Inbound marketing provides a dramatic improvement and remarkable lift when you compare performance to traditional tactics, like trade shows and direct mail.
If you own or run a business or you’re in charge of marketing for almost any company, you’re looking for a way to create a repeatable, predictable and scalable lead-generation machine.
A major part of inbound marketing is the experience people have when they visit your website. When this experience is lacking – because the message is bad, the site is architected poorly or there's no content to educate the visitor – the program breaks down dramatically.
So, those of us who are experts at inbound marketing have also become quite good at what’s called conversion optimization. This is the practice of testing various components of a website design to ensure that the anonymous visitors are turning into leads and that those leads are turning into customers.
Today, conversion optimization is becoming a big part of inbound marketing and website strategy because it’s measurable and it works.
Here are the key considerations if you’d like to apply conversion optimization at your company.
There Are No Best Practices
Chris Goward writes in his book, You Should Test That, that there are no best practices. While that might be an extreme exaggeration to make a great point, he’s right. Every website, every individual, every business, every industry behaves a little differently. So, you can’t lean on your industry expert or your marketing agency to simply tell you what’s right. You need to have a testing mentality that you apply over and over again. When you work with this style in mind, you’re constantly challenging the status quo and working to improve the performance of your landing pages, your overall website and your marketing in general.
Create A Plan Based On Past Performance Data
Your site must have the tools to provide the necessary data to create an optimization plan and monitor that plan’s performance over time. Google Analytics provides a great starting point. The tool is free and can easily be applied to every page on your site. There are other analytical tools as well, but it’s not necessary for you to invest any money to get this data.
Once you have the data, you should be looking for pages on your site that appear to be underperforming. These could be landing pages that are delivering less than 20% conversion rates, or it could be pages on your site that are supposed to be offering options to visitors but are high-exit pages instead.
Try to pick pages that will offer great value if you're able to fix the issues and improve performance. If you have a shopping cart, for example, and people are abandoning the cart instead of purchasing, fixing this would contribute revenue. Landing pages that turn visitors into leads would also be a high-value target for consideration.
Plan Your Tests With A Scientific Method In Mind
When you start working to optimize conversions, you’re going to want to test only one variable at a time. For instance, if you change the copy, the image and the button on a page and performance improves, how will you know which element contributed to the better performance? Start with one change, like the button. Then, run the test and review the performance. This allows you to control the variables and work through them over time, completely optimizing the page for peak performance.
Make sure you let the test run long enough, and ensure that your sample size is large enough, to provide statistical relevance to your test. If you let the test run for only 24 hours and you have only 10 visitors to the page, it’s likely that you won’t have enough samples to really know whether your test is valid or not. The longer you run the test and the more sample data you have in it, the more confident you can be that the test was accurate and that any changes will contribute to improved performance.
Consider Applying This Approach To Other Marketing Tactics
Optimization (including conversion optimization) doesn’t just apply to websites and webpages. If you’re actively creating educational content for your prospects, you should be looking at the performance of those blog articles, whitepapers, e-books, infographics and videos. Some of those will perform well and convert nicely, while others will not. This, too, is valuable data that's available in real time today.
Start looking at all of your marketing tactics from a scientific perspective. You’re going to quickly find that many of the old-school tactics have been underperforming for years, if not decades, and the only reason they’ve never been scrapped is because you didn’t have anything to replace them with. That’s not the case anymore. Today, any marketing that doesn’t work should be shelved in exchange for marketing that’s proven to work.
Make It Part Of A Regular, Continuous Improvement Effort
The idea of ongoing optimization and regular testing should be something you settle into and do daily, weekly and monthly. This is different than a lot of the old-school marketing tactics that took months to analyze – if they were even analyzed at all. Today, marketing is a science and should be treated as such. Set goals for the performance of your marketing and make sure that you’re working to exceed those goals every month.
The result will be marketing that gets better month over month. In no time, you’ll be the one who knows how to create, implement, manage and optimize the company’s lead-generation machine.
Start Today Tip – Get a testing plan together. Prioritize underperforming pages, create a hypothesis as to why they might be underperforming and then build your A/B tests. Develop a series of tests and execute them. Remember to let them run long enough to collect the amount of sample data needed for your results to be statistically accurate. Also, make sure you’re not changing more than one variable from test to test, and work hard to keep your qualitative opinions out of the test. Let the data dictate what to do and how to do it. The result is going to be more leads for your business.
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