Being a Website Optimization Strategist, I have had the honor to work with countless companies across the globe and developing, directing optimization teams — From Barclays Bank London, AIG Japan to CNET state side and many others between. In the past, as each engagement began, I always heard the famous question: “Where do we start?” I was always surprised to hear the following answers: “Start with Multivariate testing”, “Start where you are having drop off” or “Start where your conversion rate is low” – Really?
During this time a few friends of mine had been going through medical-school-hell. One, an MD (Medical Doctor) the other DO (Doctor of Osteopathy) and I was curious to learn the difference in their approach to treat/cure the human body. The MD would treat/cure the part of the body that is injured or diseased while the DO treats the patient as a whole.
Ironically enough, I get sick, sick enough that I schedule an appointment to see my physician. I arrive to his office and he asks me to have a seat. He doesn’t say anything and I thought, “What the heck let’s have some fun”, then I add, “Hey Doc, I’m sick where do we start?” Now if he took the approach that I had been familiar with he would have said: “Brion, start with Amoxicillin”, and I would have thought the same thing before: Really?
Still sitting there, my question went right through him and a funny thing happened- He asked me a question, but not one question, many which covered the gamut. “Brion, did anything change in your working environment?”, “Brion, do you have any allergies?”, “Brion, have you ever been operated on, and if so, when?” He told me to sit up, checked my breathing and the questions continued. After the examination ended I realized he had been doing something else kind of funny, maybe not funny in this case moreover, pretty important, he was listening. The Doctor put his hand on my shoulder and said we are done. I said “what?” He replied, “You have a simple throat virus, you should feel fine by Monday” and added “Amoxicillin would have done nothing for you” (wink).
Years have gone by since that doctor visit, I have brought many dotcoms success stories since then, and yes, I still get the question “Brion, where do we start?” But just like Amoxicillin isn’t the cure-all for medical conditions, neither is Multivariate testing for website optimization, or starting off where you have drop off, or where your conversion rates are low. Why is this? Too many variable come into play where starting off in this manner doesn’t always provide the highest increase in revenue. For example, Doctors don’t treat any two patients the same, (and no two websites businesses are the same) even if they have the same disease, due to allergies and medical history- to name a few. The same is true for any given website, you might have high drop off rate and focus on this specific “diseased” part of a site but as a whole it won’t make sense to optimize there first, if it only accounts for 3% of your revenue where other areas of the site account for 50% of your revenue.
So where do you start? Any Website Optimization Strategist should initially absorb as much information about the website business (his patient) as he can. (Few examples to consider) How is money created- Subscriptions, E-commerce, Leads etc. How much is spent on paid search? What % of revenue comes from retention programs? Are affiliate programs in place? Where are the highest volumes of traffic? From here he can slowly starts to formalize and direct the areas that can provide the highest gains initially. And just as there are 2 approaches to the medical profession, the MD and DO, he need to be aware of which approach he will take— and most importantly, if he is listening.
– Brion Hickey