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Monday, Jun. 29, 2009 at 9:18 am

For Every Optimization, There’s a Pyramid, So Get Started

By Brendan Regan
June 29th, 2009

We at FutureNow sometimes wonder why more companies aren’t busy optimizing their websites and online marketing, or why those who are “on board” with the concept don’t always commit the right amount of resources towards the effort.

I’m not a mind-reader, but I think it’s due in part to an all-or-nothing mentality where nothing short of a full optimization ‘project’ is worth putting effort into.  Most companies are more interested in redesigning their websites all at once instead of incrementally, even though incremental optimization is far less expensive, less risky, and more accountable!

Maybe you heard the expression – how do you eat an elephant, one bite at a time!

Sometimes, we tell our clients to redesign and optimize a small design element of their site; their call to action buttons, for example. And they seem tentative and slow to implement the recommendation.  Why?  Maybe because they think it has to be 100% optimized right away, or that it has to be perfect to be worth taking action on.

A useful model to get past this mode of thinking is to use the Hierarchy of Optimization which we’ve talked about on this blog in the past.  It’s a great mental model to show clients the roadmap of how they should be optimizing, and in what order.

Take a quick look at the hierarchy diagram, and then I’ll apply the model to real-life design elements that most sites should be taking a look at.  Note that the Hierarchy has 5 levels: the Functional, the Accessible, the Usable, the Intuitive, and the Persuasive. While you can apply the 5 levels at a “macro” level on your entire site, you can also apply them at the “micro” level on a single landing page or even small design elements.

Example 1 – Call to Action Buttons

  • Persuasive – Do all the layers of the pyramid work together as a cohesive whole?  Are you actively testing your buttons?  Do all your calls to action pair an imperative verb with an implied benefit?  Do they answer WIIFM?
  • Intuitive – Do your buttons look like buttons?  Do they look “clickable”?  Do they feature 3-d effects, shading, or rich surfaces?
  • Usable – Are your calls to action always located in a consistent position on pages? Do they follow the prospect’s eye path as it travels down the page?  On your forms, do the buttons line up with the “scan line“?
  • Accessible – Is there alt text behind your calls to action?  If you use graphics, do they load and render in all your supported OS/Browser combinations?
  • Functional – Do all your pages even have a primary call to action button?  Are any of them broken?  Is anyone responsible for occasionally testing them?

Example 2 – Testimonials

  • Persuasive – Are your testimonials architected to answer questions and overcome objections through out the prospect’s buying process?  Are your testimonials as ‘real’ as possible, using pictures of the customer?  How about video testimonials?  Are you constantly testing to find the right formula for your business?
  • Intuitive – Do your testimonials follow common design patterns for displaying quotes?  Are relevant testimonials placed on key pages to answer your prospects’ unanswered questions? Do you attribute quotes with name, location, and other relevant information?
  • Usable – Are your testimonials readable?  Are they an appropriate font size and contrast?  Do prospects have to go hunting for them, or are they spread throughout the site?
  • AccessibleIn this case, Accessible and Usable can be thought of as essentially the same layer of the pyramid.  See Usable.
  • Functional – Do you have testimonials?  Are they legitimate?  Do you have permission to attribute the author with at least a first name and last initial?

Besides what I hope are useful questions to ask yourself, the point of all this is to encourage everyone to start today on optimization, take baby steps, and work your way up the Hierarchy.  As the old saying goes: You can’t eat an elephant in just one bite!

Add Your Comments

Comments (33)

  1. Great post. I have observied this “swallowing the elephant whole” phenomenon many times as well. I agree that baby steps are the way to go as you can test each one as you go to ensure your changes are in fact bringing the anticipated results.

  2. Great incite. The problem with eating an elephant one bite at a time is you still have to eat some pretty yucky bits you won’t enjoy. But there are people out there who really like those unsavoury bits.. .so just find them and let them at it.

  3. [...] For Every Optimization, There’s a Pyramid, So Get Started …Conversion Rate Marketing [...]

  4. I am guilty of not enough resources and slow resources.

  5. Great article! I have never implemented a 100% complete optimization of any website, mostly because my websites are so big. The other reason is I like to document and test all changes. By changing one thing at a time, I can detail what changes are working and not working. If you change multiple things and you do not get the affect you were looking for, you don’t know where the problem is? It could be everything you changed, or just a small factor that is causing the hiccup.

  6. Sure, people don’t like the idea of swallowing an elephant whole. Often I find when you talk to people about doing a bit at a time and telling them it might increase the conversion rate a fraction each time, they think it’s a lot of hassle and will take a lot of time. They’d rather stick to what they know and pour more water into their leaky bucket, than try patching it up!

  7. [...] For Every Optimization, There’s a Pyramid, So Get Started | FutureNow’s GrokDotCom / Marketi… [...]

  8. The good news is that if you are reading blogs like this you are already in the top 50% of site owners.

    If you are doing anything at all to optimise your site you are in the top 25%.

    If you are doing A/B split testing properly then you could start to just make random changes and you would still ratchet your conversion rate upwards.

  9. The good news is that if you are reading blogs like this you are already in the top 50% of site owners.

  10. [...] is a great post from  Grokdotcom regarding the hierarchy of optimization when you are building your website. The most important step [...]

  11. Like all good ideas it sounds simple, so it is amazing that so few people follow through with a structured approach like you suggest. Excellent framework, thanks.

  12. Good article.

    I agree on the incremental optimization. It is a bit paradoxal, because one strives for the upper layers, which is the “goal” , what you want to reach with the levels under it.

    Best regards,
    Gianluigi Cuccureddu

  13. [...] Article: “For Every Optimization, There’s a Pyramid, So Get Started” Source: GrokDotCom [...]

  14. [...] For Every Optimization, There’s a Pyramid, So Get Started | FutureNow’s GrokDotCom [...]

  15. Despite my best persuasive efforts, most of my clients go for total redesign or nothing at all. Don’t want to know about incremental optimization – these aren’t mom and pop outfits either. Totally frustrating; I really sometimes wonder why I bother.

  16. it is definitely an informative article
    i can’t agree you more on the incremental optimization.
    what’s more,the example is vivid.

  17. I always wonder about wasting 9 hours a day for marketing or whatever you called it an “Optimization” a website with whether powerful resources or implementation of useless and ridiculous strategies but still i love to play with optimization through different channels by making some ways of my own or cheating with other’s website.

  18. we are always finding information of marketing and optimization because we get a lot of information.

  19. Great blog and nice article on this blog thanks for share this information. This information is helpful for me.

  20. I also want to why more companies aren’t busy optimizing their websites and online marketing. Company needs seo and sem, but they always don’t take care about sem and marketing online.

  21. Great Article. Sometimes I like to just dig in and get things done. Most of my clients like that approach as well. Although you are right, slow process can be much more beneficial. If a website needs a lot of work and answers a lot of these questions negatively. I sometimes will suggest the full optimization at once. But it is all what the client wants. Thanks for sharing!

  22. I’ve been optimizing sites for clients since 2000 and I’m still amazed by how many company owners think it’s voodoo. That you can’t possibly get a good search engine ranking by working at it. Crazy!!

  23. Functional and Aesthetics are so important. I like your pyramid.

  24. Thats for the graphic. I’ve printed it up and stuck it on our wall near our whiteboard. It’s great to reference when were coming up with ideas and making sure we tick all five boxes.

  25. Hey.. could you please share the best site optimization technique for web 2.0 sites..

  26. @gadget news: I’ll have to think about this for awhile, but my initial response is that the optimization techniques we write about on this blog are equally effective for “1.0″ sites and 2.0 sites. The emerging/converging technologies that make a site “2.0″ are like putting new furniture in a house: it’s still a house, and people still live in it the same way. In other words, people still need the same things to make decisions and convert, regardless of the architecture of your site. However, I believe 2.0 sites are better positioned to persuade people to convert due to their ability to leverage “social proof.”

  27. We try to continually update our website and develop the user experience. We started off with a basic open source ecommerce site but are trying to focus on improving the user experience.

    I agree that pulling down a site and radically changing it overnight is very risky indeed!

  28. Yeah…it is very necessary in the search engine optimization to do the work in the pyramid such that everyone wants to get the result.

  29. Thanks for the description! I haven’t been able to get it up and running on my computer. :(

    Perhaps I use Google Reader differently than most? I follow over two dozen of my friends. Theirs is the first list I read through, and I normally read each of their items. Afterwards, I will add comments if I feel like starting or adding to a discussion. If something is particularly interesting, I will share it out myself. The second list I read through is the “Comment View.” I enjoy talking through the articles with my friends. And when I have time I will delve into my own feeds to which I subscribe (which are just a handful: The Guardian (UK), Chicago Breaking News, Zap2it – From Inside the Box). But more likely than not, I will simply hit “Mark all as read” on my own feeds.

  30. Yeah!Google has shortcomings in some sides! But it’s successful!

  31. yes it is very much correct that before staring any project we must have to follow certain steps.In case of optimization of any website. Three steps is required. Like pre optimization and post optimization and complete optimization.

  32. website owners need to do updates on regular and according to their business needs and also according to Google criteria to gain position.

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