Economy Bad. Website Optimisation Good.

Monday, May 18, 2009 | 10:18 AM

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In today's economic climate we're all concerned about bottom line: budgets are getting more scrutiny, and carefully selecting where each of our marketing dollars get spent is that much more important. For those of us in the online space, it's crucial that we not only get visitors to our sites, but that we also efficiently turn them into customers. On the surface, that sounds like a daunting task, but a couple of free Google tools can make the process much easier than you think.

Back in February, we blogged about Google Website Optimiser - a free tool that let's you test and optimise your webpage content to see which changes will improve your conversions. Trying to optimise a large website's content might be an uphill battle though if you don't have a plan. Here's a simple framework, combining Google Website Optimiser and Google Analytics, that can help quickly get you on the path to content-optimisation bliss:

Step 1 - Find your high-traffic, high-bouncing landing pages
The most important pages to test and optimise are those that have the biggest impact on your bottom line. Landing pages are prime targets because they're the first (and often last) impression someone has of your site. If someone lands on a page and isn't immediately offered the right content or design, that visitor will probably leave instantly. Think what all those bounces will mean to your bottom line.

To identify these problematic landing pages, look at your "Top Landing Pages" report in the Content section of Google Analytics. Pages that have both a high Bounce Rate and large number of Entrances are top candidates for your attention.

The Google Analytics Landing Pages report (Content section) shows a list of top landing pages ordered by the number of entrances on the left. On the right, the bounce rate compared to site average is graphically displayed. Pages with a high number of Entrances and a high bounce rate (red bar) are good candidates for optimiSation.

Step 2 - Develop your alternate content
Once you've selected a high-value page to optimise, start developing some alternate content to test. Create a couple of different versions of that page with a different headline, call-to-action, image, and maybe even a completely new layout. Check out our articles on Website Optimisation for quick tips on crafting effective headlines and copy and suggestions on popular elements to test. If you still need more ideas, head over to the Google Website Optimiser Channel on YouTube. I'd recommend watching the "What Should I Test?" video, along with any of the videos in the "Always Be Testing" webinar series that we did with our friends at FutureNow.

Step 3 - Launch your A/B test in under 5 minutes
Now that you have 1 - 3 different versions of your page, what are you waiting for? Log in to Website Optimiser and follow the step-by-step instructions to set up your A/B test. Here's a quick video of what you'll need to do to easily launch your first test.

Step 4 - Sit back and view your results
If you can read a traffic light, you can read your Website Optimiser report. You'll be able to monitor the progress each day to see how your test pages are performing relative to the original page and each other. You can easily spot at a glance which content is driving more conversions on your website.

Once Website Optimiser has determined the winning page, you'll not only have a better performing page, but if you're lucky, you'll have the bragging rights in your office for being the one who took the website to the next level! Even if a winner doesn't emerge, don't get discouraged. Oftentimes, learning what doesn't work on your site is more important than learning what does.

This four-step framework, offers you a simple way to get your feet wet and get some results under your belt. Best of all it's free. What other ways can you easily increase the value of your existing traffic without spending a cent? Happy testing!

Posted by Jon Stona, Marketing, Google JAPAC