10 best practices for making your website effective (no, I’m lying) [Review].

There you’ve done it, you’ve clicked on the article for the click catching title I’ve chosen. And if I had written a checklist on the 10 best practices to make an effective website you would have found yourself in front of a text mostly copied from two or three other sites, with some pretty obvious actions to perform, five minutes less time and a lot of frustration towards me. On the other hand, if you’re clicking because I deliberately stated that I was lying, and you’re aware that these types of articles are often written by people who are into SEO and not a strategy, by all means, read on.

With this example, Peep Laja begins an examination of all the typical behaviours of a marketing team when they want to optimize conversions on their site but don’t know where to start. Hands up who, after receiving an input from the other, has not ‘googled’ “How to increase your contact list”, “How to set up an Account-Based Marketing strategy” or even “What is account-based marketing”?

So do they all … is it possible to change?

The feeling of frustration with the thousands of “How To’s” on the web will always persist if you don’t decide to change your approach to the problem and recognize that the reasons why your site isn’t converting are due to the site itself and not too mysterious exogenous factors, such as lack of look and feel, too small a call to action, etc.

Peep Laja in his talk on Research and testing also debunks a second great myth: copying from competitors is not useful and uses the witty image of the blind leading another blind man. And I have to hand it to you. It’s always useful to keep an eye on what your business opponents are doing, even with some frequency. On the other hand, it’s not useful to copy them, especially in some B2B niches where the feeling is that they don’t know where they want to go either.

So, if we don’t know where to intervene are we doomed to have an unoptimized site? This is where Laja lays out his cards and begins to talk about a method for identifying problems with your site and prioritizing how to schedule small tests, data-validated hypotheses about how to modify aspects of your site to increase what remains the most important data point, on-page conversions.

If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing. (W. Edwards Deming)

The framework proposed by the teacher of the course involves analyzing different ‘angles’ of research to collect the necessary data and identify the various problems that affect your site. Then it is necessary to categorize and decide what the priority is on each issue, translating the problems in turn into experiments (tests): something that is always based on a hypothesis that the data can prove or disprove. Tests must last for at least a full cycle (a week) or at least achieve what Laja calls “statistical significance,” otherwise it’s like relying on pure chance and not data.

Research XL: the framework and the different steps of research

The first step can only be the technical analysis of the site: often we do not realize how often a small error can steal hundreds of page views that could be valuable conversions: speed, tests on different devices and browsers are mandators in this case.

The second step, the one that convinced me the most, is the Heuristic Search, which is the analysis of the key pages of the site according to the criteria of relevance, clarity, motivation and friction.

Only at the third step we get to consider the analytics of the site, which should be set up impeccably even before, to answer questions as simple as useful: how do our audience segments behave, what are their behaviours on the site and why do they leave us? Or, which actions are correlated with the highest number of conversions? Be careful, because the assumption that “if you torture the data enough, it will tell you what you want to hear” always applies.

The fourth step is related to the third and concerns the analysis of user behaviour through tools like Hotjar, which return a heat map of the user’s path within the site.

Then comes the qualitative part, the one that requires a greater effort because it needs a direct comparison with the user, but also one of the most useful because it allows us to listen to the voice of the customer and measure the ‘reality that we have built over time with experience’ with what is the actual perception of our customer.

Laja gives an interesting example talking about one of her clients who was losing a considerable number of transactions just because customers were discouraged by shipping costs.

The last but not least step requires user engagement through user testing.

Once you’ve identified the “99 problems that plague us” where do you start? Here the teacher proposes a further very detailed framework to establish the priorities of intervention, but I refer you directly to the course. Keeping in mind that there are also tests that are not worth doing or rather improvements that we can make right away because it would cost us more to test them than to simply implement them.

A sad surprise

In the end, Peep Laja examines the 12 most common mistakes in making a test

And at that point in the course, I received the dreaded “bang” that everyone ultimately expects. Do you know when the idyllic world of training momentarily loses its lofty position in the Olympus of ideas and plummets to the ground like a hippopotamus who would love to perform Swan Lake? There it is, the so-called, I’d like to but I can’t.

On websites with low traffic, you can’t run valid tests. And for sufficient traffic we don’t mean page views but the actual conversions or purchases that should be made in a year, about 500 according to the teacher. An unattainable goal for those who work in very sectoral business as in B2B. Laja himself says that in these cases it’s better to implement changes without testing them (because a test would last an infinite time without getting the right results). In this case, heuristic research can be a good way.

Take away of the course

It was a pleasantly enlightening course: Laja is a good speaker and a very concrete person: look for some of his videos on Youtube because he deserves it. It feels like watching a TEDx Speech that still leaves you with some concrete ideas on how to change your life from that point on.

Here’s what I think I’m putting into practice from this course:

  • Always follow the steps of research as a path of analysis to identify what quick wins are to improve the user experience
  • Specifically reflect on research heuristics to improve the content I produce following the criteria of relevance, clarity, motivation, and friction
  • Of course, no more reading articles about “10 best practices”

So many nice words…but why are you telling me about this one

This post is the result of a nice training opportunity that happened to me with a bit of luck. On Linkedin, I follow the marketing agency MOCA by Marco Ziero (because they have a nice newsletter, very useful and a way of perceiving marketing that convinces me). From there I saw that some accounts had obtained online certifications from a portal unknown to me. After visiting the site for a few minutes I was already suffering from that strong complex of “I’d like to but I can’t”. To my surprise, without believing it too much, I got a scholarship from CXL Institute, the Academy founded by Peep Laja. It’s a reality that brings together many marketers that I have respected and followed for a long time. There remains the challenge of being able to transform the practical knowledge developed by professionals operating in an Anglo-Saxon context, a little different from ours, and apply it in the Italian context, which has its roots in very different assumptions.

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Copywriter, missed storyteller, almost…

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