Always Be Tweaking

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There are a couple of generally acceptable definitions of “tweaking”:

Tweaking:   refers to fine-tuning or adjusting a complex system. Tweaks are any small modifications intended to improve a system.

Tweaking: frantic and compulsive behavior often associated with methamphetamine abuse.

To be clear, this article refers to the first definition…

Your website/blog is a “complex system”. And the prudent webmaster/real estate agent/blogger who has hopes and desires to generate prospects from a web site should always be trying to improve their site.

In other words, they should always be tweaking.

Now mucking about on your site, changing things willy-nilly without measuring the effect of those changes is not a good idea. Slow, systematic changes that you measure and analyze are a good thing. Here are some mistakes I see people making when they attempt to tweak their sites:

Changing too many things at once: If you dive in and make three, four or a dozen changes, how will you ever know what does, or does not, work?

Not measuring changes: If you don’t look for a positive response, if you don’t measure the impact of your change(s) then you are simply throwing everything against the wall and hoping something sticks. You want to shoot with the precision of a Marine sniper, not blast away like a meth tweaker with a sawed-off shotgun looking to score a fix. Measure, analyze, and readjust. Rinse and repeat.

Not being willing to make mistakes: If you make adjustments to your website often enough, you will do something that doesn’t work. Rather than fear that – and wind up doing nothing – look at the failure as a learning opportunity. I’ve made hundreds of mistakes on my site, and have learned from most (though I’ve repeated a few mistakes before they finally sank into my head). Don’t fear change, embrace it.

Small Changes, One at a Time

Make small changes. Make one change at a time. Measure the results. Some of the most effective changes I’ve made to my blog (as measured by improving my primary goal of getting people to the home search page) were very small changes:

I have two home search solutions available on my blog. One I called a “basic home search” the other I called “advanced home search”. But looking at my site analytics, it was readily apparent that the advanced search was underutilized. This didn’t make sense to me and I expected more people to want an “advanced” home search. People are clamoring for info after all. Right? So I pondered this and thought that maybe the word “advanced” was scaring people away. So I changed the call to action from “Advanced Phoenix Home Search” to “Detailed Phoenix Home Search”. The result was a 19% increase in click-thru’s. That is a HUGE change. One word made the difference, with a 19% increase in sending people to that page.

Maybe it’s not a word. Colors make a difference too. On a previous design of my blog, I had nice buttons that would send people to my various home searches. The buttons were a shade of green that blended and matched the overall look of the site well. I read somewhere (and can’t recall where) that contrasting colors draw reader’s attention – which makes perfect sense if you think about it. So I changed my search buttons to a shade of blue. They weren’t terribly pretty, but click-thru rate increased 12%…

On page placement of a call to action can make a significant difference. I used to have a “quick search” widget in the sidebar of my blog. This let people enter basic info – price, city, beds and baths – and they’d be taken to a search results page. I had this widget about half-way down the sidebar. It was still visible “above the fold” (without having to scroll down), and was used pretty frequently. I decided to move it to the top of the sidebar to see if that would have an effect on usage.  And indeed it did, to the tune of a 41% increase.

One final example: there are four primary calls to action on the home page of Phoenix Real Estate Guy. One of those used to say “Read the Blog”. I changed that to “Real Estate Articles & Help” and click-thru’s increased by 20.7%.

Those are all very minor changes that take seconds to make – and made a significant difference in getting readers to take the action I wanted them to take.

How Do You Measure Changes?

Heat maps are a great way to see where people physically click on a page. There are several options for creating heat maps. Google Analytics, Crazy Egg, Click Heat, Click Density and Click Tale are but a few. Knowing exactly where people physically click on a page is invaluable information. Every blogger / webmaster needs to add heat maps to their analysis tool box.

A/B testing – evaluating two variations of a page – is also important. Visual Website Optimizer works very well, is easy, and offers a free trial. There are also A/B test WordPress plugins like MaxA/B and ShrimpTest (also here) – though I have not personally tested these plugins. Yet.

I used A/B testing in all of the examples above to determine if the changes I was making were having the desired effect.

Now Get to Work

Pull up your website, blog, whatever. Take a look around. Are your calls to action working? Are people clicking where you want them to click? Are they even seeing your calls? How about your navigation menu? Is it optimized? Are menu items in the optimal order to increase clicks? Do you even know where people are clicking on your site? Check out the heat map products listed above, install one, and take a look. Make a minor change and A/B test it. You may be surprised at what you can do with your site if you “always be tweaking”.