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Test Plan: Build better marketing tests with the Metrics Pyramid

August 29th, 2011 3 comments
The Metrics Pyramid

click to enlarge

In my job as a Senior Research Manager at MarketingExperiments, I talk to a lot of people who are new to online testing. Before I started, I used to think the most intimidating factor for newbies would be coming up with page designs and development. But it’s not. Dealing with metrics, by far, is the most intimidating.

Maybe it’s because, when they reached the fork in the road, they took the marketing path because they simply didn’t like math.

Or maybe metrics are intimidating simply because there are so many of them!

  • Which metrics should I care most about?
  • How do I interpret them?
  • Which metrics should I install for my test?

I have some good news: You can eliminate all the confusion and anxiety you have if you organize your metrics into four major groups. And guess what? Specific groups (like Source and Nature) are far more important to planning great tests than others (like Amount and Result). Let me explain. Read more…

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Categories: Site Metrics Tags: ,

Homepage Optimization: How a more logical eye-path led to 59% increase in conversions

April 18th, 2011 4 comments

You wouldn’t use a dictionary that wasn’t in alphabetical order, nor would you invite a date to your high rise without telling him or her which apartment was yours. Yet, we still expect homepage visitors to navigate through seas of information and multiple paths, in hopes they’ll find what they need.

We spend a lot of time discussing landing pages because that’s where the action (i.e. conversions) happens. But homepages are sometimes the first interaction prospects have on a website, if not their first exposure to an entire brand. As such, they require similar levels of optimization.

Much like landing pages, following optimization principles is key in conveying a brand’s messaging. We need to strategically define the goals we have for a homepage, and the path we want the user to take.

We initially discussed the following experiment last Fall in our Web Clinic, “Homepages Optimized: How using the homepage as a channel led to a 59% increase in conversion.” However, in a Web clinic, by necessity of trying to convey complex information in a short amount of time during a live event, we usually aren’t able to delve into the entire experiment conducted here in the labs. For simplicity’s sake, we usually focus on a control and one, sometimes two, treatments to very tightly focus the Web clinic around that sessions teachings.

Today on the blog, let’s air it out. Let’s look a little deeper into the experiment, including the control and all three treatments our research analysts tested, to see what we learned. Read more…

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Landing Page Optimization: Value-focused revamp leads to 188% lead gen boost, increase in personal interaction

February 28th, 2011 2 comments

Let me start this post off by asking a question (somewhere, an English teacher is crying).

When is a value proposition not a value proposition?

The answer?  When it’s hidden beneath lesser value propositions.

In this case, an Australian telecom company utilized a page design that effectively undervalued the company’s premier offerings, through an uninviting layout and a distinct lack of focus on its most powerful value statement.

To create a parallel, imagine McDonald’s dedicating its total ad budget to promote a new salad, or Robert DeNiro accepting a lifetime achievement award for “Meet the Fockers.” Yes, theoretically, both situations are possible, but neither would properly support the top value propositions offered by these entities.

Background

Our research partner is an Australian telecom company offering dedicated server and hosting solutions. The company has been decorated with numerous accolades for its services and customer care, and remains the most accredited hosting company in the country.

The PPC landing page in question offers visitors the opportunity to obtain a no-obligation free estimate for dedicated business server solutions.

The goal of the test was to see:

  1. Which dedicated server PPC landing page will yield the greatest number of sales leads?
  2. Which dedicated server PPC landing page will yield the greatest number of telephone sales leads?

In creating a treatment, our researchers needed to test a number of variables from the existing page, including headline, layout/eye-path, value proposition points, image selection and location, format of the questionnaire, presence of a testimonial, location of the company’s logo, location/size of the contact information, and body text copy, size and location.

Control: Don’t bury your value “down under”

Click to enlarge

The control page led with a large image of a wall of server cabinets captioned on the extreme right with a comparatively small block of text intended to summarize the primary value proposition highlights (Creative samples have been anonymized to protect Research Partner competitive advantage). The image, though full-color, contained largely shades of gray and was not easily recognizable as computer servers (one colleague believed them to be window shutters upon first glance.)

Though the term, “Dedicated Servers” was used above and below the image, as well as in the blue text box to the right, none of the three instances employed any distinct font treatment or attention-getting design. As a result, the most visually arresting page element was the indistinct gray image.

The user’s eye was then drawn to the blue text box to the right of the image. The text was centered in the box and was not bulleted or given any type of call out.  Our researchers found there was potential for significant “banner blindness” as a result.

The next section below the image consisted mainly of a short paragraph of gray-on-white text with no visual cues, such as bolding, underlining, etc. to guide attention.  With the added visual distractions to the right of this copy, the eye-path was cluttered and difficult for a user to navigate.

The copy itself was subdued, with little emphasis on the company’s differentiators. The writers instead focused on terms such as “secure,” “reliable” and “cost-effective” – all terms that support value, but also do little to make this company stand out from the competition.

The remainder of the page consisted of two forms – one with a somewhat contradictory invitation that offered, “For immediate advice – Call 1-800-XXX-XXXX,” only to then request personal information. The other form was a fairly lengthy questionnaire (with optional text entry box, to boot) followed by a “Request a Quotation” button at the bottom.  The call-to-action was located at the end of the page, left-justified, with a graphical treatment that did nothing to make it stand out from the row of well-recognized logos beneath it.

In short, while there was no confusion about what this page offered, it took more work than could realistically be expected of a user to scan around and find it. It almost seemed as if the company was “being coy” and purposely diminishing its upfront value in order to get users to fill out the forms and request more information.

Treatment: Leave no doubt about your company’s stature and value propositions

Click to enlarge

The treatment was designed to test two primary hypotheses about the control page:

1. The expression of the value proposition could be improved

2. The control page caused user friction due to poor eye-path, the amount of information requested, and visual difficulty in locating the call-to-action.

With the treatment page, our research team attempted to test both of the above hypotheses by addressing the value proposition and friction issues.  Beginning with the value prop, a large two-part headline – “Australia’s Most Trusted & Accredited Business Hosting Company” – was added at top-left to establish that the visitor had arrived at a trusted destination. Added visual emphasis was placed on the term “Business Hosting Company” to establish further user confidence.

Below the two one-sentence paragraphs of text that provide an overview of the company’s services, the top value proposition points are emphasized by positioning them symmetrically on either side of a centered image. The image itself was much more easily recognizable as a computer server than that of the control.

Perhaps the most distracting and confusing element of the control page – the lengthy “needs” questionnaire – was eliminated for this treatment, with the revised page design focused on clearly directing the viewers’ eye-path toward the primary call-to-action – the invitation to call or contact a company rep online.

Further value (and user confidence) is established by the image-supported testimonial placed beside a capture form. By placing the testimonial here, our researchers felt that users would experience less anxiety when submitting personal contact information.

Results

The treatment outperformed the control by a relative difference of 188.46%. More than half of the leads generated by the treatment were inbound calls to the telephone number listed on the page. For the control, all of the leads came from contact information entered in the capture form.

While conversion rate increase is big in and of itself, keep in mind that this is a B2B marketer, and like many B2B marketers these leads have a high lifetime value since leads that convert often result in accounts that span several years.

What you need to understand

The 188% relative increase in conversion-to-lead from the Treatment page design suggests that the one or both of the hypotheses have merit.

To maximize the value of this test to achieve the greatest long-term value in the shortest period of time, the research team chose to use a multi-factorial test. And as with any multivariable test, it’s difficult to determine an exact reason for such a lead gen boost without further testing. However, it’s evident from the results that more prospects were inspired to take action after seeing the treatment page. And our past research indicates that this is likely due to reduced friction and subsequent reduction in potential user anxiety.

However, it must be noted that while there were no phone calls from the control page during the test period, there were calls that stemmed from the treatment.  This is strong indication that making the phone number more prominent and eliminating the ambiguity in the contact capture section was an effective approach.

Moving forward…

While the clarity of the value proposition and the level of friction seem to be much improved with the treatment design, there remains the fact that technology (and business) changes at a breakneck pace. Testing a variety of newer and more unique value statements in the center image could significantly increase user confidence, and ultimately conversion.

Still, the 188% boost might as well be qualified in layman’s terms as “night and day improvement.” Yes, it was a limited test. But in that time, the revamped page not only garnered more leads, but brought about a huge bump in person-to-person interaction. And today, when just about everything we do can be anonymized and faceless, this increased level of user confidence cannot be ignored.

(Now, if we could only ignore “Meet the Fockers”…)

Related Resources

Do You Have the Right Value Proposition? How to test, measure, and integrate your Value Proposition online

Landing Page Optimization: What cyclical products can learn from CBS Sports

Landing Page Optimization: How an engaging headline and revamped layout led to a 26% conversion rate gain

Landing Page Optimization: Identifying friction to increase conversion and win a Nobel Prize

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Landing Page Optimization: How an engaging headline and revamped layout led to a 26% conversion rate gain

February 16th, 2011 No comments

While we endure a winter that harkens back to our parents’ most impassioned tales of school commutes (“It actually snowed for six minutes in Jacksonville.” – D. Burstein, 2011) you’d think that a website offering discounted Florida vacations wouldn’t struggle with conversion rates. When you factor in that the website in question is based in the not-quite-sun-soaked United Kingdom, you’d probably think a text-only, free blog page would be more than enough to sell sunny getaways.

Of course, I’m exaggerating (though, as a MECLABS employee, I’m also intrigued by these testing possibilities). Still, as the following experiment shows, even a highly targeted Web page, offering deals exclusive to local residents, can benefit from seemingly minor alterations. Read more…

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This Just Tested: PPC vs. banner ads?

December 8th, 2010 7 comments

Quality traffic is essential for any marketing campaign. Shoot, it’s essential for any successful business. You could have a highly valuable product (let’s say a real cure for male baldness), at the best price (let’s say for just a shipping address with no strings attached), and the most optimized website presentation on the interwebs (let’s say it has undergone a year of MECLABS testing), but despite these advantages, if there are no address-owning bald men who can find your website, well then your business will look a lot like me trying to drive a stick-shift.

Ok, crazy example, but the point is this: Quality traffic is essential.

The question for marketers is – where can we find the most quality traffic on the Web? Should we work with Pay-Per-Click (PPC)? Is it smart to invest in social media? Will external website banner ads be worth the costs? There are many options out there, but today, I want to bring your attention to an experiment that compared the traffic quality between two of the most common online channels: PPC vs. Banner Ads.

Now, explaining this test will be a little more tedious than usual because it deals with multiple experiments of a unique multi-step conversion funnel. But, rest assured, if you can just get a bird’s eye view of the optimization strategy, that viewpoint will be sufficient for what I am talking about in this post. Read more…

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Metrics that matter — digging into the customer’s mindset

April 18th, 2008 No comments

Did you catch our free Web Clinic on Wednesday? The topic was Measuring What Matters: How simplifying your metrics can increase Marketing ROI by up to 75% — and if you joined us, chances are you’re already implementing new ideas and tools to improve your analytics.

If you couldn’t make it, you can view the presentation here and download our free MarketingExperiments Essential Metrics Tool here (Excel file).

Metrics isn’t the sexiest topic, yet it’s one that most marketers have been grappling with for years and still don’t have many concrete answers. In our live poll, 74% of the marketers characterized their experience level with Web analytics as moderate to novice.

There’s a lot more to cover with metrics than our one-hour session allowed: Different tools, the type of website and levels of data, your depth of experience with analytics, to name just a few.

Many attendees told us the big takeaway was our blueprint for distilling several data points into just four key measurements — and using that to get beyond numbers and into your customers’ mindset.

To paraphrase Dr. McGlaughlin, too often the focus with analytics is on us: the actions we’re trying to force or entice, the conversion rates we want to see, the transactions and revenue we desperately need to achieve. Those are valid measures, but they obscure the intentions of our prospects and customers when they visit our sites.

The trick is taking all those raw numbers and using them to create a snapshot of what your site visitors are thinking, as well as what they’re doing. That’s what really helps us adapt our processes and content and improve ROI dramatically.

Several attendees requested another Clinic on this topic, so we’ll likely revisit metrics with a new session in the months ahead. In the meantime, please enjoy the complete Clinic and try our Essential Metrics Tool with our compliments.

We’d appreciate any feedback you have on the metrics Cinic or Tool, and invite you to post any other metrics-related comments you’d like to share.

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