Are you new to website optimization? Are you an old-timer with hundreds of tests under your belt? Either way, take these tips as a foundation for any testing endeavors you may (and should) embark on.
1. Getting started: Your site is better than you think!
Website optimization starts with exploration. First, it’s crucial to understand your existing site visitors, who they are and what their usage patterns are. Then define a goal for them. At the end of the day, it’s all about influencing users (both new and returning) towards the usage patterns that make sense to your business. If you can’t do that, it doesn’t matter what your site looks like.
When speaking with people about their site, it’s amazing how many make excuses before opening it up in the browser. “Well, it’s not good at all, we’re actually planning a redesign soon,” they say.
Did it ever occur to people that some users don’t care about design if the offering is clear? Fun fact: IE6 users still exist. This is not to say you should create a site with no sense of design. Redesigns can be great, but their value can be lost unless you have a pre-defined end-goal(s) to analyze the investment against.
Whatever your current site looks like today, you have a great start. You have something that you can use to learn from.
To get started optimizing a website, ask yourself these questions and always keep a pulse on them.
- Where is the bulk of traffic coming from and navigating to on the homepage or landing page?
- What is the current bounce rate?
- What do I want people to do on my homepage or certain landing pages?
- If more people do that, what effect will that have on my bottom line?
Keep track of these stats/concepts on a regular basis via your analytics platform. Data is your friend! If your business is reliant on web leads of any kind, this IS as important as revenue tracking. This is a call to B2B companies where we see a huge opportunity for improvement considering the value of a single lead.
2. Your best foot forward: The call to action
At Optimizely, we preach testing your “call to action.” A call to action is a button or link on a page that directs visitors to click in order to take a specific action. It should answer the question: what do you want people to accomplish on your homepage or landing page? Sign up, Watch now, Free trial, Add to cart, are all calls to action. They are prominent, drive attention and are amazing places to run simple tests. If you don’t have a call to aciton, create one. Test turbocharged phrases. Apply a color scheme to your button, keeping in mind which colors are resonate with your visitors. Consider the placement on the page relative to the natural eye-path.
***Test Tip*** Increased clicks on the CTA does not always indicate a net positive. Always look further downstream to see how increased clicks affect the your ultimate goals. Looking further downstream may also yield new test ideas. ***/Test Tip***
Tap your design team, or even use a site like 99designs.com, oDesk.com, e-lance.com, etc. to whip up a few different buttons or visuals that you can easily place on your site.
3. Administering the test: Strategy is key
When setting up a test it’s crucial to have a process. Every test should include some form of the following (high-school science class flashback!):
Examine Data & Generate Test Ideas – What insights do you gather about your site?
Start with the data and answers to the questions you asked about your visitors. Maybe other internal sources like customer feedback or suggestions from colleagues point to a few testing opportunities. However, we cannot stress enough, the use of existing visitor data for test idea generation. Opinions are important, but not always in your site’s best interest. Your site visitors are unpredictable. Rely on real data, not hunches.
Define a Goal – What do you want to achieve?
Once you’ve nailed down a few ideas, prioritize them and keep the bigger picture improvements at the top. Maybe you want longer page views, more page view, more clicks, form fills, or items added to carts and checkouts completed. The sky is the limit, but it’s up to you to define the end goal.
Make a Hypothesis - What do you think will happen from this test?
Laying out the thought process and all possible outcomes will lead to a more purposeful and enlightening test. This step is especially important as you start running tests more frequently. Example: you see a lot of people going to your “about us” page which is not leading to any conversions. You believe that if you remove the link from the top navigation and only leave it in the footer, you would see more clicks on other more meaningful parts of your page.
Set the Parameters - How long will the experiment run for? Which traffic segments will be subjected to this test? What does succes mean?
Set a timeframe for the start and end date of your experiment. This ensures that you do not fall for any early results and quit the test prematurely. Also work with your team to determine what success would look like for this test.
***Test Tip*** Traffic on Tuesday and Sunday are different. Let tests run their course. ***/Test Tip***
Analyze - What do the results indicate?
Once your test has come to an end, examine the results, but not just the winning variation. Dig deeper into the data to see how this winning variation manifested throughout the entire site. Are two variations too close to call? If so, consider testing again, with more distinct changes.
Implementation - Act on the results you’ve discovered.
Maybe the original version is best, maybe the new variation blew it out of the water. Either way, this is where you take advantage of the results and move forward with implementing the change to your site, not to mention learning more from the test. With Optimizely’s testing tool you can allocate 100% of your site trafficto the winning variation while your dev team makes changes to your backend.
4. Other testing ideas: What we’ve seen from our clients
Once you have some basic results back and a better grasp on your visitor behavior, keep testing other areas of your site. Here are a few common places where we see a lot of tests in specific industries/verticals:
- Product pages –> Will targeted product placement based on visitor location increase sales?
- Payment forms –> Can you reduce the number of clicks to buy?
- Suggested products –> Which format of suggested products garners the most clicks?
- Main navigation order –> Does alphabetical or most searched/popular arrangements lead to more engagements?
- Forms, forms, forms –> Can you make them shorter and more concise?
- Landing pages –> What do you need to include on each one?
- Colors —> Do colors impact your visitor behavior at all?
- Geo-targeting your pages –> Should visitors from China see a different landing page than those from Canada?
- Free trial offers –> Which offers will lead to more sign-ups?
- Popular article/videos –> Should you gate this content?
- Headlines –> What are the most effective words?
- Navigation bars–> Which category breakdowns receive the most traffic?
- Suggested content features –> Which position will make more people navigate to this content?
- Request demo placement –> Are they easy to find?
- Phone numbers for different variations –> Can you offer multiple to determine which one caused more inbound calls?
- Support questions –> How do visitors report questions or feedback?
- Product demo video –> Where will it receive the most views?
***Test Tip***Source your test ideas from every industry. For example, e-commerce sites will benefit from testing ideas for publishers. The more you diversify your testing, the more you will learn.***/Test Tip***
5. The more you test, the more success
Website A/B testing is a tool to amplify your optimization strategy, guaranteed. Search engine optimization, online marketing, social media, conversion rate optimization all work together to attract more eyeballs on the content you spent hours creating. Through testing, you will discover which user experience fits best for your site. Test your site to validate your content, your new headlines, buttons, landing pages, video placements, and the list goes on.
Examining results from how different variations of your site perform is a sure-fire way to achieve your goals whether they’re based on making more money, generating more leads or increasing your content’s visibility. It’s also a pragmatic way to tailor content to your array of visitor sources and decide which sources are worth investing in.
The most salient fact to take away from this post is that all websites have room for improvement. Commit to continual testing because one test will impress you, but many tests will stun you and have you rolling in dough.
Only one question remains: What are you waiting for? Start testing immediately.