If you asked some of the best online marketers in the business what one piece of advice they can give you to help make your site better, stronger or more profitable, I bet most would say “test your pages, test your techniques, and test your theories.”
The one constant in search engine marketing is change. Things that worked a few months or even years ago don’t work today. Conversely, things that work today maybe didn’t work 2 months ago. Learning what is best for you and your site takes a lot of patience, research and testing.
If you’re a do-it-yourself website owner—or run your own company and do your online marketing in-house, using a tool like Google Website Optimizer can help you test different ideas and theories with ease. Testing your landing pages and conversion funnels can help you craft a site that is user friendly and more conversion friendly. Whether your goal is to sell an item, or generate a lead, simple steps to set up and implement a test can help you gain insight into what your audience is looking for.
Visiting Google.com/WebsiteOptimizer is an easy—and free—way to easily get started with a great tool that’s easy and intuitive to use. If you can design a new page and paste a bit of code into your website, you don’t need any help at all to get started. If you’re a design novice and have someone help you out, have them help design your test page and then it’s literally less than a half-hour of effort to install the scripts, provided there aren’t any special steps needed to make them work.
Tip: If you use WordPress, install the Easy Google Optimizer Plug-in for WordPress from ImpressionEngineeers.com. This makes setting up your campaign a snap!
I also like to recommend Website Optimizer if you’re testing out some targeting and segmentation ideas, like the ones I put out in my last column “How to Target your SEO Landing Page’s Demographic Profile.” The reality is sometimes segmentation and targeting takes many many versions to dial in the right one. Being able to A/B test your original against a new version is a great way to see if the change should be permanent without guesswork.
The nice thing about the Website Optimizer interface is the step by step setup instructions. There is a “shopping list” of what you need before you start your test, and then a step by step Q&A to help you decide what type of test you need, what your conversion goal page should be and then the code is generated… voila!
Here are some screenshots to get you familiar with what you’re doing. This will take you through to the code generation portion of your test:
Step 1: Create a new experiment
Step 2: Choose the type of experiment
Step 3: Name and identify your control, test and conversion pages
Step 4: Tell Google how your scripts will be installed
Step 5: Copy and paste the code into your site and validate your pages
The most important rule to remember is to allow enough conversions for an accurate test. Google recommends around 100 conversions for an accurate measure. Some pages can reach that goal in a day, while some may take a month or more. If you have a site that receives a few conversions a week or month, you can still test. Consider making your “goal” a clickthru to the next page in the conversion path instead of a full blown conversion.
If you’re not sure where to start with your first test, some things I would suggest are:
Conversion button style and placement. Whether you’re looking for a “book online” or “contact us” type of conversions, work on how that message appears to your visitors. If it’s a text link buried in a paragraph, separate it out and give it a colorful, eye-catching button to entice more conversions. Use your testing to design the right button for your audience.
Navigation overhaul.. Is having left-hand navigation the best or should you move it to the right, can you eliminate some navigation to encourage the conversion action? Is the order of your navigation encouraging or discouraging engagement and conversion? Do some testing to figure it out.
Page layout. The middle left side of your page is a dead spot. Are you putting important information there? Try rearranging your text and important links to encourage more time on site and more clickthrus.
Virtual tour or image conversion optimization. If you use virtual tours or image galleries, try different techniques to layover or include links to help the visitor into your conversion path. These pages can rank well, so try to use them as much as you can.
Getting started with your testing can be intimidating, but the first test is definitely a milestone you should hit in January 2010! The results you see and the potential become addicting. Remember, a key part of the overall SEO process is to take time to work on not only the rankings and traffic to your site, but the nuts and bolts that make your site work for visitors.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.