That’s right—far out in the internet, there is a man who thinks that your baby is ugly, and that your baby has got to go. That man is Tim Ash, landing page optimizer and general guru of the practice known as conversion rate optimization (CRO). Within the first ten pages of his book Landing Page Optimization, Ash explains that a website is like an ugly baby—if the baby is yours, you may be too far invested in it to realize that there may be some “issues” with your creation.
Back in the day before blogs, when everyone was content to have a “web page” built in some now-extinct WYSWIG HTML editor, content providers could write and design to their heart’s content, with precious few hard-and-fast rules for user experience. Remember when backgrounds looked like psychedelic stereograms and each link came with its own bouncing animated GIF? But today, web users have taken precedence over the presentation of content. The variety of platforms and browsers with which we access the web has dramatically expanded, while bounce rates and analytics have gained priority over animated distractions. Yet the gap between common sense and computer science is still large when it comes to information architecture and graphic design for the web.
Conversion rate optimization is the practice of setting up statistically relevant, scientifically testable experiments within a website that test a variety of on-page elements to determine which combination of factors can increase conversions. In his newly expanded second edition of Landing Page Optimization, Tim Ash defines the conversion rate as the number of conversions divided by the number of unique visitors. A conversion could be an email newsletter signup, a lead, a web store sale, or simply clicking on a specific link that has importance in the ultimate ROI or ROAS of your company. Defining what the specific actions you want visitors to take is a matter of strategically considering goals and overall desired outcomes, which our own Ric Dragon addresses in HIS book “Social Marketology.”
Ash further outlines what he calls UCD, or user-centered design. Optimization often includes common sense decisions in the tested experiments that hypothesize improvements. I could guess that a green button might get more clicks than a purple button, or a lead generation form with 3 questions might get more submissions than one with 20 questions. Ash leads his readers through what he calls The Matrix with three tasks:
- Define visitor goals.
- Define critical tasks for each role.
- Define content to support each task.
Using this structure, he outlines easily identifiable goals throughout the book that build on The Matrix, explaining web visitor desire, some rules of action on a website, and how to pare down to a shortlist of critical variables. Interspersed within these chapters are introductory histories of psychology, usability, and statistical probability. The reader is carefully guided through these options and supporting theories, and made to understand that designing experiments is no trifling task. Just like in experiments in the physical sciences, the success of a web experiment is wholly dependent on the design and statistical accuracy of the initial investigation. A poorly designed conversion rate experiment will yield false positives, also known as bad information.
Ash does his best to outline the specific statistical differences that come into play with A/B versus multivariate tests, and details advanced methodologies. If you are wondering what fractional factorial nonparametric landing page tests are, then this book is for you. If you’ve never attempted a site optimization in a structured way, this book is also for you. Landing Page Optimization is a solid foundation for beginners who want to begin optimization but don’t know where to start, but it also provides a solid scientific framework for web programmers who want to stop guessing and start testing content and graphical variations.
Ultimately, Landing Page Optimization is really more about conversion rate optimization as a whole, because the tools and guidelines provided are universally applicable. Ash guides you to the point of starting your own tests and leaves you at the crossroads, so it is your turn to take control at the end. Now it’s time to discover that conversions don’t have to remain the same over time—guiding your users to action can have provable, measurable and profitable results.