Enhance Quantitative Analysis with Qualitative Inputs: Run a Usability Test

Optimization is not only about analytics. While quantitative data is indispensable for website optimization, the qualitative feedback from usability testing can quickly provide insights that would take much longer to garner from Web Analytics data.

For example, it would be nearly impossible for Web analytics data on its own to indicate that you need a guarantee on your purchase page. A single usability test could quickly flag this potential issue. If one or two more testers voice the same concern, you might really need that guarantee.

You can run your first usability test for free at trymyui.com. (You’ll need to provide a credit card to sign up – just make sure to select one credit only, unless you want to purchase additional credits.)

Other types of qualitative feedback include surveys, as well as direct conversations with end users, colleagues, and clients who may have never had the opportunity to critique Web processes.

Of course, even with seemingly decisive qualitative feedback, we can’t assume that any change will increase conversion, so monitor key metrics after you make any change. Better yet, run a split test in Google Analytics Content Experiments or another testing tool to measure performance of the page variations.

In any case, don’t limit your optimization efforts to quantitative analysis. Incorporate qualitative channels for faster insights.

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Psychology and Design for Conversion Rate Optimization: Bobby Hewitt on Marketing Optimization Podcast

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Bobby Hewitt explores many aspects of conversion optimization in this podcast episode.

In a recent episode of the Marketing Optimization podcast, Bobby Hewitt, CEO and owner of Creative Thirst, offers a range of insights on conversion rate optimization for your website.

Bobby’s unique yet multi-faceted perspectives on testing and conversion rate optimization provide food for thought and many actionable takeaways.

The Marketing Optimization podcast is a very useful resource – since I came across it a little while back, it has been a mainstay in the lineup on my iPhone.

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Decrease Visitor Anxiety through Credibility Indicators

Why should your visitors trust you?

Web users deal with a bewildering number of choices on a daily basis, and trust can be a critical factor in deciding which websites they engage with. Especially if your company or organization is not well known, credibility indicators can help to build trust and boost conversions.

Credibility indicators can appear in several forms, such as:

• Better Business Bureau or other industry trust seals

• credit card trust seals

• testimonials

• case studies

• photos and bios of management or customer service teams

• privacy and security policies

• money-back guarantee

Can we know for sure that these credibility indicators will increase conversions? No, but we can measure their effectiveness by:

• setting up content experiments to test page versions with and without credibility indicators

• measuring any increases in page value after you add credibility indicators to a page

• speaking with your customer service team – and your customers – for feedback on the credibility indicators (and for ideas on additional credibility indicators that may also be effective on your website)

• recording additions of credibility indicators as annotations

and subsequently checking conversion rates and other metrics

Make sure to try out a variety of credibility indicators on your home page, purchase page, and other pages on your site, and make sure to measure their effectiveness in building trust and increasing conversions.

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Identify Your Eisenberg Customer Modality: Competitive, Methodical, Spontaneous, or Humanistic

Eisenberg quadrants

The Eisenberg buyer modalities are based on the logic vs. emotion axis and the speed axis.

For conversion optimization, it’s useful to identify the basic buyer type that you’re optimizing for.

In Waiting for Your Cat to Bark, Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg and Lisa Davis segment buyers into four fundamental personality types based on logic vs. emotion as one dimension and speed as the other:

Competitive: Competitive buyers want to perform smart, quick, and decisive actions as a competitive advantage.

Methodical: Methodical buyers review all technical information to assure themselves that they’re making the right choice.

Spontaneous: Spontaneous buyers enjoy the thrill of a quick purchase and the perceived emotional benefit that it will generate.

Humanistic: Humanistic buyers are also motivated by emotion, but want to understand more about the organization they’re buying from and the individuals who comprise the organization.

For most websites, you can start with some basic assumptions about the buyer types: a website that sells life insurance probably does not have the same buyer profile as a site that sells jet skis.

These assumptions can drive some initial design and messaging decisions for your site. For continued optimization, you can take advantage of ongoing visitor feedback, and also run content experiments within Google Analytics.

In many cases, your audience will include multiple buyer types, or a single prevalent type that spans across more than one quadrant. In this case, you can design your site to accommodate multiple modalities. The best design for the life insurance site might incorporate both methodical and humanistic elements, both readily accessible.

While we can never know the exact motivations of our visitors, we can make some reasonable assumptions and test them as part of our ongoing optimization efforts.

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Use Canonical or Noindex/Nofollow for Content Experiment Variations

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Use a canonical tag or apply noindex/nofollow to Content Experiment variations to prevent duplicate-content issues.

While your Content Experiment is running, you should prevent the page variations from being indexed in the search engines to avoid any duplicate-content issues that could hinder your SEO efforts. Even though the search engine spiders may not be able to execute the JavaScript that redirects from the original page to a page variation in a Content Experiment, the spiders still may find the variations (and certainly will if the variation URLs receive any external links).

You can take two approaches: canonical or noindex/nofollow.

The advantage of rel=”canonical” is that any link equity from external links to the variation URLs will be transferred to the original URL. The disadvantage is that Bing/Yahoo may not recognize the canonical tag.

Noindex/nofollow, applied either as a page tag or in robots.txt, is universally recognized, but will negate any link equity from external links to the variation pages.

You can decide which of the two approaches would work best for you. In either case, these can serve as temporary measures, since you can (and should) apply hard 301 redirects to your content experiment pages once a test concludes and you have moved the winning variation to the original URL.

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Check SEO Keywords in Your Content Experiment Variations

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Check on-page SEO factors in your Content Experiment variations.

The good news: you’re ranking number one on Google for “oil paints”.

The bad news: your conversion rate is low. Fewer than 1% of visitors are purchasing your oil paint sets.

A potential solution: begin running Content Experiments on the home page and successively moving the higher-converting variations into position as the default home page.

A potential downside: the winning variations don’t rank as well on Google.

By verifying that the on-page factors for your page variations, such as keyword occurrences, are comparable to your current home page, you could minimize the chances of a drop in the search engines after replacing the home page with a winning variation.

Be especially aware of your page title, probably the single most important on-page ranking factor, and your meta description, which may have some bearing on ranking but is even more important as the call to action for searchers to click through to your site.

Many tools are available for on-page SEO analysis, including the free http://www.seoworkers.com/tools/analyzer.html.

As a note, thank you to Jill Whalen for her expert perspectives and down-to-earth advice for SEO. Her weekly newsletter is a must-read for SEO practitioners.

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12 Google Analytics Resolutions for 2013


1) Set up goals for all form submissions.

Goals aren’t retroactive, so make sure to set them up for all form submissions as early as possible in your Google Analytics implementation. Without conversions, there are no conversion rates.


2) Learn the ins and outs of funnels.

Once you have a goal, it’s very useful in many instances to build a funnel on top of it so Google Analytics can calculate metrics such as Abandonment Rate, but to use funnels most effectively, you should understand a few of their idiosyncrasies and limitations.


3) Don’t ignore Page Value.

The unassuming and underused Page Value metric (formerly $index) is indispensable in determining which pages are pulling their weight towards goal conversions and e-commerce transactions. (For this reason, make sure to assign values even to non-monetized goals, in a separate profile if you don’t want to skew actual e-commerce and goal monetization.)


4) Tag all inbound links with campaign parameters.

How effective is your monthly email newsletter at driving visits and conversions? How about your press releases? There’s no excuse to be in the dark on these basic questions – tag those links!


5) Track PDFs views and external links with Virtual Pageviews or Events.

It’s easy to forget that views of PDFs (and most other document formats) and clickthroughs to external sites are not captured with the default, pageview-based Google Analytics Tracking Code. Virtual Pageviews and Events provide an easy solution.


6) Avoid the built-in “Non-paid Search Traffic” Advanced Segment.

Lumping branded organic traffic and non-branded organic traffic is, for most purposes, a very bad thing. Define your own non-branded organic Advanced Segment. (And define other Advanced Segments of your own as well – better segmentation generates better insights.)


7) Track different social actions differently.

A Facebook Like that originates from your website can mean two very different things. Understand how social actions differ and track them appropriately.


8) Keep a chronology with Annotations.

When did the new home page go live? When was our company mentioned in the Wall Street Journal? You can’t make correlations between your Web data and relevant events if you don’t remember when those events happened. Maintain a comprehensive timeline with the convenient Google Analytics Annotations feature.


9) Incorporate qualitative evaluations into your conversion optimization plan.

An in-person or online user test can quickly reveal a conversion pitfall that could otherwise lurk in your Google Analytics reports indefinitely.


10) Run Content Experiments regularly.

Nothing like a head-to-head contest to tell you quite definitively what works better for conversions. If you haven’t yet run a Content Experiment or used a third-party A/B testing tool, start now.


11) Establish core KPIs (key performance indicators), and check them at least monthly.

As Brian Clifton says, Web analytics is like going to the gym: if you don’t do it regularly enough, you’re not going to be satisfied with the results. Consistent scrutiny of meaningful KPIs will lead to useful and actionable insights across the board.


12) Use Those Same KPIs for Daily or Weekly Custom Email Alerts

Don’t wait unnecessarily to find out that visits or conversions have dropped by 20%. Take advantage of Custom Intelligence Events to actively monitor your essential metrics and receive email alerts for substantial deviations.


Best wishes for a customer-focused, data-driven, conversion-optimizing new year!

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Skip Content Experiment Validation When You Need To

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You can usually skip code placement error messages when setting up Content Experiments.

Among the many virtues of Content Experiments discussed in yesterday’s post was ease of setup. As long as your original, variation, and goal pages contain the Google Analytics tracking code, all that’s required for a Content Experiment is a single code snippet on the original page.

The issue is the positioning of this code within the page’s HTML. You’re instructed to place it immediately after the opening <head> tag. That’s easy to do if you happen to be working with a standlone HTML page, but since most websites are based on templates that provide the <head> tag for all pages, it’s often difficult to customize its contents for individual pages.

The good news is that JavaScript code tends not to be too fussy about its placement within a page. Even if you’re working with a template-based content management system and cannot easily alter the <head> tag, your Content Experiment should work correctly regardless of where you place the code on the original page.

You should keep in mind that the pageviews for the original page may be inflated if the tracking code executes in the original page before the experiment code is reached. When this happens, Google Analytics will record a pageview both for the original page, even though the visitor will probably never see it the browser, and for any variation page that the experiment code redirects to and the visitor does see.

This potential skewing of data for the original page, however, is more than offset by the benefits you’ll reap from testing, so don’t let error messages about code placement thwart your Content Experiments. Skip validation if you need to, forge ahead, and start making better design decisions with A/B testing.

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Kittens or Puppies? – Test Now with a Content Experiment

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Content Experiments are easy to set up, easy to understand, and very valuable…and fun.

While Web analytics can help us to detect shortcomings in Web design and messaging, we still don’t know if proposed changes would perform any better.

With the Content Experiments feature built into Google Analytics, you can actively test preferences and hypotheses. You want a picture of puppies on your home page but your boss wants to keep the kittens?

  1. Create a variation page displaying puppies (and maybe one or two more variations).
  2. Drop a small piece of code onto the original (kitten) page.
  3. Start objectively comparing performance based on goal completion.

While Google Analytics does not allow multivariate tests – that is, you cannot dynamically vary page elements but must instead create fully separate page variations – the Content Experiments feature is very easy to set up and very valuable for driving data-driven, user-centered improvements on your website.

Unlike most other aspects of Google Analytics, Content Experiments require little explanation to colleagues and management: everyone understands them and thinks they’re kind of fun. The lessons that you learn from them can also more broadly influence marketing messages and even company focus. “The kittens are very cute, but here’s why I think we need to order more puppy T-shirts…”

If you’re not yet testing, start today with Content Experiments. (Actually, we’ll discuss one potential glitch tomorrow, so start then.)

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