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Thursday, August 04, 2011

Optimization 3.0: Conversion Management

This blog first appeared on iMedia Connection on July 29, 2011

Several years ago, marketers were in a frenzy – buying as many keywords as possible, hiring SEM experts and pouring tons of resources into the perfectly “optimized” website for’s number one ranking. This was all of course to drive as much website traffic as possible, since back in the day, this was key success metric.  And over time, the price for keywords went up, while high traffic numbers alone continued to justify this increasing expense. But today, traffic acquisition is not enough. SEM and SEO are still important, yes, but they aren’t the end game to a successful ecommerce strategy.
Today more and more of big players are starting to make conversion optimization a priority. And from there, are starting to get really smart, targeted and personal with their websites. This method is helping to not only acquire consumers, but to keep them coming back for more. These solutions aren’t making SEO/SEM experts and web analytics gurus obsolete, they are simply the missing piece of the customer experience puzzle, and giving all marketers the greatest bang for their buck.
While conversion management is ramping up to be the next must-have technology (just like SEO/SEM was a few years ago), many brands have yet to shift their time, budget and plans to a conversion management program. I realize it’s not always easy to convince decision makers about the benefits of new technologies, but here are three basic reasons why this can immediately impact your business:
1. Technology is Smarter than You
Let’s face it, you know your website better than anyone. You may think it’s ugly and desperately in need of a revamp. Or maybe, your think your website is a rock star— it has after all received multiple “Best Design” accolades and awards. Either way, subjective opinions have no place in your website strategy—if it hasn’t been tested, there is always room to improve.
Remember a little thing called focus groups? Back in the Mad Men era, these were heavily relied on by consumer brands to understand how their customer thinks, what they react to, what they like, what they don’t like, etc. Today, we still need to understand these consumer insights, but focus groups just aren’t scalable, (or smart), when your traffic efforts are driving thousands, if not millions, of unique visitors per month. Are you going to sit them all down in a room and survey them? No. But your website is the perfect place to discover what people like and don’t like—from buttons, to products, to tone and copy—through A/B and multivariate testing. How your customer proceeds through a search or check-out phase on your site is just as important and the product merchandising plan or their brand perceptions.
The best way to gather insights and start making site improvements with testing is the iterative approach: laying out a plan of what you want to test, why and when; discovering the results and implement the changes over time. I’ve seen changes as simple as button copy and color in the shopping cart raise purchases by 3-5% in a month’s time. Every site is different, but every site has opportunity.
2.  Search Marketing and Web Analytics Need You
Going forward, there is no point in purchasing keywords to drive traffic to an inefficient landing page or website. If it doesn’t convert, it’s not justifying budget spend. Like I said, driving traffic to your website isn’t the end goal anymore—Increasing revenue on your website is. And in today’s noisy, competitive market, it’s becoming a more precarious process driving a visitor to your site, capture their attention and convert them into customers. The great news is, all the hard work that your search optimization teams have done over the past few years will provide insights that will help drive and improve your conversion strategies. They have targeted certain types of visitors and customers, products, campaigns, keywords. They have data on what is working and what hasn’t. So it’s time to team up to make everyone’s marketing efforts a successful return on investment.
Testing and targeting once the visitor is at your site is a win-win-win for search, analytics and revenue. When a website is optimized for the customer, most effective content and design elements are used throughout the site), the cost of acquisition through search marketing is driven down, and it becomes easier to convert website visitors into customers. With the excess funds from search marketing budgets available, marketers have the ability to pay for additional key words and drive more traffic to the site.
3. You Need Recurring Revenues
Testing and optimizing your site is going to provide a better site experience for the majority of your visitors. But after that, it’s time to get really slick by enhancing each individual’s experience with personalized, relevant content. Every individual that your visits the site has a different profile— and every time they visit, you learn more and more about them—what page layouts, tone/copy, buttons, etc. they covert best with, what products they search, what they have purchased, what traffic sources they come from, the list goes on. With personalization, you’ll be able to not only serve them tailored content in real-time, but predict what they will want next and serve them up offers that they are likely to buy. Not only do these solutions allow you to collect and analyze more in-depth visitor data, but it will help turn them into loyal, recurring customers if the content, offers and experience fit the individual’s needs and wants.

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