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  • 03.21.11

Here Come the Web Optimizers

They are armed with data and ready to transform your business. Are you ready?

There was a buzz in our agency conference room as folks
filed in for our monthly brown bag meetup. Sure, it could have been the free
pizza, but there was something bigger going on this month.

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The topic? Web site analytics and optimization.

But this wasn’t a roomful of data geeks. We had developers, project
managers, marketers and user experience experts, all engaged and eager to learn
more about how to use technology and data to improve digital experiences.

There’s something happening here. And it’s not about the
data. It’s about the people using it.

Digital marketers have been drowning in data for years. The
challenge has been knowing what to do with it all. Fortunately this is all starting to change, in
a good way.

Free Analytics. Just Add People

Up until a few years ago, anyone serious about data-driven
marketing needed to spend some bucks to get an enterprise offering from someone
like Omniture, Webtrends or Coremetrics.
For larger companies, this quickly gets into six-figure territory, not
to mention the implementation work required. It’s easy to see
why some people may never get around to actually taking action from the
data. Just getting analytics up and running can be exhausting.

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This all changed with Google Analytics. Yes, it’s free, but
that’s not the real story. The product has evolved into a more-than-capable
Web analytics offering with an easy-to-use interface and a focus on surfacing
relevant data to marketers. It’s lowered the barrier to using the technology,
allowing anyone to jump in and see how visitors are engaging with their Web site. Google has also added a free testing tool called Google Website
Optimizer
enabling real-time A/B and multivariate testing.

In short, it’s completely changed the game. There is of
course still a thriving market for enterprise Web analytics solutions, but the
availability and access to Google Analytics has opened up analytics to anyone
and everyone.

Meet the Optimizers

The real revolution is happening in the trenches with
the people using the data.

Today, there’s a new breed of folks who have the marketing
smarts, technical competency and understanding of how the data connects to a
Web site and business. They’re relentlessly focused on how to improve the bottom
line with small tweaks and changes. They are working to close the loop
between analysis and action.

We’re seeing this most visibly in the areas of landing page and
conversion optimization
. With the piles of money spent on digital acquisition
and pay-per-click marketing, there is some serious potential for lift in making
the onsite landing experiences effective and better tuned to specific search queries and visitor intent.

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But this is just the tip of the optimization iceberg. The
opportunities are ripe across all areas of the digital ecosystem. Data can be
used to personalize experiences, fix usability problems and improve deeper
transactional parts of a digital experience. We’ve just scratched the surface
of what’s possible.

Small Changes. Big Results.

Optimization is gaining fast traction because companies are finally
understanding its impact on the business.

It’s common for organizations to spend exorbitant sums of
money building large-scale Web sites and technology platforms. But those same
budgets have not been there for the ongoing optimization and improvement.
Instead of moving from one large redesign project to another, organizations are
realizing the real value lies in the ongoing testing and continuous improvement
of these digital properties.

These efforts pay off in big ways.

We recently had a client that realized a 193% increase in a
conversion rate from some very simple Web site changes. Another had a 22%
increase on leads generated from a revamped landing page design and small copy
changes. These types of improvements may look small, but they can mean thousands (or even millions) of
dollars to the bottom line. Look no further than Jared Spool’s now famous $300 million
dollar button
story. Examples like this get an executive’s attention in a
hurry.

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As digital becomes more and more integrated with the overall
business it becomes even more closely tied to revenue and bottom-line results.
The role of optimization not only becomes a necessity, it is a competitive
differentiator.

Optimizers Unite!

There’s visible and exciting momentum happening today with analytics
professionals mobilizing in impressive ways. Take Web Analytics
Wednesday
, dubbed the biggest Web analytics community on Earth. It’s a
monthly networking event happening in cities around the world and attended by more
than 10,000 people since its founding in 2005.

The Conversion
Conference
and eMetrics both took
place in San Francisco this week. Two events that exclusively focused on
helping organizations realize the value from making data-driven decisions.

Our own agency recently formed a new optimization practice
and are actively working with organizations to drive digital change. And as
evident from our brown bag session this week, it’s something that will change
the way the entire agency thinks about digital and service delivery.

And yet with all this momentum, there’s still a shortage of
good people to do all the work. Companies looking for optimization talent complain about the
sparse applicant pools. The best and brightest people are in high demand (and
well compensated). Yet this is still a relatively immature field with only a
handful of options for good education and training.

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While the discipline continues to evolve and move into the
mainstream, there remain tremendous opportunities for individuals and
organizations alike to jump in with two feet.

So what are you waiting for? Let’s get
optimizing.

About the author

Jeff Cram is Chief Strategy Officer and co-founder of ISITE Design, a digital experience agency. Jeff resides in Boston where he passionately roots for his beloved Red Sox.

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