Optimization 101: 9 blogs to get started in optimization

Author: Meghan Lockwood | Categories: Digital Marketing, Customer Experience, Digital Analytics

Your website is arguably the most powerful tool in your marketing arsenal. But just like your car needs oil and gas to keep it running smoothly, your website needs to be optimized in order to get the most out of it. Do you know how much money your site is leaving on the table?

With Forrester Research projecting that U.S. online sales should hit $370 Billion by 2017, even a 1% lift in your overall site effectiveness can spell big money for your marketing ROI. Strangely, while companies typically spend $92 to bring customers to their site, but only $1 to convert them, according to optimization wonks Eisenburg Holdings.

As I get ready to speak at the MarketingSherpa Optimization Conference next week, I started to think about how companies can ramp up their internal staff on core optimization principles.

Optimizers are Built, Not Born

The good news is that even if you have never thought about website optimization before, there are a wide array of resources available to teach yourself.

How do you get started with optimization? That was a question I was forced to ask just five years ago, when I was hired to write about Landing Page Optimization. That was interesting, because I actually had to look up the term before the interview.

Somehow, I got the job and I spent two years at Sherpa learning from some of the smartest people I know how psychology, science, technology and common sense combine to create great websites. And, trust me, if I can learn how to analyze and optimize websites, then you can, too.

How I Define “Optimization”

I think about website optimization as the process of designing and/or improving your website to maximize its output. People will talk about conversion optimization, SEO and usability, but in layman’s terms, you are really just looking to get as many people as possible to see your site, and then create a logical process to funnel people through that site with a clear end goal in mind. Optimization uses content, visual cues, plus some psychology and testing, to focus your visitors and get them to do exactly what you want them to do on each page (convert).

Optimization Giants

One of my favorite quotes is from Sir. Isaac Newton, who said, If I have seen further, it was by standing on the shoulders of giants.

For those of you interested in learning more about optimization best practices, I checked my feeds and favorites, and came up with a list of the top blogs you should visit to begin your optimization journey:

  1. MarketingSherpa: These were my teachers, so of course I have to put them first. The Sherpa team takes a scientific approach to why people make decisions online, and the blog offers an array of case studies from real companies who made measurable improvements online – which I use for ideas on my own sites.
  2. SiteTuners: Tim Ash is one of the founding fathers of site optimization – he literally wrote the book on Landing Page Optimization. Additionally, the blog’s pragmatic approach and wry sense of humor offers good advice on how to approach and dissect your page. Their homepage is also my favorite example of a company effectively presenting their critical partnerships.
  3. Unbounce: Oli Gartner and his team use this blog to promote their testing platform – but with all their testing experience, they clearly know what they’re talking about. Again, I come back to this blog for new testing ideas on a variety of channel outreach, but I focus on their landing page examples – which is their core wheelhouse.
  4. Which Test Won: As the name suggests, optimization pioneer Ann Holland’s blog literally provides a series of A/B test treatments, and asks their readers to vote on which test won in real life. The results, while occasionally surprising, underscore one of the key tenets of optimization, namely that it’s much more about the user than the designer.
  5. ContentVerve: Michael Aagaard is a rising star in the optimization ranks, but also a terrific speaker and online copywriter, though his name is a bit hard to spell. I find his case studies are a great inspiration for testing ideas, particularly the tips he has for improving CTA buttons.
  6. GrokDotCom: The Eisenberg’s original blog is now a joint effort with Future Now, and offers ideas on a wider range of digital medium, from social apps to PR. Still, the Always Be Testing authors are one of the big names in optimization, and I couldn’t build a list without including them.
  7. Quick Sprout: TechCrunch optimizer Neil Patel’s offering is a well-optimized, graphically interesting blog, full of personal anecdotes and concrete recommendations. Warning: Signing up for this blog will net you an email a day in your inbox, but they’re mostly terrific ideas, and I have found them worth reading on a regular basis.
  8. Ion Interactive: Here, CTO and marketing technologist, Scott Brinker, offer a wide array of resources on landing page design and testing. While their recent content seems to focus more on their App solutions, their foundational content offers a solid background on the foundational elements of optimization.
  9. Some Slightly Irregular: The Author of Don’t Make Me Think and Rocket Surgery Made Easy, Steve Krug’s usability blog is pretty much the bible for UX. His common sense approach to building and testing websites was one of my first “aha” moments in understanding web design, and I continue to be impressed by his recommendations.

I’d love to know what you think. What are your top sources for optimization insight?

Digital Marketing