Recently, a number of stories about Microsoft’s Cormac Herly popped up in my news feed. Herly shared an insightful analysis that explains why the Nigerian Prince’s email trope is still around and quite successful after all these years. The study shows that using ridiculous tales of African bank accounts with large balances are not just an easy-to-spot ploy. In fact, scammers calculated the move to ensure never speaking with people who have common sense.
“Far-fetched tales of West African riches strike most as comical. Our analysis suggests that is an advantage to the attacker, not a disadvantage. Since his attack has a low density of victims, the Nigerian scammer has an overriding need to reduce false positives. By sending an email that repels all but the most gullible, the scammer gets the most promising marks to self-select, and tilts the true to false positive ratio in his favor.”
From an e-commerce business perspective, this tactic makes perfect sense. It is the equivalent to perfectly targeted content, which can eliminate any bad leads from signing up and cutting bank on wasted time.
The scammers who use the above tactic make money from understanding exactly whom their emails target. No, I’m not about to tell you to throw on your black hat and start an SEO scam based on poorly written spam. You should most definitely continue to implement your white hat SEO techniques. If you run an e-commerce business or any site that wants to generate leads from visitors, then the lesson from the Nigerian Prince is to know your readers.
Before you start writing perfect content to convert your readers into customers, you need to know who those readers are and what they want. I still reference Avinash Kaushik’s blog from 2010, which talks about how to get away from the default segments in Google analytics. I recommend you read his article all the way through. However, keep in mind that the take away is how to get beyond the useless aggregate data—such as new versus returning visitors—and into deep analytical insights.
The best way to do this is to pick a couple of segments from each phase of the visitor’s experience:
Our Nigerian Prince focuses on narrowing down his acquisitions to only the most promising leads. So, for now, let’s continue to follow his example and focus on acquisition. How can we organize our visitors into segments to see who is coming to our site and determine what they want? To answer that question, I turn you over to Search Engine Land and SEOmoz.
Back in 2011, both of these news sites wrote some interesting articles about digging deeper than branded keywords and using RegEx to see deeper into the type of terms people are using to get to your site. You’ll be able to write content that ensures you are only spending time on the leads that matter once you’ve started to peel out branded keywords, see where segments of your visitors are coming from (what they are looking for), and when they are dropping off (analytics visitors flow).
Your content and sign-up forms are the final gateway to your sales team. Having a professional copywriter on staff is vital to publish quality, focused content that not only speaks to the visitors you want signing up, but also sends the leads packing that you never wanted in the first place.
Use your content to help visitors self-identify and fill in the blanks—are you a [this type of customer], so [you should perform this action]. You can also use this technique to remove people (like our Nigerian Prince) from signing up. The more crafted your content is, the better quality of leads you will receive.