SEO Services For Serious ROI. Blog Posts For Serious SEOs.

3 WordPress Themes Marketing Managers Will Love

Marketing managers looking for highly effective WordPress themes to promote their business’ website can start with the themes below

1. UDesign Theme:

UDesign is among the most user-friendly templates WordPress offers. (more…)

How To Win By Copycatting

It’s a well known fact that many copycats succeed online, but sometimes it’s a risky path to follow. I’d like to share an example or two with you today, and perhaps help you do a better job copy, err, I mean taking inspiration from others. (more…)

Facebook Political Ads – Facebook’s Dumb Ad Blocking Algo

It’s election season here in Israel, and many politicians whose views I oppose are showing me Facebook ads.


Optin Skin Plugin Review

OptinSkin aka Optin Skin logoI just implemented Optin Skin from ViperChill to improve over my previously dismal sidebar optin form, so here’s a OptinSkin review if you’re considering getting it.

What is it? Optin Skin gives you some optin form templates (aka skins) and helps you split test them.

You can customize the skins with your choice of colors, text, font and a couple of other features. One that is interesting, but I’ve yet to try, is the fade-in option which will fade in the form when the visitor gets to the location on the page (ex.: end of post) where it’s meant to appear.

I bought the plugin a while ago but didn’t immediately implement as I wanted to try the form I had originally designed for my sidebar as part of my new theme. In sum, that form performed dismally, so I’m now trying Optin Skin.

Pros of OptinSkin (more…)

Ongoing Case Study: The Advanced SEO Book Put To The Test

Someone told me recently he’s skeptical about the value provided by The Advanced SEO Book. Notwithstanding the fact that it’s had great reviews and gotten me positive feedback from SEOs at serious online companies like Salesforce, I’ve decided to eat my own dog food and implement the tactics and prove their worth.

At least once a week, I’m going to write about what I’m doing to build the site, generate revenue and how it implements my book’s advice.

Here’s a quick preview of the game plan: (more…)

These Marketers Answered 3 Questions That Are Holding Back Your Conversion Rate

Answering prospects’ questions is key to selling them, and sometimes it’s frustrating to try and guess people’s questions/objections from scratch. I noticed the following great examples of marketers answering questions at exactly the right time – the point of action – and thought others would benefit from learning these objections and answers.

This post isn’t only for CRO professionals though – Google’s Panda update looks at whether consumers would trust your site with their credit card.


“Is Your Site Defensible?”- The 10 Point Quiz Updated For 2012

Andy Hagans used to run, and I’ve reposted his popular quiz as to whether your site was defensible and updated it for 2012.

My updates and comments are in square brackets [ ].
Jerusalem old city walls


How To Mashup Your Data And Mutate Joe Blow Campaigns Into X-Men Campaigns: New SEO/Email/CRO Tactic

SEOs building email lists (and email retargeting subscribers) just got huge help in the form of data mashup artists Rapleaf and Rapportive, two tools for gaining data on your email contacts. The impact will mutate weak little campaigns into car-throwing raging hulks.

The Incredible Hulk (more…)

The Multi-Armed Bandit Of CRO Doesn’t Grab Higher Conversion Rates – It Grabs Lower Conversion Rates

Multi armed bandit
Steve Hanov recently suggested a thought-provoking idea: applying multi-armed bandit algorithms to A/B testing, and Visual Website Optimizer (VWO) did an interesting and accessible-to-non-statisticians statistical analysis and explanation of Steve’s method, to evaluate the accuracy of his claims. While I loved their analysis, VWO’s conclusion is a howler! (more…)

Online Marketing Copy: Answer Questions Before They’re Asked (PICs)

In my Friday Pics posts, I share examples of online marketing done well or poorly. This post is dedicated to pre-empting questions with your benefits copy.

Answer questions before they’re asked: (more…)

Your B2B Live Chat Lander Sounds Scratchy. Make Her Sing Like A Canary!

Passive or intrusive B2B Live Chat is sub-optimal – B2B Live Chat needs to actively and politely engage the prospect to understand their needs.

In B2B, your sales cycle is commonly longer and more education is required than with B2C products. For low-ticket B2C, the passive implementation of live chat described below is probably preferable (split test it) from both a costs-perspective and a “get out of their way and let ‘em shop” perspective. (more…)

Jim Bought The DevShed (SEOChat etc)! Holy Cow!

Since I started in SEO 6+ years ago, one forum always ranked for SEO – SEO Chat, a part of the Developer Shed network. Jim Boykin, he of the Internet Marketing Ninjas, just acquired the forum and the rest of the network.

I’m pleased by the news because to me, SEO Chat has long been a site with no personality, when personality is really a distinguishing feature in this industry.  (more…)

Phillip Klien of BT Buckets & Site Apps Gives Me Segmentation & CRO Tips!

I recently had a great chat with Phillip Klien, a conversion expert using software to first segment (or “bucket”) traffic and then personalize visitors’ experience. In fact, he co-founded, a behavioral targeting (BT) tool that enables exactly this kind of personalization, and, a marketplace for related CRO and BT tools.

1) How did you come up with the idea for BT Buckets as a platform? (more…)

Arnie Kuenn on CRO With Video, & Conversion Conference

Arnie Kuenn
Arnie Kuenn, Conversion Conference Speaker

Click here for a $100 discount
on Conversion Conference. You’ll see the discount code listed in the upper right after the click.

Arnie Kuenn is President of Vertical Measures, who offer services in link building, content creation and notably their content marketing guide. We met at Pubcon, and he’ll be speaking at Conversion Conference on video. He was kind enough to give us this sweeeeet interview :). (I previously interviewed another Conversion Con speaker, Keith Hagen

Can you give me a little background about you?

You bet. Well first I am the founder and president of Vertical Measures, a search, social & content marketing company. Our focus is helping our clients get more traffic, more leads, and more business from their websites. I am an entrepreneur who had had two previous businesses in the world of new technologies and marketing. I am also a frequent speaker and author of Accelerate! Moving Your Business Forward Through the Convergence of Search, Social & Content Marketing (available on Amazon).

What knowledge level are you addressing in your preso at ConvConf?

This particular session is on video marketing and using video to increase conversions. Therefore I would say the people attending this session will be a little more marketing oriented as opposed to technically oriented.


My Next Facebook Ad Lander, Hat Tip To Ryan Deiss

I recently saw a video on about using a squeeze page (aka email lead generation landing page) on your Facebook fan page, which I’ll be adapting for the Advanced SEO book fanpage.

In it, Ryan Deiss shares a case study on his landing page getting the name and email of 50% of the people who clicked like.

He incentivized the like with part 1 of his free report, and incentivized the email optin by upselling folks to get part 1 AND part 2.

I’m planning to test that, as well, with the following adaptation of Ryan’s landing page:  (more…)

Keith Hagen of ConversionIQ Previews Conversion Conference

Keith Hagen of ConversionIQ is set to speak at the next Conversion Conference in Chicago. He graciously agreed to an interview ahead of the show.

Click here for a $100 discount on Conversion Conference. You’ll see the discount code listed in the upper right after the click.

1) What’s the topic of your presentation? How did you come up with that?

What’s A Soft 404 (404-Like Content)? + How To Fix Soft 404 Errors

Steve recently got a warning from Google that a number of pages were returning soft 404s, and the next week, his traffic dropped 10%.

The following week, another 30% was gone. What are these dramatically harsh “soft” 404 errors? How do you fix them?

What is a soft 404? (more…)

Quick Tip To Reduce Email Unsubscribes In Aweber

If you’re using both an autoresponder series of emails as well as “broadcast” messages that go out with no regard to sequence, you run the risk of annoying people with too-frequent emails. (more…)

7 Conversion Rate Best Practices For Forms

How do you make a form convert higher? What are the universal best practices? (more…)

Brian Wallace On Redesigns And Usability

Brian Wallace runs NowSourcing, an infographics-specialist consulting shop :). They recently redesigned and Brian was kind enough to tell me why and what the process was!

3 Must-Know Facts On Mobile Marketing In 2012

texting on cell phone
This is a guest post by Pavel Webb, the affiliate manager at TextMagic, a UK based SMS gateway that develops software which enables businesses and individuals to text from computer.

By 2013, more people are expected to use a mobile device than a PC to go online.*

Combine this with Google’s own internal data that mobile searches have increased by 4 times since 2010 (available on their mobile initiative website and you have a pretty strong case for why you need to be optimising your campaigns for mobile. Like, today.  Some facts to guide your optimisation: (more…)

Free Mobile Usability Testing

UserTesting has a panel of mobile device users who have high-resolution webcams on stands. So you can watch them use their mobile device–iPhone, Android, or iPad–as they visit your mobile website or use your mobile app.

The good folks at UT, amongst them Dave Garr love SEO ROI (who doesn’t? ;), and are donating 100 free mobile tests to SEO ROI’s readers. To get your free test: (more…)

Don’t Wait Until The Redesign!

Clients or leads with bad websites often acknowledge the problem but say that they’re redesigning anyways, so why implement conversion rate optimization work now when it will only last until the redesign? (more…)

The Beginner’s Guide To Remote Usability Testing: Increase Conversion In 30 Days With No Experience

Want to learn usability testing? I promise that any complete beginner who applies the lessons in this guide thoroughly will see a higher conversion rate in 30 days, guaranteed!

Q: What is usability testing? What is remote usability testing?

A: Usability testing is the process of having people interact with a website and provide feedback on it. The purpose of this testing is to find out why users are using the site as they are.

The value in understanding why users behave a certain way is that you get actionable insight, which raw data on what users are doing doesn’t tell you. You can see what’s tripping up users and fix it!

Note: Usability testing is also used offline for testing products, but for our purposes we’ll stick to website usability testing.

Remote usability testing is a method of usability testing where the users testing the website are in a different location than the person giving the test. The test giver, known as the moderator, sets up the test and provides instructions on what to do.

For now, let’s see how usability testing works. Later we’ll address specific issues like remote vs in-person usability testing, moderated vs unmoderated testing, and what tools to use for specific tasks.

How Usability Testing Works

Photo credit sxc


There are 5 steps to running a usability test.

1. First, you decides on tasks you want people to do on your website, such as search for a product and add to cart.

2. You recruit users, ideally ones representative of the site’s audience for the test. Typically, 3-5 testers are used in each round of testing, after which changes are made and another round of testing begins.

(If you can’t recruit users, there are companies who do that and usability testing tools with panels of users you can recruit.)

3. Users attempt to do the tasks set by the site owner.

In the most popular and effective form of usability testing, test-takers record their screen and voice, while sharing their thoughts out loud as they use the site. In other types of usability testing, feedback may only be written afterwards.

A short questionnaire typically follows screen-and-audio-recording type tests. Questions focus on problems encountered using the site, possible solutions, and how the tester would have behaved had it not been a test.

4. You review the user feedback to understand what the users were trying to do and why. Make note of the most common difficulties.

5. The site owner makes changes to the website to solve the problems discovered from the recordings.

Note: For ease of reference, I’m going to use “the moderator,” “site owner” and “you” interchangeably, but the roles can be shared between team members as you see fit.

Let’s see each step of the testing process in more depth.

Step 1: Deciding On And Writing Tasks For Users

check list

The first step is figuring out and writing what you want your users to try to do. You need to describe outcomes for users to achieve, and avoid (to the extent possible) being too explicit in how to do a task, avoid mentioning the names of particular links to click (e.g. the task reads “learn pricing,” when the site has a “Pricing” link).

A good task description is, “Get in touch with us,” not “Click ‘contact’ and fill out the form.”

Photo credit sxc

Start by asking, what is the purpose of the site? Then work backwards and ask yourself what steps are needed to get a visitor to accomplish those steps.

The following example illustrates how this works at a coarse level, but you can go more granular and test sub-elements within each step.

Ecommerce example: Let’s imagine we’re usability testing a running shoe retailer.

6 – Purpose of the site: The site’s purpose is to sell running shoes.

5- Previous step: To sell merchandise, users need to checkout.

4 – Previous step: To checkout, they need to have added something to cart.

3 – Previous step: To have added something to cart, they need to have found a product that adequately meets their needs.

2 – Previous step: To find that product, the users must sort through the site’s products easily.

1 – First step: Before sorting, visitors need to be convinced not to bounce with a credible appearance that’s relevant to their intent in visiting.

For step 1, since users are coming to your site to do the test, they won’t bounce on their own. To find out if your site is credible and relevant, use a five second test task description:

Ask people to look at the page for five seconds, look away, then share what they remember. Does “what people remember” match the landing page’s traffic sources, such as search keywords and ad copy? Is the design credible or does it make people flee?

For steps 2-6, a regular usability test with screen and voice recording would work fine.

Task description

Good: “Find a pair of Reebok running shoes and buy them. Find answers to any questions that come to mind.” This leaves discretion to users to browse for Reebok running shoes the way they naturally would. This allows them the choice to browse with search or clicks, refine their options as usual… in sum, to be themselves, which is what we want to see.

Bad: “Click the Reebok running shoes button in the lower left sidebar, click on a pair of shoes, add them to cart, and fill out the checkout forms.”

Step 2: Recruiting Users

Army Recruiting Ad: Wanted: More Men Like Mike

(image credit Vintage Military Ads)

This is where most web pros aspiring to run usability tests give up. Frankly, recruiting testers is hard.

First, it’s not always obvious who your audience is. Who are these “representative users” anyways?

To answer that, build personas (easier), and seek keyword-level demographics (harder). If you’ve never worked in the field, you can always email the owners of existing sites and ask them; if they’re competitors, look at
people offering the service in a different city or language.

Second, how do you go about soliciting people to test the site? Why would they care or bother? Where do you find them? How do you approach them?

Commonly, usability testing will pay testers for their time. With remote usability testing, paypal payments or online gift certificates (ex.: are common. Others are interested in helping just to be helpful or because they’re friends.

Once you know who your representative users are, you need to find them. To do that, first try the free way and solicit amongst family, friends and contacts by email and phone.

After exhausting this pool or if your contacts just are too different from representative users (you’re starting a hispanic dating site without knowing anyone hispanic), you can run demographically or professionally targeted ads. Places to advertise include Facebook, PlentyOfFish, LinkedIn, MyAds (demographics powered by MySpace) and supposedly the Google Display Network (formerly the Content Network).

Another option that recruits directly from your users is Bolt|PetersEthnio recruiting service.

Originally, Ethnio was offered at a rate of a few hundred dollars per person because it was an offline, labour-intensive recruiting process. Today Ethnio is a software tool with a free trial that just requires you to copy-paste some code to get started. It intercepts visitors as they come to the site, asking them to participate in your test. The downside is that the test needs to consist of a survey or Usabilla click test, which helps but isn’t as useful as getting them to record their screen and voice.

Another easy way out of recruiting is buy a remote usability testing service with a panel of users.

TryMyUI logoTools in this category that will have users record their screen and spoken thoughts include TryMyUI , UserFeel -whose panel includes testers in the UK and Greece- and (UI means User Interface, such as the part of the website customers interact with by clicking and typing.)UserTesting logo

On a lower-tech level there is Feedback Army, which surveys visitors after they try using your site. While it doesn’t record audio or video, it’s also only $15 for 10 users to provide their feedback.

Note that these panels are only appropriate for sites geared towards a general audience. Sites requiring knowledge of particular jargon (e.g. SEO) won’t find representative users here, since user selection criteria are limited to demographics and tech-savvy (“technographics”), and don’t break down by vertical.

A word on “representative users”

Finally, while it’s ideal to get representative users, it’s also fine to get users who are less representative and grade on a curve, proportionately to how closely they match your audience. (Hattip Steve Krug)

Step 3: Running the Test

Once recruited, it’s up to users to follow instructions and do the test. This either happens at agreed-upon times (moderated testing), or at the user’s discretion (unmoderated usability testing).

Test Preparation

With moderated testing, the moderator either sets up a computer with screen and audio recording software before the test, or instructs users to use browser-based software to record their screens and voices.

With unmoderated testing, the user is responsible for ensuring the audio and video recording software is on and recording, at the right level.

Note: Both of these comments assume a regular usability test, as opposed to a limited or partial test aimed at discovering how users interact with particular aspects of the site. This includes mouse-movement tracking and click measurement tests, for example, as well as visual analysis tools like FiveSecondTest or predictive gazeplot-and-eye-tracking tool Feng-Gui.

A gazeplot generated on Amazon’s mobile homepage by Feng-Gui.

Tip: It’s important to make sure that both video and audio are recording at the start, and that the sound levels are high enough, to avoid wasting time and money.

What Your Instructions  Need To Cover

Once the audio and video are on and at the right level, there are three things your instructions must cover:

a. Asking the user to say what hes doing and why out loud, constantly. To quote TryMyUI:

“Clearly say exactly what you are thinking as you are thinking it. We are interested in your impressions, expectations, and the motivations for your actions. Don’t edit your thoughts as you navigate the website! Simply say exactly what you are thinking at each step.”

Steve Krug’s excellent book on usability testing, Rocket Surgery Made Easy, emphasizes that you should make clear it’s the website being tested, not the user. They can’t make mistakes here!

This serves the highly important purpose of preventing self-censorship, as alluded to in TryMyUI’s instructions.

Gab with Rocket Surgery Made Easy and Don't Make Me Think, by Steve Krug

b. Providing a starting URL for the user. With in-person testing, you’ll have this pre-loaded.

c. Provide a written list of tasks. Don’t just provide it orally, because you want to ensure the same phrasing each time.

If users get distracted and go off to do their own thing, the moderator gently encourages them back to the task at hand.

Step 4: Reviewing The Feedback

Once the tests have been run, what’s left is data – not actionable insight. To turn that information into actionable recommendations, the moderator needs to review the collected feedback.

His purpose is to look for patterns in what gave users difficulty.

By focusing on problems common to more than one user, you ensure that you get the most bang for your buck in making changes and fixing the site. This is also why running a test with one user is insufficient.

Conversely, to save time and money, you shouldn’t test with more than 5 users per round of testing. By the fourth or fifth user you’ll already know the main issues the site has and having the same problems highlighted another half dozen times isn’t productive.

The problems the moderator will discover can usually be categorized by WiderFunnel’s classic LIFT model of conversion optimization:

LIFT Model of CRO

  • Value Proposition: What’s in it for the user. This is the core which the other factors act upon.
  • Anxiety: How design -security reassurances, layout- and content -answering questions, social proof- affect trustworthiness. Reduce anxiety to lift the conversion plane.

  • Distraction: The page features too many eye-catching elements. Focus is drawn away from the page’s main purpose. Reduce distraction for more lift.

  • Relevance: The degree to which the page matches users’ expectations before arriving. Increase relevance for more lift.

  • Clarity: Do the design and content work in synergy to explain the value proposition?

  • Urgency: Do users have a reason to act now?

To return to our earlier example of the online running shoe retailer, here are some things you would look for in your analysis.

First, as mentioned earlier, is the landing page’s credibility and relevance to traffic sources. Is the site secure? Is the graphic design professional? For relevance, you can show the traffic source (ad, link or search listing) briefly before taking users to the landing page. Within the five second test, you can ask if the landing page matches the expectations the traffic source created.  – Relevance, Anxiety, Clarity -

Visitors need to drill down and find a product that suits their needs. Can they browse and search their way through your categories to find an adequate fit? How effective are your refinement options? When clicking through to a subcategory or product detail page, does the content there match expectations? – Relevance, Clarity -

Third, visitors need to get sufficient information from the product detail page. Does the information answer visitors’ questions? Does it convey benefits? How scannable is the information – bullet points or paragraphs? Where’s the refunds policy? Are the shoes in stock? How much is shipping? – Value Proposition, Urgency, Anxiety-

Users also need to be able to add to cart easily, and then modify the contents of the cart. Is the add to cart button noticeable and clearly a button? Are the cart buttons clearly labelled and laid out in a hierarchy reflecting their importance? Does the site need all this information the checkout requests? – Clarity, Distraction, Urgency, Anxiety -

Step 5: Implement The Changes

Again, follow Steve Krug’s excellent advice: Change the least possible to solve the problems.

For example, instead of redesigning a page’s graphics to reduce distraction, comment out some of the graphics. Test again and see if that solves things. To save time on such visual makeovers, you can just use a visual testing tool like Feng-Gui or Five Second Test, mentioned earlier.

And don’t wait for the “upcoming redesign”… 99% of the time it’ll go live months after promised. In the meantime, you’ve wasted loads of traffic.

Miscellaneous Testing Tips and FAQ

How do I test…

… information architecture (aka the organization of content on a site into logical groups)? Use card sorting. Do users look for content where you expected? Do they click the right links to drill down to the content you want them to find? (Image credit Revium.)

… where people would click next? Look at click based tools like CrazyEgg or Usabilla.

… how people make their way through a model of the site? Try wireframe creation software that (i) lets you interact with the wireframe by clicking the navigation and going to the wireframes for the relevant pages and (ii) allows you to share your wireframes online, so testers can access them. Some wireframe tools are designed to only be used in a desktop environment, so read carefully to avoid that.


Remote Testing vs In-Person Testing Pros and Cons

Remote testing is

- Cheaper: Don’t need to pay for travel, premises, computer equipment, food
- Less work to organize
- Easier to recruit for because there’s no geographic restriction
- Commonly paid for via Paypal or gift certificates

In-Person testing is

- More personal, you can get body language
- A more compelling opportunity for the whole team to witness the testing simultaneously and debrief, which can get things moving faster
- Commonly paid for in cash
- Instantaneous feedback; you view the data as it comes in, instead of waiting until later

“Moderated Testing” vs “Unmoderated Testing” Pros and Cons

Moderated testing:

- Is significantly less likely to encounter errors requiring retakes, such as setup issues with hardware or software, or testers veering off topic
- Yields richer, more useful data
- Tends to have representative users

Unmoderated testing:

- Sometimes yields obnoxious or useless responses, like FiveSecondTest and Feedback Army testers more interested in accumulating credits or micropayments than being helpful.
- Costs less on an individual test basis, because there is no moderator, or because it typically involves testing narrow interaction aspects such as click tests or visual feedback
- Is commonly associated with narrow aspects of interaction
- Tests of particular aspects may or may not have representative users
- Can save time when run through a service with a panel of testers, such that recruitment effort is negligible. This advantage makes it an easy entry-point/stepping stone for beginners to enter the world of usability testing.

Additional testing tools references:

There are many tools available for usability testing specific aspects of a website, or the whole shebang.

Kyle Soucy of Usable Interface put together a helpful, comprehensive overview of these varied tools.

Concluding Tip: Start as early in the web design process as possible

- Talk about the idea with friends and family and see what are the most common questions/objections raised, so you can answer them.

- Create user interface mockups in Photoshop and do the 5 second test (with or without the site): namely, ask people to look for a few seconds, then look away and ask what they recall.

- Put early design mockups through Feng-GUI as a sanity check – are there too many visually ‘loud’ areas?

- Imperfect testing is better than none. As the French say, “the best is the enemy of the good [enough].”

Further reading:

Review of testing service
Sensible – Steve Krug’s site
Usability Post

Homepage Design: The Tip To Top All Best Practices

Mobile websites’ homepages beat the pants off regular websites’ homepage designs at achieving a homepage’s goal: driving the visitor deeper into the site.

Q: Why are the homepage designs of mobile sites so much more effective than the design of ordinary homepages?


Why Your WordPress Contact Plugin Sucks For Conversion

Two reasons:

1) Some of the most popular contact form plugins, including Contact Form 7, don’t provide a thankyou page. That means that you can’t easily set up a simple ab-test in Google Website Optimizer (GWO) to increase conversions, because GWO requires a thankyou page. Doh! (I realize I’m running that plugin, but I’m not actively seeking new consulting clients, so it’s not a priority to fix that.)

2) Typically, the contact button says submit by default. It’s well known that you want to match the button to your headline, and people didn’t come to your contact page with servitude in mind and/or kinky S&M messaging. They came to contact you. So the default button should read “Contact Us” or “Send Contact Message” … Submit isn’t clear and cuts conversions.

Like this post on conversion rate optimization (CRO) and usability? Get a free chapter from my advanced SEO book, which offers tactics covering the overlap between CRO and SEO.

Tools I Want

I’ve been digging into online marketing tools and to my chagrin, most want an annual fee (or one time payment usually roughly equivalent). It’s the rise of SAAS…

Email: (more…)

A/B Testing WP With Google Website Optimizer: The Easiest, Cheapest Method

Want to a/b test your WordPress (WP) website without the cranky, unreliable Google Website Optimizer (GWO) plugins?

Google Website Optimizer

The problem with using Google Website Optimizer with WordPress:

1. Google Website Optimizer was designed with static html pages in mind, as opposed to pages created by a content management system like WordPress.

Each post on a WordPress-powered website relies on multiple different files, such as header.php, sidebar.php, post.php etc. Google Website Optimizer requires you to place code on the page you’re going to test, which is made more difficult because of the dynamic inclusion of the header, sidebar, body of the post etc.

2. Various WP plugins supposedly resolve the difficulty. In fact, they don’t solve it for two reasons:

  • These plugins limit what you can test to the content of the post, and not the title, layout, navigation and other very important aspects of the page.
  • They don’t work with custom themes – which is likely your case if you’re putting money into A/B testing or multivariate (MVT) testing. I’ve failed to make GWO work on this WordPress site despite numerous efforts and following instructions to the letter.

In short, what you need is for your WordPress pages to be static html …

How to a/b test any WP page/post, free using Google Website Optimizer…

1) Navigate to the WordPress page you want to test, in your browser.

2) Click File -> Save File As and download the page. With Firefox, this downloads two things: i) a folder including all the graphics, CSS and backend voodoo that makes the page pretty and ii) the final html that is sent to the browser to display on your screen.

3) Upload the folder and html file from step 2 to your server. This is your control version of the page.

4) Create one or more copies of the folder and html file, and edit as needed for your test. This is your experimental version of the page.

5) Upload the copy/ies to your server. Important: Don’t upload to a folder in which WordPress is installed, because doing so will cause the newly uploaded page will take forever to load (in my case, 30 seconds+). This means that if WordPress powers your whole site (e.g. it’s installed in the root folder), you’ll need to test on a subdomain or another domain. I suspect this may also be true of trying to upload the file to a page where other CMSes are installed

Filezilla Upload

6) Edit both the control and experimental pages to include the Google Website Optimizer code.

7) Optional: Use a 302 Temporary Redirect on the existing page to send the traffic to your control page and let GWO split the traffic between the “A” (control) version and “B” (experimental) version of the test page. You want to use a temporary redirect because you’re only doing this until you find a better version of the page.

Alternately, you can use a 301 permanent redirect if you don’t want to be bothered keeping the WP version of the page later.

8) Optional: If you tested layout or something graphical besides content, have a dev create a special “page template” that you can select when creating a new WP page. That way you’ll be able to keep the new version within the control of WordPress, while getting the higher conversion rate of your new version.

A summary of this approach’s benefits:

- It’s easier than breaking your head trying to install GWO on a custom theme and never succeeding at having it validate.
- It provides more flexibility in what you can test than the existing plugins out there.
- You’re still using GWO, so it’s free.

Liked this workaround to a/b testing using GWO and WordPress? Add my rss feed to your reader for more tips on conversion and usability and advanced SEO.

Useful Tools For ScreenCasting & Usability Testing

Have you been paying $29 and now $39 a head for

Mashable has a list of free and commercial screencasting tools, including web-based/online ones.

(New to remote usability testing? – Read my user testing guide .)

The Screencasting Handbook has another list with certain other ones listed and describing relevant feature differences.

Finally, some generous soul gave Wikipedia a really comprehensive list of such tools, but without much detail on features.

You can use this plus the methodology in Rocket Science Made Easy (Steve Krug’s guide to usability testing) for really cheap tests, or even free ones.

SEO Software Startup Story: The Usability Testing & Social Integrations Of BuzzStream

Paul May co-founded BuzzStream, a CRM for link building and PR/social media that allows online marketers to manage relationships and be more effective in getting results, be they links or press. He gave me the following two-part interview about the software creation and startup process.

I’d already interviewed Ann Smarty before about her creation of MyBlogGuest and her insights on iteration, usability and the startup process.

Have you used usability testing along the way? If so, what role has it played (share examples)?

I talk to at least two customers every day, so I’m always getting feedback…we conduct formal usability testing any time we launch a major feature. Our testing approach is based on Steve Krug’s usability testing methodology –

Here’s how we did it when we launched the new prospecting tool:

  • We had ten people test the product. Four of these were people at agencies dedicated to link building, two were at large SEO agencies, and four were in-house link builders.
  • We break testing up into two phases.

    In our first phase we have the testers walk through a series of linked balsamiq mockups. The thing I love about using balsamiq mockups is that it’s great for identifying features you can cut before you get into code…when you see all the things that people stumble over and when they tell you which things they really care about, it makes it much easier to figure out the minimum viable feature-set.

    The downside to balsamiq mockups is that they force the user through a specific workflow, so your visibility into the true user experience is limited. Given this, we use mockups with three or four testers and then move to working code.

  • When we’re testing, we give the tester control over our screen and ask them to complete specific tasks to see how easily they can accomplish them. For the prospecting tool, our scenarios were:
    1) Find prospects,
    2) Evaluate prospects,
    3) Add prospects to your account.

    As they go through each step, we have them say everything that they’re thinking. This helps us identify spots where our language is confusing, our workflow is cumbersome, etc.

Two of the big takeaways from the usability testing for the prospecting tool:

1. Using language like “keywords” confused people and led to poor selection of prospecting phrases (people thought they should just enter the same keywords they’re trying to rank on).

Just changing the language to “prospecting searches” significantly changed the way people used the product.

More reading on usability you might like:

Beginner’s guide to remote usability testing
My review of trying

2. For the first release, people didn’t want or need a tool that automatically creates the prospecting phrases for them…
They just wanted to enter prospecting queries on their own and then let BuzzStream de-duplicate results and collect the data. This cut out a ton of development that we thought we needed in order to deliver a v1 product.

What lead you guys to integrate Twitter so tightly?

Initially because it scratched an itch that we had…we were engaging with people on twitter and people were talking about us there, but we had no way to leverage this. All these great things were happening there and if we had a history of it at our fingertips, we could build better outreach lists and engage more effectively…but it was as though the second after you tweeted someone or they tweeted about your company, the information would just scatter to the wind.

Do you have plans to integrate other social websites in the future? Digg? StumbleUpon? Facebook?

We’ve built a prototype for automatic discovery of blog comments, but we haven’t integrated it into the product yet….the truism with software is that you have to support anything you deliver and it’s much easier to add a feature than kill it, so we’re being careful here.

The next few months will be heavily weighted towards usability and UI features, and we’ll use that time to conduct some market research on social discovery features like this. I would love to hear thoughts from you and your readers about this. [Ed: I think this is valuable for the same reason as the Twitter integration, but also because it allows you to know who to work with when you need to promote something on those sites.]

Do you have grandfathered pricing?

Yes. We haven’t raised our prices, but we did change our pricing model.

In the past, each plan included a large number of users and a relatively small number of contacts and links. The overwhelming feedback we’ve gotten is that people needed more contacts and links. To meet the need we raised the number of contacts and links in each plan, but we also reduced the number of users in each plan.

For the vast majority of our current customers, this meant they got more links for the same price, but there were some customers that would have had to move to a more expensive plan to keep the same number of users. For them, we’ve grandfathered them into their current plan, but if they want to move to the new model, they’re able to do this at a significant discount.

Liked it? Check out Buzzstream today!

Web Design Signal vs Noise

Do CSS galleries actually show the right way forward for web design?

Via a fascinating post on whitespace and visual hierarchy at Usability Post, I also discovered the UX part of Stack Exchange, one of the web’s biggest Q&A sites. It’s got loads of intermediate-advanced questions and is well worth a visit for people responsible for designing user interfaces. Warning: You might get hooked!

Don’t Put A News Feed On The Homepage

Why not put a news feed of your company’s latest press releases on the homepage? (more…)

Mobile Usability Case Study and Conversion Rate Optimization

This is a guest post by Stephen Croome of; his bio is below.

A baseline for mobile growth

Real numbers and our plan going forward:

There is a lot spoken on the growth of mobile but not much actual data shared. SEOmoz recently posted trends for mobile in 2011 and I thought I would contribute to the discussion with a baseline for expected mobile growth based on real sales data (more…)

Build Sites For Users, Noscript For Search Engines

Should you built sites for users, not search engines? Or is there a middle ground?…

Inspired by the  Montreal PPC experts at Bloom Search Marketing, I came across the following excellent bit of navigation. It’s great for users … and can also tie in nicely with SEO, which I’ll get to after explaining the beauty from a conversion perspective.

Ted Ulle aka Tedster On Information Architecture

Ted UlleTed Ulle is a veteran member of WebmasterWorld, where he’s better known as Tedster. He moderates the HTML and Google SEO forums there, as well as serving as an Administrator. He’s on Pubcon’s advisory board, the chief search strategist at Converseon, a global online marketing agency for enterprise-level companies, and is on Twitter as TedUlle. You can find out more about Converseon and Ted’s professional affiliations at the end of the post.

I saw Ted give a remarkable and controversial presentation at Pubcon Las Vegas 2010, where he notably criticized most implementations of dropdown navigation as overstuffed. We spoke afterwards and Ted consented to give me the following interview. For answers that required clarification, I inserted an asterisk at the appropriate spot and added the clarification question and answer immediately after.

1) Shari Thurow criticizes SEOs who organize information architecture (IA) around keywords. ( ) Assuming you have content that matches those keywords, what is the problem with that practice? Isn’t that “siloing” or “theming” your navigation?

PSD To HTML Slicing Checklist For Landing Pages

If you’re designing a custom landing page, chances are that you’re using a PSD to HTML chop shop, like my friends at PSD to HTML/CSS. The problem is that things you may obviously require won’t be obvious to the coders. (more…)

For Your Swipe File: Clever Direct Response Flyer

I saw this flyer at the busstop and had to grab it to share with you guys. I think it’s brilliant advertising, and here’s why. (more…)

SEO & CRO – Common Balancing Problems and Solutions – Pubcon Las Vegas

If you liked this presentation, add my rss feed to your reader or get my latest posts by email.

Usability Blunders: Imprecise Suggestion In Search Bar

Can you see what’s wrong with Listorious’ search bar?

Listorious insite search bar

13 Resources For Mobile Landing Pages And Website Design

Guides – A useful presentation for beginners. The authors created Movitas, which has the most affordable WYSIWYG mobile page creator I found. (Besides the free, uber-basic Movylo.)

Mobile Web Design Galleries – A blog and design gallery with useful resources linked – Another gallery

WYSIWYGs – Another mobile WYSIWYG
Very basic:
Really pricey:

Slice Shops Turn PSD and AI Graphics Into XHTML, WML etc – Seemed to have pretty affordable pricing for slicing up graphics into mobile landers, but it wasn’t clear if they’d do WML either… – A site that will slice your graphics into a working lander, but they don’t do WML. Use them if your target is newer devices that can support 320px wide graphics etc. – Unclear if you need to use Zestadz to get their tool, however.

If you liked this post on mobile tools and resources, add my rss feed to your reader!

Easy Usability Tip For Registration Page Conversion Lifts

When asking people to fill in the fields, be clear on the format of the answer you expect. Specify what characters can be used, and what characters can’t be used.

Don’t wait to correct people until after they’ve clicked continue, because you’ll be using up your visitor’s supply of patience. Advise them at the outset of the right process. Try combining this with AJAX error notifications that don’t wait until people click continue, in order to be more efficient. (more…)

The Sadly Short Story Of The Isolated Product Developer

Jake was a quick-witted entrepreneur oozing with creativity.

He made decent money working for others at the agency that employed him. Somewhere along the way, Jake decided that he should come up with his own product.

So he did. Jake spent all his free time for the better part of a summer in quiet isolation. While he kept up his day job, as soon as the clock struck 5:00 everyday, the fire in Jake’s seat at his desk burned him right out the door to his hatchback.

Ecommerce Shopping Carts and Shipping Rates: Don’t Wait Til Checkout!

While working on some ecommerce affiliate sites, I tried to find the ecommerce merchant’s shipping prices. Unfortunately, it’s a remarkable pain in the neck to find shipping info at most mom-n-pop ecommerce stores.

I think it’s because they place a blind reliance in their ecommerce store’s shopping cart. The problem is that the cart was usually created by a programmer – not a customer service rep. So the priorities in design were easy coding, not easy buying. As a result, lots of shopping carts cause SMBs to lose sales.

Shipping a cat

Photo credit: Dan Chace, aka Lacrymosa

Here are some examples of what not to do, and why they’re bad ideas. If the ecommerce cart you want acts this way, switch!

1) Worst idea EVER: Ask for my credit card info before telling me the shipping price.

30 Second Tip For Phone Number Integrity In Local SEO Listings

Reading the curiosity-arousing article on SEL, “The Phone, Calling,” I noticed that the use and presence of call tracking numbers, toll-free numbers and other non-main-line phone numbers could cause trouble for search engines.

“First, these numbers throw a monkey wrench in business identification. Second, they could expire, inadvertently creating a dead-end for a consumer. Publishers today struggle with how to accurately identify an actual business when many phone numbers are involved.”

The easiest solution, imho, is (more…)

Usabilla Review at SEL

Read my latest usability column for Search Engine Land, a review of usability testing tool Usabilla.

On a related note, I published a review of not long ago. Before that, (more…)

P* Comment Spam?

I’ve written some posts on A/B testing and split testing that have seen spam from people purporting to be from P*able. Personally, I find it surprising that a VC backed company would bother with poor quality blackhat tactics like such obvious comment spam, so I’m wondering if it’s not someone with an axe to grind against them. They’re not even in public beta yet though, so perhaps some marketing director there just purchased a really crummy SEO package trying to save some bucks. (more…)

Saving Space Above The Fold In Web Page Headers

I recently visited two sites that I really liked, but only one of them designed their header space efficiently, such that they maximized the utility of the space above the fold. For those who don’t know, the space above the fold gets the most visual attention from visitors since it is by definition the space visible without scrolling. While screen sizes vary, a site’s header is above the fold in 99% of the cases.  (more…)

Did You Make This Beginner Web Design Mistake Too?

When I created my first websites, I have to admit that I was pretty naive about the graphic/visual side of things. SEO ROI is a good example. (more…) Review: Check Out This Usability Testing Tool

I knew for a while that I wanted to try out, based on the referrals from my friends at Closed Loop Marketing and various blogs on usability I read (Future Now, Usability Post), but I never really had the opportunity to go ahead and get on it. (more…)

Google Does Something Right (OMG! Stop The Presses ;) )

You all know how strong of a critic I am towards Google, but I thought this user research and testing was pretty unique, cutting edge, and can potentially lead to some great benefits for Sub-Saharan Africans (like finding health info, as mentioned…).

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