Not testing your website is like telling your investors, shareholders, employees or other stakeholders that you already make enough profit and you'd really not like to make any more in the foreseeable future.  Crazy, right?  So, why don't marketers do it?  Typically, they don't know what to test, how to get approval, who needs to be involved and how it will affect their site.  But, it must be done or you will fail to do your job correctly - which is to provide an online environment that will optimally meet your customers needs.

So, when you start out, first get your feet wet.  Start with a PPC landing page or other campaign that's fully controllable.  If you're worried about the results, you can split your test into low-risk ratios like 90-10 or 80-20 (this means 90% of your traffic goes to your control page and 10% goes to your test page).  These tests will take longer to accumulate enough data, but it lowers the risk while you build your confidence.

Six simple steps are all you need to launch your test, so you really have nothing to fear.

  1. Name your test.
  2. Choose your test page and the action you want visitors to take after coming to the page.
  3. Tag pages and elements (or sections) with code generated by your testing tool. (Get IT help)
  4. Enter test variations into your testing tool.
  5. Launch your experiment.
  6. Analyze data after a suitable length of time, resulting in high-confidence, statistically significant differences in variation results. 

Start with important elements, like headlines.

Another thing that really helps with confidence when you first start is testing page elements that have significant impacts on conversion.  For example, headlines are extremely important because readers use them to self-organize the information you present and decide whether or not they want to engage more seriously with your page. Good headlines persuade visitors to read deeper.

But headlines aren't the only thing you can test. You can test any element on your page. Granted, different elements will have different effects on conversion rate, so you'll want to make the more important elements higher priority sections. Also, you don't want to test too many variables in too many sections at the same time, or you'll have too many different combinations to complete the test in a reasonable amount of time. And, time is very important at the beginning of your testing journey because it keeps momentum going, increases motivation once you see results, and builds confidence as you move forward.

There's multiple testing options for your needs.

A/B and multivariate tests aren't the only options available for the website tester.  Here are all of the options available to you...

  • A/B Test - Test two pages or two variations of a variable against each other. You use this to test large-scale changes like page designs, layouts, etc.  These are good to start with because you should see big differences more quickly.
  • Split-Path Test - Split traffic among different linear paths.  This would only be good for linear conversion funnels like checkout because visitors navigate sites in a non-linear fashion.
  • Multipath Multivariate Test - Test combinations of elements across groups of pages (i.e. a checkout process) to see which ones work best.
  • Do Anything Test - You can specify more than one conversion goal.
  • Linger - The conversion is time on page.
  • Click - Target a specific event or click.

Technology alone won't give you optimal results. With today's tools, you easily drown in possibilities and data.  But, if you have the right talent available, you can understand what to test, how to test it and how to interpret the results for actionable insights on how to meet your customers' needs - and confidently report profitable news to your investors, shareholders and employees.

July 3, 2012

Mike Fleming specializes in Analytics and Paid Search for Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. You can follow Mike on Twitter at @SEMFlem. Mike enjoys playing, writing and recording music along with playing basketball to get his workout in. He resides in Canton, Ohio with a girl who threw a snowball at him one day…then married him.

Mike and the team at Pole Position are available to help clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Contact them via their site or by phone at 866-685-3374.

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Search Engine Guide > Mike Fleming > Building Confidence (and Profit) with Website Testing