Most companies don't test their sites. Their main justification for this tends to be that they don't have the budget to take it on. But, this is clearly a misunderstanding because free tools (like Google's Content Experiments) make it VERY cheap. When you put that together with the logic that testing is just going to help you improve conversion on your site, not doing it is costing your more than doing it. Not doing it 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. Your site exists to persuade visitors to take actions, right? Well, you don't know how good it is, or how good it could be, until you fully embrace experimentation and testing with it.
There are no "best practices"
There is no business quite like yours. Sure, other business do what you do and/or sell what you sell, but yours is unique in many ways. So are your customers. People buy from you instead of your competitors for those reasons. Even if you believe you've implemented all of the so-called "best practices" of web design into your site, the fact that you're unique means that there could not possibly be such things for all web sites. The truth is that what works for one business doesn't necessarily work for another, even if they sell the same thing. The only real "best practices" that exist are those that you discover through knowing your business and understanding your individual audience. Experimentation and testing is the only way to uncover this. So, when you hear about "best practices," the best thing to do is simply use them as starting points and work to improve upon them for your specific customers. You do this by hearing what your customers have to say and creating a system that optimally meets their needs.
Replace opinions with data
In 1923, Claude Hopkins, the author of Scientific Advertising wrote, "Almost any question can be answered cheaply, quickly and finally by a test campaign. And that's the way to answer them - not by arguments around a table. Go to the court of last resort - buyers of your products." Fast forward to 2012 and we now have the cheapest and quickest medium for testing there is - the Internet. It's cheap because not only are there free software tools, but making changes to your site is easy and inexpensive. It's quick because tests are easy to set up and statistically significant data is accumulated at faster rates than ever before. It's final because you can replace opinions with data that works as evidence of how changes affected your online efforts.
You limit your site's ability to convert when you focus on what you think your visitors want or what you want to deliver to them. In the online environment, you've got to give them what they want, when they want it, and how they want it...or they're clicking goodbye. The best way to do this is to simply let your customers design your site for you. You'll never build it better than they would for themselves.
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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