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Optimization Summit: Tests with poor results can improve your marketing

June 3rd, 2011
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Day one of 2011 Optimization Summit has come and gone. Many of us have vertigo, either from the amount of content we absorbed, or the view from the rotating restaurant atop the Westin, the tallest hotel in the Western Hemisphere.

Yesterday’s sessions were rich with insights from experts and marketers presenting their experiences in optimization. I Dr. Flint McGlaughlinsay “experiences” because, as we saw, not every test improves results. But every valid test offers valuable insights.

Dr. Flint McGlaughlin, CEO & Managing Director of MECLABS, addressed this point head-on in the day’s first session. McGlaughlin presented examples of landing pages tests that brought greater than 50% declines in response.

Was Dr. McGlaughlin feeling woozy? Did he sit in the rotating restaurant too long before his session? Actually, no. Dr. McGlaughlin illustrated that even tests with poor results can reveal valuable insights about an audience.

“The goal of a test is to get a learning, not a lift. With enough learnings, you can get the real lift,” he said.

Landing Page results two tests

The above image features the tests McGlaughlin touched on. If you’ve seen such results, then you’ve probably asked yourself “well, what do we do now?” Part of the answer came from Boris Grinkot, Associate Director of Product Development, MarketingSherpa, in a later session. Grinkot mentioned two typical reasons landing page visitors do not convert:

1. The page does not offer what visitors want

2. The page does not clearly explain that you have what visitors want (or why they want it from you)

These two causes can help identify the causes of poor landing page performance, and what you should test to improve results.

With this in mind, the researchers tested a final treatment that featured drastically shorter copy. The idea was to get out of the way — to clearly show visitors that the site had what they wanted and to make it easy to get.

Landing page treatment 3

This treatment increased conversion rates by 78%. Why?

The marketing channel driving traffic to the page had already done the selling, Dr. McGlaughlin said. The page did not have to convince  visitors to convert — they were ready to convert. The previous treatments were impeding them.

The results of the previous two tests helped the researchers form this hypothesis and create the third treatment. Even though the two tests had abysmal results, they gave the team enough insights to identify a better treatment that would generate a real lift in response. So even tests with poor performance can improve your marketing — they just might not have improved it yet.

Related resources

Optimization Summit 2011

Landing Page Optimization: 2 charts describing the best page elements to test and how to test them

Marketing Research Chart: Top website objectives to determine optimization priorities and tactics

Landing Page Optimization: Minimizing bounce rate with clarity

Optimization and A/B Testing: Why words matter (for more than just SEO)

Members Library – Online Marketing: Website redesign leads to 476% increase in page views and 64% lower bounce rate

Members Library – Campaign Analysis: Optimization expert lists 5 tweaks to boost an email campaign’s conversions

Landing Page Optimization: 2 charts describing the best page elements to test and how to test them

May 31st, 2011
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Optimization testing can be daunting. With so many elements on a Web page, and so many ways each could be customized, knowing what to test and how to change it can feel like testing spaghetti the old college way (throw it at the ceiling and see if it sticks).

But optimization does not have to be daunting or random. Some marketers will receive a crash course in landing page optimization at our Optimization Summit this week. If you can’t make it, don’t fret. There’s always next year. In the meantime, MarketingSherpa just published the 2011 Landing Page Optimization Benchmark Report.

I pulled two charts from the report to give marketers some reference points when designing their tests. Hopefully they will help keep crusty pasta off your ceiling.

Landing Page Optimization Chart Top page elements to test

This chart lists the four page elements that rank most consistently as having a “very significant impact” across three optimization objectives. Note that a different page element ranks highest for each objective:

  • Direct lead gen: The highest performing element is the form layout at 44 percent
  • Incentivized lead: The highest performing element is the body copy at 41 percent
  • Ecommerce: The highest performing element is the image content at 43 percent

The chart lists only four of 17 page elements measured by our analysts, so there are many other elements that can be impactful in your tests. Your results may not mimic this data exactly, but this chart points to elements that other marketers are seeing as having the most impact.

Landing Page Optimization Chart Top Segmentation and Relevance Tactics

Once you select a page element to test, the big question becomes “how do we change it?” This chart lists tactics you can use to segment your audience and add more relevance to your optimization pages. Each tactic is ranked by its effectiveness, ease of use, and usage rate among marketers.

The far right of the chart features the most effective tactics: segmenting based on purchase history and other CRM data. Customizing landing pages to a customer’s purchase history appears to be an opportunity for marketers. It is the most-effective tactic listed and appears relatively easy to implement.

In the report, our analysts also point to another opportunity: messaging in the referring ad or page.

“Using the messaging in the referring ad or page can be especially easy to apply when the marketer also controls that messaging, making it a highly efficient way to segment,” according to the report.

However you go about your optimization tests, it is important that you test accurately and continuously learn from the results. The data in these charts can provide reference points to guide your plans, but only your team can uncover the best tactics to fit your audience and your brand.

Related resources

Optimization Summit 2011

2011 Landing Page Optimization Benchmark Report

Marketing Research Chart: Top website objectives to determine optimization priorities and tactics

Landing Page Optimization: Minimizing bounce rate with clarity

Optimization and A/B Testing: Why words matter (for more than just SEO)

Members Library — Campaign Analysis: Optimization expert lists 5 tweaks to boost an email campaign’s conversions

Members Library — Landing Page Optimization: How to serve 2 markets with 1 page

Members Library — How to Plan Landing Page Tests: 6 Steps to Guide Your Process

Homepage Optimization: No single metric will do

May 19th, 2011
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Landing pages get a lot of love. Here at MarketingSherpa and MarketingExperiments we often write about landing page optimization, and offer case studies on how marketers are testing and improving landing page performance. And landing pages deserve all that attention because often those pages are the direct connection between a marketing campaign and a closed deal. We think so highly of landing pages at MarketingSherpa we just released a publication dedicated to LPs — the 2011 Landing Page Optimization Benchmark Report.

The homepage is a channel, not a destination

But because landing pages command so much real and virtual ink, the homepage can seem neglected. The first thing to consider is the homepage is unique to a website. For companies that only offer one product or service, the homepage may be no different than a landing page.

But companies with many products, services, divisions, etc., must look at homepages as a drastically different animal than a landing page. Unlike the landing page where you want to get website visitors to the LP, the homepage is channel where your goal is to get the visitor through the page.

The homepage is possibly the toughest page on a website to test because it “serves many masters” and typically has multiple objectives to achieve.

The usual elements in a homepage to test do overlap with landing pages:

  • Eye path direction
  • Strength of value proposition
  • Color combination
  • Image relevance

And testing a homepage involves five basic steps:

Click to enlarge

You may notice one word features prominently in each step — objectives. Homepage objectives should be broken into three categories:

  1. Primary — these are long-term and should have high revenue potential
  2. Major — short-term and are typically tied to a marketing campaign or other internal need
  3. Minor — functionally necessary elements to the page such as navigation or legal copy

Taking a closer look at homepages, how they differ from landing pages and how tricky they are to actually test and optimize, caused one chart from the Landing Page Optimization Benchmark Report to really stand out.

Click to enlarge

Boris Grinkot, Associate Director of Product Development, MECLABS, is the author the Landing Page Optimization Benchmark Report and he took a few moments to share his thoughts on homepage optimization and metrics.

Before we get into the questions, here’s a quote from the report (I highlighted the final sentence):

A critical issue becomes the quality of the traffic that the homepage sends into the website. The quality of the traffic is broadly the degree of match between the visitor and the offer – in other words, the predisposition to convert. Reducing bounce rate may be a short-sighted key metric if more visitors get through, yet those are not the visitors that would ever be interested in becoming customers. Dedicating significant page real estate to a $10 gift card offer can explode the clickthrough rate (and conversely, minimize bounces), but it may turn away visitors exploring a multimillion dollar RFP.

In your LPO Benchmark Report, you mention the homepage is possibly the most difficult page for designing a test …

Boris Grinkot: Measurement on the homepage is complicated because so many things typically happen between it and the conversion step. The general point is that when looking at the funnel holistically, a test on the homepage can affect different metrics differently, and sometimes you can get contradictory results — bounce rate reduced = good, conversion rate reduced = bad.

The homepage as any entrance page acts as a filter, and changing it does not only linearly affect clickthroughs to the rest of the funnel, but can affect the quality of visitors that click through — in other words, the segments.

So, what metrics are most important when testing a homepage?

BG: It’s important that marketers monitor several different metrics to get a complete picture of what’s going on. Bounce rate or clickthrough rate measures what happens immediately on the homepage, or wherever it’s measured, but misses how this page affects the rest of the funnel. Overall conversion rate (CR) measures performance of the site as a whole, but ignores where the leaks might be.

More intricate measurement — such as using “active segments” or “goals” — can tell you what happens with visitors who viewed a particular page, meaning that a virtual segment is created based on what the visitor experienced. Segment-specific CR can be much more meaningful because it takes specific page(s) into account.

Boris Grinkot will be providing insights from his Landing Page Optimization Benchmark Report and moderating a panel on “Overcoming institutional barriers to optimization implementation” at the first MarketingSherpa Optimization Summit coming up June 1-3 in Atlanta.

Related Resources

Homepages Optimized web clinic

Homepage Optimization: How sharing ideas can lead to more diverse radical redesigns

Homepage Optimization: How a more logical eye-path led to 59% increase in conversions

Homepage Optimization: Radical redesign ideas for multivariable testing

B2C Testing: A discount airline looks to increase conversion

(Members library) — Office Depot Site Overhaul Lifts Conversions 10%: 7 Tactics to Target High-Impact Improvements

Focus on Tests, Not Tools

July 9th, 2010
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There is an array of webpage testing solutions available, helping marketers improve their landing pages, homepages and other online real estate. With so many options, it’s easy to get wrapped up in selecting tools, setting them up and testing them.

The problem is some marketers will spend months selecting and deploying a tool only to A/B test button colors, or different images on the same layout, says Lance Loveday, CEO, Closed Loop Marketing.

“To me, that feels like running 25 miles of a marathon and walking the last one.”

Time is much better invested in researching page data and designing tests that have the strongest likelihood of success, Loveday says.

“90% of your time should be in the planning and actual analysis and coming up with insights, and 10% should be in the technology.”

We spoke with Loveday for an upcoming MarketingSherpa article on how to select better landing page tests. One key to Loveday’s strategy is gathering thorough research, including:
o Analytics data
o Click-tracking analysis
o Qualitative usability studies
o Expert reviews

“We try to marry up quantitative analytics data with qualitative user experience and user profile information to develop some hypotheses for what the problem areas [on a page] might be,” Loveday says.

By digging through this information, your team can identify areas for improvement, attempt to diagnose problems and test solutions. Furthermore, you can estimate tests’ potential impact and prioritize those expected to bring the greatest benefit. Keep an eye on our Great Minds newsletter for more information.

Testing Interactive Ecommerce Features

June 21st, 2010
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Social ecommerce technology has lifted sales and turned one-way websites into two-way conversations. Ratings and reviews, for example, have tremendously improved the consumers’ shopping experience, as well as many marketers’ conversion rates.

Frank Malsbenden, VP and General Manager, Shoeline.com and his team are already looking for the next winning interactive ecommerce feature. The team maintains several footwear ecommerce sites, including SuperShoes.com, which Maslbenden calls “the perfect sandbox.”

The team often tests new ideas on this smaller site, giving it a unique feature set that’s worth browsing for ideas. Features include:

– One-click voting and tagging

On product pages, visitors can click to declare they “like” or “hate” a product. A score is tallied on the page. They can also tag products, similar to how blog posts are tagged. Visitors can view the most “liked” or “hated” products, or products bearing the same user-generated tag.

– Drag-and-drop sharing

On product category pages, visitors can click product images and drag them onto icons to share their links on Facebook, Twitter or via email.

– Profile and live feed

Customers are given profile pages, where they can track all the shoes they’ve “liked,” “hated,” tagged and shared. They can create a vanity URL and have their profile’s page views tallied and displayed. The profile also shows a live feed of all activity on the site, such as:
o Products recently viewed
o Products recently liked, hated, shared or emailed

Malsbenden’s team is testing these features and others, such as a possible live feed integration on the homepage. Features they deem as winners will be incorporated into the fall redesign of the team’s flagship website, Shoeline.com.

Marketing to Smartphones: It’s a No-Brainer

November 18th, 2008
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The BlackBerry Bold has been unveiled, and many folks compared it at launch to the iPhone. For what it’s worth, I think that’s a good thing for BlackBerry marketers.

 Because, no matter the brand, smartphones are not going anywhere.

There will be more brands entering this particular technological fray; some might actually outdo both the iPhone and the BlackBerry Bold.   And they will drive the wireless market further into the future.

 Before you know it, the smartphone will be akin to the television set in the late 1970s. Absolutely everyone will  have one, and the picture will likely be in color (if not high-definition).

Of course, they will be more affordable than ever, too.

As you might have read in an earlier blog, I have been looking for a marketer who has tested mobile-dedicated links and landing pages in their emails. Well, I have found one.

Stay tuned for a how-to article in the coming weeks. You’ll learn that marketing to smartphones now is a no-brainer – if you want to get ahead of the competition.

 

Design Landing Pages Based on Objectives

October 18th, 2008
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Jacqueline Simpson, Marketing Manager, Tourism British Columbia, and her team are constantly testing their opt-in landing pages for multichannel campaigns. They came upon a particularly outstanding group of findings recently.

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Fall in Love with the Usability of Your Website & Email

August 12th, 2008
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Usability does not get enough love. Many marketers consider it a problem for software developers to ponder, not the CMO. The truth is that the usability of your website, email and other media directly affects their performance.

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Bounce Your Website Bounce Rate

July 16th, 2008
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An often overlooked and undervalued metric is website bounce rate. A page’s bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who leave immediately after arriving. There are two ways to measure it:

o Percentage of visitors who leave before a set time

o Percentage of visitors who leave without clicking into the site, regardless of time spent

For landing pages, it measures the connection of the message driving the traffic to the message on the page. A poor connection causes a high bounce rate.

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Abandoned Shopping Carts Signal Holes in Website

May 28th, 2008
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Higher cart abandonment and bounce rates may be a sign of the gloomier economic times for eretailers. Both rates are up, according to a new report from MarketLive, Inc., which compiled data from almost 100 eretailers.

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