As humans, we tend to believe that if we like something, it must have value—how else do you explain our obsession with celebrities?
I mean, I’ve never met Tom Brady, but he’s one of my favorite athletes…so he must be a good guy, right?
Unfortunately, this sort of thinking doesn’t end with pro athletes or TV stars. As online marketers, we make a lot of assumptions about how certain website elements affect our conversion rates.
After all, if we like a certain page element or approach to site design, then everyone else must like it too, right?
If only that were true…
The fact of the matter is, you are not your target audience. So, even if you love your sidebar and hate your developer’s favorite widget, you really have no idea how either of those site elements are affecting your conversion rate.
But, the good news is that with a few simple tests, you can easily discover how different elements on your site help or hinder your conversion rate.
Much Ado About Nothing?
Eliminating website elements allows you to get a good feel for how those elements are affecting the performance of your site.
In a lot of ways, it’s like comparing Tom Brady’s performance with deflated balls to his performance without deflated balls.
If Tom only wins Superbowls when he plays with deflated balls, that must be a big contributor to his performance. On the other hand, if he still wins without the deflated balls, air pressure probably doesn’t affect his throwing ability much.
The same idea applies to your website.
If you remove an element and your conversion rate goes up, that element was probably hurting your conversion rate. If your conversion rate goes down, that element was probably helping your conversion rate.
Simple enough, right?
It may be a simple idea, but it’s one that can make a big difference to your business.
For example, EA got rid of the promo banner on their SimCity microsite and improved their purchase rate by 43%. Impact deleted their sidebar and their conversion rate went up 71%.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that what we like, everyone likes. But, if you aren’t testing your site elements, you may very well be doggedly hanging on to an element that is ruining your conversion rate.
How to Determine the Value of Your Site Elements
If you really want to know how specific site elements affect your conversion rate, there are two easy places to start: your pages and the elements on those pages.
Which Pages Do You Really Need?
One of the simplest things you can test on your site is how your homepage affects your conversion rate. Is your homepage an important part of your conversion process? Or does it distract and frustrate your site visitors?
To test this, all you have to do is send traffic to another page.
In fact, most companies do this without even realizing it when they send campaign traffic to landing pages…instead of their home page.
Essentially, when you send traffic to a landing page, you’re running an A/B test. The homepage is your control and the landing page is your variant.
In general, a good landing page that matches the messaging of the marketing that brought someone to your page will convert better than your homepage. However, this isn’t always the case.
For some companies, their homepage is actually an important part of their conversion funnel.
For example, we had a client who wanted to send traffic to two landing pages (each one was focused on a different product) to see which one performed the best. Out of curiosity, we also threw in the homepage for comparison’s sake.
To our surprise, the homepage won.
As it turned out, this client’s customers were actually interested in both products and a variety of our client’s other products. Since the homepage featured all of those products, potential customers didn’t want a product-specific landing page—they wanted the homepage.
For this client, the homepage was a key part of their conversion process.
Simply adding or eliminating pages from your customer journey can be a great way to determine how different pages are contributing to your conversion rate. It’s simple, easy and it can teach you a lot about your audience.
Which Parts of Your Page/Site Matter?
Once you’ve identified how your pages are affecting your conversion rate, you can start looking at the specific elements on those pages.
For example, for one of our clients, we removed the sliding promotion header from their eCommerce site. As a result, their revenue-per-visitor increased by 25%. Similarly, when we nixed their navigation sidebar, their monthly revenue increased by 19%.
Together, eliminating these pet design elements increased their yearly profits by $2 million!
To set up a test like this, you’ll want to build a second version of your page that is identical to your current page—with one exception. Your new page won’t have the page element you are evaluating.
Typically, this is pretty easy. Just duplicate the page you want to test and then go in and delete the part of the page that you want to test. In some cases, though, this can mess up other parts of the page, so be sure to proofread your new page before you start your test.
As an added bonus, you can use what you learn from eliminating page elements to come up with further testing ideas.
For example, if you know that a page element on one page is hurting your conversion rate, you can try eliminating it from other pages too. Alternatively, you can try tweaking or replacing the element to see if you can get it to perform better.
On the other hand, if a specific part of your page is really boosting your conversion rate, you may want to replicate that element across your site. You can also try to milk even more from high-performing elements by tweaking things like copy, color, size, imagery or location.
Regardless of how you use your findings, eliminating page elements can teach you a lot about what your audience really wants from your site.
No matter how much you might like a particular page or page element, what really matters is how those aspects of your site affect your traffic.
Unfortunately, if you don’t test your specific site elements, you’ll never know whether or not they are helping or hurting your conversion rates.
However, by simply eliminating specific site elements, you can very easily discover what your target market values on your site and what they hate. And, once you know what your audience values, you can make sure your website delivers exactly what your potential customers want.
You’ve heard my two cents, now I want to hear yours.
How do you feel about this approach to website optimization? Are there additional factors that should be considered in this analysis? Is this something you’ve tried or would consider trying?
About the Author: Jacob Baadsgaard is the CEO and fearless leader of Disruptive Advertising, an online marketing agency dedicated to using PPC advertising and website optimization to drive sales. His face is as big as his heart and he loves to help businesses achieve their online potential. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.