Tips on how to optimize your website and boost sales by Jon MacDonald

  • We help brands to convert more of their existing website traffic into customers.
  • I think it's important to think about how you can bring the consumer into the process of understanding where the challenges are and why they're not converting and what they're thinking.
  • I think that's where we see most brands have challenges right at the outset is, that they're not even involving the consumer in their decision-making process.
  • We can come up with hypotheses all day long around what the challenges are, and how we think those could be resolved and why they exist. But in the end, what you really want to do is test it.
  • One of the things we always say brands should start with is, just doing annotations and analytics.
  • So, really it varies based on each individual site and that's why collecting data is so important, that it's specific to your site visitors. Also why best practices have become less and less effective.
  • I'd say a little bit of optimization before you drive traffic goes a long way.
  • You'd be surprised by the number of times we go into a client and we say, “Okay, we're going to find user testers, we need to know who your ideal customer is.” And they can't give us a clear persona.

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I think it's important to think about how you can bring the consumer into the process of understanding where the challenges are and why they're not converting and what they're thinking.

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Doug: Well, welcome back listeners to another episode of Real Marketing Real Fast. Today we're going to talk about something that we haven't discussed before in the podcast, or not least in depth, and that is optimization. The fact is that 98% of the website visitors to your site and my site won't buy from you today. So, our guest is going to do a deep dive and explain to you what the opportunities are to change those numbers around in your favor.

I had a great conversation with Jon leading up to this interview. What I want you to think about is, we're going to talk about top of the sales funnel. When you think about people coming to your website, we're talking about the first chance they have to be exposed to your business online. If you can increase those numbers, even if it's a few percent here and there, just think of what impact that would have as people walk through your sales funnel, sign up for your newsletter, sign up for your lead magnets, and work through that process. It's going to have a significant increase in the bottom line for you.

So a more formal introduction to Jon. Jon MacDonald is the founder and the president of a company called The Good, It is a conversion rate optimization firm, that helps brands convert more of their existing website traffic into buyers. If you want to learn how to get more people who hit your website to buy from you, then I would say stay tuned.

The Good has unlocked the results for some amazing, large online companies and brands such as Nike, Adobe, Xerox, The Economist, and more. All you need to do is visit their website, and it's really the who's who of online retailers. Jon regularly contributed content and optimization conversion to publications like Entrepreneur Magazine, because he knows how to get visitors to take action.

As the president, Jon has helped to lead The Good to become one of Oregon's top fastest 20 growing companies, and the team had The Good have made a practice of advising brands on how to see their eCommerce sales double or more. In recent years, they have worked with The Good, they have seen an average increase in revenues of over 100%.

In addition to all the good things that Jon does to help you and I as entrepreneurs, business owners and marketing types increase our sale; Jon also volunteers for several not-for-profit causes throughout the Pacific Northwest and is an active committee member of industry associations, peer groups as well as The Entrepreneur organization.

So onto better sales, more sales, higher conversions. I'd like to welcome Jon MacDonald to the Real Marketing Real Fast podcast today.

Doug: So Jon, super excited to talk to you today. So welcome to the Real Marketing Real Fast podcast.

Jon MacDonald: Hi, there. Thanks for having me.

Doug: So it might sound weird to some of our audience, but most of our audience is pretty used to this now. As a marketing creative guy, I am super in tune with and realize that analytics and measuring what you're doing is key to business, and conversion and sales. Do you want to give us a snapshot, like kind of a high-level view of what you do? Then we can deep dive in some of the areas, and help our listeners to understand how they can improve what they're doing.

Jon MacDonald: Sure. Well, I am founder and president of The Good. The Good is what's known as a conversion rate optimization firm. What that means is that we help brands to convert more of their existing website traffic into customers. Now, how we do that is through data science, helping those brands to track every click and movement that consumers are taking on their site.

We do that in an aggregate fashion, so there are no privacy concerns. But the goal here is to help make data backed and data informed decisions about where the challenges are on a site, where people are deserting, what content they're interacting with or where they're having problems along the conversion funnel, and use data to solve those challenges.

Doug: I think one of the things I want to say right off the bat too, to our audience is that often people come to me because I work on the other side, I work in the front end driving traffic. They go, “Hey, we need more traffic.” I just want to say to our listeners, stop. There's no sense driving any more traffic to an underperforming website or landing page. Better off to figure out how to get the conversion at the absolute optimal rate, and then spend your money on advertising.

Jon MacDonald: That's a great point, Doug, because not only are you going to see more conversions off of that qualified traffic that you're sending, but you're going to get a much better return on your ad spend in doing that, right? So if you have a better site that's going to convert higher, once you send that qualified traffic to the site, it really will be like adding fuel to the fire.

Doug: Well, I mean it's free really. However, you're getting the traffic there, it's already getting there. Whether it's organic, or whether you're doing paid ads or you're sending out an email, you're getting the traffic. All you're doing is, you're just moving the sales dial, just tweaking the knobs and dials behind the site; then I guess you're just bringing in more leads or more sales.

Jon MacDonald: Well, I'd like to look at it as a simple math equation, as well. Say you spend, ascend or however you're getting 100 people to your website, we'll just make this easy math. We work in data science, but I'm certainly not a Ph.D. in math. We have great team members here for that.

Out of 100 people that you're sending, if you're only converting one or two of those naturally on your website, you're throwing a lot of great traffic out the window. I think it's really important to be thinking about how you can bring the consumer into the process of understanding where the challenges are and why they're not converting and what they're thinking.

Really looking at that as, how do you just double that conversion rate? Even if you were to get four people to convert instead of two, all of a sudden your revenue doubles. Your margins are going to increase because you're spending the same amount on that traffic or whatever marketing activities that you might be doing around that. It's pretty simple math where the return on investment is clearly there, with just small incremental gains.

I think that's where we see most brands have challenges right at the outset is, that they're not even involving the consumer in their decision-making process. Collecting that data, understanding what people are doing on your website, and doing things like user testing. Where we have access to several hundred thousand trained user testers, and these are all trained to talk out loud about the experience that they're having as they go through tasks on your site.

We record their screen and their audio, so that we have that information, and we collect hours upon hours of people completing tasks that we give them to do. All the while, they're talking out loud about that experience. “I'm trying to do X, Y, and Z, but I can't figure out how to do that.” I'm looking for the product, and I can't figure out where that product is.”

Now all of these things come really naturally to the person who built the site, or the person who's on the site every day, or as a business owner, you know your product line so well. I really like to often say, “It's really hard to read the label from inside the jar.” You're so close to your website, and you're so in it on a daily basis, that you really can't see where those challenges are.

That's, I think, the best thing about conversion optimization is, just bringing those consumers into the process and using that data to help you make informed decisions about what can be improved.

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I think it's important to think about how you can bring the consumer into the process of understanding where the challenges are and why they're not converting and what they're thinking.

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Doug: Well and beyond that, there's also the obvious thing is, that you're so involved in your company and your industry, what you think can take for granted as common knowledge might be common knowledge with your peers, but definitely not common knowledge with your consumer.

Jon MacDonald: That's definitely a fair statement, and very true. One of the first things we often find when we're auditing sites, which is always the first step that we take with new customers. We often find that consumers are confused about just even the product descriptions. Because a lot of brands, especially those that are in sporting goods, or highly technical outdoor gear, or equipment or even B-to-B often has this challenge.

Where you'll go to a product detail page and you know that it's your favorite jacket that you want to get for snowboarding. But it says on there that it has all these technical specifications that are branded terms, that don't mean anything to you, and really clearly don't tell you what the product does.

Doug: That's funny.

Jon MacDonald: It makes it more confusing. When you know some folks who are product designers and marketing folks sat around a table and said, “We have this really cool technology that does X, Y, and Z. It is beyond what any of our competitors have, we have to brand this with a special name.” Well as soon as they take that leap, it becomes confusing. There's a disconnect for that consumer.

What we find often is, a lot of brands that are selling things online don't do a good job of breaking it down in terms of what the benefit is. Instead, they focused on the marketing aspect, and that's really where it becomes a large challenge. It's always the first barrier to overcome is, help brands to see what their consumers are thinking.

A really great example of that is, we worked with Xerox. Everybody knows who Xerox is, but they mainly sell-off of their website business printers, high-end color laser printers and things of that sort, that are meant to stand up to thousands of pages a day. Well, we went into Xerox and we were working with them to help optimize their product detail pages.

We did a whole bunch of user testing, and as I mentioned earlier, we record all of that. But what we found was, that consumers were having the same challenges over and over and over. We went back to the team that we were working with there and said, “Hey, these are the things we're finding that needed to get changed.” An executive who was sitting in the room said, “No, we've always done it that way. We're not changing those things.”

There's just a big disconnect between what the consumer challenges were, and what the executives are thinking. So what we did is we said, “Okay, let's put that aside, let's move on to other things.” We came back to the office, and we spent hours putting highlight reels together. Along with a ticker on the bottom right-hand corner, that was like a cash register; it just showed how much money they were losing based on these session recordings.

Every time somebody basically said, “Oh, I'm so frustrated, forget it. I'm going to go to Amazon.” Or, “I'm going to do something, I'll buy a different competitor,” or whatever it is. Because they couldn't figure out even if a printer had ethernet connection or wireless; things that were pretty standard. Right? But to Xerox, they knew what every model of printer was, and what the codes meant on each printer, and how they were named and what the numbers meant.

Even to this day, most of the entrepreneurs are a name plus four numbers, that don't really mean anything to a consumer but mean everything to the team there. It's a matter of bringing that perspective to the table. Once we showed this video, these clips of consumers getting frustrated and leaving. How much money they were leaving in the cart, or with the product, they were looking at what they really wanted to buy.

What we ended up doing was, showing the highlight reel, and immediately you could see the look on the executives face just drop. It was life changing in that instance for the eComm site. They made a bunch of changes because of that.

Doug: Well, I like that because it's real data. We've sat with clients and saying, “Okay, this is what this is what your customers are searching for to find you online,” and the VP marketing say, “Well that's not true. Our customers aren't that sophisticated.” “Well, I'm not proposing this as an idea. This is actual data.” You're not proposing, I guess in this case, to Xerox that this is a good idea; this is a fact.

Jon MacDonald: Exactly. That's exactly it. That's also why we focus heavily on A/B testing, it's the exact same thing. We can come up with hypotheses all day long around what the challenges are, and how we think those could be resolved and why they exist. But in the end, what you really want to do is tested. A/B testing, again, utilizing data about actually how consumers are engaging with those tests and your site, is going to give you … it's almost thinking of it as an insurance policy on making those changes.

You're going to go in with a lot more confidence, that you're making a change that you know is improving whatever metric you set out to improve. You have real data, from actual consumers on your site, that is going to tell you that.

Doug: I think the great news, is you've got the data of what's happening now. Then you're going to make a change, and then you can have new data. You're going to have empirical evidence of, “This is exactly what we did, and this is what the result was.”

Jon MacDonald: That's exactly right. One of the things that we really stress when we first start working with clients is, to make sure they're tracking the right data so that you can use that data to make informed decisions. The sooner you start doing that, the better. Because, you're going to be able to start looking at trend lines, and that becomes really important, right?

Because things are always changing, and shopping habits are always changing. Even conversion best practices are always changing if that's a thing. But really when you come to think about it, you really need to look at trend lines in terms of week-over-week, month-over-month, year-over-year, because that's where you're really going to find the nuggets of what really moved the needle for the company.

One of the things we always say brands should start with is, just doing annotations and analytics. Just saying, “Oh, this week we,” on the day that you sent a marketing email out. If you send a campaign, just indicate that. Because I can guarantee you in six months, you're going to have no idea what happened that day that the spike shows up in analytics with additional sales.

Being able to have that all logged in there takes five minutes, it's super simple to do, but it really does have profound rewards over time.

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I think it's important to think about how you can bring the consumer into the process of understanding where the challenges are and why they're not converting and what they're thinking.

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Doug: That's a great point. I just actually made a note of that, because I quite often will have my clients use google analytics as a way of verifying some of the traffic sources that we're using. I do a lot of outbound third party email, so I partner with the publishing company and have them sent to their list. Invariably we get this ridiculously huge spike because we might send out 2 or 300,000 emails.

But I don't think I've ever suggested that they make a note of it in analytics. So when they look back a couple of years ago, they go, “Well how do we get that big sales spike?” That's a really good tip.

In terms of tracking the right data, you said people are often tracking the wrong data. Can you share with us some insights into what that looks like? What should our audience be tracking, so they know what they'd be looking at?

Jon MacDonald: Yeah, there are really four main categories of data. The first is the clicks and movements that people are taking it on your site. Heat maps, click maps, scroll maps, that's going to tell you what people are engaging with. How far down the page or scrolling, where are they clicking on your site. That's just a good indicator of whether or not there's a user experience challenge with your site as well, because people may be doing what we call rage clicking.

We find this on almost every site, where somebody starts clicking because they think an image should be clickable and take them somewhere, but it doesn't. And so, that's a good indicator that we need to make that a link, and take them where they think that should go.

Doug: Can you just expand on each one of those? I mean, I know what heat maps and click maps are. But for our audiences, so they're clear on what it is that you're looking at, and what you're going to give them feedback on.

Jon MacDonald: Right. A heat map generally looks like a rainbow of colors over your page, and it's an overlay of your site. What we're really looking at, a general heat map is done by cursor movement. So where is the cursor moving on a page? It's called a heat map because anything that's going to be bright red is where the cursor was for the longest amount of time or the most amount of time; then it cools off from there. So red, green, yellow, blue, and then generally kind of goes really cool from there.

If you think about it, you want to look for all of the really hot spots on your site; that's where people are engaging the most. Then down from there, you want to also look at the opposite end. Where are people not engaging at all, what content is being completely missed?

We also use eye-tracking tools for this, which will tell us how much content people are reading. Now on a desktop, you probably don't recognize that you do this, but most people read with their cursor. Meaning that they're taking their mouse cursor, and going back and forth over the copy as they read it. It's just a natural habit, and it happens to the majority of the time we found. It's a really good indicator of what content people are engaging with.

A click map I mentioned is very similar, only it's going to have bright red spots over where people are clicking the most. It's going to tell us what call to actions are engaging people, and getting people to move forward.

A scroll map is going to be very similar. It's going to look even more like a rainbow going down the page because it's going to start with bright red at the top because everybody's going to see that when they first load the screen. Then it's going to trail off with color down the page, to where it gets to no color, which is what people don't see at all.

This is going to tell us what content is just plain getting missed on a page because it's too far down the page. People are maybe getting distracted before that or, it helps us understand what important content needs to be moved up the page in better order.

Doug: I guess there are two sides. I mean, one is if you look at analytics, you can see what content you're a website visitor likes and is in most demand. And, like what you said, by looking at the heat maps and click data, you may find out that this is the most important data or piece of content you have on your website, but it's in a low traffic area. If you just simply move it, you could experience an immediate bump in attention.

Jon MacDonald: Exactly. That can be even just having the content on the page be in a different order, not necessarily people not just being able to get to a particular page of the site, as well.

Doug: Yeah. I remember a bunch of years ago being at a conference in San Francisco and looking at some … it was a testing seminar, and they were talking about click maps and heat maps. At that point, I don't know where this is still true, is they said that your signup for your newsletter or your lead magnet should be in the top right-hand side above the fold. Because, at that time, I don't know, it was 12 years ago, that was the place for it. I don't know whether it's the same or it's changed.

Jon MacDonald: Well, I think that varies per site. I can tell you that up in the top right-hand corner of our site is our main lead generation tool; it definitely applies for us. But I think that we're finding that as different tools come out, we see a lot on eComm sites that people are doing the really thin banner bar along the top of the site, the very top right below the URL bar, the address bar in the browser. That has become really popular.

It used to be that consumers would automatically focus on the top left corner of a site, especially in western cultures. They would read there in an L pattern. Well, what we're finding is, that almost always when they have those bars, the eyes start looking at that bar first. They look in the middle, top of the page and then go straight down from there. That means at times that they're missing big pieces of information like the logo.

Maybe it's just not as important anymore, because people know they typed in a bar, they realized what they click so they understand where they are. It also means that they often miss the navigation that would be in that top right area typically, because they're just going straight from that promotion down to the page content down the middle of the page.

So, really it varies based on each individual site and that's why collecting data is so important, that it's specific to your site visitors. Also why best practices have become less and less effective.

Doug: In terms of collecting data, I get asked this question all the time, I'm not a data expert and I don't know if there is a fair question for you. But I'll ask it, and then feel free to let me know, how much data do need to have before you can start making some decisions?

Jon MacDonald: Yeah, that's a great question. I think it's one that I get quite often, actually. The reality is that some data is better than none, right? So if you're not collecting any data at all, then you're making decisions based on a whim or a gut feeling. That's probably the worst possible outcome. I'd rather have at least some data.

Jon MacDonald: We find even with user testing, which is one of those four types of data I mentioned earlier. With user testing, we really only need to test with five different test subjects to have a meaningful amount of data. We find that after five, the chances of us finding anything new diminishes pretty quickly; it ends up not being worth the effort. Really, anybody can go out and run five user tests on their site with very little resources.

Doug: That's a really good point. I mean, so if you don't have enough traffic to your website at this point, you could test before you would launch and start spending money on media, figure it out in advance.

Jon MacDonald: Exactly. One of the other datasets is A/B testing. We'll have covered three of the four, but with A/B testing, what you really want to be thinking about here is, that you need to have a decent amount of traffic or your tests are going to take a very long time to prove out. When we talk about data, it's a very general term, right? There are different segments of what types of data that would make sense here. User testing five people, and you have statistically significant results. 

To get statistically significant results within A/B testing, or even multivariate testing people call it at times, you really need to have a decent amount of traffic coming to your site. Now decent, the bare minimum that we can help and do A/B testing with, you have to have 10,000 unique sessions to your site per month. Even when we want to limit it to two, maybe three tests per month that we would run.

The idea here is, that if you have too many tests, you're segmenting your traffic too much. Not Enough people are going to see each individual variation of a test. Thus, it would take months, sometimes six, eight, nine months to prove a test out. That's going to be really daunting, and also not give you the return on investment that you're looking for.

We really recommend that you have to have a large amount of traffic, ideally, 100,000 uniques per month or more, to do serious A/B testing, but anybody can really dabble in it that has 10,000 or more per month.

Doug: While that may sound daunting to some business owners, I mean, it's not difficult with the multitude of advertising options today, to set up and run a campaign that can get you 10, 20, 30 thousand uniques a month to help make those decisions. As you said, those informed decisions, from your data.

Jon MacDonald: Exactly. And it does become a little bit, Doug, of a chicken and egg, right? Should I spend on traffic? This is the conversation we kind of started at today, right?

Doug: Yeah.

Jon MacDonald: Should I be spending on traffic first, or optimize my site first? Well, I think there is some data you can collect to start optimizing your site before you drive traffic. But then once you drive traffic, you can really start to do things in a much quicker fashion, as well.

I'd say a little bit of optimization before you drive traffic goes a long way. Then accelerating that growth once you do have traffic coming to your site, by doing more optimization at that point, is really the best path forward. That's where our clients have seen a lot of success.

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I think it's important to think about how you can bring the consumer into the process of understanding where the challenges are and why they're not converting and what they're thinking.

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Doug: Well, and they'll often tell people that are looking to do joint ventures, “Well hey, I want to joint venture, I've got this offer. I want to partner with this person, and have them send to their list.” It's like, well, they're going to ask you what your conversions are. Spend the time and the money getting your sales funnel, and all your marketing pieces down and working well. Spend some money on cold traffic, get it optimized. Then go to a partner, so you're not wasting their time, and you can grow your business.

Jon MacDonald: Yeah, that's a great point.

Doug: So for our listeners that are listening to this going, “Okay, this is new information. I'm aware of Google Analytics,” and maybe that's the depth of their knowledge of analytics, or somebody on their marketing team reports that to them. What are the steps look like to get started?

Doug: Okay, I've got a business, I've got, 8 or 10 thousand unique visitors a month. My marketing manager, I'm the entrepreneur, I want to ramp it up. I come to you and say, “Hey Jon, I want to I want to make more money this year, and prove my conversions. This is where I'm at.” What are the steps to get started? What does it look like?

Jon MacDonald: Well, I think the first step is to set reasonable expectations about the timeline, right? The best way to approach this Doug is to be thinking about it in kind of like a savings account, money in a savings account that's earning interest. It's going to compound over time to continue to grow. Working on your conversions needs to be thought of that same exact way.

You want a little bit out of every paycheck to go into that retirement account. As that retirement account continues to grow, the interest grows and then it just compounds on itself, and you have a massive amount of money by the time you retire. Well, it's very similar to conversion optimization.

Generally, I like to set the expectation that brands really need to be going into this thinking that, it's going to be at least a six-month process. Now, that doesn't mean you don't see results much quicker than that. But you really start to see massive results because of the compounding effect starts to take place, generally around the end of that six months.

I get a lot of calls from brands who want to optimize for holidays, and they don't call me until September, October. What I can tell you-

Doug: Well, that's better than calling you in December.

Jon MacDonald: I would agree with that, yes. That happens too, surprisingly. I think the reality is, that the process we've laid out, we have what we call our Conversion Growth Program here at The Good. We've been doing this for, it'll be 10 years in April, so coming up on 10 years pretty quickly here. The way that we approach this is, it's on a month-to-month, monthly cycle, right? The first monthly cycle is onboarding and a comprehensive conversion audit of the site.

In that audit, that's where we're going to make sure that all the right data is set up; all the stuff we've talked about today. We're going to put some best practices in place for that data. We are going to run user testing on the site, to gather some consumer insights. Maybe we've been doing onsite surveying, things of that sort. We do our own expert analysis of the site, to see if there are any just obvious concerns.

We take all of that data and we form a large report. In that report, we're given a list of what we call immediate fixes. These are the things that the data is clearly telling us already, need to just be changed on the site. These, sometimes they're based on best practices. Usually, it's based on the data we're finding from consumer insights.

From there, we also put together a full A/B testing plan and roadmap. In that testing plan and roadmap, you really want to detail out what should be tested on the site, where the problem area is, and what tests we should run on there. Where exactly on the site we should run those tests, and when or in what order we should be running each of those tests. So we have a full plan.

Now that plan is always looking six months out, and that's because these tests need to build upon each other. All right? So then starting in the second month, is when we start enacting that testing plan. We'll chunk off some of those tests, depending on the service level that we're working on with that client.

We will start building those tests and launching them. We generally try to let them run for a month as a minimum. Even if we've reached what we call statistical significance, we're usually still want to let them run a little bit longer, just to prove that data out even more.

Then from there, each month we're taking the winners of each test, or the test that had the positive effects we were looking to have with that test. We'll implement those on the site permanently, in the source code of the site, and we'll launch the next batch of tests.

It really just becomes a compounding effect because, each month we are gaining some conversion increases, revenue increases. We're working on decreasing average cart abandonment and increase average order value. We're looking at all these metrics individually that we're trying to have an impact on. We are chunking off some of the challenges every month, and improving those metrics.

Then the next month we're launching in the next batch of tests and continuing to build on those improvements. That compounding effect can't be understated.

Doug: No, it totally, it makes sense. I mean, as you were telling me this and I was looking at some of the numbers off of your website, and I was thinking, okay so you're talking about conversion. That's when people first hit your site, and some of the information that you mentioned early on was like 97% of the people or more are bouncing off your site and going, “Well, that's really the top of the sales funnel.” That's your biggest opportunity to win.

Doug: If you can increase the top of the sales funnel by 1% or 2% or 3%, what effect does that have as it works its way down through your process?

Jon MacDonald: Exactly. Exactly.

Doug: The numbers that I see here are pretty staggering. For listeners that aren't looking at the site yet, we're looking at 86% for Xerox, 143% for Bell, 240% for Easton. They're not small corporations, and so they're not likely to have small marketing departments. They're pretty smart guys, they've been in business. For you as an outside vendor to be able to come and partner with them, and make those sorts of increases seems pretty staggering.

Jon MacDonald: Well, again, I think that it has a lot to do with having an outside perspective, right? And not being somebody who's on the site every day. That can be really helpful. Plus, a lot of brands that we work with when we first come in, they bring us in because they know they need to be optimizing, but they don't really have that culture of optimization internally.

That's really what we can bring to the table is, making sure that we're helping them instill a culture of testing and optimization because that's where the sustained growth is going to be. We can come in and run testing, even for six months, and help give them an initial boost and they'll see that boost to continue on. But, if they want to continue to grow, they really need to be continuing to optimize.

A lot of companies that come initial conversations with me, will ask, “Can I ever stop? When we start working together, am I going to be locked in forever?” And the reality is, no. I mean you should always be testing and you should test forever. But that doesn't necessarily mean that you can't start and stop and be testing in other areas. Or just continuing that culture of optimization and testing throughout.

If we leave a customer and they now are doing that internally, but we have helped them change the culture and the executives now recognize that the budget needs to be spent there, I am happy. I feel like we've helped accomplish our mission. I mean, our mission here at The Good is to help remove all of the bad online experiences, until only the good ones remain. If a company internally starts having that culture, I'm stoked. I'm super excited.

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[just click to tweet]


I think it's important to think about how you can bring the consumer into the process of understanding where the challenges are and why they're not converting and what they're thinking.

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Doug: Well, based on the number of hours I spend online, I think that there's probably a lot of work for you guys for a long time to come.

Jon MacDonald: Well, I mean we've been doing this for 10 years and I don't feel like we've accomplished that mission completely yet, right? So, maybe in another 10 years? We'll see.

Doug: I don't know. So, a different topic. I mean, I heard you share a word earlier that I want to go back to, and that was “culture”. So, I'm reading a book right now called driven by difference, and it's how to build great companies; fueling innovation through diversity. One of the things, the new lens I'm looking through as I'm looking at teams and companies is, how diverse are they? Age, sex, background culture, country, where their origin is.

How do you work with companies or brands that are looking at diversity, like diverse audiences, or maybe even totally different cultures?

Jon MacDonald: Well, I think that the idea here is, to have a representative sample from each of those audiences. So one of the things that we often have to come in and do is, do user personas; help them to define who these folks are. I'm often surprised, I'll take a step back here.

When we do use their testing, we always want to find testers who match the ideal customer profile of the client we're working with. We get the most relevant information that way. Right? We spend a lot of times segmenting and surveying our testers, our testing pool. So that, we can wade through that testing pool, and send the test out to the correct parties who are the closest possible match to the ideal customer profile for that client.

Now, you'd be surprised by the number of times we go into a client and we say, “Okay, we're going to find user testers, we need to know who your ideal customer is.” And they can't give us a clear persona.

Doug: No, I'm laughing because we have that conversation too. “Who's your customer?” “Everybody,” “I don't think so.”

Jon MacDonald: Right. Exactly. In that sense, it becomes a challenge, where we have to help them define those. So we ended up doing a lot of user personas, which is central to use your experience in the industry of UX and the trade. I'm not suggesting that it's anything special, but what I am suggesting is that, if you don't have it, that's the best place to start.

You mentioned that brands who have dozens maybe, of personas, we really try to get those down to the core maybe four or five. Mainly we're less concerned about the demographics, in the way that you mentioned it. We're more concerned about the goals of those people. Whether they're coming from Asia, or Europe or the United States, they may have different goals. That's really what we want to help do.

Across every Internet user, there are only two reasons why people are on your particular website. We've been doing this again for 10 years, we've only found two reasons.

Doug: Okay. I'm going to write them down.

Jon MacDonald: Yeah. The first is, they're there because something led them to your site that helped them think that, your product or service is going to solve a pain or a need for them. Right? So they're there to understand if your product or service is going to solve their pain or need.

We're taking Facebook out of this, right? People go to Facebook just to hang out. They're not coming to your website just to hang out. I have some funny stories about that, and we can get into. But the number of times I've asked people what their goal is, “Why we want people to just hang out on our website.” Like, “No you don't. You want them to buy and leave.” We want them to buy. That's the point.

Doug: I've never heard that before. That's funny. That's an easy thing to achieve. That describes most websites.

Jon MacDonald: Yeah.

Doug: People are hanging out, they're trying to figure out what I'm supposed to do.

Jon MacDonald: Yeah, well that's the point, right? Is that, if they're on your site too long there, they can't figure it out and that's a problem. Time on site is a misleading metric to be tracking. It's something you want to track, but most marketers would say, “I want my time onsite to be longer.” Well, we really need to understand if they do or don't, and that we need to figure out what the average time to complete the funnel is; because that's how long we want people there.

Doug: Well, thanks for that. Now I'm not going to be able to sleep tonight. The reason they're spending so much time on your site is they can't find what they came for.

Jon MacDonald: Exactly. Yeah. The second- [crosstalk 00:37:01]

Doug: What's the second reason?

Jon MacDonald: Yeah, the second reason people are on your site is, to buy that product or convert as quickly and easily as possible. If they've found out that your product or service is going to solve their pain or need, then they want that solution as quickly as possible. They don't want to have a huge process to get through just to give you their money, or to fill out that form. Whatever it might be, needs to be as easy as possible for them to do.

I have a two-year-old at home, I can't be on my laptop at home without him pulling on me wanting something. There are a number of times that, this just happened to me the other night. I almost recorded the whole thing, because it was a perfect case study. I was buying something and I had it in my cart, my son came up to me and wanting me to help him build his train set. I walked over, I started playing with him and then dinner was ready, so I put my laptop away. I had left all these items in the cart.

Jon MacDonald: It wasn't intentional. I meant to buy them, but I didn't have a chance to do it right then, and I got distracted and I forgot that it was in my cart. Then the best thing happened. Later that night, I put him to bed. I'm relaxing a little bit. I opened up my laptop again and I have an email, “Don't forget these items in your cart.”

It seems so simple. Most eCommerce sites or a good number of them do this now, not all of them but. It was like, oh right. Yeah. So I click the one button, it took me right into the cart with all of my products in it. and I purchased; I was prompted to do that. Now, would I have remembered later? Yeah, probably. But it might not have been for another day or two days, and that would have shown a huge abandoned cart.

Well here, they were able to capture that within a couple of hours. It was just a great experience for me too, because I found it powerful, [crosstalk 00:38:57] not overbearing.

Doug: Well, and like you said, they made it easy. So I've done that as well, where I've got the email saying, “Don't forget this stuff in your cart.” But I've also got the, “Your cart's timed out,” and then I have to start over again.

Jon MacDonald: Right. Why are you inducing fear there? Right. Like, “Oh, now I gotta do this right away.”

Doug: Yeah. I don't want to do that.

Jon MacDonald: Yeah. Inducing fear has become a huge problem with marketing and eCommerce. A lot of people are putting security badges up on their site, and our research shows that just makes people concerned about security. The number one question we get when we ask about that is, “Well, what happened that they had to go get the security badge?”

It's a different way of thinking about it. Where if you're an eComm site owner, you're typically looking at that as, “Hey, well, I'm telling people that we're secure, and I'm being proactive about it.” But a consumer will look at that and say, “Well, what happened that they're now being forced to have a third party look over their site?”

Doug: Sure, did their credit card data get hacked? Yeah, that's right.

Jon MacDonald: Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. We had one client we were working with who had a whole bunch of guarantees up on their site on the product detail page. They thought they were being helpful by offering a bunch of guarantees, but they were guarantees that were pretty obscure. One of them was a terms of service guarantee.

When we were doing the user testing, people are wondering, “What's in the terms of service that I have to be concerned about, that you're guaranteeing it?” Then people were abandoning because nobody wants to read terms of service. The people that would go to terms of service would bounce because it'd be 4,000 words of legal stuff all crammed into one paragraph that nobody's going to read.

Every brand has a terms of service, but nobody's reading that content. To have a guarantee around it really made people question it. As opposed to just saying, “I know there's a terms of service here, and it is what it is. I'm moving on,” or not even thinking about it. Now, you're injecting that fear into the process.

Doug: Yeah. I guess you are. I mean, you're giving your potential customer objections that they don't have.

Jon MacDonald: Exactly.

Doug: Well, no, I could probably spend, oh say, maybe a week or so talking to you about this. But, that's not going to be fair to you or I with our business. I wanted to say thanks so much for sharing with us today, and I want to ask you the best place for our listeners to get in touch with you, to find you, and to learn more about what you do and how you help your clients.

Jon MacDonald: Sure. Our website at The Good is, Feel free to go on the site, sign up for our email list. We have put out really high-quality content about how you can optimize your site, it's not sales oriented at all. It's really meant to be helpful and educational, so it's not a sales pitch by any means.

Then, for brands who are interested in potentially working with us, I would suggest doing one of two things. The first is, if you go to our website, top right corner, as we talked about earlier Doug, there's a button that says “Evaluate Your Site”, click on that.

That will take you to a complimentary landing page assessment, where you can understand a little bit more of what it would be like to work with us. To have us take a look at one of the pages of your site, give you some eye tracking, heat mapping like we talked about earlier, and how we would typically use data.

The second thing is, email me. Feel free to email me directly with any questions that you have, I do read every email that comes in. It's Jon J-O-N, and that's Jon without an H. So, feel free to email me, I'll be happy to answer questions as well.

Doug: Well that's excellent. On that page also, you've got a video. The image you've got there, as you probably know, it's your site, it is a big heat map. Let's just, if you want to learn more, I started looking at this years and years ago, probably 10, 12, 15 years ago. I just was amazed at the data and the information.

I use it every day in my email, in terms of testing subject lines and testing calls to action, well before we get people to a landing page. I can't recommend more highly investing in getting your consumer involved in the conversation, and testing.

It also takes, I think, Jon, the one thing we didn't mention is, it takes the risk off of the marketing manager going back to his boss and saying, “Hey, I think we should do this because the data says we should do this.”

Jon MacDonald: That's a great point as well, Doug. It is an insurance policy to some degree because you're banking your decisions on data.

Doug: Two more questions and I'll let you go. What's some of the bad advice that you hear around this in the marketplace?

Jon MacDonald: Well, one of the first questions I often hear is, “What's the one thing I can change on my site that's going to increase my conversions today?” The reality is there's not one thing. Most of the content that is out there when you search for this, and how to optimize your site, is really based around things like button colors. Things that honestly have such a little impact, or are not based on data.

There's an article out there that talks how changing one button color gave this brand a hundred million dollars in extra revenue a year. It's not backed by any data, but it's one of the first articles that people find, and they're always like, “Wow, I can get tons of additional money by making these small changes.” Honestly, it's much more difficult than that and requires a lot more effort.

I've talked about setting expectations around six months today, and not changing one color and one button. If it seems too good to be true, it definitely is. Very much like somebody who is coming out and saying, “Do search engine optimization with us, and I guarantee you within two weeks, I'll have you on Google's first page.” They don't control that, Google does.

There's best practices, and things you can do, but it is a lot of work to be doing the right things and have them pay off.

Doug: Yep, absolutely agree. Tough question, it normally stumps my guests, I'm sure you'll get this is, who's one guest that you think I absolutely have to have on my podcast?

Jon MacDonald: Oh, that is a great question. I would say that, somebody who is really focused on optimizing ad words. Not just ad words, but optimizing around traffic generation. I can definitely give you some names if that's what you're looking for here. But I think that really focusing on driving the right kind of traffic, can have a huge meaningful impact.

I think coming at that from a data angle is, what is really going to have that impact. Now there's a lot of great SEM companies, search engine marketing companies out there. We tend to have some great partnerships with them, in the sense that when you are driving that qualified traffic based on data to a site that is highly optimized, it is really like adding fuel to a fire, and acceleration just grows really rapidly.

Doug: Why don't we take that offline as a followup? First thing is to get your site in order, so plug the holes in the bucket till you stop the leaks. Then we can do a follow up a session, maybe with somebody you recommend, you can pop me an email. Now that the sites performing well and converting better, now you can drive some more traffic.

Jon MacDonald: Perfect.

Doug: Well thanks again, Jon. I really appreciate your time. This has been super informative. Even as a marketing guy, I love the analytics stuff, because it really comes down to moving the sales dial, and that's what people are interested in.

Doug: Thanks for tuning in, listeners. I'll make sure that we transcribed the show notes as you are aware of. I'll make sure that all of the links to Jon's website and his social media are there for you and available, as well. So thank you for tuning in, and I look forward to serving you on our next episode.

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[just click to tweet]


I think it's important to think about how you can bring the consumer into the process of understanding where the challenges are and why they're not converting and what they're thinking.

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