Increase Web Site Profitability With Testing

Think it's too expensive and time-consuming to test different versions of your site? Think again. Learn how you can optimize your Web site to generate new business.

June 1, 2011

When you build a Web site, you hope it will effectively engage visitors so they pick you over your competitors. Perhaps you include several unique offers on your site that you hope will catch their eye and lead them to do business with you.

This is all well and good except for one thing: You really don’t know how your visitors are going to react to any particular part of your Web site until you test it. In the past, this was something only the “big boys” could afford to do. But now there’s a way you can instantly test your site’s ability to engage visitors, so you know for certain what works and what doesn’t.

A/B Testing on Steroids

A/B testing is the process of creating two or more versions of your Web site that are delivered at random to your site visitors and then measuring the click-through rate for each version. This is a proven way to have your visitors vote with their mouse as to which version engages them more. The traditional tool for this is Google Website Optimizer, which is free. However, it requires that you (or your webmaster) create the different versions of your Web site that need testing. That’s time-consuming and requires a fair amount of technical skill and, therefore, is definitely not free.

But that’s all changed now with a new online service called Optimizely. With this solution, you can create different versions of any part of your Web site instantly, right from their site. Its online WYSIWYG editor allows you to make create alternative versions of your site’s text and images and even lets you move whole sections around in just a few minutes. And the astounding thing is that this can be all done without creating different versions of your Web site’s code.

After you have created the alternative versions of your site, you simply add a bit of Javascript code provided by Optimizely to the pages being tested. Once your A/B test is active, Optimizely will automatically and randomly send the different versions of your site to visitors and measure the click-through rate of each one. You just let it run until you’ve gotten sufficient numbers to give you reasonable statistical certainty as to which version more effectively causes visitors to click or convert. And don’t worry about trying to remember your Statistics 101 class, because Optimizely automatically calculates the statistical significance for you.

Since videos are worth a thousand screenshots, the following will demonstrate how to use this service:

Your first 30 days’ use of Optimizely costs nothing; after that, it’s $19 per month. Also, you can turn this service on and off at any time, which means that for about $19, you can determine what site changes will produce greater conversion of visitors to new business.

Of course, all of this begs the question as to just what you should consider testing on your site …

Offers, Offers, Offers

Ideally, your site has one or more “irresistible offers” designed to attract visitors’ attention and compel them to take action. If you’re a little fuzzy about what irresistible offers are, check out my earlier REALTOR® Magazine article “Make An Offer They Can’t Refuse.”

Often what we think is irresistible is anything but from the consumer’s perspective. So creating different variations of your offers is the first thing you would want to test for conversion effectiveness. Here are some other things you might consider testing as well:

  • Text: Create alternative text that compels visitors to take action. For example, one Pennsylvania REALTOR® found that he received a far greater click-through by changing “Featured Listings” to “Best Buys.”
  • Images: Perhaps a different kind of image in the body of your home page will cause more people to click on getting your special report or check out your IDX listings.
  • Action Buttons: This is a subtle yet potentially powerful test. Consider changing the shape, color, or text of your clickable buttons and see which version receives the most clicks.
  • Reassurance Language: Test different variations of the text above your important forms that reassure your visitors that their privacy will be protected and see which ones cause the forms to be filled out more often.

Avoid Build-and-Forget

The most profitable Web sites are under a constant state of refinement. Far too many people just have a Web site built and then do nothing to improve its ability to convert visitors into new business. The main reason for this is that it was just too time-consuming and expensive to do it the old way. Now, you have no excuse for having a site that “doesn’t work.” It’s just a matter of testing different variations until it does.

NOTE: Mr. Internet®, RUSSER Communications, its staff, and officers receive no compensation whatsoever from any third-party vendors (unless he/they are directly involved with the creation and/or improvement of a vendor service or product), and make no recommendations as to the suitability of the products or services mentioned in this article. Always thoroughly investigate any product or service before trying or purchasing it.

Michael Russer, a.k.a. Mr. Internet®, is CEO of Russer Communications. He is a leading speaker and author in the real estate industry and has been writing about Internet marketing and virtual outsourcing since the dawn of the commercial Internet.