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I started shaving in 1979, at the age of 14 (see this photo of my horrendous mustache from my 9th grade graduation). Aside for a couple of years’ flirtation with beards (see this photo from a winter trip to the Florida Keys in 1991), and the "online marketing consultant Fridays" where I couldn’t be bothered, I’ve shaved pretty much every day over the past 30 years. By conservative reckoning, that’s close to 10,000 shaves.
And I still suck at it.
I cut myself. I miss patches of bristle the size of a compact disc. I get astringent aftershave up my nose and in my eyes. I produce ingrowns and razor burn on my neck by scraping too deeply in the wrong direction.
So what’s up with that?
The answer can be found in the following video, taken from the Season 5 Premiere of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. The episode, in which the Fab Five crown "Mr. Straight Guy," included a shaving competition.
The minute I started watching, my entire shaving worldview shifted. For the first time in my life, I saw shaving as an activity at which improvement was not only possible but desirable. My testosterone started pumping, and I felt the old competitive instincts flexing their muscles. "I could be good at this," I thought to myself as I watched the Straight Guys attempting to de-hairify themselves in 90 seconds. "Look at that guy’s brush technique," I excitedly exclaimed inwardly. "Way too much shoulder, not enough wrist."
The details of how to shave, as provided by Queer Eye’s Manscaping Expert Kyan Douglas, have provided valuable guidance as I go from shaving clutz to Olympic chin deforester. But the details are nothing without the twin engines of performance improvement: Intention and Attention.
As soon as I heard the words "shaving competition," I bought into the concept that I could improve my shaving ability.
Most website owners don’t even think about their landing pages, home pages, and interior pages as improvable. They just are. They just sit there. Just like I shaved without having the intention to shave better for all those years.
So here’s my call to action: you can significantly improve your website!
You can get better results by improving your headlines, header graphics, font and text size, color scheme, form design, and several dozen other elements. And let me be specific here. By better results I mean more leads and sales. More money. For exactly the same AdWords spend. For exactly the same effort.
Once that intention to improve throbs within you, you’re halfway there.
The second half – the second engine of performance improvement – is Attention.
The world is constantly giving us feedback about every detail of our existence. Most of it gets ignored. Take a second now to prove this to yourself. Pay attention to the way you’re sitting right now. Is there an adjustment you can make to be more comfortable? Notice your breathing. Is it shallow or deep? Wouldn’t a nice deep breath feel really good right now? How are your shoulders? Tense and up around your ears, or relaxed and hanging? Which would feel better?
We get feedback about the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the looks we give others, the perfumes and colognes we put on, the cars we drive, the sounds we make while we eat soup, and all the rest of it. And we pay attention to feedback that’s important to us (like did that joke we told get laughs or cold stares), or that’s so loud we can’t ignore it anymore (like an illness after years of neglecting our health).
But attention is habitual. So just having the intention to improve my shaving, or your website, or anything else, isn’t going to make it happen.
We need to create a new attention habit. To train our brains to notice the feedback that’s relevant to our attempts to improve. As I stroke up around the neck, I need to pay attention to the pressure and the angle and the sensation and the subsequent stream of blood or lack thereof. I can’t be focused on the BOPzine I have to write later today, or the thing I forgot to fax yesterday, or where we’re going on vacation in July. I need to be present with the reality of the shaving.
Website Testing Mechanics
The simplest tool for website testing and improvement is Google’s Website Optimizer. You can find it as a tab in your AdWords account.
Optimizer is Google’s ultra-simple split testing tool. All you need to get started is a control page, a test page, and a "success" page. That is, your original landing page is the control, and some variation of the landing page is the test page. The success page is where your prospect ends up after they do the thing you want them to do.
If you want them to buy something, then the success page says something like, "Thank you for your purchase. If we have any of this item in stock, we’ll probably send one to you in a few days, when we get around to it."
If you collect leads, the success page reads, "Thank you for giving us your email address and other sensitive information, which we will now sell to the highest bidder. We’ll also start bombarding you with obnoxious and irrelevant offers until you die or cancel your email address."
Optimizer will prompt you to enter the URLs of these three pages, and then give you snippets of code to place on each. (A competent webmaster can complete the code-placement process in about 84 seconds, so don’t let them overcharge you. Heck, even I can do it in under 10 minutes, although I do require a mild sedative to complete the task.)
Here’s an embarrrassing look at one of my tests, which has proved inconclusive so far:
The original page has generated two sales out of 170 visits, and the test page has lead to three sales from 176 visits. Gee, maybe neither page is doing its job…
Strategic Pre-Testing Questions
Before you jump into the mechanics of testing, start by setting your intention and marshalling your attention. What are you curious about? What decisions did you make when you built the site that you might want to address again?
Testing expert Richard Mouser puts it this way:
In the frenzy of getting a website built, there are always compromises. Let’s face it, no one has the time to create the perfect website first time around (if ever).
So think back to that time and remember any time you said or thought:
• OK, that’s good enough for now
• Not exactly what I had in mind, but I guess it works
• We don’t have time to do it over again
Listen, you did the right thing at the time. It’s better to have an imperfect website than no website at all. So don’t beat yourself up, just think about that time and write down all the things that you were not 100% satisfied with.
Browse through your website and see if that jogs your memory. Write down every idea, and carry that paper with you to capture more ideas whenever or whenever they come.
Once you set up your first test, make sure you install attention cues into your work day. Subscribe yourself to an autoresponder that reminds you to check the results every 2 days. Put action items in your calendar system. Start testing with a buddy, and encourage each other.
After you get your results and realize that split testing is the easiest and most elegant way to give yourself a pay raise, you won’t need those structured reminders, any more than I need a reminder that there’s a bar of Gearhart’s Venezuelan Dark Chocolate with Crystallized Australian Ginger in the green drawer where I keep my wallet and keys (in case a thief finds the drawer, I’m hoping the wallet and car keys will distract them from the chocolate).
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go shave for the 9,874th time:
What have you improved after a long plateau by applying Intention and Attention? Post your answer to comments.
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