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Interviewing Software & IT Leaders

"I chose conversion optimization, which is a sort of combination of analysis and psychology"

John Marshall
John Marshall
CTO
Founder of Market Motive

John Marshall is the CTO and Founder of Market Motive US based company, formerly the CEO and Founder of web-analytics-success story ClickTracks Analytics. He has proven educational and practical experience in the software industry, of more than 20 years, especially in subjects such as web analytics, conversion techniques and marketing.

I had the pleasure of interviewing him during the Search Engine Conference in London, while the Google booth was being torn apart - Yes, it's true, even Google booths get destroyed in the end. So check out John Marshall's ideas on search behavior and embrace his valuable advice on maximizing your results using search tools.

Adriana Iordan: Hello, we are here with John Marshall. Hello and welcome. Can you tell us a little about yourself and the company you are working at?

John Marshall: Thank you, it is good to be here. My company is Market Motive and the purpose of the company is to teach people how to be effective in online-marketing. Before that, I have a background in software development and I started a company which sells software products. Actually, I have sold my first software product on a cassette tape which I duplicated myself when I was fourteen, so I've been in the software business for twenty seven years.

Adriana Iordan: You've just had a presentation here at Search Engine Strategies Conference in London about search behavior research. Can you share with us some of the main ideas of the presentation?

I have been an entrepreneur for a long time and I have seen online the kind of things that work and those that don't work so well and I am a strong believer in the power of entrepreneurs.

John Marshall: Actually it was a very interesting topic, there were four of us on the panel, the idea was to better understand what is it that users are looking for when they use search. The problem you usually have is that people type in the search query on a search engine, that directs them to your site and that gives you a narrow view in what people want, because people type what they want into the search engine, where they expect to see results.

The problem with that is that the data is not as good as it could be, because you only get to see the data for people who come to your site, you don't get to see the data for the people who went to other people sites.
So, on the panel we've discussed various ways to get a better picture of what it is that people really want at the level of the search engine. Some of that involves buying very expensive reports and I presented a particular technique which is very cheap, it's free actually and it gives you a better idea of the things that people really want when they are searching.

Adriana Iordan: Like using competitive intelligence tools?

John Marshall: Those are the expensive solutions and they are very good, but the in reality they are too expensive for most people to be able to use them. So, what we advocate for actually is that you put a search box within your website, it is what we call site search, so people can go to that box and they can type things in.

How you think that the primary reason for having that search box there is to help people find what they want after they come to your site, well, it's actually not. The primary purpose for having that search box is to collect data on what people want when they are free to openly express themselves, not the narrow view that they came to my site because of the search terms, but instead you are already on my site. I now give them the freedom to ask for whatever they want within the confines of what my site does, what is it that you want and you learn a lot of "instinct" things that you would have never guessed.

Adriana Iordan: So this data can be turned into actionable data? Can you improve your navigation?

John Marshall: Yes, even at a simple level, you can actually work out what are some of the keywords that you should be buying, you can use it for keywords research. Let's say it is a software product website and the software is an antivirus tool - it may be that people want a certain feature from your software, so how would you know what they want?

I chose conversion optimization, which is a sort of combination of analysis and psychology, because it is very applicable to what entrepreneurs need to get done everyday.

Well, they may type in the search box spyware removal, not spyware detection - and if they type that in you know that it is a feature that they want or you would know if you already have that feature.

So that is a keyword that you should be buying. Therefore, by mapping the data against other things that you already know, you very quickly expand keywords. You can then also use it for navigation structure or other things, but actually you would be surprised on what people type into the search box and how often people use a phrase to search for something that you would never guess. You would have never thought that people will type in spyware removal instead of spyware protection, so it is a way to find out.

Adriana Iordan: What is your role at Market Motive?

John Marshall: I have been an entrepreneur for a long time and I have seen online the kind of things that work and those that don't work so well and I am a strong believer in the power of entrepreneurs. I just wanted to put my experience to the best possible use and essentially, we teach people within the company, we teach different disciplines . Avinash , for example, handles web-analytics, Brian Eisenberg and I do conversion optimization. Allan does pay-per-click campaigns, so we all have our own specialty.

I chose conversion optimization, which is a sort of combination of analysis and psychology, because it is very applicable to what entrepreneurs need to get done everyday. Improving that process really makes a big difference to a website. You would see for example that your pay-per-click costs are going up, in that case, the easiest solution is just to convert more people who are coming - and you can double or triple the conversion rate of a website without working too hard. This is something I really believe in.

Adriana Iordan: Can you share with us some of your most valuable tips on how to increase the conversion rate? Does it depend on the website?

John Marshall:It does depend on the website, it's true. The first tip is get good data. You can't do very much without having good quality data and I am almost fanatical about that, because it is so easy to ignore it, but you got to get it, data drives decisions.

The second thing is not to treat all your costumers coming to the website as the same, because different people have different needs and just because you sell a particular product - an antivirus tool - that doesn't mean that everybody who is coming to your website is going to choose your product for the same reasons.

Some people are very emotional on how they make decisions and some people are very rational. Some people make decisions very quickly and some people make decisions very slowly. Your product is going to be a little more biased in one direction or another, but the inescapable fact is that probably that movement is not fifty-fifty, but is more sixty- forty, so you still got forty percent of people coming to your website that are slow decision makers.

The second thing is not to treat all your costumers coming to the website as the same, because different people have different needs and just because you sell a particular product that doesn't mean that everybody who is coming to your website is going to choose your product for the same reasons.

So, the way that you present the product and the copy you use and other things are very important to make sure that either the copy works well for everybody - which is almost impossible - or to actually structure your site according to all possible behavior patterns.

So, if somebody is in a hurry, they click this link which takes them to the type of content that is good for them and if somebody is very slow and methodical they click this link which takes them over to a different type of content that is better use for them.

My second tip is really to think about your customers not as all one being an amorphous group; they are all very different, and although they have some things in common, they are not the same.

Thirdly, your pay-per-click-advertising needs to be constantly refined, so you never finish, you are always optimizing, you are also thinking, you are always testing. Testing is very important, a lot of people don't test and the easiest place to test is inside the pay-per-click ads, because Google in particular makes that very straight forward. So, you should always be testing new types of ads and the cost is minimum for doing that.

These are my free tips.

Adriana Iordan: Thank you for taking the time to talk to us.

Published date: May 14, 2008

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