If you are a reader of this blog, there is pretty big chance that you are using web analytics data to monitor and track your website. But are you doing a great job of using web analytics data to power your efforts to test and improve your website? My name is Rich Page, and I’m here to reveal the power and benefit of web analytics driven testing!
I used to be a web analyst for many years, including for Disney Online, and I learned many great web analytics tricks, and was always fascinated with using these to test and improve websites. After making the leap into the testing and conversion rate optimization world, I quickly realized just how important web analytics were to effective website testing.
To help give you a great kick start on this, here is an overview of the benefits of web analytics driven website testing and key things to learn. These will help improve your testing efforts and give you much more ROI from your website test results (and make you look like a rockstar!)
Benefits of using web analytics to power and improve your testing efforts
First let’s get started with the benefits of using analytics to drive your testing efforts:
- Web analytics helps you discover, monitor and set targets for your key success metrics (for example shopping cart abandonment rate or signup form completion rate). These will be vital to use and monitor during your tests to understand how well your test efforts are performing.
- Web analytics helps you understand and prioritize what pages need optimizing most on your website, rather than simply guessing what you should test. For example, you shouldn’t be testing pages that have very low traffic or have a low impact on your conversion goals.
- Web analytics helps arm with you information that can improve website decision making, which is often critical to overcome problematic HiPPOs (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion) who often only allow the testing of things they want, or and often incorrectly think they know what is best for your website visitors.
- Ultimately, web analytics provides amazing visitor insights to help create even better test ideas. These web analytics driven test ideas will usually have a greater chance of seeing more significant conversion lifts than random test ideas (based on my experience with clients).
Key things to do with your analytics to help power and improve your testing:
To help give you a kick-start in using your analytics to improve your testing, here are some effective simple things to analyze and look out for:
- Analyze your key conversion funnels. Pages within your checkout flow and sign up process are enormously influential on your conversion rates, and you should analyze them to look for ones that have particularly high exit rates or drop-off rates. In many analytics tools you can even analyze form abandonment to find problematic form fields.
Once you have found offending pages or page elements, run tests to better find variations that improve them and increase conversion rates, for example by focusing them better, repeating benefits and risker reducers, and also removing un-necessary form fields. These conversion funnels can easily be set-up and analyzed in Adobe SiteCatalyst using the ‘Fall-Out Report’ and in Google Analytics as Goals.
- Start higher up the conversion flow funnel. When analyzing your conversion flows, find the top entrance paths to the first page of your conversion flow. For example, if you are trying to optimize your registration flow, you should find out the top pages on your website that most of your visitors arrive from, and optimize those pages too. This will amplify any effects of the improvements you have made to your conversion funnels.
- Review your top entry pages for any pages that have high bounce rates. These are great candidates for testing and optimizing because so many visitors go through them and they have much higher traffic, and therefore will yield you better conversion improvements, quicker. Again, focusing and reducing clutter on these pages will improve bounce rates, along with making sure they help solve your visitor’s major needs on them.
Remember to also check the keywords or sources they are arriving on these pages to see if there are any issues with continuation of messaging, as this can often cause high bounce rates too.
- On pages that you are considering testing, use your visual analytics reports. These will help you understand what visitors are clicking on and their possible intent (and quite often this is different than you may have expected!) This helps you understand and prioritize which page elements may need testing and optimizing the most, rather than guessing and potentially risk wasting time on elements that have low impact on conversions. Google Analytics has newly improved ‘In-Page Analytics’ as their visual report for you to use, or you can use low cost tools like CrazyEgg to do more in depth visual analysis.
- Improve your test plans with analytics insights and data. When creating a test plan for each of your tests, you should always include the web analytics insight you found that led you to think of the test idea. You should also include key success metrics that will be improved (like signup completion rate or average order value), the likely impact on revenue and estimated targets to beat). This will help others in your organization understand your logic for the test, and help with prioritization efforts to get it launched.
- Ensure strong collaboration between web analysts and website testing managers. Doing this will help increase the amount of testing insights being generated and increase the amount of learnings to improve testing process in the future. Therefore you should encourage regular weekly meeting and reviews with these members to review current and proposed tests to try and improve them further. Keeping a project plan with your tests is very important to review in these meetings too. This collaboration will also help to build a testing culture in your organization – key to a long term effective testing program.
Get a better testing tool to make better use of your analytics data!
And lastly, to make your analysis and testing even more powerful, make sure you are using a testing tool that integrates with your web analytics tool. For the best example of this, if you are using Adobe SiteCatalyst, you can easily use your segments in that tool to target your tests in Adobe Test&Target, and this seamless integration allows you to perform detailed test analysis in SiteCatalyst. For a much simpler version of this tool integration, you can now use your Google Analytics segments to segment your tests in their new Content Experiments feature (the old Google Website Optimizer).
To learn more about this subject, you are going to love my new testing and optimization book called ‘Website Optimization: An Hour a Day – particularly if you are a web analyst because it places a lot of emphasis on the importance of web analytics to test and optimize websites better. You can even get the first chapter free!