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Best practice was a great safety net for marketers when campaigns cost tens of thousands of pounds to execute due to physical print, production and distribution costs.

If sales plummeted, the marketer in question could point to a text book or previous campaign performance and the directors would settle back down again.

Content intelligence is about finding out what works best on your site for your visitors.

It’s about what makes them most likely to convert, either as a whole, when segmented into groups or even one-by-one.

In digital media, trying different creative content, calls to action and page layouts can give some really impressive uplifts in metrics.

The notion of there being a right and wrong way of laying out a page or presenting an offer is old hat.

We propose that best practice is redundant - with digital media on your website or in campaigns elsewhere, continually trying different variations and monitoring results makes far more sense.

Some variations will be a great success while others will bomb.

This would again be a hazard in a traditional mail-out campaign because targets receiving the poorer performer would stand less chance of converting and so wastage would have occurred.

Online, the visitors who arrive and see the poorer content contribute to so-called ‘click wastage’.

This can be eliminated by employing a system which optimises towards the best performing content, serving it in preference to future visitors.

By also including the existing content as a control in the optimisation project, there is no possibility for a downturn in metrics.

If the control content turns out to be the best performer, it will be optimised towards and the poorer performers shown less.

On the next iteration of the test, taking a different tack with designing variants on the control would hopefully produce uplift.

We have yet to run a multivariate test for a client that hasn’t shown uplift.

Rigidly following best practice in online content decisions will remove any room for uplift in metrics.

If you always do the same, the same results will follow, again and again.

You might be happy with those results but trying something different could give a double digit increase in your conversion rate and that’s how businesses grow!

It is only sensible to concede that a feeling for what will and won’t work is still a vital part of any marketers skill set but a willingness to continually try out different variations on those ideas will yield better results than a step and repeat process of following best practice.

If you still hanker after the idea of 'best practice', why not make your new sole best practice concept 'Test Always'?

Mark Simpson is the MD of Maxymiser Content Intelligence .

Mark Simpson

Published 4 September, 2007 by Mark Simpson

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