Classic scales

Measuring performance with A/B Testing

Last month I decided to take some of my own advice and understand how to improve my blog with some focused study and A/B testing (Science!). The objective was to understand how many of the Marketing Resource downloads were genuine, and whether the users would be prepared to share their details or promote the site in exchange for the download.

I decided to begin by measuring the performance of my most trafficked page (Marketing Resources), and then trying a few variations to see what worked best. To get started, I stopped publishing. I figured that by not publishing anything meant I’d get a clear view of traffic & behavior without any wobbles from posts I make.

Then I upgraded the download software being used for my Marketing Resources section, allowing me to track individual downloads by date and to force subscriptions or tweets as required. I also installed an optional social pop-up system (this does have a force share option too).

For the first two weeks I setup the Marketing Resources page so that every download required visitors to either send a supporting tweet, or enter their email addresses. For the remaining two weeks, the page prompted visitors for an optional social share.

The results were shocking! By forcing users to share their details or make a social post, the page generated fewer downloads, but had considerably more traffic, shares and user registrations. Optional shares results in absolutely no change from normal, meaning less traffic but twice as many downloads. Here’s the summary data:

Mandatory Subscription or Sharing Optional Sharing
Tweets +8 +0
Subscriptions +60 +0
Downloads -50% 0% change
Traffic 20% increase 0% change

Depending on what’s important to your site, you can interpret this accordingly. More consumption of your material, but with no idea who’s consuming it & no obvious promotion from it. Or less consumption, but with a better idea of who’s reading & some extra social media mileage. For me there’s no question that I’d prefer the latter.

I’m going to be doing some more experimentation with how my Marketing Resources page prompts for shares, and I’ll update you next month with my findings. Hope this was helpful.

Recipe for a tasty website

Some things should be easy. After all how hard can they be? You have an idea for a website, you find a reputable agency and presto. You should have a website, right? Right? It’s surprising how often I get asked about creating quick websites!

The idea that any type of great collateral is really that easy makes me twitch. Sometimes you hear about an epic campaign that took almost no time to put together, and sometimes it’s even true. The reality is that even if you have a web guy in-house, 99.99% of the time it takes a lot of effort (and time). Unless of course you aren’t trying to deliver something awesome (and just want to hit the publish button).

If you’re under pressure from teams that are unaware of the magnitude of a web project, it might be a good idea to have a project scoping meeting. It’ll give you the opportunity to gain clarity and what your stakeholders want, and more importantly to illustrate to them what’s going to be involved to actually launch the project – you could even bring a short list of resources their teams are going to have to provide (that usually puts things into perspective).

Below you’ll find a quick list of things you’re going to need to put together your website. I’ll release a powerpoint template that you can use in your own meetings shortly.

Even if you’re just going to use a great looking WordPress Theme (and some of the theme demo’s can look incredible), don’t forget everything else that you’ll need:

  1. A domain name; This isn’t actually as important as many people think. There are so many new domain extensions being made available, that it’s becoming much easier to design creative domain names. Just remember to stick to the basic guidelines and you should be ok (ignore point #3 in this guide).
  2. Ideas; Most people have an idea of what they actually want, hopefully you’ll even have a reference website (or three) that you can show your agency for inspiration
  3. Page map; this is a great way to start laying out what’s actually going to be on the website, and an excellent starting point for detailing what you’re going to need. This along with your design will have a huge impact on the usability of your website.
  4. Designs & templates; whilst your agency (or wordpress theme) might deliver theme, be cognisant of what’s involved in selecting your design and having it built/modified to suit your purposes.
  5. Graphics; if you don’t already have plenty of great product images, you’re going to need to take some or buy some from a stock art repository. The web is a very visual place, good images go a long way. Don’t forget things like head-shots from individual members & team photos. Getty has recently announced that some of it’s content is free for non-commercial use, which might help if you’re just writing a blog – and don’t mind the big Getty logo that’s going to appear underneath.
  6. Copy; scratching out a few lines won’t cut it. You need good text for good readers, as well as good SEO. Look at competitive websites and gauge how much and what type of text you’re going to need. Be ready to repeatedly revise your copy to accommodate changing page lengths, SEO requirements, and changes in design.
  7. Pricing; if you have something to sell, get your pricing and other special offer details ready. If you’re selling online, make sure your payment gateway or shopping system is setup and in place. These can have long leads times themselves.
  8. Download-ables; If you’re providing whitepapers, guides, how-to videos, or any other type of material for your user to download – you’ll need to start getting this ready. Your content is where most of your energy is going to go. If you need to produce intro videos, brochures or any type of content, be ready to invest the appropriate amount of time and to get adequate support from your internal teams. Some content may have a longer lead time than the website itself.
  9. Go Live Criteria; lots of projects suffer from feature creep, web projects aren’t any different. Set a specific “go-live-minimum”, at which point you’ll publish the site. It allows you to focus your efforts on partially launching the site, and breaks your project into a minimum of two distinct phases.
  10. A lot of patience; things never go as expected, so keep plenty of this to hand.

For ball park numbers, it took me two days to redeploy a new theme onto my website. That includes rewriting some of the content to match the updated layout, sourcing alternative images – and figuring out how to actually get the theme to do what I wanted. For a corporate website where there are more decision makers, potentially an agency, and there are quite likely to be multiple revisions – expect to spend up to 2 months to get things delivered.

Of course if you’re looking for a list of ways to mess up your website, I’d recommend reading this hilarious post.

Essential Explainer Video production tips

Explainer video recording

Every web startup today seems to have an explainer video, almost every kick-starter campaign has one, and the phenomenal growth of YouTube leaves no doubt that video is an increasingly popular medium. There are lots of articles that talk about why you should use video, so let’s skip that part & assume that you’re sold on the idea. You’ve got to make a professional video (not a home video or in-house production), what next? I’m going to help you answer a few important questions.

  • How long should a web video be?
  • How long does it take to make?
  • What do you need to have before you start?
  • What’s going to affect the price?

Most of the video companies I contacted, provided pretty poor responses to be honest. I got several one line responses, many companies didn’t respond to queries on their social media accounts, or website email addresses for weeks. I discounted all of those companies instantly – which only left a handful. Outside of response time, do remember to check their portfolio, a critical factor will always be whether or not you like their style of production. If it’s not to your taste, move on.

How long should a web video be?

The recommend length seems to be between one to two minutes. The idea being that you can communicate your value without boring your audience. Consider where your CTA is going to be located (if you have one in the video), for most video’s it’s at the end – so your viewer needs to get there for it to work! If you don’t have a CTA don’t worry, but do keep the purpose of your video in mind.

How long does it take to produce a web video?

There seems to be a huge variance in responses on how long a video takes to produce. I suspect this is probably because of the varying sizes of companies & their resource constraints, keep an eye out for things that seem too good to be true. A few companies actually wrote back saying they’d create videos in two to three days, whereas most companies seemed to be in the following range:

Regular Videos – 2 to 3 weeks
Animated Videos – 3 to 5 weeks

Importantly, some companies create videos using stock templates, these only take a few hours and only cost a few bucks. Be careful that you’re not being sold one of these! Unless of course you want one, in which case check out fiverr for a big list of people that’ll do this cheap –they’re not the subject of discussion here.

What should you have ready when engaging a studio?

One of the most common responses was, an understanding of your objective. Like any good piece of marketing collateral, it’s important to understand what you’re expecting it to achieve (product overview or lead generation), whom it’s targeting (students or HNI’s), and where you’re going to be using it (sub-urban India via mobile Internet or downtown New York).
The guys at Wyzowl provided the best overall response here, so I’m just going to paste it verbatim:
“There are a few things that we find really helpful if the client has in advance:

  1. An idea of roughly what kind of style they like. Generally it helps if they have a few examples of videos they really like. This is a really good starting point to work from.
  2. This possibly goes without saying, but it’s crucial that the client has an intimate understanding of their own brand, product and key selling points.
  3. An open mind! As we’ve already mentioned, it’s really important to keep your video short and concise. Because most people are so passionate about their business, they sometimes want to include every single feature, but the end result of doing this is a less effective, less engaging video. Sometimes we’ll advise you to strip back your message and I think the best videos belong to the clients who heed this advice and keep their video concise and punchy.“

What key factors are going to affect the price?

Unsurprisingly there was an incredibly varied response, but there is one (obvious) commonality, duration. The longer the video the more expensive it gets. From the rest of the vendors, the (other) factors seem to be:

  1. Voice overs
  2. Music / Background score
  3. Number of characters
  4. Resolution

Given the variation in response, I’d ask this question a few times so you don’t get stuck with some hidden/unexpected costs. Remember to cross-examine the music/audio score, there are plenty of web videos that all have exactly the same “stock music theme”. Using that sort of music can create a very cookie-cutter feel to you video.

So how much will it actually cost?

I’d suggest calling a few studio’s and asking. I was going to publish a 1-minute video price guide, but based on the responses I’ve seen, I don’t think it’d be worth anything. You’re asking for a highly customised product and you’re going to mostly get customised pricing (except for a few fixed price vendors). Instead I’ll shortly publish a list of companies that can make explainer videos.