Testing and experimentation are cornerstones to building a great customer experience—but how do you make sure you’re testing the right things? We received some robust insights at a panel discussion hosted by Optimizely at a recent CX circle London event.
The panel consisted of two testing and experimentation experts—Natasha Senior, Senior Digital Manager at Sky and Stewart Ehoff, Head of Experimentation at the leading provider of industrial and electronic solutions, RS Group.
During the session, the duo filled us in on how they get ideas for testing, what tools they use and the biggest item on their testing agenda for 2023.
Here’s a round-up of Natasha and Stewart’s expert insights and best advice for anyone looking to take their testing game to the next level in the new year.
How has experimentation evolved in the last couple years?
Natasha from Sky has seen experimentation expand from a purely marketing-focused initiative to a cross-functional tactic. At Sky, they use experimentation across the business to reduce contact center calls, improve web accessibility, and even optimize their offline customer experience.
“Experimentation is becoming the heart of everything we do. People think it’s just one department that owns it—like product, tech or marketing—but it’s not. It’s our whole business culture.” — Natasha Senior, Senior Digital Manager at Sky
And Stewart from RS Group agreed, highlighting how experimentation continues to grow as an organization-wide practice.
“Over the last three years, experimentation has been more widely adopted, so there’s a lot more talent in the space,” said Stewart. “I hope that one day, experimentation will have the same level of importance as SEO—where you simply wouldn’t build products, services or solutions without it.”
Where do you get your test ideas from?
For Stewart, it’s important to involve as many key stakeholders as possible to build a strong and effective experimentation roadmap. That’s why RS Group is on a mission to expand experimentation ideation horizontally across the business.
If people don’t understand the power of experimentation, it can limit the number of good testing ideas produced—because those ideas truly can come from any department.
“There needs to be an outreach process in place, where you take your stakeholders through the value of experimentation and educate them on the possibilities,” said Stewart. “This will give you more ideas to test and learn from, which is great for experimentation!”
For Sky, the best experimentation ideas come from outside the experimentation team—specifically, from their contact center, which has a front-row seat for how the business’ tech affects its customers.
“We try to visit the contact center once or twice a year to sit with the advisors. They often give us great testing ideas because they’ve sat talking to the customer all day, every day,” said Natasha. “Their insights are invaluable.”
How have Optimizely products helped you build a culture of experimentation?
Experimentation teams are great at creating (and—as we’ve seen—sourcing) ideas for experiments and understanding which of these are worth pursuing; but they tend not to have the deep tech expertise required to integrate these experiments into a business’ tech stack.
Optimizely’s Feature Experimentation product has helped RS Group embed experimentation across the business and ensure experiments are built, not by their experimentation team, but by their engineers. Instead, Stewart’s experimentation team is set up to empower other teams to use their testing tools and methodologies to drive their own outcomes.
“You can’t build a culture of experimentation by simply sticking a web snippet on a page and having a few people run some tests. It has to be deeper than that. Testing has to be fundamentally ingrained into your tech stack.” — Stewart Ehoff, Head of Experimentation at RS Group
Most of RS Group’s experiments are delivered server-side, built by their engineers.
The same goes for Natasha’s team at Sky, who have a long-standing partnership with Optimizely.
“Learning how to use Optimizely Full Stack is part of every developer’s training when they join us,” said Natasha. Just like RS Group, Sky’s experimentation team isn’t involved in building experiments, instead, it’s ingrained in the development team’s way of working.
What tools are you using to increase your experimentation capabilities?
Alongside Optimizely, Sky uses Contentsquare’s digital experience analytics platform to create problem statements and build hypotheses for experiments.
“Your problem statement can’t go anywhere without data,” said Natasha. Contentsquare’s digital experience analytics cloud platform provides Sky with unique customer behavior insights to help build a pipeline of robust, data-driven experiments that the entire company can get behind.
“A/B testing tells you whether a test has worked, but not why. Contentsquare and Qualtrics give us the ‘why’ we need to effectively iterate our testing. — Natasha Senior, Senior Digital Manager at Sky.
For RS Group, the process of improving experimentation practices is still in its early stages. “One of our biggest challenges is around how to increase our understanding of our customers and the problems they’re having to ensure our testing is rooted in strong data and hypotheses,” said Stewart.
Currently, RS Group uses VoC surveys, feedback from customer services and Adobe Analytics to obtain the quantitative data they need to understand their customers. They also work closely with their user experience research team, which is a “wealth of knowledge and information,” said Stewart. “That’s why bringing experimentation and user experience research together is so powerful.”
What’s next on Sky and RS Group’s experimentation roadmap for 2023?
Sky plans to install Optimizely into their telephonic systems using Optimizely Agent. “We want to start doing A/B tests end-to-end,” said Natasha. “If someone lands on sky.com, uses the bot and then calls in, I want to track and experiment on the entire journey.”
Contentsquare will help by providing rich, contextual insights into how customers feel at each stage of that digital journey—from start to finish, page by page. This will help the team at Sky make informed decisions about which tests will have the biggest impact on improving the digital experience of their customers.
Alternately, RS Group is focusing on process and automation to get experimentation velocity to the next level. Stewart’s team has spent this year building an experimentation program management system in Airtable to help align stakeholders from different business units. “The program will help us expand our testing roadmap and begin automating our experiments,” said Stewart.
“To scale properly, we need to reduce the manual time spent analyzing experiments, writing emails, responding to Slacks and building experiment scorecards.” So, for RS Group, it’s all about building repeatable, scalable and automated experiments that save time.
Watch the session on-demand
Feeling inspired? There’s more where that came from. Watch Natasha’s and Stewart’s session from CX circle London on Contentsquare’s on-demand page to get more inspiration for your experimentation strategy.
And if you’d like to learn more about how Contentsquare can help you skyrocket your experimentation program, get in touch with us today. We’d love to show you how our digital experience analytics platform gives you all the tools you need to build informed tests that truly deliver.
These are the engines you want to give extra consideration if you intend to expand internationally. They all have their own unique search algorithms that are in many ways as complex and developed as Google’s.
Why they matter and how to rank on them
If you’re like me a few years ago, a die-hard Apple fan remarkably repulsed by Microsoft’s products (I’ve now converted to the seamless team of PC), you might think prioritizing resources to optimize content for Bing or other engines is a waste of time. What I failed to consider then, and what you might be overlooking, is geographic segmentation.
Do you want to reach the American audience using voice search? Consider Bing.
Are you expanding into China? Check out Baidu.
Each search engine matters because of its unique user types. Regardless of how small that market share might look on a global scale, if there’s regional search volume from your target audience, it’s worth the optimization.
Bing Search, in combination with Yahoo, is without a doubt the strongest player after Google. Together, they have more than 10% of the global market share for desktop.
Now, some say that Bing’s market share will increase due to mergers and acquisitions, while others argue for its decline due to the death of Internet Explorer.
Still, all Microsoft browsers, such as Microsoft Edge Legacy and Chromium-based Microsoft Edge, have Bing as the default search engine, making Bing Search the natural choice for Microsoft product users. Yahoo, which is powered by Bing Search, is the default search engine for Mozilla’s browser Firefox, adding billions of impressions to Bing’s search results each year.
Although the algorithms differ, optimizing for Bing search results is not much different than optimizing for Google. With a bit of fine tuning, it’s more than possible to come up with a strategy that allows for high rankings on both.
To rank on Bing, and thus Yahoo, make sure to do the following:
1. List your business on Bing Places
Bing Places is the equivalent of Google My Business and is the fastest way to get your business ranking for local seo. Many even consider Bing Places to favor small business owners as Bing puts their information more prominently on display.
2. Upload an XML Sitemap using Bing’s Webmaster Tools
While the debate on how much sitemaps really do matter for Google SEO continues, uploading one with Bing’s Webmaster Tool for XML Sitemaps allows the algorithm to better categorize and manage your content, making it more visible and relevant to the search audience.
3. Match keywords in your content
Check that the exact keyword match can be found in your page titles, meta descriptions and overall content. It’s known that the impact of on-page tactics as a ranking factor is much greater in Bing than Google.
4. Keep your social media profiles up to date
Go social! Bing considers your social media presence more than any other search engine. The Webmaster Guidelines specifically states that Bing considers social signals from third-party platforms to rank your content. Bing might even extract certain information directly from your Facebook company page to your Bing Places display.
5. Use high-quality images to enhance your content
Bing’s image search is much more advanced than Google’s. If you want your landing page to rank, add high-quality design assets to showcase your offerings. If you want your blog to rank, attach too-long-to-read infographics to highlight your points. Like the one above.
While it looks a lot like Google, its algorithm is different in many ways. Most prominent is the way Yandex indexes pages. Unlike Google’s almost continuous indexation, Yandex indexes pages sporadically. That means that you might have to wait around for a while before your site shows up on Yandex.
Despite this, it is still possible to rank on Yandex. You just need to have a bit more patience.
While waiting for your site to be indexed, take a look at the following:
1. Focus on tags over internal site structure
According to The Ultimate Guide to Yandex SEO, your header tag, title tag and slug are way more important than your internal site structure. In fact, it was only recently that Yandex started to support hreflang tags. Before that, Yandex only allowed the <head> hreflang implementation.
2. Consider search intent to rank
Some argue that Yandex meets search intent better than Google. The modern ICS score, which replaced the Thematic Index Citation, is determined by how relevant a site is to the query. Yandex uses its own version of expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness (E-A-T) test to determine relevance.
3. Eliminate toxic links
Many do not know this, but Yandex was actually the first search engine to roll out a link-based algorithm. Already in 2005, 7 years before Google’s Penguin algorithm, Yandex introduced the Nepot filter, which specifically looked at the impact of toxic link exchanges and spam links.
While the site is available worldwide, the site predominantly favors simplified Chinese. So before taking any other steps, hire a native speaker to help you along the way. To win at global, you have to ditch translations.
Here’s a few steps to get your content ranking.
1. Localize your keywords and content appropriately
As with all multilingual SEO, you need to work with a native language expert to ensure proper keyword localization and content optimization. If your site experiences high bounce rates, Baidu will tank your rankings immediately. As with any search experience, localization matters.
2. Position relevant content and keywords to the top of the page
Baidu favors a completely opposite layout than the Westernized one. The sooner you get to the point the better. Therefore, it is important to position your keywords as early as possible in the text and introduce all relevant content already in the top of the page to rank.
3. Obtain a verification level and get certified
By registering and paying a small fee you can obtain a verification level to improve your domain authority and rankings on Baidu. If you want to secure top ratings, you can get certified and obtain an ICP license, which is much more difficult than getting verified.
Top alternative search engines by data privacy
While most of the search engines mentioned above are tied to big corporations or political forces, global initiatives are setting the stage for more privacy-focused search engines. Among these is DuckDuckGo, the forefront runner with over 130 billion searches processed since launch.
Why they matter and how to rank on them
In many ways, the movement is a response to Google’s invasiveness on privacy. Many are fed up with how they are capitalizing on personal data and controlling the narrative with targeted search.
Consequently, this attracts tech-savvy experts with a lower bounce rate. Once they commit to a search, they stay.
Here’s how to optimize for it:
1. Sharpen Your User Experience
UX continues to make an impact on SEO, not to mention for DuckDuckGo. Make your content easily scannable and stay away from intrusive pop ups that harm your users’ experience and ease of navigation.
2. Focus on High-Quality Backlinks
As with any SEO, high-quality backlinks play a huge role for ranking. If you already have a solid backlink profile from your Google strategy, you should be good to go. If your backlink profile has a high level of toxicity, do some cleansing.
3. Rethink Local SEO
Since there’s no location tracking available for searches, location-specific searches such as “services near me” don’t work. If you like to rank for these types of searches, include a specific location in your keyword strategy. Otherwise, you won’t be able to optimize for local seo.
Startpage could be my personal favorite among the alternative search engines. It basically is Google without the tracking.
And while many consider DuckDuckGo to be the forefront runner of the privacy-focused search movement, many forget how Startpage ‘blazed the trail in 2006’. Offering a search experience without IP recording or tracking back when it was more or less unheard of. Now, it is the common denominator among all privacy-safe search engines.
So, how do you rank in Startpage? Simple. You rank in Google.
There are many more privacy-safe alternatives to search engines than the two mentioned above. Perhaps one without equal is SwissCows – a search engine that prides itself on being the only family-friendly, privacy-safe semantic search engine available on the web.
This means that any intrusive search results, like adult entertainment or offensive content, is naturally censored from the search results. At the same time, they never store any data nor track user specific information.
SwissCows SERPs bring up organic results and paid ads directly from Bing so in order to rank in SwissCows, you need to rank in Bing. Just make sure to omit any content that’s not PG-13.
What do they all have in common?
In the end, none of these alternative search engines can replace Google. As an SEO, I’ll never advise starting out with anything other than a Google strategy.
But when you are ready to branch out and extend your reach, give these alternatives a try. Analyze where your target audience hangs out and optimize thereafter.
Many of the privacy-focused search engines require little optimization as they pull their search results directly from other sources anyways. Simply do a quick check to see how you rank on each one.
And who knows, perhaps Microsoft will continue to steal more of the global search landscape. If that happens, you’ll be there — ranking in first position, ready to reap the rewards of your diversified efforts in an ever-changing search landscape.
For your team, screen recorders can be used for several reasons — from creating tutorials for your website to recording a recurring tech issue to sending your marketing team a quick note instead of an email.
Looking ahead to 2023 and beyond, businesses worldwide face lots of uncertainty.
One thing will remain constant throughout this period — customers expect excellent experiences when interacting with a brand. According to Acquia’s latest CX Report, businesses plan to prioritize customer retention over the next 12 months: 56% plan to improve customer experience, and 58% will focus more on customer service.
This should be a common goal. To weather a potential storm, businesses must keep customers by meeting and exceeding customer expectations.
Cynthia Ramsaran is director of custom content at Third Door Media, publishers of Search Engine Land and MarTech. A multi-channel storyteller with over two decades of editorial/content marketing experience, Cynthia’s expertise spans the marketing, technology, finance, manufacturing and gaming industries. She was a writer/producer for CNBC.com and produced thought leadership for KPMG. Cynthia hails from Queens, NY and earned her Bachelor’s and MBA from St. John’s University.