When You SEO The Light
Digital marketing is one of the most essential functions for all brands operating in our today's climate. It's not enough just to have a website but to understand what the targeted key words for your industry are and how to incorporate them into a strategy that understands your audience.
Truthfully, SEO is just the beginning in developing a plan to make your brand stand out and convert your site traffic into sales. In this blog post, Hollywood Branded examines some web optimization best practices from the advice and expertise of Disruptive Advertising's Chris Dayley.
A Little Background on Chris Dayley
Chris is a digital marketing entrepreneur, speaker and neuro marketer, who helps businesses drive revenue through their websites by utilizing marketing psychology. He started his conversion optimization agency, Dayley Conversion, back in 2014, which he later merged with Disruptive Advertising. And now, works as VP of Site Testing and Optimization.
Interview Transcript Highlights
Question: What I'd love to do is have you start off just explaining a little bit more about who you are? What your background is? And what got you to where you are today?
Answer: I grew up in Gilbert, Arizona, from the Phoenix Valley and moved to Utah, where I currently live when I was about 21. I live up here in the mountains, the cold mountains and absolutely love it here. And we had an interesting thing happen in Utah, I want to say probably 10 to 12 years ago, we had an analytics company called Omniture, that started up here in Utah. Which later was acquired by Adobe and is now the Adobe Marketing Cloud. And because of that, there was a huge influx of technology and marketing type jobs and companies that started up and spun off here in Utah. I got my first real job doing search engine optimization, SEO. This was, 10, 11 years ago for an agency, and absolutely fell in love with the digital marketing world. And spent several years doing search engine optimization, which is all about driving traffic to your website through Google, right?
I was in the traffic acquisition game. I did some PPC on social media, some PPC through Google AdWords. But, primarily focused on search engine optimization. I spent about three years doing search engine optimization and ended up in-house at a company, where we had about tripled our organic traffic in a six month time frame, we were crushing it, getting tons of organic traffic to our website. And I remember sitting down in a meeting with my boss and I don't know some other executives that were at the company at the time, and one of them said, "Well, Chris, this is great that we're getting all this traffic. But, what does that mean for the business?" And honestly, that was the first time in my career that I really had my traffic numbers challenged. Where it was like, "Yeah, traffic is great, traffic to the website is fantastic. But, is it converting? Is there anything actually happening with it?"
And as I started digging into the numbers, we were getting some conversions, but not nearly as many as I would have expected. And so, that is when I started scratching my head going, "Why would that be the case? I assume that this traffic we're getting is great traffic. Of course, there's the potential that it's just crappy traffic. But, before I accept that the traffic is crappy, first, I want to see if there's something wrong with my website." That is where I discovered the realm of conversion rate optimization and the idea of A/B testing, and I thought, "What the heck, let's give it a shot." So we ran an A/B Test on our website, I had no clue what I was doing at the time. I just found some landing page template online and tested it against one of our landing pages, and, it increased conversion rates by like 20%.
I thought, "Wow, this is crazy. This template doesn't look nice, but it converted a lot better." And that's what really sparked my love for conversion rate optimization. And really, the psychology aspect of, as you were reading my bio, the psychology aspect of digging in and asking, "Why did this work better? What is it that people were looking for on this website? What is it that resonated with them on this design that wasn't resonating with them on the previous design? What changed? What happened? What is it that is driving people's behavior on the site?" And that's the question that continues to excite me every single morning as I get up and get out of bed. I mean, it's a long story from there. I started my business and merged with Disruptive Advertising, and that's its own story in and of itself. But, that's a little bit about my background, how I ended up doing what I'm doing today.
Question: Are there some commonalities that you typically see that cause low conversion rates?
Answer: The first reason that people think about doing conversion rate optimization or A/B testing, is because, conversion rates are low. And that makes sense. There's a problem, you know that there's a problem, but more common than not is, conversion rates are fine and nobody is worried about it because things are fine, right? It's like, "Well, our site is converting fine so let's not do anything to it to improve it." And so, one big challenge in this, it's the same problem with high converting sites or low converting sites. The problem is that there's no strategy, either that goes into the website when it's initially built, or, there's some level of strategy and a bunch of assumptions are made about the website. I'll tell you a story to explain what I mean there.
We had a client that came to us that had spent little over $300,000 on a new website design, right? One big thing that a lot of companies will do, and I think we can talk more about this later, but, one big thing that most companies will do is, like every two to five years, say, "Oh, we need to redesign the whole site. We need a big website redesign." This company had spent about $300,000 on a big website redesign. Which, when you spend that amount of money on a site design, you're expecting that it's going to have some impact on performance, right? I mean, you need to see some kind of ROI on that.
They did a bunch of research that led them into this design. They did research on their audience demographics. So, they were like, "Oh, we know who our audience is, we know what age range they're in, we know that most of our traffic is coming from Instagram or from social media. So, they're on mobile devices, so, we're designing for mobile first." Anyways, they definitely gathered some data and did some research. And, the problem is, because they had done this research, they made a ton of assumptions about what their audience wanted. So, they designed a site that they thought would appeal to this particular audience on this particular device type coming from this particular traffic source. They launched the new website, and nothing happened. Conversion rates didn't go up, they didn't go down, they didn't improve at all.
They had done all of this work, and they were left similar to my experience earlier in my career, they're sitting there scratching their heads going, "We would think this would have some kind of impact on conversion rates, what happened?" And so, when they came to me, that's when we got to start digging in and asking, "Well, what does the audience actually want to see? That's great that you know that your traffic is on mobile devices. That's great that you know your traffic is coming from social media. And, we still don't know what they actually want to see. You sell a bunch of products on your website, we don't know how many of those products they want to see when they come to the homepage.
Do they want to see all of them? Do they want to see one of them? Do they want to see categories of your products? We don't know what they actually want to see on the site, so, all you've really done is, you just repackaged your old website and made it look better. But you haven't actually improved any of the ... you don't actually know what your users want on each page. And so, you haven't improved anything that matters. Turns out, the design doesn't actually matter to your audience, what matters is the functionality." So, we started challenging a lot of their assumptions. For example, on mobile, they had designed their page to look a lot like Instagram. So, you get to their homepage, and there's just endless products. You just scroll and scroll and scroll on mobile, and they just have tons of products. We challenged that assumption, and we said, "Well, let's run an A/B test. Let's run a test where we have less products on the page."
In fact, we ran eight different versions of their homepage, with less, fewer and fewer numbers of products. I think, their original homepage had like 50 or something. When we ran a version of their homepage, they had 40, and 30, and 20 and 10. And then, we ran a version that just had categories on there. And out of all of those eight different variations, six of them increased revenue and conversion rates, which immediately told us that the assumptions that we had been making were wrong, and, that the design isn't what's important, it's the actual content, the experience, the journey through the website. And we needed to explore and find out what journey we needed to be giving our users. And so, that is the most common challenge that I see businesses have is, businesses make assumptions because they talk to their customers. They have analytics data that says, X, Y and Z, or they have done some customer research that say thing.
So, they make a bunch of assumptions about what people actually want on the site, without testing it to verify that that is actually going to perform better. I think, that's one of the biggest challenges that most companies in the world today are up against. And this is irrespective of a size. I think, only 20% of the Fortune 500 companies do any kind of A/B testing on their site. Which means, 80% of those companies are just flying blind. They're just doing whatever their design team told them to do or what a design agency told them to do, but they don't actually have a lot of data backing up what they're doing.
Question: And is that because people just, are not thrilled with the idea of plotting along and throwing different things out and testing them? Or, why is it that there's this abhorrence basically and non interest in doing A/B testing?
Answer: The first biggest reason is that people just don't even know that it exists, which blows my mind with conversion rate optimization today being a lot more visible than it was when I started. You would think that a lot of companies would be aware of how valuable it can be, but most of the people that I talked to, have never tried A/B testing before. It just never even crossed their mind as something that they need. And so, that's the first thing. And I think the reason why that happens is, it is so easy to get lost in the traffic game, right? It's like, you try out PPC, and you identify that Google is a great channel for you to send traffic to. So, then your marketing mind just becomes consumed with optimizing your PPC campaigns, driving more PPC traffic, figuring out what your budgets and your schedule should be, and your mind is just a one track mind.
Same thing with SEO. I mean, it's the same problem that I had. When I was doing SEO, what are the things that I'm concerned about on a daily basis? What am I concerned about rankings? What are my rankings on different keywords? I'm concerned about different KPIs leading indicators. Like, how much content are we reproducing? How many articles are we republishing? All these types of things. And so, it's so easy to just get this narrow minded focus, and you tell yourself, "Well, we'll focus on conversion rates and the website at some point." And the truth is, you never do. Because, it is never going to make itself a priority, unless, conversion rates tank. And if conversion rates tank, then it's panic mode. And so, we have a client right now that we're working with, that is in panic mode. And they're having a very hard time doing A/B testing, because, they're like, "No, our business is failing, conversion rates are tanking. We need to just make changes to the website, we need to fix this problem now."
And that's where most businesses start making really stupid decisions. Because, if I need to make a decision today, to fix a problem today, I'm probably not making a very smart or strategic decision. Because, smart and strategic decisions take a little bit longer. So, I think, that's the second concern that people have. The first concern I've seen is, people don't know about it. The second concern I've seen is, it never becomes an urgent issue until it's almost too late. And the third issue that I have seen, the third reason why companies don't do A/B testing is, that they tried it, and had no idea what they were doing. There was no strategy, there was no expertise involved. They tried it, and when most companies try A/B testing, they do one of two things.
They will say, "I hate this thing on our site. So, let's try a version where we remove that thing on our site that I hate. I hate that we have a picture of the founder on the homepage. I really want to go to my boss and tell him that his picture on the homepage is hurting conversion rates. So, let's run a test." So, they run a test, and either it works or it doesn't. If it works, then they go, "Great, let's take that picture off the homepage." And then, they never test anything else because there was no strategy behind it. Or, it doesn't work, and they go, "Well, crap, that was the only idea I had. There's nothing else to do." So, that's one reason. Or, businesses try it, and they fail. And I say failure almost with quotations around it, because, it doesn't work. Whatever their ideas doesn't work, and they don't know where to go from there.
And so that's the third biggest reason is just, businesses have tried it, and either haven't had success or have, and haven't known what to do from there. Because, they haven't had any expertise or strategy, and so, they just get stuck. And so, yeah, like I said, there's a lot of reasons, there's so many companies out there that aren't doing it, which is great news for those of us marketers and business owners, that are willing to try this. Because, that puts us a huge step ahead of all our competitors.
Question: Is there anything as a last thought that you'd want to share with our listeners today on how they should get started?
Answer: Just the last thing that I want to say goes back to what we talked about at the very beginning. Which is, the most successful individuals, in fact, I'll share a quote, it's one of my favorite quotes, it's from Jim Rohn. And he said, "Your level of success will rarely exceed your level of personal development." And what I love about that, and I've seen, over and over again, with entrepreneurs, with marketers, with employees alike, is, the people who are the most successful, are the people who are constantly willing to adapt, to challenge themselves to be willing to think differently. And so, I guess, my invitation to people is, if you're hesitancy with A/B testing, if you're not A/B testing right now, because, you think that you already have a great website or you're concerned about, you would rather just use a user experience design or something like that, be willing to challenge your own idea.
Be willing to challenge something that's on your website. Be willing to feel a little bit uncomfortable for the sake of learning and developing yourself. Because, again, whether you're a marketer, an employee, an entrepreneur, if you're willing to constantly improve and constantly look for ways to improve yourself, your business, your website, you will be vastly more successful than people who are not willing to do that.
Further Listening And Reading
The selected highlights above are just the tip of the iceberg of information that Chris shared! To hear the rest of it, listen to the full episode of our podcast!
Want to learn more about the ways that your brand can effectively improve your awareness and sales through digital marketing? Check out these other blog posts we've written!
- Digital Marketing Strategies With Naresh Vissa
- Create Brand Partnerships Through Influencer Marketing With KeithStoeckeler
- Effective Digital Media Marketing With Sharifah Hardie
- How Brands Are Making a Digital Impact at the 2018 World Cup
- Boosting Authority And Influence Through Social Media
Ready to take the next step in your brand's digital marketing and begin partnering with social influencers to create branded content? Check out our free e-book on connecting with social influencers!