Are You Sweating the Small Stuff?

  |  June 11, 2004   |  Comments

For lack of a link, the conversion was lost.

A very small variation, infinitesimally minute and possibly unobserved, can have an extraordinary impact on results. You may remember from a few months ago my friend Brad, who, with one simple change, decreased his conversion rate 90 percent.

Don't assume any page element, including buttons, background color, even a word or two, are unimportant. Many treat these as incidental design decisions. They cannot be ignored. They all compose your persuasive architecture. If there's one lesson I've learned in over five years of focusing exclusively on conversion rates, it's test everything! Then test some more (sometimes, what made a dramatic impact one week can fizzle the next). This process must be ongoing and systemwide if you intend to optimize your site for conversion.

Recently, a client underwent rigorous A/B testing on numerous variables that could potentially impact conversion, following a redesign. One of the most dramatic results stemmed from changing the color of a single site element. An icon mentioned a guarantee. Initially, it was in a blue that complemented the site. Once the graphic was changed to red, conversion increased approximately 20 percent.

Another client wrote an incredible acquisition email that produced 3.5 to 6 percent conversion per campaign. In one test, the HTML message's font was changed. Instead of a traditional Arial, Verdana, or Times New Roman (which everyone uses), the tone was appropriate for Comic Sans (yes, it's on Macs and PCs). Guess what. Conversion increased over 25 percent on an A/B test.

One of the most interesting examples is a site that added to the home page one new sentence at the end of the first paragraph to hyperlink two words. This client had completely redesigned the site. They spent time identifying who visited and what their different needs would be. They rewrote the copy and offers for each of these groups. They wanted to be sure everyone who visited the site could buy the way they preferred.

Those who wrote the copy were more methodical and analytical than most. They spent considerable time explaining the details of what they do, why you needed the offer, and what the offer specifics were. The average visitor spent over four minutes on the home page. For a site dealing with a sensitive subject such as finances, that's not unusual.

But when more assertive personalities visited the site, the client wanted to cut to the chase.

These visitors recognized immediately the offer was a bargain. A no-brainer. Sign me up! That was the problem. We watched several people with this personality characteristic scan the page for where to click next. Some tried a link that lead to the wrong page entirely. Others left in frustration. The link was available in the global (top) navigation, but users were blind to it. Conversion occurs in the active window, the main part of the page, where visitors are engaged. All the client did was add a sentence about their services with the trigger words "financial services" hyperlinked. Sales soared over 30 percent.

A concept called the winning edge explains what makes a winner win. It determines if your Web site is a winner or loser; whether it engages traffic or fails to; if it persuades visitors to take the action you want them to (conversion). No detail is too small. Everything on your Web site adds or detracts from its ability to convert traffic.

Are you sweating the small stuff?

Bryan is on vacation this week. This column is a reprint of one that ran earlier on ClickZ.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bryan Eisenberg

Bryan Eisenberg is coauthor of the Wall Street Journal, Amazon, BusinessWeek, and New York Times bestselling books "Call to Action," "Waiting For Your Cat to Bark?," and "Always Be Testing." Bryan is a professional marketing speaker and has keynoted conferences globally such as SES, Shop.org, Direct Marketing Association, MarketingSherpa, Econsultancy, Webcom, SEM Konferansen Norway, the Canadian Marketing Association, and others. In 2010, Bryan was named a winner of the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation's Rising Stars Awards, which recognizes the most talented professionals 40 years of age or younger in the field of direct/interactive marketing. He is also cofounder and chairman emeritus of the Web Analytics Association. Bryan serves as an advisory board member of SES Conference & Expo, the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit, and several venture capital backed companies. He works with his coauthor and brother Jeffrey Eisenberg. You can find them at BryanEisenberg.com.

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