Tom had two sites targeting the same audience, and getting about the same traffic. Both had analytics installed. This was a rare opportunity to see how two very different approaches to website design affected online sales conversion out in the real world.

Read this before changing your website.

It’s time-consuming to offer 45 minutes of my time to anyone who wants to improve their online sales conversion rates. I just can’t think of any better way to introduce businesses to conversion concepts.

And the people I meet on the phone are priceless.

One such person is Tom Jackson of Heliski.com. His is a rare and instructive look at the power of the written word and the ineffectiveness of standard design strategies when it comes to conversion.

Tom had two sites targeting the same audience, and getting about the same traffic. Both had analytics installed.

According to him, one was “dated, awkward, wordy, but it’s working.” The other, he said, was “newer, looks better, better organized but WAY underperforming in lead gen.”

This was a rare opportunity to see how two very different approaches to website design performed out in the real world.

Which would you pick as the conversion winner?

Take a look at Tom’s two sites. Which would you pick as the hands-down winner? Which would you image would have cratered his income had he relied exclusively on it?

How analytics (and a session with the Conversion Scientist) saved one business's online sales.

How analytics (and a session with the Conversion Scientist) saved one business’s online sales.

I did a complete evaluation of these two pages in my Search Engine Land column, and you might be surprised at my conclusions: strong copy beat slick new design.

Two very different sites: one “dated, awkward, wordy;” the other “newer, looks better, better organized.” So why was the “dated, awkward, wordy” winning the conversion game so handily?

From a distance the two home pages couldn’t look more different. HeliskiingReview.com uses non-standard layout. Text is knockout white on blue, usually considered more difficult to read than Heliski.com’s black on grey.

The newer site uses a more “image- or brand-oriented play, establishing its value proposition as “the ultimate heliskiing destination.” Unfortunately, you can’t heliski on the site, so this is an empty promise.

The body copy couldn’t be more different in approach. HeliskiingReview.com uses plain language with specific, value- and benefit-oriented points in easy-to-scan bulleted format. Specifics are almost always important for conversion.

A designer might say that the big star with “send me info” was “too TV.” However, it certainly does draw the eye to an important call to action.

and the conversion champ is…

HeliskiingReview.com had a conversion rate of 2.27% vs. Heliski.com at 1.99%. That’s 14% better. However, HeliskiingReview.com delivered much more qualified prospects. Tom was able to book trips for 15.29% of the HeliskiingReview.com leads. Heliski.com had a close ratio of only 1.33%.

That’s 1146% more bookings and tens of thousands of dollars in sales.

What we can Learn from Tom (or How Analytics Saved One Business’s Online Sales)

The moral of the tale is that Tom measured his sites’ performance. He had the analytics in place, and was smart enough not to make changes to his site without being able to measure their effect. By leaving both sites up, he was able to rollback the changes.

Do you know how changes to your site affect your business? You should.

I’m offering a two hour short course on June 11 in Austin entitled Web Analytics: Tools and Best Practices. This is an Austin Entrepreneur Network short course, which means that it’s only $25. We love our entrepreneurs.

Join me and find out how you can avoid huge mistakes – mistakes that rob you of leads and steal your sales. This is the second time I’ve done this presentation.

Or you can book your own session!

Read my full report on Search Engine Land, and I hope to see you on June 11.

Brian Massey
4 replies
  1. Chris Chong says:

    I would say the one on the left is the better converting one. I’f Im about to drop in excess of $2K on a ski trip, I’d want to know as much as possible.
    But perhaps the reason the one on the right isn’t converting all that well is because it looks like an ad for ski gear, and is not clearly heliski, whereas the one on the left has an excellent photo of what it is that he is selling. The guy sking says nothing. At least replace him with a group of skiers in front of your helicopters.
    I bet the content from the one in the left in pushed into the design of the one on the right would do better than both.

    Reply
    • Brian Massey says:

      Chris, you are correct. I recommended that Tom pull the content from the old site (on the left) to the new one. He’s working it in. There are some structural differences between the sites that may also be affecting his results.
      To your point on the image: Yes, the skier image is less relevant than the one on the left, with skiers in pristine snow and a helicopter hovering above.

      Reply
  2. Chris Chong says:

    I would say the one on the left is the better converting one. I’f Im about to drop in excess of $2K on a ski trip, I’d want to know as much as possible.
    But perhaps the reason the one on the right isn’t converting all that well is because it looks like an ad for ski gear, and is not clearly heliski, whereas the one on the left has an excellent photo of what it is that he is selling. The guy sking says nothing. At least replace him with a group of skiers in front of your helicopters.
    I bet the content from the one in the left in pushed into the design of the one on the right would do better than both.

    Reply
    • Brian Massey says:

      Chris, you are correct. I recommended that Tom pull the content from the old site (on the left) to the new one. He’s working it in. There are some structural differences between the sites that may also be affecting his results.
      To your point on the image: Yes, the skier image is less relevant than the one on the left, with skiers in pristine snow and a helicopter hovering above.

      Reply

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