Jessica Collier’s been at ion for almost 6 years, and has been developing & testing landing pages since day one. Over the years she’s worked with hundreds of LiveBall customers to help them bring their vision to life. I always say that Jessica lives at the intersection of big ideas and making them happen. I asked her a few questions about how she works…here’s what she said:

Q: When you are reviewing landing page test results, what do you look at first?

A: First and foremost, I always start with the source of the traffic — whether it is ppc ad copy, banner, direct mail piece, or email. You’ll hear us talk about message-match until we are blue in the face, but only because it is the most important part of understanding your landing page visitors. What is the context of the click? What message did they click on and what is the presumed intent? Is the landing page delivering on the promise? Are expectations being met (offer, design, content)?

Next up, some basic metrics: bounce %, conversion % and margin of error between tests. These metrics help us to start asking the right questions.

High bounce rate means low engagement — why? Why are people leaving? How can we get more people to take action? Conversion rate is obviously the primary measurement of success — are there any obvious conversion inhibitors? Are the people that are engaging also converting? If not, what are they clicking on? Behavior and click analysis ties so closely to the conversion rate and drives optimization next steps. Focus on getting more people to click on the page elements that are driving conversions.

LiveBall makes this analysis easy because behaviors are tagged—we can instantly see what visitors are doing and which behaviors are leading to conversions.

Q: When you are reviewing a new landing page concept, what do you look for?

A: My favorite tool to use is the READY conversion optimization framework. The READY framework is a 5×5 matrix that is extremely useful for evaluating landing pages to ensure they are — (R)elevant, (E)ngaging, (A)uthoritative, (D)irectional and (Y)ield Optimal. When working with LiveBall customers, the framework gives us a common model that sparks discussion, collaboration and idea generation. It is an easy way to ask the right questions to find out if there are holes messaging, design and overall strategy.

Another exercise, which is extremely handy when evaluating A/B test concepts, is the simple “print it out” comparison method — basically printing out the Control and Challenger and taking a fresh look at them side-by-side.

Q: What’s the biggest landing page testing mistake you’ve ever made?

A: I don’t like to think of these as “mistakes,” rather learning experiences! I would say there are some common themes when working with our internal team or with a customer’s optimization department:

  • Over-investment in a particular creative or test (whether it be time, resources, personal agenda, or design/functionality). Landing pages need to be flexible, reusable and disposable.
  • Pulling the plug too early — make sure tests run their course and are given adequate time to reach statistical significance. A lot of people turn tests off before significance is reached.
  • Remembering to innovate. Often, when you find a “winning” experience, it is easy to iterate and MVT yourself into a conversion plateau. Innovation can be sometimes be scary, painful and/or risky, but it is necessary in order to be moving the needle forward. Stale creative and strategy breed stagnant results (yuck!). We need to always be testing and rapidly moving through cycles of iteration and innovation, following a strategically sound methodology for optimization.

Q: What do you love most about landing page testing?

A: I love learning about visitors, their motivation, what elements influence their decisions to buy or fill out a form. I’m continually amazed when something as simple as an image or a headline can influence an important decision such as purchase of a health insurance plan. Uncovering actionable insights drives my passion for optimization!

Q: What is the biggest challenge customers face when optimizing their landing pages?

A: As we all know, with conversion optimization, there is no guaranteed recipe for success. Finding the right combination of ingredients is challenging and at times, frustrating, but I encourage customers to continue to test and learn from every variation of the recipe. If you look at every test result for a ‘lesson learned’ you actually build up great conversion insights that help inform the next tests. It’s never ‘testing for testing’s sake’.

Q: What is the biggest opportunity in landing pages that people aren’t taking advantage of? (What should they be doing that they aren’t?)

A: Tracking telephone leads/conversions by creative should be high priority, especially if a high percentage of your sales are offline. If you don’t already have a call tracking tool that offers automated reporting, get one now! I recommend Mongoose Metrics, an enterprise-level call tracking solution that seamlessly integrates with LiveBall, and gives a pretty much real-time dashboard of both online and offline conversions.

Q: Describe the feeling when a test goes live.

A: Optimism, excitement and anticipation. It’s so fun to watch the results in real-time in LiveBall as the traffic starts to hit the pages.

Q: How do you handle when something you thought would win doesn’t win?

A: Back to the drawing board — and fast! That’s one of the best things about being able to work in LiveBall—we can execute quickly. The agility to respond quickly to what we are seeing in a test is addicting.

Q: How has landing page testing changed for our customers over the past 5 years?

A: Testing and optimization is considerably more sophisticated now than just a few years back. Marketing folks have piloted their own conversion programs, they’ve contracted agencies to optimize their landing pages, they’ve been through highs and lows and have experiences to share. According to MarketingSherpa’s 2011 Landing Page Optimization Benchmark Report, the number of in-house employees entrusted with LPO (landing page optimization) as increased 100% from 2009-2011*!

It’s an exciting time to be a conversion optimization specialist!

I love working with Jessica every day—I am always inspired by her ability to take an idea and turn it into reality using LiveBall. You can follow Jessica on Twitter @frobestyle

*Source (c)2011 MarketingSherpa Landing Page Optimization Benchmark Survey