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90-Day PPC Plan Tested

Tuesday, 23 August 2005 Paid Search Certification: Learn How To Maximize Your Paid Search (PPC)

Topic: How to use pay-per-click (PPC) search campaigns to boost website traffic and maximize profits from day one: a 90-day plan. We recently released the audio recording of our clinic on this topic. You can listen to a recording of this clinic here: 90-Day PPC Plan Whether you are launching a new site or simply want to generate a large traffic spike to an existing site, we have found the best way to do this is with PPC advertising. However, if you don't know exactly what you're doing with PPC, here's what can happen: 1. In your efforts to dramatically grow the number of visitors to your site, you can find yourself over-spending on keywords. 2. If you're paying too much for PPC traffic, your ROI drops and your campaigns become unprofitable. There is a key point to recognize here. Some companies will view PPC advertising as an expense, and will not expect to see an immediate, positive ROI, particularly during the early weeks of the campaign. This needn't be the case. In this brief we will show you two things: 1. We will show you how we drove 1,644,732 visitors to a new site over a 90-Day period, AND MADE MONEY FROM DAY ONE. 2. We will share with you a 90-Day Plan that will enable you to design and implement the best possible PPC program for your business.

For our testing, we selected a recently launched site that provided useful information using a paid-subscription model. Traffic to the site without pay-per-click was substantial but not spectacular: Test Site A Natural Search Traffic Search Engine MSN Yahoo! Google Other TOTAL May - July 2005 9,728 5,371 6,826 1,563 23,488

What You Need To UNDERSTAND: In three months of testing, natural (nonPPC) search traffic amounted to 23,488 unique visitors. Test Site A Other Traffic Sources Search Engine Other Websites (Links) Email and Banner Ads TOTAL May - July 2005 17,875 25,430 43,305

What You Need To UNDERSTAND: In three months of testing, traffic from non-search sources (website links and email) amounted to 43,305 unique visitors. KEY POINT: Without PPC traffic, we would have generated only 66,793 visitors to our test site. With PPC traffic, we were able to generate closer to 1.7 MILLION visitors. Here are the results of our test site's PPC campaign over three months: Test Site A PPC Traffic May 2005 Cost Per Click Total Clicks Cost $0.09 549,565 $48,731.45 June 2005 $0.09 416,785 $36,833.87 July 2005 $0.09 678,382 $61,647.57

What You Need To UNDERSTAND: In a three-month period, we generated 1,644,732 visitors using PPC search marketing. In addition, we were able to optimize

our campaign to create an additional 128,817 in July versus May. This is an increase of 23.4%, WITHOUT INCREASING OUR AVERAGE COST PER CLICK. The strategy for this site was to capture as much of the market share as possible while remaining profitable. It's certainly not difficult to spend a lot of money on PPC traffic, but to do so while maintaining a positive ROI can be a daunting task. There are a number ways to increase the profitability of a PPC campaign. These include: 1. Buy more traffic that converts at a defined minimum rate. (This minimum rate will depend upon your average order size, profit margin, and other factors unique to your business.) 2. Eliminate unprofitable keywords that drain your marketing budget. 3. Reduce bids on keywords with a negative return on investment (ROI). However, this may also substantially reduce the amount of traffic to the site. 4. Increase the conversion rate of PPC traffic once it has reached your site. 5. Increase the order size of converting traffic. If you PPC campaigns become unprofitable, keep these points in mind as ways to recover. In addition, before implementing the protocol below, you may wish to review our report, Avoiding Unprofitable PPC Campaigns. The following section describes the protocol used to generate 1,644,732 profitable PPC visits to the test site in 90 days. 90-Day PPC Protocol: 1. Focus. Focus. Focus. Focus your efforts on one major search engine to start. Google AdWords may offer the greatest potential for most businesses, followed by Overture. You should not completely neglect the smaller PPC engines, but launching and optimizing a PPC campaign is very time consuming and you should focus your efforts on that which will yield the most fruit for the time invested. Focus on your unique value proposition. Decide what you are selling and what makes you stand out from your competitors. For example, if your price is lower than your competitors', experiment with ads that contain actual pricing information. Focus on the most relevant keywords. These terms will convert better than words or phrases that are not as appropriate for your offer. Consider both PPC and natural search, but if you are trying to generate the greatest amount of traffic with the least effort, PPC will create more immediate results. But do not neglect building a spider-friendly site as well. 2. Reap the benefits of a fresh start.

If you are launching a PPC campaign for a new site, you don't have to correct past mistakes and can begin with a well-structured search approach right away. Remember to use: Well-designed landing pages; Optimized ads with relevant keywords; Negative keywords to reduce less relevant traffic; Smart bids (not round numbers); A free, valuable email newsletter to capture the addresses of potential customers so you don't have to pay to reach them again; and 6. A well-organized campaign structure (see below). 3. Build a list of keywords. Build a list of the keyword "themes," phrases, and single words you plan to target. Build this "map" outside of the constraints of the PPC interface. This will allow you to focus your thoughts and more easily implement the keyword bids over multiple PPC platforms. 4. Stay organized. The more thoughtful and organized your approach to PPC campaign management, the better your campaigns will perform and the better you will be able to navigate through testing and optimization. Be sure to plan for campaign expansion from the start. 5. Use smart initial bids. When creating a new Google AdWords campaign, consider bidding higher than you normally would for some important terms. This is an approach unique to Google because it rewards a higher click-through rate (CTR). In a simpler world, CTR would depend solely on the quality of the ad copy. However, your CTR will be higher if your ads appear higher in the search results. KEY POINT: By bidding slightly higher during initial launch and then gradually lowering your bids, you can achieve and maintain better placement at lower cost per click. Currently, our test site is one of 16 sites bidding on its most popular word. We hold one of the topmost positions, yet have been paying less than 8.5 cents average CPC (over the last ten days) because of the high historical CTR it built up during initial launch, from which it still benefits. 6. Test your ads. Set up split-testing to optimize your PPC ads. Optimize for click-through rate, which will help you achieve higher placement at lower cost, especially for Google AdWords. You can now choose to allow Google to automatically manage your campaigns based on the CTR of your ad creatives. Google will serve the highest CTR ads 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

more often. Note, however, that the ad with the highest CTR may not necessarily be the ad that drives the most relevant traffic with the highest conversion rate. For more on this topic, read the recent related MEC Journal article, PPC Ad Copy Tested. 7. Test your landing pages. Split-test your landing pages as well. Here, you will be optimizing for conversion. For more on this topic, read these recent related MEC Journal articles:
Landing Pages Tested

A/B Split Testing Brief 8. Refine and optimize your campaign. After 30-60 days, you should be able to evaluate the initial success of your PPC campaign. Have you been able to tap the full potential of this PPC engine, or is there more potential for improvement? Can your ads be better? Have you experimented with keywords in the title copy? Have you utilized the right negative keywords to avoid accidental clicks from unsuitable traffic? If a desired keyword is too expensive, try to break it down and go after phrases that are more specific. Identify words and phrases that may not receive as much traffic but can be purchased at a lower bid. Consider creating customized landing pages for specific keywords. Certain types of pages will convert better for some terms than for others. 9. Expand your campaign. Most companies set up a PPC campaign for terms they know their customers are looking for. But take a step back for a moment. Ask yourself what led your customers to search for those terms. This will often help you find targeted phrases that your competition hasn't thought of. There are also some online tools that will help you brainstorm keyword phrases. Overture, Google, and Teoma will help you identify more relevant keywords with their keyword suggestion tools. Do not be afraid to go after highly specialized terms. The most specialized terms, while they may see much less traffic, often also yield the highest conversion rates.

KEY POINT: Think BROAD instead of (or in addition to) thinking DEEP. Rather than focusing on getting the number-one position for a few keywords, purchase as many (relevant) keywords as possible. 200 terms at $0.10 per click will usually perform much better than 15 terms at $0.50 per click. 10. Analyze profitability at the keyword level. Certain keywords will yield a higher ROI than others. To optimize your PPC campaign, analyze the return at the keyword level. Some words you will eliminate while others may deserve higher bids. But keep in mind that ROI is not the most important metric for your overall business. Your true success indicator should be total net profit, so it may be worthwhile to keep all terms that have a positive ROI, even if they are quite low. Your marketing budget and cash position will be the determining factors here. Our report on Avoiding Unprofitable PPC Campaigns further clarifies the distinctions and importance of ROI vs. profit. 11. Replicate your successes. Now expand your campaigns to other PPC search engines. Pay-Per-Click Search Engines lists 659 PPC search engines, including a list of the "Top 10" that will produce the greatest results for your efforts. Also, read our previous reports: Small PPC Engines Tested Five Pay Search Engines Tested Overture Tested 12. Continually revisit steps 6 and 7. Your ad-copy and landing-page optimization efforts should be recurring, periodic processes as the markets evolve. This protocol has proven itself over time with hundreds of millions of profitable clicks. Using it will help you launch your own profitable PPC campaigns and achieve a high level of profitable traffic in a short amount of time. As always, however, no formulaic approach to Internet marketing can substitute for your own testing. As our further research unfolds, we will continue to share our findings with you. If you would like to suggest a topic for future study, please contact us via the website.

PPC Ad Copy Tested

Wednesday, 22 June 2005 Paid Search Certification: Learn How To Maximize Your Paid Search (PPC)

Topic: PPC Ad Copy How our testing improved our click-through rate by as much as 121% We recently released the audio recording of our clinic on this topic. You can listen to a recording of this clinic here: PPC Ad Copy (Windows Media Audio) PPC Ad Copy (RealMedia) This research brief will answer the following questions: 1. How do you determine the best ad copy for your business? 2. What are the most important practices to keep in mind when optimizing your PPC ad copy? (16 Techniques)

The primary purpose of any online ad copy is to get a user to click through to visit your website. While it is true that the best ad copy will also contribute to high conversion after the click, the easiest factor to measure the "effectiveness" of your ads is clickthrough rate (CTR). On the pay-per-click (PPC) search engines, ad copy can be tested to optimize CTR quite easily. On Google AdWords, for example, multiple ads can be created in the same ad group to test a variety of ad copy approaches. The best ad copy can then be isolated and optimized even further. Often, the best ad will be one that sets your offer apart from those of the competition. Consider the following when creating an ad:

y y y y y

Do you have the lowest price? You may have success with listing the price of your items in the ad itself, perhaps in the title. Do you have the best variety? Listing the number of products you carry in the ad may be most effective. Do you have high-quality products? Emphasize this in your ad copy, citing specific awards or "prestige" brands, if appropriate. Is top-notch customer service your strongest selling point? What credibility indicators can you use in your ads to emphasize this? Is the site content-driven or informative? Mention how your site can meet the needs of potential customers.

Without giving potential customers a reason to buy from you, you are inviting them to visit your competition. Customers often search so fast that they make decisions about a purchase in just a few seconds. On the Web, you are just a click away from rejection. Therefore, to be effective, your ads need to capture the attention of a potential customer at first glance. But it doesn't stop there. Your copy should not only garner attention, but should also be interesting enough to get a customer to slow down, read, and most importantly, click. An additional benefit of optimizing ad copy for the PPC engines is that it helps you discover effective copy for other media. One of the quickest ways to test a new marketing message is to measure its effectiveness in the PPC engines. Granted, this may require that you break a marketing message into its constituent parts due to the character limitations in PPC ads, but key phrases and short sentences can be tested quite easily.

1. How do you determine the best ad copy for your business?

We continually stress at MEC that although some wisdom can be gained from viewing case studies and other research, a true indicator of your potential success will come through your own micro-testing. To measure the effectiveness of a number of PPC ad copy approaches, we set up microtests for two different online industries. We were able to derive meaningful results in just a few days of testing. These were the testing parameters:
y y y y y

Two sites were selected for micro-testing, an Internet marketing-related site and a specialty pet products site. Each site had a single Google AdWords ad group driving traffic to it. Cost-per-click bids were set at very low levels for each respective industry in an attempt to control position in the engine. Five pieces of copy were developed for each site. All the remaining ad group settings remained identical so we could isolate the impact of the changing copy. The ads appeared in both Google search results and the AdSense content-based ad syndication network.

Results were gathered over a period of 4 days.

Below is an overview of the results for both campaigns: Campaign Summaries Internet Marketing Site Days Tested Search Clicks Content Clicks Avg. Position Search Avg. Position Content Avg. Cost-Per-Click 4 162 555 11 2.9 $0.21 Specialty Pet Site 4 99 715 5.8 4.4 $0.05

What You Need To UNDERSTAND: In two micro-tests, we generated approximately 800 clicks for each of the two test sites. These clicks came both from Google search results and from Google AdSense content ads. Here were the ad copy click-through results for each site: Test Site A - Internet Marketing Site Impressions Ad #1 Ad #2 Ad #3 Ad #4 Ad #5 175,256 175,256 176,178 197,393 199,238 Clicks 149 149 185 92 145 CTR 0.0850% 0.0850% 0.1033% 0.0466% 0.0728%

What You Need To UNDERSTAND: Ad #3 performed 21.5% better than the next best ad for this Internet marketing-related website. It performed 121% better than the worst ad. Test Site B - Specialty Pet Site Impressions Ad #1 Ad #2 Ad #3 Ad #4 Ad #5 23,687 14,689 14,920 13,228 10,382 Clicks 303 164 160 111 76 CTR 1.2792% 1.1165% 1.0724% 0.8391% 0.7320%

What You Need To UNDERSTAND: Ad #1 performed 14.6% better than the

next best ad for this specialty pet-products site. It performed 74.8% better than the worst ad. Why did some ads perform better than others? We can look specifically at the features of the five types of copy used for each site:

Ad #1 This ad had a well written body copy and used keyword insertion in the ad title. In other words, we included the actual bid-for search terms into the ad "headline" or "title", which is the prominent first line and the actual hyperlink of the ad. An ad of these specifications performed the best for test site B, a specialty petproducts site. Here were the ads we used: {KeyWord:Free Marketing Research} Web Marketing Techniques & Research PPC, SEO, EBay Marketplace & More. www.*****.com o {KeyWord:Bulldog Info & Resources} Family website devoted to Bulldogs. Photos, Info, Resources & Community www.*****.com Ad #2 This ad had a "poorly written" body copy with keyword insertion in the ad title. Some examples of poorly written copy are included below.

Here were the ads we used: {KeyWord:Free Marketing Research} We hold all the secrets to internet marketing. Buy Now! www.*****.com o {KeyWord:Bulldog Info & Resources} Site about family dog Pictures and links here www.*****.com Ad #3 This was an "over-the-top" piece of poorly written body copy, using keyword insertion in the ad title. Examples of "over-the-top" copy are included below.

Interestingly, this ad type performed the best for the Internet marketing-related site. Here were the ads we used:

{KeyWord:Free Marketing Research} Lousy Marketing Ideas. Don't Come to our Site. www.*****.com

{KeyWord:Bulldog Info & Resources} Vaguely useful pet site Affiliate links and pictures www.*****.com Ad #4 This was well-written body copy with a poorly written ad title (and no keyword insertion).

Here were the ads we used: Make Money Online Web Marketing Techniques & Research PPC, SEO, EBay Marketplace & More. www.*****.com o Dog Site Family website devoted to Bulldogs. Photos, Info, Resources & Community www.*****.com Ad #5 This was well-written body copy and an "over-the-top" title.

Here were the ads we used:


Lousy Marketing Ideas Web Marketing Techniques & Research PPC, SEO, EBay Marketplace & More. www.*****.com o Useless Pet Site Family website devoted to Bulldogs. Photos, Info, Resources & Community www.*****.com

Interestingly, the kind of "reverse psychology" Internet marketing ad we described as "over-the-top" actually outperformed all the other ads for that site. In general, online marketers are used to being sold to, and in this case the ad copy was meant to do the opposite. So this ad performing well, although not predicted prior to the campaign, was also not completely unexpected. The impact on CTR with a poorly written body copy was slight, but the effect of poorly written title copy was quite significant, which leads us to the conclusion that most potential customers focus on the title rather than on the body or on the ad copy as a whole. For Test Site A above, ads with a good title (ads 1-3) performed 53.6% better than those with a poorly written title (ads 4-5). For Test Site B, ads with a good title (ads 1-3) performed 48.5% better than those with a poorly written title (ads 4-5). KEY POINT: The most important factor of your PPC ads is the headline or title. More than any other part of the ad, the title can impact the CTR of your ads.

It is impossible to infer a concrete plan of action for the best possible PPC ad copy based on two micro-tests. Ideally, you will implement your own testing and discover the optimal ad copy for your own unique offer. In the following section, we offer the most effective techniques we have learned from several years of PPC ad copy testing.

2. What are the most important practices to keep in mind when optimizing your PPC ad copy? (16 Techniques)
1. The most important element of your PPC ad copy is the heading or title. The more potential customers identify with your heading, the more likely they will be to click your ad. The number of characters allowed in your heading is quite limited, so optimizing the best possible combination of words is of utmost importance. 2. Using relevant keywords in the ad title usually work very well. This technique captures the attention of users by putting their search terms in the most prominent position in the ad. To match your title keywords to search terms, you will have to set up individual ad groups for important search terms. On Google AdWords, you can use automatic keyword insertion, which will save a tremendous amount of time when setting up campaigns spread over numerous keywords. For example, if you have 1500 keywords and want to put all of them into a single ad group, you can set up your account to automatically insert the search terms into your title (as long as they don't exceed character limitations). 3. If your prices are the lowest or close to the lowest in your industry, placing product prices in the ad title can boost CTR and skyrocket conversions. 4. "Free" add-on offers work well in the ad title. For example, if you offer free shipping, free bonus software, or a free 30-day trial, try mentioning that in the ad title and the primary offer in the body. 5. Make sure the "display URL" is the shortest possible URL. Display URLs are basically free brand exposure for your domain name. Even when no one clicks your ads, you are still receiving exposure. If your site domain is, do not use as the display URL. Make it as simple, uncomplicated, and memorable as possible. 6. It is best to display URLs with the "www" in front of them rather than simply Although it might not be necessary to use the "www" to reach your site, it lets customers clearly know that they are seeing a website URL. It thus becomes more likely that they will remember your site. 7. Google will let you use some capitalization in the displayed URL. So using instead of may make your URL more memorable. 8. When possible, try to quantify your ads. If you have the most or greatest variety of products in your niche and you believe that gives you a competitive advantage, use that in the ad. If the price of your service is relatively low compared to alternatives, advertising the price in the ad copy or even in the ad

title can be quite effective. 9. Avoid using hype in your ads. This is especially true for those products and services whose potential customers may be inherently skeptical. For more on an honest approach to writing copy, review the article Transparent Marketing. 10. Create a sense of urgency in your ads if it can be done without hype. Rather than using words like "amazing" or "unbelievable," try "limited-time offer" or "available for overnight shipping." 11. Use clear, precise sentences, not just keywords. 12. When space is available, always add a credibility indicator. Examples of these include: 30-day money-back guarantee, 5-star rated merchant, etc. 13. Be aware that CTR is not the only important factor in a highly effective PPC ad. Conversion rate is also very important. The temptation on PPC engines is to use highly specific ad copy to pre-qualify your clicks. This may allow you to pay for less clicks while achieving a higher conversion rate. However, Google has minimum CTRs that must be maintained for your ads to remain active. The minimum CTR varies by keyword. In addition, a high CTR will also positively influence your ad placement in Google, so sacrificing CTR to increase conversion, while it could save you money, is often quite risky. 14. Create a unique approach that focuses on the opposite or reverse of what your competitors are advertising. As we saw in Test Site A above, a reversepsychology approach can often outperform the expected approach for some ad types. 15. KEY POINT: You cannot write PPC ads in a vacuum. Testing is essential. Furthermore, you must pay attention to what your competitors are doing in the PPC engines. Study your competition's ad copy to determine how your own marketing voice can be distinctive from that of your competitors. 16. Review our previous PPC-related reports, listed in the "notes" below. These sixteen techniques should help you develop the best possible ad copy for a variety of PPC campaigns. But again, nothing should replace ongoing testing as your primary means of optimizing your copy.

Landing Pages Tested

Thursday, 15 July 2004

Topic: Landing Pages How Optimizing Our Test Site's Landing Page Increased Sales Revenue by 31.5% We recently released the recording of our landing pages clinic. You can listen to a recording of this clinic here: Windows Media Audio: RealMedia: The online notes for the landing pages clinic are available here:

What are landing pages and why are they important? Is it possible that these pages may even be more important that your home page? Are you spending too much time optimizing the wrong pages on your site? What are the important elements of your pages? How did our test site improve its total site conversion and increase revenue by 31.5% just by optimizing its primary landing page? What did we learn from simplifying their site design, placing strategic credibility indicators, and clarifying their value proposition? How can you apply this information to your site? This report will answer those questions and will provide eight key points to help you optimize your website's landing pages. ::Top Of Page::


Many companies fail to recognize that their "homepage" is not necessarily the first or even the most visited page on their website. A "landing page" is the first page a customer lands on when they click through to your website. Your "primary landing page" is the landing page that gets the most incoming traffic. For most companies (especially retailers), the "product" page is most often the primary landing page. For publishers, it is often the pages with the best content. Service providers with a limited offering usually use their homepage as their primary landing page. The best way to know for sure is to take a look at your website statistics. By identifying the pages with the most unique visits, or by identifying the most popular "entry pages" to your site, you can pinpoint where you should focus your page-optimization efforts.


Our test site is an Internet Technology reseller. It features an excellent offering including the following selling points: 1. Free ground shipping with no minimum purchase 2. Products guaranteed to be compatible with your computer 3. A lifetime warranty In this case, the site's primary landing page is its homepage. Some of the additional elements of the homepage included: 1. 2. 3. 4. Product categories in sections with heavily weighted headings Testimonials Headline text focusing on their shipping offers Third-party credibility indicators from the Better Business Bureau, Bizrate, Verisign, etc.

The site already had a superb total site conversion of 3.6%. By looking at the website metrics, we were able to identify that more than half of the site's visitors go down the same path, which is the highest converting path on the website. So our optimization efforts were focused on sending more visitors down this specific path. In May of 2004, we optimized the primary landing page of this site and achieved the following results:

Test Site A - PPC and Natural Search Traffic May 2004 Original Page Optimized Page Unique Visits Orders Path Conversion Rate Average Order Total Revenue 2,176 73 3.35% $75 $5475 2,223 96 4.32% $75 $7200

What You Need To UNDERSTAND: By optimizing the landing page for this test site, we were able to raise the conversion ratio by 31.5% (an increase from 3.35% to 4.32%). The average order price for this site is $75, so our optimization efforts represented an increase in revenue of $1725 (31.5%) in the test period alone. These are some of the specific changes we implemented: 1. We changed the category navigation to use text links instead of images, which we thought distracted visitors from the primary offer. 2. We moved the category navigation from the left column of the site to the right so that it was NOT in a visitor's natural eye path. Again, we did not want the navigation to distract from the primary offer. 3. We repositioned the testimonials to a more prominent location on the page. 4. We positioned one of the third-party credibility indicators adjacent to the "action" button of the primary offer path. 5. We changed the headline text to focus on the "Compatibility Guarantee". 6. We made the FREE SHIPPING offer the primary selling point in the header of the page, so that it would not be missed by any visitor to the site. 7. We added spacing to let the page breathe, and we removed any information that did not contribute to referring visitors to the primary sales path of the site. (This reduced the length of the page significantly.) 8. We used shape and color to differentiate the primary offer. We used a highlighted box that included bullet points, a credibility indicator, and a prominent button they needed to click to take the next step in the primary path.

1. Are you sending people to the right landing pages? If you are using any paid advertising (such as PPC engines) where you can choose the landing pages of your campaigns, it is essential that the visitor is directed to the most specific page related to the keyword or product they clicked on. In the majority of cases, this is NOT your homepage unless you have very few products or a small service offering. For example, if someone searches Google for "Canon digital camcorder", you

have a much better chance of closing a sale if you send them directly to a page featuring Canon digital camcorders (complete with pictures, products specs, price, and so on) than if you were to send them to the homepage of your camera retail site. 2. Make an effort to understand your traffic. Define the major sources of incoming traffic to your site (and be as specific as possible). Within each major source of traffic, define the most popular click you are receiving and which page they are landing on. From the click-through information identify the main reason they clicked through to your page: 1. Did you have the lowest price? 2. The best company rating? 3. The largest selection? 4. A special promotion or offering? 5. The highest ranking on a search engine? 6. A specific keyword from a pay-per-click campaign? 3. Using the information developed in point 2, design your landing pages specifically for the reason they clicked through. For example, if you had the lowest price make sure you include headline text such as "The lowest price on". If you have the highest company rating, use text like "The highest rated company on PriceGrabber" (and include your actual rating). If they clicked because of a special promotion or 10% discount, use a headline that applies the discount to the product they clicked. 4. You must use an effective "hook" to keep the shopper on your site. You have only 5 seconds to grab his or her attention, so don't waste valuable page space on irrelevant information. Besides click-specific information (point 3), you should also emphasize your company's value proposition. Focus on elements such as these: 1. Product guarantees or money back guarantees 2. Free or discounted shipping 3. Quantity purchases or bulk discounts 4. Same-day or next-day shipping 5. Special offer or sale information 6. Exceptional customer service or satisfaction guarantees 5. Utilize third-party credibility indicators. Third-party credibility indicators are one of the most effective ways to communicate that you have a reputable company (no fraud), that customers' privacy and personal information are safe, and that other customers have had a positive experience shopping with you. Some examples of credibility indicators would be: 1. Comparison engine ratings (Yahoo!, PriceGrabber, DealTime, etc.) 2. Ratings from sites such as BBBOnline, Bizrate, etc.

3. Site security and protection indicators (Verisign, Trust-e, Thawte, SSL Certification, Hackersafe) 4. Testimonials from your existing customers 6. Utilize effective sales copy that devoid of hype. Focus on implying integrity and accuracy. Review our article "Transparent Marketing" for information on how to earn the trust of skeptical online shoppers: 7. Do not overwhelm the visitor with too much information on the page. Strategically placed bold, colored, highlighted, italicized, or enlarged fonts can help to organize content for the reader. Beware of using long paragraphs on the Internet. Use bullets, headers, and white space. Allow the page to breathe. Review our reports on website design, listed in the notes below. 8. KEY POINT: Utilize an A-B split test. This will show every other visitor a different page, which will ensure that you get the most reliable numbers in testing your page optimization efforts. Without this, other factors such as time, source of traffic, etc. can affect the outcome of your tests. In our literature review, below, we list several pieces of software that will help you implement an A-B split test on your site. By optimizing your website's landing pages, and by sending your visitors to the RIGHT landing pages, you can have a significant impact on your site's revenue. Our test site, which was already very well designed, was able to increase its revenue by 31.5% from our efforts. We believe that for many sites, the potential is even greater.

A/B Split Testing

Tuesday, 16 August 2005

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

We recently released the audio recording of our clinic on this topic. You can listen to a recording of this clinic here: A/B Split Testing Most of us are familiar with the concept of using A/B split testing to determine which elements on a page are helping the performance of a web page, and which are not. For instance, one might typically test two different headlines on a landing page. One would then outperform the other, and you would know which is the top-performing page. However, there is more you can do with A/B Split testing.
1. You can use A/B split testing to better understand visitor behaviors and priorities when visiting your site. 2. You can use A/B split testing to solve specific problems you have with your site pages. In other words, use it as a diagnostic tool to find out what is going wrong and how to fix it. 3. You can use A/B split testing to dramatically challenge assumptions you may have about the "best" way to design or write a page. (Test not only changes in minor elements, but also complete and dramatic redesigns of an entire page.)

This brings up another important point. Testing yields the most valuable results only when you test repeatedly. A one-shot test will tell you very little. But when you make a consistent habit of testing, cumulative tests over time can have a dramatic impact on the success of your site. Our own test results, outlined in this brief, reveal just how much can be achieved and learned though a "simple" A/B split test.

Let's look at three tests and their results, each showing how we can not only improve results, but also learn more about what works, what doesn't... and what readers are looking for. TEST 1: Testing the Impact of Current Events of Email Response Rates. We set up a simple test with two emails, both of which were written to drive clickthroughs to a site and convert leads into sales.

In email A we wrote the sales text within the context of an emotionally charged news story that was making headlines at the time. In email B we wrote the email without specific mention of the event, but still alluded to "recent events in the news." The essential difference between the two emails is that one mentioned the event by name, and the other didn't. We tested our messaging to more than opt-in 337,466 email addresses. We compiled the results after 12 days, although some clicks continue to trickle in.

y y

Here are the results of the test after the first 12 days:
Email Copy Test Results Email A Emails Sent Clicks Click-Through Rate (CTR) Sales Conversion (Click to Sale) Conversion (Email to Sale) 168,733 5,119 3.03% 175 3.42% 0.104% Email B 168,733 4,395 2.60% 122 2.78% 0.072

What You Need To UNDERSTAND: Email A (specifically mentioning the news story and events surrounding it) significantly outperformed Email B. CTR

increased by 16.5% and overall conversion (email to sale) increased by 43.4%. The email that disclosed the specifics of this news piece generated 53 more orders (an increase of 43.4%) than the email that only alluded to the events surrounding the story without mentioning specifics. TEST 2: Testing a Specific Problem In our second test, we believed that customers visiting our test site with an 800x600 or 1024x768 resolution monitor were not finding the relevant sales language for the primary site product unless they scrolled down that page. We set up an A/B/C split to test this hypothesis:
y y

Page A was the original page. Page B featured slightly shortened data and used a "click here" anchor text to take visitors down the page. This page showed the order process on a 1024x768 resolution monitor and on an 800x600 resolution monitor it displayed the offer copy for the primary product. Page C was a radical redesign in which the order process was partially viewable on 800x600 and higher. It used two columns to make more information available "above the fold."

Here are the results of our testing:

A/B/C Split Test Page A Percent of Traffic New Sales Change 34% 244 N/A Page B 33% 282 15.57% Page C 33% 114 - 53.28%

What You Need To UNDERSTAND: Page B outperformed the original page by 15.57%. Page C was a dismal failure. Screen shots of the pages above are available below:
y y y

Page A Page B Page C

In a recent web clinic, we surveyed our audience as to which of these pages would perform the best. They overwhelmingly chose Page C, showing that what seems

"intuitive" to most marketers is not always revealed as the best page after testing. The survey results and clinic notes are available here. In this test, our hypothesis about important sales language appearing higher on the page proved correct. However, the two-column approach of Page C was ineffective. TEST 3: Challenging Assumptions by Testing the "Obvious" and Learning from the Results In this test we created two versions of a simple sales page online. Each page was approximately two screens in length and asked the reader to complete a short form in order to receive a free informational product.

In version A we added some personal elements to the page, including a photo of the writer, a personal introduction and a signature. In other words, we created a personal "sales letter" on the web page. In version B the sales copy was largely the same, but without the personal elements: no photo, no salutation, and no signature.

Which version won? Conventional wisdom online suggested to us that the personal version would be the winner. Here are the results of our testing:
A/B Split Test Version A (Personalized) Conversion Rate 34.6% Version B (Institutional) 39.9%

What You Need To UNDERSTAND: Version B outperformed Version A by 15.3%. In this case, our expectation that the personalized copy would perform better was simply not met. There are two points to consider here: First, if we had never tested these pages, we would have left money on the table by assuming the personal version would do better. Second, this was only one test. What if we had taken the personal version and doubled the length of the copy as well, adding more of an individual sales pitch? What if we had changed the photo in some way, or repositioned it on the page? KEY POINT: Each test provides answers. But each test should also stimulate further

thought and additional rounds of testing to learn more. A/B Split Testing Protocol: Whether you have conducted any A/B split testing before or not, the following steps may help you formalize a regular testing program, and help you improve your results. Test Protocol for A/B Split Testing for Landing Pages:
1. Develop Your Capabilities and Select the Right Tools

A/B split testing tools vary from simple CGI scripts to sophisticated software applications. You will find a list of services in the Literature Review at the end of this report. Even without sophisticated A/B testing capability, sequential testing offers you an opportunity to learn many insights about your pages. For more on sequential testing, see the Concluding Comments, below.
2. Identify Your Established Control Page

Your control page will be the page against which you test all subsequent optimization efforts. If you are just getting started with A/B testing, your control page will be your current landing page before any optimization. When a new page performs better than the existing control page, it then becomes your control page in subsequent testing.
3. Establish Your Testing Goals and Parameters

What are you trying to accomplish with A/B split testing? Are you after more subscribers, a higher conversion rate, or a greater return on investment on your PPC campaigns? Your goals will determine your testing parameters, which will determine the potential success of your testing efforts.
4. Determine Your Sufficient Test Interval

This time period should allow you enough time to gather sufficient data to gauge real insight about your A/B tests. Identify the number of unique visitors and/or conversions needed to establish good data and then determine how long it will take you to generate this traffic. This number will vary from business to business, but should give you enough data to confidently declare a "winner."
5. Create 1-3 Radical Redesigns

KEY POINT: These pages are not subtle optimizations changing only one or two elements on the page, but are wholly different pages representing a radically different approach.
6. Evaluate These Redesigns in A/B Split Tests

Test these alternate landing pages against the control page. Ideally, each page will be tested against every other page, but if that is impractical, test two pages at a time and keep the best as your control for subsequent testing.
7. Based on Results, Determine Your True Control Page

The radical redesign method will be more likely to generate a quantum leap in improved conversion rate than optimizing a mediocre page with little potential. Once you have identified the best general approach, you are now ready to optimize individual elements on the page.
8. Optimize with Traditional Variable-Specific A/B Testing Variables to test:

Headline Call to Action Page Copy Graphics Color Configuration of Page Elements Etc. Concluding Comments: There are a few important points to remember about A/B split testing:
1. Even if you can't set up a true A/B split test (where two versions of a page are being displayed one after another to alternate visitors to your site), it is very easy to create a sequential A/B split test.

KEY POINT: A sequential test is when you show one version of a page for a certain period, like two days or a week, and then show another version for the following two days or a week. The results may be a little less reliable, but can still yield valuable information and trends.
2. Testing gives you the opportunity to maximize conversion rates, solve problems, and challenge assumptions. And keep in mind that you have opportunities beyond testing small changes to a page.

You can also challenge an existing page by designing and writing a radically different version, where almost everything is different. In fact, it is through these dramatically changed approaches that you are most likely to achieve breakthrough improvements.
3. Testing provides companies with an invaluable means to demonstrate to company heads and management the hard figures behind any suggested changes or improvements.

Persuading management on the basis of subjective expertise alone is a tough road to follow. But if you have hard test results on your side, the persuasion

process becomes much easier.

4. Use of consistent testing will increase the knowledge base of your web group or company significantly. You will learn more, and soon be able to determine a set of optimized practices that work best for your particular business.

The absence of rigorous testing leaves you in the dark, depending on guesswork alone when creating your pages.
5. Establish a testing protocol for your web sites and emails. In the section above we have outlined a protocol to get you started. In addition, the following document will provide a template for A/B testing that will help guide the experimentation process.

ABTestingTemplate.doc If you have suggestions for topics you think we should study, please let us know. As we glean practical, accurate data, we will share the results. We promise to do our best to help you discover what really works.

3. What are the best techniques to optimize your PPC campaigns? (26 proven techniques)
Our search analyst Aaron Rosenthal helped in compiling this list of techniques to increase the profitability of your PPC campaigns. 1. Focus on the most relevant keywords. These terms will simply convert better than words or phrases that are not as appropriate for your offer. 2. If a desired keyword is too expensive, try to break that keyword down and go after words that are more specific. Identify words that may not receive as much traffic but can be purchased for less money. Do not be afraid to go after very specialized terms. The most specialized terms, while they may only see minimal traffic, have the capability and the likelihood of converting impressions to clicks and eventually sales much more easily. 3. Think BROAD instead of (or in addition to) thinking DEEP. Rather than focusing on getting the number-one position for a few keywords, purchase as many (relevant) keywords as possible. 200 terms at $0.10 per click will usually perform much better than 15 terms at $0.50 per click.

Overture, Google, and Teoma will help you identify more relevant keywords with their keyword suggestion tools: 4. Utilize a free email newsletter or a similar opt-in email strategy. If your PPC visitors don't purchase from you on their initial visit, but do sign up for your newsletter, you will have future opportunities to convert them to paying customers (without having to pay to reach them again via the PPC engines). Forrester Research, in a recent survey (The State of Retailing Online 6.0), still identifies "Email to house list" as the most effective marketing medium online. This is despite the negative impact that unsolicited commercial email (UCE or spam) has had on email marketing. 5. Create customized landing pages for specific keyword bids. Review our report on landing pages here: 6. Focus on developing clear, effective ad copy. Test a variety of approaches to copy and then revise your campaigns to feature the most effective ads. While a higher click-through rate is the clearest indicator of effective copy (and will help your rankings on Google AdWords), don't ignore how individual ads CONVERT once traffic reaches your site. Don't set up unrealistic expectations in your ad copy. 7. Focus on your unique value proposition. For example, if your price is lower than your competitors, experiment with PPC ads that contain actual pricing information. 8. Avoid hype-laden PPC ads. Hype will deter many skeptical shoppers from doing business with you. It may even encourage the wrong kinds of visitors to clickthrough to your site, thus incurring more click fees without creating additional revenue. For more on creating marketing copy for skeptical consumers, see our report on Transparent Marketing: 9. Create a sense of urgency with your ads. This can be done without resorting to hype. Phrases like "limited supply" or "reserve yours today" can be effective. 10. On Google AdWords, utilize negative keywords, smart display URLs, and geotargeting (where appropriate). For more on optimizing your site for Google AdWords, see our recent report on that topic:

11. Narrow down "Broad" traffic to "Phrase" or "Exact Match" terms. We have found that using exact or phrase match searches can be at least as effective as broad search terms, if not more so. 12. Review our 4000+ word report on Overture: 13. Utilize Google AdWords and Overture, but don't overlook smaller PPC engines as well, which will often allow you to bid less (due to less competition) and achieve a higher ROI. For more on this topic, see our report on Smaller PPC Engines: 14. Comparison search engines should also not be overlooked. In previous experiments, we have found comparison search engines to be some of the most profitable sources of PPC traffic. Review our report on comparison search engines here: In addition, our search analyst Jeremy Brookins offers his succinct list of Dos and Don'ts: 15. Don't play bidding wars unless you have very deep pockets. 16. Don't rely solely on broad keywords; they're expensive. 17. Don't rely solely on very specific keywords; they don't bring much traffic and limit exposure. 18. Don't launch when you can't monitor. If you spend $400 in 5 minutes, you're probably not doing something right. 19. Don't over-commit. Everything should start as a test. 20. Do wait long enough to get sufficient data before pulling the plug on a campaign. 21. Do be patient and realistic. All things (including PPC campaign optimization) take time to figure out. Rome wasn't built in a day. 22. Do your homework. Know what your competition is up to and what snags this might create for you. 23. Do use liberal amounts of negative keywords. 24. Do be careful with those negative keywords. You don't want to cut out relevant traffic accidentally. 25. Do keep your campaigns easy to navigate and analyze. Poor organization can make accurate review extremely difficult, if not impossible. 26. Do your keyword research. You never know what small word or phrase may turn into a goldmine of high-converting traffic.