Split Testing and Return Visitors

Just a quick post about a phenomenon I’ve personally seen happen but don’t recall ever seeing mentioned in split testing articles.

I’ll start by saying that ideally you should always look at the results from any split test by segmenting your visitors.

It’s not enough to know that overall version X did better than version Y. Ideally you should check how the different versions performed for various visitor segments. For example, users from organic search might behave differently than visitors from a referring site or direct traffic.

There is one segment though where merely the fact that you’re doing a split test can have an impact on the results:

New vs. Return visitors

Even if you weren’t doing a split test, you would probably see a difference between the two segments based purely on the fact that return visitors already know something about your product, service or site.

I’m talking about a different phenomenon though. The “something has changed” effect.

For new visitors, your site will be new regardless of which version of a test page they see.

For return visitors who have some level of familiarity with your site, if they see something new or changed on the site, they’ll probably pay more attention to it – merely because it’s different.

For example, if you’re homepage does not currently have any video on it and you test a new version with some video on it, return visitors who get the version with the video might watch the video simply because it’s something new.

Conclusion: Always segment visitors by new and return visitors.

If both groups show the same preference, it’s safe to say that you have a winner. If you’re seeing a large variance between new and return visitors, it might be worth it to let the test run for a while to see if the variance changes over time as more of the return visitors first visited the site after the split test started.

[UPDATE]
I was just thinking that this would be a feature that split testing tools can / should support. Segmenting not only new vs return users, but return users who’s first visit was before the split test started vs return users who’s first visit was after the split test started.

Heck – you should be able to only include visitors who’s first visit was after the test started if you want to. Are you listening optimizely, visual website optimizer, and the rest of the gang?

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Adwords Search Funnel Update

I just noticed a tweet from analyticspros:

Jeff gillis from @googleanalytics announces new updates to adwords search funnels: up to 90 days back, actual query, unique paths #emetrics

This is GREAT news!

Previously search funnels only showed data back 30 days, which is adequate for many sites, but if your conversion event often happens after 30 days (which is often the case with large item purchases and B2B) you weren’t getting the full picture.

I have not see this mentioned anywhere else, so it’s probably hot off the “press” at eMetrics.

Update [Oct 6]: I just noticed that the official adwords blog has this update

– Ophir

Selling Web Analytics

How to Sell Web Analytics

While I was at the Google Analytics Certified Partner summit this year, someone came up to me and asked:

How do you sell web analytics?

This is a question I deal with quite often, both internally within the agency I work for and when trying to convey the value of web analytics to clients.

The short answer is that you shouldn’t be trying to sell web analytics.

Web analytics is a tool, a means to an ends.

It has no inherent value by itself. It’s only through the analysis of data and providing actionable insights that it creates value.

You should be selling the value that can be gained by a proper web analytics implementation and actionable analysis.

Marketing people talk about selling the benefits, not the features.

Web analytics is a feature.
Improving the bottom line is a benefit.

A simple analogy is HTML (the code used to create web pages).
Imagine if you tried to pitch HTML services to a business. They would probably be scratching their heads as to why they need your services.

Now imagine pitching web site creation services, providing real world examples on how businesses have improved their bottom live with their web site.
Now they’re listening.

When selling services that include web analytics, try starting with the end result and then work your way backwards. If you start with the prize, people will usually pay more attention.

Here’s an example:

  1. I can help you make an additional $80,000 a year
  2. It will cost you a one time investment of $25,000 investment and $1,000 a month
  3. You’re currently doing 3,000 sales a year
  4. I will get you 400 additional sales a year (average sale value is $200)
  5. The additional sales will come from improving your overall conversion rate by 13.3%
  6. Improving the overall conversion rate will coming from decreasing bounce rates, increasing “add to cart” rates and decreasing cart abandonment.
  7. The above improvements will come from making changes on the web site
  8. We’ll test a few options until we find something that works (split testing)
  9. We’ll know what changes to test based on data that tells us what people are doing on your web site
  10. In order to get the data that we need, we have to install web analytics on the site and then analyze the data

The problem is that many web analytics businesses start their pitch with step 10 and then work their way to step 1.

When people ask me what I do for a living, the answers have changed over the years, but now I usually answer along the lines of:

I help web sites do better at whatever they’re try to do.
Specifically, I learn the business objectives and then do some detective work, finding issues that can be improved and then I improve them.

As always, comments and suggestions are appreciated.

Ophir

Beyond the Page View

I started using web analytics software back in 1996, before it was even called web analytics. At the time we were measuring mostly “hits” and page views.

This is before JavaScript includes became the defacto standard in web tracking. Way before web 2.0. Before JavaScript support was a given. Before Ajax. Before embedded audio and video.

Basically, every web page was a more or less a static page with no on-page interaction.

Now, almost 15 years later, the web is a different place. The “lets measure page views” model for tracking and measuring online activity crumbled a long time ago.

Today a single web page can be a totally interactive experience in itself. We have flash, dynamic HTML with JavaScript, Ajax, embedded videos, etc.

A few years ago Google Analytics added event tracking in order to address the shortcoming of trying to measure everything as a page view.

While this is better than nothing, the problem is that it’s too generic to label everything other than a page view as an event.

Every type of user interaction has it’s own characteristics, and should be measured accordingly.

For example: Forms.
Forms are an entire world in terms of tracking user interaction: Was the form submission successful? What fields were filled out? How long did the user spend on each field? etc.

http://www.ClickTale.com actually does a great job of measuring all of this, but my point is:

We need a new standard dictionary for what elements we can measure and what attributes each element has.

eCommerce transactions are already standard in all web analytics solutions. Most of the higher end analytics solutions are already addressing the overall  issue by adding dedicated event types for video views, downloads, or outbound links.

I’d like to see dedicated events for things like clicks, scrolls, even a “still on the page” event (this is for more accurate time on page measurement)

There will always be always be room for a generic type of event, but in order to reach the next generation of web analytics adoption, we (the industry) really need to expand our horizons beyond page views and events.

Is Above The Fold Still Important?

A couple of weeks ago user experience guru Jacob Neilson wrote an article about user attention above and below the fold.

In a nutshell he says:

… users will scroll below the fold only if the information above it makes them believe the rest of the page will be valuable.

I totally agree.

On the other hand, a few people have pointed out to me a recent article by CX partners in the UK that states the fold isn’t very important anymore. They say:

We see that people are more than comfortable scrolling long, long pages to find what they are looking for. A quick snoop around the web will show you successful brands that are not worrying about the fold either.

I was thinking about the two articles which seem to be contradictory. After digesting all of the data, I have to say that both parties are right – they are just missing a crucial piece of information – the context in which the visitor is viewing the page.

If I’m on Amazon.com viewing a list of products, of course I’ll scroll because I know the information I want is below the fold.

If I just clicked on an ad and have landed on a site or page that I have never viewed before, my first internal question is “am I in the right place” and only after my internal dialog says yes, will I think “do I need to scroll to find what I am looking for”.

In the second scenario, it’s crucial to have above the fold all of the information the visitor needs in order to know they are in the right place.

So, in summary, if we combine the two opinions and add the missing ingredient – context, we get this (my version):

People are more than comfortable scrolling long pages only if the information above the fold, or their existing knowledge, makes them believe the rest of the page has what they are looking for or will be valuable.

On a side note, the CX partners article does indeed address the issue of bad design leading to a user not scrolling due to them not realizing there is more information below the fold, but that’s a different scenario.