Should You Test or Target?

Recently I’ve been hearing more and more online buzz about the benefits of delivering targeted content to your visitors. In simple terms this means a customized message based on information you know about the visitor (opposed to a generic message which all visitors see).

A simple example would be adding a message for international visitors that your site ships to their country. Something more complex would be a 20% discount on ink cartridges for customers that purchased a printer in the past year but have not purchased any ink in the past 90 days (and of course the message would include the name of the printer they already purchased).

Serving up targeted content is indeed a valuable tool which I have used for many of our clients (I work for Adobe), though I invite you to take a step back and look at the greater question:

What content on my website will bring me the best results?

Intuitively it makes sense that targeted content will resonate better with visitors, and ultimately get more sales (or leads, etc).

On the other hand, you can simply test changes on your site which will effect everyone in order to try to improve your conversion rates.

Both are valid methods for optimizing your site and in an ideal world your company would be doing both.

In reality though, you have limited resources to improve your online marketing efforts and you’ll need to prioritize how much targeting you’ll do and how much user experience (common content) testing you’ll do.

Based on my personal experience, most websites still have huge room for improvement by simply optimizing the user experience through split testing. I’ve discussed this with a few other conversion rate professionals who agree. Just look at the case studies out there and you’ll see dozens of examples of how making relatively simple changes to your website can increase conversion rates by double digits.

In other words, you should initially focus on improving the common user experience and then test and test and test and then test some more. Only then does it make the most sense to start targeting (and of course test to see what targeted message performs best).

If you’re site sucks, it will still suck with targeted messaging.

I will add though that some targeting opportunities are very low hanging fruit and I would implement them without even testing. For example any traffic that you are sending to your web site and know what they clicked on to get there (search, display, email, etc) make sure the main message on the landing page is the same as the message they clicked on to get there.

I’d love to hear your targeting success and failures (and I’ll even provide feedback if you want).



3 thoughts on “Should You Test or Target?

  1. Great article Ophir, and I couldn’t agree more, love your conclusion! A/B testing is the best way to get up and running.

    That’s one of the reasons I was really excited about the latest announcement by Google Analytics: Content Experiments. It will do a great job in bringing more people to testing, which I believe will get more people into the optimization journey. That’s what they did with Analytics, right? While the tool has some pretty obvious features missing (like multivariate testing), it certainly does make A/B testing easier to reach…

    Here is a summary I wrote on how to use the tool:

    • Hi Daniel,

      Thanks for the comments. Yes I agree that getting split testing into the main Google Analytics tool will help bring it more into the mainstream, though I was really hoping for something more like Visual Website Optimizer or Optimizely :)

  2. Hi Ophir,

    I agree the mainstream testing for split testing can really benefit all testing companies including Adobe and Convert Insights. The “bad site, start improving before targeting” is a very valid one and that is also the path most businesses take.

    Regarding the killing of GWO I have some news to share we launched Convert Experiment last week at and love to invite you to take a look. It is one of the projects we have talked about on our phone call and I am curious to see if you still prefer VWO or Optimizely after you see this :-)


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