We Tried That Already

  |  February 16, 2007   |  Comments

Trying conversion rate optimization and online testing is much different than succeeding at it. This column is for those who tried it already.

We often spot a conversion leak on clients' sites and suggest clients test a new page element or two. Time after time, we get the same confident reply, "We tried that already, it didn't work."

I'm a big fan of those who try. Every consultant wants to work with clients who aren't afraid to actually do something. But if trying things were nickels, you'd likely be worrying about where to spend your fortune instead of how to increase conversion.

This column is for all those who tried it already.

Trying conversion rate optimization and online testing is much different than succeeding at it. With over 1,500 factors contributing to the successful completion of a single linear conversion funnel, it's easy to "try" to optimize the conversion leak and still miss the mark. Here are a few of the most common mistakes. Be sure you haven't made these before you throw up your hands and say, "I already tried that."

Improper Testing Methods

Testing is a science, not an art. When testing page elements, you must adhere to proper scientific methods to ensure your data are sound. Many so-called tests are nothing more than marketers taking different creative and throwing them at the wall to see what sticks. Many A/B tests are comparing apples to oranges, when the only valid test would be to compare apples to apples.

Over-Conforming to Best Practices

Someone else's best practice can be your disaster. We had a client who argued about the number of steps we suggested the checkout process should have, citing numerous best practices. But we recognized that the client's goals were different. When he eventually took our advice, he saw checkout abandonment improve over 90 percent. Your business isn't a clone, you have different business goals and customers with different needs.

Optimization of the Unbroken

When optimizing conversion beacons for better conversion, we often find clients trying to improve engine torque while ignoring a flat tire. What good is optimizing a call-to-action assurance (like a refund policy sentence) on your form page when you have an obnoxious drop-down menu higher on the form that's causing prospects to bail?

The Effects of Time

Things change. People's perceptions, expectations, and needs change. Brand perceptions change. Business goals change. What worked yesterday may not work today. Just because you tested a banner ad six months ago to mediocre fanfare doesn't mean it won't work today. Maybe it's time to look at some older ideas and resurrect them. Some may be valid now.

Knowing the What, Not the Why

We've seen folks replace a problematic page element, like a weak call-to-action button, with an even weaker iteration that converts even less. They then label the test a failure, replace the old call to action, and move on to test another page element. They give up too easily. This mistake frequently occurs because they identified what's wrong but not why it's wrong, or they tried something radically different (and often, really ugly).

Sure, you've probably been there, done that, and tried this. But unless you can explain exactly why it didn't work, you weren't practicing the most effective form of conversion rate optimization.

Concern yourself more with using optimization to learn why people behave as they do rather than blindly optimize. You'll get a lot further, a lot faster.

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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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