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Bryan Eisenberg interview, sneak peek of SES Chicago

Bryan Eisenberg professional speakerI finally managed to hook another big one in the online marketing industry, none other than Bryan Eisenberg. However, if I were a fisherman I’d be somewhat disappointed and throw him back because he lost a whopping 55 lbs since April! All kidding aside, I’m delighted to have him on board for this Q&A because Bryan is really making it look easy lately, especially when you consider this interview is on the heels of jury duty, countless speaking engagements as a professional speaker, and balancing a family and successful career, plus a healthy new lifestyle. He’s scheduled to participate in an upcoming panel entitled “Turning your web analytics into a money-making machine” at SES Chicago. We caught up to him last week for an exciting telephone interview covering a wide range of topics including a sneak peek at SES Chicago.

Garry: Bryan, you’ve been a busy man lately, so I appreciate you taking the time to chat with me today. Although you’ve been speaking about it for years, do you find it funny that many online marketers have been touting the benefits of testing and insightful web analytics, but have only lately started catching up and bridging the gap between talking about it to actually doing it?

Bryan: Absolutely, Garry, I think that’s because of two main reasons:

1. Traffic isn’t cheap anymore. As search keeps getting more and more competitive, and as more marketers start getting real web analytics in their hands, they’re getting a sense of how badly they’re actually doing. The availability of more data helps people become increasingly motivated to make a change. And,

2. Perhaps the biggest reason people are catching on is because the tools are out there and are available at free or no cost. A few years ago, I wrote a blog post entitled 33 free tools to make your website better and a few weeks ago I updated that post by writing 69 free (or low cost) tools to improve your website, including big ones such as Google Website Optimizer. That’s the fundamental difference, it’s become easier for people to identify problems and make the changes needed to solve them. For example, a few years ago usability testing could cost you in upwards of thousands of dollars. Today, you can get real-world usability testing for $29 from UserTesting.com.

Garry: Education in large part as well, I’d argue would go a long way. Analytics evangelists and marketing speakers such as Avinash Kaushik, Jim Sterne, and yourself make compelling arguments. Speaking of which, you’re co-hosting a star-studded panel alongside Jim Sterne and Phil Mui entitled, “Turning your web analytics into a money making machine” at SES Chicago in December. What will your 3 tips be going in?

Bryan: Well, I can’t give you all three, but I can give you a sneak peek into one of them…

One thing that I found makes people successful in web analytics isn’t getting data, building pretty reports, distributing reports throughout the company: it’s DOING something with reports. So what I recommend to clients and friends, depending on the metabolism of your company (some companies read and react daily), is to create to-do lists that includes:

  • what are you’re going to improve
  • how are you going to improve it
  • what things you should do more often
  • what things you should do less often

Prioritize that to-do list and knock them out.

Garry: Solid advice, that echoes much of your work online and in print. All your books have been success stories. Personally, I read “Always Be Testing” cover to cover some time ago. Do you have any plans for another book?

Bryan: I’ve now done four books: Persuasive Online Copywriting, Call to Action (a New York Times best-seller), Waiting for Your Cat to Bark, and Always Be Testing. I was very hesitant to do another book, however inspiration hit me quite recently. My brother and I both lost 55lbs each since April, which inspired our next book entitled, “Trim the Fat.”

The reason for writing was simple: the same principle that applies to effectively managing weight loss and a better lifestyle also makes your marketing more effective. For example, weight loss and effective marketing both involve:

  • moving from a passive lifestyle to an active lifestyle
  • taking supplements and not eating white bread (being careful of what you eat/spend)
  • monitoring and being true to yourself

That last point is probably the toughest one to grasp. It’s not just another couple pounds here and there, these little things add up and you start putting on serious weight in the long run. Healthy individuals and effective marketers work on that feedback, so our book is a combination of self-help and marketing.

It’s unfortunate that as marketers, we grew up in front of the TV, learning that marketing was primarily about being passive, using louder voices, adding shock value, and that’s really not the marketing that works today. We learned eating habits in the same format. We need to tackle both of those issues in the same way.

Garry: Step 1, get away from the computer for an hour, and go run. Tougher said than done. Especially nowadays that everyone is so connected. For instance, one of my biggest fears as a marketer is that a multivariate test on a landing page, for instance, never gets statistically conclusive. If you seem to have a decent overall conversion rate, can you tell in advance whether you have a huge group of equally fantastic variables or equally terrible variables?

Bryan: Basically if you have variables that have no movement, you have nothing that motivates your customers. I look for big variances up or down. That’s why I only like testing with a handful of variables, not what I call “slice and dice” optimization, where you use thousands of cells to test variables; you need to keep this very simple. You want to find things that have the biggest influence on people, not the one shade of color on a button that might have a slight impact.

My personal feeling is that I’m after the revenue, and not about being statistically significant. My feeling is that you need to run a test for a little while, a sufficient time period such as a week or two and if you’re not seeing significant results, cut it off and try something new.

Garry: So how do you know what will have the biggest impact on your traffic. Moving beyond the basics, you’re also a big proponent of persona marketing. Do you have any tips for self-starters about establishing baseline personas and testing against assumptions?

Bryan: Getting started with personas is a robust process, it involves diving into surveys, market research, keyword research, speaking to customer service and sales people. We gather all the different attributes about what your customers look like. But one of my favorite ways to determine personas to a site is to experiment in pay per click advertising.

First, I create variations of an ad that will appeal to each of the various personas, such as including a benefit that will appeal to a competitive person, versus maybe a call to action that would appeal to a more spontaneous person, or facts that might appeal to a methodical person.

Second, I test different landing page copy based on the ad copy I’m targeting, and test which gives me the best response. Using that approach and analyzing click-through numbers, you can start to see the breakdown of personas in your client or prospect base, and how they each convert.

Garry: Do you think we’re at a point where personas follow platform? With the buzz increasingly pushing new frontiers such as mobile and social marketing, do you think the measurement and optimization game changes at all? From a technical standpoint, are we delving deeper into personalization issues, and cross-device compatibility problems?

Bryan: There are a ton of really good questions in there.

From a measurement point of view, we know people surf from different computers, different browsers, they delete cookies, etc. There are always going to be challenges measuring people online. However, there are also problems selling to people online. If you think about it, average conversion rates on normal screen sizes (12-20 inches) is still only about 2-3%. People have a lot of challenges selling on all that rich space. The average cell phone screen is only 2-3 inches, so it’s probably going to make selling a lot harder.

When I think about the web, I see the commercial web versus the connected web. One is a communications vehicle we can use to help sell a product, but it’s not how we sell. There has to be the distinction. Yes, I want to connect with my friends, I want to know what they’re thinking, I want to see all their reviews and all of that. But when I’m ultimately making my own buying decision, I need to have a personal experience in order to purchase anything. It’s hard to do on mobile phones, you really don’t see tons of people buying based on their mobile phones.

There are two instances I can think of where mobile can help in the process. It can certainly help in making a decision when you need to do a little bit of quick researching. And it’s also a little different when you start to think about local business. If I were a restaurant, I want to make sure my website is mobile friendly.

However, I think what excites me the most is when I think about how much search is going to change. I don’t know if you’ve seen applications such as Shop Savvy for the Android phones, but you can take a picture of a bar code and it spits out where it’s available locally, where it’s available online, reviews, you can add it to your wish list, you can set price alerts.

Garry: Plus all that neat augmented reality stuff…

Bryan: Exactly. I’m not sure where advertising is going to go from there, such as all the applications that are including Google Adsense in them (of which I haven’t seen anything interesting just yet). This is a very hard medium to sell in, due in part because of a very small frame. However, that’s always been the nature of sales and marketing. It always becomes easier for the consumer to buy, and harder for the marketer to sell.

Garry: Do you think social media is helping at all, bridging the gap between brands and their audiences? Going from the bullhorn, as you mentioned before, to more of a soft-sell or conversation?

Bryan: Absolutely, we know for a fact how much of an impact customer reviews have on people’s purchase decisions, it’s HUGE. Just think about it, Amazon wouldn’t be in the business they are in today if they didn’t leverage social commerce the way they did since day one. It’s a critical factor.

But I don’t think social media is what everyone makes it out to be. First of all, I hate the term “Social Media,” I wrote about it on ClickZ, because it’s really not media. If you start thinking about it, social media is really the way we connect a network of people; there are hubs and there are spokes. When you understand that, you start to think about what this thing is really like. Can you advertise along hubs, or advertise among common nodes? Absolutely, but it’s how can you get into every nook and cranny? It gets very difficult.

Garry: All good points. For now, we really have to pick our battles and maybe get by with a little help from our friends. ;-)

That being said, I want to thank my friend Bryan Eisenberg for finding time in his schedule to talk to me about online marketing, where things are headed, and how to be a healthier, more effective marketer. If you want to close out the year in style, I recommend you book tickets for SES Chicago today. Don’t miss out on three intense days of online marketing goodness plus breakout seminars from online marketing’s best and brightest minds.

About Search Engine Strategies

Search Engine Strategies is the definitive digital event for marketers, corporate decision makers, webmasters and search engine marketers (SEMs), including pay per click (PPC) advertisers and search engine optimization (SEO) professionals. Attend SES Chicago, network with your peers, meet with industry experts, and learn the tips, tactics and strategies that will grow your business online.

About Bryan Eisenberg

Bryan Eisenberg is an internet marketing pioneer and professional speaker. Bryan is the recognized authority and pioneer in improving online conversion rates and was recently recognized as oe of the top 10 User Experience Gurus. Eisenberg is the co-author of the Wall Street Journal, Business Week, USA Today and The New York Times best-selling books “Call to Action,” “Waiting for Your Cat to Bark” and “Always Be Testing.”

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