Ever heard of interactive content? It’s getting a lot of attention these days. That’s mostly because the engagement rates for interactive content are crazy high. But it’s also because interactive content lets us marketers play around with some cool new technologies. And it gets really nice business results.
Truth is, though, interactive content isn’t new. It’s been around forever.
There’s one particular form of interactive content everyone will recognize. It’s an online calculator. Aka “an interactive form.”
The example above is an ROI (return on investment) calculator. It’s got a few pull-down menus and a couple of fields for numbers to be input by the user. The result of what the user enters shows up in the right column. It’s useful because it helps email marketers figure out whether they’re making money or not.
That utility is key. The more useful people find your calculator, the more likely they are to share it. They’re also more likely to come back to it and to link to it. All those actions help your business.
Where things get interesting with this calculator is right below the results. See that extra form labeled “Benchmark”? If you fill out that second form you can see how your results compare to other marketers’. That’s a compelling thing to offer. People always want to know how they compare to others, so they’re likely to complete the form (thus giving you their email address) just to find out.
That second form probably has a really high conversion rate. Most interactive content like this tends to get extremely high conversion rates, particularly for lead generation. In Demand Metric’s 2015 Digital Marketing Benchmark Report, marketers said interactive content is nearly twice as effective as static content for generating leads.
So while creating a calculator might seem like a lot of work up front for just one page (compared to just hashing out another blog post), it’s worth the effort. Online calculators provide lots of benefits:
- They generate leads (aka build an email list).
- They can qualify leads based on how people complete the form.
- They increase time on page and engagement rates.
- They reduce bounce rates.
- They give your users actionable, can’t-get-anywhere-else information
- They give you a way to customize content based on what people enter into the form. Might be great for an autoresponder series…
- They can attract links and traffic from relevant sites.
That’s a lot of heavy lifting for just one page.
Calculators also work well as mid-funnel or end-of-funnel content. That’s because they can give visitors specific information about their situation – something more generic, introductory content can’t.
That said, you could also capture top-of-funnel visitors by creating a calculator more attuned to their interests. A calculator with a broader appeal, for instance.
Like this calculator for a car loan:
One note about this particular calculator: It’s been created by Google as part of their effort to integrate the Knowledge Graph into the SERPs (search engine results pages). And while this demonstrates how much people like and interact with calculators (otherwise Google wouldn’t be giving them this prime real estate), it’s also a red flag.
Don’t try to compete with Google for high-traffic keyword calculators. You’ll lose. Instead, go for niche terms (aka “long tail keywords”) that are directly related to the purpose of your site.
How to Make an Online Calculator
- io. A free tool with a nice interface, and it’s pretty easy to use. I set up a simple two-field calculator in about 15 minutes. Unfortunately, there’s no troubleshooting/FAQ page on the site. If you’ve got some budget to spend, these folks can make a custom calculator for you.
- Calculoid. There is a free version of this for up to 500 uses a month. After that it’s four euros and up per month depending on which features you want and how much traffic your calculator gets. While Calculoid does work on WordPress, Joomla and Drupal, WordPress users take note: The plugin hasn’t been updated in more than a year. Despite that, it’s got nice features, decent tutorials, and customer support. Calculoid has dozens of pre-built calculators other users have created. This is one of them:
- Calculated Fields Form. This is another free WordPress plugin. There are paid versions of this plugin/service that offer fancier features.
- Gravity Forms. It is possible to create a calculator with this very popular paid WordPress plugin. But it’s a bit trickier than the standard setup. If you’re not technical it might require the help of a developer.
- Lead Doubler. This is specifically designed for B2B lead generation. It creates calculators that show potential return on investment for different types of businesses. You’ll have to go through a sales person to try it out.
- You can also buy a pre-designed calculator. CodeCanyon has a bunch of them. Prices range from $10-$30. Or you can troll around Calculator.net to see if any of the free calculators there will work for you.
Two ways to make and use spreadsheets as low-tech online calculators
1) Create a sharable Google Drive spreadsheet.
You can also just link to a Google Drive spreadsheet/calculator, like NicheDash.com did here. Here’s a screenshot of a blog post on his site. He’s showing an image of the spreadsheet so people can see how it works.
Again, that’s just an image – not a live calculator. But if you click on the link, you’re brought to a public spreadsheet on Google Drive. It looks like this:
It works like any other spreadsheet, so if people enter information into different fields, you can set the spreadsheet up to calculate those fields.
2) Send an email message with a link to a Google spreadsheet.
You could use a spreadsheet as a lead magnet, or send a link to a spreadsheet to your list via email. Just set up the spreadsheet on Google Drive, then link to it from a welcome email or confirmation email. I like this better than sending a stand-alone Excel doc via email attachment. That might scare people who are worried about security. It also gives you less control over who accesses the spreadsheet.
Here’s a nice example of an email/spreadsheet link. This is an email from local SEO expert Phil Rozek. It links to a comprehensive checklist to get your site’s local SEO up to snuff. Note the nice touch at the end: Phil mentions that if you don’t have the time or the skills to complete the tasks on the spreadsheet by yourself, you can always hire him.
Offering your website visitors more than one type of content adds depth and interest to your site. Making some of that content interactive is even more powerful, because it lets people learn more about their specific situation.
Online calculators do this beautifully. They can also be a great way to get more leads (aka more email subscribers), and even let you promote your paid services.
What do you think?
Are you using any calculators on your sites? Are you using them for lead generation? Share your experience – and your opinion – in the comments below.