You don’t know what’s going to work on your website. What copy is going to work. What layout is going to work. What colors are going to work. Is it going to be better to put a product image at the top of the page or the bottom? Should it be on the left or the right side of the page? Should you include a comparison chart of your various products on the page? Where should pricing information go? You don’t know, but you can guess.

What can slow down development and marketing the most is not just putting a good guess out there, waiting for feedback, analyzing data, and iterating on your marketing message. Don’t worry, your customers will tell you what is working and what is not. They may not tell you directly, but you’ll be able to find out. Here’s how:

1.    Read your customer emails and listen to their phone calls. What are they asking for? Most likely, they found your phone number on your web site. The reason they’re calling or emailing is because they can’t find what they need on your site. Make sure that your site answers the questions that customers call or email about.

2.    Use an analytics package to understand how people move through your site. The great thing about this is that analytics software is free (via Google Analytics). This kind of software used to cost over $25,000 a year and now you can get it for free. Best of all it’s easy to start tracking site usage by adding a little code to your existing site.

3.    Track what people click on.
This is like eye-tracking, but cheaper and easier. Software like CrazyEgg lets you easily track in almost real time how people move their cursors over your web site and tracks exactly what they click on. Trust me, you’ll be shocked and amazed at what people click on (and try to click on). You’ll learn more about your site’s pages doing this than almost anything else.

4.    Test, Test, Test. This may sound obvious, but people don’t do this enough. Using click-tracking software you can experiment with different page layouts and different copy and see what people react to and how they react to it. If you want your testing automated for you, use Google Optimizer do run multivariate tests. These tests allow you to enter lots of variations on your headlines, copy, images, etc and Google will run tests for you to figure out what combinations of headlines, copy and images works the best.

The biggest mistake any marketer can make is spending weeks or months refining copy and site organization before launching. Just get the site out there and then test and refine over and over again. You’ll get to the best result much faster than sitting around in a conference room debating what version of the site copy is going to sell the most of your product or service.

Launch → Listen → Refine → Repeat

Noah Parsons
COO
Palo Alto Software

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