Site Optimization and Targeting

All visitors are not the same, they can come in through different marketing channels, enter your site at different pages and view different parts of your site. One of the great things about the Web and the tools that we have, is that you can not only know that your visitors are doing different things, you can measure and then act on it. TV for example has to rely on sampled, panel services (i.e. Nielsen) where you might make an estimation about the different groups of people that saw your ad. On the Web, we know what visitors viewed and exactly who viewed it! If you have a robust analytics solution, you already have this data. The question is, what ,if anything, are you doing to act on it?

As an Omniture user, I have always relied heavily upon tools like Omniture Discover, because of the fact that it lets you segment your visitors into more meaningful groups. So, I can easily see for an e-commerce site, that the people clicking on the “View Larger Image” link on a product details page have a conversion rate that is 200% higher that those visitors that do not click on that link. Shouldn’t I be doing something about that? Like running a test to optimize that link for the visitors that have not been clicking it?

If you are currently or will be running a site optimization solution like Omniture Test&Target, you should always be running monitoring campaigns on your site. This can allow you to always be tracking and reporting on how different segments of your visitors are converting on your site, allowing you to quickly act by launching a test that is targeted towards a high-value segment of your visitors.

You should consider targeting your site optimization efforts towards different segments of visitors such as:

  • Logged in visitors (vs. not logged in)
  • Visitors from paid search campaigns
  • Visitors from natural search
  • Visitors using specific keyword phrases on search engines
  • Visitors from email campaigns
  • Visitors that stop at a certain point in your conversion funnel
  • First time visitors
  • Repeat visitors
  • Visitors that enter your site via a specific page
  • Visitors from a specific geographic location

Targeting your site optimization efforts to segments for visitors is usually more effective than just launching a test that is served to all visitors of your site as if they were equal. The reason, is that with different segments, you have an idea of their intentions. For example, if you are targeting a test that changes laptop product imagery for visitors that are entering your site after searching for “laptops” on Google, you know that your test is being served to the segment of visitors that is actively considering purchasing a laptop at this time or in the near future.

When considering site optimization, always ask yourself for which group or segment of visitors is this test targeted? You should see your site optimization efforts paying off more quickly if you are targeting your tests.

Content Site Optimization

Most of the blogs and literature that you will see on the Web about site optimization is going to be about e-commerce Web sites. The reason? Anyone can understand your results when you say you’ve increased conversion rate by 20%, thereby seeing an incremental lift in revenue of $100,000 over the next 30 days. The case for optimization here is pretty obvious. This doesn’t mean that content sites and publishers that aren’t selling a product on their site should not be optimizing their sites.

One common excuse on the part of a lot of content and publisher sites is that they are not selling anything. If you are in business and making money while not selling anything, please let me know what business you are in so that I can start one up too! The reality of the situation is that often, it’s just harder to measure revenue from online activities and marketing for a content site or publisher. Your are in fact “selling” some product or service to the visitors to your site, whether or not that “sale” is made online. Once you’ve realized this, you should also realize that your site could be better at selling to its visitors. In order to start optimizing your site, the first step is to identify and track your “converions,” not just basic traffic data. For publishers or lead generation sites, these conversions could include (but are not limited to) any of the following:

  • Page views
  • Ad views
  • Completion of a registration form
  • Registration for a newsletter
  • Completion of a contact form

Once you have identified your conversions on your site, you are ready to optimize your site so that you can get your visitors to view more ads, visit more pages, complete your lead generation forms, and sign up for your newsletter more than ever before.

Many site optimization platforms, such as Omniture Test&Target, will integrate directly with your already existing Web analytics solution, making it even easier to optimize your site since you won’t have to re-tag all of the conversions on your site. All optimization solutions should let you track “non-ecommerce” events in some fashion though, but if you can leverage your existing Web analtyics tagging, you should do so.

In terms of content sites, here are a few tests that you should be running on your content. These are what you might call the low hanging fruit common to a lot of content sites:

  • If running paid search campaigns, test different ways of presenting calls to action for your conversions
  • Test what you have above the fold of your homepage so that you can decrease bounce rate and increase conversions
  • If you have search on your Web site, change how you are presenting search results

These are just a few, very generic options. The options available are unique to every company out there, and you each have your own opportunities to optimize your existing content.

Commitment and Site Optimization

Reading a recent blog post from Jeffery Eisenberg (Realistic Expectations For Conversion Rate Optimization) made me once again think about how a lot of companies fail to really commit to testing and site optimization once they purchase a tool (Test&Target, SiteSpect, Optimpost, Goolgle Web Site Optimizer, etc.). Right now, I see site optimization where I saw Web analytics about 5 years ago in terms of tools and commitment.

A few years ago, businesses were ready to go out and buy the biggest and best Web analytics solution out there, without having any kind of dedicated resources to leverage the information or to ensure that any kind of best practices were being followed or developed. Now, many companies have dedicated Web analysts that can implement analytics solutions and help their businesses leverage the information contained within. Site optimization is, as I see it, about to explode (more than it already has) because companies appear ready to commit resources to the effort as opposed to just buying a solution and running with it.

Most companies do not dedicate any resources to actually making their existing Web sites better.

Most design and development efforts are concerned with developing new features or content. Instead, companies need to remember that they have a ton of content out there that could probably be performing better than it already is. After all, how often do any of us get something perfect on the first try (or the second for that matter)?

There are several things that a company can do to ensure that they are committed to optimizing their Web site:

  • Dedicated some of the time of your design and development teams to optimization.
  • Commit to designing at least 2 versions of everything that goes out. Make optimization a part of the design process (within reason of course). This is often a big challenge as designers see testing as just doubling their work.
  • Find a way to get everyone invested/interested. A lot of companies make the testing process an internal contest of sorts where everyone watches results in real time.
  • Pay your employees for coming up with ideas that improve conversion rates. After all, shouldn’t you be paying your employees to impact the bottom line anyway? Here, it’s measurable!
  • Realize that optimization and testing is just as important as your paid search and e-mail marketing efforts. All require an ongoing commitment in resources and effort.
Do you have any other thoughts on what companies can do to ensure that they are committed to site optimization and testing?

Creating a Hypothesis for Site Optimization

Creating a hypothesis should be one of the first things that you do when you start running A/B and multivariate tests on your Web site. Just because you have the keys to an optimization tool (even a free one like Google Web Site Optimizer), you should NOT be starting out saying, “hey, let’s see if changing this button from ‘Add To Cart’ to ‘Buy Now’ works better!” It’s vital to understand that you need to start with a hypothesis and then set clear goals before you start testing.

Setting a hypothesis is not a difficult thing to do, and it will help you stay clear on exactly what you are trying to accomplish in running a test. Here are a few examples of what might be appropriate hypotheses:

  • By changing the button on our product details page, we expect that we will be able to increase the rate at which visitors add products to their carts.
  • If we can decrease our shopping cart by one complete step, we can make it easier for customers to complete their purchase, thereby increasing conversion rate.
  • If we can provide more targeted information on our most popular landing pages, we can decrease bounce rates.
  • Maybe if we make it easier for visitors to use our internal search, visitors will more easily find products of interest, increasing conversion rate.
The common theme among all of these ideas/hypotheses is that none of them address, specifically, what will be done. This is the best way to start, because:
Creating and starting with a hypothesis, frees you from simply testing graphics and content, enabling you to test your business ideas and site effectiveness (i.e. conversion).

It is the hypothesis that you should be taking to the rest of your team when asking for the best user experience and design ideas to prove your hypothesis. You should not let a designer alone be the one that starts the process of site optimization.

Creating a hypothesis also makes it easier to measure the results of site optimization. If you start with just a design that is going to simply be “better than the last,” there’s no clear way to measure that. For example, if you were to change how you present your internal search results, is your success measure conversion rate, add to cart rate, product views or maybe average order value? There’s no real answer here, and starting a test without a hypothesis will result in a lot of debate over what success is when it comes time to evaluate the test.

Your hypothesis should make it clear what you are trying to improve, so that everyone can agree upon the success measure in advance of the test.

So if you start your testing and site optimization with an appropriate hypothesis, your goals and the eventual evaluation of your success should more easily fall into place.

More on Pages Not Being Worth Anything


Followup to “Pages Aren’t Worth Anything” from Jason Egan on Vimeo.

This is my first attempt at a video post here, so this might be a little rough. They should get better though!

Summary:

  • Pages aren’t worth anything, but what you’re selling is.
  • Testing and optimization should replace analytics in determining how effective a page is at conversion.
  • You should me optimizing and measuring the worth of your marketing accumen as opposed to some HTML. Look at a page or site this way. It is a marketing and sales tool. How good is it at marketing and selling? How good are you and making the site better at marketing and selling.

Your Pages Aren’t Worth Anything

I’m sure that some of you will disagree with the title of this post as soon as you see it, but hear me out (read me out?). Wether you are in publishing/content or straight up e-commerce, your pages are not making money inherently. Many executives and busines owners always have one of the two following question:

  1. “How much revenue has this page made?”
  2. “How well is this page converting?”

To preface the rest of this post and explain the title of this post, I am going to say that pages do not make money, and they do not convert. Crazy, I know. But, what does make you money and convert are the changes that you make to your pages.

Answering, “How much revenue has this page made?

 

I do not want to turn this into a debate about revenue attribution at the page view level, so I will leave that issue for another time. So let’s just assume that you have some kind of repor that has page names and dollar amounts next to those pages. The answer to the above question is:

“Does it matter what that revenue number is if you aren’t changing anything?”

So you can trend a page’s revenue over time. So what? Let’s say that you sell hair dryers (why was that the first thing that popped into my mind?). Your sales of hair dryers are what make you money, not the view of some page on your site. Afterall, you are selling hair dryers, not page views.

I also want to take this opportunity to address the publisher/content sites out there. News flash, you are selling something! Your selling ad views, and video ad plays, not page views or time spent (or “engagement” of all silly things).

You should not be asking how much a page makes for you. You need to be coming up with ideas that you think can make a page better, and testing those ideas to see if you can create lift! A page that just sits there and is never, or blindely changed isn’t doing you any good. Does it really matter how much you think a page makes over time if you’re not trying to make it better to begin with?

You changes, improvements and efforts make money and create lift. A page sitting there isn’t doing you any good.

Answering, “How well is this page converting?

 

Again, I would say that a page just sitting there is never converting any different that it ever has, so tracking the conversion rate of a page is pointless. You should be tracking how good YOU are at making changes that improve conversion.

Lift is as Important as Revenue and Conversion

 

Just like I feel that “engagement” is an excuse on the part of publisher/content sites, I feel that tracking how much a page makes or how well it converts is an excuse for not testing your pages and working on creating lift. If you really care how much a page is making or how well it’s converting, then you should have a hypothesis as to how you can make it better, and you should test that hypothesis to create lift.