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Tuesday, Jul. 7, 2009 at 9:34 pm

“C’mon, Man, Do Some of that Optimization Sh*t”

By Jeff Sexton
July 7th, 2009

hotshots-1With apologies to Anthony Edwards, Tom Cruise and Paramount Pictures, that’s what it feels like (some) clients say after looking at a set of more challenging Website improvement recommendations.

These clients want their conversion rates to improve, but they don’t want to have to change much.  After hearing tales of magical conversion rate lifts from simple tweaks, they look past the hard recommendations and ask that I “do some of that optimization stuff“.

And to be fair, sometimes easy website changes do yield disproportionate conversion rate increases. Sometimes a limiting factor, persuasive gap, or usability flaw can be fixed with something as simple as a new headline, a different color button, a new link, or an added point of action assurance.  One or two small changes and – boom! – you get a huge lift.

Unfortunately, analyzing a Web site will just as likely reveal problems and limiting factors that aren’t so easily changed or tested:

  • Going from offering only one crappy, manufacturer-supplied product photo to offering multiple hi-res photos may not sound that hard, but on a Website with, say, more than 40 SKUS, it can be a bear of a job.
  • Same thing with installing customer review functionality and then going back to your old customers to incentivize their participation by writing reviews for previously purchased items.
  • And same again with the improvement of product description copy.
  • Or replacing an outdated, clunky, shopping cart and checkout with a more user friendly system.
  • And so on.

All of those improvements represent a lot of work for the client’s web team, but they are some of the more powerful improvements any online retailer could make.  Looking past them to tweak easier-to-change elements of the website would be a mistake. There is no web optimization magic FutureNow (or anyone else) can pull that would create an endless supply of easy changes yielding ever larger results.  Sometimes the big wins require big changes.

And that’s exactly what Bryan Eisenberg meant when he said that it’s already time to start preparing for the Christmas shopping season.  If it will take you several months to implement, test, and tweak the larger more-important changes to your site, that puts you finishing around September – which beats the heck out of tearing your hair out because it’s mid-November and you haven’t gone live with whatever big improvement or change you’re hoping will save Christmas for you.

So c’mon, guys, start implementing that web optimization sh*t now, and you won’t have to explain why your Christmas season went down in flames.

Add Your Comments

Comments (16)

  1. A good tactic is to break down the huge projects into phases – with some split-testing built in.

    Do the revamped product shots in just one category at a time and test for an uplift.

    If it looks good then this will help with morale and budget for the next categories.

    If it doesn’t help at all then maybe forget this idea and try something else.

  2. Jeff – oh, how true.
    11th-hour implementations are, sadly, the norm with many clients.

    And expectations of radical improvements in traffic-usability-conversion without testing…

    Then again, that’s what makes this industry so engaging. Always something new to try, record, and duplicate.

    Nice post. And a classic flick if you find an extra 90 minutes…


  3. Heh, it’s funny when clients ask “but can’t we just make the Add-to-Cart button green instead of red, and expect an increase in conversion rate that’ll give us thousands in added revenue?”

    When my answer is “No, you site is sh*te. You should do a complete redesign, I don’t do makeup on pigs”.
    (Yes, I’m sometimes honest like that).

  4. Had a client once who had his navigation bar on the right hand side of the page in the middle – donut! Moved it to a traditional placement and his sales went up ten fold overnight, simple things usually but navigation is key in my view!

  5. Great post Jeff. Another important issue that always almost gets neglected are optimizations to business process and the end-to-end user experience. All of the optimization in the world may not matter if your customer support is lousy, have sub-par products & services, etc. Most often this requires organizational changes and buy-in from stakeholders further up the chain from web teams.

  6. Ed,

    That’s just the thing, isn’t it: if the client’s site really is deeply flawed from a usability or web-conventions standpoint, than seemingly small changes can have huge impact, but if the site is already at least par-for-the-course design and usability wise, the chances of that are much lower.


    No question – nothing is so helpful as a better reality when it comes to customer experience/satisfaction. Luckily, many of the same techniques used to evaluate and plan customer experiences online can carry over offline as well (and vice versa).

    - Jeff

  7. Are you sitting in on my client meetings?

  8. You are right Jeff,Sometimes those little tweaks here and there can work wonders with conversions.I have seen a lot of site with little bit of optimization changed the way visitors use to perceive them before.

  9. Great article. The title alone had me laughing out loud.

    @Søren Sprogø – Wow. That’s honesty for your a**! Lol.

  10. I’ve seen little tweaks here and there make a big difference. Just ordered ‘Waiting for you cat to bark’ – I’m looking forward to reading that!

  11. [...] these efforts show the road to improvement relies on setting the right goals, putting in the time, fixing what needs to be fixed. Yes, it’s definitely more important in the long run to work smarter. But, sometimes [...]

  12. Damn, Jeff, I thought that SEO, Conversion, User Experience stuff was just magic that happened with the snap of a finger. That’s what most clients think. You mean that isn’t the case? :) In all seriousness, good stuff, Jeff.

  13. he he he he :) :) nice post

  14. This is so true. So many clients want a magic bullet that really just does not exist.

  15. I like this post
    it is exactly true.
    In my opinion, all the optimization may not matter if your customer support is terrible.

  16. I loved the blog you! Are always new subjects and interests of leitores.Espero always bringing new material.
    Are de parabens! Success

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Jeff is a Persuasion Architect, Web copywriter, blogger, and instructor of FutureNow's Persuasive Online Copywriting workshop. Follow Jeff Sexton on twitter

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