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Military.com optimizes landing pages to boost search

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HOW MILITARY.COM GREW CONVERSION WITH LANDING PAGE OPTIMIZATION
Objective: Optimize and manage multiple landing pages to better support paid search campaigns. Strategy: Use A/B testing with varied content and designs to determine best converting landing pages by visitor segment.
Results: 23% overall lift in conversion representing $100,000 in incremental revenue

Military.com is an online military and veterans membership organization serving some 10 million subscribers. A Monster Worldwide company, Military.com provides service information to military members and their families through a multitude of websites and newsletters, all supported by advertisers.

The San Francisco-based company's challenge has been to manage its various landing pages (now about 45) with different and appropriate value propositions to attract new members. This, in turn, draws the display advertisers that want to reach service members and their families, eager to find such features as military news and benefits, finance tips, career and education services, job boards and scholarship information spread among many product sites.

“All these landing pages represented quite a challenge, and a lot of work for me to personally manage a testing and optimization program,” said Breanna Wigle, Military.com marketing manager. “We have 10 million members and 5 million unique site visits a month, so it's significant volume.”

Wigle also felt that having a single landing page per product serving many different sources of traffic, from search to e-mail and referrals, also wasn't optimum. It was important to consider the sources of different segments of traffic and create optimum landing pages to suit, she said.

Wigle had tried Website Optimizer, Google's free website testing and optimization tool, but decided her needs required more robust segmentation and targeting solutions. She went with a commercial solution from SiteSpect Inc., a provider of multivariate and A/B testing that examines everything from forms to landing pages, layouts, variations of copy, different offers, photos, navigation elements, links, buttons and conversion funnels, all to determine what is most successful in converting visitors.

“Military.com is a case like others, with limited time and, in some cases limited ability to push better content live,” said Randy Bird, Web analyst-professional services team at Boston-based SiteSpect. “What Breanna and I have been able to do is try out a few simple redesigns without having to go through IT or layers of bureaucracy.”

Testing of landing pages followed, initially focusing on how many steps were optimum to get a viewer to conversion. Wigle said search visitors coming to a site using general keywords, and thus clearly unfamiliar with the company, tended to appreciate clear and succinct product descriptions. For visitors coming to the site from more specific keywords—and thus self-identified as familiar with the company and closer to conversion—more detailed descriptions worked best.

While tinkering with different website content and designs, Wigle and Bird were surprised by one finding about segmentation: People in different branches of the military not only responded differently to different messages but also to whether their particular branch insignia appeared on the landing page.

“Having the branch insignia boosted conversion by 20% for people from that branch, but it actually performed lower with those from other branches,” Bird said. “It was an accidental discovery, but often those are the best kind, illustrating the need for all companies to segment their data and treat their customers as more than a single data point.”

Meanwhile, visitors coming from specific keywords, including those citing military branches, prompted tailored content and calls to action to be served up dynamically. Return visitors also were detected automatically and received their own, more-specific content.

Wigle said the testing of how many steps were most effective in leading search visitors through to conversion was an eye-opening experience. For the best-optimized landing page experience, she said, “We saw a 23% overall lift in conversion, which in ROI terms was more than $100,000 in incremental revenue.”

But she learned more from the details.

“What we also found was, of the two largest segments, one saw a 56% conversion lift and the other showed insignificant improvement,” she said. “In testing, the law of averages can be your downfall. Robust segmentation allows you to get closer to why something is working better.”

Wigle is planning follow-up tests to continue landing page improvement.

“The ability to iterate down to the most appropriate segment levels is a fine thing,” Wigle said. “It means being able to look at the results and see that a certain population is large enough to drive significant revenue through segmentation.”

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