Web Page Optimization: Basic principles your peers use to increase conversion


In putting together our next Web clinic, we were interested in looking into just how many experiments we do around here. So I talked to Bob Kemper, our Director of Sciences, and it turns out we conduct about 200 experiments each year. Now I’m not the statistical wizard, but even I figured out that we’re running at almost one per business day. Landing page optimization experiments in progress

So, needless to say, we’ve discovered a thing or two about Web page optimization and have crafted complex heuristics and entire courses to help disseminate that information. But we realize that while it is essential for marketers to obtain a thorough understanding of the Offer/Response-Optimization process and the testing-optimization cycle to improve their overall campaigns and advance their career, sometimes you just need a few basic ideas to gain a quick boost right now.

So in Wednesday’s free Web clinic, Live Optimization: What we’ve learned from the last 200 experiments distilled into three basic principles – plus live-optimization examples, Flint McGlaughlin (the Director of MECLABS Group) will share three simple principles we’ve discovered in our experimentation to help you get a big, quick lift on your Web pages, offer pages, landing pages, heck, maybe even your homepage.

Plus, we’ll be conducting a full 40 minutes of live optimization on audience-submitted pages, so be sure to send us pages you need help on when you register. While we can’t optimize every page we receive, we’ll try to get to as many as we can on the Web clinic and right here on the blog.

OK, enough about us, let’s focus on you. While we’ve certainly discovered a lot about online marketing, we’re always learning. So in this blog post, we turn to you, our fellow evidence-based marketers, to get a sense for what basic principles you follow when optimizing a Web page. On Wednesday, we’ll share our findings, but first let’s take a look at some optimization advice from your peers…

Landing page optimization should be practical and flexible

The foundation is testing and targeting the content, then dynamically rendering it based on keywords. A best-case scenario situation includes using geo-location and geo-targeting to further tailor content to the audience in real time.

These tools, which should be built into a single on-demand direct digital marketing software platform, provide marketers with valuable insights about their customers that allows them to create the most engaging, relevant landing page experience possible – all in real time.

Casey Barto, public relations manager at Knotice

Why visitors don’t become customers


  • Have a short attention span
  • Get lost easily without a single clear direction
  • Get distracted, even when given good directions
  • Crave a “human element” in their online experience
  • Want to read about themselves and their problems, rather than your company’s
  • Don’t want to feel bullied into making a decision
  • Want to develop their relationship with you at their own speed
  • Need to know they can trust you
  • See even small errors on your website as unprofessional
  • Need to see a compelling reason to choose you vs. your competitor.

I find that when these issues are addressed, conversion rate almost always skyrockets.

A big part of adding a “human element” to a visitor’s online experience is simply ditching the corporate speak. This is sometimes the most difficult part to overcome for site owners and contributors. Naturally, they want to sound impressive.

Visitors/customers on the other hand, want to be spoken to in their own language; in a way that’s comfortable for them.

Just think what happens when someone approaches you in real life and immediately begins to boast and exaggerate or use unnatural language. Bad news re: “converting” that person into a trusted new friend.

Beyond that, it’s then time for a round of Google Website Optimizer to address all of the unpredictable aspects of conversion – color, element placement, images, etc.

I hope that’s somewhat helpful and contributes to your Web clinic. (I’m signing up – thanks!)

Al, site optimization & AdWords expert at Leadinglobal

Make the information easy to read and find

Web pages may have the best technologies supporting them and have the best functionality, but without utilizing effective Web writing, viewers will be quickly bored and will soon hit back and go to another site.

For this reason I suggest:

  • Online Marketing should not be treated like traditional marketing. The Internet is interactive, so online marketing content should be engaging and contribute to the conversation between customer and business, the conversation that is started from the customer’s question that led them to the business’s website.
  • Internet content should also not be written in the traditional sense. When people go online they are always searching with a purpose. If a site does not quickly satisfy them with what they need they will quickly hit back and go to the next site. The solution is to write in clear Anglo-Saxon words, avoid using Latin words and abbreviations, and cut all the information down to its simplest form. When this is done, break it down further with headings.

– Shaun Gurmin, founder of Charge

Related Resources

Live Optimization: What we’ve learned from the last 200 experiments distilled into three basic principles – plus live-optimization examples

Web Page Optimization: In search of a value proposition as fast and reliable as Verizon FiOS

Landing Page Optimization: Regions Bank opts for the information underload strategy

Photo Attribution: jurvetson
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  1. Ken Sundheim says

    I am so glad I found this blog. My name is Ken Sundheim. I run an executive search agency in New York City. We specialize in sales and marketing placements. I must toot my own horn and say that I am quite good at SEO. It took me about one year of really, really hard studying to figure it out, and for a small firm, we get around 8,000 hits a month.

    It’s quite great b/c we don’t have to do outbound sales. I wish everyone read this blog. Online marketing (the term I describe for SEO) because the ineffective, unethical SEO firms have ruined it for the good ones. I actually began to consult a paper in New York City, but stopped b/c they didn’t want to learn – I can’t say the name, but it ends in Times.

    On page optimization, in my opinion, is the easier part of SEO. It is very time consuming and very important, though I believe that off page optimization is a lot harder. You can obviously teach off-page, but it is a lot harder to execute. For instance, a client of mine (recruiting), was hiring a writer for his website. This is crazy. You have to write your own website. Your website has to be interesting and keep people there. It took so much time, but it was worth is b/c we get 3 pages per visitor.

    Off page optimization, in my opinion, involves writing articles for Ezine and other sites, it involves getting into high PR and low Alexa website directories and it involves getting really relevant links from sites which Google deems to be an authority. I guess I must backtrack and say this is a reason why onpage opt is very important b/c you have to be in certain directories and pick out the right keywords.

    However, with practice you get it. Right now, I am in overkill b/c I love to do this, but I rank really highly for my targeted keywords. However, I found a great way to get .EDU links b/c I donate my time to colleges. It’s a win-win b/c I deal with more high level professionals and I would hope I know how to interview.

    Anyway, I just got excited about seeing this blog b/c not many really discuss it. The ones who do, and I understand why b/c they get so many hits like the SEO Blog (Phoenix maybe)that they cannot take posts b/c they have a million writers and it’s a group. So, thank you for this site. I’ll be back.


    Ken Sundheim
    KAS Sales Recruitment and Marketing Staffing Agency

  2. Randy Laub says

    Daniel, I’ve taken the Marketing Experiments Landing Page Optimization course and I can’t say enough about it. So much of the content addresses your question about increasing conversions.

    That being said, I find two things are of primary importance. First, you have to “walk through your page” as if you were the visitor. See if the visitor is led from headline to sub head, to body, to content, to motivating forms, credibility messages, etc. It all has to be there – simple design, proper flow without zig zaging around the page and so on.

    The other item that I find extremely important is what I call the grabber. What is the primary value proposition that is relevant to your target and said in a way that keeps them on the page and moving through the funnel. You can call it the big idea. It must be differentiated, targeted, clear and compelling. If not, you’re just one of hundreds online saying the same thing as everyone else and will face a lot of page exits.

    Randy Laub
    Director of Marketing

  3. Tim Dawes says

    Hey Daniel,
    What about homepages? They seem to be the big elephant in the living room.

    I love your optimization recommendations for landing pages. The reader path that Randy lays out in his comment makes a lot of sense. And when I do SEO, I bring readers largely to a landing page in order to put them on a relevant reader path. But what happens if they click “Home” on nav bar?

    Don’t I want them to find a page that tells all about my client – what they do, what services they offer, how you can reach them quickly, etc. Homepages seem to defy linear reader paths.

    I notice you even qualify your remarks when it comes to homepages, “three simple principles we’ve discovered in our experimentation to help you get a big, quick lift on your Web pages, offer pages, landing pages, heck, maybe even your homepage.”

    Maybe even your homepage.

    Are there any strong statements you can make about how a homepage ought to be structured? More and more I’m adopting a structure that features a salespage down the middle with proof along one side and calls-to-action on the other.

    I think we all fear that if our homepage was as narrow as a landing page, we’d miss important segments of the audience. Does that make sense? What has your research told you?

    1. Daniel Burstein says

      Thanks Tim,
      Great questions. Here’s a resource that I think will help you out — What to Include on Your Home Page

  4. leif says

    Fanatastic post! Makes me change my embargo on commenting

  5. Randy Laub says

    Daniel, Tim’s comment had me thinking about a topic of debate in my office. That is, in the interest of on-page PPC conversions, what nav is optimal? – full top nav, footer nav, or no nav? They all have benefits but there seems to be conflicting goals of “let the customer educate through site nav movement” versus tightly controlling (limiting) a PPC page with no exits. Any thoughts on this topic, prior posts or ME webinars?

    Randy Laub
    Director of Marketing
    MegaPath, Inc.

    1. Daniel Burstein says

      Well, the most effective way is to test. What works best varies by audience, product, even time of year.

      That said, and I assume you’re talking about a PPC ad that leads to a specific landing page with a conversion goal, less is more. You want to focus the visitor’s eyepath on your main conversion goal. Again, the most effective tactic will vary by what your actual goal is, but if your goal is a conversion, you should be as least distracting as possible, so no nav, or seriously de-empahsized nav is the best way to go.

      Think about it this way, if you were asking a girl on a date, would you say, “Would you like to do out on a date with me? Also, there are seven other options of things we can do together: Just be friends, study together, never talk to me again, etc…”

      To quote from a MarketingExperiments Research Article, “Be very careful about using navigation on a landing page. Eliminate elements that distract the eye path flow from the objective. Less IS more. You could put navigation at the bottom if you have to have it.” You can read more in Landing Page Confusion—How Does Having More Than One Objective to a Page Affect its Performance?

  6. BG mail says

    Hiya, I am really glad I have found this info. Nowadays bloggers publish only about gossips and internet and this is actually frustrating. A good site with interesting content, this is what I need. Thank you for keeping this website, I will be visiting it. Do you do newsletters? Can’t find it.

    1. Daniel Burstein says

      Yes, we do have a newsletter

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