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Guessing what prospects want? You Should Test That!
Wednesday, July 10th, 2013
 

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A few months back, I reviewed one of the several books on conversion optimization that have come out lately, Tim Ash’s book “Landing Page Optimization” (you can view my post here). The latest book I read was Chris Goward’s “You Should Test That!” Chris, who founded Wider Funnel, a Vancouver consultancy specializing in conversion optimization, meant for the title to be a phrase that we’ll use habitually. Throughout the book, anytime he recalls a ‘best practice’ site change that someone wanted to make, he doesn’t say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ but glibly replies ‘You should Test That!’

As with all website optimizers, he embraces the scientific method (hypothesis – test – conclusion). He assumes that sites aren’t performing up to their potential until they’ve been tested and verified as such. He defines conversion optimization as leveraging more conversions from the traffic your site already gets. Some optimization experts frown on testing sites with PPC traffic, and Chris explains its drawbacks, but also cites ways it can complement good optimization activities, especially with its dynamic keyword insertion feature.

At the core of the book is his LIFT (Landing page Influence Function for Tests) model, which I see as giving us different dimensions to consider optimizing on our sites. Imagine your value proposition is an airplane in flight. Factors lifting it are relevance and clarity, those dragging it are anxiety and distraction, and it’s propelled by the amount of urgency the site employs. He goes on to devote a chapter to each of these conversion influencers. I find this an easy-to-explain concept for websites, as it squarely addresses the psychological needs of visitors, which is one of marketing’s main aims.

Though the testing behind conversion optimization is invisible to visitors, Chris believes they support the idea. In his view, the fact that those experiencing a site vote by clicking further into or away from a site, should push website owners to take that as a sign that visitors want site improvements. Testing isn’t sneaky, but rather a way to find the positive experience your visitors want to have on your site. Often, sites give visitors conflicting textual and visual messages. As he states, analysis and testing can “have a significant impact on freeing your prospects’ mental capacity so they they can understand your message.”

Much of the book aims to help us know what we should test. The book’s case studies take us through the kinds of tests we should contemplate. They are spread between B2B and B2C, but most of them involve e-commerce sites. In spite of this, he acknowledges how many different lead capture, subscription and affiliate-partner actions can be optimized. In fact, he lists over 50 of them in Chapter 11.

Chris spares the reader from heavy discussion on testing statistics. As a contrast to Tim Ash’s “Landing Page Optimization,” which delves deeply into the numbers-side of conversion optimization. I was satisfied by Chris’ explanation that today’s software tools handle the science and allow us to focus more on the art of optimization.

Instead of shying away from being held to revenue results, Chris encourages businesses to hold him and other conversion experts to them. Any of us in digital marketing must accept the eventuality that “test variations may ‘lose,’ and we may be ‘wrong.’” Chris’ gutsy, rational response is “I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

Chris sympathizes with smaller site owners who have a hard time reaching the threshold that A/B tests (with a 95% confidence factor) require, but at least he gives guidelines on the traffic and time you need to run a test. On a test with 2 variations of a single page, he insists on 200-800 conversions. Using the midpoint of 500 conversions and assuming that 1 in 10 visitors convert, you need 5000 visitors for a test. In my opinion, companies run out of patience on anything that lasts longer than a quarter, so in this case, you need to amass 1500 visitors/month to have a successful test.

“You Should Test That!” is a passionate, accessible book about conversion optimization by an upbeat practitioner. I’m lucky to share in a profession that has people like Chris.

image credit: Sybex

 
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