The Data Byte: Pop Science Edition


At RJMetrics, our mission is to inspire and empower data-driven people. So, on Fridays, we’re going to try something a little fun (because data is fun). We’re going to run The Data Byte — celebrating and examining the many ways data is surfacing in culture.

Neil Degrasse Tyson

useNeilDTysonThis guy! He’s the rockstar astrophysicist of the millennial age. He’s in millions of homes evangelizing for science every Sunday with Cosmos, he’s in your kid’s Superman comic, he demoted a planet.

What makes him important?

Neil deGrasse Tyson is a constant, opinionated advocate for the cosmic perspective. For him, it’s all about contextualizing our place in the universe as loudly as possible. If you take a moment to remember that you are made of starstuff, that you’re breathing the same air and drinking the same water as Napoleon and Cleopatra, that one day our Sun will supernova — if you take a moment for awe, isn’t the world a more marvelous place? And in this marvelous world full of facts, we can stuff our brains. Here’s some more things Neil deGrasse Tyson would like you to remember:

  • The night sky is full of ghosts. The farther away a star is, the longer it took for its light to reach us — long enough to have outlived the star itself. What we see is not what currently exists.
  • We share 90% of our DNA with trees
  • There are more stars than there are seconds of the Earth’s existence

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The Facebook Opportunity

The Facebook Opportunity

If all you’re doing is reading headlines, you may have made the assumption that Facebook is over. Major brands are leaving, the millennials are leaving, and half the people you know are talking about quitting. While they get readers, these headlines don’t quite tell the whole story.

Facebook has become deeply embedded in the social fabric of millions of lives. At the same time, it has been building a powerful advertising platform that thrives in real-time. These combined forces are turning Facebook into one of the hottest new advertising opportunities available.

The “Everyone is leaving Facebook” myth

Facebook remains the social media powerhouse. Google defined search, Kleenex defined tissues, and Facebook defined social media. A massive 71% of adults use Facebook, three times more than the next social media runner up, LinkedIn.

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A PR Hacking Code of Conduct

If you’re a startup marketer, you’re familiar with the term growth hacking. Since Andrew Chen’s popularization of the term in his April 2012 blog post, its usage has exploded:

At RJMetrics, we’ve been growth hacking since 2010. We use a specific tactic we call PR hacking. The formula is simple:

  1. Identify a topic that’s receiving a lot of attention in the press.
  2. Use growth hacking tactics to compile a never-before-seen dataset related to that topic.
  3. Analyze the data in RJMetrics to uncover newsworthy information.
  4. Tell the story in a blog post and/or research report.
  5. Notify all of the reporters who are covering this topic about the analysis.

This works so well because we uncover new information on newsworthy topics. They don’t always generate attention, but when they work, they work really well. Some examples:

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190% Improvement In Landing Page Conversions By Removing Content

In an effort to improve the effectiveness of our website, we recently conducted our first A/B test. This test allowed us to compare two options for the content that users see after clicking the big orange button on our homepage. Thanks to these tests, our visitor-to-lead conversion rate has almost tripled.

Choosing a Goal

We used Google Website Optimizer (GWO) to run the tests, and our first step was deciding on a goal. We decided that a good goal needs to be achievable, measurable, and a meaningful step of the funnel that ends in RJMetrics making money. We also wanted the goal to be as close to the end of the funnel where we make money as possible.

For most businesses, a sale or other revenue-generating event is an obvious goal to use. In our case, however, prospective customers need to talk to a member of our team before making a purchase. This means our website doesn’t generate revenue directly, leaving us no revenue-based actions to use as goal completions. There are several reasons for this set-up, but the important thing is that it is not going to change for this A/B test.

Another goal we considered was the successful education of our visitors about our product. Educating potential customers about RJMetrics and the problems we solve is certainly an achievable goal that drives new customer acquisition. However, it is difficult to reliably measure. We could track how many people watch our promotional video to completion or how many pages they visit. But these specific events are not always meaningful, and frankly I don’t really care about them. Additionally, they are way over on the wrong side of the funnel.

A third option for our goal was the completion of our “get a free demo” form. It’s trivially easy to measure and provides prospects with a feel for what our software can do (by analyzing Vandelay Industries’ data). It also provides us with contact information for these now somewhat-qualified sales leads. This places it relatively far down the funnel. While it would be nicer to further qualify the leads before considering one a “goal completion,” that would be much more difficult to reliably monitor and would reduce our already-small sample size.

We decided that the demo form completion was the right goal for us to be optimizing for right now.

Conducting the Test

The old version of our landing page is still available at our How It Works page. It looks like this:

The page has a Flash movie that gives an overview of our target customers, the problems they face, and how RJMetrics can help. Below the flash movie, we have some marketing copy that gives additional color for people who would rather read than watch. We did not explicitly talk about a goal when creating the page, but if I had to describe what it does, I would say that this page gives information on RJMetrics and gives prospects a way to try out our free demo.

The winning version of the page is our new landing page. It looks like this:

We removed the movie and marketing copy and increased the size of the form fields. We also added a description of what will happen after filling out form. The goal was to minimize the commitment required and make the reciprocity explicit. This page is unambiguous about its goal: driving demo form completion.

The Results

We did a total of 3,519 trials. The original version yielded a conversion rate of 2.1%, and the winning yielded a conversion rate of 6.1%, providing an improvement of over 190%.

We learned a few valuable lessons from this experiment:
1) We need to set an explicit goal for our website, or at the very least for individual pages.
2) Remove anything that does not explicitly drive our goal forward. In this case, more content meant fewer conversions.
3) We need to be testing a lot more.