When the World Wide Web was first utilized by companies before the end of the 20th Century, the objective was simply to have a website. Just as in the movie, Field of Dreams, there was this idealist belief that “If you build it, they will come.” Since then, you have been able to leverage search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), banner ads, contextual ads, comparative shopping engines, affiliate networks, emails, blogs and your presence on social networks to drive traffic to your site. As a result of these efforts you hopefully have lots of people coming to your site. But what have you been able to do with these visitors once they arrive on your site? Hopefully, you’ve either converted them to a qualified lead or sold them something. Right?
If They Come, Will They Convert?
Unfortunately conversion rates continue to be low for most websites. So you get your graphic artists and copywriters to create landing pages that contain a compelling offer, supporting content, and the best graphics to close the deal. But why are only 1% of the people coming to your site actually filling out your lead form or purchasing something on your site? You’ve done your homework of segmenting your customers and understanding the types of messaging that will resonate with each buyer persona. And you have terrific creative people to translate these messaging strategies to the perfect copy and graphical elements. So what went wrong?
No matter how good your research and creative talent are, the results are simply hypotheses regarding the elements of the landing page that you think will most appeal to your prospects. But I’m learning that the hunches of even the best online marketers are simply wrong! So where do you go from here?
If you’ve been following this blog at all (and I apologize for my lapse in posting), you know that the answer lies in testing the different creative treatments to learn which one’s actually convert the most customers on your site. Consider your first stab at a landing page to be the control group and test various combinations of creative elements to determine the combination that leads to higher conversion rates. Use your creative talent to come up with the various alternatives, but do not get ego invested in only one solution.
Let your customers vote with their wallets
Your customers are the actual experts as to the elements of your marketing campaigns and landing pages that work best. You need to dynamically present the various combinations of creative elements (e.g., offer, body content, graphics and layout) to your customers. Once the customers have voted with their wallets, statistics identify the combination that works best to convert visitors to customers. You should then use that landing page as the new “control”, and develop additional versions to see if you can achieve even higher conversion rates. This results in the continuous improvement, or optimization, of your conversion rates. But how can you dynamically generate the different combinations and measure their results?
A/B and Multivariate Testing To the Rescue
Most of us can easily comprehend the idea of A/B testing, also know as split testing. By exposing half of your test audience to one creative treatment and the other half to another, you can easily understand which treatment works better. Take email subject lines for example. Send emails with one subject line to one group of prospects and send an email with another subject line to a different, but comparable, group of customers. Whichever subject line results in the higher open rates should be used going forward, while the poorer performing subject line should be dropped. The winning subject line now becomes the new “control” against which you can test additional subject lines. Present, test, analyze, and repeat this process to see continuous improvement, or optimization, of your email open rates.
OK, so we tripled the open rates of our emails over the course of three weeks. So we should declare victory, break out the beer and pizza, and call it a day, right?
Not exactly. If people open their emails but don’t click through to your landing page, what have you accomplished? Nada! You now need to optimize the body of the email itself. This requires a more complex form of testing named multivariate analysis. Multivariate analysis enables you to test many variables at once to determine the combination of elements (e.g., offer, content, graphics, layout) that lead to the highest percentage of clicks.
OK, now you’ve tripled your email open rates and doubled your click-through rates to drive six times the amount of targeted traffic to your site! Now its definitely time to break out the caviar and champagne and give the crew a day or two off. Right?
Unfortunately, if all of that traffic comes to your site, but doesn’t sign up for your newsletter or buy anything from you, it sounds like you’ve been spinning your wheels, and burning through your budget, without any return on investment (ROI). Now you need to shift your focus to the landing page your prospects are sent to once they click-through on your email (or SEM ad, web banner, blog, affiliate’s site, Facebook post, etc.)
The objective is to spend as little money as possible by testing the various permutations of the creative elements (e.g., offer, body content, graphics and layout) with just enough prospects to obtain a statistically significant result. Declare the landing page that converted the highest percentage of customers the winner, and let it serve as the “control” for additional treatments to be tested. The result? Continuous improvement, or optimization, over time. You not only increase your customer acquisition costs, but also reduce your cost-per-acquisition (CPA). Now that’s something you can take to the bank!