How To Identify Hidden Website Defects That Are Costing You Business

Increase conversion rates

Conversion Rate Optimization

"I need something that tells me where my customers are failing on my site"

Tom Shivers

Web analytics: Hitting the bullseye, or 8 degrees off?
One of the most powerful and yet overlooked areas of Internet marketing is web analytics. No other marketing tool can provide such detail and accuracy about your strategic marketing objectives. Web analytics tools show smart marketers what works and what doesn't, so that time and resources are spent on top-performing keywords, ads and landing pages.

Some key performance indicators to track:

  • Conversion rate: the probability of web visitors turning into qualified leads
  • Percent of new (or unique) visitors to your website
  • Ratio of new to returning visitors on your site
  • Amount of time a visitor remains on your site during an average visit
  • Page "stickiness:" the landing pages' probability to successfully retain a visitor

When you make a strategic change to your website or ad campaign, evaluate how it impacts these key performance indicators, and then adjust your materials accordingly. It's often surprising what a big difference a few seemingly minor "tweaks" can make to a campaign's performance.

For most businesses, the problem is not so much which tool to use (Click Tracks, Google Analytics, Omniture SiteCatalyst, pick one... ), but rather how to get useful information from it. With the right information in hand, you can effectively convert traffic into business.

Your mindset?
Web analytics tools provide so much information about web visits and behavior that you can easily spend hours trolling through interesting data without getting any clear solutions. The volume of graphs and tables can be overwhelming. The better approach is to jot down one or two good business questions before plunging into your web analytics. Then spend a predefined amount of time finding your answers. Here are some good business questions:

  • Which is the more effective traffic source: pay-per-click or organic traffic from search engines?
  • Which product gets the most interest before the sale?
  • Which landing page generates the most qualified leads?

Once you've observed how your web visitors are delivering on the business goal of your website, you can figure out what to change about your site that will increase the conversion rate. A fresh set of eyes, trained in web copywriting and design, can help you to interpret the analytics information, and be a valuable source of recommendations.

Often these conversion rate optimization recommendations involve testing to identify which solution gets the highest conversion rate. Testing, in effect, lets your web visitors tell you what content will increase your ROI.

A/B Testing
You have two different and compelling headlines for a particular landing page of your website and you want to know which one gets the best response from your target audience. A/B Testing will identify the winner headline when your web page gets enough traffic. Here's how it works:

Web page A contains headline A, web page B is exactly the same except it contains headline B instead. The desired result is that the user fill out a signup form and land on a thank you page.

An A/B Testing platform, like Google's Website Optimizer, will swap the landing pages in and out randomly so that both pages get similar amounts of traffic. It tracks the number of times the desired result (submitting the signup form) is completed for each test case. When sufficient traffic hits the page, you will know (for example) that headline B resulted in 8% more desired results than headline A.

Other common A/B tests:

  • Move sections of a web page around for emphasis
  • Long vs. short copy, or different copy
  • Simple vs. longer form layouts
  • Background colors
  • Creative: fonts, font size, buttons, images
  • Email newsletter subject lines

Guidelines for an effective A/B test:

  • Test one change at a time so you can attribute results to one specific change.
  • Challenge assumptions with an "any change is fair game" attitude.
  • Test for improved end results over every other key performance indicator.
  • When analyzing results of a creative test, consider the different audience perspectives rather than making a decision solely on the numbers.
  • Don't assume one test is conclusive.

A/B testing can be useful when convincing management about design and communication changes. After all, it's difficult to argue with improved results.

Multivariate Testing
Instead of testing one element difference on two pages, multivariate testing enables you to test multiple elements on one page, or conduct multiple A/B tests simultaneously.

With multivariate testing you are able to test all sorts of combinations on one page that would take a long time with A/B testing. For example, you can view statistics on how each visitor continues after viewing the test page, and determine which combination of headline, image, text and call to action gets the highest response rate.

The only down-side of multivariate testing is the amount of time required to get a statistically valid sample of visitors.

The Real Test
Conversion rate optimization ensures that businesses are getting the most from their web visitors. Conversion begins with an ideal source of traffic - which is why SEO and paid search are so valuable. But conversion ends with new or repeat business, and that's why website communication must perform optimally for each traffic source and audience. Your web visitors know what converts best, and they will gladly tell you if you give them a chance.

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