Tricks vs. Testing: The Battle for Internet Supremacy


Nowadays the Internet is a battle royal. MySpace vs. FaceBook. We all know how that matchup turned out.

Google vs. Yahoo. This one’s scheduled for 12 rounds, but I think it will be a knock out.

And Google Buzz trained for years for a title match but failed a drug test. So for now, Twitter still holds the Light Heavyweight Belt, but eventually everyone meets their match. Anyone remember Buster Douglas knocking out Mike Tyson?

This spectacular entertainment is appreciated by so-called “gurus” of epic proportions. The fight for Internet marketing supremacy is a quality collection of bouts that will satisfy many an Internet guru, but how will it impact the masses in attendance?

Will they follow the hot trends blindly? Will tricks for quick bucks convince them to throw in their monthly budget for an unproven, highly touted secret weapon?

So whether it’s above-the-fold landing pages or live chats, you need to see the results before you invest your wad. There are reasons galore to believe “best practices” or “paradigm-shifting Internet sensation” hype and hope these latest and greatest tactics to generate revenue make a dent into your bottom line, but if you don’t personally see the fight through you are merely gambling. Do you really want to do that?  Before you start paying the piper, make sure you do your own research first so you have a high confidence level to make bets on the entire fight card.

Fight Card

The Undercards

Above “The Fold” Page vs. Sequence of Thought

The Breakdown: The Fold is not new to the fight scene. He originates from a previous generation of fighters who have mostly retired or passed on. The Fold comes from the newspaper ring, where everyone fought for the space on the top half of the page. For people who didn’t read an entire newspaper word for word, the top half of the newspaper page is where you would look for the most important and popular stories. Much of the content below the fold was missed.

The Fold has a new following on the internet. Everywhere I go people are talking about The Fold. He’s the place on the page where a typical visitor’s screen ends. Anything below him takes extra effort to get to either by manually scrolling or using your mouse wheel. Although it only takes a quick twitch of the index finger, many people will not exert this effort.

So what are we supposed to do? Cram every possible image, word, or call-to-action above The Fold? The answer is no, and our tests time and time again prove it.

With over a decade in the game, and 100+ professional fights under his belt, Sequence of Thought enters the ring to take down the champion. At first glance, The Fold appears ready. He’s neatly arranged and he dons a beautiful new robe. The Fold feels this is good matchup for his style. He is typically at his best when he can use his brawn to draw in conversions without much thought. He wants you to press his buttons right away without even doing the pre-fight research.

But consumers are getting smarter, more keen. His tactics have got him this far, but The Fold has met his match.

The reason why Sequence of Thought can defeat The Fold isn’t because of his appearance. The fight for conversions is not won on the page, but in the mind of the user. It’s won before anyone even steps in the ring. It’s won by understanding your visitors’ motivations and anticipating what they will do, what punches they will throw before they arrive on your website.

What’s their thought process? What information are they looking for? Do they need longer copy because the product requires a big decision? Or do you need to utilize the top half of the page to introduce yourself because you’re unproven in the ring?

Not only is it vital to understand the motivations of the user before you build your page, but it’s essential to test your way into an effective page design. Use metrics and data to fully optimize your site. Launch a test for a few weeks then analyze your visitors’ actions in order to identify patterns and find the areas of your site where improvements will produce the biggest ROI gains.

For some product offerings, a short page is effective. But The Fold is not a one-size-fits-all type of fighter. Our research has proven that often a visitor will scroll if you lead them down the page, either through compelling content or product descriptions. If you tap into their motivations and provide them with what they are looking for, page length is of no consequence.


The Fold – 76

Sequence of Thought – 102

Pretty Page vs. Ugly Page

The Breakdown: All of the promoters these days are looking for lean and chiseled with a marketable face. Their goal is to attract attention, put up a visually stimulating facade in order draw viewers to the fight and maximize pay-per-view orders. Pretty Page has lots of colors and images on it. (Do customer service reps really look like the stock photos? Wow!)

There’s lots of flash (along with some Flash). White text on black background. I see at least three twitter icons. Gradients galore. And then there’s that video that I had go out of my way to click pause just so I could focus on reading the actual content of the page.

The Pretty Page looks good. As it should be since you probably paid a small fortune to have it designed and developed.

But does a Pretty Page increase your conversion rate?

Meanwhile in the cellars of the arena, Ugly Page is whaling away at a punching bag. Unlike his opponent, Ugly Page is a grizzled veteran with an acute knowledge of how to win a fight. This comes from years and years of experience. He knows that conversion doesn’t depend on looks, having the biggest biceps, or wearing the most colorful shorts. He knows that conversion depends solely on your strategy. And strategies are not built from the latest trends or by implementing quick hits that you learned at a one-day marketing conference. They are built from testing. From figuring out definitively what works and what does not work.

But the point is not that Ugly Page is a better fighter than Pretty Page. In fact, Pretty Page may eventually become a much better fighter than Ugly Page. The important thing to understand is that strategy is more important than design. You could have the best-looking page in the world, but if it hasn’t been tested, if it hasn’t been optimized based on what you learned from data and results, then it’s nothing more than a pretty page.

The fighter that will prevail is one that tests the layout, tone, copy, and positioning before testing images and color schemes. Ugly Page learns how to communicate his value as a fighter before he adorns himself with a fancy robe. He reduces friction and anxiety before his publicist gives him a makeover.

The bottom line is that the ideal testing sequence is to test key strategies first, figure out which works the best, then add an aesthetic layer.


Pretty Page – 88

Ugly Page – 96

Let’s get ready to rumble

Throughout the week, I’ll be shedding light on more Internet marketing fights right here on the blog. We have Flash Banner vs. Headline, Quantity vs. Quality, Heat Map vs. Data Analysis, Bounce Rate vs. Conversion, and finally…the main card…Tricks vs. Testing.

Related Resources

The Magical Metrics Tour: Demystifying the secrets behind analytical “tricks” to help you drive ROI

A/B Split Testing – How to use A/B Split Testing to Increase Conversion Rates, Challenge Assumptions and Solve Problems

Multivariable Testing – How testing multiple changes simultaneously can save you time, speed up your optimization schedule, and increase your profits

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  1. Do you really think there is going to be 12 round between Yahoo and Google? When it comes to search I can’t see Yahoo putting up any type of fight, on the same thing when it comes to keeping people clicking and on the web property itself I think Yahoo wins that one considering that Google is search “only” at this point while Yahoo is more like starting point type of website.

    I think next fight will be how do you keep and provide user everything he might need from one website or web property. Keep him so called “connected”.

  2. Daniel Burstein says

    Good point. And in reading the post, I think Adam would agree with you. While he said that this fight is scheduled for 12 rounds (surely at one point it seemed like Yahoo and Google would be in for a long fight), he thinks it will be a knockout (and perhaps that KO already happened when Yahoo outsourced its search to Microsoft?).

  3. AB says

    I am ugly page. I have lots of visitors. I am high on page one for my keywords. I learned in 1998 – I am so old school!

  4. valuesuit says

    Good point. And in reading the post, I think Adam would agree with you.
    I learned in 1998 – I am so old school!

  5. AlloAllo says

    Fold vs. Sequence of thought. I agree, for example Squidoo lenses are much more deeper than a shallow old fashion Folds.

  6. D Mantha says

    Good article but does it not really boil down to content.Do you not need
    good content in order to succeed.

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