As firms struggle with the current economic realities, advertising budgets are usually one of the first things to go. With less demand generation going on, invariably someone inside a company will bring up the novel concept that we should actually try to do a better job of converting the web traffic we do get and optimize the site to get better results. Most likely companies will start with landing pages, but it could cascade into other aspects of the site. Honestly, it shouldn’t take a budget cut to spur these efforts along, but for whatever reason that is often the catalyst. I am big proponent of testing things to find the optimal recipe for your customers and your company, but I actually would argue most folks are doing this incorrectly.
Part of why I think the methodology is flawed is the fact that I am not sure the tools can measure things the way you need to do a decent job of optimization. Most people are doing optimization strictly on what happens on that visit. So if the success criteria is conversions or click-throughs you’re measuring the tests against that goal. The problem though for some companies is that people aren’t going to do what you want them to do on that visit, but actually will do it the 2nd or 3rd time around. Without taking that behavior into account you might decide on a recipe that is limited to only what is happening on that initial visit. I would propose that to do this right things like ‘repeat visitors’ or ‘subsequent visits’ should be an important element in deciding the winning design for a page.
Example…we have landing pages for things like our ThinkPad x300 or x301. We drive demand generation to these pages but I think we’d be fooling ourselves if we thought people are going to come to the site and buy a $2,000 laptop on that visit. You can look at something like bounce rate for this page, which would tell you whether or not someone clicked on a link of the page to go further into the site and this might show a level of interest or engagement based on the landing page. In some cases, the visitor learns all they need to know on that visit and won’t need to go any further, so bounce rate might not tell you if they got any value from it. I would say in cases like this, its more important to look at these visitors and whether or not they ever came back to your site at all, and associate that as the true value of the landing page.
I have some other thoughts on this and some of the limitations of current toolsets, but that will wait for a future post.