A Scenic Tour of the Online World

Letting Data Drive Your Website

Friday, June 15th, 2012

Two weeks ago I wrote a piece on Using Metrics To Improve Content Marketing. Since then, I’ve finally gotten around to reading the May 2012 issue of Wired where there was a great article on using data to drive website development decisions.

The first example in the article: the Obama ’08 campaign. Dan Siroker was working at Google when he heard Obama speak, took a leave of absence and went to work on the campaign, introducing the candidate’s team to A/B testing. Not surprisingly, his work made a big difference in the campaign site’s conversion rates.

The most striking thing, though, isn’t the enormous increase in signups they created by testing different approaches with imagery, call-to-action language, etc. but the near perfection with which they guessed wrong. The data was right, the designers were wrong.

If the design team thought displaying a video was the way to go for the visual on the sign up page, it turned at that a b&w still outperformed. You can’t beat “Sign Up Now” as a call to action, can you? Well, yes. “Learn More” outperformed there handily.

WhichTestWon is a fun site to visit. You can test your instincts against actual A/B tests. (And you can subscribe to the site for access to a library of testing data and other information.)

Regardless of how well your gut guesses, you ‘re not going to beat A/B testing consistently. So you should be testing everything from email subject lines to landing page copy to images to call-to-action buttons. You probably have the ability to do some of these things already – MailChimp, for example, has some nice simple A/B testing tools built in and on other services that don’t have those tools it’s simple to roll your own.

You can test landing pages, too. Google has a simple but effective tool that, not suprisingly, is free. If creating 2nd and 3rd versions of the pages you want to test is too much, you an opt for a service like Optimizely that helps you create variations without coding. Other options include Optimost, Marketo, and Ektron. WhichTestWon has a directory listing about 40 or so tools.

Whichever tools fits your needs and budget, get one in place ASAP and start testing. You’ll improve your digital marketing performance almost immediately.

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