One of the ques­tions I get asked most often is, “How can I bring test­ing and opti­miza­tion into my com­pany suc­cess­fully?” I’ve been lucky enough to work with sev­eral com­pa­nies in both the begin­ning and con­tin­u­ing phases of site opti­miza­tion so I wanted to lay out some tips that I’ve seen work across most or all of them.

1. Do It Right the First Time

I often have clients who are start­ing out ask if they can take short­cuts in imple­men­ta­tion. The rea­sons are usu­ally good – “IT won’t let me put the tag on the page”, “I don’t have cre­ative resources right now”, “Upper man­age­ment is com­ing down hard on me”, “We’ll take care of it in the next release.” My answer is almost always “No!” Short­cuts both encour­age bad behav­ior and have the poten­tial to hurt you in the long run. For exam­ple, let’s say that you as the dig­i­tal mar­keter in charge of test­ing don’t put the tag on the con­ver­sion page. Instead, you want to track data through your data ware­house or import data back into the sys­tem. You most likely lose the advan­tage of real-time report­ing. Well, what if you have a poorly-performing test but you’re unable to see that until a week later? Or what if you have a test with 85% lift in rev­enue per vis­i­tor but you weren’t able to push those win­nings out to your entire pop­u­la­tion because you also couldn’t see the results until two weeks later? And what if you then try to “social­ize” those great results to your group, and peo­ple don’t trust the data? As you might have guessed, I’ve seen all these what-ifs hap­pen in the past. The end result is that you have to go back and do it right the sec­ond time, but it’s twice as painful and you have to ask your­self what you gained by try­ing to take the short­cut.

2. Go All the Way

I think that there’s a lot of fear asso­ci­ated with tak­ing the leap from going with your gut to mak­ing real data-driven deci­sions. While we all like to gripe about the HiPPO (High­est Paid Person’s Opin­ion), I think there is some truth in the HiPPO being your safety net. He or she makes the deci­sions and you reap the rewards or con­se­quences how­ever it plays out. With test­ing, you now have to remove the safety net, but you also get to try out some leaps and tum­bles. That’s lib­er­at­ing but scary! I’ve seen some com­pa­nies fail because they try to limit risk by treat­ing test­ing as project-based task that just needs to be exe­cuted once per quar­ter. By doing so, they actu­ally increase risk because the chances of test­ing being looked upon favor­ably decrease with every test that doesn’t gen­er­ate lift. By lim­it­ing the num­ber of tests you run, you limit the num­ber of tries you get to knock a test out of the ball­park.

3. Be Political

We all like to think that our com­pa­nies are free of pol­i­tics and drama. How­ever the real­ity can often be very dif­fer­ent, and test­ing can bub­ble that up to the sur­face. What does that mean? Well, there are a lot of peo­ple who have some­thing at stake on your site. In fact, it’s really everybody’s site. Let’s take the home page as an exam­ple. Mer­chan­dis­ers want to make sure their con­tent makes it. IT doesn’t want page per­for­mance or func­tion­al­ity to be affected. Design­ers want to make sure brand isn’t dimin­ished. So does it seem like the home page is a good place to run your first test? Hmm…probably not. Instead, take 3 things into con­sid­er­a­tion when try­ing to find areas to start test­ing: 1) Is it tech­ni­cally easy to imple­ment? 2) How big is the poten­tial ROI? 3) Per­haps most impor­tantly, is it polit­i­cally easy to imple­ment? Once you get your test­ing legs under you and some suc­cesses to talk about, that’s when you get to start play­ing with those pages that might be more polit­i­cally sensitive.

4. Get Excited

The most suc­cess­ful com­pa­nies are the ones who get excited about opti­miza­tion. They show­case and reward tests that gen­er­ate ROI, they even make fun of and reward the ones that don’t. For exam­ple, one com­pany I worked with gave out skunk toys to the mar­keter who came up with the worst-performing test of the week. I love the idea of still throw­ing out incen­tives for those will­ing to take a risk and put their ideas out there. Of course, you don’t want to find your­self with too many skunks lined up on your desk either! I’m always awed when I see clients reach the point where they can not only present all of the suc­cesses and fail­ures of the past quar­ter, but also speak toward what they plan to test over the next quar­ter as well. It’s like a test­ing uni­ver­sity grad­u­a­tion where you’ve offi­cially brought opti­miza­tion into your com­pany successfully.

I’d like to fol­low up in the future with spe­cific sto­ries from the field. Leave a com­ment below or shoot me an email at lchiu at omni​ture​.com if you have any tales to share!

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