During my time in the military I spent a few years as an M1 Abrams tank crewman. As you can imagine, there were very few things I learned while playing with tanks that I could directly translate to life outside of the military. Surprisingly, one of the things that thing did translate was setting up a defensive position.
I'm pretty sure you're not interested in a deep dive explanation of what goes into setting up a tank defensive position so I'll skip the preamble and jump straight to the point. (You're welcome…)
One of the last things we did when setting up these defensive positions was have someone drive out a certain distance and look back at our position from where the enemy would be during the next engagement.
From that vantage point, they could see if there were problems we missed that would give our position away. The logic here is pretty simple. Our opinion of how well we hid our vehicles didn't matter. What did matter was what the enemy could see and how well they thought we had hidden our vehicles.
In a slightly convoluted way, that same thought process holds when you make choices about your online marketing.
Test, Test, Test. Otherwise You're Just Guessing.
What's more important, pretty or effective.
When it comes to websites, there are generally two types of people: Marketers and Designers. As you can imagine, they have two very different ways of looking at website design. Marketers focus primarily on a website's purpose while designers build sites that skew toward the artistic side of things. What works best for your specific site depends mostly on what it is you want your site to accomplish.
When I build websites, I do it with a marketer's mentality. Websites obviously need to look aesthetically pleasing, but I tend to avoid features that look pretty but get in the way of conversion.
Normally, after we get passed the initial guidance my clients let me build the site they need. Sometimes new website owners see something cool online and want to include it on their site.
Ultimately, it's their site so if they gotta have it, they gotta have it. I just ask them to consider whether this feature they want to add will get in the way of the website doing its job.
Online Marketing. The Continuous Process.
The bottom line in all of this is that, in marketing, the opinion that matters isn't yours. It's your prospects. So the most important thing you can do is spend your time trying to find out what their opinion is. If your website isn't producing the results you expected, it may be that some of the assumptions you have about what your prospects would prefer to see are a little off.
The most important word in your marketing vocabulary is test. Think of your marketing as a series of “try it and see” engagements. Test to see whether your audience responds to what you're doing. If they do, then do that some more. If they don't, have the flexibility to try something else.
One of the most common ways to check the performance of a website is with A/B or split testing.
What is A/B Testing?
In The Complete Guide to A/B Testing, the folks at Visual Website Optimizer describe Split Testing as comparing two versions of a web page to see which one performs better.
The Complete Guide lists quite a number of variables that can be tested including Headlines, Paragraph Text, Testimonials, Call to Action text, Call to Action Buttons, Links, Images, Social proof, Awards and Badges.
The list can be quite extensive, which is why you should look at optimizing your website for conversion as a series of experiments rather than a task to be checked off your marketing checklist.
If you are interested in exploring A/B testing, you're in luck. There are a lot of resources online from which to choose. In addition to premium options like Visual Website Optimizer, there are free tools as well. Google Optimize is one of the more popular free tools due to its integration with Google Analytics.
Whether you choose the free route or a paid solution, let your website visitors tell you what they prefer. In the long run that's a much better choice than making adjustments to your marketing based on a hunch or your best guess. Remember, when it comes to marketing… your opinion isn't the opinion that matters.