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The Secret Conversion Lab, Part 2

Laboratory Glassware by eidesign

In part one of setting up your own Conversion Lab, we explored the possibilities created when we take control of our marketing future. To set up a lab, we need to bring together a number of components.

Your conversion laboratory will exist in the ether outside of your corporate website. In most cases the pages and other resources of your lab will not be even linked to from the company site.

It’s also time to stop thinking in terms of websites and start thinking about visitor-oriented conversion scenarios. These are your little experiments that will guide your visitors to take action and eventually guide you to turn your corporate website into a converting machine.

Like any good laboratory, we’ll need some cool equipment for mixing our content; we’ll need precision equipment to measure our work, and we’ll need some fuel to fire our reactions. Once we have selected the equipment, we can choose a place to house all of this.

Because the lab is “off the grid,” I favor inexpensive and free solutions to equip and host the lab. Your recommendations are welcome as well in the comments area below.

Content: The Elements, Chemicals And Compounds

We begin the design of the lab with the content involved. Content is the catalyst of our strategies. Every business deals with its own cocktail of content chemistry.

E-commerce sites typically deal with product descriptions, product images, reviews, and delivery details. B2B sites stock supplies of white papers, case studies and webinars. Online services create reactions from blog posts, help pages and instructional videos.

Your choice of content may start with the content currently on your site. However, the lab is for experimenting. We want to be prepared to support content in a variety of formats.

Analytics: Electron Microscopes And Mass Spectrophotometers

Precise measurement is a must in the experimental environment of the lab. We must be confident that we are making decisions based on good results.

Google Analytics (GA) has proven itself as a very complete analytics solution. It has been integrated into many other packages, meaning it can be the central dashboard for a variety of experiments. As you become more proficient in the lab, you’ll be able to take advantage of custom reporting, segmentation and custom variables offered by GA.

For a simpler interface, Clicky is popular. For e-commerce products, KISSmetrics offers a solution that is favorably reviewed. Woopra offers a very nice desktop application and real-time reporting of visitors while they are on the site.

While these packages can reduce performance, it is not unusual to use two or more analytics packages simultaneously. I recommend trying several of them.

Traffic: Bunsen Burners

Most online experiments are endergonic: they need heat, in the form of traffic to start a reaction.

If your business doesn’t have a source of traffic to tap into, you will have to develop one yourself. Building an email list for your lab might be a great place to start your experimentation.

Email burns very hot and can be a great source of traffic with consistent quality. What are you doing with those neglected tradeshow leads and un-tapped webinar attendee lists?

MailChimp is currently my email service provider of choice, primarily because it has integrated with so many other platforms, expanding the range of experiments for my lab. There are many others to choose from, however, and simplicity can be as valuable to a scientist as flexibility.

If you have some funds, pay-per-click (PPC) search advertising will deliver instant traffic to landing pages. If you are active on social media it can be an effective way to deliver traffic to an experiment.

Consider advertising on your own site, using calls to action to drive some traffic to your test pages.

Hosting: Beakers, Tubing And Stands

The elemental content that we will be testing helps us determine the hosting strategy for the lab. Video requires a very different kind of beaker than does a white paper.

Most likely, your hosting strategy will include a number of different providers. The primary concern to consider is that the host not inject itself into the content. YouTube might be a great host for video, but the viewer can easily click away to YouTube and find themselves watching teenagers with chipmunk voices. That’s not good for conversion.

Avoid content hosts that insert advertising or seek to use your experiment to drive traffic off the site. The simpler the interface they provide, the better. Avoid solutions that inject things like social media sharing links around your content, unless that is what you are testing.

In my lab, I’ve used Blip.tv for video, Slideshare for presentations, and Scribd for documents. I like Eventbrite for events due to its integration with GA.

When possible, I try to host content on my own server. You can provision your own shared server for a very modest cost, and these plans typically come with a wide range of content management and database solutions. However, you will need to get up to speed on issues that IT normally handles. If poorly implemented, shared servers can have poor performance and impact your tests, so choose wisely.

For social media experiments, Facebook pages offer a variety of media, but very poor measurement of conversions.

Where To Set Up Your Lab

Your lab needs to be free of the limitations imposed by your main website. You need to have the ability to make frequent changes and take some chances.

You want to choose a content management system (CMS) with the flexibility to host the content you’ll be experimenting with. It should also support the need to split test pages. You should choose a CMS that you find easy to use. You don’t want to tools slowing the momentum of our experiments.

While WordPress is considered a blogging platform, I’ve found it to be an incredibly flexible platform on which to deliver a variety of content. Blogger offers many of the same advantages with a very intuitive user interface.

Open source CMS solutions such as Drupal and Joomla come with large communities that develop a variety of plug-ins for use in the lab.

If you intend to test landing pages—and you should—dedicated services such as Unbounce and Performable make split testing of pages a breeze.

Wear Your Safety Goggles

Your conversion lab is a place to experiment with potentially volatile content. It is a place where failures are as valuable as successes, as long as you learn something.

A conversion lab equipped with powerful tools and that is free of organizational obstacles and site politics will give marketers and business owners a quick way to begin experimenting. Minimize the learning curve of the tools and you can maximize your knowledge of what makes your visitors take action.

What tools do you like for generating, hosting and testing content? Please let us know in the comments section below.

Photo courtesy eidesign.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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