“Ebooks” link got clicked a lot less than “tutorials” link

So this is interesting. I sell ebooks about pain problems at PainScience.com for a living, and in the last three weeks I had a bit of a sales dip, particularly in “boxed” sets, bundles of several books.

I just figured out why.

Historically I called my products “tutorials.” They weren’t nearly long enough in the beginning to be called books anyway. But for ages I’ve been meaning to start calling them “ebooks.” On January 1st, I changed the navigational link to “tutorials” to “ebooks” at the top of every page on PainScience.com.

Bad idea!

Choose your words carefully

Apparently people aren’t interested in “ebooks,” because the number of people who chose to click that link dropped *40 to 75%*. That’s a frickin’ huge chunk of traffic that just stopped looking at what I’m offering for sale. In particular this is the page where people can see the whole inventory and realize that they might want to “collect them all.” That’s what drives bundle sales, apparently, because they dried up.

Another good clue what a disaster the change was: overall traffic to the tutorials page was well down even as traffic for the site as a whole reached all time highs in the last couple weeks.

So, oops. I’m surprised that the damage to sales wasn’t greater!

But what’s wrong with “ebooks”?

I am full of noble purpose and enthusiasm for the bright future of the information age ... but that’s me. I’m a geek publisher. Clearly the average visitor to my site is not thinking, “ooh ebooks neato!” They just want help, and “tutorial” probably communicates the idea of “help” much more effectively than “ebook.”

By emphasizing the idea of the products as ebooks, I thought I was skating to where the technological and cultural puck was going. After this experience, I think it’s just too soon, and most of my customers are not particularly interested in technological trends. The world might be getting quite interested in reading novels on Kindles and iPads … but not when they are shopping for health information.

Very good lesson, this.

And it suggests more work! Is “tutorials” actually the best word? Better than “ebook,” obviously. But perhaps “guide” would be far more effective still. There’s a strong possibility that “tutorial” sounds too much like school! A/B testing, here I come.