Why We Have a 38% Clickthrough Rate and You Don't (Our Response to SearchEngineLand)
In Gab Goldenberg's excellent article, "Feng-Gui’s Predictive Heatmaps Let Graphic Designers See Things Through Others’ Eyes", he introduces us to a pretty slick looking heatmapping tool, Feng-Gui. He then goes on to analyze the landing page for SEM Insight, our flagship keyword tool.
I thought this was a pretty interesting analysis, not only because I personally designed this page, but also because I have over six years of experience with conversion optimization. I've done this not only for my own sites, but also for some of the largest web properties in the world. So when someone comes along and says they've created a tool which can beat me at my own game, I have a healthy amount of skepticism.
Uh... Hey Is That A Naked Emperor?
That said, their approach is admittedly ingenious. Feng-GUI analyzes a number of factors including color, contrast, density, size, weight, etc. These are all valid and very important when it comes to landing page optimization. The technology is based on a rock-solid foundation of theory.
So I will admit that it possibly has a place in the conversion optimizer's toolkit. However, I will also say that most of the value of this tool can be gained through a simple technique that I've been teaching for years: to gauge the eyepath of any page, all you need to do is step back 6 feet from the monitor and squint your eyes.
Ideally, you will able to distinguish a large set of blocks and paths leading from the top-left of the page to the call-to-action area. Important page elements should be placed along (or at the end of) this path.
The reason this works is because the human brain is so much more sophisticated than any computer algorithm ever can be. Our eyes and brains naturally measure, blend, and make sense of all of these competing factors. The marvelous equipment we're naturally endowed with should far outperform any technological alternative.
After teaching many people how to do this, I know that even a marketer with zero experience with conversion optimization can intuitively predict the eye-path of any page with a few pointers. Don't take my word for it - train yourself. I've included an excerpt on eyepath from my upcoming book, "Mastering Pay-Per-Click Advertising" (Entrepreneur Press, May 2010) which will teach you exactly how to do this.
But the proof is in the pudding. When I designed this landing page, here was the eyepath I was aiming for:
And here is what Feng-GUI outputs:
Was my old-fashioned human-centric approach correct or did Feng-GUI out-perform me? To find out, I hooked up CrazyEgg (one of the most useful conversion optimization tools on the planet) over the weekend. Here are our results:
In the CrazyEgg heatmap, clicks are indicated by the blue-white areas. Notice how there are a lot of clicks along the right-hand menu as well as the small links to the lower-left of the toolkit graphic. Then quite a few more in the green "call-to-action" area. This is exactly what the intuitive manual approach predicts.
In contrast, the Feng-GUI heatmap suggests that visitors would have focused largely on the product name, the toolkit image, and the headline prior to visiting the call-to-action area. Had you taken this tool at face value, you may have come to the conclusion that this page would likely not perform well. You would be wrong.
Why did the automated approach fail? Simply because it cannot properly interpret the meaning of photos, their relationship to surrounding text, nor the effect it will have on visitors. You and I, dear human, can. And that's why we're going to be much better marketers than any machine.
So for today at least, the "Deep Blue" of conversion optimization has not yet arrived.
"Copy is for Closers"
I also want to touch on Gab's quote:
"What jumps out at you? Personally, the toolbox in the middle grabbed and held my attention, which is bad news for the copy."
For some reason, marketers have a strange aversion to copy. They shouldn't. As my friend, Perry Marshall, often preaches, buyers read the copy. Every last word. Tire kickers do not.
The proof is in the pudding. Visitors to our SEM Insight product page overwhelmingly find (and read!) the copy. In fact, they often click several pages deeper and read page after page of lengthy descriptions. Here's the rest of that CrazyEgg map:
If you're as skeptical of internet claims as I am, you should be thinking to yourself right now, "Fine, Rich, but who cares if 2% of your visitors are deeply engaged? What about the other 98%?"
And if it was just 2%, I'd have to agree with you. But this page has a 38% clickthrough rate. A full 4 out of 10 people who visit this page go on to read one or more pages of content. And while I won't share the exact signup rate, I will say this... it's much higher than you might think.
Which brings me to my final point.
Conversion Optimization Is Not a Holy Grail
At the end of the day, conversion optimization is about plugging holes. And our industry's current obsession with it comes about in no small part from the fact that most websites look like swiss cheese.
But at the end of the day, there is no silver bullet. Conversion optimization will almost certainly improve your results. But you can only get so far with copy tweaks, font tricks, eyepath analysis, and the like. After you've solved the obvious problems with your page ... what's left?
To win beyond that point, you have to return back to classical marketing: strategy. Does your website have a well-defined audience? What's your USP? Is your pricing optimal? What is your sales strategy (one-step, two-step, multi-step)? What channels are you using to promote your services?
These have a far more reaching effect on the outcome of your business than any mere tactical marketing exercise. Case in point: Gab compared us to SpyFu, a company that we rarely compete with. Our pricing is different, our sales strategies are different, our products and features are different... well, you get the idea.
So folks, don't be too quick to adopt that snazzy new tool and most of all, don't rely on gimmicks. Real marketing isn't going away any time soon.
P.S. Here's that link again to the excerpt from my upcoming book on eyepath:
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