Big news…

18 03 2008

There is a big announcement today at Widemile and a new post by me. However you won’t see it here. Please head to http://testingblog.widemile.com to see the new site! To celebrate Widemile’s annoucement, I have moved to a widemile.com domain and have a new design.

If you subscribe to my feedburner RSS feed, I have automatically changed it to the new site, however if you use the wordpress.com RSS feed, you will continue getting this site’s feed which is now dead. Please update your feed to http://feeds.feedburner.com/billyblogwm.

I will no longer be updating this site, other than to point people to the new page. So please head there now!

New URL testingblog.widemile.com





3 posts on 3 topics

6 03 2008

Edit: I fixed all the links in this post.  Copy and pasting is getting the best of me!

I recently came across a few great posts that I enjoyed and wanted to pass onto you all. The first is from Tim Ash, who has written a great book on Landing Page Optimization. One of his more recent entries discusses how to write effective copy to increase conversions.

One of my favorite bloggers, Avinash Kaushik tells marketers to embarrass their managers in order to succeed at their campaigns. Testing tops that list of course, but his other techniques are great methods at “working the system.”

Lastly, Lenny de Rooy, wrote a guest post at SEO Scoop about 5 misconceptions of Google Web Optimizer. It goes slightly beyond just GWO itself and into testing methodology





How to get ideal test conditions (and results)

4 03 2008

A big mistake in testing is to overlook variables inside and outside of the test that impact results. In an ideal test, the only variables would be the ones you are testing on your page. That usually isn’t possible though, but as long as you account for them in your analysis, you will get correct and actionable information.

Sky image

If you test a seasonal page, then the optimal page you get for that season, probably won’t perform when the season ends. By not paying attention to those kind of variables, you are setting yourself up into thinking you’ve found the optimal page. The same type of mistake is made by grouping e-mail, print, SEM campaigns and event traffic, unless you know they react the same to your changes.

Even within segments, there might be more segments to uncover. Your only limitation should be traffic; don’t segment so granular that you can’t run a decent sized test in a decent amount of time.

One of my clients doesn’t get a lot of traffic, but the traffic he does get is very distinct. One converts in the single digits and the other converts in the teens. Although combining them would get me more data, it would be very confused data since they convert so differently.

A few things to look out for:

  • The ad or offers visitors see beforehand
  • Interactions between your factors (if you aren’t testing interactions)
  • Technical problems
  • Problems that occur before or after the tested page

A note about the last bullet, the problems can range from a technical problem to a problem with the overall funnel. If people get different experiences in the funnel that drastically impact whether they convert or not, it can add a noise to your test. Some examples are different checkout processes for registered and non-registered users or users being inelligible for service.

The purpose of testing is to find out if a certain element performs well under the conditions you provide. If you aren’t paying attention to all the conditions, then the results you derive will be incorrect without you knowing.





3 steps to quickly make a good multivariate test

21 02 2008

Having great testing technology puts a lot of power in your hands. You can test anything and everything you want. However, like any other tool, to use it effectively you have to use it right. There’s a lot of best practices and thought that goes into test design, but following these three rules can get you a good test in most situations.

Steps
  1. Maximize your traffic: Pack as much as you can into a test for the amount of traffic you have to keep it a short test. Using Widemile’s platform that’s 2 weeks to be safe, with Google Optimizer you should do at least a month (explanation).
  2. Test opposites: If you test stuff that’s similar, they’ll perform about the same. So find out the general theme you should be following first by testing opposites (B2B vs B2C, podcast vs ebook, descriptive vs benefits).
  3. Learn from the previous test: Always make sure you line up your tests so that you learn something that can be used in the next one to either refine or to learn something new.

The goal of these three things are to maximize your time spent testing by testing as much as possible while also minimizing testing suboptimal content. For example, if I was selling iPods and I tested 2 images of people running with the iPod, one with a man and the other a woman, I might think that was a good test. However I could have totally missed out on an image that worked better, such as an iPod next to a PC. I could test that out after the initial test, but then I just wasted one test run. The right way would be to test one sport image versus one PC image and find out which direction to go. From there I could test against other opposing images or refine the PC image.

The only warning I’d throw in is that if you’re trying to test a lot of things at once, you might want to scale back. Pick a 2-4 themes depending on your test size and stick to testing them out. Don’t mix and match.

Follow these steps and you’re on your way to getting not quick tests, but efficient ones.





What is Taguchi? How does it relate to testing?

14 02 2008
New URL testingblog.widemile.com
the Taguchi method

Multivariate testing is a buzz word these days, but the buzzword of multivariate testing seems to be Taguchi. However, that term is being abused. Do you know what Taguchi really means? I wasn’t even positive, so to get some background, I did some research and talked with Vladimir (Widemile’s Chief Scientist).

The name and method comes from Genichi Taguchi. His method, also known as Robust Design, attempted to improve product manufacturing quality. Therefore it falls into an area of engineering called Quality Engineering.

Does this sound aligned with website testing? Not really, and this is the problem of using the term Taguchi with web site testing. The goals of manufacturing and the goals of a website are not the same.

What most people are attempting to grasp when using the term Taguchi is fractional factorial test design. (I discussed this at length in my post about the difference between Widemile’s technology and Google Optimizer.) The Taguchi method uses a fractional factorial test design and is under the umbrella of fractional factorial testing but is not the only or best fractional factorial method. In fact, even within manufacturing, the Taguchi method was the inspiration for many new techniques but many statisticians find it flawed.*

It is important to differentiate the Taguchi method from fractional factorial test design since one is a basis for manufacturing while the other is purely related to design of experiments. You need to ensure that the math and science behind your testing is based on methods that have the end goal of optimizing your website only. So if your testing tool uses the Taguchi method for testing, you better ask what that really means.

So does Widemile use Taguchi? We don’t use the Taguchi method, however do use fractional factorial test design. I like to say that our platform goes beyond Taguchi because it was specifically made for optimizing web content.

Don’t get sucked into the Taguchi method, it is just a buzzword used by your fellow marketers. Just because the technology doesn’t use Taguchi, doesn’t mean you should count it out.

*Read more after the jump for Vladimir’s explanation of the Taguchi method and its criticisms
Read the rest of this entry »





3 ways to maximize PPC and Landing Page Optimization

7 02 2008

New URL testingblog.widemile.com

Quality PPC and LPO campaigns are key to great conversion rates. If either of them are optimized, you might get good results, but with both of them optimized, your gains are exponential. There are a few pitfalls in optimizing them both though, even with good intentions you may end up confusing your results rather than getting results.

PPC and Landing Page Optimization

Here are 3 methods to effectively optimize your PPC and landing pages:

  1. Do one at a time: Test out your new PPC strategy, but wait until your landing page testing is done. Changing your PPC means you’re changing the audience, both in demographics and expectations. This will impact your landing page testing. Once you find a winning PPC campaign, test the same messaging on your landing page. This is the easiest way to optimize both, but the next two are better ways to go.
  2. Do them simultaneously: If you are testing 2 PPC strategies, create 2 separate landing page tests to match the respective campaigns and drive traffic solely to the matching test. This avoids biasing the PPC that better matches your landing page.
  3. Segment all the way through: For segments you know you’re going to have, make them go to different landing pages. Test your pages and separately track how each segment performs. Sometimes all your segments respond best to the same landing page, but often times your segments want something different and it’ll show in your testing results. Also, if you’re doing #2 and realize that the ROI is good enough for both campaigns, break it out and optimize them separately.

These are basic, but very effective methods to maximize testing both your PPC and landing pages. If you want to get actual and sustainable results, you have to control as many variables as possible. Only when you can trust your data, will it perform how you expect. Follow any of these methods and you’ll be on your way to higher conversions.





Multivariate testing: Let customer actions tell you what’s right

5 02 2008

This comic is both hilarious and insightful. Take a second and see if you’ve experienced something similar to this situation:

customerneedscomicthumb.jpg

I came across this before starting my work at Widemile, but stumbled upon it again while browsing Marianina’s Web Analytics Princess blog. Surprisingly, I found it extremely relevant to the multivariate testing I do at Widemile now.

The comic is a joke about how hard it is to do what customers want. Even when you have the luxury of a customer telling you everything they want, they don’t always do it correctly and no two people interpret their instructions the same. I like this comic because it shows how difficult it is to create good experiences and products for customers, no matter the amount of help you have.

Now, imagine how this applies to your website. Visitors want your product presented to them in a certain way with certain offers. Before testing, you’d listen to visitors with analytics, surveys and usability studies even. From here everyone would make their own “panel” of the comic; the creative team would have a go, the marketing team would revise it and the CEO would change a few words around. Eventually a page is made and your business puts it online, not knowing whether the page is what your visitors truly want.

Take that same situation and add multivariate testing. Now we get the same perspective that we have when looking at the full comic strip. In the previous situation, all you could see was your individual panel and your customers could only choose the one you gave them. With a multivariate test, different customers see different versions and the trends that show up in your data, reveal the “whole comic” and point you to which one should be the last panel… what the customer really needs.

If you look at the first panel and the last panel, it’s immediately obvious that they are different. Your customers can tell what they like, even if they can’t articulate it. Start listening to their true feelings by testing your pages.

For more of these comics, check out the official Project Cartoon site.








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