Prompted by recent message board discussions on XBIZ.net, this is the second in a series of articles on paysite optimization. For the purpose of these couple of articles I’m focusing on tour optimization exclusively.
In most cases there’s more than one right way to do things and what may be the best thing for one web site won’t be the best thing for another.
There’s a lot of temptation to look at competing sites, big brands and sites run by the big cash programs and copy their setups assuming that they’ve already tried everything, tested everything and are using the best setup.
What most people can agree on is that no matter how well someone’s site is selling, there’s no one who will turn down an opportunity to make it sell even better.
There’s a lot of temptation to look at competing sites, big brands and sites run by the big cash programs and copy their setups assuming that they’ve already tried everything, tested everything and are using the best setup. This isn’t necessarily a bad assumption to make or a bad baseline starting point for a lot of sites but the reality is that every site and its traffic is different. Because of this, every site owner should go through some form of optimization process in place of or in addition to working off the same base setup used by other successful sites.
Optimization is a process that might look something like this:
Decide How You Plan To Account For Stats And Track The Results Of Your Changes
The old school way is to make a change and then pay attention to sales and site stats over a period of 2-4 weeks and see if there’s any noticeable difference. It’s pretty simple and is still a pretty good option if you’re less technical.
The modern method is A/B split-testing of 2 different versions of a web page to contrast changes which is more accurate but also a bit more involved. One of the easiest ways to split-test changes is to use Google Analytics experiments. Once you get past the initial learning curve, Google Analytics is a very useful tool for testing performance of different versions of a page.
If you’re not high tech enough or are overwhelmed by setting up Google Analytics experiments, don’t worry. For more than a decade before this was an option, people tested and optimized things without it and got by just fine.
Determine Your Starting Point
If your site is converting at a ratio of 1:500 (1 sale for every unique visitor) and your average daily traffic level is 2000 unique visitors, that’s your starting point.
It’s always better to test changes with steady traffic levels than during periods of peaks and fluctuations. Starting from a place of consistent sales conversion rates and traffic levels makes for more reliable stats.
The result of the first change you make will be measured against these numbers. Once you decide a change has been positive and decide to keep it, the new resulting conversion rate will become your starting point for the next test.
Look At Your Site Objectively As If You Were A Consumer
Think about what you could be doing differently. Make a list. Next, look at 5 or 6 of your main competitors’ sites. Take note of what they’re doing differently. Make a list. This will give you some ideas of things to test.
In next month’s article I’ll go over some of the things pro-level site builders commonly try but my experience has been that it’s best to test based on insights you have into your own customer base.
Knowing who your competitors are is helpful but knowing who your customers are and why they’re buying your content will prove far more useful. This information will guide you when making changes to optimize sales, primarily because you can make changes strategically. For example, if you know that your customers buy out of curiosity, you can test site changes that tease more by showing fewer previews, more text or less updates all together. As another example, if you know that your customers are into a certain fetish and are making an impulse buy, you may want to experiment with showing more site updates but with smaller previews.
Pick An Item From Your List And Make A Change
Unless you were already due for a full site update or overhaul try to resist changing a lot at one time. It’s always easier to measure the effectiveness of a single change. There’s nothing wrong with making a lot of changes but you won’t have an easy way of knowing which of the changes made a difference — for better or for worse. Sometimes as surprising as it is, a very small, seemingly insignificant change can make a noticeable difference and a very big change may do absolutely nothing to a site’s conversion rate.
Remember that this is all a big experiment and start with something you believe will improve an aspect of your sales process. One example might be adding more free video trailers or perhaps showing fewer trailers or trying censored or soft-core trailers. Another example might be adding more prominent calls to action (join links, signup buttons, etc.) throughout the page. Another example might be adding a few bullet points of site benefits or a short list of reasons to join to the header graphic or just below it.
Unless you already have experience optimizing tours I suggest starting with smaller, easier to make changes that can have a big impact you’ll see right away. This is where knowing your customers and why they buy is helpful.
Pay Attention To The Results.
If you’re using Google Analytics you’ll have easy access to view simple stats showing whether your original page or your changed version is performing better. Typically after a 2 week run of an experiment you can be fairly confident about which is the better version. If you’re testing things the old-school way without split-test stats, looking at the difference in sales over a 2-4 week period will give you a good idea of whether your change was effective. If you see a noticeable (consistent) decline in sales after making a change, revert to your original page prior to changes.
Be patient. Getting accurate stats takes time. Don’t panic if you see low sales days in the mix after making a change but keep a close eye on things every couple of days while testing. If it’s obvious after a few days that a change is affecting your site big time in a negative way, revert the page.
Once you’ve decided to keep the change or abandon it and revert the page, move onto the next item on your list, make another change and see what happens. This is a process you want to repeat until you reach a point where you’re happy with your sales conversion rate or have tested every sensible change and come to the conclusion that your site conversion is as good as it’s going to get.
Remember, this process isn’t just for new sites. You can optimize your site at any point in its life cycle and it’s a good idea to repeat the process every couple of years to keep your site selling at its full potential.
AJ Hall is a 14-year adult industry veteran and CEO of Elevated X Inc., a provider of popular adult site CMS software. Hall has spoken at industry trade shows and is a contributing writer for several trade publications. Elevated X software powers more than 2,000 leading adult sites, has been nominated for more than a dozen industry awards and won the 2012 and 2014 XBIZ Award for Software Company of the Year.