Rich Page is a Conversion Solution Specialist at Adobe, working with clients to help improve their website testing and optimisation strategies.
He is also the author of a new book called ‘Website Optimization: An Hour a Day’ and co-author of the 2nd edition of 'Landing Page Optimization'.
We caught up with Rich to ask him about the new book and recent trends and best practice for conversion rate optimisation...
What inspired you to write this book, and who is this aimed at?
I always wanted to write a website optimization book from a unique perspective to help people learn how to optimize their website with greater results.
I have read many books related to the many facets of website optimization, but none seem to combine essential web testing, web analytics, web usability and online marketing best practices very well, so wanted to make sure my book achieved this.
What types of job role and business is your book most relevant for?
The book is highly relevant for many online business roles, not just for people in web analytics and testing either - it’s also great for anyone involved with designing and marketing websites, as these are critical pieces needed for effectively testing and optimizing any website.
It’s even useful for web developers so they can understand the need for implementing tests, something that is often a barrier to effective testing.
According to last year's Conversion Rate Optimization Report, companies with a structured and process-driven approach to conversion rate optimization are significantly more likely than other organizations to improve their conversion rates and increase online sales. How can companies work towards getting a framework in place and buy-in across the organization?
Great question, and one that I’m very close to. Working with many large clients in my conversion specialist role at Adobe, I’ve learnt that gaining buy-in and process is one of the most critical things to get right for long term testing and optimization success.
Unfortunately there is no silver bullet solution though, as each organization usually has a unique blend of issues that need resolving before buy-in can truly occur and adopt change of ineffective web processes.
However, there are some universal things that can help gain buy-in. Building a testing culture will go a long way (for example regular testing communication, giving rewards for efforts, and seeking advocates to help evangelize) and obtaining an executive sponsor to help you obtain influence and understanding at a senior level.
Showing proof of quick ROI from website test results (particularly impact on revenue), and proof that your competitors are testing with success are other ways to help you successfully build buy-in.
For a better testing framework and process, organizations should work towards improving project management to use an agile web development process. This allows for much more frequent smaller changes that are necessary for successful testing, rather than release traditionally inefficient large, less frequent web launches.
What tips would you give to companies seeking a web analytics tool? When does it become worthwhile paying for technology rather than using free tools available such as the basic version of Google Analytics?
While web analytics tools are important to website optimization efforts (analyzing visitors, success metrics and page performance for example), if you already have Google Analytics I think it’s much more important to instead invest these scarcely available funds on an advanced testing tool.
This is because, in my opinion, the differences between free and paid tools for website testing are much greater than between free and paid web analytics tools.
This is unfortunate because many online businesses seem to shift towards using Google Website Optimizer as a testing tool because it’s free and comes from the same stable as Google Analytics, but unfortunately it is even weaker in its functionality and feature set in comparison to Google Analytics.
For me, any tool that doesn’t allow you to segment and target your tests should be avoided because targeting is essential to engage and convert your visitors at much greater levels.
How can companies move from simple A/B testing to more sophisticated types of multivariate (MVT) testing? How much resource is needed within the business to make a sophisticated MVT platform worthwhile?
Interesting question. First of all, this trend of progression away from A/B to MVT tests can be foolhardy. Personally I think it’s important to learn and know when and where to make great use of both A/B tests and MVT tests, and not focus too much on making sophisticated use of MVTs.
Sometimes A/B tests can have more impact than MVT tests, particularly if the MVT test is overly complicated. Simple A/B tests that focus on the most important page elements, or test a page against a radical new version (innovation tests) are great examples of high potential A/B tests.
In terms of resource needed to effectively run MVT tests, because you are testing more things simultaneously, this is where your testing train will quickly derail if you don’t have adequate internal resources to create and run tests for your MVT platform.
Even more so than for web analytics tools, you have to invest in and use good testing resources. Not just people to use the tool either - you also need to have resources in multiple departments available to help you create design variations for your tests and IT time to help you implement your tests (and ideally dedicated to testing).
If you are having trouble obtaining these internal resources needed to effectively run MVT tests, you can try requesting to use just 10% of your SEO/SEM budget and spend that on testing instead to prove ROI.
Hopefully your manager will approve when you remind them that according to recent studies for every $92 spent on acquiring visitors, only $1 is spent on converting them and how off balance these ratios are.
What challenges is the rise of mobile creating for businesses trying to measure and optimize business performance? Are there any specific tools you would recommend for mobile measurement and optimization?
Measuring mobile website visitors and optimizing their experience is more important than ever, in particular creating, testing and optimizing a mobile version of your website to better meet their needs.
Most enterprise web analytics tools offer great functionality for measuring your mobile visitors (even Google Analytics has new functionality for this), and I suggest you create a visitor segment for your mobile visitors to see how they perform in comparison to your regular website visitors (particularly in terms of conversion rates and engagement metrics).
There are several tools to help you create mobile versions of your website and optimize them. You can use tools like mobify.com to help you create optimized versions, and use testing tools to help optimize them. Don’t forget to pay attention to your tablet device visitors too, as they have different needs to regular mobile visitors.
However, I think it’s even more important to know what to test and optimize on your mobile devices - particularly as there is an increasingly widening gap between ‘average’ mobile websites and those that are optimized, and mobile visitors are quickly turning to ones that cater to their unique needs better.
For example, it’s important to know to optimize your mobile website so that it loads much quicker on slow mobile networks and also that it uses larger buttons and forms that are easier to use on touch devices (‘fat finger friendly’) - which is particularly important to do for your shopping cart and checkout pages.
Can you give examples of three quick wins for businesses who are seeking to optimize their websites?
Number one, it’s very important to test simplifying your choices for your visitors - the more options you offer on your pages, the more likely you are to confuse visitors, and the more chance that they won’t click on anything (paradox of choice) or miss your most important call-to-action.
Don’t presume you need everything on your homepage or category pages in particular, which increasingly seem to turn into dumping grounds for online marketers - test removing key elements on them and see what leads to greater engagement and conversion rates.
Number two, and I alluded to this earlier, is to target your visitors with more relevant content when you are testing. This helps build a more personalized website that is going to better meet your visitors needs and increase the chances of them converting (and coming back again!).
A real simple win here to increase conversions is to target your repeat visitors differently than your first time visitors. Show repeat visitors content relating to what they have seen before the most, and show new visitors content that will explain your value proposition and why they should use your website.
And for my last quick win, run some real estate tests for elements on your key conversion related pages. Don’t presume everything is already in its best position to influence and convert your visitors - the location of key elements like call-to-action buttons can have a huge impact on conversion rates.
Always make sure your most important information is above the page fold, and don’t bury information away in side bars that will help visitors complete major use cases or tasks.