Optimizing Optimization

You’ve heard it before if you’ve ever done client-facing work. “We want this optimized.”
Instead of nodding your head, you should say: for what?

Asking for an optimized website is like asking a waitress for a steak to come back delicious. But if your meaning is clear, you’ll get what you want. (Either a PPC-matching landing page with a high converting call to action, or a well-peppered rare sirloin with mashed potatoes and braised asparagus).

So, before you ‘optimize’ any particular page, ask yourself a few things:

  • Is your audience primed to buy? There’s no point in optimizing a call-to-click if your site’s not built. Don’t hype the company’s prestigious board if the About Us page says “Ready by June 2013!” or openly speculates if Bush will beat Kerry.

Build your sales funnel back to front; convert your natural networking leads before you call the world to aid you. (That’s what we at Online Genius have done; we were an association long before we made a website).

  • Can you scale your sales? I worked with a client who was hand-boxing all their mailouts. They had the funds to triple their ad revenue and try new strategies, and I asked if they could run their business while spending 3x as much in their garage.  After a bit of discussion, we brought someone in. Sales and sanity increased remarkably.
  • Is your site actually useful, or did you make up a parrot book? There’s an extremely popular parrot ebook (who I won’t drive traffic to). It costs a lot of money in a luxury niche. Unfortuately, it was written by someone who had never actually owned parrots.

You can’t hotfix your morality. If you sell inferior products, your customers will know. Optimize your offering so that you could, in a perfect market, sell it without advertising.

And most importantly:

  • Have you put time into your day to analyze results? Have you optimized your optimization?
    An A/B split test shouldn’t be splitting your attention. If you don’t have time, resources or knowledge to improve, take a moment out and write everything you don’t know. What mobile purchasing tech are you best at? Is it worth waiting on Apple?

And don’t forget freak factor or market fit. Sites like LingsCars.com are great because they’re horrific, bad to look at…and will be pointed to as examples of “good bad web design” in articles like this one.  If you’re renting cars in the United Kingdom, someone will mention Ling. If you do online shopping as stores named after South American rivers, there’s another popular site, but I’ve forgotten its name.


So before you spout optimization as the one-stop band-aid that’ll turn your site around, remember: Being a genius is hard work.

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