Conversations on Conversion is an interview series featuring conversion optimization thought leaders. We started the podcast back in March of this year, and frequently release new interviews. You can download the podcast for free from iTunes.
If you are unable to download and listen to the podcast for whatever reason, we’ve decided to post the transcripts here in our blog for your reading pleasure—enjoy! This is a very fun conversation on conversion discussion with Anne Holland!
Anna: Welcome back to Conversations on Conversion. I’m Anna Talerico and I can’t tell you how excited I am today to have the infamous Anne Holland here with us today. You probably know her as the founder of MarketingSherpa and the publisher of whichtestwon.com, a super popular, fun site for marketers where you can see real tests and real results. You can check your knowledge and guess which of two tests won and then see the real results afterwards. There’s certainly a lot of buzz about whichtestwon.com right now, and we’re super excited to have you here, Anne.
Anne: Thank you.
Anna: Well, I want to go ahead and dive right in for the few minutes we are together today. Just in terms of conversion optimization, what do you see as the biggest opportunity? You know, areas that marketers aren’t taking enough advantage of yet?
Anne: Not enough people are testing. I mean it’s really depressing. Something like only 20 percent of marketers are doing any testing on their sites. If we could just get more people running very basic A/B tests on basic parts, the impact would be huge to their bottom lines, to their careers, to their status in the company. I really, really would like to see more people testing.
That’s, that’s why I started whichtestwon.com to sort of evangelize and say “Look! Here are real life tests run by people just like you and look at what a difference it made to their companies’ bottom line.” That’s why we always share the results. We always say okay, it was you know 25 percent more or 40 percent more conversions. Because it’s, it’s such a huge difference. A lot of marketers still are doing things where they’ll launch a site or they’ll launch a page and then they’ll just swap it out for a different one, and run the other one for a while and call it a test. Is that a test?
I mean I have actually talked to Fortune 500s where the IT department was like, oh, we don’t need to test the site, we already tested it when we launched and it was a usability test. Nothing to do with a true direct response test that you really can learn from, and that really will impact the bottom line. So first of all, you know, just test. Just test already.
Anna: Yeah. What do you think is holding companies back? I mean it is remarkable, isn’t it, that only 20 or 30 percent of companies are doing any testing. And even when they are, they may be doing things like usability testing or sequential testing and calling that testing. What’s holding everybody back?
Anne: I think it’s what held people back from search engine optimization for a long time and still does hold a lot of people back. It’s the IT hold. It’s thinking I’m going to have to go to the Tech Department and ask them to change something or ask them for their help on the site. It’s internal politics. It’s an internal lack of resources. It’s stuff like that, and that’s why I’m glad that there are testing firms out there now that can run the tests for you and do almost everything so your IT department doesn’t even have to get involved necessarily. Although politically you want to let them know what’s going on so they don’t get mad at you.
The other thing is I think when you tell your CEO or your president I want to test, I think it sounds scary. I don’t like it when people who do tests call it an experiment. You know, that’s like the terminology that’s used by some of the software companies: “Let’s run an experiment.” Well, I’m sorry, if you tell those presidents that you’re going to run an experiment, that just doesn’t sound safe, you know? That sounds experimental.
Anne: Maybe you should tell them instead, you’re going to make this page make more money.
Anne: You know, describe the results. Don’t ever, for God’s sake, use the word experiment. Maybe not even the word “test.” You have to market this internally a little differently
Anna: Interesting. I couldn’t agree more. Actually, that’s a really good point. You’ve hit on two of my pet peeves, which is sequential testing, you know, swapping things out, and also that term ‘experiment’. I’ve tried to strike it from my vocabulary because when you look at it in black and white, I don’t want to be experimenting. I want to be optimizing.
Anna: I’m sure you have some testing pet peeves along those lines. What are some of your testing pet peeves?
Anne: Well, I think some people get hung up on the small stuff. I’ll have people call and say well, do you have any data on testing the color of the Submit button. They will have had a long committee meeting about this, or the color of their logo on the site - tiny little things like that. I’ll be like, you know what, you guys, did you get your Submit button above the fold? Let’s do that first. Let’s do the obvious — this probably is optimal because it’s been shown in so many tests to work.
I think the first thing is instead of saying what are we hung up on internally, look at what the publicly available tests showing that tends to work? You have to test and it might not work for you, but test those things first. Is your button above the fold? Could you make your button bigger?
We run the testing awards every year, and this year we gave an award to a test where the people had taken a button that was already like 300 pixels across, which is a pretty big, fat button, and they tripled its size. It’s the biggest submit button you’ve seen in your life. I mean it’s like half the screen. But by golly their response rates went up.
Another thing I’m seeing right now that seems to be working is making your Search blocks bigger for your site. Don’t hide it. Make it bigger. Make it more prominent. Make your 800 number or your phone bigger, more prominent. See if you can get more response rates from it.
People who use search and people who pick up the phone tend to buy more than other people. Let’s focus on those key performance indicators, those things that we know will probably influence the bottom line right away, and let’s not worry about the lingo.
Anna: Yeah. Start, starting with the obvious things, exactly. Whenever somebody says, “well, what color buttons have you seen work?” I always think, it doesn’t matter what works for ten other companies because something entirely different might work for you. You’ve got to test it.
Anne: That’s a really good point.
Anna: So how should marketers go about deciding what to test? I know that’s the number one question we get, and it’s such a hard question to answer, but in general just where do people start?
Anne: There’s a couple of ways to start. I actually wrote a white paper and it’s available for free on my site. You can just go to Free PDFs. It’s a big tab on our home page, and get that. Basically I always tell you to first of all pick the page that you’re going to test. More sophisticated marketers are going to be testing a bunch of pages at once and doing all these fancy things. But your basic marketer says that, you know, I’m going to test a page. A landing page or a page — one of my page templates and just do that.
Pick a page that is as close to the end of the conversion cycle as you can get it. Okay, so pick a page that maybe it’s the actual shopping cart. Or maybe it’s the page that is going to be the last page a lead fills out before they click Submit. Maybe it’s the page with the Submit button on it. It’s as far down as you can get in that funnel, in that conversion funnel. Then test your way out backwards. So test your way back up to the home page or back up to your landing page. So you want to pick a page where you already have conversions happening. Improve the conversions there because that’s going to give you your biggest bottom line.
Anna: I love this…
Anne: The money’s there.
Anna: I love that. And the reason why is I’m always saying to people, you know, there’s no right or wrong way to do this because I usually tell people to start actually the inverse.
Anna: I say, you know, start with that first page and work your way down. But it just goes to show you, it’s really important that people try things on their own, listen to all the advice and figure out what’s going to work for them because what is most important is there is no hard and fast rules.
Anne: No, and the other thing I always tell people and I actually do think this is a good rule—though maybe you’ll disagree—a lot of people will pick their worst performing page to perform tests on because they figure well, that’s the one that’s weak so I should fix it. But, I always say, you know what? Do the inverse.
Perform tests on your best performing page. The page is already working pretty well but you can always improve it more. Testing always improves. That page is already working, so you’re doing something right. If you do something right even better, you’re going to do better.
To give an example, if you’ve got a page that’s getting a 5 percent response rate and you can test and improve results by 50 percent, then you’re getting a 7.5 percent response rate on that page. But if you’ve got a page that’s getting a .01 percent response rate, even if you improve things 200 percent, you’re still only getting .02 percent response rate.
Anna: What a good point.
Anne: If we’re trying to convince the CEO and the president to give us the budget, anything you can do that affects the money directly, or that you can prove affects the sales works to your advantage— it’s about being political.
Anna: Love it. Definitely. What is like your number one piece of testing advice? And I know you get asked this 100 times a day.
Anne: In general, most people have too much stuff on their landing page or the pages that they’re testing. There’s usually way too much stuff. There’s all these extra links and extra design elements and pictures and columns, and in general if you can simplify that page, if you can say, you know what, instead of being three columns it’s going to be one column. Instead of having four different images we’re going to have one big image and maybe people can scroll over it and see other stuff. Instead of having, you know, two headlines we’re going to have one headline and a couple of subheads. Super, super clarifying it and then taking the type face and making it bigger.
I’m over 40. If your type face is 10 points or below I’m squinting and I’m in pain and I’m like oooh. You know, I’m not reading the copy. So, do the web 2.0 thing and boost up your copy. It’s okay to have copy run below the fold.
You don’t have to make your type face tiny so that you can get all your copy above the fold. You know, if it’s good copy, and it’s relevant to me, I’m going to keep on reading. But I’m not going to keep on reading if I’m squinting and I can’t see it.
Boost your point size. Clarify and simplify that page. It’s often a very hard thing to do politically again because you may have three different departments who all think they should have their gizmo on the page, too.
Anna: Right, right. I love the point size point because you know it’s just like you said. People try and cram it all in or they’re afraid to go big with their fonts because they think it’s going to push the page big. But, sometimes you just have to do the obvious thing. I couldn’t agree more. Love it.
Anna: So I’ve been wanting to ask you this because whichtestwon.com is such a fantastic site that. Has there been anything surprised you about testing since you launched whichtestone?
Anne: The thing that I ike—and sometimes hate the most—about whichtestwon.com is that every week we’ll post another test — andit’s a real, live test somebody has just run. It might be an ecommerce test or, or a lead generation page test or I mean all different kinds of tests. And each week you have to look at the two pages to pick from.
You have to look at the two and you have to choose which one you thought was the test winner, and I can’t tell you how often I’ll get it wrong. Here I am, the expert — it just goes to show, if you’re designing your website and making monetary decisions by gut or by instinct or even frankly by best practices alone without testing, you’re probably not designing this as the page that’s actually going to get the best results.
There are times when I’m just dumbfounded. I’m like, THAT WON?? WHAT? But I’ve got to tell you, our head reporter for that site, Natalie, she goes and she looks at the data. We check that a test had conclusive results. We check that the data was statistically done properly.We know what testing platform they used, the whole bit.
There was once an ecommerce site, and they took their standard ecommerce product page where you get a picture of the product at the left and add the cart thing at the right. I mean that’s an absolutely standard Amazon.com approved layout. In this one site they flipped it, they put the shopping cart at the left and the picture of the product at the right. I’m like that’s so wrong. That won’t work. Everyone’s been trained to click on the right. I was just like there’s no way that’s going to win, and of course that was the winner. [Laughter].
Anna: Basically, everything has surprised you since launching, whichtestwon.com!
Anne: [Laughter] I’m like “yes, I knew it,” and I’m very proud of myself, but then the pride, the stuffing gets knocked out me with the next week!
Anna: Wow. Well, I know our time is nearing an end, and I just want to thank you so much for doing this. I hope you’ll come back again because I do think we could talk all day about this stuff.
Anne: It would be very easy to.
Anna: Good, good. Well, everyone listening, thanks for joining us and stay tuned for our next Conversation on Conversion.
Don’t forget you can download can download all of the podcast episodes for free from iTunes.
So far we’ve spoken to amazing conversion thought leaders like Anne Holland, Chris Goward, Bryan Eisenberg, Jonathan Mendez, Lance Loveday, and more! Stay tuned.