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Wherefore Art Thou, Serial Testing? Cure Thy Blindness
Gather close, dear friends and hear my words of warning. Gird yourself, for my tale would make any enlightened man or woman stagger back in disbelief. I do not share such news with you lightly. It is not my errand to harm or discomfort your mental or psychological wellbeing.
Resist the urge to sever the very Internet connection with which you receive my message. I shall soon relieve your stress with a simple technique that will counter the malevolence that I describe.
I reveal my knowledge only because you may in fact be a person possessing an enterprising mind. If this is true, I know you will see in my tale of woe and tragedy the shadow of immense opportunity.
I have, in my professional pursuits been privy to the plans of many a starry-eyed business person. So eager are they to tap the keg of the Web that they have made themselves drunk with anticipation, even before a single sip of the digital elixir has crossed their lips.
They are handy with their search tools, clever in their keywords and pen pay-per-click ads that seem to dance upon the page.
It is all for naught, for the heady traffic pours into vessels so riddled with hole and crack, that from this torrent these businesses can scarcely moisten their lips. The websites to which they deliver their click-through treasure fail in their basic duty of capturing and converting the bounty.
And so, they make changes. They replace the ineffective cup with a bowl and then a pitcher and then a saucer, each equally as impotent; each delivering little sustenance to them.
Take your kerchief now from your pocket, dear friend, for my tale will bring tears to your eyes.
In their quest to find the proper vessel these misguided souls fail to see the true opportunity. It is as if they are blind, and yeah, they truly are.
They stick their inferior containers out into the flood and clinch their eyes tightly closed as if looking upon something abominable. Thus, they see only the result, and not the cause of their famine.
But lift your head now and let the brightness of joy return to your face, for I can tell you now that you need not suffer as they do.
The True Opportunity
The core of the matter is this: the opportunity lies not in the container, but in the holes and cracks.
Yes, each little imperfection offers up a chance to be corrected, each tiny fault a hope of repair. And when enough of these imperfections are discovered our cups will fill with abundance on which our businesses will become sated.
Do not dismiss me now expecting tales of split tests and multivariate monstrosities, for I offer a much simpler way of stripping the blindfold from your eyes.
I offer you: the Serial Test.
Behold, The Serial Test
It is only important that you be able to gauge the level in your cup as compared to the visits flowing into it.
Seek not absolute accuracy, but seek instead consistency of measure and no more.
Tread lightly! You must bring change in small steps, patiently and purposefully. Seek to join a crack or fill a hole.
Change a headline, reduce the number of fields in your form or add trust-building symbols to the page. Change but one thing at a time.
Accompany each change with a hypothesis, a thesis for what you expect the change to do for you. Most of the time, your hypothesis will simply be this:
“This change will increase the percentage of visitors who take action; who convert to a lead or a sale as measured by ___________.”
You must fill the blank, my friend.
Will you measure calls you receive from the Web? Will you measure completed forms? Will you measure revenue per click? It is up to you.
All I ask is that you choose a measure for which you know the current value and that will reliably rise or fall as your fortunes change.
Hold fast! Do not rush off to ogle your analytics, for we must first discuss statistical significance. Do not be disheartened. This term, though bulging with syllables simply means that you must let enough time pass before you review the results of your change.
There are ebbs and flows within even a calendar week that must be considered. I say you shall let no less than a week pass before you evaluate any change. This assumes a heady stream of traffic.
To ensure validity, you should let enough time pass for 100 conversions to occur or for thousands of eyes fall upon your change before you harvest your learnings.
Measure your current page, which we call the control for an appropriate amount of time. Then measure the changed page, which we call the treatment for such a time as well. Then will you be ready to glean insights that will fill your cup.
In many cases you will find a difference between the two. The treatment will offer an increase or decrease over the performance of its brother. But, don’t rush to the conclusion, for if the change is small, it is wholly invalid.
Only Big Differences Count
Do not think me foul that I must reveal that a serial test does not control for natural changes in the marketplace. Just as the temperature fluctuates from season to season, so too will your conversion rates and independently of changes to your site.
Therefore stake your decisions on large changes. If your treatment causes a drop of 20% or more, you can be comforted that it is an inferior vessel. Cast it aside and restore the control. This is truly an honorable result!
If your treatment brings a bounty of 20% or more in increased conversions, rejoice. You have found a new control.
Otherwise, retain your control and try something anew.
Repeat & Grow
Tarry but a moment, dear reader, as you must prepare for the next test. Choose another change. Create your hypothesis. Select a measuring stick. Launch your treatment at the appointed time and wait patiently for statistical significance.
And as God is my witness, I say that you will have prepared yourself to ease into a more profitable and fruitful pursuit: the split test.
Your new-found skills at selecting what to change, at choosing metrics and knowing how long to test will serve you well. The split test will control for seasonal and competitive fluctuations that plague even the most stalwart of serial tests. Riches will be yours for the taking.
Hark! I offer gifts with my glad tidings. For your pleasure, I offer my very own test planning document to guide you through your most pressing serial test.
Use it in good health and growing prosperity as it guides you to online success. With it, you will rise above the blind rabble who would dare to compete with you.
You will have questions, no doubt. Please share them in the comments for a rousing response from me and other smart readers like yourself.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.