By: Neil Sniffen

Date: February 21, 2017

We’ve all heard anecdotes about testing websites to improve conversions, and for many, those anecdotes aren’t enough to get budget approved to pay for programs that pay for themselves many times over.

Google famously ran a blue link experiment testing the color of links in its Gmail ads and netted an additional $200 million for a company that clearly needed another $200 million.

Amazon also discovered the benefits of testing when it found that a button in its checkout process was costing the company $300 million per year. Through testing, they located and removed the offending button, improving checkout completions by 45% to the tune of $300 million in the first year.

In my own experience, I helped a company that sells stainless steel containers (for beverages and food) sell out an entire product line in one day by testing and changing the call to action on their homepage hero image. I also helped an outdoor equipment ecommerce website explode their email list with potential customers just by adding an “email me when back in stock” option on their product pages. Those emails enabled them to have a record revenue year and become true believers in the power of optimization.

So, what do these anecdotes mean for you and your website? Nothing. Especially if you don’t act. Improving your website’s conversion and performance isn’t a fix reserved for the next redesign or next year, it should be ongoing and a line item in your annual budget every year.


So how do you get approval?

The number one barrier for getting optimization approval is the perceived lag between investment and return on that investment. Often there is no lag, with companies starting to see a return after only a month or two of testing. For others, it takes longer but the results are always the same: a return far surpassing the investment in optimization. So how do you get optimization approved? Start by understanding how long it takes to run an optimization test, and conducting tests that get results fast.


From experiment to bottom-line improvements

The length of time it takes to get actionable results depends on many factors. Websites that have a high volume of traffic (25,000 or more per month), can often get actionable test results back within a few days if we are testing a global website element like navigation. If a website has fewer site visitors, it may take as much as a week or two before there is reliable data to make decisions with.
The number of variables in a test can also affect the time it takes to get valid results. Testing two elements on a homepage for a website that averages 70,000 users per month will take about three days to get valid results. Expanding a test to six elements will take ten days for valid results.
The bottom line is that getting results that translate into revenue improvements can be realized in as little as one week to one month.


How to get results, fast

Often, when anecdotes fail, getting approval for a year long optimization program requires a proof of concept. Most optimization platforms offer a 30-day free trial, so getting the most lift in that time is critical for ensuring that your optimization program gets funded. To speed up results here are a couple of elements to test after signing up for a free trial (set 100% of your traffic to participate):

  • Test global elements (navigation, button color, calls to action)
  • Test CPC or search landing pages for simple search forms (especially for travel and hospitality websites)
  • Test value proposition messaging on product pages
  • Test calls to action on the checkout page (especially for ecommerce websites)

These simple tests often yield the greatest lift to conversion and offer the proof of concept that many budget-conscious executives need to approve your project. The irony is that after a few months of optimization, they always wonder out loud why this hasn’t been a part of their digital plan all along.

If you are struggling to improve the conversions on your B2C or a B2B website, just taking steps towards implementing an optimization program will begin to pay dividends. Whether you are giants like Google and Amazon, or a small company like an athletic or outdoor company, optimization works.