Are You Sabotaging Your Website Optimization Program?

By ​Jacob Ajwani

May 16, 2013

I’ve seen a lot written about what it takes to run a successful website optimization program. But equally important is knowing what’s most likely to cause a website optimization plan to fail.

The fact is, most optimization programs don’t run smoothly and then suddenly fail in month nine. Rather, website optimization programs fail because they weren’t set up to succeed from the very beginning.

In order to avoid the pitfalls that can tank a project before it even gets off the ground, let’s take a look at the four things that most often sabotage a website optimization program.

1. Not Deciding on a Single Success Metric SabotageJacob

You can’t run a campaign until you decide which metric is the most important. So provide a real context around how you’ll judge the success of your campaigns—and be specific.

The reason: You’re going to get a few outcomes. For example, you’ll see how many sales were driven, you’ll see the quantity of purchases, or transactions, or subscriptions. So one success metric is quantity.

Another is average order value (AOV). If AOV is your success metric versus quantity, those create two different successful performers at the end of that test. Or do you want to focus on revenue per visitor? Figuring out which success metric has the most important impact on the business for each campaign is a critical first step in developing an optimization program.

2. Not Asking “What Are We Trying to Learn?”

This is similar to the first point, but there’s a distinction: If you just throw a campaign up against a wall to see what sticks, without any specific metric goal or purpose behind it, you’re going to get a flat result. So it’s important to define your purpose and then commit to it.

Plenty of companies kick off their website optimization programs by running a campaign just to run a campaign. And the campaign involves other resources, requiring help from creative, development and other marketing stakeholders. But since the campaign wasn’t geared toward learning anything specific, the results were flat.

That’s not how you want to start things off. So have a purpose, have a specific learning about your customers or your customer segments that you want to gather to build your intellectual capital and inform your tests moving forward.

3. Not Leveraging the Power of Creative

There’s another common occurrence that sabotages optimization programs, and that’s not taking full advantage of what different creative treatments can tell you about your customers. For instance, running two campaigns with similar creatives and similar headlines (like “50% Off Now” and “Get 50% Off Now”) might reveal Version A outperformed Version B.

But that’s not a rich learning. Are you only trying to figure out which text works best? Instead, what if you tried two entirely different creative treatments, using contrasting colors and different images entirely? What if you stopped testing small creative tweaks and started testing entirely different creative treatments to figure out what works best? Those are the rich questions worth asking, the ones that will reveal new learnings about your customers and customer segments.

4. Not Challenging Assumptions

Every company has assumptions, sacred cows if you will: Some brands never change anything above the fold, some believe in more conservative hero images on the homepage. But if you don’t challenge those assumptions, you’ll never realize new customer segments, new revenue streams, new ways to build the long-term customer relationships that encourage loyalty.

Assumptions are bubbles that need to be burst. If an element above the fold has sat there for years on end, why not try something new? A lot has changed - your clients have changed, platforms have changed, devices have changed. Even asking a simple question can help: What’s the most common screen resolution for your visitors? Asking that question could reveal your current homepage layout isn’t even effective for the majority of your visitors.

Obviously, more than four things can sabotage a website optimization program. But these are four issues most companies have control over and can act on. So whatever you do, ensure you kick off your optimization program right by defining your metrics and your purpose, trying new things, and challenging assumptions about the website.

That’s a surefire way to make sure you create and run the campaigns and tests that will drive learnings, customer satisfaction, and revenue.

Black Keyboard Grenade image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Jacob Ajwani is a former strategic services director at Monetate. As an early member of the Adobe Test & Target team (back when it was called Offermatica), Jacob became an established voice within the industry, pioneering personalization strategies for premier brands such as Audi, Disney, and Condé Nast. Between Monetate and Adobe, Jacob spent two years as vice president of client services for Cognitive Match, which focused on display ads, big data, and relevancy. Jacob is also an avid guest-blogger for Econsultancy.com.

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