Why You Should Avoid Site Reviews

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By Theresa Baiocco

I LOVE conferences.

I love learning, presenting, networking, catching up with friends, and seeing what new vendors and tools have cropped up.

I love getting out of town and breaking out of my routine. I love the sponsored parties, free booze, and t-shirts.

But there’s one thing I hate at conferences …

PPC audience
via Clarita

Here’s a play-by-play look at what goes on during a site review

  • Some poor schmuck volunteers to have experts publicly critique his website. The schmuck is looking for a quick fix that will make him rich overnight. This flawed assumption is one of the top myths in online marketing.
  • The experts give him all kinds of advice.
  • The schmuck frantically writes down their suggestions like Moses documenting the Ten Commandments.
  • The audience also writes down pertinent tips, because (after all) this is coming from experts.
  • The schmuck, as well as some audience members, go home and implement some of the advice from the site review.
  • It may or may not work. And since they simply implemented the suggestions without testing them, they’ll never really know whether it did.

Opinions are like {a certain body part – you know which one}, everyone has them

Experts become “experts” by focusing on one specific area or discipline. Maybe it’s SEO or PPC. Maybe social media or conversion rate optimization (CRO). When you get expert advice, never forget that the person offering the critique is looking at your site from a narrow perspective.

For instance. I once went to a site review where the panelists were social media experts. They lambasted the sites that didn’t have a prominent call to action (CTA) of urging visitors to like, follow, pin (etc.) the site on various social media. But they praised the sites that made those social media CTA’s glaring and obvious.

That was their only criteria.

I never once heard the experts ask about the primary goal of any of the sites they reviewed. Nor did they ask how valuable it was to get a visitor to follow or like them on social media. Nor did they consider whether a prominent CTA aimed at social media might cannibalize a more valuable goal (like maybe buying something, filling out a form, or calling for more information).

social-media-site-review
This is what the social media panelists wanted the sites under review to look like: BIG social media icons, teeny tiny call to action.

The same thing happens when the expert specializes in SEO or PPC. She will give all kinds of advice during a site review on how to improve in that one narrow area, normally without regard to how those suggestions might impact other marketing efforts.

Or worse…

At another conference, a VERY well-respected SEO actually recommended that the site under review add an automatically rotating slider.  Everyone who knew anything about conversion optimization in that room silently gasped because there have been numerous case studies that prove that those sliders absolutely kill conversions. But no one dared correct this SEO legend.  And so the poor site owner was given bad advice from someone who’s an expert in one area (traffic), and shouldn’t have been speaking about something that he’s really quite clueless in: converting traffic.

Even if the experts on the panel specialize in conversion rate optimization (CRO), they’re only going to spew out best practices. And while best practices may be a good place to start, there are plenty of times when best practices are just plain wrong.

A/B and multivariate tests prove that on a regular basis.

All you’re getting in a site review is someone’s opinion of what you should do. There is no time for the experts to:

  • Gain a thorough understanding of your target market
  • Study to see what your competitors are doing
  • Conduct a proper PPC or SEO audit
  • Dig into Google Analytics to find profitable traffic segments or to identify pages where people drop out of the conversion funnel
  • Analyze user data and voice-of-customer feedback to form hypotheses on how to increase sales or leads

Their advice is purely based on what has worked on other sites. However, what works on other sites and in other markets is not guaranteed to work on YOUR site. Conversion optimization is not practice-specific … it is goal-specific and customer-specific.

I’m sorry to break it to you, but there is no quick fix.

Improving the quality and quantity of traffic from PPC and SEO takes work. Increasing your conversion rate requires following a systematic CRO process of finding problems, then running A/B or multivariate tests to fix them.

The best way to survive a site review

By all means, go to conferences. Learn. Network. Get tipsy and stock up on free t-shirts.

And get a site review if you wish.

But remember to consider how the suggestions you receive fit within your overall marketing strategy. Never make changes to your site that may improve one area, but take away from the primary goal.  And don’t simply implement the advice you receive; test to see whether it is good advice for your site, your industry, and your market.

The bottom line: Make changes to your site based on accurate data, not on anyone’s opinion — not even an expert’s.

To find out more about how to set and reach your internet marketing and advertising goals, call the Conversion Max team at 888-659-2680.
Social media illustration by Conversion Max and Theresa Baiocco.
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Theresa Baiocco

Conversion Strategist at Conversion Max
Theresa Baiocco specializes in helping mid-sized businesses increase their online revenues with conversion optimization. She speaks at conferences on conversion optimization, and you can read her guest blog posts on popular conversion and PPC blogs, such as Unbounce, UserTesting, and 3Q Digital, among others. Her writing has also been included in the Wall Street Journal and is often in Marketing Day. She has been interviewed on the Webmaster Radio and Marketing Optimization podcasts. Theresa has a Master’s Degree in Marketing from the University of Colorado and a Master Certification in Conversion Optimization from Market Motive. She’s a dog-lover, the mother of a toddler, and a former travel-junkie.

One Response to Why You Should Avoid Site Reviews

  1. Theresa … you nail it here. Every time we take our focus off the purpose of the page, we are prone to hurt, not help, the effort. And that is true even when our intentions are good. Thank you for the reminder.

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