Don't Just Look Under the Light
For Web metrics to count, you have to measure the right things.
There's an old joke about a man who was seen crawling around on his hands and knees on the curb one night, apparently looking for something. A policeman happened to walk by and see him.
“What are you doing?” the policeman asked.
“I’m looking for a watch that I lost,” the man responded.
“Well, where exactly did you lose it?” the policeman asked.
“Oh, about two blocks from here,” the man answered.
Puzzled, the policeman responded, “Then why are you looking over here?”
The man looked up and said, “Well, the light is better here!”
I thought of this joke recently when I was speaking with a client regarding which metrics on his Web site were important to him versus which metrics were most important to measure.
We’ve all seen the situation before when we measure the number of clicks on a pay-per-click advertisement when what we really care about is how many of those visitors actually converted on the site.
Another misguided measurement is tracking the open rate of an e-mail campaign when what really should be tracked is the number of people who clicked on the offer and then followed through with the promotion. Perhaps due to a combination of the wrong tools, we wind up measuring the wrong things.
And measuring Web metrics is just one small piece of the Web page puzzle. Once marketers know what is important to measure and track, the next crucial piece is for them to understand how different Web designs affect Web page visitors, and what changes can be made to increase conversion.
There are some overarching themes in Web design that have been found to successfully increase conversion across the board. These tips and tricks, combined with measuring the appropriate metrics, all lead to a successful Web site.
This phenomenon happens in Web site optimization as well. Everyone can measure the click of a mouse, but is that really what’s important? Do mouse clicks determine the impact of sales for an online business? It’s possible — but it’s probably more likely that there are downstream online metrics, or even offline metrics, that are the most direct drivers of your business. Certainly many benefits can be approximated — if I get a certain number of leads, I can make the assumption that I will convert “offline” the same historical percentage of those leads. Yet, when it comes down to it, maximizing leads is great, but maximizing sales is better.
Very often marketers have multiple metrics that they care about. For example, they might want to maximize sales but not decrease average order size. They might want to increase the number of people clicking on a banner advertisement, but also increase registration sign-ups simultaneously.
Another thing to take into consideration is that their success could be from a composite of many metrics, including both online and offline success events.
To truly optimize your online marketing, you need to make clear what is driving your company’s success and get as close to those drivers as possible. Also, you need to make sure your optimization solution has the flexibility and sophistication to manage these multiple success events and to link with your existing offline systems, such as a call center or CRM system.
Best practices guide the way
Web site optimization is an incredibly powerful tool, but just like the man searching for his lost watch, it’s important to make sure you’re looking in the right place or, better yet, using a tool that helps you shine the bright light where you want it to be — not just where it’s been before. Fortunately, enough companies have forged a path through this process that it now is much more than a shot in the dark. Best practices have emerged that take much of the guesswork out of where to look to increase a site’s conversion rate.
Following are some of the most commonly overlooked sources of Web conversion improvement.
1. The devil is in the form copy.
A great example of potential conversion-rate increases coming from places where no one ever looks is extraneous information on form pages. Too much information on a form page is simply more information for consumers to process; it slows the sales process. Anything that doesn’t need to be there should be cut. In Web page tests for a large commercial airline, we found that cutting unnecessary form fields — such as fax number and mobile phone number — had a dramatic increase on overall conversion.
2. Don’t be cute with your navigation buttons.
If you want shoppers to “click here,” tell them to “click here.” Web marketers make two common mistakes with their navigation buttons: They try to get cute with buttons that read “your path to savings” or “follow me” because they want to try to be unique, and they make the buttons too small, difficult to find or unusual-looking so that it’s not apparent to shoppers that they’re meant to be clicked on in the first place. One marketer was able to increase sales 10.5 percent simply by changing the copy of its navigation buttons from “Get X Now” to “Click Here to Try X.”
3. Put key phrases in boldface.
We are conditioned at an early age to seek out the key information in any media. Web retailers can make an enormous impact on sales by leveraging that human tendency to distill enormous amounts of information down to a few key phrases. Is something on the site free? Can shoppers win a contest? Are premium items on sale? Draw attention to these elements with bold, easy-to-distinguish type.
4. Cut your instructions in half.
Having too many words on a Web page is conversion-rate suicide. Providing instructions on how to operate basic navigation tools or redundant copy describing how you organize category listings in a particular manner diverts the attention of consumers shopping online because they are busy and seeking quick gratification.
5. Offer a light at the end of every tunnel.
If you’re conducting business on the Internet, you need a certain amount of information about your customers. But don’t push it. For example, you never want to ask for a customer’s fax number in a registration form unless you absolutely need it; it is an unnecessary distraction. You do, however, want to make the goal clear when asking customers to register. So provide a clear demarcation of the steps involved “Step 1 of 3,” for example), and acknowledge that you are asking people to work by offering encouragement, such as “Step 2 of 3. Almost Done!” This humanizes the company and shows a level of respect for the customer. An online subscription service was able to net a 5.8 percent increase in subscriptions simply by strategically inserting the words “almost there” into its registration pages.
6. Think about search.
Another important aspect that businesses overlook on their Web pages is keywords. What words people use when they search is important to understanding their needs and what they are looking for. Some people search very specifically; others rely on general searches and prefer to weed out what doesn’t appeal to them. Learn to cater to these different people and their different search techniques. It also will help to provide a more personal Web experience.
Few companies go into a marketing meeting thinking: If I could just shorten my form page, I know I could increase my sales. Yet, off in the shadows of the form page, in the corners of the site — and sometimes right under our noses — new opportunities are waiting to be discovered.
Reach Mark Wachen at firstname.lastname@example.org. Reach Seth Rosenblatt at email@example.com.