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Tim Peter

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March 23, 2012

9+ tips for improving your website's effectiveness (Small Business E-commerce Link Digest – March 23, 2012)

March 23, 2012 | By | No Comments

Improve business performanceWe’ve spent some time this week looking at why you should redesign your website and how much a redesign costs. To finish out the week, here’s a round-up of other design and website improvement links from the Thinks archives as well as other sources. Enjoy!

  1. If you’re not ready to do a full redesign, but still want to improve your customer’s experience, our Web Analytics Fundamentals Series, looked at ways to learn what’s working on your website. We’ve also highlighted quick ways to identify what’s important to fix on your site.
  2. Once you’ve identified the greatest areas of need, you can check out this simple tip to improve your site’s conversion rate and our 6 ways to improve your bounce rate.
  3. Speaking of fixing your bounce rate, long-time FOT Linda Bustos (that’s Friend of Thinks, for you new folks), explains that, in addition to improving your website business, bounce rate can improve your search rankings, too.
  4. Of course, as you make improvements, A/B tests can help ensure you’re getting the greatest benefit. But if you’re new to A/B testing, check out what an A/B test looks like and our ultimate A/B case study roundup for a better understanding of how A/B tests work.
  5. If you’re still not convinced you want to try A/B testing, take a look at why A/B testing is always the right answer.
  6. Next, avoid common but simple mistakes on your site by reviewing our e-commerce errors roundup.
  7. Check out Whitney Wilding’s thoughts at GrokDotCom about determining, tracking and calculating your site goals.
  8. You also might want to review these 4 steps to improving your landing page’s performance.
  9. And, finally, finish your day by looking at 5 common mistakes killing your online marketing.

Whether you choose to redesign your entire site, or just do some “spring cleaning,” I hope these tips set you up for loads of success going forward.


Are you getting enough value out of your small business website? Want to make sure your business makes the most of the local, mobile, social web? thinks helps you understand how to grow your business via the web, every day. Get more than just news. Get understanding. Add thinks to your feed reader today.

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Tim Peter & Associates helps companies from startups to the Fortune 500 use the web to reach more customers, more effectively every day. Take a look and see how we can help you.

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Tim Peter

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February 22, 2011

Do A/B Tests Worry You?

February 22, 2011 | By | 2 Comments

Anyone who’s spent much time around thinks Central knows how passionately I believe A/B testing is always the right answer. Seriously. And while A/B testing might seem scary if you’ve never done it before, it’s not as hard as you might think.

What’s that, you say? You’re not to sure what to test and how to do it? Well, never fear, Big Thinker. The following ideas will help you along the way.

For example, Linda Bustos and Anne Holland’s great 6 tips for e-commerce testing offers amazing lessons on how to test effectively and efficiently on your site.

And while A/B testing has its pitfalls when not done right, you can easily learn from others’ real-world experience. For instance, ProFlowers is one of the best converting sites on the Internet and conducts A/B tests all the time. Just take a look at what a well-executed A/B test looks like to help you along the way.

What if you’re just getting started with A/B testing and don’t know where to begin? In addition to Linda and Anne’s tips, take a look at the thinks method for what to test first.

And, finally, for more ideas, check out our Ultimate A/B Testing Case Study Roundup.

I suppose testing isn’t the right answer if you don’t know how to do it or don’t test the right things. But, thanks to Anne and Linda and ProFlowers, you don’t have to go it alone.



Are you getting enough value out of your small business website? Want to make sure your business makes the most of the local, mobile, social web? thinks helps you understand how to grow your business via the web, every day. Get more than just news. Get understanding. Add thinks to your feed reader today.

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Tim Peter

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September 15, 2010

4 Steps to Improve Your Landing Page's Performance

September 15, 2010 | By | No Comments

Landing pages are the place where it all begins for your customer. Or ends, depending on how well the page performs. Want your pages to do their duty? Then let’s begin, shall we…

We started off earlier this week looking at how to find landing pages worth fixing (as well as demonstrating our most important landing pages by way of example the day before that).

But once you have figured out what pages you’re going to fix, what do you do? Easy. Just follow these 4 steps:

  1. First, find out where your traffic is coming from. I showed you how to find your Top Landing Pages yesterday. Now, in Google Analytics, click on the link for the first page you’re going to work on. Check out the Entrance Sources for the page (other analytics programs offer similar functions). In the example below, most of the traffic (88%!) comes from search:

    Entrance Sources via Google Analytics

  2. If, like the example above, most of your traffic comes from search, check out the Entrance Keywords report. It will show you which terms your customers are using most often to get to this page. If the traffic isn’t coming from search, you’ll need to visit the linking sites driving the highest traffic to see what their link text is. In either case, make a list of the top words customers use to find you. I cannot emphasize that enough. These terms are half the battle.
  3. Work from your list and incorporate those terms into your title, copy and call-to-action. This does not mean “keyword stuff.” The point isn’t to load the page up with the word (remember, you already rank for it or draw traffic because of it); you’re trying to guide the visitor through using their own words.

    For example, if your top term is “affordable office furniture,” be sure your headline is (something like) “Affordable Office Furniture from $99″ and that your call-to-action includes “affordable office furniture” too. “Shop Now” is good. “Shop for Affordable Office Furniture” is better. (Though testing which one works better is always best).

  4. Finally, it’s not enough to get visitors to want to buy. They also have to want to buy from you. So, as you’re improving the page’s relevance using the technique above, you also want to improve your customer’s trust in you. How can you do that? unbouce has a great list of simple techniques that will improve your customer’s trust.

Getting customers to engage with your brand requires getting them to stay on your site. These four tips are the beginning of building that engagement. They’re not fool-proof; bad design, copy or call-to-action can still kill you. But they’re the first step into getting your landing page to work for you.

Did I miss something that’s working for you? Tell us all about it in the comments.



Are you getting enough value out of your small business website? Want to make sure your business makes the most of the local, mobile, social web? thinks helps you understand how to grow your business via the web, every day. Get more than just news. Get understanding. Add thinks to your feed reader today.

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And while you’re at it, don’t forget to follow Tim on Twitter.

Tim Peter

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June 25, 2010

Ultimate A/B testing case study roundup (Small Business E-commerce Link Digest – June 25, 2010)

June 25, 2010 | By | No Comments

It’s no secret here that I believe A/B testing is one of the the best ways to help your customer and quiet Avinash Kaushik’s HIPPOs (see Rule #10) (Full Disclosure: As the head of e-commerce, I can be something of a HIPPO myself in my day job. So, in some ways, I know the dangers even more. It’s easy to think you’re really smart when you’ve been doing something for a while – and really cool when a test a.) proves you wrong and b.) makes you a lot of money).

In fact, I’ve talked before about reasons why A/B testing is always the right answer and examples of what an A/B test looks like. But, I’ve also been collecting a number of other posts that make the case for A/B testing. Check ‘em out:

Whew! That’s a ton of resources for you to use as you plan your own A/B tests. And you should.

Did I leave something out? I’d love to continue to collect these case studies here. If you find a good one, do me a favor and post it in the comments.



Are you getting enough value out of your small business website? Want to make sure your business makes the most of the local, mobile, social web? thinks helps you understand how to grow your business via the web, every day. Get more than just news. Get understanding. Add thinks to your feed reader today.

Or subscribe via email.

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Tim Peter

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March 10, 2010

Fix one thing today: A 5-step process for success.

March 10, 2010 | By | No Comments

How’s business? We’re closing in on the end of the first quarter, so you’re looking at how you’re doing, right? Just imagine looking back on the first quarter and realizing you’re ahead of your goals and set up for success through the rest of the year. That sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

Here’s one way to get there:

  1. Pick one page on your site. Don’t know which page? Find the best candidate with our “Lost Prospects” calculator.
  2. Pick one metric (bounce rate is a really good one) to focus on.
  3. List three things you can do right now to improve that metric. (Perhaps an A/B test on your call-to-action, headlines or benefit statement)?
  4. Do those three things.
  5. Measure your results.

Seriously. That’s it.

It’s way too easy to overcomplicate the process.

So don’t.

To quote Saturday Night Live, “Fix it!”



Are you getting enough value out of your small business website? Want to make sure your business makes the most of the local, mobile, social web? thinks helps you understand how to grow your business via the web, every day. Get more than just news. Get understanding. Add thinks to your feed reader today.

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Tim Peter

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October 16, 2009

Put your data to work (Small Business E-Commerce Link Digest – October 16, 2009)

October 16, 2009 | By | No Comments

Oh, yes, Friends O’ Thinks. It’s Friday here at thinks Central, which means it’s time for our look at the best the ol’ InterTubes have to offer. Lots of good stuff about testing and data from four of our Blogging All-Stars (and one who would be great coming off the bench). So let’s sharpen our pencils and put that data to work.

Happy Friday, Big Thinkers. Stay warm and dry this weekend and we’ll see you next week.



Are you getting enough value out of your small business website? Want to make sure your business makes the most of the local, mobile, social web? thinks helps you understand how to grow your business via the web, every day. Get more than just news. Get understanding. Add thinks to your feed reader today.

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Tim Peter

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July 20, 2009

How to get started with PPC advertising. And why you should.

July 20, 2009 | By | No Comments

Someone asked me the other day how they can ever get started with PPC marketing when, in her words, “I’m already so far behind the curve.”

It’s a fair question and one that challenges many new marketers. And while a good many tutorials exist on the web – not least of which is the great material available from Google’s AdWords Learning Center – here are a couple of quick things that will help you get started:

  1. Choose your keywords. Customers are always starting their search with a question. If you’ve got a good answer to their question, why not see if your ad can help them? Google offers a free keyword tool that’s a decent place to start. Yes, more powerful tools exist (I’m a big fan – and an affiliate – of Wordtracker). But for getting started, Google’s tool is good enough.
  2. Pick your landing page. Once you know what question you want to answer – and what terms your customers will use – figure out where those terms will land. The ads that work the best are those that have a dedicated landing page to keep a strong sense of scent. And, as we’ve seen, nothing works less well than an ad that drops you off on a completely unrelated page.
  3. Write your ad. Better yet, write two ads. Run the two against one another with the same keywords and same landing page and see which gets the most clicks and the most conversions. Once you pick a winner, retire the underperforming ad and start a new challenger against the current champion. This kind of A/B testing can change incremental improvements into big wins.
  4. Determine your bid levels. While bid management is one of the most powerful steps to improve performance for established campaigns, knowing how to bid most effectively requires data, data you’re not going to have when getting started. For now, set a budget you can live with per day and allocate your bids against that budget. For instance, if you make $10 per sale and convert 3% of your visits to sales, you can bid a maximum of $0.30 per click. Of course, you’ll make no profits on those sales, but it will allow you to get a baseline to optimize against. You can also set a daily budget while you’re learning to ensure your learning doesn’t drive you to the poorhouse.
  5. Pick a search engine and start your PPC campaign. Seriously, if your goal is to learn, there’s no better way to learn than to try it out. And when I say, “pick a search engine,” I don’t think I’m kidding anyone. What you really want to do is sign up for a Google AdWords account. Sure, I hear tell other folks use other paid search services. ;) But, seriously, given Google’s 64% – and growing – market share, you’re best off starting with the GOOG. Later, once you’ve found how your campaigns work best, you can move on to trying out Yahoo, MSN, Ask and others. But for now, Google will do.
  6. Track your results. At each step in the process, you’re trying to improve either impressions, clicks or conversions, with each – ideally – driving improved performance for the next. This pyramid offers one way to think about how PPC works:
    impressions-clicks-conversions-thumb.png

    Searches equal the number of Impressions available to you. Impressions (and good ads) lead to Clicks. And Clicks – along with a good offer and a strong landing page – lead to Conversions. While a number of other variables play into how to improve each of these areas (and folks like the Rimm-Kaufman Group can give you much deeper insights into how to do that), the model in this table will certainly get you started on improving your campaigns:

    What do you want to improve?What should you change?
    ImpressionsKeywords or bid
    ClicksAd copy
    ConversionsLanding page

While this only begins to cover everything that you could learn, it ought to be enough to get you started on the road to PPC advertising success. Remember, the only things you’re guaranteed to fail at are those things you never try. The point isn’t to do it perfectly the first time – no one does. It’s to get started and to improve every day.



Are you getting enough value out of your small business website? Want to make sure your business makes the most of the local, mobile, social web? thinks helps you understand how to grow your business via the web, every day. Get more than just news. Get understanding. Add thinks to your feed reader today.

Or subscribe via email.

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Tim Peter

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June 19, 2009

Keep it simple… 5 tips for better sales online (Small Business E-commerce Link Digest – June 19, 2009)

June 19, 2009 | By | No Comments

How savvy are your customers? Are they sophisticated in using the Internet? While I always want to give people the benefit of the doubt, it’s important to remember that most people – no matter how much they use the Internet – don’t spend much time thinking about the Internet.

For a perfect example, take a look at this Google video asking people in Times Square what a browser is:

(Hat tip: The Next Web & Customer Experience Labs)

So, if your customers aren’t that savvy on the web, should you avoid awesome Flash widget-ry and new, improved Web 2.0 crunchy goodness on your site? Well, it depends. You see, that’s not the right question. The right question is: what do your customers need? And if you don’t know, how can you find out? Here’s how:

  1. You can observe a lot just by watching. Yogi Berra said it best. When you watch your customers use your product, service or website, you’ll see things you’d never imagined. Some may shock you. Some may seem silly. But your customer isn’t wrong when they can’t figure out what to do next on your site. Your site is. I once watched a customer use a site repeatedly click on an image that wasn’t clickable. It didn’t show up in analytics, because no tool I know of will track actions that don’t do something. But in just 10 minutes of observing the customer, we were able to improve usability – and the conversion rate we were looking for – dramatically. Tools like UserTesting.com can show you exactly what your customers are doing to help you make things right. (And, yes, I know I talked about them last week, too. It’s that cool a tool).
  2. Keep it simple. Customers come to your site with a problem to solve. Anything that doesn’t help them solve the problem – any distraction, pop-up, extra step, upsell, what-have-you – can stop your customer cold. They don’t need anything that doesn’t contribute to solving their problem. So don’t do that. Earlier this week, B.L. Ochman offered a great example of “keep it simple…” tactics in practice that ought to be required reading. So go read it.
  3. Don’t reinvent the wheel. As Steve Krug writes in “Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability”
    - his legendary book – “Innovate when you know you have a better idea… but take advantage of conventions when you don’t.” I’d add, “and then test to be sure.” There’s a reason the gas pedal is on the right and the brake on the left in every car: because if you switched them, people would die. Look at how others have solved the problem and work from there.
  4. Apply these tips everywhere. You can apply these same lessons to tools like Facebook and Twitter, too. For instance, RADSMARTS looks at the habits of highly effective Tweeters, finding they, too, focus on low friction, high value communication. And, really, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?
  5. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. If improving your customers’ experience is a one-time event, don’t be surprised if your business only has a one-time gain. You’ve got to embed continuous improvement into your company’s DNA. As Bryan Eisenberg recently noted, “Good online marketers come in many sizes and shapes, but all have at least one trait in common: They are never satisfied with their results.” I think you could remove the word “online” – and for that matter, “marketer” – and describe every successful business person I’ve ever known.


Are you getting enough value out of your small business website? Want to make sure your business makes the most of the local, mobile, social web? thinks helps you understand how to grow your business via the web, every day. Get more than just news. Get understanding. Add thinks to your feed reader today.

Or subscribe via email.

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Tim Peter

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June 17, 2009

What does an A/B test look like, anyway?

June 17, 2009 | By | No Comments

You know A/B testing is the right thing to do, right? Do you know what a good A/B test looks like? No? Well, thinks is here to help.

GrokDotCom shares Nielsen data every month, showing the top converting websites. Amazingly, online flower and gift retailer ProFlowers converts a whopping 43% of its visitors to sales. While the nature of its customers – such as husbands who need a last-minute gift when they forgot their anniversary – certainly influences that number, 43% is huge by any standard. Not surprisingly, ProFlowers uses A/B testing regularly. For instance, during the recent Mother’s Day holiday, ProFlowers ran these four separate landing pages against one another:

ab-test-proflowers-thumb.png
(click for a much larger version: 1607 x 457 pixels; about 1MB)

If you look closely, you can see they only changed the middle section – below the header and above the product listings – trying different versions to drive improved conversion. This image calls out what changed:

ab-test-proflowers-marked-up-thumb.png
(click for a much larger version: 1607 x 457 pixels; about 1MB)

So, what did they test?

  • Messages – Two of the four pages (the champion and the first challenger) focus more on savings. Note how prominent the “Free Glass Vase” and “Featured Offer” are in the first two. By contrast, the second pair focus more on ProFlowers’ quality, making the Guarantee message more prominent in each.
  • Layout – Take note of where the “Free Glass Vase” and Guarantee messages appear on the landing pages.

This is very consistent with our list of what to test first and the 6 simple rules of online/offline merchandising, but shows it in a real world context.

Since ProFlowers ran this as a limited-time test, it’s likely you’ll see the winning design more prominent in their future landing pages. At the same time, don’t be surprised if you don’t. ProFlowers didn’t get to a 43% conversion rate by resting on their… laurels. Their most recent promotion is also a test, showing that ProFlowers using a continuous improvement process to further increase conversion. So, here’s the real question: why aren’t you?



Are you getting enough value out of your small business website? Want to make sure your business makes the most of the local, mobile, social web? thinks helps you understand how to grow your business via the web, every day. Get more than just news. Get understanding. Add thinks to your feed reader today.

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Tim Peter

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June 16, 2009

Feeling lucky? Is it the right time to take some risks?

June 16, 2009 | By | No Comments

Managing risk in troubled times courtesy of lumaxart via FlickrAs told by Peter Bernstein in his classic, “Against the Gods”, no less an observer of economics than Adam Smith himself understood that that:
“…[while] risk propelled economic progress….society would suffer when that propensity ran amuck.” So, why – in the midst of this current example of “propensity run amuck” – is BusinessWeek offering a detailed look at companies willing to take risks in a recession? Have they observed something we don’t know?

It sure looks that way.

Despite the obvious challenges this period presents, it also creates opportunities to gain market share and compete in a less crowded marketplace. Money quote:

“…Audi, is boosting its U.S. ad budget by as much as 20% this year as U.S. rivals pull back on ads. “When the clutter is dying down, our message can be very, very visible,” says Johan de Nysschen, executive vice-president at Audi of America.”

While I initially mocked Microsoft’s excessive ad blitz for its new search engine (oh, and here), Microsoft’s Bing – and especially that excessive ad blitz – shows the company is willing to invest in a down economy to try and steal share from a dominant competitor. Does it have Google running scared? Eh. Maybe, maybe not. And I’m not sure you need to worry about Bing one way or the other. But, again, you’ve got to be impressed by their aggressive moves to capture share in a down market.

So how can you take advantage of this buying opportunity? Well, while Nassim Nicholas Taleb might disagree whether such a thing as “risk management” exists, there’s no question you can look for opportunities to limit your downside risk. My favorite way? Testing. If you’re not sure whether something will work, roll it out to a segment of your customers first, then move forward based on the results of the test.

Some – admittedly tired – maxims provide guidance: Buy low, sell high; Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Cliches? Certainly. But how do you think they got to be cliches? Think of it this way: isn’t sitting on the sidelines risking market share to willing competitors putting your eggs in a single basket of a different sort?

What do you think? Is this a time for retrenchment? Is it too risky to make a move? Or have we reached the point where some calculated risks can work to your advantage? Tell us what you think in the comments.



Are you getting enough value out of your small business website? Want to make sure your business makes the most of the local, mobile, social web? thinks helps you understand how to grow your business via the web, every day. Get more than just news. Get understanding. Add thinks to your feed reader today.

Or subscribe via email.

And while you’re at it, don’t forget to follow Tim on Twitter.

Image credit: lumaxart via Flickr using Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic.

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