Archive for December, 2009

Review: Landing Page Optimization by Tim Ash

Going forward, every month we will review a book on either web strategy and optimization or the clean/renewable energy sector.

Landing Page Optimization, an aptly titled book by Tim Ash, is a strong mid-level resource for optimizing websites and performance. Tim, a popular speaker at many conferences, covers all of the basics to undertake a successful project for improving conversions on your website. The book is well-organized, and depending on your background you may opt to focus on certain areas.

The introductory section is very elementary, and most readers may choose to skim or even skip the material entirely; this is especially true of the first two chapters. Immediately thereafter, substantive information and tactics are provided. Very quickly it progresses to areas that are quite advanced, such as full factorial parametric testing. It is at this point that the book falls a little short, you get the feeling that the information is covered at a very surface level, and not necessarily explained in a usable manner. The major takeaway I had was that I need to find a few books on the mathematics of testing to review here.

The final section would be something a marketing manager or director would want to share with their executive sponsor, namely ‘Getting It Done’. Again, depending on your background you may prefer to skim this, however, this informationĀ  is probably more crucial to launching a successful optimization campaign than any of the mathematics.

I had a knowing smile with the caveat to ‘resist temptation to monitor the results frequently’. This is something anyone in the online marketing/optimization space must be very familiar and many of those themes are covered in the final chapter. An excellent summary of everything else in the book.

Overall, I would recommend this book for anyone undertaking major optimization campaigns, especially those working in a corporate setting. It will not necessarily provide you with many testing ideas, but it will help you structure your campaigns and acquire the necessary buy-in for a successful endeavor.

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Empower CES — Consumer Marketing

The direct-to-consumer marketing for Empower CES could really use a lot of help.

The design remains amateurish, however we will not focus on that component, which can be easily improved if the right resources are hired.

The messaging, and the lack of calls-to-action, however, need to be addressed. A potential customer arriving to the site has to figure out on their own what the next steps would be if they wanted to purchase anything from Empower. The landing page is simply a side-by-side comparison of installed residential solar systems along with a few bullets highlighting benefits and values of a solar-powered home.

Empower should further highlight the benefits, and have links providing more detail to each of them. In simple terms, how much will the average household save? The finance examples used are too advanced for the average visitor, and can be provided as a deeper link.

What will be the environmental impact? Carbon footprints are becoming a fairly common measure, why not use it? Better yet, why not partner with a non-profit and have them validate the claims? There are many, including Carbon Fund, the Nature Conservancy, or Conservation International.

How will the investment increase property values? Are there studies that prove this? This would be especially interesting, and it is disappointing that more information is not available.

Ultimately, the worst aspect of this portion of the site is the complete absence of any calls to action. In spite of the poorly designed and phrased benefits, if someone wanted to purse Empower further, it is not easy to do so. The only way by which the web site visitor can deepen the relationship with Empower is via the ‘Contact Us’ section. There need to be considerably more call-outs than the one in the navigation bar. Within each section there should be links. For example, ‘Want to learn more how you can save money and increase the value of your home? Send a message to one of our representatives.’

The Contact Us Page is also horribly designed. There needs to be some header text and imaging to spur visitors to complete the form. Typically, this includes a re-affirmation of the company’s privacy policy. The submit button is below the fold for most screen sizes, which sure reduces the conversion rate. Also, the button itself has a staid label ‘Submit Query’. Best practices would have a different label, such as ‘Learn more now!’ or ‘Get Solar Now’.

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Empower CES

Empower CES has a number of areas for improvement. The site is lacking in navigation, discoverability, and most significantly, engagement. The company is relatively young, yet upon arriving at the website you feel as if it was designed in the mid-90s. The homepage, while thankfully not a wasteful landing page a la Sunpower, has too many navigation points, with gigantic buttons, and no mention of what Empower actual does.

Design and architecture of a website such as Empower CES should consider the following questions:

  1. Who will be visiting our site? Typically, prospective clients is one answer, but current customers, partners, suppliers, and even competitors will also be visiting.
  2. What do we want them to do at our site? This will obviously depend on the answer to the first question. For example, we may hope for prospects to join a mailing list or request additional information, while partners may be directed to a special log-in area.
  3. What is the image we want to project? Should the focus be on engineering excellence or ‘green’ marketing? This goes to the core of the company, what are its primary values?

Reviewing the site, it does not appear the EmPower considered these questions when it undertook its design. Navigating deeper, it is clear that the company wants to speak to a wide swathe of customers: residential home owners, commercial property owners and institutions. At the same time, it is promoting the benefits of leveraging solar technology, but does not speak to each of these constituencies in a separate voice. The result is a confused, amateurish site.

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