Conversion Guru - Online Secrets to Success

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Double the hits your site gets in a month… Guaranteed

During the first dotcom boom, the term “hits” was used so frequently that it became a standard when talking about how successful a site may be. However, it was misused in nearly every instance in which I saw it. I am not sure how it became so misused, but I have a theory.

During the dotcom boom, people viewed a site as being successful if it was generating a lot of monthly visitors. That was flawed because I don’t know of any site that can be successful just based on the number of visits. Being able to monetize the visitors is required (if the site’s goal is to make money). But even if it is a personal site, the owner would judge success by the returning visitors or at least getting the visitors to do something at their site (even if that just means reading what the person has to say). I could easily get thousands and thousand of visitors to any site by doing some redirects, but if the visitor gets to the page and has no interest, it was a waste to have the person visit the site.

Anyway, back to the late 90’s. Since a greater number of visitors was interpreted as being successful, people wanted to get their number of monthly visits as high as possible. I think that some overly ambitious web entrepreneur pitched some VC (Ventuire Capitalist) saying his site was getting a million hits a month. I can hear the young entreprenuer that is seeking capital pitch the VC, "Look at the stats from my web host…1,056,430 hits”. The VC, which probably knew nothing about “this world wide web thing”, did not want to look stupid and ask why they were called hits or what exactly that meant. So he assumed ‘hits’ was techie for visitors. He probably went to show off to his fellow VC’s the fact that he had just invested in this hot new site that was getting over a million HITS a month (and he probably looked around at his VC mates to see if they were impressed with his knowledge of the world wide web. “He even knows the techie slang”, they would whisper to each other). So saying hits, made him look knowledgeable (not to mention hip). From there, it began to snowball.

Unfortunately, this trend of misusing “hits” did not fade away into oblivion much like the companies that probably started misusing the term. This story of course is all speculation, but I have no idea how the term became so prominent and so misused. Hearing someone use the term hits can actually be helpful. for example, when you hear of someone talking about ‘hits’ on their site, you can be pretty sure that they are fairly clueless regarding the “world wide web” and so you can take them along for a fun ride if you would like… “I promise I can double the amount of hits your site gets in a month. Just pay me $10,000.”

Hopefully you know the difference, but below is a brief summary of the difference between hits, pageviews, visits, and unique visitors.

Hits – The number of files requested. This only means that if you have 20 files on a page (images, supporting files, the actual page file, etc.) you will receive 20 hits for every pageview. And if a person visits 8 pages on your site, you could get 160 hits from one visitor. Hits are useful for the server administrator, but have no use for a marketer, CEO, or anyone else. Doubling the hits on a site would just require that you add double the amount of files (add thirty 1x1 pixel images to every page).

Pageviews – This is fairly obvious. It is the number of pages that are viewed on a site. Going to the main page of a site (for example, index.html) would count as one pageview. If the visitor also went to the contact.php and aboutus.php pages, that visitor would have logged 3 total pageviews.

Visits – When a person goes to a website, it is referred to as a visit. As long as the same person is viewing different pages on the site within a certain time frame, it is considered the same visit. If they leave the site and come back at a later time (another day for example), it is counted as another visit. (Side note: Bot activity can also be considered a visit.)

Unique Visitors – This refers to the number of unique people that come to the website. The number is rarely 100% accurate (although some things can help increase the accuracy). If a person goes to your site from different computer they will be counted as unique visitor. Similarly, if two different people access the site from the same computer, it is likely they will be counted as one unique visitor.

Overall, looking at the number of visits as well as unique visitors is a great way to measure your sites success.

So hopefully you will spread the word regarding the proper use of “hits”. I would love to see comments from anyone that has example of supposed big players in the industry that improperly use the word hits (or use it in order to try to inflate their site’s statistics).

Friday, May 19, 2006

Choosing your words carefully when you write online is just as important as the layout of your page, or the content on your site. To improve your site, consider the meaning of the words you are writing.

When we write we have to realize that words often have more than one meaning. They have a denotation, which is a literal meaning and how it is defined in the dictionary, and a connotation, which is an implied meaning within certain cultures. Some words have positive connotations and some have negative ones.

Take the word cheap for example. You could say, “He drives a cheap car.” Here the suggestion is that he drives an inferior vehicle to everyone else. However, if you replace the word cheap and say, “He drives an inexpensive car,” the statement has a much less negative connotation. Now the statement implies that he drives a practical, reasonably priced car. Despite the fact that the words have basically the same denotation, they have very different connotations.

I see this most often online in the form of the infamous ‘submit button.’ On a great majority of the pages I see, where the call to action is to start a form, or upon the completion of a form or online order, you are asked to ‘submit.’

Submit has three definitions –
To yield or surrender (oneself) to the will or authority of another.
To subject to a condition or process.
To commit (something) to the consideration or judgment of another.

I never like to surrender myself to the authority of another person. In American culture, submit is often associated with a negative connotation as well. People who are inferior, are asked to submit to someone else. Submit is also used when implying that someone has dominance over another. In short, I don’t want to submit to anybody, and I doubt that the visitors on your website want to submit to you.

Instead, consider using phrases like ‘start now,’ ‘finish’ or ‘complete your order.’ These words would convey the same concept of ‘click here to finish,’ but have a much less negative connotation.

I am also reminded of another example I have seen. Sometimes on sites when the user is asked to pick between a variety of options, there is an annoying link next to it saying, ‘Learn More.’ If the user came to your website looking to buy something from you, odds are they think you should be the expert on the topic and they don’t want to learn more. If they really want help, the link could say ‘Help Me Choose.’ Now, if the user wants help, they will feel comfortable that the topic will be explained to them without having to ‘Learn More.’

These are just a few examples of words in the English language that could be replaced with others to convey a less negative connotation. I encourage you to re-read the content on your website and examine the connotation of the words on the page, particularly the words on buttons or in text links. Re-writing the text on your website with words with more positive connotations will make your visitors more comfortable with your site and can really improve conversions.

Buttons and Other Calls To Action

Creating a Call to Action on your site and making the Call to Action prominent is one of the most important things you can do for your site. One of my favorite methods for making the Call to Acton prominent is to create a “Big-Ass” button on the page, and as far as I’m concerned, the bigger, the better. One thing to keep in mind is that a BAB (big-ass button) is much more likely to get a user to click on it, however, it may work so well that the user may click on it almost too quickly. This may not be a bad thing, but if you take them to a form right away, it may not have been a totally conscious decision to get there. They may actually need a little more persuasion or information before they complete the action. If you made a really kick-ass button, they may have simply clicked on the button because it looked so tempting. We have performed some Split Testing on pages where one page with a big button had a much higher Click Thru Rate, but didn’t result in as many completed transactions compared to a smaller button with a lower Click Thru Rate. You could help convert the visitor that clicks thru quickly without being fully persuaded by including enough information on the form page so the visitor can get the information they need to make the decision to complete the action. But be careful, you don’t want to add too much information where it could take away from allowing the visitors that are ready to fill out the form to get it filled out as quickly and easily as possible (and don't include a "Reset Button").

Button Creation Tip: Be sure to make your buttons 3–D and make it look like a real button you could reach out and push. This can be done in Photoshop by using the layer blending or effects features such as drop shadows or embossing. And don’t try too hard to get it to “fit in” with the rest of the page. If it fits in too well, it may not be easy to see. And please, please don’t make it little. There are few things I despise more than small “Call To Action” buttons.

In addition to buttons, it is good to have different forms of your call to action. For example, make sure you have a text link within your content that goes to your form page. And this link should be some type of “action” text. Don’t use “click here”. Instead use something like “Start Now”. It is also a good idea to have a text link at the end of some persuading content.

There are a variety of reasons why you want to vary your types of calls to action. The first is simply because the more variations you have, the better the chance of someone seeing your calls to action, because no one is going to read every word and look at every image on your page. Secondly, if you have an option in different parts of the page, it is more likely the call to action will be close by when the visitor is ready to take the action. Lastly, some people just have preferences (even if they are unconscious preferences). Some people are more likely to click a button, whereas others may be more likely to click a text link. There are people that tend to ignore images because they associate them with ads, even if the button looks nothing like an ad.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

One of the Worst Inventions of all Times

Every once in a great while an invention will come along that is actually counter-productive and creates more work for humans compared to if it had never been invented. For some reason, it gets adopted on a large scale and is used by a variety of people without much thought given as to why they are using it. There is one specific invention I am referring to, and I don’t think I have seen a better example of something like this being used by so many people and on such a large scale that it became standard (luckily only for a short time). What is this invention I speak of? It is the “Reset” Button on a form.

How many times have you spent time filling out a form and then thought, “No, no, that is all wrong, I should clear it all and start over.” If you did need to change the information, you could simply overwrite it as you went back through the form and filled in the new information. But even if you did this, it would probably be a rare occurrence that you didn’t use at least some of the previous information. But the reason the “Reset” (or "Clear Form") button is so bad is because a lot of sites actually have the “Reset” button right next to the Submit button. In fact, Microsoft FrontPage actually has this as the default when a user adds a Form using the Wizard. Not only is it easy to accidentally hit the wrong button and erase everything, but many times the Submit and Reset buttons look alike. Fortunately, this is occurring less and less, but you will still see it periodically on really crappy (or old) sites. Don’t be one of them. If you think your site is the exception, let me know. I would like to see an example where a Reset button would be justified because I have not found one yet.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Split Testing with a Custom Redirect

If you have the capabilities to do split testing on the server side with cookies, that is what I recommend you use for your testing. However, there is no reason you need to spend a great deal of time and effort working on a programming solution in order to do your split testing. Spend your time working on better versions of your landing page in order to increase conversions instead of spending it on programming solutions.

To do the testing, you will simply need to use your Web Analytics program to track the user. Google Analytics, ClickTracks and others give you this capability. You will need to determine how many users went to each page and what percent of the users at each page made it to your confirmation page, or whichever page it is that lets you know that the user has taken the desired action.

To run the test, you will need to create at least two different pages. You can create more pages if you would like, but it is recommended to only change one variable. Choose a variable that you believe will highly impact conversion, for example, the header. It is a good idea to test anywhere from 2-5 different variations of the variable. Keep in mind, the fewer page versions you have, the quicker you will be able to get a large enough sample size to determine which version converts the best. After learning how to analyze multivariate testing, changing more than one variable at a time is possible. Upload the pages to your site and then you will be able to randomly redirect users to one of those pages by using the code provided.

To use the code, download it from:

You will need to replace the URL’s in the conversion code with the URL’s you would like to test. The code currently has 4 test URL’s, you can use more or less, just delete the ones listed and replace them with your testing URL’s. Be sure to include a comma between each of them.

Once you replace the URL’s, simply save this file as a .php file and upload it to your site. You need to have PHP installed on your server for the file to work correctly. You will want to direct visitors to this newly created page and it will randomly redirect them to one of the pages you have included. Now you can just sit back and wait for the data to flow.

I recommend you only do this testing on PPC pages so you don’t affect your organic search engine rankings. You may even want to block these pages so they aren’t even indexed by the spiders. Use your Web Analytics software to determine the percent of visitors that convert for each of your pages. After you find which variables effect conversion and which variations of the variable increase conversion, you may want to consider making those changes throughout your site.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Building the Foundation
Initial testing ideas when starting split testing or if you are developing a new site.

Split Testing is valuable because it allows you to continually test new things so you can determine what improvements you can make on your site to help increase your conversions. Once you find something that works better than what you were previously using, you can implement that change permanently and receive the benefits from that change as long as you leave it on the page (or find something that works even better). However, there are some things that are not easy to change. For example, your company name and logo are things that may not be easily changed once they are established. It is also much more difficult to change your entire page layout.

Developing a new design and implementing it on the site takes time and changing it once you have already generated a large number of customers may not be an ideal situation because of a couple of reasons. First, returning visitors may not recognize your site and you risk losing some of the “brand” appeal that you may have built. Second, if you have been doing testing and see what works well on a specific template, the factor may not transfer directly to a new template. For example, you may have found that a certain color of links works the best on your site. However, if you change the background colors (or any other colors on the layout), the same colors may not be as beneficial on the new layout.

So if you are starting a new website (or are redesigning your existing one) make sure you test out these “Foundation” elements first. Test your color, layout (# of columns, navigation, etc), logo, and anything that may affect your branding. You don’t have to test minor things right away - like font size/type, link colors, buttons, etc. These are elements that can be tested at some point in the future. The Foundation elements are not necessarily the aspects of your page that will have the greatest impact on your conversion rates. In fact, it is likely they will not have the greatest impact on your conversions (things such as your header will likely have a greater impact on your conversions). However, it is extremely easy to test out different headers or wording. That can be done once you have established the most effective Foundation elements.

Whenever possible, you should also consider testing things such as product names and even your company/domain name. Testing Product, Company or Domain names can be done directly on the site or even on Adwords. Testing different names and looking at the Click-Thru rates should give you a good idea of what works the best. Keep in mind that higher Click-Thru rates do not necessarily correlate to higher conversion rates, but it can at least give you a general idea of what may work better.

So if you are new to Split testing, be sure to test these Foundation elements first. Once they are established, work your way to other important factors such as headers, location and presentation of action links, buttons, and whatever else that you can try that may have a possible impact on whether or not your visitor will take the desired action.

Monday, March 20, 2006

A/B Testing - Google Style
(Google Adwords and Google Analytics accounts required)

Hopefully you already know about the wonders of split testing and why it is so important, and you are already testing on your site. If you are part of a large company and have access to a larger IT infrastructure, hopefully you are doing some more complex A/B testing. If you are really ahead of your competitors, you may be performing some multivariable tests.

However, if you are a small company or haven't had the time to implement the one thing that could probably have the greatest impact on the long-term success of your company - split testing, you can do it EXTREMELY easily - all within Google.

Fortunately, Google has a desire to help people find relevant results. They not only try to help produce the most relevant results with the help of their search algorithm, but they actually give web site owners the ability to help generate pages and content that most interest the user. They give people the ability to make the actual pages more relevant for the user.

Even though split testing is very easy to implement, Google makes it even easier for anyone to do it - regardless of technical abilities. There are a variety of ways to do split testing, but this article
will focus on using Google tools exclusively. However, this option only works for traffic from Adwords. The next article will talk about other options available to you. Here is a brief tutorial:

  1. Look at some of the most important elements on your landing page (Header, Call To Action Background color, etc.) and decide what you would like to test.
  2. Make two pages. The first page will be your existing page and the second will be the same page with one element changed. Change only one element at a time. It is possible to do multivariable testing where you can test multiple elements on a single test, but that is for another article.

  3. Log into your Adwords account and create a second ad within your AdGroup. The new ad should be exactly the same as your existing ad. However, the second ad will link to your test page, while the first ad still points to your original page.

  4. When entering the URL, make sure you are using the Google Analytics tracking URL. Create the URL's with the URL Builder Tool and make sure you include the utm_content variable that will differentiate the two landing pages. The two URL's should be the same with two exceptions: 1) The landing page will be different, and 2) the utm_content will be different).

  5. In Adwords, go to your Campaign Settings and select the campaign that contains your test AdGroup. Click on "Edit Settings" and make sure "Ad rotation: Show better ads more often" is unchecked. If not, it may not display the ads an equal number of times. It is vital to make sure your two tests are identical, with the exception of the one changed element.

Your test is now set up. Once the ads have run for a while, you can view the results in your Google Analytics account. To view the data, go under the "Content Optimization" folder and select "Ad Version Testing,” then "A/B Testing.” It should display the data from your tests. The variables you entered for utm_content will be displayed, and you will be able to see which version is performing better, assuming you have goals set up. You can also view other data to see how they are performing. Since you will have different landing pages, you can view other reports to see how the pages are performing in areas other than your goals. For example, bounce rates and navigation after getting to the pages are important as well.

One thing you will need to keep in mind is that you need to let the test run until you have a large enough sample size. It is generally recommended to wait until you have at least 50 actions (form being filled out, a sale, etc) for each page or at least 1,000 visitors. However, it also depends on how close the two pages are performing compared to each other. If both pages have received 1,000 views and version A has recorded 50 actions (leads, sales, etc) and version B has 25 actions (leads/sales, etc), this is plenty of data to let you know that version A is better. It is not necessarily important to know how much better one version performs compared to the other. Your goal is to simply continue testing new versions and continually get better. Small improvements do not take long to add up to large improvements.

There are a variety of drawbacks with using this method for split testing. First, you are not able to test different ads to attempt to improve Click Through Rates. Second, setting up a new test requires you to log into Adwords and change the landing page URL anytime you want to do a new test. Also, the test is limited to traffic you are receiving from Adwords, which may be a very small percentage of your overall traffic and will require you to test much longer to get a large enough sample size.

Split testing is a rapidly growing technique marketers are using to improve their websites for visitors. By taking the short amount of time required to do some simple A/B testing on your landing page, you can increase your conversions and profits drastically.