The Dreaded AdWords Plateau and What You Can Do About It [PODCAST]

Are your AdWords campaigns plateauing? Image via Flickr.

Have you ever run a PPC campaign that was working pretty well, but never seemed to get to the next level?

You may have experienced what PPC insiders call the “AdWords Plateau,” the point where your campaigns are maintaining their value, but are no longer driving the kind of growth you need.

So, do you just sit back and rest on your laurels? Heck no! We want your campaigns to always be converting better. That’s why in this episode of the Call to Action podcast, we talk to Igor Belogolovsky, co-founder of Clever Zebo, about advanced AdWords tactics that can push your campaigns up and off the plateau.

You will learn:

  • Why categorizing your campaigns based on product can be holding you back.
  • The importance of geography in AdWords.
  • How one company added a call extension and increased mobile leads by 110%.

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Read the transcript

In this episode: Dan Levy, Unbounce’s Content Strategist, interviews Igor Belogolovsky, co-founder of Clever Zebo.

Stephanie Saretsky: Hey podcast listeners, I’m Stephanie Saretsky and you’re listing to Call to Action, a podcast about creating better marketing experiences — powered by Unbounce.

Are you running PPC campaigns? Are your results pretty good but you never seemed to be able to get them to be even better? You may have experienced what PPC insiders call the “AdWords Plateau,” the point when your campaigns are maintaining their value, but aren’t doing any better and aren’t doing any worse. So, do you just sit back on your laurels? Heck no! We want your campaigns to always be converting better. That’s why our Content Strategist Dan Levy got in touch with Igor Belogolovsky, co-founder of Clever Zebo, about advanced AdWords hacks that can push your campaigns up and off the plateau. Take a listen to this.

Dan: Before we get into brass tacks, let’s talk about the infamous AdWords performance plateau. What is it, and how do I know if I’ve reached it?

Igor: You know, if you’ve been advertising on AdWords for a long time and have been trying different tweaks in your campaign, and you come across that moment where you’re sort of like, “Hmm, no matter what I do, I can’t seem to get the number of conversions up from week to week, can’t seem to get this CPA down any further.” That’s kind of what I think of as the plateau. And if you’ve optimized AdWords campaigns for a while, it happens and it comes pretty quickly if you’re good at this.

Dan: So what are some signs that you’ve reached a plateau and it’s time to try something new?

Igor: Honestly, I think the biggest thing is that those metrics are staying steady. Can’t seem to get over a certain number of weekly conversions, can’t seem to get under a certain CPA. If other metrics are staying unchanged or you can’t get them higher or better than they were last week, that’s definitely a sign. Especially if you’re doing rigorous testing in the account. If you’ve got an A/B test on your ads live at all times and still, no matter what, you’ve got incumbent ads always beating the new variants, that’s an indicator that the account’s in pretty good shape. It means that things might have plateaued.

Dan: And of course, things are in good shape, then – it’s a good problem to have, but you always want to be optimizing and doing better, of course. So, one of the more common challenges that I think performance marketers find themselves butting up against has to do with the volume. Can you explain why I might want to get more campaign traffic and what I can do to get that?

Igor: So everybody’s looking for more traffic if it’s qualified. It’s easy to spend money on AdWords on traffic that isn’t qualified, so put that asterisk next to the idea of more traffic and why you would want it. But let’s say that you’re getting good traffic through AdWords and you want to get more of it. Basically, there’s two ways that you can get more traffic through AdWords. #1 is expanding your keyword approach and different topics that you want to capture searchers on. #2 is actually creating better performing campaigns. So you might only be able to get a certain percentage of the impression share available on your terms if your ads are not kind of very historically vetted and have been shown to Google to perform really well. Once you pass that test — once you kind of show Google that you can drive consistent performance and you’re going to keep spending in that area and you’re going to outperform in a consistent way the other competitors in that space — you’re going to be able to get more volume. Because Google will trust your ad. Google will know if they serve it a certain number of times a day, they’ll make a certain amount of money from people clicking that ad and you’ll be happy from the results from a conversion standpoint and ROI standpoint. So it’s not a risk for Google. So those are the two main ways to increase traffic.

Dan: And of course, getting more traffic, though, usually means spending more money. How do you know if it’s worth cranking up the budget for that?

Igor: Well, like any performance marketer, I would tell you that if you’re making more money than you’re spending, you’re in good shape. But that’s where people start talking about the concept of lifetime value. You know, sometimes the conversion that you’re tracking in AdWords doesn’t trace all the way back to the credit card or the revenue that comes back to your business. So when you’ve got a sophisticated enough model, when you can take into account lifetime value, if you can feed that back into AdWords through their offline conversions import feature, you can really be in good shape to understand your overall ROI.

Dan: Well, the next tactic, now that we’ve got the basics down, the next one that you look at in your post has to do with lowering cost per acquisition. Most marketers manage CPA by campaign or keyword and ad group. But you’re right that this means that you’re prioritizing search topics over the searcher herself or himself. What do you mean by that?

Igor: So if you’re just adjusting bids based on a specific keyword, basically what you’re telling Google is red shoes are converting better than blue shoes. What you’re ignoring, potentially, is the person that’s typing that in and what experience they’re going to have when they click through to your site. So in the case of an ecommerce site, where maybe you’ve got a high-ticket item and a very considered purchase, maybe the desktop version of the site converts better than mobile, because sometimes it’s tougher to make an ecommerce buy on your mobile device. It’s small and there’s a lot of different options. And so if you’re not optimizing bids at the device level, for example – and there are other dimensions too like geography and we’ll talk about that later – then you’re really doing yourself a disservice to just focus on the thing being searched and not also the searcher and what experience they’re having coming to your site.

Dan: Ultimately, you’re trying to reach a person, so user intent is something that I think maybe some marketers forget about but really should be driving your campaign for the most part, right?

Igor: Absolutely.

Dan: I’d like to dive into device type. Can you take us through what making bid adjustments looks like in the context of a mobile campaign?

Igor: So we just talked about the example of an ecommerce site where you might have a better desktop experience than mobile, and thus your mobile CPA might be higher so you might want to adjust your bids down on mobile to account for that. There’s also the possibility that your mobile experience is the primary experience and you want to bid up on the mobile ads. So an example of that might be that you’re advertising for your restaurant and you want somebody to set up a reservation on OpenTable. That’s something that people often do on their mobile device and they want to have a map handy of the restaurant. They’re not going to be doing that as often from their desktop. So in that scenario, you might bid up by 50 percent on mobile devices and not so much on desktop.

Dan: Another way to adjust bids is by geography, since some products and services convert differently in different places. I get how someone selling raincoats would want to focus on Seattle rather than Phoenix, for example. But could you explain why a marketer in a less tangible place-based industry like SaaS or healthcare or education would want to adjust their bids geographically?

Igor: Yeah, it’s a really good question. But you’d be surprised when you go into the dimensions tab in AdWords. Sometimes it’ll go into a campaign and California has a $40.00 CPA and in Illinois, we’re looking at a $150.00 CPA. Like why would that be? But it happens. The raincoat example is the one that Google kind of gives and that makes sense to everybody. In software as a service, it might be something more subtle. For example, we have a client that’s in usability testing software. And they get a lot of university students going and searching for their software to go and play around with the idea of usability testing and what it means. And those university students aren’t going to be great converters. But you know, in the name of education, they’ll go and click through and look around. And so you might have, in a university town like Berkeley, California, a lot of people kind of going that route and so not converting as often. Whereas across the bay in San Francisco where you have lots of tech startups, there might actually be buyers of the usability testing software. For them, you might have a lower CPA and better converting numbers. So that’s just a scenario where in micro geography, you might have higher bids for San Francisco where you have the tech startups and lower bids for Berkeley, which is a college town.

Dan: That makes sense. Google suggests that you make bid adjustments in the 15 percent range. Why – what’s so magical about that particular number? Do you know?

Igor: That’s a good question. Google usually suggests this; the reps often talk about the 10 to 15 percent range. And I think the reason really is that Google AdWords is a sensitive machine. And if you go in and start tweaking levers at 30 or 50 percent bid increases, there’s not as much stability to that and it can take longer to learn. Whereas if you go gradually, you can learn more and I think you can learn more quickly. I think gradual is the key to a lot of things in AdWords, not just the adjustments.

Dan: So it’s sort of Google giving a hint a little bit about how their algorithm works there?

Igor: I think so.

Dan: Yeah, a lot of AdWords is reading the Google tea leaves, isn’t it?

Igor: I think so.

Dan: The last conversion that you suggest optimizing your AdWords campaign for is click-through rates. Before we get into some of the techs about how to do that, when might you find yourself in a situation where it makes sense to optimize for clicks?

Igor: Yeah. So I think the main caveat here is of course, clicks are good but conversions are better, right? So it’s not that I’m saying you want to go out and get as many clicks as possible, because that can be expensive. But click-through rate has long been known to be the main determinant of Quality Score, which is Google’s 1 to 10 scale of how good of a search result your ad is, in the end, as an experience for the visitor. And the better experience that your ad provides, the more often Google is going to serve that ad, and also the less Google is going to charge you to put that ad in the top three spots because they know that it’s going to get clicked because it’s just such a good quality ad. And so by getting your click-through up and optimizing for clicks, you’re actually going to improve that Quality Score and hopefully take it to the 7, 8, 9, 10 out of 10 range. And that’s really going to help you from a cost perspective and from an impression share perspective. I would say the other reason to optimize for clicks is just if you’re in a very competitive SEM landscape. So if you’re in real estate, if you’re in legal, every qualified click counts. And so getting that impression share optimizing for clicks can be the life blood of your account.

Dan: Yeah, Quality Score I guess is another one of those things that’s a little bit mysterious and Google doesn’t give a whole lot of advice about how to get that up. So I suppose anything counts.

Igor: Exactly.

Dan: So let’s talk about ad extensions, which are one of the key ways that you can set up your PPC campaigns and set them apart from noobs and competitors. So what are ad extensions? What do they look like and why should marketers get really excited about them?

Igor: There’s a couple of different types of ad extensions. I’ll just call out a few. There’s site links, which are up to four different links that will show up underneath your ad headline and will point to specific content on your site; so not just to the landing page that your main ad headline links to, but to an “about us” page, or a partnership integrations page or testimonials page or something like that. The other exciting thing about the site links extension, though, is that it really gives you more real estate on the page. So if you are fortunate enough to have your ads show up in those top three spots in Google, you’re going to take up more room when they show those four site link extensions and so you kind of get more billboard real estate out of that.

Dan: Is there a tradeoff there, though? Because you’re also distracting people from getting to that landing page where the conversion actually takes place, no?

Igor: That’s a really good point and something I’ve had to attack with a client this week — you might have people going to another place on the site that’s less of a direct path to conversion. And so what that tells me is: man, every page on this site has got to have a strong call to action. Even if you’re telling people about your great quality of work and where your product is made and all that type of more informational stuff, you’ve got to have a call to action on the page and be able to point people toward the conversion that way. Otherwise, the site links could well distract more than they add.

Dan: Wouldn’t it depend, then, on where the user that you’re targeting is in your customer lifecycle? Like if it’s a little bit more of a lead gen or brand awareness play, then those site links getting that attention might be worth it. But if you’re looking for that conversion, then maybe not?

Igor: Yeah, that can absolutely make a difference. Another way the companies will use it is that a player like Zappos might have a site link that’s all about their free returns and how you can return something for 365 days out of the year. They might think that if they work that into their 35 character description one line, that’s okay. But having a whole site link and page and description of that policy can be really beneficial for them because that’s one of the big reasons that people buy from Zappos.

Dan: Interesting. So in a way, it’s just a way – well, I guess that’s why it’s called an extension, right? It’s a way to extend your ad and your messaging without –

Igor: Absolutely.

Dan: – messing up your peppy headline, I guess.

Igor: That’s right. And there’s a couple other versions of the extension, also. There’s location extensions for brick and mortar business to show the location of it, there’s call extensions which will bring in a phone number right there into your ad. And there’s a callout extension, which is not a clickable piece of text but it allows you to put a couple of dinger benefits right below your ad about your service.

Dan: I wanted to ask you about the call extension. Can you talk about how an organization called A Place for Mom added a call extension and increased their mobile leads by 110 percent in the process?

Igor: Yeah, absolutely. So A Place for Mom is one of Google’s case studies and they’re in elder care. And you know, at the end of the day, it’s pretty obvious. You add a call extension, you allow people who are searching for information about your service on mobile to call in rather than using the form on your site. And of course they’re going to call so it makes sense that they were able to increase calls. But I think that the real takeaway from this one is that calls can be a much more qualified lead than somebody who just fills out a form on your website. Because what ends up happening is sales teams that call on leads that submit through a landing page form, they’ll usually find that at least half of the submissions are not good leads for whatever reason; either they can’t reach them on the phone number, or by the time they get a call from the sales rep, they’ve filled out three other forms of competitors and so they’re going with a different option. Somebody who’s calling you right there on the spot, they’ve made a lot more effort to pick up the phone and get in touch with you. And something like eldercare in this example — there are lots of other businesses like this. It can be something that people want to talk through on the phone and not just read a couple of bullet points on a landing page and submit a form. And so these people that are calling are treasured leads. They should be viewed as a lead that maybe would be willing to pay three or four times as much to Google to get that lead.

Dan: Yeah. Again, it goes back to that user’s intent and where they are in your funnel, and whether it makes more sense to get them on the phone right away, or what you really want to be doing is getting their email address so you could continue to nurture them through the funnel until it’s time to maybe ask for that big conversion. So yeah, in most cases, the conversion doesn’t happen over the phone but it does happen on that landing page. Can you leave us with one tip for optimizing your PPC landing pages for more conversions?

Igor: Yeah. You know, I think that the last couple years, the trend has really been minimalist text: the idea that people don’t read so much on a landing page and really having a bare bones form where we don’t ask for a lot of fields. So the trend has been don’t ask too much of the consumer. But there’s a flip side to that. I think trustworthiness is one of the main reasons that people do choose to give their information on a landing page. And so sometimes it can take a little bit of content to build that trust. So I guess maybe the tip is this: if I see a great testimonial with a picture of the person that it’s coming from, and it’s from somebody who is just right in my demographic. So I’m a cofounder of a marketing firm. If I see this tool that – I’m looking at their landing page – is used by an executive at a marketing agency and he’s saying, “Man, this tool saved us a bunch of money and you’ve got to try it,” coupled with a lot of other landing page elements that kind of build out the case for that tool, I’m much more likely to convert than if somebody is just using a snappy headline, a really short form, and really bare bones content.

Dan: Yeah, it’s amazing how many marketers still don’t include that sort of social proof on their landing page. That said, our cofounder Oli used to say that 99 percent of marketers still aren’t even sending their AdWords traffic to a dedicated landing page. I think recently he said it’s gotten a little bit better so it’s more like 98 percent. I don’t know what you’re seeing, but where do you think we are, actually, with the state of AdWords and using dedicated landing pages for PPC campaigns, and why do you think most – or why do you think more marketers still aren’t doing it?

Igor: It’s something that’s been changing a lot and certainly there’s really sophisticated companies out there that are building out highly specific landing pages for every search term. I think that, at the end of the day, it takes resources to build these dedicated pages. And so in the spirit of minimum viable product and kind of straw manning something together to get proof out of AdWords before you go and put a lot of technical resources behind it, a lot of companies and a lot of our clients will build kind of the minimum viable landing page approach, which will not necessarily be super specific, keyword by keyword and ad group by ad group. And once they see that work well, one of the optimization steps that we recommend, months down the road after that, is to build out a very specific approach. But it can be really tough to get technical resources devoted to that type of thing and you have to believe in Google AdWords, you have to believe in landing pages that are highly tailored and really put the money there and make it happen and make it beautiful.

Dan: If only there were a tool to help you easily build landing pages.

Igor: Wild idea.

Dan: Shameless plug. Cool. Well, thanks for sharing all these really insightful tips and for the great post, Igor. It was great to chat.

Igor: Dan, thank you.

Stephanie: That was Igor Belogolovsky, co-founder of Clever Zebo.

Transcript by GMR Transcription.


The Dreaded AdWords Plateau and What You Can Do About It [PODCAST]

Space Yourself

There’s more to spaces than the key you instinctively hit with one of your thumbs between words. Let’s find out what other space characters there are, what their heritage is, and how they can be useful today.

Space Yourself

What you see below are two tweets. In one of them, Paul Irish will be notified of my taunt. In the other one, he’ll be completely oblivious. What’s the difference between the two? Read on!

The post Space Yourself appeared first on Smashing Magazine.

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Space Yourself

How To Improve Conversions On Your Pricing Page And Make The Sale

“It’s all about the money,” says Kevin O’Leary on Shark Tank. Robert Herjavec, who’s heard it numerous times before, looks at Kevin in mock surprise and says, “It’s all about the what?” “It’s all about the money!” You’ve attracted visitors to your site, you’ve informed them, even seduced them, and now it’s time for the […]

The post How To Improve Conversions On Your Pricing Page And Make The Sale appeared first on The Daily Egg.

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How To Improve Conversions On Your Pricing Page And Make The Sale

Can SSL, Trust Seals and Other Security Indicators Increase Conversions?

Imagine you’re in the waiting room at the “Smiles 4 Dayz” dental office. There’s some standard elevator music playing, and everything seems pretty average.

Except that, as you’re filling out the new patient form, you notice there aren’t any dental school diplomas lining the walls of the office (not one…). Even more curious, the form lists the dentist as simply “Mrs. Liza Hoover,” not “Dr. Hoover, PhD, M.Sc.” Finally, when your name is called, the receptionist asks loudly for your social security number while others look on.

Visitor anxiety

Now, this is an exaggerated example, but these subtle (and not-so-subtle) red flags would likely have you questioning this dentist’s credibility.

Point being? You could be evoking the same type of visitor anxiety on your landing pages unwittingly, and losing out on conversions from visitors who can’t decide whether or not to trust you.

These days, 77% of website visitors worry that their personal data could be intercepted or misused online, so that lead gen form on your landing page could be causing more anxiety (and bounces!) than you realize.

Luckily, there are simple measures you can take to reassure visitors that your pages are secure — thereby increasing the likelihood of conversion.

SSL to the rescue!

SSL, or Secure Sockets Layer, is an industry standard security measure that creates an encrypted link between your landing pages and your visitor’s browser. It encrypts data in transmission and ensures that contact info sent through your landing page forms is secure.

Visitors to your landing pages can see whether you’re serving up secure page based on the ‘HTTPS’ and the small green padlock icon that’ll appear in the address bar:


These two, small visual cues reassure visitors their contact info is safe when submitted through your landing page, and it’s been found that close to half of website visitors check for security indicators like these before they’ll hand over personal information in a form.

Does SSL impact the way visitors perceive your page?

Depending on the importance of perceived security in your industry, you could be leaving conversions on the table if you don’t serve up your pages securely. As GlobalSign, a web-trust certificate provider discovered, 84% of website visitors surveyed said they would abandon a purchase if they knew the data was going to be sent over an insecure connection.

Moreover, because Google prioritizes making the web a safer place for everyone, in 2014 they announced they were using HTTPS as a ranking signal in their search ranking algorithm. Although HTTPS was more of a lightweight signal than high-quality content, Google did say that they might strengthen the signal over time, and ultimately encouraged everyone to swap from HTTP to HTTPS.

As far as your landing pages are concerned, it can’t hurt to take security more seriously, especially in industries like healthcare, finance, security-related tech, and ecommerce (where faulty security can have much higher consequences than in other industries).

After all, your landing page for a finance product might not convert so well if visitors notice you didn’t care to serve it up securely to protect their personal information in transit. A quick swap over to HTTPS is a simple thing you can do today to improve your landing page visitor’s trust.

PRO TIP: SSL is enabled on Unbounce pages on Pro Accounts. Simply update all your current links directing to your landing page to begin with HTTPS, and you’re set!

What about trust seals?

Beyond changing your links to HTTPS, third-party security vendors often offer a security seal, or SSL badge, for you to feature on your ecommerce sites or landing pages with a bit of Javascript. These seals are often cited to correlate with higher conversion rates, but – depending on your use case – your mileage may vary.

Here’s a trust seal from GlobalSign as an example:


The effectiveness of these trust seals seems dependent on whether they’re recognized (some are more recognizable than others), but also on their prominence and usefulness to your audience at a particular time in the buying cycle.

A seal accompanying a final purchase confirmation page may fare well, but could hypothetically decrease trust and conversions if you include it too prominently across a multi-step ecommerce experience. Displaying the trust seal repeatedly may make visitors curious as to why you need to repeat that you’re secure (rather than simply state it once during initial checkout).

Blue Fountain Media cited a 42% increase in conversions with their A/B test of a VeriSign seal (see their A/B test variations below), and US Cutter have reported conversion lifts of 11% with the use of a Norton trust seal.


As with all things, however, running your own A/B test is the only way to determine whether security seals are a win for your landing pages.

Placement matters

As everyone will experience different results with a trust seal, it’s difficult to be prescriptive about their use. Chris Goward of WiderFunnel found, for example, that with one of their clients, a McAfee badge decreased conversions by 1.6%. However, as savvy commenters have noted, this could be due to the seal’s placement in the test.

You could choose to include a trust seal on a checkout or shopping cart confirmation page in the case of an ecommerce page, or you could simply swap all of your landing pages to HTTPS, skip the trust seal entirely, and see if you experience a difference in conversions. A simple swap to HTTPS might be enough for your audience to know you’re secure.

Note that if you do swap over to SSL, you’ll want to ensure all elements on your landing pages are secure (including videos, privacy policies, etc.) as the trust seal can’t be verified by a third-party security vendor if there are insecure items on the page.

Put your prospects at ease

When it comes down to it, security is becoming an increasingly important issue for people and marketers have to work to build their trust.

While design, copy and testimonials play a large part in conveying your company’s credibility, there are other factors to consider. Whether you’re creating a click-through ecommerce page, or simply collecting contact information through a lead gen form, you need to do everything you can to reinforce your trustworthiness and convey to customer that you care about their privacy and security.

SSL is just one way you can reassure your potential customers their info is safe with you.

Original article – 

Can SSL, Trust Seals and Other Security Indicators Increase Conversions?

Intimate And Interruptive: Designing For The Power Of Apple Watch

“We’re all back at square one again.” That was the overwhelming lesson we learned while designing our first major Apple Watch app for launch. To be successful in designing for this device, the entire way we think about app design will need an overhaul.

Intimate And Interruptive: Designing For The Unique Power Of Apple Watch

The patterns and processes that became standard for other devices are of little help here and, in many cases, can actively hinder efforts to create a beautiful, functional and user-centric watch experience.

The post Intimate And Interruptive: Designing For The Power Of Apple Watch appeared first on Smashing Magazine.

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Intimate And Interruptive: Designing For The Power Of Apple Watch

Goodbye, t-test: new stats models for A/B testing boost accuracy, effectiveness

The t-test has served as a workhorse for conversion optimization teams for many years — though there’s always been confusion about what the results really mean.

This statistical method that has driven A/B testing analyses has served us well, but it’s clear that the t-test is now outdated. With websites receiving and harvesting data constantly, the t-test is simply too slow and isn’t able to give teams the updated results they need to make fast business decisions.

Plus, typical t-test results reports have often been misleading, as you can see in the example below.
(Note: Chris Goward shows how to interpret t-test results here.)

This is what results used to look like with the classic t-test. A few minutes into an a/b test and we’ve already got a “winner”… right. Optimizely took the first step earlier this year in revolutionizing how a/b test results are calculated.
This is what results used to look like with the classic t-test. A few minutes into an a/b test and we’ve already got a “winner”… right. Optimizely took the first step earlier this year in revolutionizing how a/b test results are calculated.

Fortunately, there are now solutions. Optimizely and VWO have both developed new models for analyzing A/B testing and conversion results that can help businesses keep up with the flood of data they get from their websites. Here’s what you need to know.

The background

Back in 2007, Google launched its free Website Optimizer tool, which made A/B testing for websites much more accessible. It used the t-test, which looks at differences between means relative to spread or variability, to determine which variation was the winner or loser.
The launch inspired other optimization platforms. Optimizely and VWO emerged as the top two in a digital arms race. Features such as WYSIWYG editors made it easy to create website variations, while marketing software integration and mobile capabilities made the tools even more useful.

Why the change?

There are several reasons the t-test became outdated.

Leonid Pekelis
Leonid Pekelis
  • It simply isn’t made for the job. “The original test was meant to be run in the field with an end-point to collecting data”, says Optimizely’s in-house statistician, Leo Pekelis. “You set up your hypothesis, you gather data, you see if your data has evidence, then you report your results. So it’s a very compartmentalized and linear fashion of how to deal with test results.” The error rates calculated are for that procedure, not the way people collect a/b data now.
  • The t-test, as used traditionally in A/B testing, is plagued by false discoveries, especially when looking at results continuously — which is, of course, what conversation optimization teams do. The problem is that the results of an on-going t-test may appear to be conclusive earlier than when the results should be looked at.
  • The amount of tests run per month can number in the hundreds on high-power conversion optimization teams. The t-test has a potential to produce too many false positives, even with the right sample size of visitors. Meanwhile, major business decisions are waiting on the results.

What are the new A/B testing options?

New solutions from Optimizely and VWO have a similar goal: Put the t-test out to pasture, in favor of more useful and immediate statistical models that favor the demands of digital A/B testing.


Optimizely’s Stats Engine uses sequential testing. It’s better suited for A/B testing, because it evaluates results as data comes in, instead of  “fixed horizon testing” using a fixed sample size. Doing so brings a Bayesian view that creates a likelihood ratio, a model for how the variation is expected to perform.

Optimizely's stats engine.
Optimizely’s stats engine.

With Optimizely, you can look at your results at any time, and have more confidence in their reliability. You’re far less likely to see a variation falsely declared a winner. Optimizely says this is possible without sacrificing speed in most cases, especially when the actual lift in a variation is higher than what you would have set as your minimum detectable effect.
“When it comes to speed vs. accuracy in statistics, there’s no such thing as a free lunch,” says Pekelis, “We built Stats Engine to be as quick as possible while maintaining the integrity of our results.”

Visual Website Optimizer

Chris Stucchio
Chris Stucchio

VWO’s solution, SmartStats, is a little newer. It’s been in beta since August 2015 and just launched this month. This option goes full Bayesian: It gives a range, rather than a specific conversion rate, and becomes tighter as time goes on. Its main goal is to identify a best performer as fast as possible, rather than determine the variation of winning. “What the client wants is an exact number,” says Chris Stucchio, VWO’s in-house statistician. “But I’m a statistician, so I’m just going to be honest and say you cannot have an exact number — there isn’t one. All you can get is a range.” If you wait for an exact number, you sacrifice conversions.

In addition, SmartStats shows how much you could stand to lose if the variation performs at its minimum threshold conversion rate. It also has built-in trigger alerts to reduce methodological errors: The solution notifies you, for example, if you change your audience targeting mid-experiment or fail to run your experiment a full integer number of weeks.

Campaign warnings and campaign pause

What’s the difference between SmartStats and Stats Engine?

I was still curious: what would results look like if you ran the exact same experiment in both VWO and Optimizely at the same time? Which would give you a report faster and which would be more precise about the result?

According to Stucchio, VWO would likely give you the first result that says B is not worse than A and is probably better. “Some time after this, Stats Engine will say, ‘Yeah, you should probably deploy B.’ In the meantime, if you didn’t stop the test in VWO and you looked in our tool, you would discover that our credible intervals instead of saying 0-10 percent, they might say 4-7 percent.”

On the other hand, Pekelis points to the risk of average error control. “A fully Bayesian method will tend to make statements like ‘B is not worse than A’ sooner than Stats Engine, but this is problematic in one very important case: when B is actually worse than A,” he says.

Thomas Bayes
Thomas Bayes

“The rate of making a wrong call is controlled for Bayesian methods on average, meaning that for some experiments it will be higher and some it will be lower. The problem with this is customers who have more of the higher error experiments will see more mistakes than anticipated. Making a call as early as possible exacerbates this, and that’s the cost – some customers will be exposed to potentially a lot more errors. Are there cases where average error control is a good idea? Sure. But our philosophy is to explore solutions starting from a position of rigorous accuracy and clearly communicate any tradeoffs.

Pekelis suggests that the best way to speed up a test in Stats Engine is to lower the significance threshold, and accept a higher error rate. “We felt a known cost was better than an unknown one,” he says.

So what it comes down to is that with either tool, you’re going to be able to get more reliable results faster than before, but you’ll need to decide how much risk you’re willing to take in order to expedite your results. As always, you need to be scientific when it comes to your methodology. These tools will not make up for poor experiment design.

For those of you who’ve been calculating required sample sizes beforehand, your tests will now have the chance to end faster. This means that if it turns out that your test outperforms what your minimum detectable effect would have been had you used a classic t-test sample size calculator, you’ll be able to move on to your next test a lot sooner.

What also deserves mention is how much easier this evolution makes communicating results to stakeholders or clients. Whereas, before, results would look definitive with stakeholders asking why action wasn’t being taken, now, results will only look definitive when it is time. Imagine all of the painful conversations you can now avoid!

Here’s a comparison chart to compare the slight differences in how the two companies approach the solution.

Stats model comparison table

In the end, they’re both improvements to the old t-test and are great improvements to help optimization champions do better work.

Keep reading. Download our white paper, Developing a successful and scalable conversion optimization strategy.

About WiderFunnel
WiderFunnel creates profitable ‘A-ha!’ moments for clients. Our team of optimization experts works together with a singular focus: conversion optimization of our client’s customer touchpoints through insightful A/B testing. We don’t just consult and give advice — we test every recommendation to prove its value and gain tested insights. Contact us to learn more.

The post Goodbye, t-test: new stats models for A/B testing boost accuracy, effectiveness appeared first on WiderFunnel.

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Goodbye, t-test: new stats models for A/B testing boost accuracy, effectiveness

22 Quotes of Analytics Wisdom Straight From The Experts

Understanding analytics is at the heart of successful conversion optimization, because you need to measure what’s happening so that you know what to change or update. One shortcut to using analytics for conversion optimization is to learn from the experts. That’s the reason for this roundup of great advice from the best people writing on […]

The post 22 Quotes of Analytics Wisdom Straight From The Experts appeared first on The Daily Egg.

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22 Quotes of Analytics Wisdom Straight From The Experts

Web Development Reading List #108

What’s happening in the industry? What important techniques have emerged recently? What about new case studies, insights, techniques and tools? Our dear friend Anselm Hannemann is keeping track of everything in the web development reading list so you don’t have to. The result is a carefully collected list of articles that popped up over the last week and which might interest you. — Ed.

iOS GUI Templates

Last week I asked for some comments on how web development got more complex in my opinion and I got great feedback. It’s great to see a good discussion as the outcome, and I say “thank you” for all your support!

The post Web Development Reading List #108 appeared first on Smashing Magazine.

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Web Development Reading List #108


Beyond Usability: Designing With Persuasive Patterns

You probably have a great product. You’ve done your usability deeds and you have a few core customers who regularly use your product. However, it just doesn’t stick out from the competition. It has a high bounce rate, only few users return, users abandon your product faster than you would like and, in general, users never get far enough to experience all that your product has to offer.

Beyond Usability: Designing With Persuasive Patterns

Building persuasive user experiences is like a relationship and you need to treat it like one. So, what do you want? A one-night stand or a lasting partnership? In fact, there are three common challenges when engaging users with a product.

The post Beyond Usability: Designing With Persuasive Patterns appeared first on Smashing Magazine.

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Beyond Usability: Designing With Persuasive Patterns


Affordance: You Can’t Afford Not to Use This Design Principle on Your Landing Pages

Imagine you’re an extraterrestrial visiting earth for the first time. Upon landing, you stumble into someone’s home and find a toothbrush, which you’ve never seen before.

While you may not immediately understand how to use the thing, there are certain clues about the object that hint at how it can be used. Its handle, just a little longer than your humanoid palm, implies that you can grip it.

Similarly, certain types of door knobs provide clues as to whether a door should be pushed or pulled…


These visual clues, also known as Affordances, act as signals that an object can be used to perform a certain action. They’re all around us in the real world, but they’ve also bled into the digital realm.

When your visitor first lands on your website or landing page, they’re much like an alien visiting earth for the first time. You need to show them how to use the page by using familiar visual cues.

PSST. You can read all about Affordances and other conversion-boosting design principles in Unbounce cofounder Oli Gardner’s latest ebook, The 23 Principles of Attention-Driven Design.

Let’s dig a little deeper into the world of Affordances and explore how the principle can be applied to your landing pages so you’re not alienating prospects.

What is Affordance?

Cognitive scientist and usability engineer Don Norman first used the term Affordance in his book, The Design of Everyday Things (1988). In it, he quipped:

Affordances provide strong clues to the operations of things. Knobs are for turning. Slots are for inserting things into. Balls are for throwing or bouncing. When affordances are taken advantage of, the user knows what to do just by looking: no picture, no label or instruction needed.

So, the door with a handle on it is meant to be pulled, while the door with the plate on it is meant to be pushed. This should be clear without having to expressly inform a user of the purpose of either the plate or the handle.

Perhaps one of the great examples of Affordance in modern digital life is the play button, as you see below.


There are very few of us who wouldn’t know what to do with that button, and even someone who does not recognize it may be able to easily ascertain its purpose — within a certain context, at least.

The play button drawn on the side of a fence makes little sense, but place it on an MP3 player, and you may be able to guess at its Affordance.

In a nutshell, Affordances should really do two things:

  • Get the attention of the person who should use it
  • Imply its function

With these two principles at play, an object can be used without having to give a user an extensive user manual. Because at the end of the day, your landing page shouldn’t require instructions, right?

Make Affordances on your landing pages explicit

There are certain design features that tell landing page visitors explicitly what they need to do. A blank field begs to be filled in. A three dimensional button begs to be clicked.

As self-proclaimed “massive nerd” and web designer Natasha Postolovski describes in her Smashing Magazine article about the seven types of Affordances on webpages:

Explicit Affordance is signaled by language or an object’s physical appearance. Text that reads “Click here” explicitly affords clicking. A button that appears raised from the surrounding surface seems tactile and affords pushing.

Here’s a good example of that in action on an Unbounce landing page (below). The play button, bold and 3D, explicitly shows that it is meant to be pushed (or clicked).


Similarly, this page from Asana uses a greyed-out mock email address (“”) in a box to instruct users on where to put their email address.


Using visual language that prospects are already familiar provides gentle instruction that makes your landing page easy to navigate. And that sets people at ease.

Beware of Negative Affordance

Just as certain visual cues imply that an object is meant to be used, other visual cues suggest that items are not to be used. Think of a grayed-out “Save” button that only appears once you’ve entered all required information in a form. In her Smashing Magazine article, Postolovski calls this Negative Affordance.

While this sort of visual cue can come in handy in checkout forms, it is more often than not the enemy of conversion on landing pages.

Think of the recent design trend of ghost buttons, for example:


We have been trained to ignore grayed-out buttons, so when a ghost button or button lacking contrast is used, our first instinct is to overlook it.

To add insult to injury, the button copy does a poor job of serving as Explicit Affordance. “Let’s Go” as a call to action does little to inform the user what will happen next.

When in doubt, test your copy. Test your ghost buttons. But err on the side of being as explicit as you can.

Applying Affordance on your landing pages

Affordances are found everywhere. You can see them on your stereo, your iPad, entranceways and on roads.

When used effectively, they show people how to use an object intuitively. When used poorly, you make your visitors feel like aliens from another dimension.

You want your landing page to be so simple to use that even the kid in the Far Side cartoon above could successfully complete and submit a form on your landing page.

Of course, there are many other principles to consider when designing your landing page. To learn more about using design to convince and convert customers, check out Oli Gardner’s latest ebook, Attention-Driven Design: 23 Principles for Designing More Persuasive Landing Pages.

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Affordance: You Can’t Afford Not to Use This Design Principle on Your Landing Pages

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