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Thursday, Oct. 28, 2010 at 9:13 am

Testing Page Elements: Move, Remove, or Improve

By Brendan Regan
October 28th, 2010

Today’s post contains something I wish all my posts had: a catchy phrase!

Move, Remove, or Improve

By now, everyone knows they should always be testing, but the real hurdles in optimization are deciding what to test, and in what order.

Yes, you can start randomly testing so-called best practices, like Big, green buttons always convert better, but you may not like it when your target audience behaves contrary to what the marketing gurus have told you. And, you can make an un-prioritized list of things to test, and work through the list top-to-bottom, but the opportunity cost of not testing the high-priority stuff first can be very high.

So, let’s assume you’re following a much smarter conversion rate optimization process: You’ve used your web analytics data to understand where the real problems are on your site, and you understand what the high-priority pages are that need testing the soonest. Great! You’re probably already a leg up on your competition :)

You pick a page that has a high bounce rate, or isn’t driving clicks the way you want it to, or isn’t moving prospects to the next step in your planned scenario. You know it needs to be optimized. Problem: what should be tested, and in what order should consecutive tests be run? Now you’re almost ready for “Move, Remove, or Improve.”

As a next step, list out all the page elements that make up the particular trouble page. You may wish to print the page in black and white and draw boxes around all the various page elements if you struggle to do this on-the-fly. A typical list of page elements might look like:

Headline (H1)

Sub-headline (H2)

Body copy


Point of Action Assurance


Call to Action (primary)

Call to Action (secondary)

Analyze all the page elements in the context of the page, the goals your prospects have, and the goals you have, in order to determine which elements are most likely hurting the performance of the page. This should give you a prioritized short list of a few elements that are high-priority tests, say 1) call to action 2) headline 3) testimonial.

For each page element you’ve decided you want to test, now is the time to think about that element in terms of, you guessed it, Move, Remove, or Improve. If “call to action” is your first test, ask yourself these 3 questions:

1) What would happen if I moved it? Should the call to action be moved higher on the page? Lower? Left-aligned? Centered?

2) What would happen if I removed it? Could you remove the call to action from the page completely? Perhaps later in a series of pages? How would removal alter user behavior?

3) What would happen if I improved it? Can the design be made more palatable? More professional? Can the users’ experience with the element be made more elegant?

Asking these three questions will help guide you as to how you should test high-priority elements on a high-priority page. It should also help you word the hypothesis of your test.

For example, you may decide to test moving the call to action lower on the page, because your answer to question #1 was, “If I moved the call to action lower, the prospect will have read more important sales bullets, and will be more likely to take the action I want.”  Guess what? That’s a great hypothesis to try and prove or disprove!

Once you’ve run your highest-priority test, you can always loop back and test removing it or improving it to see what else you can learn.  Give it a try, and let us know how you fare!

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Comments (32)

  1. I think You’ve used your web analytics data to understand where the real problems are on your site,

  2. I like this. I know I’m guilty of testing things in a completely random manner – following this system should make testing a bit more scientific. Bookmarked for future reference :)

  3. Move, Remove, Improve.. I like it.. However I have definitely found that moving and removing can hurt more than help.. But I guess as you say, that is all the process of testing.. I’ll be following. :D

  4. Very interesting article. Studying heatmaps is also really helpful to improve the layout.

  5. Usually I always try to improve my landing pages, to make my sites easy to use.
    There are a lot of possibilities to do so, but google provide a very good one !
    did you hear about Taguchi tests ?

  6. Moving certain elements to other places certainly helps. I normally make these decisions based on the user behavior on my site. Click maps and heat maps definitely help.

  7. testing page elements…
    and may be you can testing about or maybe you can try to test the power of SEO on your theme :P

  8. I think it’s really important to test one change at a time, so you can tell the real impact it has. If you test more than one at the same time, it’s hard to tell which change generated the different results. That’s science for you.

  9. I like the move, remove, improve part :) . But do not forget that making it simpler, is an improvement as well. Do not only try to make it more beautiful and complex. Simple is good!
    And also do not forget to never change more than one thing at the same time :) .

  10. I know this might sound odd but even though this way of doing the test will definitely help you be a lot more effective in your testing, I am always stranded at the “how do I change the layout”. I don’t have a programmer/designer in my team and I am not really that skilled. Sure I can change the headline etc. but for a test to be valid it will have to be a true A/B test and not just a replace and see what happens. Right?

  11. Looked at doing more structured tests, but the traffic isn’t really high enough to come to any proven conclusions. When you conduct tests, what kind of traffic are you getting?

  12. I am probably guilty of not testing and changing enough. When I do test and change things I usually follow a Move, Improve, then Remove sequence. Meaning I usually try to move my element first. Higher up the page, left or right. Then I will try to change the copy. Only in the end will I try to remove the element.

    I like the idea about removing the call to action and making a series of pages. That gets the reader used to clicking. That is an interesting idea.


  13. This is cool. Something interesting and learnings about “Move, Remove, Improve…”. Taguchi test is a method that is a statistical methods developed by Genichi TaguchiBasically.

  14. @densePIXEL – in our experience working with clients, sites that get less than 20,000 visitors per month struggle a bit with testing because of the long waiting period required to achieve statistical significance on a test. You can check out this free test duration calculator, and this free statistical significance calculator and play around with different traffic levels to see how that affects sample size and length of test.

  15. @Mikael – great question! If it improves your conversion rate for the goal on the page, does it really matter if the win was validated in a true A/B test? :-) Check out myth #2 in this GROK post by Brendan Reagan.

  16. @Matt – excellent points! We agree.

  17. Thanks for the succinct 3 step approach. We’ve just been wrestling with call to action page placement on a complicated CMS site and driving ourselves nuts- this helps the cause- cheers!

  18. Very concise summary of page testing. One thing I’ve run into is the question of how much data do you need to have a viable test. I’m fairly new and quite often my test data is pretty limited. I’m always wonder if any improvement (or otherwise!) is due to changes, or just a few people randomly doing something different.

  19. great post, we are often re-evaluating the pages on our website, especially the homepage. This is usually done in a very unscientific way although in future we are going to concentrate on testing what effects our changes have

  20. heatmaps, landing page works enough for me..
    acquiring a test result may cost some patience if you know what i mean..

    but Move, Remove, or Improve is still an uniqure point of view from where i stand..

  21. @Thermal Mug – Check out this free test duration calculator, and this free statistical significance calculator and play around with different traffic levels to see how that affects sample size and length of test.

  22. Without spending alot of money on diagnostics software most developers are bound to use free programs which are in the end always less than the real deal unfortunately

  23. I think it is a bad idea..
    If you remove your page which is already in ranking… to improve then your site may get into penalty so be care full !!!! :|

  24. Thanks so much for the blog entry. In an effort to enhance optimization/conversion, trying to figure out what’s “wrong” with a page or what can be improved is tantamount to finding syntax errors in a computer program. Both endeavors require attention to detail and much experimentation.

    I’m always too fixated on content when I should be looking at other page components, such as layout, images, etc.

    I truly appreciate your reminder to test … and deciding what to test.

  25. Testing and analyzing are the bottom lines here, am I right? It is really important to try testing something new in order to discover what element must be moved, removed and improved.

  26. I’ve used a few of the various tools on the internet that track the exact clicks of each of your users. I think this is a great starting point. Once you know what people are clicking on, you can decide what you might want to change in order to improve the clicks of other parts of your site. Maybe it’s the order of things, maybe it’s the presentation, or maybe it’s the color or the text used. After you know what you want people to click and compare that to what people are clicking, it’s interesting to tweak the various elements on your site and keep track of what happens.

  27. I found that adding a second call to action button on my home page increased my conversions by 46%, which is pretty awesome if you ask me. :) It is always smart to try and find the best ways in order to convert visitors into customers.

  28. Trying to find out what is the “wrong” and a page or what place can be improved is tantamount to find grammatical mistakes in a computer program. Efforts need to pay attention to detail and a large number of experimental.

  29. I just ran some sort of scan and my blog has no H1 or H2 text. How is that possible?

  30. It’s a good way to do most of things not just SEOS:move,remove,improve

  31. Some comments here contradict what you’re saying….people saying that this can harm SEO instead of help it??

  32. @Steve Redman – The approach described in this blog post is intended to help with conversion rate optimization (CRO) efforts to help improve your conversion rate on your website. It is not a search engine ranking (SEO) technique. Ideally, CRO and SEO work symbiotically on your site. So, if you are engaging in CRO for your website, and you work with a reputable SEO company, we would advise you to discuss the impact certain changes might have on your ranking.

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