Experts. That is what most marketers in the industry consider themselves. Through years of hard work, research, and learning, many of us feel that this designation is fair and deserved. While it may be reasonable to call ourselves experts in the digital marketing field, it is very important not to let our experience-based intuition take priority over the data at hand. Our past experiences can be great predictors of future results, but in this ever-evolving industry, they are far from a guarantee.
The pitfalls stemming from presumed results are more common than one might expect. An example of this can be seen with landing page development. Recently, we optimized a landing page for a client to help generate more leads. There was no doubt in our minds that our new optimized landing page would outperform the old one. The message was more concise, the form was more prominently displayed, and the video content was more visible on the page. Despite all these improvements, we decided to do what we always do and test it against the original page. To our great surprise (and to an extent, dismay) the old page converted at a higher rate than the new optimized page! I began wondering how this could happen. Looking closely we concluded that it could have been any number of reasons – from searchers preferring the old layout, to the information included on the new page not going into enough detail. Regardless, the main takeaway was this: never let presumptions about results lead you to ignore or not collect the data. Working at an ROI-driven firm means that at the end of the day, I want the page that will give us the best results – regardless of how “pretty” it is. It is understandable to want to replace the old with the new right away, but it is important and necessary to test your changes before making a long-term commitment.
Another instance when it is crucial to compile data over merely trusting intuition is when it comes to SEO keyword mapping. If you are unfamiliar with keyword mapping, it is when you assign optimized keyword phrases based on traffic to pages on your website to increase organic traffic. Numerous times during my research, I have found my presumptions on traffic to be incorrect. For example, working on keyword research for a university’s graduate program, I presumed that the term “out of state graduate programs” would have a reasonable amount of traffic around it. However, according to the Google Keyword Planner there are fewer than 10 searches on this keyword in the United States each month.
Another example of this is evident when estimating traffic of one phrase versus another. For example, which term would you assume has more monthly traffic: “online master programs” or “online masters program”? Well let’s check the data:
After consulting the data we can see that “online masters program” has more traffic. Maybe you got it right, or maybe your experience led you to believe “online master programs” would have more traffic. It was necessary to consult the data to confirm or contradict our beliefs. In addition, if we assumed that one of these two keywords was ideal, we would be wrong again. The term “online masters programs” has around 8,100 monthly views, nearly ten times the amount of the previous two phrases combined.
Without proper testing, we as marketers don’t know for sure which keyword phrases, landing pages, campaigns, bids, budgets, sitelinks, etc. will perform at the highest level. Intuition on what will perform the best is not what makes us industry experts. What makes us experts is our ability to test, obtain, analyze, and communicate results from data. If that data happens to make us look good, then hey, who are we to argue.