Ideal Visitor Optimization Is the New Website Design

I am going through the process of reconfiguring my website. Note that I did not say redesign. While there will be an incredible design element provided by the fine folks at Studio Press and Copyblogger Media, my real focus is on configuration around something I’m going to call “Ideal Visitor Optimized Goals.”

Before I explain what it is I think I mean by that, let me talk about the past.

qf8 via Flickr CC

Like many marketers over the last decade or so, a great deal of my web strategy has revolved around producing content that draws links and eventually eyeballs. While that strategy has been effective by many measures, such as traffic, page rank and authority, it falls short in today’s information overloaded landscape.

The website of today and moving forward must begin with conversion in mind. But, first you must expand your view of conversion. Conversion doesn’t have to mean a sale or lead capture, conversion is simply the act of intentionally leading a visitor through your content in a way that allows them to get exactly what they need.

A conversion mindset makes it obvious at every turn what you want me the visitor to do next.

To be the most effective, web content must start with that goal rather than measure and track from an existing predefined framework.

The most important design and configuration focus must be on key visitor actions – What is it you want a visitor to do from every vantage point? What must they get from their visit in order to move to the next step? What constitutes a successful visit? How can you site build trust? How can your site collaborate with a visitor to perform the initial functions of a sales funnel?

These are the new fundamental design and configuration questions that have to be addressed at a strategic mapping kind of level in order to create the most useful visitor experience.

The framework isn’t a revolutionary idea; it simply needs to be used in a way that informs every element.

  • Who is the ideal visitor you’re configuring for?
  • What are their needs, wants and problems?
  • What is the core message of difference that attracts?
  • What keywords, topics and chapters of content need to be included?
  • What are the 2-3 ideal visitor actions that are desired?
  • What is the conversion path that must be walked and measured?

From this framework you can begin to set goals for meaningful interactions and from there you start the real work of building your Ideal Visitor Optimized Goals.

Ideal Visitor Optimized Goals are a set of goals for specific actions that can be measured using the expanded goals function in Google Analytics and optimized using the new Content Experiments function of Google Analytics that recently replaced Google Website Optimizer.

There can be side trips and branches to every path, but everything must serve the purpose of personalizing and optimizing the visitor experience and everything must be measured in order to do that.

Starting from your 2-3 ideal visitor actions you can create a set of measurable events, such as newsletter subscriptions, video views or social shares and peg these goals to next steps and even assign values to every action. When you add the A/B testing element of Content Experiments, you can also start the continual process of improving goal performance with almost real-time data.

In this framework a conversion is many, many things that are simply milestones leading a visitor to getting exactly what they came for.

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  • Walt Goshert

    John, Ideal Visitor Optimization- love that! 

    A powerful, strategic way to design a business website.


    • ducttape

      Thanks Walt – you know, I think this idea could really spill over into everything – sales, product development, customer service – think about that!

  • Muhammad Ayaz

    Really interesting idea John, I love reading this article.

  • Lewis LaLanne – NoteTakingNerd

    It’s crazy how many people don’t track those events you’ve laid out. Just doing that is a way to put yourself on optimization auto pilot. And you can take your success to a whole new level when you start charting along with these events, how many sales you made, how much money you deposited into the bank that day and how much money in expenses went out for the day and watch these trend line like a hawk.  

    • ducttape

      I know – once you start seeing these numbers you kind of get obsessed with them too – it just make the whole thing a little more fun.

  • Ryan Hanley


    I’m really hoping that you’re going to expand on these ideas because it’s something I see as very important but struggle with to set up.

    • ducttape

      Hey Ryan – as I got into this post I realized it was much bigger than one post – so, yes I think I will go deeper for sure.

      • Ryan Hanley

        Dude.. you can write a book on it and I’d buy it.  This is future of success as it pertains to Digital Property.


      • Cathy Tibbles

        i agree. I would love to start measuring and testing but i am hampered by the small numbers of visitors. Do i need a min. No of visitors to implement these tools? My current visitors hover around 200/ day and no mattter how excited i am to publish something it gets very little traction.

  • Experiments

    Hi John, great post and hope you have fun with the new Google Analytics gadget. If you looking to test faster and easier we launched Convert Experiments yesterday with great Google integration and: live stats, multivariate testing and one code for your entire site (never change it) and unlimited google like revenue etc.) If you want to try us out:

    Have a good weekend.

    • ducttape

       Thanks – I will have a look

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  • Ruth Rogers

    You mentioned that your ideas aren’t revolutionary, but I believe they are simply because a lot of people do not seem to take the time to think of them.

    • ducttape

      Well, thank you Ruth!

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  • Buck Lawrimore

    John, as important as Ideal Visitor Optimization is, I imagine you’ve read about the importance of multiple “personas” in the writings of Bryan Eisenberg and others. Because segmentation is such a fundamental marketing principle, it is even more effective to consider 3 or 4 different “ideal customers” and what their different needs are, as you create or reconfigure your website (or in my case, clients’ websites). 

    For example for a client that provides office cleaning services, we had 3 personas: building owners, master franchise prospects who purchased rights to metro areas, and building cleaner prospects who are often a husband-wife blue collar team. Only by addressing the different needs of all 3 could we optimize the client’s website for conversion.

    Great post as always – thanks for truly addressing the marketing needs of small business owners better than anyone else!

    • ducttape

      Thanks Buck – yes, others have pointed that out as well and it’s very true – it’s a basic underlying principle of marketing strategy and one that also address frequently.

  • David Visco

    Good article however I found the vertical social link window ridiculously annyoying. Rather ironic considering your article was about website design.

    • ducttape

      Thanks David – tell me this

      1) what device were you viewing on
      2) what was annoying about it

      A great deal of what I wrote about has to do with testing – that’s something we always do – a lot of people find that tool very handy for sharing so they get value from its existence – the challenge is designing for the many variables when you use these kinds of tools.

      • Melinda Powers

        Loved the article but have to agree with David… It is a very handy tool but the placement of it was distracting while I was trying to read the article… Possibly a horizontal version may work better, so it’s not constantly in the line of vision during reading?

      • Lisa

        The vertical strip of social media sharing links is distracting in the current location. If it were located outside of the main content area in the sidebar, it would seem more suitable. My viewing space is a desktop monitor.

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  • Gary A. Kline

    John, I also noticed the social link window floating above (and covering) a portion of the left sidebar. It was annoying because it obscured part of your ad copy and the newsletter form.

    I experienced the behaviour in both Firefox 13.0 and IE 9.0, running on Windows 7.  Hope that helps. :)

  • Austin Marketing

    Interesting post John, thanks for sharing this with us. I’ve seen some very cool stuff that can be done by sessionizing users and tracking people logged into Facebook. You can use Google Content Expiriments to serve up content that is specific to the persona type that is using the page. I would never have dreamed this level of customization was possible, it is a brave new world indeed!

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