I recently mod­er­ated a webi­nar with John Pace of Real Net­works and John Lovett of Jupiter/Forrester. The webi­nar focused on how to build an effec­tive opti­miza­tion orga­ni­za­tion. The response to the webi­nar has been very pos­i­tive. In fact, I’ve got­ten so many ques­tions about this topic that I’ve decided to fol­low up with a few of my own observations.

At Omni­ture Dig­i­tal, we start every sin­gle engage­ment with an on-site work­shop. This gives us a unique oppor­tu­nity to go inside an orga­ni­za­tion and get a sense of its DNA. After this day-long ses­sion, I’m able to iden­tify which orga­ni­za­tions are set up to run with opti­miza­tion, and which ones will need some help get­ting there. Here are three things that I look for.

Open­ness to new ideas

Suc­cess­ful opti­miza­tion orga­ni­za­tions are nei­ther too com­pla­cent (e.g., why bother try­ing that?) nor too rigid (e.g., we refuse to try that). New ideas are given an open venue to stand or fall on their mer­its. When there is a good idea, a suc­cess­ful com­pany plots a course to make it hap­pen. Less suc­cess­ful com­pa­nies block off these ideas by imme­di­ately iden­ti­fy­ing obsta­cles. Count how many times each day at your com­pany an idea is imme­di­ately shot down due to tech­ni­cal lim­i­ta­tions or other road­blocks (for instance, a stakeholder’s defen­sive­ness). Being open to new ideas and find­ing a real­is­tic way to achieve them is a great pre­dic­tor of suc­cess with testing.

Clear Busi­ness Goals

It’s true that ever test needs a suc­cess met­ric, but even more impor­tant are company-wide busi­ness goals. Oth­er­wise, opti­miza­tion efforts are often aimed at cross pur­poses. What are the top five busi­ness goals at your com­pany? If you don’t know, it’s time to find out.

A spon­sor near the top

Effec­tive opti­miza­tion orga­ni­za­tions often exhibit a strong grass roots com­po­nent, but at the end of day they do best under the guid­ance of an exec­u­tive spon­sor. That way, when inevitable chal­lenges arise, there is some­one that can help keep test­ing a pri­or­ity. Test­ing is, by its nature, always impor­tant but rarely urgent. This means that it often takes a kick in the pants to make it hap­pen. Accord­ingly, I always look for a CMO or other exec­u­tive who is spon­sor­ing the program.

An opti­miza­tion champion

The sin­gle most impor­tant fac­tor in pre­dict­ing suc­cess: a cham­pion, or owner, of the opti­miza­tion pro­gram. This cham­pion must be a respected mem­ber of the orga­ni­za­tion. (I remem­ber one cham­pion who would sched­ule count­less meet­ings for which no one would show up. Ouch!) This cham­pion must know, respect and appre­ci­ate the other peo­ple in his or her orga­ni­za­tion, and know how to moti­vate them. You see, test­ing is all about site opti­miza­tion, but who gets stuff live on the site? That’s right: peo­ple. So hav­ing a cham­pion to work with, moti­vate, trade with those peo­ple is a key to success.

Which brings us to you. If you’re read­ing this post, you’re prob­a­bly an opti­miza­tion spon­sor, a cham­pion, or aspire to be one or the other. If so, I highly rec­om­mend that you use these con­cepts above as a check­list to eval­u­ate your company’s readi­ness to dive into opti­miza­tion. If any of the ingre­di­ents are lack­ing, start work­ing to get­ting the right peo­ple and strate­gies aligned.

After all, the sin­gle piece of advice I give most often to my clients is this: Do some­thing. Start sim­ple. Start today.