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How they increased conversions by 46% on the Guardian’s Soulmates dating site / Kerstin Exner talks with theMarketingblog

Will Corry writes .. I interviewed Kerstin Exner of The Guardian at the recent Conversion Conference in London. Enjoy this exclusive article on how Kerstin and her team increased conversions by 46% on their Soulmates dating site.

Through a combination of A/B and user testing,  Kerstin Exner dramatically improved paid registration conversions for The Guardian’s online dating site, Soulmates. We ask Kerstin five questions about her success …

  • · Please give our readers a roundup of the final figures / stats etc. associated with your very successful paid subscribers drive.

“Our campaign and our testing is an ongoing process of continuous improvement so there was no specific end point to a campaign. We made a number of improvements in various areas of the site and the goals of these tests were often not directly based on subscription numbers, but areas like engagement metrics and increasing click-throughs. However, the success of these activities filtered through to the subscriptions too – we have been able to increase the conversion rate of members within their first seven days of membership on the site by roughly 30 per cent with a combination of these efforts.”

  • · Which test outcome surprised you the most?

“I was most surprised by the increase in registrations we saw after testing a different landing page for people who clicked through from a Guardian ad. I thought there would be an uplift, but not to the extent we saw – there was an increase of more than 40 per cent in registrations. This test really proved that showcasing the people already registered with the site to new visitors is the crucial element in convincing them to join.”

  • · Why did you use Optimizely for your tests?

“There were two key reasons we chose Optimizely as a company-wide solution for A/B testing: the software is competitively priced in comparison with other similar tools, and it is very easy to implement and get started with. Non-technical people can set up tests and are able to interpret the results, while non-mathematical people can simply set up a statistically valid test. This was important for us as it meant we didn’t need to employ a dedicated testing team to run our web optimisation processes.

“Another important point is that, within the Guardian, we have not only used Optimizely for conversion optimisation, but also for experimental testing to find out whether a new product idea would fly. We were able to expose a small percentage of users to a new prototype feature and quickly find out whether it was worth developing. This has been great in terms of ROI, as we were able to put the brakes on ideas that weren’t worthwhile before we’d invested in them too heavily.”

  • · You got a 50% success figure (7 out of 14 tests). You said you thought the industry average was closer to a third. Comment.

“Dedicated optimisation and conversion consultancies can hit slightly higher success rates – for example, Stephen Pavlovich of Conversion Factory thinks claims he can achieve closer to 60 or 70 per cent. Bearing in mind that Optimizely is a piece of software we can use directly, rather than employing a separate agency, our 50 per cent success rate – with no prior knowledge or experience of A/B testing – feels like a good result and strong ROI for our business.”

  • · What’s the next challenge for you and your team?

“The biggest challenge for us is expanding our business beyond the loyal Guardian readership. We may need new marketing strategies to attract new members who don’t have a close Guardian affinity – this is something we’re looking at testing in the future.”

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