The messy art of website optimization

You may have remembered from one of my previous posts (How I increased subscribers by more than 300%) we redesigned a web form in order to improve the number of free-trial downloads. The concept was simple, if we make it easier for people to download and try our software it would increase our sales. The early results showed a 500% increase in the number of people downloading the free-trial. It was great news, but short lived as we noticed that our conversion rate from free-trial users to paying customers had plummeted.

The optimization experiment was seen as a failure, I lost some credibility in my department, and future optimization plans were scrapped. I wanted to spend more time trying to understand why, but there never seems to be a shortage of marketing related projects, and it was nine months before I had a chance to come back and take a closer look.

A closer look at web optimization

When we optimized the free-trial download page, we optimized for two things:

  • Make it easier for visitors to download the free trial of our product
  • Get them to subscribe to email campaigns about the product

The first time I measured the results I failed to account for the revenue impact this increase in email subscribers would have on our business.  In the nine months after the redesign our email subscribers have increased by over 500%. This had a huge impact on revenue. Transactions from free-trial email subscribers after the optimization increased by of over 600%!

So why did conversion rates decrease?

If you remember when we first optimized the web form it was to coincide with the release of a new version of our product. We’ll, six months later we had another version release and the conversion rate of our free-trial to paying customers jumped back up. It turns out that the conversion rate had more to do with the product offering and less to do with the web optimization. Sounds like information I need to pass on to our product manager!

Paying it forward

This all happened in the first nine months and we expect these number to continue to grow at the same rate. The optimized web form resulted in +58% more people trying out our software, and a +500% larger email subscriber base that continues to grow and translates into more sales.

The biggest lesson here is to make sure that, not only should you clearly identify the goals of your web optimization strategy, you should have a plan to measure those results.

What kind of web optimizations have you attempted? How’d that work out for you?