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Vol. 1 issue #86 Nov 26, 2003 


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Split-Testing Your Way to Increased Website Sales
2003 By Angela Wu


Instead of struggling to get more traffic to your website,
why not make better use of the traffic you already have?

Let's say your conversion rate is normally 0.5%, eg. you
make 1 sale for every 200 unique visitors to your page.
If you could instead convert 1% of visitors to customers,
you've doubled your sales -- with the same amount of

And you can do it by testing your sales page. Split-testing
helps you to figure out what works best for your business.
Essentially, you create multiple versions of your sales
page and send visitors to each page in rotation. Each of
these pages varies by only one small thing -- whether
it's the headline, a graphic, or an ordering link.


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And it doesn't have to be complicated -- many scripts are
available to help you with your testing. One example is
the Scientific Internet Marketing Assistant, free at the
time of writing, and available at
http://www.marketing-strategy.org/ .

Armed with a testing script, your web logs and coded
ordering links (if required), you can easily see which of
your sales pages is converting more visitors into paying
customers. Following are just a few of the many
possibilities open to testing:

1. Money-back guarantee.

These can help to alleviate
   customer concerns about whether they're about to be
   'ripped off'. Test no money-back guarantee against:
     * A basic satisfaction guarantee.
     * A 'no-questions-asked' guarantee.
     * Guarantees of differing time periods, eg. 30 days,
       90 days, 1 year.

   A guarantee may or may not make any significant
   difference to your bottom line, even after factoring
   in refund requests and the small number of people who
   may take advantage of the guarantee to get something
   for free. However, if you're getting a lot of refund
   requests, then there is clearly room for improvement
   for your product or service.

2. Free samples or trials.
   Again, this gives the customer
   an opportunity to try the product first without being
   forced to make an immediate purchase. Try:

     * Giving out small samples - include an order form
       with the sample. Put a limit on how many samples
       may be ordered.

     * Offer a limited sample or trial that provides only
       a fraction of the benefits of the full-featured
       product or service.

     * If you're selling a downloadable product such as
       software, try allowing a time-limited but full-
       featured download with an option to purchase after
       the trial is over.



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3. Eliminate site 'clutter'.
   Businesses often report
   higher conversion rates when they give visitors fewer
   choices. For instance, test:

     * The removal of some -- or even all -- navigational
       links on the sales page (an obvious exception would
       be contact information).

     * The removal of pop-ups or pop-unders... or modify
       their use: a) use delayed pop-ups to appear only
       after the visitor has been on the site for a while;
       b) use timed pop-ups that are displayed only for a
       certain period of time (eg. for special offers);
       c) display a pop-up only after a visitor has left
       without purchasing.

       Keep in mind that if you use pop-ups to generate
       leads, you should factor in how many sales you
       would give up in 'lost opportunity' if you were
       to remove them.

4. Testimonials.
   Many websites display testimonials with
   the idea that visitors are more likely to make a
   purchase if they see there are other happy customers.
   Remove testimonials on one of your test pages, and
   compare it with:

     * Testimonials displayed prominently on the sales
       copy -- for instance, they could be displayed
       singly through the copy, displayed in groups,
       or even placed together in a sidebar.

     * Testimonials placed on a separate page dedicated
       solely for that purpose.

5. Methods of payment
- does your conversion rate improve
   if you offer one choice only, or multiple choices? You
   should certainly take credit cards, but other popular
   choices include cheques or money orders, online cheques,
   and PayPal ( http://www.paypal.com/ ).

6. Headlines.
Headlines are what draw people into reading
   the rest of your copy. Test both your primary headline
   as well as any sub-headlines. As a starting point, the
   Headline Creator Pro software can automatically generate
   dozens of headlines which you can then modify to suit
   your business: http://onlinebusinessbasics.com/hcp/ .

7. Graphics.
   When designing a website, many people tend
   to want to create a "pretty" site -- but a bunch of
   pretty graphics may not do anything for your conversion
   rate, and may even harm it. Try testing no graphics at
   all, to:
     * Smaller, faster-loading graphics.
     * Fewer graphics or higher-quality graphics.
     * Header graphics.
     * A photo of you and/or your staff.
     * A photo of your facilities, products, or displays.
     * Variations of the above, eg. do 'corporate-style'
       photos do better than 'casual, friendly' photos,
       or vs. versa?
     * Representations or symbols, such as credit card
       graphics, book covers, software boxes (even if the
       product is delivered electronically), and so forth.
     * Different color schemes.


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8. Audio or video.
As a test, provide a link for visitors
   who want to hear your audio message (or music, as the
   case may be), or view the video. Even if people don't
   click these links, you may find it helps to build
   trust and thus convert a higher percentage of visitors
   into customers.

9. Long copy vs. short copy.
   Some products will naturally
   require a more detailed description than others. But
   how long is 'too long'? Try extracting only the most
   powerful benefits and test it against the original

10. One page vs. multiple pages.
   You may have heard people
   say, 'If a visitor is truly interested, he'll keep
   reading to the end.' Test it out -- split your sales
   letter into two or more pages, and test it against a
   one-page letter. If you use an upsell, try it on the
   same page vs. on a separate page.

As you set up your test, keep the following in mind:

 * Test only one change at a time. For example, let's say
   you split-test two sales pages. Both Page A and Page B
   should be identical except for one thing. That is, they
   can have different headlines OR one may display a photo
   while the other does not. If Page B were to have -both-
   a different headline and a photo, then there's no way
   of knowing whether it's the headline or the photo that's
   causing the difference in conversion rate.

 * Run the test long enough for you to see a definite trend.
   For instance: in the first couple of weeks, you may not
   notice much of a trend -- sometimes Page A may pull in
   more sales, sometimes Page B does. After a longer period
   of time, though, you may start to see that Page A pulls
   in three sales for every two that Page B makes. You will
   need to send several hundreds, or even thousands, of
   visitors to each page to really see the results.

Even if you were to only run one test, ever, and you found
a sales page that boosted sales by 20%, you could simply
direct all traffic from that point on to the more successful
page. But once you see how simple it is to run a test, you
will probably want to keep experimenting.

Setting up a split-test script takes very little time, and
the rewards can be great. Invest the time now -- and enjoy
the increased sales.


Angela is the editor of Online Business Basics, a practical
guide to marketing a business on a beginner's budget. This
guide offers loads of instantly useable tips and links, in
a down-to-earth style that even marketing "newbies" can
understand! A helpful Online Business Dictionary is included
too... visit
: http://onlinebusinessbasics.com/article.html
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