By Ryan Malone

For optimum inbound marketing success, marketers should always be testing, analyzing, and adjusting their marketing programs to achieve the optimum conversions. There are many methods you can employ, but here are the most used and most valuable.

describe the imageA/B testing

A/B testing is a tool that is very revealing for analyzing the design and effectiveness of landing pages, calls to action, subject lines (email), headlines, form length and types, web page layouts and styles, promotional offers, product pricing, images, length of copy and much more. When conducting A/B testing two identical items are created and one or two elements are adjusted to see which resonate better with the target audience. Then the two different versions are offered up randomly to see which gets the most desired results – sign ups, downloads, etc.

HINT: Always test both versions simultaneously and trust the test results. Your gut isn’t always right.

Image courtesy of Smashing Magazine.

Content testing

Hours, even days, can be spent creating an email, landing page or white paper. From the behind the scenes work done by developers, to the layout created by the design firm to the verbiage and tools selected – all must be evaluated. It may be perfect in your eyes, but what does your target market think? Here are eight things to consider when evaluating content:

  1. Is the purpose of the page clear when viewed for 3 seconds without scrolling?
  2. Is the company name/logo obvious/prominent?
  3. Is the page is clear about what you’re offering and what you want the visitor to do – download a whitepaper, ebook, complete a contact form, etc.
  4. Does the content convey your company’s expertise and knowledge? Is it current?
  5. Is your physical location easy to find on the page?
  6. Is your site is accessible to everyone, regardless of their ability, computer, modem, browser or preferences?
  7. Is the page orderly with plenty of white space?
  8. Is the page calm – not too busy or overloaded with images, colors and calls to action?

HINT: Make sure the end message, sales pitch or offer remains the same in a content test. Alter the layout, images, calls to action and wording to see what elements resonate better with your customers.

Multivariate testing

This method doesn’t call for creating multiple pages, but tests the same page by changing the elements around after having them up for a specific time period. Test headlines, colors, buttons and images on the same page by comparing each element with the other to find the best possible combinations/elements. Google Website Optimizer is a good tool to run a multivariate test. It lets you view the various combinations and elements separately and then decide the winner. All you need to do is add a tracking code on to your page and Google Website Optimizer will then split the traffic equally on each element separately.

HINT: Other tools that can help you achieve multivariate testing are Memetrics, Verster, Optimost, Maxymiser and Omniture Test&Target.

Geo Target TestingGeo Target Testing

People arrive to your website from around the world - different countries, languages, currencies, climates and cultures. How can you best cater to such a variety of variables - all at once? Geo Targeting. Geo Targeting is a tool that leverages Geo-Location – identifying a website visitor’s location by their GPS, IP or WiFi data. By using this information the correct information is delivered to the searcher. The location can be a country, state, city and more. Our friends at Google know where you are. So if you search for Mexican Restaurants, it will automatically offer information pertinent to your IP or other address. Try one of these ways to use Geo Targeting to increase conversions on your website.

  • Experiment with languages and currency via a redirect based on IP address or language option buttons on the page

  • Try local offers via AdWords or Groupon – make sure to track the data carefully for true results.

  • Match marketing between groups. Go from a geo-targeted banner to a geo-targeted landing page vs. a generic page – which one has better conversion rates?

  • Test visual elements – photos, forms and layout – understanding that catering to cultural differences can equal conversions.

HINT: These are but a few of the ways you can implement Geo-Targeting. A great source for more info is in Google Webmaster Tools – Geo Targeting.

Eye Track Testing

Eye tracking is popular in user research, providing direct insight into where people are looking when viewing a web page. Using methods such as heat maps, gaze plots, and gaze replays researchers can review page layout and adjust for results that show what test subjects’ eyes are drawn to. These tests help answer questions like:

  • Do they understand the layout and software?

  • What do they look at but not click on?

  • How well do the icons and symbols direct the user?

  • What steps are involved in their decision making process?

HINT: Eye tracking can provide cleaner test results due to the lack of interruptions and offer behavioral insight that may not be shared in that would occur with an observer asking questions.

Usability testing

Your website may be gorgeous – filled with visual elements, soothing colors and plenty of white space - but if it is difficult to find the information that users are searching for you will lose them quickly. The best websites cater to their target audience – providing the information or products that brought them to you in the first place – before they abandon your site to go to the competition. Evaluate your site depending on what stage it is in via explorative, assessment or comparative methods. Types of usability testing methods include: hallway testing, remote usability testing, expert review, paper prototype testing, automated usability evaluation, questionnaires and interviews, do-it-yourself walk-through and controlled experiments.

HINT: Your budget will determine which usability testing method you implement. For more information see “An Introduction to Website Usability Testing

A website is no longer an electronic version of your brochures. It is a living, dynamic tool to reach your customers. In order to be sure that your inbound marketing is continually delivering the right message to the right customers testing is essential. It is not just making sure that all the features and functions on your website work - it is a constant focus on ensuring that it is absolutely the best presentation of your company that it can be.  Not sure where to start testing your website? Contact SmartBug Media. Our team has the insight and experience to deliver solid understandable results from testing.

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Ryan Malone

About the author

Ryan Malone is the founder and CEO of SmartBug Media and is a veteran of Deloitte & Touche, Seagate and several venture-backed technology companies. When he's not leading SmartBug and helping clients build high-octane marketing organizations, he's loving his wife and daughters and unsuccessfully learning the guitar. Go Terps! Read more articles by Ryan Malone.

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