When Landing Page Optimization Takes the Short-Term View

As with all good things, one can go too far when it comes to optimization.

A friend of mine was telling me how she regularly receives emails from a company offering a free weekly software download. Quite often she clicks through to the site. But what does she find? She finds a landing page optimized to sell her full-price products…with the free download link hidden way down below the fold.

This story struck a chord with me because I can imagine the web team working to maximize their sales.

I can imagine them testing the positioning of the free download link on the landing page, and discovering that if they place it below the fold they will increase their immediate sales of the full-price products featured higher up.

A job well done. Monthly revenues take a jump upwards.

But there’s a problem here. And this problem is inherent within any analysis of short-term optimization data.

What does my friend feel when she arrives at that landing page? She feels misled and annoyed. The page is not delivering what the email link promised.

Also, the ploy being used by the web group is obvious. So my friend knows the game they are playing. She knows they are trying to trick her into buying something.

After a while, she’ll probably stop clicking on those links. A while later, she’ll probably stop opening the emails. And then she’ll unsubscribe or filter to junk mail.

Here’s what I would like to test…

I would like to test the free download link above and below the fold, over a nine month period.

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When you take the long view like this, you’ll get to see the longer-term impact of optimization on the lifetime value of a subscriber.

So…does the extra revenue achieved by “hiding” the link make up for the loss of the subscribers you disappoint and annoy?

Or will one do better in the long term by delighting your subscribers and retaining their attention and interest for longer?

I’m not sure which approach would win. But my instincts tell me that it is always smart business to please and delight the subscribers and customers you have right now.

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