Wanna-be prom queens have some lessons for online retail

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I admit it. During high school, I got zits. This was detrimental to my pursuit of being voted my high school prom queen. The decision of my peers to vote for me rested in large part on the clarity, tone and radiance of my skin. Or at least that is what I thought mattered at the time.

Consequently, I made my mothter take me to the best dermatologist's office within a 100-mile radius of our house every week. There, I would get expert consultations, facials and the newest medical revelation on the market.

I also hurried to the pharmacy to buy each element of the latest skin care product line as advertised by Jessica Simpson or whoever was on television at the time. Needless to say, this pre-election phase of dilligent beauty care and vigillence cost both my angelically patient mother and me lots of time, energy and money.

I wish I knew then what I know now. None of my classmates ever cared about my skin or its imperfections. These things had no impact on their choice for who to elect as the prom queen. They actually picked the girl who consistently scored the winning soccer goal in gym class.

Sadly, that superstar athlete wasn't me. I really should have spent my time improving my soccer skills in our backyard. Instead, I wasted my time and energy in the dermatologist's waiting room reading Home and Garden.

Online marketing insight

There is a very important Web site optimization lesson to be learned here. Your knowing what does not impact the goal of your site - whether that would be sign-ups, revenue, or something else - is just as important as your knowing what does. The reason behind this is that it allows you to concentrate on what really matters for your company to its achieve bottom-line results.

Clients tend to get discouraged if they hear "differences are not significant" on a particular area of the page. They think it is a step backward on their testing journey from where they started. It is not. To the contrary, it is a leap forward towards achieving the goal of conversion.

When a site element has little or no impact your clients are learning what really does not matter to the visitor audience and pinpointing what does. We all have limited time, money, energy, patience and human resources. After a period of testing, and seeing non-significant results on a certain section of your page, you'll know to concentrate elsewhere to generate that positive impact you yearn for.

Learning what doesn't matter

Recently, a prestigious client wanted to improve the number of visitors purchasing current deals. The client dedicated about one-third of their homepage to a Hot Deals section. This section was beautiful. It had fancy images, elaborate fonts and an interesting display. It obviously took a lot of creative brainpower to produce it, and an extreme amount of dedication to update it every week with the latest current offers of interest.

After little more than 30 days of testing, it was determined that the gloriousness and the intricacies of this section had little to no impact on conversion as compared to the rest of the homepage. While this section had a great many links and occupied much of the page, less than 3 percent of all visitors clicked within that area.

This is highly valuable information. All the time and energy spent to create that page would be better focused elsewhere on the page - or perhaps in re-vamping the Hot Deals section radically, so that it does impact response.

There was very little risk in trying more daring ideas since what was there didn't contribute to the goal. Perhaps replacing it with an eye-catching flash module or removing the area entirely would be more effective to engaging customers.

The bottom line

Why spend æmucho dinero' on programmers and designers if the product does not contribute to bottom-line results? It would be more beneficial to concentrate those creative heads on other areas of the site, or to replace the area with something that had a stronger impact on conversion. Explore alternatives.

Now I may never be prom queen, but you can take what I've learned and apply it to your optimization strategy. Avoid getting discouraged when differences between values tested on your site are not significant.

Those lessons are priceless. They guide you, and take you closer to finding out what will actually matter.

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