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The 3 Ps of Web Optimization and Testing

Guest Blogger

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Understanding Web testing and optimization is critical in today’s digital age. The virtues of testing and the potential upside that can be seen by performing tests on a website are limitless.

Not sure what website testing is? The two primary forms of Web testing and optimization are: A/B testing and multivariate testing (MVT).

  • A/B testing (also known as split testing or bucket testing) is the simplest form of testing involving a baseline control compared to other single-variable test recipes. For example, the control could be your current home page, and the test recipes could be updated/modified versions.
  • Multivariate testing is a more complex form of site testing in which multiple variables are combined randomly in real time. At its core, MVT is similar to A/B testing, however the number and variation variables and recipes are much greater.

The Value of a Test-and-Learn Approach

All digital marketers want better performance from their websites and campaign assets. Testing is a valuable tool in a digital marketer’s arsenal to achieve this goal.

Imagine a simple A/B test involving two different call-to-action buttons that drive to a registration page. After testing, you find that one of these buttons drives a 15% increase in the number of users that complete registration. Now imagine if you iteratively tested several other elements on the page: buttons, copy, layouts, navigation, etc. Each of these variables could have a further positive impact on your site’s performance.

In reality there are several critical factors to consider when running a test that can be narrowed down into three categories or “Ps” of testing: People, Processes and Platforms.

Keep in mind this test-and-learn approach can save you from some headaches as well. For example, if you aren’t testing an update, you may accidentally pick the call-to-action version that causes a 15% decline in completed registrations!

Before Jumping in, Consider the “3 Ps”; People, Processes, & Platforms

Many digital pundits may have you believe that it is incredibly easy to run a Web test and that you should just jump right into testing. But, in reality there are several critical factors to consider when running a test that can be narrowed down into three categories or “Ps” of testing: People, Processes and Platforms.

People

Imagine that you want to become a painter. You can go out and purchase the most expensive brushes you can possibly find, but you’ve never painted a day in your life! Your first painting likely won’t resemble a Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece. The same goes for Web testing and optimization.

Having the right people on your side is by far the most critical decision you can make. A skilled team of analysts can help you author and validate test plans, implement the testing tool correctly, analyze the test data, recognize trends, and deliver actionable insights to your organization. A good analyst will mean the difference between success and failure.

Processes

You must have a strong Web testing process in place to be successful at testing. There are four critical tasks that should be part of your Web testing efforts: defining your hypothesis, determining what the measures of success are, implementing the tool to capture those measures, and reporting to the hypothesis and measures of success.

Of these four, perhaps the most important task in your testing process is to clearly define your hypothesis. A good hypothesis will clearly define the direction of your test — defining what you want to test, what you expect the results to be, and potentially what the measure will be.

For example, a test idea may be to “test different versions of the home page to see what works best.” The problem is that test idea isn’t very clear. It is tough to tell what is being tested and what the expected outcome is. A good analyst should be able to take that idea and mold it into a more finite test hypothesis such as, “By testing different versions of the home page calls to action, we will see a 5% increase in registrations.” This test hypothesis clearly defines what is being tested, what the hypothesized outcome may be, and sets the table for the rest of the test.

Platform

The last of the 3 Ps is platform. If you don’t have an existing testing tool, how do you choose the right one? The chosen tool must be able to effectively deliver your content but not negatively affect the user experience, and it must also be able to capture the appropriate data so you can measure success. What you will find is that most of the testing tools on the market can measure just about anything with the right analyst in place to implement it. So, make a list of your needs and desired outcomes from testing and use this list to guide your tool selection. (Also, keep in mind that you may have an analytics tool in place already that could be leveraged quickly and easily.)

Take Action Now

Continual improvement of marketing efforts is an ongoing responsibility. If you’re not currently testing and optimizing, you may be missing some big opportunities.

Thirty-five percent of marketers claim lack of budget as their biggest challenge to improving their marketing programs. If this is your concern, now is the time to begin budgeting for optimization efforts as pharma planning season continues.

Small tests that lead to big learnings could be your “big wins” for 2012!

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