Web Page Review: Differentiating Yourself from the Competition (Horse Wear Site)

If there is one thing that most website owners struggle with it is differentiating their businesses from the competition.  This was one of the issues my team of web experts identified when we reviewed our latest winner: a custom horse wear site.

The design, copy and conversion elements we pointed out to the owner wouldn’t take long to fix, but could make a huge difference in her site’s performance.

Follow along as we point out trouble zones and identify possible solutions. Take notes… if your site is making these same mistakes, it might be time for a tune up.

From Kurt Scholle, Website ROI Guy

What a unique and fun subject!  I like the pictures in the slider!

The header at the top of the page instantly communicates what the site is about – custom clothing for your horse! I think you’d benefit from something with a little more ‘pop’ than a small caricature and two lines of text.

Personally, I’d like a contrasting color on the site. Four versions of green needs something.  The header would be more inviting with images in the background.  The slider images are nice, but the header needs help.  Consider making all text, including the headlines, black.

The upper left corner of a webpage is the most important part of the page.  In the western world, we read from left to right beginning at the top.  Your logo to the left is fine and the 3 specials left of the slider is a great place to promote specials.  I would lead with the most important benefit and I’m not sure that $5.99 shipping is much of a benefit.  (Free shipping is!)

I can’t get excited about entering a monthly contest to win general “free stuff,” either.  To win a $25 gift card or site credit would translate much better.  What if I don’t want a helmet cover?

Promote the excitement of the contest on the Home page, then link to a page that explains it in more detail and includes a list of past winners and what they won or spent their credit on.  Quote them, such as a testimonial.

Testimonials are powerful influencers and you need one or more on this page.  Maybe a brief one above the Home and Contact buttons?  We know from looking at server logs that most people do not click on testimonials pages, so I would delete yours and move them to support your sales pages.

The “Build Your Own Horse Sleezy” is pretty dominant, but the “At Sleezy Barb Horsewear, it’s all about you!” is a bit of a cliché.  Can you make that positioning statement more benefit-rich? “Something like, “Sleezy Barb Horsewear: The Most Attractive & Durable Styles for Your Horse.” Or “Sleezy Barb Horsewear: Durable, Attractive & Original.”

The three paragraphs under the Customer Favorites probably will not be read.  Can you express that information in sub-headlines and bullet points that can be scanned more than read?

Featuring customer favorites is a great idea, especially since you link to more information.

Consider moving the “PayPal Verified” trust mark up next to the credit cards.

You have a big hunk of white at the bottom of the page and moving things from the left sidebar might help the site layout, but another idea is to put large images at the bottom of pages and encourage people to pin them.  That helps in more ways than one!

One other idea, especially with the holidays just around the corner, is to promote gift cards.  Do it graphically and link to a page with more information and the ability to order.

It will be interesting to follow your progress and see what you choose to implement!  Best of luck to you!

Follow Kurt on Twitter for additional ideas! www.Twitter.com/KurtScholle

From Justin Deville, Receptional.com

This is an exciting case study for me. The digital agency I run, Receptional.com, has just taken on a new client, Unicorn Trails, who organize horse-riding holidays around the world. And as I’ve just taken up horse riding I really enjoyed the subject matter.

scientific-advertisingI’d like to start with some background. Some readers will have heard of Claude Hopkins. He was a pioneer of the advertising industry. In 1924, he released a book called ‘Scientific Advertising’ which summarized best practice in the advertising industry at the time. It’s my view that the book contains all the clues we need to improve conversions on our web pages.

If you don’t already know his book it has taught generations of marketers about selling – what we now call direct marketing.

This is Hopkin’s hypothesis.

“The severest test of an advertising man is in selling goods by mail.”

He talks about direct mail marketing, because it’s a medium where costs and results are crucial to success. Where there’s a very thin line between profit and failure. It’s my view that digital marketers can learn huge amounts from the principles behind successful direct mail advertising. The skills and techniques Hopkins outlines are as applicable today online as they were 90 years ago.

For most of the sites I work with it’s safe to say that the home page is the most popular page. It attracts more traffic than any other page. So, it’s important to make sure that the page is easy to use and has a clear message.

One of the ways of improving the home page would be to run a split test. You’d create two different versions of the page, each with a different layout and you’d test to see which generated the most sales. This is pretty much the same method that Hopkins was using 90 years ago.

Online it’s pretty easy to run a test using Google Analytics or, if you can afford it, testing software such as Visual Website Optimizer. If I were running a conversion rate optimization test on your site, I’d look at testing several changes:

  1. I’d test whether removing the rotating image at the top of the page improves conversion. My feeling is that the image looks good but might be a distraction from the products that appear underneath (and are more important).
  2. I’d test increasing the amount of space that’s dedicated to your products. I like the fact that you’re showcasing your most popular items. If you were to remove some of the text (say, the promotion of your Facebook competition) and the rotating image, you’d be able to dedicate more space to your products.
  3. High resolution images often have higher conversion rates, so I’d want to test the use of better quality images that allow visitors to see your products. One option might be take up the top of the page with your single best-selling product (you could have a slider, so that after several seconds, a different product appears).
  4. I’d want to see whether moving the navigation to the top of the page (where it’s find on most websites) helps users find their way to the products they’re looking for. You might also test the addition of a search bar  near the ‘Home’ and ‘Contact us’ links where there’s plenty of space.
  5. There’s lots of unused white space at the bottom of the page. I’d try using it to show off more products.

You mention ‘New products’ in the top left navigation. But, there’s no link to the product, so I have no easy way of getting to the product you mention. I’d definitely want to include a link so that visitors can click through.

It’s worth testing big changes to your site, particularly if you get less than several thousand visits per month to your home page. You want to test big changes, because it’s then possible to get big wins. You might see big failures too, but they matter less because you’ll be no worse off than now. So, be brave, be bold and test big.

I hope that’s helpful.

Justin Deaville is Head of Search at internet marketing consultancy Receptional.com and was previously chief executive officer (CEO) at Wordtracker.com.

From Karon Thackston (Me!) of MarketingWords.com

First Impressions

When I first drew your entry from the lot, I was worried :)   I thought (by the site name and not being familiar with horses) that this might be an adult website.   Thankfully, it wasn’t.

After clicking to the Home page, I immediately thought, “This is very green.”  You may want to strategically add a coordinating color or two to direct visitors to the areas of the site you most want them to see. With everything being the same (or similar) color, nothing really caught my attention.  Don’t overdo it… but adding some additional shades can make the page stand out.

There are a lot of exclamation points!!!!!!!!!!! It makes the page look spammy, in my opinion. You do not need to use exclamation points to emphasize words or statements. That can be done more effectively with color, font styles, positioning, etc. Again… don’t overdo it.


I would add a search box in the banner section of your Home page. With ecommerce, search is extremely important.  Many shoppers will use a search box before they use your navigation bar.  You can check your CMS and see if it offers search capabilities (it probably does) and, if not, you can most likely use Google’s custom on-site search.

Add your contact information visibly on the Home page.  My preference would be to see at least your phone number at the top in the banner section.  You will want your complete physical address and phone number on the Home page somewhere.


Unique Competitive Advantage (UCA)

Why should visitors buy from you instead of all the other sources they have for custom horse clothing?  “Custom clothing for your special horse” doesn’t do much for me and it doesn’t differentiate you from the competition.

Determining your UCA is one of the biggest things website owners struggle with. That’s why I included an entire module just on this with about 28 different ways to figure out your UCA in my Step-by-Step Copywriting Course.

The Spelling

Just about every other site is spelling the product name as “sleazy” and not “sleezy.”  I see you use both spellings on the Home page (which makes it look like a typo). Whichever one is correct, that’s the one you need to use consistently.

The Copy

While the headline “Build Your Own Horse Sleazy” is certainly clear and direct, the sub-heads are rather cliché. It’s better to demonstrate through the copy what’s in it for them than to come out and say, “It’s all about you.”

You’ve got cartoon logos and other characters on your site. Have some fun with your copy! You could take the approach of the visitor becoming a horse stylist or something else unique. Play around with concepts like “you wouldn’t want your horse seen wearing off-the-rack sleazys would you?”

I’m not following the “makes original sleazys for special equine…”  What makes an equine special? Do they have to have certain traits or characteristics to buy from you?

The writing in the second paragraph is rather jumbled and hard to follow.  After reading it couple of times (something your visitors won’t do), I sort of get what you’re trying to say.  It needs to be cleaner and less wordy.  For example:


Could be transformed into:

Having problems finding a horse sleazy or hood that fits perfectly?  Does one-size-fits-all clothing not fit your horse?  Custom -made sleazys solve that problem with style.  And, every order comes with free alterations.  Need the neck longer?  The jowls bigger? Your own, personal seamstress is just a click away.

In the third paragraph, you do what I jokingly call “we-ing all over yourself.”  Almost every sentence starts with we, us or our.  This is not demonstrating that it’s all about them ;)

You can tell visitors about your products/company, just simply change the focus from we, we, we to you, you, you.

(I just found your phone number way down at the bottom, buried in the copy.)

Neat site!  I hope you find some good suggestions in the critique that can help you improve sales/conversion.

Web copywriting not converting? Business landing page falling short of expectations? Contact Marketing Words for help.

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About Karon Thackston

For over 25 years, web & SEO copywriter Karon Thackston has created optimized copy and content that has increased conversions & search rankings. Find out more about Karon on Google+.


  1. Thank you for choosing me. I bought this particular template in 2009 (?) and have been tweeking it since then. I do my own coding using Expression Web. I was thinking of going over to Dreamweaver but with all the talk about CMS should that be the route I take? Any recommendation on which one? There are so many out there.
    1) Navigation Bar. Is it better to have 2-3 rows of navigation across the top rather than one row down the side?
    2) Gift Cards. I have used PayPal Gift Certificates for 5 years and haven’t had one person get one. How do you get people to use them?
    3) Pin large pictures. Is that Pin Interest?

    UCA There are sites that make custom rail shirts for the exhibitor but there are no other sites that make the spandex clothing for horses. There used to be about 5-6 of us 8 years ago. I am the last one standing. Everything else is pre-packaged from China. I’ll revisit Module 28.

    I’ll fix my weeing. I just knew you would find it! ;-)

  2. Hi Barb,

    I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to get back to you. I broke my arm right after Karon asked us to respond and I’ve been playing catch up since!

    First, I think using WordPress is an excellent idea! Easy CMS and Google loves it. You’ll want to “alias” old pages to new ones. You do that with a 301 redirect. That alerts search engines that the page has moved. Also anyone who has an old page bookmarked will get to the revised page.

    If you’re now selling gift cards, it’s probably because you’re not getting enough site visitors or you’re not appealing to them. As I mentioned above, I think you’d benefit from a graphical callout to a page dedicated to selling them. You might include a benefit for buying them in your callout, or even a short testimonial. On the gift card sales page, I would reference all the things they could buy and use some testimonials from people who have bought your stuff.

    You might even change the gift card promo seasonally. “Great for Father’s Day!” Encourage people to buy one for someone who stables their horse in the same barn. Or maybe for breeders to give to customers when a horse is bought or has a birthday. I’m sure you can create a list of scenarios.

    Hope that helps!

    Kurt Scholle recently posted..How to Protect Your WebsiteMy Profile

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