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The Science of the Squeeze -- A Beginner's Guide to Conversion Testing

Aug 17, 2007
So you have a website, you have a great product or service to sell, you have traffic coming in, and sales are happening. And still, lots of traffic is "getting away." How do you wring every last ounce of value from your traffic? That is exactly what a site testing service will help figure out.

Site testing is the scientific way to determine what actually works to make your potential customers jump and heed your call to action. A brief glance into the world of website conversion testing includes some pretty foreign sounding terms -- like Taguchi testing, multivariate testing and split run or A/B testing. Don't let these terms intimidate you. Website conversion testing is fast becoming a "must-do" for e-commerce sites these days, and it's easy to see why.

With the technology available today, no one, from the novice website owner to the expert who runs multiple websites, has an excuse for not optimizing their websites and continually improving their conversion rates.

Many website owners use what is called A/B testing methods, otherwise known as "split testing." A/B testing allows you to direct traffic to two different versions of your web page to determine which page sells better. Whether it's the content, design or copy that proves more attractive, something makes more customers buy from one page than the other.

The process is fairly simple. The first step is to create two different landing pages. You might test different headlines, different versions of your sales copy, even different graphics or colors. Then the traffic is split between the versions, and data is collected that will tell you which page converts better. Good information, certainly, and can definitely help boost conversions when it's done right.

Two more thorough approaches are multivariate testing, and Taguchi testing. With some of the hosted testing solutions in the market today, website owners are no longer limited to the basic A/B split testing methods. Today, multiple elements can be tested at the same time, which allows business owners to determine exactly which phrases, images, content or other variables perform best, and in what combinations.

The multivariate testing solution takes each element and combines it with the other elements in every possible combination. Your site traffic is split between all the various versions. Conversion information is collected for each version, and you'll know which is the best performing version of all the possible combinations. So you can make educated decisions on what to keep and what to change on your site. While this is a much more thorough way to test, it will take longer to get results than an A/B split test, so you need either a pretty heavy stream of traffic, or the patience to wait a few weeks or longer for actionable results.

By far the most effective solution, with the fastest actionable results, is a true Taguchi style testing solution. To create a Taguchi test, the site owner selects which elements to test, and creates several variations of each. The variables may include headlines, promotional banners, buttons, graphics, testimonials, copy blocks, pop-ups...any element on your page that you want to check. This is done in much the same way as the multivariate test, with one major advantage.

The true advantage to using the Taguchi algorithm? Because of the scientific way the test is run, it becomes statistically valid with a much smaller pool of visitors. So you'll get actionable results must faster. And faster results means your site will be making more money, faster.

Website testing is a major part of website optimization these days, one that can not be ignored by any online business owner, no matter how big or small you are.

Ready to start your own testing program? These four things will help you be most successful: 1) determine what your conversion goals are; 2) know your customer base and what they are looking for; 3) be creative and try some "out of the box" ideas; and most of all, 4) test, test, test and optimize, optimize, optimize until you have created and designed the best combination of words, graphics and designs.

Test your site, and learn the best way to squeeze every last ounce of potential out of your site traffic stream.
About the Author
Testing is an important part of any online marketing effort -- but only Fortune 500 companies can afford the expensive, enterprise level testing solutions available today through offermatica.com or taguchinow.com.
Would you like to test your site? Give us your opinion and join the Revolution in site conversion testing!
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