To build a truly high-performing website, you must begin with a solid understanding of your business objectives and know how your landing page or website supports them.
In my last column, I challenged you to do a usability audit of your website and create an action plan for 2012. But you're probably thinking "How do I go from knowing what the problems are to developing a test plan to fix them?" So I'm going to dedicate these next few columns to walking you through the critical first steps.
When we start an engagement at my company, the first thing we do is gather some background information about the client's business and online marketing programs. This framework guides our action plan development and identifies constraints or potential issues early in the process.
You obviously have a pretty good understanding of your own business and online marketing programs. Still, I encourage you to go through this exercise, as it can help you understand the big picture before you start your test, and also allow you an opportunity to get others in your organization on board. So your homework assignment for this stage of the process is to try to answer as many of the questions below as you can, because in the next steps you'll be glad you have the answers readily available.
Marketing and External Factors
Site Performance and Traffic Levels
Site Appearance and Functionality
Use the contents of this simplified questionnaire as a starting point. You may want to create a more detailed or modified set of questions to suit your particular needs and environment.
Testing Tip: Don't Fail to Plan
Here's the bottom line: to build a truly high-performing website, you must begin with a solid understanding of your business objectives, and know how your landing page(s) or website supports them.
What drives your business? Is it sales, subscriptions, leads, downloads, email sign-ups, or advertising and page views? What portion of your business marketing intersects with the web? Is all of it conducted online? Are key parts influenced by offline marketing, or do they require subsequent phone or in-person follow-up? You may not have control over the whole process and may be just a single step in the value chain. Your goal should be to make your piece as powerful and efficient as possible.
You may be tactically focused on hitting your cost-per-acquisition (CPA) numbers or growing your volume by a certain percentage. But you may not have a good sense of your contribution to the company as a whole. Dig for financial information. Go as high up the financial management ladder as necessary to get the numbers that you need. You'll not only build an excellent foundation from which to build your website improvement plan, but you may also impress the higher-ups with your newfound interest in the company's bottom line.
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Tim Ash is CEO of SiteTuners.com, a landing page optimization firm that offers conversion consulting, full-service guaranteed-improvement tests, and software tools to improve conversion rates. SiteTuners' AttentionWizard.com visual attention prediction tool can be used on a landing page screenshot or mock-up to quickly identify major conversion issues. He has worked with Google, Facebook, American Express, CBS, Sony Music, Universal Studios, Verizon Wireless, Texas Instruments, and Coach.
Tim is a highly-regarded presenter at SES, eMetrics, PPC Summit, Affiliate Summit, PubCon, Affiliate Conference, and LeadsCon. He is the chairperson of ConversionConference.com, the first conference focused on improving online conversions. A columnist for several publications including ClickZ, he's host of the weekly Landing Page Optimization show and podcast on WebmasterRadio.fm. His columns can be found in the Search Engine Watch archive.
He received his B.S. and M.S. during his Ph.D. studies at UC San Diego. Tim is the author of the bestselling book, "Landing Page Optimization."
Connect with Tim on Google+.
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12:00pm ET/9:00am PT