Z. Say this right in the first sentence. You need to tell people the page has what they’re looking for. Then deliver on that promise. Be brief, but personable. Show you know what you’re talking about. (Polished writing helps.) Link to products that also have good customer reviews; if they don’t, you’ve got the wrong product. Go beyond Amazon customer reviews to the web at large — heck, do look at Consumer Report, and other sites too — to learn what you can about the products. You don’t want to overwhelm; your readers are in a hurry and want a few facts (or features), not an essay. You don’t want to lift reviews or copy from anywhere; write in your own words. But research and learn so you can give good info.
“My Review of X”
When I’m stumped for what to write on, I prowl the house looking for things I like, and then review them. My own photos are a powerful message (I hope) saying, “Look, I use this. I know what I’m talking about.”
Again, start the article by saying what you’re covering. What’s in it for your reader? They’ve come to find out about the Widgetbat XT 3000, not your feelings on widgetbats in general. Use the product name — brand, model, number — in the page title and URL, if possible, to attract the precise people who want to know about that product before buying it. They’re researching it.
Again, give them more than they’ll find in Amazon reviews, otherwise there’s no reason for them to read your page as opposed to going straight to Amazon. I list features, what I use it for or like it for, pros and cons. I highlight the main product in an Amazon Spotlight.
I also give a few alternates below for people to make their own comparisons. “Other products like this.” I include shorter blurbs on them.