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FutureNow Article
Friday, Nov. 21, 2008

Are You Optimizing the Way Homer Simpson Diets?

By Bryan Eisenberg
November 21st, 2008

homer simpson dietIn our time of economic chaos, I hope you find a slice of comfort in the wit and wisdom of Homer Simpson:

    Facts are meaningless. You could use facts to prove anything that’s even remotely true.

And this sage Homerism is hard to beat:

    Oh, so they have Internet on computers now!

The lovable Homer Simpson can be held up as an example to the kids for many things, but probably not Homer on a diet. He isn’t the diet-and-exercise type. His strict regime of beer and donuts and babysitting a nuke reactor day after day does not a healthy lifestyle make.

So what does this have to do with Web site conversion rate optimization?

More than you would think.

Optimizing a Web site or campaign is shockingly similar to dieting and getting fit. Let’s spend a few moments evaluating how your conversion rate diet is going.

Are you having success? Or are you on the Homer Simpson diet? Doh!

Getting Fat and Tipsy on the Data

This is something we are seeing increasingly more of, as analytics tools are now mainstream. Data are flowing from a keg and everyone is taking a mug. Some take several mugs. Many companies are data happy and mistake data for insight or, even worse, for optimization success.

Data can be abused like a keg of Duff beer. To make sure you aren’t doing this, remember those numbers are people, not lifeless data. Learn to get insight into customer behavior, or those data will go straight to your midsection and not contribute fully to your ability to move more visitors to take a conversion action.

Sometimes, these folks don’t take their eyes off the scale, celebrating conversion rate increases that are well within the standard deviation (and thus likely meaningless). They are get depressed about minor losses (again, all within the standard deviation).

Chowing Down Empty Calories

Anthony Garcia, our lead consultant, likes to joke that he never met a donut he didn’t like. I can relate. Thing is they have little nutritional value. Donuts are the poster child for empty-calorie foods. (Sorry, Homer and Anthony, they aren’t one of the four food groups.)

A high-donut diet is similar to living on cheap (sometimes not so cheap) traffic. The high is temporary, and before you know it you need more and more traffic until you can’t survive without it.

The good news is you can work off some of that excess traffic by trimming the fat on your Web site and increasing your conversion rate.

Engaging in Lightweight Lifting

Can you imagine Homer Simpson at the gym? Can you imagine him jogging? He probably couldn’t make it out of the driveway without getting winded. Still, if he did jog halfway around the block or lift a small weight for one or two reps, he would claim an exercising victory. A lot of companies do this, too. They run a test, optimize a single landing page, or even give full-force optimization a try for a month or two. Then they stop, winded and weary.

Usually these companies say they don’t see the value. Well, how could they? Still, some expect a miracle conversion-rate increase with very little work. Or they believe that trying a few things will get them a huge return, and if it doesn’t come right away they give up. What a shame.

Homer on diet would do the same, saying he tried dieting and exercise and got no results. But was Homer ever truly on a diet?

Optimizing and dieting are both simple in principle. Dieting is about taking in fewer calories and burning more. Optimizing is about getting customer insight, applying a change based on that learning, and starting the process over again, like running on a treadmill.

Optimizing and keeping off the donuts take work and a commitment to get results. Is a lack of work or commitment keeping you from getting the results you want?

I’m a big fan of dieting Homer’s way. I love food, and my exercise regimen consists of carrying my MacBook Pro from the desk to the sofa, then back again. Still, I don’t want to optimize Homer Simpson-style. If you want actual results, you shouldn’t either. If you need some additional diet or optimization advice, ask how an OnTarget subscription can help.

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Comments (14)

  1. With the state of the economy ignoring the internet will be a very bad idea. For many companies cutting back on ad dollars it might be time to restructure and get someone spending much of their day doing more online marketing related efforts.

  2. [...] Bryan Eisenberg explains how Homer Simpson’s diet is a lot like conversion optimization. [...]

  3. [...] Brian Eisenberg, autor několika publikací, např. Always be testing, se ptá: Optimalizujete podobně jako Homer Simpson hubne? Optimalizaci konverzí přirovnává k hubnutí a dodává, že bychom k ní neměli přistupovat jako Homer Simpson Mezi řádky: Nezaměřujte se jen na návštěvnost. Optimalizace je dlouhodobý proces. Jen nasadit statistický nástroj a měsíc sledovat výsledky nestačí. [...]

  4. I also love the way Homer diets, but I like his show overall even more :) .

  5. cutting out the excess fat “traffic” can cause tears for a client, because even if u increase conversions through optimisation clients often see traffic as more important

  6. waaay too many metaphors. By the time I got into the meat of the article you hit me with another thing about donuts and dieting, to where the only thing I got from this article is that donuts make you fat.

  7. I guess some people like there information differently than others. The only reason I stayed on the page long enough to finish this article was the Simpson metaphors.

    If you can entertain me and help me in the same piece, we’ll you can bet I’ll appreciate it.

    Good stuff. But for this to work you need to strike success quickly and bring the results to C-Level. Who wouldn’t give up in a quarter today if you’re not making instant returns off of your tweaks. C-Level doesn’t want to hear, “It takes time.”

    That’s the problem with SEO and Conversion vendors – too much, “It takes time.” And not enough, “Here are your low-cost tweaks and the comparable ROI for your SEO? conversion efforts this quarter. Now let’s spend more so we can make you more.”

    Give me a vendor that will return instant results on a tight budget for introductory spend and have the marbles to back that with larger efforts as I increase my spend.

    If you can’t introduce small, affordable victories to earn your keep, then you’re probably not a plausible solution for 99% of business owners.

  8. I had to read this a couple times. Not to take in all the information, but because the image of Homer in his underwear distracted me.

  9. Me too!!

  10. Dedication and consistency, both for optimization and dieting is IT.

  11. Great analogu of how Homer would give up too soon! Took me a while to get into the same wavelength but then loved your approach. Probably true of so many things in life!

  12. Interesting comparison with Homer and web site optimizing :)
    how somebody gets on this idea?

  13. but then loved your approach. Probably true of so many things introductory spend and have the marbles to By the time I got into the meat of the wavelength back that with larger efforts as I increase my spend.article you hit me with another thing about

  14. haha, this is quite a laugh but the similarities are amazing, i especially like the “chowing down on empty calories” paragraph.

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Bryan Eisenberg, founder of FutureNow, is a professional marketing speaker and the co-author of New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling books Call to Action and Waiting For Your Cat to Bark and Always Be Testing. You can friend him on Facebook or Twitter.

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