Always Be Testing – Interview with Bryan Eisenberg

A few months ago Bryan Eisenberg and John Quarto-vonTivadar released an in-depth guide on testing using Google Website Optimizer called, “Always Be Testing.” I had the opportunity to go through the book and thought that anyone could read it and quickly implement a testing framework using Google’s website optimizer.
I also got the chance to interview co-author Bryan Eisenberg to get his thoughts on motivations on writing the book and the benefits readers can get from it.

[Manoj]: Can you start by providing some insight into your motivations for writing the book: “Always Be Testing

[Bryan]: Google released Website Optimizer a few years ago. It’s evolved and improved greatly in that time, and a lot of people are using it now. But the biggest challenge people face is, “what do I test?” My partner, John Quarto-vonTivadar and I wrote “Always Be Testing” to provide readers with a guide to learning what to test, how to test, and in what order to test.

While many companies are testing, even more companies should be testing who are not currently doing so. Google Website Optimizer represents a painless and cost-effective way to begin testing. Because you can get started in 30 minutes and because it’s free, it cancels out all the usual excuses of time and budget.

In fact it turns those excuses completely around with the challenge “well since it’s simple and costs nothing, why aren’t you testing?” Certainly a forward-looking company has got to figure that their main competitors are testing, and people then begin to see ways to build a culture of testing within their business as well as the economic value of continuous improvement.

[Manoj]: There are numerous organizations who don’t take the time to test their content/landing pages – what does it take to make testing a priority for them?

[Bryan]: Well, for good or ill, the current economic downturn will certainly help focus businesses on the values of doing more with the same (or less) resources. The rising cost of media reach at the same time that traffic numbers are starting to decline is a potent incentive to improve, test, and optimize some more.

And for some people who are looking at all the current layoffs occurring, don’t you think it may cross their mind that “If I can do some testing for free and can improve conversion or company goals, then I look like a star if a decision about layoffs occur and I’m able to show with numbers how I contributed to the top line revenues. “ You can be sure C-level managers understand that argument.

Strange, isn’t it, that a recession is when people finally getting around to getting started testing? Pain can be a motivator, I guess.

Another point, something we’ve seen a lot of this past month: Some clients actively testing are reporting traffic numbers that are flat, even as their conversion rate goes up. Keep that in perspective: in a recession, which after all means a shrinkage of the market, if all your competitors are experiencing lower traffic and lower average sales value but you are reporting flat traffic and flat average sales value, that means you must be gaining market share! In other words, during a recession, being flat on testing might actually mean you’re ahead of the game, compared to your competitors.

[Manoj]: In “Always be Testing” you mention that organizations sometimes forget to understand their customer’s goals (and begin selecting their own goals), how important is understanding your customer’s goals before you start testing?

[Bryan]: Generally speaking, you aren’t going to see large improvements to conversion traffic tests until you start testing for customer goals. There’s only so far you can push your own agenda if it comes at the expense of your customer’s goals.

The reality is that customers completely control their experience online, and at the end of the day if you don’t meet their needs then you aren’t going to be successful. The key to conversion is helping your customers get what they are looking for so that you can get what you are looking for. Testing continuously means you are constantly iterating toward improving conversion – after all if you test and don’t improve then you’d just go back to the original and try a different test – it’s not looking you’re looking to lower your conversion rate! Implicitly, then, testing leads to more customers achieving their goals which will mean more of your own goal being achieved.

[Manoj]: Do you feel Google Website optimizer can handle the majority of an organization’s testing needs whether it’s a small business or a large enterprise?

[Bryan]: Google Website Optimizer is, thankfully, small and robust; but limitations do exist – for example, it doesn’t addresses some of the larger organization’s needs, like segmentation (to mention just one). But the 250+ tests we describe in the book could keep any organization, large or small, busy testing for several years.

Here’s how we look at it: If you’re a small business, then Google Website Optimizer (and, we hope, our book) is right for you.

If you’re a large organization but haven’t achieved a lot of experience testing then Google Website Optimizer and our book is also right for you, because any type of testing is better than doing nothing. But if you’re a large organization and you’ve built a culture of testing with lots of experience doing it, then you almost certainly already have an enterprise-level testing platform installed — in which case, just use it!

The only bad thing you can do testing-wise is not to test.

[Manoj]: What are the most important things that readers will understand after reading “Always Be Testing”

[Bryan]:
  • They’ll gain the confidence to take the first steps, which is always hard.
  • They’ll learn a process for understanding how to test, what to test, and in which order to test, from the market thought leader in testing and optimization.
  • As they improve, they will generate their own testing ideas arising from the unique nature of their business and they will then be able to test and improve the elements of their business that give them a competitive advantage.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>