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For this week’s interview, I had the pleasure of speaking with Tim Ash the CEO of SiteTuners.com, a landing page optimization firm that offers conversion consulting, full-service guaranteed-improvement tests, and software tools to improve conversion rates.
Tim is a highly-regarded presenter on topics related to analytics. He is also the chairperson of Conversion Conference, the first conference focused on improving online conversions. A columnist for several publications including ClickZ, he’s host of the weekly Landing Page Optimization show and podcast on WebmasterRadio.fm. He also is the author of the book Landing Page Optimization.
Elise Redlin-Cook: What is the most common mistake you see on landing pages?
Tim Ash: One of the most common problems is visual clutter. Landing pages are dresses up with large graphics, Flash animations, and pictures of people. Usually these page elements have nothing to do with the conversion goal on the page. Visual design needs to be very restrained and minimalist in order to subtly focus the eye on the right parts of the page. It should not be a crowded bazaar with everything competing for your attention. In other words, everything can’t be equally important. It is your job as a marketer to help me prioritize.
Elise: Can you name a couple of tools you use most often to help clients improve their conversions?
Tim:Our newly released AttentionWizard.com software is a landing page visual attention prediction tool. It predicts where someone will look during the first few seconds of their visit and produces a simulated "heatmap" of attention (similar to eye tracking studies but without the huge expense). It produces instant results, and can be used with screen shots of landing pages or even mock-ups of in-progress designs for new pages. This allows you to quickly identify "attention leaks" on your page that distract from your call to action, and to improve your conversion rate. You can get Lite heatmaps daily if you sign up for a free account.
Another great tool is ClickTale.com. It provides very actionable web analytics that help you diagnose conversion issues. You can record user sessions on your site, see which form fields people having trouble with on your online forms, and create mouse-movement "heatmaps" of people’s interactions with your page.
Elise: Have you found more success doing a/b testing or multi variant testing?
Tim: If you have low traffic to a landing page, you can’t do any testing at all in a reasonable time frame, so your only choice is to do a best-practices scrub of your page (via expert consulting like our Express Review service). If you have at least ten conversion actions per day, you can at least do a/b split testing. If you have over fifty conversions per day you can consider some multivariate testing. But even if you have a lot of traffic, multivariate is not inherently a better way to go. We often start with a "radical split test" to create very different versions of a landing page. Often the split test produces the big conversion improvement because it is competing against a bad page, and because we address all known problems in our alternative designs. The messaging of the resulting winning page is then fine tuned through multivariate testing. This allows us to get the right headlines, copy, and calls to action for the intended audience.
Elise: Searcher intent is a critical component of choosing keywords. Do you have any tips to help facilitate finding the highest converting keywords based on searcher intent?
Tim: Keeping your promises is very important. It is not so much about having the right keywords, but rather about making a seamless experience from the keyword, to the search result, and through to the landing page. If I am typing in "best digital camera", I expect a landing page that has comparative information about different models and am in the research stage of the process. So do not try to sell me something and tell me you have the lowest price and free shipping. I have not chosen the product yet, so I don’t care about those things. If my search involves a product model name, then I am further in the buying process and may care about those things. So you basically have to properly manage my expectations and put yourself in my frame of mind to determine the appropriate content for the landing page.
Tim: There were already books on web usability, copy writing, visual design, testing, statistics and so on. But nothing pulled information together to give a comprehensive overview of conversion improvement and testing. My book was meant to address this. The book has done really well, and I am currently working on a second edition with co-authors Rich Page and Maura Ginty. It should be out early next year and will include over 150 pages of new content and significant reworking of the existing material.
Elise: Do you have any exciting projects that your involved in right now that you’d like to let us in on?
Tim: Since I have a lot of spare time, I decided to start a new conference series. ConversionConference.com is the first event dedicated to all aspects of conversion. It will be held in parallel with the established eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit in San Jose on May 4-5, 2010. The show features two full days of sessions and three dynamic keynotes by Bryan Eisenberg, Jakob Nielsen, and me. If you are serious about conversion, you really should be there. The next event is in Washington DC this October, and international versions are also planned starting with a show in Hamburg Germany this fall.
Elise: Wow, that sounds like a really interesting project! I know that you do a great deal of business traveling in general. In all of the places you’ve been, where would you most like to live?
Tim: My home base is San Diego. I came out there to attend University of California, San Diego on a full scholarship, and never left. It is a very livable large city with an amazing Mediterranean year-round climate. I can walk to the beach from my house. I also really like London, and cities in Canada like Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal – but only in the summertime… I love Mexico and all parts of the Caribbean as well.
Elise: So, Tim…Are you driven by any great passions outside of the business arena?
Tim: I studied a martial art called Tai Chi Chuan for several years, and am certified to teach the slow-motion movement "form" by a master in the popular Wu Style Tai Chi lineage. Once my kids get a little older I plan to get back into teaching. I have also been involved in black and white figure photography for a long time, and really enjoy that. But my real passion is my wife and two amazing kids.
Elise: Wow, those are some really unique hobbies. I myself, am a lover of photography and wish I had more time to spend behind the lens.Thanks so much for sharing!
Tags: analytics, Expert Interviews, search, Tim Ash, website conversions
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