Archive for the ‘Marketing Q&A’ Category

Marketing Questions: Making claims for new products, e-commerce landing pages

March 25th, 2013 No comments

During our most recent Web clinic – “Converting PPC Traffic: How strategic keyword placement increased conversion by 144%” – we received questions from the audience that we didn’t have time to address during the presentation. So, let’s take a look at them now …


If you have a new product, you can’t make those kinds of claims – then what do you recommend we do? – RD

I believe RD’s question is in response to two discoveries we often teach.

One, specificity converts. “In marketing there should be no such thing as a general message,” said Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director, MECLABS. “The marketer communicates with an aim. This aim should dictate everything else we say. This aim should influence, even constrain, every word we say.”

Second, third-party credibility indicators can help you achieve that specificity. A nice example, from this blog post about homepage optimization, is “2 million success stories and counting,” with logos of satisfied customers.

This is a significant challenge for a new product. So, here are some ideas to get you thinking:

  • If it is a new product from an established company, you can test third-party credibility indicators for other products your company creates.For example, when we launched Optimization Summit a few years ago, we used testimonials about other MECLABS events. If we did not have other MECLABS events, perhaps we would have used testimonials of other types of MECLABS comment, for example, a MarketingExperiments Web clinic. After all, if your company creates a similar product of high quality, it is a fair comparison the new product will be of high quality as well.
  • If it is a new product from a new company, you can test third-party credibility indicators based on the experience of the company founders or employees.

For example, let’s say your product is software. “The team behind software X has produced 37 programs rated five-stars by CREDIBLE SOURCE HERE” might be a worthwhile message to test on your landing page.

Overall, these are short-term solutions. You want to put systems in place to garner third-party credibility indicators with as much specific information as possible. If you’re not sure where to begin, this MarketingSherpa case study about how a bathroom supply e-commerce site used a sweepstakes to encourage customers to submit product reviews might be helpful to you.

Read more…

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Display Advertising: How your peers optimize banner ads

August 31st, 2011 2 comments

Banner ads are the billboards of the information superhighway. And much like billboards, many of them can be so downright, well, annoying. And much like a garish billboard detracting from the natural beauty of a scenic drive, so many banner ads are so downright … well … annoying.

Or obtuse. I see your big logo, but what on Earth is the value to me to stop engaging with the content on the page (the reason I came here) and give you a click?

So how do you design banner ads that get results?

We’re sharing our discoveries about banner advertising in today’s Web clinic (educational funding provided by HubSpot) at 4 p.m. EDT – Banner Ad Design: The 3 key banner objectives that drove a 285% lift.

But before we share our discoveries, we wanted to hear how your marketing peers handle display advertising. Here are a few of our favorite responses…

Read more…

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E-commerce: How long should a shopping cart be?

In our most recent Web clinic, Shopping Carts Optimized: How a few tweaks led to 12% more revenue across an entire ecommerce website, Dr. Flint McGlaughlin shared our recent discoveries from our consumer marketing experimentation, set out a strategic approach to shopping carts and gave a few helpful fishing tips to boot.

As usual, we received more questions than we could possibly answer live during the Web clinic. A few were simple and straightforward (to which I say, “Yes,” “Maybe,” “One form field for name instead of three,” and “By the pier in Jacksonville Beach using Mayport shrimp as bait.”)

But one question particularly caught Dr. McGlaughlin’s eye…

How long should a shopping cart be? Is it better to have a long page or many short steps?

I passed this question around the lab, and here’s what our researchers had to say. We’d love to hear what you’re learned from your tests as well…

It depends on your product

I think this really depends on the product.  If you have a very simple product, like a DVD, you know what you’re getting as soon as you click “Add to Cart,” so I would get them through the process as quickly as possible.

If you have a more customized process, like ordering flowers with different vases and greeting card variations, I have no problem breaking them each out to their own special page so we can hammer home the value of each step without over-cluttering the long form. This also allows us to better track which specific step someone is dropping off on so that we can more easily determine the leaks in the funnel.

In the end, you have to test checkout process length.

Tony Doty, Research Manager

The two optimization factors that you must balance

To the customer, shopping cart page length may be irrelevant unless the length is driven by unnecessary information.

I ran a test and discovered that reducing unnecessary fields on a single page inside the checkout funnel resulted in an increase in finishes, whereas including these fields in a similar process outside of the cart resulted in more conversions.

To the client/site, it is preferable to measure in multiple pages so they can track where the leaks are in the funnel.

If everything is one big page, it makes it much more difficult to track where or what causes a visitor concern enough to abandon.

In this case, showing the customer where they are in the process (progress indicator) helps keep the balance and alleviate the effects of that type of process friction (perceived process length).

Jon Powell, Research Manager

Reinforce the value proposition

Optimizing the shopping cart path – including its length, sequencing of steps/forms, etc. – should conform to our foundation landing page optimization/conversion index analysis tenets. For instance:

  • Not asking for any more information than you need
  • Not asking for information you do need before you need it (to complete the process step)
  • Managing form length and eye-path
  • Avoiding ‘visual barriers’ such as horizontal bars across the page, etc.

The emphasis shifts slightly upon transitioning from ‘offer’ phase to ‘cart’ phase, shifting from ‘expression’ of the value proposition towards ‘support’ or ‘reinforcement’ of the value proposition to sustain (rather than build) cognitive momentum toward conversion.

Bob Kemper, Director of Sciences

Optimize the page or the path

There are two approaches you can test to see which works best with your customers and products. Either have a clear descriptions of the steps (breadcrumbs) to let customers know how many to expect and where they are in the whole process, or create one longer page that includes all necessary billing and shipping fields.

Zuzia Soldenhoff-Thorpe, Research Analyst

Test on new and repeat customers

How long should a shopping cart be? It is better to have a long page or many short steps? It depends.

Every retailer should test as many different checkout processes as they can. Retailers need to know what their customer target group responds better to. Some visitors will prefer one single, long step and others will prefer a couple of short steps.

Probably for repeat customers, short checkout process (1-2 steps) will work well because they already trust the retailer and are familiar with the process. But even in this case, it is important to test.

Gaby Paez, Associate Director of Research

Be brief and be thorough

I personally prefer a short cart, incorporating all of the steps in one with accordion-style sections. With this type of a checkout process, it’s easy to get back to previous steps with an ‘edit’ link and it appears short while still collecting all of the needed information.

My favorite checkout process is Gap/Banana Republic/Piperlime – it’s super intuitive and really easy to get back to any step to make a change

My biggest pet peeve is when a checkout does not work in a certain browser. I use Google Chrome, and the other day I was looking at something on the Hobo International site and I couldn’t select from a drop down in Chrome, but when I went to Firefox it worked. Most customers wouldn’t be that dedicated or might not think to check another browser.

Gina Townsend, Director of Operations

Related resources

Free Web Clinic, May 18, 4-5 p.m. – Optimization Researched: Latest findings about effective LPO practices based on data from 2,673 marketers

Web Clinic Replay – Shopping Carts Optimized: How a few tweaks led to 12% more revenue across an entire ecommerce Website

E-commerce: How your peers optimize shopping carts and product pages

E-commerce Shopping Carts: How a redesigned checkout process led to 13% increase in conversion rate

Shopping Cart Abandonment: How not being annoying can get you 67% more cart completions

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Value Proposition: Our research team answers your questions

April 1st, 2011 No comments

Value proposition is one of the most popular topics we teach about. Getting your value proposition right is maddeningly difficult but highly rewarding. As they say in “The Town” before robbing Fenway Park, “If it was easy, everyone would do it.”

So, it wasn’t surprising that we received an inordinate amount of questions during our recent Web clinic – Do You Have the Right Value Proposition? How to test, measure, and integrate your Value Proposition online.

Unfortunately, we can’t answer every single question we receive. But I passed several of the questions around the labs, and here is what our research team had to say… Read more…

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Web Clinic Extra: How testing email design reveals a 26% gain (and a 52% loss)

January 20th, 2010 3 comments

Email design always proves to be a hot topic with marketers. And when you have top agencies competing against each other, the fire just gets hotter as we learned during last week’s live web clinic Maximize your Agency ROI: How adding science to the creative process reveals a 26% gain.

We received a plethora of questions, most which we could did not have time to address during the hour-long clinic. So, as with every Web Clinic Extra, we have picked a handful of the most common questions to address here on our blog. This week we pulled in Andy Mott, the Senior Manager of Research Partnerships, to answer these questions…

Email marketing is a topic that comes up often in the MarketingExperiments community. In fact, Dr. Flint McGlaughlin is delivering a keynote today at Em@il Summit ’10 in Miami as well as teaching a pre-summit Live Email Optimization Workshop. If you couldn’t make it out there this year to get valuable insights from your peers and industry leaders, come back to the blog on Friday for some key takeaways from this year’s summit.

You can view a replay of the clinic or read the latest issue of MarketingExperiments Journal. Our next live web clinic, The Five Best Ways to Optimize Email Response (Part 2): How to craft effective email messages that drive your customers to action, will be taught on February 3rd from 4 to 5 p.m. EST.

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Alumni Questions: Reliable case studies, SEO, and test design

December 28th, 2009 6 comments

Students and alumni of the MarketingExperiments Training and Certification Program often share their questions and concerns with our analysts before, during, and after they take one of our courses. The questions below are an example of the interaction you can expect if you attend a MarketingExperiments course:

Q: Do you know any other resources, except MarketingExperiments and MarketingSherpa, that are good at providing useful insights from case studies?

Believe it or not, I’ve been in this Internet marketing field for two years (you’re probably here a lot longer) and been through a lot of misleading information until I accidently found you guys and really learned how to test things and see if they REALLY work instead of blindly believing some “gurus” who told me something like…”this is tested and it’s working 100%!” (the only thing that was truthful was that 100% thing…the problem was that almost 100% of what they were telling me didn’t work.

Surely others – for example online marketing consultancies – will offer to advise you on changing your website to improve performance and will use a third-party testing tool to measure the impact. Also, some of the large-scale testing tool vendors offer hosted and/or managed service engagements using their products.

Unfortunately, as you said, most other organizations are not research focused. MarketingExperiments is a research institute dedicated to discovering what really works in online marketing to help our Research Partners, certification program students, and Journal subscribers succeed. So there are very few resources we can point you to.

One notable exception is the award-winning Get Elastic blog written by ecommerce analyst Linda Bustos. Get Elastic provides useful insights about SEO (search engine optimization), usability, analytics, email, shopping cart abandonment, and social media. Linda is also a MarketingExperiments certified optimization professional and knows our methodology inside-out.

Q: I’ve been through your Fundamentals of Online Testing course. You teach about landing page and order page optimization. I was wondering if you have some specific advice/studies where the SEO effectiveness of a campaign was tested (SEO, not paid traffic) because I can’t find any valid way to measure the effectiveness of an SEO campaign.

Regarding testing in which the primary channel is “natural search” or SEO traffic, we do have considerable experience working with companies and organizations for whom SEO is a significant portion of their demand, and we have published some research on the topic. In fact, all of our research is readily available for free in the MarketingExperiments Research Directory.

Raising HandsAs you’re already aware, based upon your question, there are a number of challenges associated with the dramatic differences between the key optimization factors over online marketers can control when choosing between PPC (pay per click) and SEO. Specifically, not only is there a relative dearth of information available to search marketers as compared to paid advertising, the search networks are comparatively opaque about their results-positioning algorithms and tend to change them frequently to confound SEO-gamers. Further, the rate at which changes to a site are detected by the networks and “shaken into the mix” is volatile and unpredictable.

Consequently, the MarketingExperiments approach is to evaluate the subject site/page based upon the principles of Offer/Response-Optimization – such as the Conversion Heuristic that you learn in the Landing Page Optimization course – then develop hypotheses about how to improve its performance and test those hypotheses using paid search traffic (which is designed to mirror the motivation profile of their ideal customers through SEO). This provides comparatively rapid and precise evidence about the specific factors of study. Then, those test results are used in concert with the latest SEO-algorithm information to develop the channel-specific page designs and a plan for deploying them to get the largest and most rapid performance gain.

Q: Do you have some advice/case studies about testing the effectiveness of an online service?

For example, a site like Traffic Bug submits your URL to social networks (Connotea, Propeller) automatically and claims that this increases your rankings and indexes your pages.

I want to do a test to see if what they say is true. I would take 10 very obscure pages (to be exact, profile links) that are rarely indexed by Google. I create 10 of those obscure pages on different URLs and do nothing with them. Then I create 10 pages on the same URL and submit them to Traffic Bug. I wait for seven days.

Of course, I make sure everything is satisfied in terms of validity and all that. So I wait for seven days (that’s the first milestone, I then check them again after 30 days but let’s focus on the period after seven days) and then take a look. My sample size is small but what I’m interested in is discovering if this service is highly effective in indexing pages on Google.

So if the first sample (that is not submitted) gets one out of 10 pages indexed and the second sample (which is submitted) gets nine out of 10 pages indexed, and I make sure that this is a valid test (using the MarketingExperiments validation formula from the Fundamentals of Online Testing course), can I assume an online service is very effective?

I wanted to hear your comments on this. What do you think is wrong/right with the above test and what would be some things to do for improvement? Also, do you think that a sample size of 10 is big enough for a test to discover whether an online service has a dramatic effect?

While the approach you described appears sound in principle, you will probably have difficulty actually achieving valid results based upon the circumstances you outlined. And even if the results are valid, they may not really answer your question.

In evaluation of a tool like this, a different approach may serve you better. When building an SEO campaign and links there are other things to consider:

  1. Are you sure where all these links are getting posted? Some indexing tools use less-than-kosher link-building strategies that can actually get your domain in trouble with search engine providers. The appearance of link spamming and posting links on flagged sites can cause domains to suffer penalties that can affect the ranking of their sites…occasionally on a permanent basis.
  2. Are these links actually driving traffic and revenue? Many indexing services cost money and you need to perform due diligence with an ROI analysis to see if the efforts are recouping their costs.
  3. Does the service provide a list of links they have generated for tracking? Not only is this good for tracking but allows you to see the places your links are getting placed. Some business owners consider it (as you should too), important to see the company you are keeping on these sites.  For example, are links to, “Adam’s XXX site” right next to your link or the content on these pages? You can use tools like Yahoo Site Explorer or Google Webmaster Tools to fish out these links, but the service should do this for you.
  4. It is important to note that we are not accusing Traffic Bug of doing any of these things, but with any sort of service along these lines you need to do your research first.

From your experience, how would you answer the above questions? Share your advice in the comments section.

Special thanks to Director of Sciences Bob Kemper and Research Analyst Corey Trent for their help in answering these questions.

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