Some people think that maximising the performance and returns from their website simply involves driving more visitors to their website. Be that from SEO, AdWords, display advertising, Facebook or a combination of channels.
While traffic is the lifeblood of a website, it only matters if it actually generates results. Depending on the site, this may be advertising revenue, sales, sign ups, enquiries or some other meaningful conversion.
Otherwise, it’s akin to a department store judging its performance simply by the number of people who walk through its doors. Obviously the more people the better, but if the store’s layout is unappealing, prices uncompetitive, sales staff hopeless or some other issue, then most of those visitors will leave without buying.
Lots of foot traffic, but no sales is not success…
Likewise with websites. Getting visitors is only the start, and definitely not a case of ‘job done’.
Successful websites maximise the value of their traffic through an ongoing process of conversion optimisation. The ultimate example of this is Amazon which has built its success largely by continually testing and refining their website.
Conversion optimisation sounds complex, but fundamentally involves tweaking and testing different aspects of your website with the goal of improving conversion rates and so squeezing more value from the same number of visitors.
All sorts of things can be tested — headlines, body copy, buttons, images, forms, prices, page layouts, funnels and much more. The trick is working out what to test, so that tests are meaningful. Tests can involve just testing single variations (A/B tests), or testing multiple elements at the same time (multivariate tests).
There are various toolsets available to run such tests, two well-known ones being Optimizely and Visual Website Optimizer. Both are paid tools and very good.
Another option you can now consider is a free one from Google called Google Optimize. This has been limited to beta testers since last September and plenty of people wanted access. Apparently, Google got over 250,000 users requesting an Optimize account!
The good news is that last week it came out of beta and Google has now made it freely available worldwide. It’s built on Google Analytics and easy to use. The visual editor means you can change just about anything on your site by simply using drag and a drop.
Why should you care?
According to Google, a recent survey showed 45% of small and medium businesses don’t optimise their websites through A/B testing. The two most common reasons given were a “lack of employee resources” and “lack of knowledge to get started”. Google Optimize has been designed specifically for small and medium-sized businesses who need powerful testing, but don’t have the budget or team resources for an enterprise-level solution.
Good news for website owners; bad news for Optimizely, VWO and other paid services.
Check out Google Optimize here.
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Mark is a Partner and Senior Consultant at SureFire which he founded back in 2002. Prior to establishing SureFire he worked for KPMG Consulting. Today Mark heads up SEO, embracing the challenges that can come with complex website implementations. Outside of work, his interests beyond his family are running, snowsports, diving and fishing (badly).