As part of your 2012 action plan for website improvement, we've been exploring the steps involved in figuring out where your site is falling short and analyzing your site's performance against your key business objectives. Now it's time to decide where to begin your landing page testing strategy.
With your business goals in mind, identify the mission critical parts of your website that lead to the desired conversion action or actions. Remember, unless a page or website section directly supports the completion of the conversion action, it is not likely to be mission critical and optimizing it won't have a significant impact on your conversion rate.
What Type of Page Are You Testing?
First, identify the type of landing page that you plan to test: is it a page on your main site, a microsite, or a standalone landing page. Each type has different implications for what can and cannot be tested. For example, if you are modifying the header and navigation structure of a page that is part of your main site, you will have to carry the changes over to the rest of the site. By contrast, you can often make arbitrary and radical changes to a standalone landing page that is used to convert visitors from a specific online traffic acquisition campaign.
Document your answers to these questions:
What Type of Audience Are You Testing?
Just as important as isolating what type of page you are testing is determining what audience you will be targeting. You might decide that you want to optimize for traffic from all available sources. By choosing the widest possible cross section of your audience, you have the opportunity to improve average conversion performance for everyone significantly. But you may want to segment for specific online campaigns. This is especially important when the traffic sources represent different kinds of people, with significant differences in their propensity to convert.
Depending on your business, you might find it useful to "geo-target" and segment your audience by their location or preferred language. Time-of-day or day-of-week filtering is also common. For example, you may want to test which landing page design is preferred by your weekend versus weekday visitors, or your workday versus evening visitors. But try to avoid spiky sources such as email drops to in-house lists. Unless you are tuning specifically for repeat visitors, your test traffic should come from fresh sources of visitors who are uncontaminated by prior exposure to your company brand, website, or offers.
And another word of advice: be careful about how granular you get in determining your audience, as you'll need to have enough traffic from that segment to gather your data. The last thing you want to do is run separate landing page tests for traffic sources that do not meet the minimum data rate requirements of the type of test you plan to run.
Be sure to document your answers to these questions as you go through this step:
In the next post we'll get into the strategy of determining what page elements and variables are likely to make the biggest impact on your conversions.
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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+.