Summary: Don’t test random ideas on your website. Be strategic to increase your return on investment. This article will teach you how to accelerate your testing strategy by optimizing your single biggest constraint. The benefit to you? Rapidly growing your business based on real data rather than hoping for the best.

This article continues on from What is website and marketing testing and how can it revolutionize your business?.

Now that we know why to test, we really need to know what to test. Unfortunately running a test and getting accurate results does take a some time due to needing enough data. It is important to be strategic about what to test so that you don’t waste time sweating the small stuff. While every business would benefit from prioritizing their tests, this article is especially important for small to medium-sized businesses. This is because the amount of time a test needs to run is related to the amount of traffic passing through the website or participating in the marketing campaign. A website or campaign with less traffic can perform fewer tests so each one needs to count.

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What kinds of things can be tested?

Essentially almost anything on your website or marketing that affects visitor behavior can be tested. For example:

  • Headings and subheadings
  • Paragraph text, product descriptions and links
  • Testimonials, media and social proof
  • Calls to action
  • Images
  • Forms
  • Layout and style of website
  • Pricing
  • Timing of promotions
  • Product selection

You could pick anything to test from the list above and you’d probably discover a winning result on average one in every eight tests. This is certainly better than not testing at all, but with a more strategic approach and a little more preparation you could get this down to a winning result one in every three tests. This is what you can expect if you use an agency to plan and execute your tests. An agency will follow a carefully executed sequence of prioritization to save you time and money.
The structure underpinning your strategy – your sales funnel

The structure underpinning your strategy – your sales funnel

Before we move into the prioritization, I’d like to backtrack a moment and ensure you know what your sales funnel is. Understanding your sales funnel is crucial to prioritizing what to test. If you already know all about sales funnels then you can skip past the explanation.

Your sales funnel is the process that your business uses to capture leads, navigate visitors towards different products and then eventually make sales. It is described as a funnel because there are typically more leads entering the top of the funnel than there are sales of each product. This is because at each step in your sales process some of your visitors are saying yes to your offer and some of your visitors are saying no.

The sales funnel has two main purposes:

  1. To retain communication with as many visitors as possible so that you gain their trust, and
  2. To persuade visitors to purchase goods and services that provide more value to the them and are more profitable for your business

A typical sales funnel will be set-up as a series of offers that progressively increase in value. Value in this case can refer to price, time commitment, or the quantity and/or quality of information being shared between the business and the customer. For example, a common internet sales funnel will look like this:

  1. Advertisement or external link to free content such as a blog post
  2. More or upgraded content if the visitor shares their email address and possibly other information such as their name
  3. An introductory offer to the visitor via product pages or email
  4. Checkout process in which the visitor pays for a product or service
  5. An upgraded offer to the visitor after they have completed the checkout
  6. The delivery of the product or service

Typically, the business will approach the customer with the next step in the sales funnel only once the customer says ‘yes’ to an earlier one. This eases the customer into a trusting relationship with the business, rather than the business triggering a fear response by asking for too much, too soon. Your business will have your own sales funnel and it would be a good idea to identify the key steps in it before continuing further.

The weakest link in the chain: the perfect place to start prioritizing your testing

Now that we have an understanding of what your sales funnel is, we can go back to the topic of prioritization. When improving any process including a sales process, the most significant benefit comes from focusing solely upon the weakest link in the chain. By weakest, that might mean the most expensive in terms of time or money, or the factor that is most likely to have a negative outcome. The reason for this is that if other parts of the process are improved first, that weakest element is still going to dictate the final outcome and is likely to become a limiting factor or a major obstacle to success.
The weakest link in the chain is the perfect place to start prioritizing your testing
As an analogy, imagine a patch of road that always seems to be having roadworks. As soon as one part of the road is fixed, another problem crops up and the roadworks starts again. As a result the road is subject to frequent traffic jams. If the government authority in charge of that road decides to improve the traffic flow by increasing the speed limit or adjusting the traffic light sequences to prioritize the traffic along that road, it still won’t increase the overall traffic flow because the vehicles still have to encounter the roadworks. If instead, the problem causing the ongoing roadworks is fixed, the flow of traffic will be greatly improved and it may turn out that no other improvements are required for this road.

Similarly with a sales funnel, if there is one part of the funnel that is performing poorly compared to the rest of the process then that aspect of the process should be solely focused upon until it is resolved and another constraint becomes the problem. If there are any technical problems preventing a customer from reaching the next stage in the funnel then this should definitely be prioritized at the top of the list.

Identifying your single biggest constraint by identifying the conversion rate at each step of your sales funnel

At each point in the process where an offer is made to a customer or potential customer, there is a conversion rate that can be calculated. The conversion rate is the number of people who said ‘yes’ to the offer, divided by the number of people who received the offer. Understanding this metric for each step in your sales funnel gives you a good understanding of which might be the weakest.

While you can’t necessarily directly compare the conversion rate for two very different aspects of your sales funnel, calculating a separate conversion rate for each offer and ranking them in order of lowest to highest will be a good first pass. If you noticed that the conversion rate of a lead viewing your Facebook ad to clicking your ad was 1%, whereas the conversion rate of your email campaign was 30%, then you would want to prioritize your Facebook ad before putting more effort into the email campaign. This is because if you doubled your Facebook ad conversion rate from 1% to 2% and kept everything else the same, it would have as much impact to your total number of sales as if you kept the same ad conversion rate but doubled the conversion of the email campaign from 30% to 60%. The latter would obviously be much harder to accomplish given the high rate of conversion that would need to be accomplished.

By tracking the conversion rate metrics for each step in your sales funnel as your business grows, you will very quickly discover the normal range for your business and whether a particular metric is low and needs attention. If you have a new business or you have never tracked your conversion rates, you can ask other business owners in your network what their conversion rates are for the same processes so that you can know if you are not reaching suitable targets.

Understand your single biggest constraint from your customers perspective

Is anything stopping your visitors from taking action on the page(s) where your sales conversion takes place?You should only consider what to test once you have decided what is the single biggest constraint in your sales funnel. With this step in your sales funnel, consider from the perspective of your visitors the following questions:

  • What information were they looking for?
  • Is anything stopping them from taking action on the page(s) where this conversion takes place?
  • What were they expecting to see on the page?
  • Where are the visitors coming from?
  • Why might they be not motivated enough to proceed?

Where does this single biggest constraint start and end?

Where does this sales funnel step begin? For example, if your biggest constraint is click through traffic from pay-per-click (PPC) advertising then which single traffic source do you want to prioritize? Can you identify specific advertisements that need to be tested?

Alternatively, if your single biggest constraint is on your own website, for example if your email subscription forms are not converting well, then which specific pages or posts contain your call to action and form? Could you test a change to your email subscription offer on a page that already includes it, or could you add a call to action on a page that does not already have one? Identify your most popular pages using Google Analytics “top landing pages” report and then evaluate the email subscription call to action on those pages. Are these pages are too cluttered or do they have more than one call to action?

Likewise, if your single biggest constraint is your checkout process, e.g. if you have a high cart abandonment rate then you will want to focus your attention on the specific shopping cart page in which the abandonment is occurring. (Note: shopping cart abandonment could also be because your visitors cannot find shipping information on a prior page and so they are adding to their carts in order to find out the shipping rate. If you suspect this is the case, you could test adding shipping information on an earlier page).

As you evaluate which page(s) to focus on, you will realize that your home page may not be the most important area of your site. If you have been using content as a marketing strategy, then your content pages, particularly the pages containing the most popular content, are very likely the primary pages leading to the sales funnel conversion being considered. You could take one of two approaches here:

  1. focus on the most popular, high traffic pages, or
  2. focus on the pages that are not performing well. These are landing pages with high bounce rates and highly ranking pages in the Google Analytics ‘top exit pages’ report. You may be able to get some quick wins under your belt by fixing these pages up.

Where do your testing ideas come from?

Once you have decided upon your single biggest constraint in your conversion process, there are other sources of information that you can use to help construct ideas to test:
Ask people: "Do you have any thoughts on why my visitors are not clicking this call to action on my sales page?"

  1. You can show your website or marketing to strangers and ask for their feedback in relation to that biggest constraint, eg. you could ask “Do you have any thoughts on why my visitors are not clicking this call to action on my sales page?”
  2. You could hire a consultant to perform an audit on your website or marketing in relation to the biggest constraint (essentially ask the consultant the same question as you would ask the stranger, and see if you get more feedback).
  3. You could use heatmap generating software to identify where users are clicking on the page(s) leading to your single biggest constraint conversion
  4. You could use software that records a video clip of users interacting with your website and then watch how those users are behaving when they reach your sales step that is your biggest constraint
  5. You could analyze your Google Analytics data to determine the general flow of visitors to and from a page

OK, I have several ideas of what to test. How do I prioritize them?

At this point you may have more than one hypothesis as to why this step in your sales funnel is the single biggest constraint. You can test all of your ideas, but it helps to prioritize them based on value. Fixing broken things is likely to have the highest return on investment, followed by making changes to pages that have the highest traffic volume and/or the highest advertising cost.

The amount of time it takes to run a test depends upon the amount of traffic that is reaching your conversion point. You will get results faster by focusing upon high-traffic pages because your tests will finish sooner. When you can run more tests you will increase your conversion sooner.

The last aspect to consider when choosing what to test and how to prioritize, is how many changes to test at once. This is highly dependent upon how how much revenue your company makes and how how much traffic you have coming to the pages and advertisements you wish to test.

On the revenue side, it is more expensive to run several small tests, as each test has a setup (evaluation and implementation) cost and a finishing (analysis of the results) cost, and each change on their own may only make a tiny difference to the overall conversion. On the traffic side, the amount of time to complete a test is dependent on the amount of traffic, and so if there is little traffic it will take a long time to run a test.

On the other hand, if you have high levels of revenue and/or traffic then the granularity of a small test enables a very precise understanding of what does and does not work for your business. The drawback to testing a number of changes at once is that some of those changes may be positive and some negative. The overall result is the sum of all those outcomes, but not necessarily the best result possible.

If you have a small to medium-sized business, you may be better off making big, bold changes. You’ll get results quicker and you’re more likely to achieve improvementsThe rule of thumb is that if you have a small to medium-sized business, you may be better off making big, bold changes. You’ll get results quicker and you’re more likely to achieve improvements, even if they are not finely granular. You can always use the additional revenue from your conversion boost to buy more traffic and test smaller changes later. If you have a large business you may already be able to afford to slow down the pace and test changes one at a time.

So to sum up and conclude:

tick There are many things that can be tested on your website and in your marketing, the key to increasing your ROI is to prioritize.
tick Your sales funnel underpins your entire website marketing strategy. Ensure you have a clear idea of each step in your business’s sales funnel before you start to consider where to prioritize your time and money.
tick The biggest bang for your buck is to prioritize the weakest link in your sales funnel chain – I have called this your ‘single biggest constraint’.
tick You can identify your single biggest constraint by working out the conversion rate for each step in your sales funnel. Is there a step that is really not performing as well as you would like, or as well as other businesses in your industry?.
tick Research your single biggest constraint in your sales funnel from the perspective of your customers. What do they expect from this step and are you delivering what they want?.
tick Understand where this single biggest constraint starts and ends so that you can start to focus upon certain pages, certain ads or certain calls to action.
tick Come up with several ideas of things to test because your first idea might not be your best one. There are a number of tools available to help you come up with ideas.
tick Prioritize your testing by what will be most profitable and valuable for your business. Get some quick wins under your belt, and if you’re a smaller company go for some big changes to get the ball rolling!.

Web Data Analytics specialises in growing your conversion rate online. Current and past clients include e-commerce in B2B and B2C industries, lead generation websites and corporates. Petra Manos is experienced in tracking and interpreting website visitor interactions, improving website conversion rate, and attributing online sales to marketing channels. Please call Petra on 0405 123 696 today, email, or visit

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