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The Importance of Testing Key Elements of Your Website

testing-key-website-elementsYou’ve had your new website built and it’s now live. Is that it? What’s next?

Most business owners make two critical mistakes when agreeing to engage a web developer:

  1. They believe it’s possible to build the perfect website on the first attempt.
  2. When their website is finished and launched, they believe the project is complete and no further investment is required.

Both of these beliefs are WRONG and could easily damage the credibility of the company. Why? If the new website fails to perform in the manner for which it was built, then credibility is lost in the eyes of a prospect, customer and staff. No doubt the relationship between the business and web developer will also deteriorate.

You may be asking why a web developer is unable to build the perfect website? Let’s take a closer look at forces at work here.

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Your new website may be visually attractive. It may contain good copy, great graphics and have the correct SEO. However, whilst each of these elements is important, the most critical element is the user experience. How does a user travel through your website? How easy is it for them to find what they are looking for?

There may be a requirement to cater for different user types. Can one website adequately achieve this?

The user experience is the random element. The thoughts they are having as they skip through your website are many and varied; impossible to capture. Occasionally, all the key components are in place and yet they just don’t hold together. There’s that “X” factor missing. It’s similar to buying eleven good footballers, the best at key positions and yet they do not gel as a team. There’s a chemistry missing.

This is why it’s important to study the analytics. Ideally you will also have additional software on your website to monitor the hotspots. This is software that traces the path of the user and identifies where they leave your website.

The data from analytics and hotspots provides excellent feedback, telling you what’s working and which areas need addressing. It’s these areas where testing takes place to find a variation that works.

As with most things in life, you cannot please all of the people all of the time. However, it is possible to please the majority and this is where testing is invaluable. By now you’ll be familiar with the old 80:20 rule. Basically this suggests that 80% of your revenue is earned from only 20% of your customers. There are schools of thought that this ratio should be adjusted and should be more accurately shown as 90:10. Let’s not argue the point. What I would suggest you consider is asking your 20% i.e. your top customers to have a say in the makeup of your website. Whilst it make sound obvious, ideally your website needs to find and serve more of the customers that make up this valuable 20%. If you could double your 20% to 40% then your business would literally double. This is a simple case of targeting.

What Do You Test On a Website?

Professional copywriters have always recognised websites as a new media for advertising your business. Since advertising was invented, the rules have more-or-less remained unchanged. Selling has remained unchanged. The media of online advertising has challenged the rules and may have resulted in a number of adaptations. But, essentially they remain the same.

Let’s take a view that as a sales letter represents a sales person in print, then a website represents a sales person on screen. In a sales presentation there are three main elements.

1)      The open
2)      Education and information
3)      Questions and answers to agree the deal

The equivalent on a website are:

1)      Headlines and opening messages
2)      Education and information
3)      Social proof, Q & A and various test closes through offers.

Each of these elements can be tested through A/B or split testing methods. If there isn’t a clear winner, then you continue testing until you find one.

Remember, you must only test one element on a page, at a time, otherwise it is difficult to understand which adjustment contributed to any change you may see in your statistics.

By testing, over time it is possible to significantly improve the performance of a website. An extra 20% here, 15% there stacks up. It’s not unusual to return 100% – 300% increases in performance with a dedicated and intelligent testing mechanism.

The key message of this article is that change is continuous when striving for perfection. It’s the equivalent of taking a journey on an aeroplane. The aeroplane doesn’t fly in a straight line to reach its destination. During the journey there will be several course corrections. Your website and other marketing takes a similar journey. Never accept that your marketing is performing at a peak, as testing may raise the bar again.

A website should be continuously adapting either through testing or in response to further changes from search engines. It’s a tapestry of change to meet the growing demands of your target market, taking into consideration there are always new trends emerging, new products, new thinking, maybe even new applications which opens up new markets and a target customer with different demands. It’s exciting, interesting and yet demanding from a marketing resource perspective.

When your website is working well, it can help your business be much stronger. Analytics help us identify the weaker areas and in time, turn them around to create a stronger website.

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