centerWe are constantly on a quest to conquer the next big thing. Mountain. Ocean. Planet. "Conversion Buster." The next million dollar opportunity.

Not that there's anything fundamentally wrong with that quest.

The challenge is that frequently in that quest we ignore the immediately achievable. And that tradeoff is a crime.

The title of this post comes from a blog post that my friend David Hughes had written in September 2008: What can Digital Marketers learn from Olympic Cyclists? He started that post with this wonderful quote:

Back in the 1980's Jan Carlzon was trying to breathe new life into an ailing Scandinavian Air Services. He was famous for saying "You cannot improve one thing by 1000% but you can improve 1000 little things by 1%".

Aggregation of marginal gains!

Fantastic concept, loved it instantly, captured my heart.

I have mentioned this issue in the past, though never quite as eloquently. Here's my humble tweet from Aug 2008:

aggregration of marginal gains

This post is all about the low hanging fruits. Small and medium sized ideas for finding opportunities that collectively should add up to something remarkable for your website.

This being the recession and what not, please share your own stories of simple every day things you do to find actionable insights for your company. Together we can! : )

So before your go boiling the ocean here are a few things you can and should do today to ensure your company is benefiting from immediately fixable things:

1) Figure out where you are making money, where you ain't.
2) Cover all the bases in your email campaigns.
3) Funnels baby!
4) Stop The "Puking": Fix Your Top Landing / Entry Pages.
5) Identify Paid Search Keyword Opportunities.
6) When In Doubt, Ask Your Customers.
7) Stop Doing "Dumb" Things. (Examples included!)

Batten down the hatches, let's deep dive. . . .

1) Figure out where you are making money, where you ain't.

I have covered this in the past: Pick One, Just One Web Analytics Report, Go!

greatest web analytics report on earth1

Why is it great?

You come to work to: 1) Increase Revenue 2) Reduce Costs 3) Improve Customer Satisfaction (create Brand Evangelists).

This analysis focuses on the first two of those things.

It helps you identify which sources are working well (and hence need more love, resulting in increased revenue.

It will help you identify sources that might be sucking wind, and help you reduce cost.

Possible outcomes?

Focus in your advertising, sales, marketing spend. Identification of valuable sources that might have been below the radar so far (#2 or #10 for me above).

2) Cover all the bases in your email campaigns.

This one comes from David's post.

All of us run email campaigns, most of us professionally (and we live in Russia and sell spicy things!). But have you covered all the simple basic things you should doing to maximize value?

improving email campaigns

He recommends that by fixing five simple things he was able to really crank up the conversion rate for a seminar, by 486%.

[Of course having penned the Four Not Useful KPI Measurement Techniques post I hasten to add that improvement was from 7 to 41. Now before you roll your eyes consider this, would you not kill to have a 20% improvement in your email campaigns?]

Why is it great?

It is achievable.

Each thing he recommends is quite simple. For example fix the Hard Bounce Rate by using email repair software, or Soft Bounce Rate by identifying spam blocks, or Open Rate by testing subject fields (or, my fav, optimizing for the Preview Pane), or creating illusions of personalization for Click Thru Rates, or continuing the "scent" to landing pages to improving conversion.

Small things that add up to a lot.

Possible outcomes?

Email continues to be one of the most lucrative channels for most businesses (even spammers!). Doing things above means you make a better connection with your customers (that itself is worth it) and improve Revenue.

3) Funnels baby!

I rarely talk about funnels (specifically cart/checkout or credit card application or lead submission). That's because I think everyone's doing 'em.

But it turns out I am wrong.

A small fraction of the people use funnels and that's a real shame because you can find actionable things to fix pretty fast.

So if you are Chase and have a multi step credit card application:

chase credit card application

Or you are Burger King and have multiple steps for new franchises:

burger king franchise

Or you are Caterpillar trying to "unload" a whole bunch of Backhoe Loaders:

caterpillar backhoe loader pricing

You need a funnel report in your web analytics tool! Demand / command that you have a funnel created for each structured experience on your site. Ok beg if that is what it takes.

analytics funnel visualization

They look so pretty too don't they?

Why is it great?

For structured experiences funnels can be awesomely actionable. They can identify problems quickly, is 73% abandonment on step one acceptable (seems a bit harsh I think) or how about 75% on step two.

And talk about low hanging fruit. At the end of the day you are dealing with one page. One. Uno. Ek.

You know why that page exists. You know where people come to it from (look at the box on the left). You know where people exit to (look on the right). Not that hard to come up with two or three simple fixes to put in place (or A/B tests to get going with the Google Website Optimizer!).

Possible outcomes?

Most structured experience on sites are money making / saving opportunities. Shopping Carts (or Baskets to my British friends :)). Lead requests. Applications. What not.

clicktracks funnel report You will rarely get this close to having a direct impact on the bottom line.

Initially you'll be ok without segmentation but later you'll learn that segmentation is your BFF. It is hard to do this with Google Analytics (you can apply the filters and profiles magic) but it is pretty easy to do it in a tool like ClickTracks . Do it.

4) Stop The "Puking": Fix Your Top Landing / Entry Pages.

Another eternal favorite of mine when I want to get some quick wins under my belt. It is one of the first things I look at when I analyze any website.

Most web analytics tools have a standard reports that show the Top Landing Pages by Bounce Rate. Go get it.

Here's how it looks in ClickTracks (column: Short Visits):

clicktracks data dissection report

Yahoo! Web Analytics (IndexTools) does not have a standard report but click on Customize Report and in two seconds you have:

yahoo web analytics bounce rate top landing pages

Note what I am doing with the stars: looking for landing pages which really high bounce rates. That's what you'll do on your site, find the pages that are "losers" who can't even earn one click.

[Sidebar: if you look at bounce rates for blogs remember it is not the best metric, unless you segment out new visitors in which case it is still helpful. Read how to analyze bounce rates for more.]

Why is it great?

Like we did before, you are looking at high value individual pages. Lots of traffic, lots of bouncing.

You already know why the page exists (just read it!). And when you look at these pages it is easy to get to the thing you covet the most: Customer Intent!

Check two important things (both available on the same report): External sources referring traffic to this page ("why?"). External keywords referring traffic to this page ("what do they want?").

individual website page analysis

But give you a quick understanding of what the mismatch might be between your intent on the page (sell sexy pants) and what the customer wants (v1agra!).

If you want to go one step deeper go to your internal site search report and look for keywords people in your internal search engine on that page.

So on your sexy pants page people are searching for sexy pants something's wrong with the page.

Possible outcomes?

Increased possibility of conversions / leads / watching videos / whatever the purpose of your main pages are.

And remember these are your "head" pages, small improvements yield high ROI.

5) Identify Paid Search Keyword Opportunities.

Search, organic or paid or both, tends to be a corner stone of the acquisition strategy for many companies. Lots of gains can be gotten from wise investments in search.

search metrics

One beautiful actionable idea for you.

Do a diff between your paid and organic search keywords and look for anomalies.

paid search traffic keywords

Keywords that have a better conversion / time on site / bounce rate / your fav KPI under the Organic bucket when compared to their performance in the Paid search bucket.

Why is it great?

If you find keyword that perform better when they bring Organic Search traffic then investigate the landing pages and see what is better / different about them then the Paid Search landing pages for that traffic.

wrong or right direction 1Compare the organic listing in Google (ok, ok, or in Live or Yahoo! :) with the Paid Search ad. Is there any different (better) about the text and call to action in the Organic listing?

In both cases learn from Organic and fix in Paid. If the Paid performance is truly sucky then rethink PPC for those keywords.

Do the reverse for Paid Search. Look at the above report and see where are places where your PPC campaigns are doing better. Why? What can you learn and implement on the Organic results pages?

Often there are lots of learnings from the Paid campaigns because your landing pages are much simpler and more targeted than your Organic pages. Take the lessons and apply them to the other.

Possible outcomes?

Search is a complex and tough thing to do right. Covering the basics above means that your company will start to be a learning machine where you are not discarding any scraps of information you are collecting on your site.

At the minimum you'll improve conversion rates. With just a little effort you'll also reduce cost of Paid Search.

6) When In Doubt, Ask Your Customers.

How many times have you heard me talk about limitations of ClickStream data?

Far too often.

One more time: You can try to torture your data and guess. But why not ask your customers?

Use the free 4Q site level survey to get this key information:

task completion rates

"Dear Visitor, why are you here and pray tell us all the ways in which we have disappointed you?"

See? No guessing. Fix those things in Orange and you have a leg up on your competition.

The team keeps pouring more love into improving 4Q. Now you can add these two advanced segmentation questions:

survey segmentation questions

More insights into Customer Intent! The nice thing is you can get some offline signals as well ("came from a tv ad", "your radio campaigns were sweet" etc).

4Q's for site level. If you want to improve individual pages then I recommend getting a page level survey to collect tactical can be quickly fixed information. Check out Kampyle and GetSatisfaction , both are wonderful.

Why is it great?

Why rely on your opinions and then fall flat on your face? Why try to argue with a HiPPO and let her decide what's best for your customers?

By getting your customers involved means you magnificently increase the chances that you'll get it right. More often.

Possible outcomes?

You will certainly increase Outcomes (conversions / leads / movie tickets / electric shocks to sub par customers, sorry I meant employees!).

But what is cooler is that you'll focus on the 98% that will never convert and you'll improve their task completion and satisfaction. So more offline conversions. More micro conversions! [See this post: Measure Macro AND Micro Conversions .]

7) Stop Doing "Dumb" Things.

Pardon my french, and please know I use that word with love.

It is hard to believe that in 2009 we still have websites that ask us every time we visit to pick a country (, even if I visit an hour later! How lame is that (!!). Or that have pages that look like this:

content website with no content

That is a page from a major content site where I have covered the navigation elements in blue and the ads in black. 8 ads.

In white is the actual content delivered to me. At 1440 screen resolution!

Astonishing right?

I call it the "selfish lover" strategy. Just think of yourself and what you can get out of it rather than the other person (customer!).

Have you ever loved a selfish lover back?

Why do you think it would work on your website?

If you have Web Analytics: An Hour A Day then on Page 59 you'll find a Heuristic Evaluation checklist. Basic things you should do to make sure your have a good website experience.

If you don't have my book, no worries, let me recommend my friend Dr. Pete Meyers's 25-point Website Usability Checklist. Partial excerpt:

website usability checklist

I think he has done a fantastic job of capturing all the "dumb" things that we should not be doing.

You can download the complete pdf on his site.

Why is it great?

Do you really need me to tell you why? I am not going to insult you.

Except perhaps to say that before you pay thousands of dollars for to a external consultant / agency to "improve" your site, this simple checklist (or mine in the book) will yield huge benefits.

And they are all really simple easy to fix things.

Possible outcomes?

Happy customers. Engaging experience.

And a nice bonus, no one will call you out in their presentation / blog for being a poster child of how not to do website usability. :)

That's it! End of story! Actionability awaits you!

Your turn now.

Please share your own ideas for "aggregation of marginal gains". Is there a report / piece of analysis that always works for you? When you crack open Omniture or WebTrends or Google Analytics for a new site what do you look at first? Have a to die for KPI or Metric? What is one completely flawed assumption I have made in this post?

I would love to hear from you.


Couple other related posts you might find interesting:

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