How to Thrive in the Era of Optimization

At our recent Digital Marketing Forum, Corte Swearingen, Director of Digital Marketing & Conversion Science, gave a presentation on web optimization; the following post is a recap on his talk.

The Importance of Web Optimization

What is web optimization? The literal definition of web optimization is “The process of isolating a change made to a webpage and either proving or disproving the value of that change.” Although the definition is fairly simple, many people tend to overlook the importance of incorporating these practices into their websites. 

Web optimization allows for a business to set direct goals for its website, and allow for a trial and error method for optimizing the site to achieve these goals. For example, a business might have the goal of increasing its online conversion rate. It’s been proven that small improvements in conversion rate can produce large changes in revenue or lead generation. All of this is possible through web optimization. The main tool utilized for conversion optimization is called A/B testing (or split testing). A/B testing can prove that small changes to a website can lead to great results for your business.

How Website Optimization Works

Website optimization typically occurs in 5 steps and they are as follows:

  1. Find a page you want to improve
  2. Form a test idea for improving the page
  3. Test your idea through experimentation
  4. Measure results and see if your test produces improvement 
  5. Rinse and repeat

Step 1 is all about finding an aspect of your website you want to improve. That could be a banner ad, a call to action button or anything else that you feel is of high importance that you would like to improve upon. 

Step 2 involves taking that aspect of the page you would like to improve upon, and coming up with a hypothesis for improving upon that aspect. An example would be a call to action button. Let’s take a credit union as an example. The current site may have a button that says “apply now” that they would like to improve click traffic on. One hypothesis they may create could be changing “Apply Now” to “Apply in Minutes”.

Step 3 is all about testing the hypothesis versus the original version. For example, take the credit union “apply now” button. The A/B testing team at can expertly testing these hypotheses. When we conduct an A/B test, we direct 50% of the traffic from the original website to a new version of the site with the revised hypothesized version. For example 50% of the traffic for that site would see the original “Apply Now” button while the other 50% would see the new “Apply in Minutes” button. This is an ideal way to test small changes that can make a huge impact. For those wishing to implement more changes at once, we can also conduct a ‘radical redesign’. A radical redesign involves creating a whole new page design to test against the original page. The traffic is still split 50-50 but the second 50% of the visitors would see a completely new page. 

Step 4 compares the results that were collected during step 3. Using tools like Google Analytics, the A/B testing team can use the data obtained to determine how successful the changes were. In terms of our credit union example, we would compare the click through rate on the call to action button “apply now” versus the click through rate on the site showing the alternate call to action, “apply in minutes”. If the hypothesized button receives more traffic than the original button, a permanent change is made to the website.

Step 5 is to ‘rinse and repeat’, which is exactly as it sounds. Follow steps 1 through 4 again on another call to action button or find another change you’re interested in testing – for example, a change in the color of a button or text. 

The repetition of steps 1 through 5 over a long period of time will enable you to continually optimize your site.  Optimizing your site in this way is the logical choice, as every change made to the website is statistically proven to be beneficial, minimizing risk. 

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