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Back in 2008, I read the 1st Edition of Tim Ash’s “Landing Page Optimization – The Definitive Guide to Testing and Tuning for Conversion.” Since then, I haven’t found a more comprehensive book on the topic. For years, I kept it on my desk for reference.

Recently, I picked up the “fully revised” 2nd edition. It’s 100 pages longer, so what’s new?  And is it worth reading the 2nd edition if you’ve already read the 1st?

What’s (Mostly) Unchanged?

Most sections are similar to those of the 1st edition, including the opening sections that provide high level (but useful) explanations on things like:

  • What a landing page is
  • The various types of landing pages
  • The importance of understanding your business model
  • Conversion actions

And in the latter sections – Mechanics of Testing and Organizing and Planning – the content is similar.

Tim Ash's Landing Page Optimization 2nd Edition book cover
Tim Ash’s Landing Page Optimization 2nd Edition book cover

What’s New?

The greatest enhancements have been in the “middle bits”:

  • Finding Opportunities for Site Improvement
  • Fixing Your Site Problems

Being a UX guy, I’m probably biased. But to me, these “middle bits” are the most interesting part of the process. So I was very happy to see these sections expanded.

There’s lots of new content. My two favorite new chapters are:

1.     “Common Problems – The Seven Deadly Sins of Landing Page Design”

As Tim writes, “This is as close to a ‘Silver Bullet’ as we will offer in this book.”  The Seven Deadly Sins are:

  • Unclear Call-to-Action
  • Too Many Choices
  • Visual Distractions
  • Not Keeping Your Promises
  • Too Much Text
  • Asking for Too Much Information
  • Lack of Trust and  Credibility

Tim gives detailed explanations of the nature of these problems and provides great examples – plus specific recommendations for how to ensure your pages don’t fall into these traps. It’s an extremely useful checklist of things to look for when faced with the task of figuring out how to make a page work better.

If you just read this one chapter, and apply the concepts to your landing pages, your conversion rates will improve. This new chapter alone is worth the price of the book.

2.      “Best Practices for Common Situations”

Another useful addition, this chapter – like the Seven Deadly Sins chapter – provides “a great kick-start in your optimization efforts.”  It takes a look at these common situations:

  • Homepages
  • Information Architecture and Navigation
  • E-Commerce Catalogs
  • Registration and Multiple-Step Flows
  • Mobile Websites

For each situation, there’s a concise yet useful summary of recommended best practices. For example, in the section on homepages, Tim offers a strong opinion on rotating banners, writing that (on e-Commerce sites at least) they “are absolutely evil and should be removed immediately.”  He then provides six compelling arguments to back up his assertion.

If you’re looking for testing ideas, it’s hard to imagine that reading this section wouldn’t give you at least a couple.

What’s missing?

Some sections from the 1st Edition have been removed or reduced, but nothing that anyone is likely to miss.

The 1st Edition had an entire chapter (technically an appendix) devoted to Google Website Optimizer.  The 2nd Edition covers GWO in 4 short paragraphs. However, seeing as GWO was discontinued last summer, nobody will complain about this! (There is no mention of GWO’s inferior replacement: Content Experiments.)

There’s also a bit less detail regarding data analysis of multivariate tests. Specifically, the explanation of the fractional factorial methods (Plackett-Burman, Latin Squares, and Taguchi method) has been removed.  However, few people will miss this: Those who have a strong background in data analysis didn’t need it; those who don’t probably skipped it!

Is It Worth Buying?

If there was a weakness with the 1st Edition, it was its limitations in providing specific guidance on what to test. The 2nd Edition is much better at helping users formulate test ideas – which is arguably the most challenging part of the entire conversion optimization process.

The 2nd Edition takes what was already an excellent guide to conversion optimization, and makes it even more useful. If you already own the 1st Edition, it’s well worth investing in the 2nd. And if you don’t have the 1st Edition, buying the 2nd is a no-brainer.

Six years ago we started WebShare with the singular goal of passing on the knowledge and skills we had acquired in Internet marketing to our clients and partnering with them to take their digital strategy to the next level.Over the years we’ve been fortunate to experience tremendous growth that has allowed us to continue to add expertise and experience to the team, including a stable of experts in online advertising, conversion optimization, SEM, social media, and web design.  But the area we’re probably best known for has been our analytics expertise.  Offering a full range of services, from strategy to implementation and training to deep-dive analysis, our team includes thought leaders such as WAA Innovation Award finalists, industry authors, sought after speakers, seasoned trainers, and former Google employees.

Today we take a huge step forward with that growth as we combine the expertise of three of the industry’s top firms to create a world class organization featuring some of digital marketing’s finest minds.  WebShare, VKI Studios, and PublicInsite will be joining forces to give our clients a true one-stop shop for all of their digital needs.  This will provide clients access to a team with exceptional depth and expertise across a broad range of disciplines that include search marketing, usability and conversion testing, web design & development, training, business / competitive intelligence, and more.

Above all, we realize that we could not be where we are today without you – our clients, our team of employees, our partners, and our community.  We would like to sincerely thank you all for being a part of WebShare, and we look forward to what the future brings.

If you’d like to learn more about the merger, we’ve set up a FAQ page, and don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.  We’ll be blogging, tweeting, posting and conversing from Cardinal Path from here on out, so don’t forget to follow, friend, subscribe and friend.

We couldn’t be more thrilled about our future with Cardinal Path and what it will mean to our clients, partners and team — both current and future!

Signing off from the WebShare blog,

Corey & Dave

Not long ago, I wrote some posts on psychological biases. The crux: knowing your customers’ biases can help you create messages that truly resonate.

But there’s an interesting flip side. Because as marketers, we’re equally biased. We tend to assume our customers will share our own feelings and beliefs.

Biases such as False Consensus and Confirmation Bias can prevent us from recognizing what our customers really want, including:

  • Which products and services will be of interest?
  • What messaging will resonate with readers?
  • Which special offers will motivate them?

Consciously or not, we assume that if something is not appealing to us, it won’t appeal to our customers. And how wrong we can be. Here are a few of my personal examples:

Twitter

If the developers of Twitter had asked my opinion on the viability of their service, I’d likely have scoffed at the concept. Why? Because the idea that the world cares what I’m doing every minute of every day would, to me, have been laughable.

I have zero interest in Tweeting. Surely everyone else feels the same way. Right?

Payday Loans

Twenty years ago, if someone asked me if payday loans were a viable business, I’d have been sceptical. Why? because no matter how broke I was, I’d never let someone take advantage of my misfortune with an overpriced loan.

I’d never take out a payday loan. And surely nobody else would either. Right?

Premium Vodka

Research proves that people can’t tell the difference between regular and super-premium vodkas. So I’d never shell out for a bottle of Grey Goose.

And if I’d never buy it, nobody else would either. Right?

Swiffer TV Ads

I find these ads absolutely unwatchable. When one starts, I LEAP for the remote to change channels. If I were a Swiffer product manager — and my agency presented this creative — I’d have sent them packing.

If I’d never respond to these insipid ads, nobody would. So the Swiffer product line doesn’t stand a chance. Right?

Data-Driven Web Marketing

My own psychological biases have prevented me from recognizing some amazing business opportunities. I’ve simply assumed that if something doesn’t appeal to me, it won’t appeal to others.

This is what happens when we take an intuitive approach to marketing, rather than an data-driven approach.

We should always test our ideas, and we should find other sources of intelligence. In particular:

  • Get to know your customers. Find out what their real motivations are. Their feelings and beliefs, their drivers and blockers. See my posts on developing effective messaging.
  • Rather than relying on creative hunches, test your hypotheses. Free tools like Google Website Optimizer make this easy.

Of course, I’m not suggesting we never use our intuition. If nothing else, it can help us come up with concepts to test. But it’s important to recognize how our own biases and preferences can lead us astray.

Previously, I wrote a blog post on how to integrate GWO data with GA using custom variables. The ultimate goal of the integration was to look at metrics other than just conversion rate. For example, using the e-commerce reports you may find that one of the losing variations generated significantly more revenue than the winning combination. Or, you could segment your visitors by variation and geographic location. Perhaps one variation does better in one state or region versus another. If you do implement my GA/GWO integration method, here are some of the reports I would suggest you look at in GA. One thing to keep in mind when comparing the data from the two tools is that the data will never match exactly.

First off, let’s look at the GWO results

As you can see, our “buttons” combination had almost a 15% lift from the original. That’s quite a feat, and our client was very happy about that. Now, let’s see what the GA data provides us.

GA Reports

The first report I would recommend looking at is the Custom Variables report. To get to this report, click on “Visitors” then “Custom Variables” in the navigation.

The beauty of this report is that it will give you a great high-level overview of how your variations perform across a variety of metrics. Already, we can see some interesting data. It looks like visitors to variation 1 have a longer time-on-site, but view less pages.

If you are running a conversion test that will affect your online revenue, like our test did, you will definitely want to check out the E-commerce tab. This tab will give you many e-commerce metrics segmented by the variation numbers. You’ll be able to compare revenue generated by the different variations, average order value, and other e-commerce related metrics.

During our testing period, our buttons variation generated a 10% increase in revenue over a two week period. If the revenue from the original variation was $100,000 in that two week period, our buttons variation would have added $10,000 in revenue. If we extrapolate that 10% increase out to a one year period, that’s $260,000 extra in revenue! Not bad from a relatively simple button test.

Advanced Segmentation

For those of you who love to use advanced segments, you can also segment your visitors based on what variation people saw, and apply the segment to any of the reports.

Following is a screenshot of how I created my segments. To create your own segment, you will need to use the key and value dimensions that correspond to the slot you are storing your GWO data in. In my case, I used slot 1.

The values that you will be able to select may need a little bit of explaining if you don’t know the GWO cookie format very well. If you are running an A/B test, the values that will appear will be a single number. Zero represents the original and one represents the “B” page. If you had more than one variation (ie. an A/B/C/D test), then numbers two and three would represent the “C” and “D” pages respectively. In a multivariate test, the format will look like “x-x-x” in a 3 section multivariate test. Each “x” will be a number that corresponds to the variation of the section the visitor saw. Again, the number is zero indexed, so zero represents the original, one represents the first variation, two the second variation etc.

Questions To Ask

Now that you know where to look for your data. The next step is to formulate some questions about the data and really dive deep into the data. Some questions you might want to find answers for are:

  1. What average order value does each variation bring in?
  2. Do my variations drive my visitors to complete other goals on my website, other than my conversion goal?
  3. How do different geographical regions respond to my variations? Do visitors from country A convert more when seeing the original, while visitors from country B react more favorably to variation 2?
  4. How many days or visits does it take before a visitor converts for each variation.

For years, I believed my mission as a usability professional was to act as a user advocate. In fact, “User Champion” was once part of my official job title. At the risk of sounding sacrilegious, I now believe this concept is wrong-headed.

If you position yourself as an advocate for the user, you will often encounter resistance from the development team. They don’t want to change course just because some self-proclaimed “user advocate” believes certain changes are necessary. They may not be convinced you’re right; they may believe that they themselves know what customers really want. And they’ll push back.

What’s the solution? Easy. Rather than claiming to be an advocate for the user, be an advocate for the process. That is, the process of user-centered design, and/or the process of A/B and multivariate testing. When someone asks you (for example) how a new form should be laid out, you can say, “Let’s test it and find out.”

Then you can run some usability tests (or some A/B tests, or whatever is appropriate) and find the correct answer. When you return armed with actual data, the development team will be much more enthusiastic about implementing your recommendations.

In sum, my tip for the day is this: Advocate for the process, not for the user. You’ll go farther.

 

Google Website Optimizer

“Landing Page Optimization” by Tim Ash: A Review of the 2nd Edition

Cardinal Path blog post

Back in 2008, I read the 1st Edition of Tim Ash’s “Landing Page Optimization – The Definitive Guide to Testing and Tuning for Conversion.” Since then, I haven’t found a more comprehensive book on the topic. For years, I kept it on my desk for reference. Recently, I picked up the “fully revised” 2nd edition. … Read Full Post

Goodbye WebShare, Hello Cardinal Path!

Cardinal Path blog post

Six years ago we started WebShare with the singular goal of passing on the knowledge and skills we had acquired in Internet marketing to our clients and partnering with them to take their digital strategy to the next level.Over the years we’ve been fortunate to experience tremendous growth that has allowed us to continue to … Read Full Post

Online Marketing: How to Prevent Your Own Biases From Leading You Astray

Cardinal Path blog post

Not long ago, I wrote some posts on psychological biases. The crux: knowing your customers’ biases can help you create messages that truly resonate. But there’s an interesting flip side. Because as marketers, we’re equally biased. We tend to assume our customers will share our own feelings and beliefs. Biases such as False Consensus and … Read Full Post

Google Website Optimizer and Google Analytics – Interpreting the Data

Cardinal Path blog post

Previously, I wrote a blog post on how to integrate GWO data with GA using custom variables. The ultimate goal of the integration was to look at metrics other than just conversion rate. For example, using the e-commerce reports you may find that one of the losing variations generated significantly more revenue than the winning … Read Full Post

Why I'm No Longer a "User Advocate"

Cardinal Path blog post

For years, I believed my mission as a usability professional was to act as a user advocate. In fact, “User Champion” was once part of my official job title. At the risk of sounding sacrilegious, I now believe this concept is wrong-headed. If you position yourself as an advocate for the user, you will often … Read Full Post

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