By Head of SEO & Content, Harry Sumner, Roast
We are moving into a new age, one in which we are spending more and more time online. This comes with its own challenges: the people on the other side of the screens are actually paying a lot less attention, with attention spans estimated to be decreasing by 25%. This is a major challenge and that’s why it is critical to think about the things you can do to cut through. Brands need to view cognitive biases as paramount to their mission and look how far they’ve come because of it. You only have to look at certain brands that have lost market share and look to reports of having confliction within their marketing experience as to the cause of this. These biases are essentially heuristics.
Heuristics are mental shortcuts. They help us to make complex decisions simple. They make decisions with less resources and less energy; enabling us to make decisions faster. Evidently, this is important online where we make thousands of decisions every day and the brain simplifies these decisions by using heuristics.
Google knew the importance of this and hence, commissioned a huge piece of quantitative research, their ‘Decoding Decisions: Marketing in the messy middle’: 31,000 participants were placed into 10 distinctly unique situations which tested the biases in 310 different simulations. The different participants were shown different examples of ad copy or search messaging and asked if they preferred scenario A or scenario B. The results revealed different biases were at play online and these characteristics are:
Power of Now
The Power of Freewill
These characteristics mean that you show that you are a good provider of this service and as a result, are a good indication of being a good example within the category.
Another interesting finding of the ‘Messy Middle’ looks to turn the conventional marketing funnel on its head and shows that the customer journey online is slightly different from the traditional. What Google recommended is that we as customers are constantly in a buying journey, going between two different head spaces. One of expiration and one of evaluation; when a brand exhibits different biases, it can then pull a customer out of this headspace into being ready to buy a product. This fundamentally turns the marketing funnel on its head and suggests that people are always in the market to buy a product.
As a brand, you can test the inclusion of heuristics and biases in your marketing plans.
How do you test?
The first step is really understanding how you can test in a clear and objective way. The main goal of testing is to create conditions that look to prove which version is clearer, more relevant, and performs better than the other. This enables you to connect these with customers to make sure your performance is as optimal as possible and there are four distinct different stages where you look to test this.
The first one is data preparation, making sure you put all the data in the right place. You then create two different groups in which you do split testing: you can then measure the result or uplift obtained by running this test and then finally, once you find out which condition is the best performing, you can then scale those changes across all your pages in terms of how you do data preparation. The first and most important step here is benchmarking so that you have an accurate gauge as to what performance was like before you started making changes. You then have two groups of pages, and you should do this in a randomised way to ensure that you’re comparing pages that are equal to one another. That’s when you’re ready to go into the next stage and this is where you start getting two groups of pages: one of which is a challenger and one of which is the control group.
Compare and learn
The Challenger is evidently the page that you’re going to make the changes on and this is where you can do the split testing to compare which one performs better. In turn, you then run the test with the changes of improvement to the Challenger. Essentially you have to make sure that the test runs for long enough to reach a statistical significance and to make sure that the statistical threshold is met.
Once you have determined the best-performing condition, it is important to scale those changes across all your pages to ensure you have the best-performing landing pages visible across the site. CMS bulk uploader is a relatively good tool here which enables you to make the changes all simultaneously.
This might all seem complex but thankfully there are some amazing tools that can help you simplify this process and bring a testing methodology into the way you function as a brand to optimise your performance.
Where do you test?
Having briefly mentioned search results, landing pages, and content as a whole, there are some useful ways you can test these three different touch points. You can test biases in two main areas. The first one is your organic metadata and the second one is in your paid copy.
At ROAST, we found this to be super impactful and useful, so much so that we looked to create a tool that essentially scans metadata and ad copy for their inclusion for the different biases and we saw some great uplift. Similarly, the ability to run our competitor’s ad copy and metadata through this was useful in highlighting gaps and provided us with an insight as to what we should look to change.
Once you’ve tested everything with your search results, the smart next step is to connect these with the landing page.
Seek optimal performance
What you want to do is to test the landing pages for the best-performing variant and the way you can do this is by looking at the structure of the landing page to look at what’s included. In here you can bring in some widely accepted elements that look to drive a much better user experience. You need to make your copy concise and provide a crisp definition, for example. To make your page search-friendly we recommend looking at how you can promote a strong user experience, specifically on mobile. Think about how people are going to be reading your page on mobile, therefore, you need to think about speed and making sure your mobile experience is just as fast for people on the go.
Consistency is key
You need to be consistent in the way your brand communicates across all touchpoints. Thinking about tone of voice, you can create a tone of voice framework, and this extends beyond your website and socials, to how you work with other partners, even to you above-the-line and offsite touchpoints. With all of the findings from the tests you’ve run in the search results on your landing pages, I really recommend trying them in email. This is where you can look to really drill down on the similarities but also the nuance between new and existing customers.
The main aim really is to test across key customer touchpoints whether this is in the search results or the landing page, but then rolling out these across your different platforms. The improvement can be seen across multiple metrics. To look at those KPIs in more detail, you can essentially track improvement by testing across all your different KPIs, whether this is the click-through from the search result to the landing page. The more traffic that landing page receives, the greater number of leads and conversions that page gets as a result and, more importantly, the revenue driven. Most important, however, is how having a testing approach you can save your team’s time by repurposing assets in the most impactful way possible.
There are four key things to remember.
- Heuristics are the mechanics that we as humans use to make decisions, so we have a lot to thank them for.
- Biases are being used online more so than ever, so you must be aware of them and use them where appropriate.
- Having a testing mindset is more important than anything else; you need to test what is the best-performing of touch points.
- By doing so, you will be able to report an uplift across all your core KPIs, whether this is traffic leads, revenue, or equally, the time this will save your team.