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Landing Page Optimization: Guessing vs. Testing

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You can, within the limits of ethics and accuracy, represent yourself any way that you want on the Internet. Your landing page isn't written on stone tablets; it's the most ethereal of objects -- a set of bits that reside on a computer hard disk and are accessible to the world.

The only obstacles keeping you from creating more compelling landing pages could be just a lack of attention and imagination. You're as free as an artist in front of a blank canvas, but the promise of high-performing landing pages is often tempered by a fear of making things worse. It's impossible to know in advance what will or won't work -- and you're supposed to be the expert.

In truth, there are no individual landing page optimization experts. Sure, many people have extensive experience with landing page design such as copywriting, graphic design, and usability. But no one person knows everything.

As a company that regularly tests a variety of landing pages, we're amazed at how often our best ideas fail to outperform the corresponding elements of the original landing page. Even the most experienced experts will be wrong much of the time because no one person can envision the diverse needs of all visitors who find your page. Even if the expert knew everything about every visitor, they would find that their needs often are contradictory. What convinces one person to act may turn off another.

But don't worry -- you already have access to thousands of willing "experts." You're interacting with them on a daily basis. The real experts on the design of your landing pages are your Web site visitors.

You may never be able to answer why a specific visitor did or didn't respond to your landing page. But there are ways to determine what your Web site visitors respond to on average.

Landing page optimization is like a giant online marketing laboratory. The actions (or inactions) of your "subjects" allow you to improve your appeal to a similar population of people.

Web sites have three desirable properties as a testing laboratory:

High Data Rates

Many Web sites have significant traffic rates and an ample supply of test subjects. In aggregate, all of your traffic sources result in a particular traffic mix unique to your Web site.

With high Web site traffic volumes, statistical analysis allows you to find verifiably better landing pages and to be confident in your answer. The best versions are proven winners. Unlike previous designs, they aren't based solely on subjective opinions or the result of political popularity contests within your company.

Accurate Tracking

Web analytics software supports the accurate tracking and recording of every interaction within your Web site. Each visit is recorded along with a mind-numbing amount of detailed information. Although Web analytics software isn't perfect, it provides a standard of data collection accuracy that is almost unheard of in any other marketing medium.

Easy Content Changes

Internet technology offers the ability to easily swap or modify the content that a particular Web site visitor sees. The content can be customized based on the source of the traffic, the specific capabilities of the visitor's computer or Web browser software, their behavior during the particular visit, or their past history of interactions with your site.

In other experimental environments it's very expensive and time-consuming to come up with an alternative version or prototype. On the Internet, countless Web site content variations can be created and managed at minimal cost for a landing page optimization test.

The key to landing page optimization is using all available sources of ideas for what to test. Don't trust the opinions of experts alone.

It's much better to explore among many design alternatives than to trust the opinions of one individual. After all, all that matters is what your audience responds to, not the credentials or backgrounds of the people who came up with the ideas for the new landing page elements to test.

Search Engine Strategies and Market Motive are teaming up for a new online workshop, "Landing Page Testing for Higher Profits," hosted by Tim Ash, SiteTuners.com CEO and author of Amazon's e-commerce bestseller "Landing Page Optimization: The Definitive Guide to Testing and Tuning for Conversions." This will be an interactive session with audience participation.


The Original Search Marketing Event is Back!
SES DenverSES Denver (Oct 16) offers an intense day of learning all the critical aspects of search engine optimization (SEO) and paid search advertising (PPC). The mission of SES remains the same as it did from the start - to help you master being found on search engines. Register today!

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