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Hot landing page optimizers to watch

Hot landing page optimizers to watch Josh Dreller

In the offline world, once the buy is completed and the ads are sent to the publishers, the work is virtually done. In the online world, once the buy begins, the work has just started.

One of the key components of the digital advertising value proposition is optimization. Because most of the impressions run on a user-to-user basis, online marketers can analyze and make changes throughout the flight in order to drive the highest return on investment (ROI). And because they can, they have to. In fact, it's practically unheard of for a digital campaign to not go through any sort of optimization at some point during its lifecycle.

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The mantra of optimization has permeated into all forms of digital marketing. Online display technology allows marketers to rotate through various creative in a placement in order to find the ads with the highest click-through or conversion rates. Email marketers are constantly testing to see which subject lines, delivery times, and frequency influence higher open and click rates. Certainly, search marketers are in constant testing mode at a data granularity that could rival any top analyst firm on Wall Street. There are literally hundreds (if not thousands) of minor tweaks and alterations that can mean the difference between success and failure for an online campaign.

When optimizing a conversion path, the goal is to maximize efficiency at every step of the way between the consumer and the end goal. From user to ad to website to shopping cart, each piece of the puzzle needs to be well-oiled and at its highest performance. For many online campaigns, one of the key steps in this process is the landing page. Advertisers will spend countless hours building strategy, planning, and buying, and then will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on actual media only to direct all of the traffic to a sub-par landing page that can end up sinking the entire ship. When surveyed, digital marketers admit that testing is an important aspect to successful campaigns, but the numbers show that not enough of them are taking appropriate action.

The campaign landing page is extremely valuable real estate. As a vital gateway point in the funnel, the combination of elements such as images, headlines, text, etc., play a crucial role in how a visitor experiences the page. Most experts say that users decide within just seven seconds whether or not they're going to click the back button or continue on with the website. That's not much time to explain your company's value proposition and influence a consumer to take the next desired step. It's important to understand how your landing page design affects that decision. Landing page testing leverages technology to test various design combinations in order to find the best recipe for success. Remember, you've already spent many dollars both online and offline to reach these users and get them to the site. It's important to make the most of that opportunity.

There certainly are landing page testing solutions on the market, everything from free tools to high-end, very complex technology. So why aren't they being utilized more? Lance Loveday, conversion optimization specialist and CEO of Closed Loop Marketing, says, "Most people don't appreciate how far these platforms have come in the past few years. It's now possible for marketers to plan and launch tests with minimal IT involvement. The economics of conversion optimization are extremely compelling: a relatively small one-time expense for a potentially large ongoing benefit."

When considering which vendor to use, it's important to find a good fit for your organization. These platforms are not easily interchangeable and have different capabilities that might or might not be in line with your marketing philosophy. During the consideration stage, be aware of your campaign goals, your IT environment, the type of testing you'd like to try, and your budget. As well, because some of these tools are a challenge to implement into your existing technology stack, make sure you have the technical resources on board if you're going to bring in one of the more complex tools. Bottom line, there are certain platforms you just wouldn't pursue if you don't have some heavy-duty geeks on your side.

Ultimately, it's the advertiser's decision whether or not to engage in landing page testing. With bounce rates hovering in the 30 to 70 percent range, it's not easy always an easy nut to crack. Loveday has seen "game-changing results for many of our clients -- anywhere from 20 percent to 700 percent improvements in conversion." Of course, not every advertiser is going to be able to tap into that level of success with landing page testing, but it would be difficult to find a company that wouldn't be thrilled with even half of that lift to its bottom line.

For more information, here are some companies that are involved with landing page testing platforms:

Google Website Optimizer 
Tag line: Radically increase your conversion rate
Top dog: Eric Schmidt
Founded in: 1998
HQ: Mountain View, Calif.
Product: Google Website Optimizer
Notes: Google Website Optimizer was released in 2006 as a feature of Google AdWords, Google's online advertising platform. It was later spun out as a standalone product and joins other Google products like Google Analytics and Insights for Search as a suite of tools for data-driven marketing.
Homepage quote: Website Optimizer, Google's free website testing and optimization tool, allows you to increase the value of your existing websites and traffic without spending a cent. Using Website Optimizer to test and optimize site content and design, you can quickly and easily increase revenue and ROI whether you're new to marketing or an expert.
Quote: "Google Website Optimizer is a free A/B and multivariate website testing platform. We created Website Optimizer in the spirit of helping website owners dramatically improve their sites scientifically. Too often, we let our web pages be designed by opinion, and not by performance. As a free product, Website Optimizer allows any site owner to access the incredible power of website testing," says Trevor Claiborne, product marketing manager

ION Interactive
Tag line: The best conversion rates start here
Top dog: Justin Talerico, CEO
Founded in: 1998
HQ: Boca Raton, Fla.
Product: LiveBall -- the complete conversion optimization platform
Homepage quote: Improve your campaign conversion rates. And reduce -- by 80 percent -- the effort required to manage your landing pages. Take control of your process and your online marketing ROI. LiveBall is cloud-based software for marketers. And it completely changes the game in pay-per-click, email, display, mobile, and social marketing.
Notes: By enabling marketers to both create content as well as deploy tests, LiveBall allows for total freedom in running and managing conversion optimization programs, while minimizing dependency on IT resources.
Quote: "Agile marketing is all about speed and responsiveness, without sacrificing coordination or quality. LiveBall enables this kind of agility for conversion optimization by streamlining the operational steps to go from test concept to test launch," says Scott Brinker, president and CTO

Tag line: Test everything without changing anything
Top dog: Eric J. Hansen, founder and CEO
Founded in: 2004
HQ: Boston, Mass.
Product: SiteSpect ASP and SiteSpect Enterprise
Homepage quote: With the first and only multivariate testing and targeting technology of its kind, SiteSpect is helping to drive the success of some of the world's leading e-commerce and lead generation sites. That's because only SiteSpect enables you to run non-intrusive A/B tests and multivariate tests to optimize everything on your site, from landing page through checkout, all without having to change your site's underlying code.
Notes: SiteSpect is the world's first and only non-intrusive platform for site optimization. Web marketers and analytics use SiteSpect to perform testing, targeting, and mobile content optimization without involvement from IT. SiteSpect stems from technology developed at Hansen's previous company, Worldmachine Technologies, a system integrations firm.
Quote: "Early on, we looked at many technology approaches, and we settled on one that was non-intrusive -- and which would allow marketers to be unconstrained from IT bottlenecks. It turns out that SiteSpect was the only one focused on being non-intrusive, as all of our competitors utilize page tags which require effort each time you want to optimize a new area of your site. I suppose you could say we just set out to design SiteSpect in the way we thought would operate most efficiently, and that ended up being a competitive advantage that benefits our customers tremendously," Hansen says.

Josh Dreller is VP of media technology and analytics at Fuor Digital.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

As a media technologist fluent in the use of leading industry systems, Josh Dreller stays abreast of cutting edge digital marketing and measurement tools to maximize the effect of digital media on client goals. He has achieved platform certification...

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to leave comments.

Commenter: Raquel Hirsch

2010, August 26

Great article, Josh!

One aspect you did not cover, however, is the importance of developing the right testing strategy and hypotheses-generation. A lot of time and money can be wasted if you get these wrong.

In our experience -- and we are a technology agnostic Conversion Rate Optimization Agency -- success in optimizing conversion rates depends much more on the right strategy and the right hypotheses and much, much less on the technology platform selected.

Here are a few examples: http://www.widerfunnel.com/proof/case-studies

What are your thoughts?

Commenter: Dennis van der Heijden

2010, August 26

Good list but there a number of interesting companies with a focus on medium size business that are also interesting to monitor. For example http://www.reedge.com

Commenter: Anna Talerico

2010, August 26

Josh, I always enjoy your perspective and articles. Of course, I am partial to this one! Thanks for including LiveBall in your review. It's an exciting time for landing page optimization and we love to see the spotlight on it.