Demystifying web optimization

DESIGN Demystifying website optimization

Website optimization means different things to different folks. For some, it represents opportunities to make more money for an organization. For others, it means endless headache and worry. And for others, website optimization simply means continuously improving conversion rates.

While all of these things may be accurate for individuals, the true goal of website optimization is to improve the experience and increase the value of a website for its visitors and potential customers. There are many different ways this value can be increased, often based on the different types of testing. A big part of increasing value is reducing or removing anxiety that’s experienced by the user.

Anxiety on a website can be caused by a long list of issues: hard to find information, unclear calls to action, different content than expected, inconsistent branding or navigation, too much personal information required, long forms, long processes…. The list goes on.

Diagnosing the anxiety

Stethoscope

One route that some companies take to improve websites is by using surveys to ask their visitors what they are looking for and how the site could be changed to make their experience better. The problem with this is that people are notoriously bad at knowing or vocalizing what it is that they don’t like and what would make it better.

We could ask our users, “What elements on our site are causing you anxiety when you visit?” But who knows what kind of response we would get?

Not to say that surveys aren’t valuable. They can be a fantastic source for thinking of new areas or elements to test on a site. On-site search data is also a powerful tool to identify the issues visitors are having on your site. (Although there are a subset of users who almost always go directly to the search function.) We could also create a segment to see which users are quickly referring to the search function, versus users who use this function only after they’ve spent some time looking around the site.

Optimizing your landing page

There are a few key types of optimization, along with a host of ways to go about each type. Perhaps the most popular type of optimization over the past few years has been landing page optimization. There is a book about it which shows up as the first search result in Google using the search term "landing page optimization." (Ironically, the link doesn’t send you to an optimized landing page.) There are even web tools like LiveBall that are geared toward landing page optimization.

So, what is the specific goal with landing page optimization? It ultimately increases value for the customer. Typical goals might be to increase the purchase rate, lead form completion rate, or phone calls. A common result is a stripped down, bare website with a single call to action for the user to consider, attempting to make it as easy as possible to complete the goal.

Cart optimization

Shopping Cart

Another common area for optimization is generally referred to as cart optimization. This focuses on increasing the value of the purchase process by simplifying or otherwise streamlining the process to reduce the amount of anxiety or effort that will be experienced by a participating user. Initial steps for cart optimization are to analyze the purchase funnel and identify weak, unnecessary or redundant areas. Lead form optimization also falls under this category.

Other kinds of digital optimization

But optimization can also focus on other topics and areas of a site. We've been focusing on content optimization and user experience optimization over the past year and have begun to see an industry trend in the same direction. These types of optimization are all about ensuring that visitors are able to find your site and are really getting what they need.

Other forms of optimization in the digital realm focus on the acquisition channels to your site: organic and paid search optimization, in addition to display and remarketing optimization. All focus on getting users to your web site. These kinds of optimization techniques tend to focus on saving money or getting the most return out of the investment.

Related Thinking

Orchestrating connected experiences with Sitecore

We were just at Sitecore Symposium in Las Vegas and in Barcelona, speaking on the topic of Federated Experience Manager or “FXM” (more on that later), and were really impressed by all the features of the newly announced Sitecore 8.

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