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User Experience or Marketing Best Practice: Which is More Important?

Inbound Marketing


As an inbound marketer, I’m always trying to put myself in the shoes of my client’s buyer personas. As HubSpot often states, “buyer personas help you understand your customers (and prospective customers) better.” So if I’m writing an email subject line, for example, would I open something in my inbox if it had a short, vague title? Or, if I’m promoting a video, would I want to watch an ad before it starts? There are countless scenarios like this and they all come with a big question:

Should you do what the buyer persona wants or what’s best practice?

Usually, your choice ends up either providing a better user experience for the buyer persona or giving you better marketing results. But it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m going to break down four scenarios where user experience and marketing best practice are very different, and then provide a way to compromise on them.

Same-Window Links vs. New-Window Links

When someone clicks on a link in your blog or other form of content, does it open in the same window or in a new one? It’s a very subjective topic and depends on the type of link, but in general, most people seem to prefer to keep everything in the same window when they’re casually browsing online. But for inbound marketing, you definitely don’t want the visitor to navigate away from your website or the content you’ve created.

The Compromise: Have external links open in a new window, but have internal links open in the same window. That way, people will never leave your website by clicking a link.

Open Content vs. Gated Content

Offers are a big part of inbound marketing. In exchange for a valuable piece of content, someone agrees to give you information. But should you really gate all of your valuable content? Gating can create a sub-optimal user experience for visitors, plus some of the most popular blogs and infographics out there are openly accessible. So how do you know whether to gate or not? By looking at where the buyer is in his or her journey. Here’s how Content Marketing Institute puts it: “Think of gated content as a way to finally break the ice: If you plan to gate content, do it when your prospect is ready to have a conversation about your products.”

The Compromise: Gate content that leads someone further into the sales funnel. If it doesn’t, consider keeping that content open so it can attract visitors and turn them into leads.

Slide-In CTAs vs. Static CTAs

Everyone’s different, but I am personally not a fan of slide-in CTAs. I almost always immediately close them. But the fact is, they’re kind of successful. For example, when HubSpot first implemented slide-in CTAs on their blog, they ran some tests and found that slide-in CTAs had a 192% higher click-through rate (CTR) and generated 27% more submissions than static CTAs. So while static CTAs might provide a better user experience, marketing best practice seems to be slide-in CTAs.

The Compromise: Run your own A/B tests and see which one is more successful. Which has the higher CTR? Which has more submissions? Which results in a higher bounce rate or longer session? The right CTA can vary depending on the content.

Video Header vs. Image Header 

Video headers are pretty cool. They’re visually appealing and are considered a best practice by marketing designers, since they enhance the user experience. But are they effective for inbound marketing? The truth is, they can be very distracting and keep your users from ever scrolling down on your website. A simple image or text may seem boring, but it keeps the visitor focused on exploring the website and what it has to offer.

The Compromise: A video header is probably not a good idea on your website home page, but it might be a smart addition to one of your sub-pages (e.g. About Us, Culture, etc.). Just make sure you don’t distract users from any content you’re trying to get them to view. 

Of course, all these scenarios can vary depending on personal preference or past results, but it goes to show that while user experience and marketing best practice are often different, you can usually compromise on them and create an experience that benefits both sides.

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