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Wednesday, May. 27, 2009 at 6:42 am

Four Steps To Optimization Success

By Brendan Regan
May 27th, 2009

Since OnTarget debuted, we’ve been learning a lot about why certain clients succeed with optimization, and why others succeed “less.”  To use the exercise regimen metaphor we often refer to, many people start exercise programs with goals of losing weight or a better physique, but not everyone sticks with it and achieves their goals.

We thought we’d share some insights so that if you’re thinking about an optimization program, you can avoid the pitfalls and reap the rewards.

There are many, nuances of course, but I’d boil it all down to 4 basic steps.

Step 1 – Get Help

Those who get a personal trainer are more likely to accomplish their fitness goals.  In the world of online marketing, those who get expert help are far more likely to achieve their business goals than those who try to “DIY.”  The help you need is cross-disciplinary: you need expert eyes looking at aesthetics, usability, copywriting, marketing strategy, split testing, personas, pay per click, search engine optimization, and more.  Of course, we’d like to be considered when you go looking for outside help.  But if you don’t hire us, do hire someone!  Even if we don’t get your business, we’ll take solace in knowing that the Web is getting better for customers, little by little.

Step 2 – Get Out of Project Mentality

There is a tendency to think about improving a website, or any marketing, as a one-time project with a beginning and end.  We believe this is the wrong approach to optimization.  You may think you can join a gym for 3 months, lose some weight, then cancel your gym membership and still maintain your improvements.  But only a true lifestyle change can help you accomplish fitness goals.  Same goes for Optimization, also known as Continuous ImprovementThe shift out of project mentality needs to be addressed within your organization (culture), with your vendors, and especially with those who are going to “own” the implementation of your continuous improvements.

Step 3 – Budget For It

Closely related to Step 2, Step 3 is to budget for a process of ongoing optimization.  Since it’s not a project that ever should “end,” it should always be in the budget, right?  We’ve written before about our opinion that in a recession, optimization is the last thing that should be cut from marketing budgets.  If you join a gym and see improvements (you drop a few pounds, keep them off, and feel better in general), why wouldn’t you budget that gym membership for at least the next couple years?  Also keep in mind that “budget” doesn’t just mean a line item in a spreadsheet.  Budgeting your internal resources time is important, too.  OnTarget clients budget 10, 20, or 40 implementation hours for their team per month, for example.

Step 4 – Celebrate the Wins, Learn From the Losses

I’ve already written about celebrating the wins, even if they’re small.  Part of the celebration process is stepping back from the day-to-day process of Optimization and acknowledging that the process as a whole is effective.  And publicizing wins is probably the most effective way to make sure Optimization costs stay in the budget no matter what! As far as losses go, we define a “loss” as a tested optimization change that decreased a KPI.  One of the great things about digital changes is that if they don’t work, un-doing them is pretty quick and painless.  But, too many clients back away from testing, changing, and optimizing because of a loss or two.  Again using the weight loss analogy, weight fluctuates, and just because you gain back a pound that you lost, doesn’t mean you quit exercising.  The key is to learn from the failed change, and inform your next round of optimization.  That way, it just feeds back into your cycle of continuous improvement.

Hope this is helpful, and would like to hear your thoughts in the comments on if you think there are other Steps to Optimization that deserve a future post.

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Comments (24)

  1. The comparison of optimization to a health plan is apt — potentially quick results in the beginning followed up by the down and dirty difficult parts. On a related note, I hate working out.

  2. The most important part of both weightloss AND optimization is to stick to it, even after you’ve met your goals. Just because you’ve finally reached the top of a search term doesn’t mean you’re done. You need to keep with the times.

    Someone I know had his site optimized early in the game, but recently he began to slip. A lot of that had to do with his outdated methods. He was still relying on Metatags and keyword density, when those things had stopped being important factors.

  3. I cannot emphasize strongly enough how important Step # 2 really is in the world of “quick wins” and “low hanging fruit” mentality. It seems most marketers are willing to settle for a strong but short-term impact. Many a business suffered from this approach.

  4. Great gym metaphor, Brendan.

    Don’t forget tip #5:

    You’ll get better results with an experienced coach

  5. As you know Brendan, I am in the OnTarget program with you now and I am looking forward to working with your company. I hope you and I do so well, that my web site would be worth a test case later on. We shall see…

  6. [...] Four Steps To Optimization Success (via – Using a exercise/weight loss analogy they give a plan to optimize your site. [...]

  7. ooh wow, that health plan analogy makes the whole concept really solid in my mind. Takes it from something I knew intuitionally and gives me concrete words to express it, thank you!

  8. Thanks for the reminder, that SEO is not a one time event and patience is the key.

  9. Excellent article and metaphor. As a satisfied Future Now and Brendan Regan client, I would like to suggest a 5th step:
    If you really want to learn from the tests and maximize the benefits of testing, you need to set up a system for recording the test, its results, the lessons learned from the test, and how you can use those results in your site.

    To carry through with the exercise metaphor, when our son was on the running team he kept a log of his times through the season. He wanted to see himself improve.

    Having a record of those experiments and lessons really adds to the ROI of optimization.

  10. Thanks for the great tips;
    As an affiliate marketer myself, those affiliate marketing tips are definitely going to become useful !

  11. Great advice thanks for sharing

  12. I agree…especially with #2. Problem is, clients don’t want to think about having to PAY someone on a potentially infinite basis. That’s the rub.

  13. Great tips!
    The only problem is with celebration. That´s where many people confused and just relaxing and all success is lost.
    Therefore, the celebration should be viewed as one more motivation to continue and improve results.

  14. Great way to combine everyday stuff with optimization and the reasons for it and reasons to follow and carry on! Totally related to exercise, fitness and general health and lets those with less knowledge have a bit more understanding behind the reasons for it. Great stuff.

  15. 4 easy to understand tips – great…

    I love you have celebrating as a “to-do”.

  16. very informative article
    it is really useful
    i also wanna mention that the most important part of both weight loss and optimization is to stick to it, even after you’ve achieved your goals.

  17. The only problem is with ourselves. As long as we are able to fine tune our mentality, nothing is impossible.

    Like what is mention in point 2, just treat it as a normal daily activity and things will go on well.

  18. Thanks Brenden, I followed all four steps and I believe it’s starting to pay off for my business.

  19. How do you know all this stuff? :)

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  21. Totally related to exercise, fitness and general health and lets those with less knowledge have a bit more understanding behind the reasons for it. Great stuff.

  22. It isn’t too hard to optimize a site, but you need to stick with it and keep working hard.

  23. I think planning goes a long way, weeks of planning should be out into any site before you even consider the design. This all achieved then yes getting help is a must, DIY and you could spend months working towards nothing.

    I agree marketing a site online should never end, maybe pause for a bit here and there but should be an ongoing project for years to come. At last but not least, determination, you have to keep going, never give up and you will make it.

  24. I agree that SEO is a long process.

    Besides keywords’ popularity always changes all the time that is why we have to keep optimizing.

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