If you are going to experiment, and you need to, then it is interesting to note that the Google ethos of letting their employees experiment with new ideas etc, also includes the sentiment, “Do it, but do it wrong quickly”.

(Sadly, I can’t find the quote for this interview as an internet marketer has just nicked this philosophy/phrase from Sergey, Larry or someone, and entitled his new book that!)

At this time of economic downturn, experiments are somewhat of a luxury. Research and development departments are cutting their budgets, whether in science or internet marketing. Shame really, as knowing what works and what doesn’t is vital to your success. And helps to make that marketing budget go that little bit further.

The point is though that you still need to know what will work for you and your business, and where to best spend your marketing pounds. (Or dollars). However, with careful consideration, you can conduct online marketing experiments that give results, fast, and then act upon those results to increase your leads and sales.

So, here’s the competition. Conduct the experiment below and let us know how it goes! Hopefully, the lessons learnt will be invaluable for others. The closing date is one month from today – 9th January 2009. The prize will be …who knows? Probably something one of us gets for Xmas that could find a better home with one of you!!

So, here goes. Customise the experiment as you see fit but it shouldn’t cost more than a few bob and some moments of your time. And it could make you back far more than you spend! Not just in £££s or $$$s but also in lessons learnt. As well as a surprise present from ClickThrough Marketing!

Pick a product you think will sell great this Christmas or holiday season. It doesn’t even have to be your product, but ideally it should make you some profit. (Or be one that you are seriously considering ditching from your product line in 2009 or need to test on a focus group).

Now, have a quick look on Ebay and Google to see what competition you have. Create a down and dirty landing page for your product – here’s one I prepared earlier! A single call to action. Either “Buy it now”, or “Call today for free to talk to a sales rep”. Or maybe “Give me your email address and I will send you the white paper”. Just one simple call to action with text that encourages people to respond to that call.

Post the URL of your landing page to this blog in the comments section.

Now pick 5 keyword terms that you think are relevant to that product. (Can’t think of any? Try Wordtracker) If it is a highly competitive product, then don’t buy #1 terms because you don’t want to bankrupt yourself in the experimentation process! Create your ads and go bid on them on Google PPC or similar. Don’t forget to submit your landing page to Google if you intend to keep this experiment going for a while. (However, it is possible to get brand new pages indexed within literally a few days under the major keywords on established sites…..)

That’s the basics, but you can add to this (if you want a wider experiment) by doing some standard Web promotion – blog marketing, write an article on the benefits of what you are selling, find a few backlinks, post in forums etc.

Right, now watch your traffic with an analytics tool like Clicky or Google Analytics.

As you see traffic come in, take a long hard look at it. Is it coming in from your PPC terms? Are they working? If not, adjust the ads until they start to drive traffic.

What is your bounce rate? Are people lookin’ an’ leavin’? If so, adjust your landing page so it starts to get responses to the calls to action. If necessary add a ‘Call me Now’ button or run a competition or survey to encourage people to interact and give feedback.

Run each tweak for a couple of days or so so you can actually measure what works and what doesn’t. If something isn’t working, CHANGE it.

If you aren’t getting any traffic at all, that may tell you something about your product as well as your PPC ad.

If you are getting traffic, but no responses, then your product may be desirable but something else isn’t. This could be your text and style, your call to action, your terms and conditions, your price. You need to consider all of the factors leading to your failure.

If people are starting to respond to the call to action but then drop out – work out why this might be so. Does your shopping basket actually work? Are you not offering enough choices for payment? Do they need to give too much information? Is it browser unfriendly? Is the price wrong, or are there shipping costs which would put potential customers off?

Anyway, you get the idea. Let us know how it goes, and add any comments for others who have entered the competition.

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ClickThrough is a digital marketing agency, providing search engine optimisation, pay per click management, conversion optimisation, web development and content marketing services.