Today we explore optimization in a special interview with Chris Goward. Chris founded WiderFunnel with the belief that marketing agencies should prove their value. He is the brain behind the LIFT Model™ and WiderFunnel System™, conversion optimization strategies that consistently lift results for leading companies – such as Google, Electronic Arts, ebay, Magento, DMV.org and BuildDirect.com.
GetResponse: In your book, You Should Test That!, you mention that there are some well-known best practices regarding testing and optimization that really aren’t “the best”. Could you give an example of one of these?
Chris Goward: There are piles of so-called “best practices” for marketing, UX and design that are rarely best. But, even more interestingly, some that work for some situations and scenarios and don’t work for others.
The rotating offer carousel on many home pages is a good example. I’ve written before about why rotating carousels are terrible, but they continue to be used and are often untested.
However, the most dangerous “best practice” that needs to stop is the revolutionary site redesign. Companies that redesign their websites, apps and products without controlled A/B testing are asking for trouble.
The point I make in the book is that *any* practice that is not tested within your business’s context and target audience is not a proven practice. For the best results, you should change “best practices” into “tested practices.”
GR: What is one piece of advice or tip you always give when it comes to page conversion? Our readers are specifically looking at how their landing page can prompt someone to become a subscriber. If readers remember nothing else, what is the one thing about conversion they should remember?
CG: To make dramatic improvements in your conversion rate, you need to put yourself in your customers mindset. Gather “voice of customer” data to understand how they talk about your product, then analyze your pages using a framework like the LIFT Model. Using structured frameworks like that will help discipline your thinking and create much more powerful results than simply searching for tips and tricks.
But, if you insist, here are 31 conversion optimization tips.
GR: How much have things changed, or stayed the same, regarding current, successful conversion tactics since your book was published (2013)?
CG: Fortunately, I didn’t write a book that depended on fads or trends. It shows principles, frameworks and practical methods that are still just as relevant to companies and will be for the foreseeable future.
The book shows how marketers who use the structured processes I describe continue to achieve massive improvements in their business results.
It’s all based on real life learning from the work we’ve been doing at WiderFunnel since 2007. And we continue to use the same principles today. All that’s changed is that we now have thousands more test results re-confirming that the strategy and methods still work.
GR: What is usually the first thing, negative or positive, you notice when visiting a website for the first time?
CG: The first thing I notice is how long it takes to understand a company’s value proposition. It’s often surprising the effort some companies go through to hide what makes them unique. Obscure headlines, marketing-fluff copywriting, unrelated images, and overuse of distracting animation all coalesce into confusion for visitors.
Even on long copy pages, sometimes a clear description of the value proposition – and by that I mean the value in the eyes of the prospect – isn’t given until the last summary paragraph.
If you wonder whether this is a problem on your website, try a five second test with someone new to your website: show them your page for exactly 5 seconds, then cover it and ask them “what is this page about?” or “what does this company sell?” You might be surprised at the responses you receive.
GR: The GetResponse Landing Page Creator includes the functionality for A/B testing — where users may create and publish several versions of their page for testing and optimization purposes. What areas should they particularly focus on? Placement of sign up forms, headline wording, etc.?
CG: The fundamental elements of the value proposition are the most important things to get right. By that I mean:
- What are the most important features of the product or service?
- What are the proof points?
- What is the offer?
- What is the call to action?
Those are all important areas you can test. Apart from those fundamentals, you need to determine the best way to present those elements. The most important things to test depend on your company, customer and context. At WiderFunnel, we often test various components of landing pages to find where there’s conversion rate elasticity, or sensitivity. Once we find sensitive areas, we can drill into testing in that area more aggressively.
GR: Your book spends some time defining and establishing how the Lift™ Model is used to develop great hypotheses — is this something you think everyone, from the newbie internet marketer to the experienced IM guru, could successfully implement and benefit from?
CG: In engineering, maths and science, an elegant solution is one in which the maximum desired effect is achieved with the simplest effort. A solution should be as simple as possible to achieve the goal, and no simpler. That’s what I was aiming for with the LIFT Model.
It is designed to be useful for any marketer, business leader, designer, or UX practitioner, from newbie to experienced. I designed it to be approachable, meaning that it’s easy to understand, but also powerful for advanced usage to categorize and organize thinking. Even our most advanced strategists at WiderFunnel still use the LIFT Model on a daily basis.
GR: You call for a culture of continuous improvement. Do you advise any specific “time frame” that marketers should keep in mind in terms of re-testing and re-optimizing their pages? Many people are in a “set it and forget it” mindset.
CG: The moment a company stops testing and optimizing is the moment they begin to lose. The question is not when to stop testing, but where to focus testing effort. The PIE framework for prioritizing A/B tests is one of the tools I’ve described that many companies are using to help answer that question.
But, the question is also about optimizing the optimization strategy. At WiderFunnel, that’s where we focus a lot of our work; continuously improving the process of ongoing optimization so we continuously deliver the best – and ever-improving – return on effort for our clients. We’ve refined this process since 2007 and continue to optimize it, even today. This month, in fact, we’re implementing new updates to the process based on new insights from our strategy team. I’m excited to see the results get even better this year.
A big thank you to Chris Goward for sitting down with us and answering our questions! Share with us in the comments below how you tackle optimization and if you have used Chris’ great LIFT model.
Chris is the brain behind the LIFT Model™ and WiderFunnel System™, conversion optimization strategies that consistently lift results for leading companies – such as Google, Electronic Arts, ebay, Magento, DMV.org and BuildDirect.com.