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Multivariate testing has a new player

I’ve written in the past on multivariate testing, which I believe is one of the most important practices to continuously improve your Web site. Competitors such as Optimost and Offermatica have been joined in recent years by the free Google Website Optimizer, but I recently looked at a newer competitor called SiteSpect, which makes it easier to do multivariate testing than ever.


For those of you familiar with multivariate testing, you know how it’s done. You drop a few gobs of JavaScript on your pages so that different versions of the page are shown to different site visitors. By testing which versions get the highest clickthroughs and conversions, you can make an informed decision as to which is the best version of that page. Do this long enough on your Web site and you might find conversion rate increases of 30% or even more.
Larry Epstein, a Co-Founder and Vice President at SiteSpect, told me in a recent interview that “When we speak to customers, they’re already hip to the value of multivariate testing, but they also know what it costs.” That’s the dark side of this high-value testing. For Web sites where it’s expensive to change the content, or where their architecture prevents the injection of JavaScript on their pages, multivariate testing has been painful and costly, or sometimes simply impossible.
That’s where SiteSpect comes in—available either as a hardware appliance or a managed service that intercepts the traffic between site visitors and your Web site and dynamically replaces any content with whatever you want to test. That way, you never need to modify your actual Web site, so it costs a lot less to run a test. Seth Moore, Manager of Marketing Analytics and Testing at Overstock.com, told me that “insert[ing] extra JavaScript…creates a bottleneck in site optimization process.” He said that “We were drawn to the idea that we could test without altering Web site code.”
But, to me, the real excitement is that you can test things that older testing solutions did not allow, because they were not even on your Web site—such as Doubleclick banners—or just too dynamic. Because SiteSpect can swap any content on the screen, you can test absolutely everything on your site.
Here’s an example of what SiteSpect can do with a typical IBM home page:
the before picture With a couple of lines of instructions, SiteSpect reversed the layout on the page so the ad is under the navigation, rather than on top: the after picture
This magic is made possible by an increasingly popular kind of programming called “regular expressions,” which a Web developer can use to recognize any pattern in data and, in SiteSpect’s case, replace what it finds with what you want. Marketers need to understand the power of this approach, because it means you can run a test a few minutes after you think of it, rather than a week later after the IT team promotes the new code. In the hands of the wrong person, regular expressions can be dangerous in their effects (think: sculpting with a chain saw), but more and more programmers are becoming familiar with this powerful tool.
I’m taking Monday off for the U.S. Memorial Day holiday, but I’ll post the full interview with Overstock’s Seth Moore on Tuesday. In the meantime, think about whether SiteSpect might be the tool that finally makes multivariate testing possible in your organization. Google Website Optimizer made testing free but not all that easy. SiteSpect makes it easy, but not free. One of those will probably be what you need.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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