10 Things To Test When Optimizing Video for Conversions

10 Things To Test When Optimizing Video for Conversions

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Let’s make one thing clear. Video works. The right video solution on your page will increase the number of people that reach your conversion goal. Whoa! Too much jargon? I’ll make it simple. Your site has one main function – to make you money. The way you use your site to make you money is up to you and will certainly vary greatly from site to site. Some sites exist to capture contact information that will be followed up offline. Some sites want you to download some software for which a license will have to be purchased. Some sites require you to make an immediate payment for a service or a product to be delivered thereafter.

Whatever you want your site to do – that’s your conversion goal. Every design element of your site should be focused on driving visitors towards that goal, whether it the font you choose, the words you use, the background you set, or the pictures you select. Everything. Especially video. Video isn’t just nice to have. Video should be a key part of your conversion strategy combining strong visuals, persuasive narration and a compelling call to action that cannot be ignored.

How do you know when your video has all these things? You won’t unless you test it. And then test it again. No two sites are alike which is why you can’t rely on the tests from someone else’s property. Test your video and make sure it is fulfilling its role – increasing your conversion – because increased conversion means increased revenue.

Testing is the key to optimizing your website. When you test, you remove the influence of guesswork on your business model and replace it with real data. The results of your tests will inform the decisions you make with far greater authenticity than any supposition or anecdotal impression you may have.

Only by testing can you be certain that you are really achieving the goals you set for yourself and only by testing can you prove your ability to surpass those goals.

This article will suggest the first 10 tests that are carried out by EyeView for its customers, but anyone who uses videos should carry out these sort of tests to ensure that their video is performing to the best of its ability and converting visitors into customers.

1. Video Or No Video

The most basic control test means comparing your site without video to the same site with a video in place. But that doesn’t mean it can be passed over or forgotten. As soon as you have a video that you’re happy with you want to post it to your site. You spent time agonizing over the script and now you want to show your masterpiece to the world. You want everyone who visits your site to watch your video and be so convinced by the added value you have demonstrated that they are instantly converted to lifelong customers.

But before you do that, there are some things you need to know. What’s your current conversion rate? Your conversion rate is defined as the number of visitors to your site who reach your conversion goal divided by the total number of visitors to your site expressed as a percentage.

Being able to define your conversion rate assumes you have clearly defined your conversion goal. Let’s assume that you know your current conversion rate. The only way to be sure that your video is increasing your conversion rate is to test a version of the page with the video against a version of the page as it existed before the video.

It’s not enough to use last month’s figures and compare them to this month’s rate with the new video. Comparing old data with new data is inconclusive. There are too many other factors that might have contributed to the changes. The only way to be absolutely sure that the introduction of your video is responsible for any changes you can measure is by simultaneously testing two versions of the same page.

On the left, the original webpage. On the right, the same page with embedded video

Once you have proof that adding video increases conversion and you can accurately measure the size of the increase, it is easy to calculate how soon you will achieve a return on your investment in the video. With this information in hand, you are free to experiment with a wide range of additional tests to fine tune your video’s effectiveness and further boost conversion.

2. Autoplay Or Press To Play

It’s a simple question with a complicated answer. Should your video have a trigger requiring visitors to click somewhere in order to initiate the video or should the video begin playing automatically the first time a visitor arrives at the site? There are arguments to be made for both sides.

On one hand many website owners believe that users find autoplay intrusive and pushy. You may feel it’s too much of a ‘hard sell’ to begin playing the video without a specific request from the visitors to your site.

On the other hand, once you know that it increases conversion, you might want as many people to see it as possible, regardless of whether that comes across as pushy or not.

Before you can make an intelligent decision one way or the other, you need to know what the impact on your conversion would be.

Ultimately you have to decide what is right for your site and your users. Different play options will work in different scenarios and only by testing will you know for sure whether the advantages to be gained by having the video play automatically outweigh the disturbance it causes.

At EyeView we saw one of our customers increase conversion by an additional 20% when their video was allowed to autoplay. Conversely we also saw a case where having the video autoplay reduced conversion indicating a negative impact. Without testing, it is impossible to know which scenario would be true for your site. Wouldn’t you like to know for certain?

3. Call To Action

Everyone knows how important the Call To Action is. Bryan and Jeffery Eisenberg wrote extensively about this important element of online marketing in their bestselling book Call To Action: Secret Formulas To Improve Online Results. They describe online marketers as Customer Acquisition Managers driving incoming traffic into the right funnel. The Call To Action is a crucial part of their arsenal and key to building and maintaining your conversion goals.

When it comes to scripting a video, the question arises as to where to place the call to action. A video is a more linear experience than viewing a web page. On a static page, the user may jump around sampling different paragraphs distracted by various bells and whistles until he or she alights on the Call To Action and is suddenly inspired to perform the required action. Watching a video is a different experience entirely. Viewer expectations are different for video. Unlike a web page, a video has a start, a middle and an end.

If the goal of the video is to increase conversion and get the visitor to do something, it has to include a compelling Call To Action, there are good arguments for doing so at the start, at the finish and anywhere in between. There is even an argument for making the Call To Action visible and accessible to the viewer throughout the running time of the video. Following the principle of ‘See it. Hear it. Click it.’ Viewers will be more likely to respond to the Call To Action if they are explicitly told about it and can find it immediately.

Only by testing different options will you discover which is the best for your visitors.

4. How Long Should My Video Be?

There is no definitive answer for this oldest and most baffling of questions. The latest statistics show that the average length of an online video is three and a half minutes. But this average includes everything from full length episodes of TV on Hulu to the silliest short clips on YouTube and makes no concession towards marketing videos that are precisely designed to boost conversion.

There are some fundamental adages such as ‘less is more’ and reminders about how easily bored viewers can click away from your content, but on the whole, no one can say for sure, how much is too much or how little is not enough. Every video we have published to date has shown a drop off graph of viewers over time. You must expect that not everyone who starts watching your video will make it to the end. All you can do is experiment to reduce the gradient of the drop off and try to hit the plateau as early as possible.

The solution, as always, is to test and test again. Once you have completed your video and seen it work, why not re-cut it and reduce it in length by 30%. Pay close attention to the drop off graphs for each version and see how many people make it through to the end. The more people are engaged with your video, the more likely they are to convert.

Maybe the way to increase engagement is to add another chapter with a more detailed explanation of your offering once you have the viewers’ attention. If you are willing to experiment and try different versions of your video, you may learn some interesting facts about your messaging and its effectiveness. Remember, you might not want to tell your visitor everything about your company, but you definitely want to tell him enough to move him to the next step in the funnel.

5. The Wonderful Thing About Triggers

Triggers are wonderful things. The trigger is the element on your page that lets visitors know that there is a video to be watched. It might be a rectangle in the ad column with a play button in the middle or it might be a giant square with all kinds of animated shenanigans encouraging you to click on it. The trigger acts as a miniature Call To Action for your video. If you know that your video works and you know that it is converting browsers into customers then you want as many people to discover the video as possible.

Of course your video’s trigger may have to compete with some other page elements for attention. You have to find the balance between sending people to watch the video versus people who would convert anyway finding the Call To Action straight away. Previous tests should have convinced you that video viewers are more likely to convert, now you have to turn casual browsers into video viewers without cannibalizing the ones that would have converted regardless.

Once you start looking at triggers, there is a remarkable variety to choose from. Do you want an animated trigger or a one that sits quietly on the page waiting for people to discover it?

What are you going to write on your trigger to encourage people to click on it? Is “Click Here” more effective than “Play Movie” or “Watch Demo” or “Take Tour”?

Where on the page should your trigger sit? It seems obvious that above the fold is going to have more impact than below the fold, but is there a difference between the right-hand side and the left-hand side?

Trigger definition should never be taken for granted while testing offers the necessary flexibility to ensure your site is optimized.

Three different video triggers encourage users to click

6. Parlez-Vous Video?

You may not be fluent in multiple languages but your potential customer base is. While English has become the lingua franca for international business meetings, the expectations of a user watching a video in the comfort of his home or her office are very different.

The graph on the left shows the engagement for viewers in France watching a video in English. The graph on the right shows the same video playing in French for French-speakers

The graph on the left shows the engagement for viewers in France watching a video in English. The graph on the right shows the same video playing in French for French-speakers

While every video engagement graph shows some drop off of viewers during the first few seconds, the drop off among non-native speakers watching a video in English is significantly higher. If you want your video to have the same considerable impact in non-English speaking markets, you should consider offering the voiceover in multiple languages and aligning the default language with the geo-location of visitor.

You might also want to test the use of subtitles on your conversion rates. Without knowing the proportion of your visitors who watch your site with speakers turned on, you have no way of being sure how many people are hearing your message.

Use your traffic source analysis to determine where in the world the visitors to your site are based and test different combinations of voiceover and subtitles to achieve optimum conversion.

7. What Kind Of Voiceover Works Best?

Do we respond differently to messages delivered by a female voice than by a male voice? Do we have different expectations in terms of trust, authority, technical understanding? Do these questions elicit different answers depending on whether you are a man or a woman?

Most people can easily identify whether or not a voice belongs to a man or a woman. What is harder to determine is whether that voice influences the listener in any direction.

If your product is aimed predominantly at one gender more than another or one age group over another, you may want to test different voiceovers to measure their impact on your conversion rate.

There are other voiceover issues that are harder to track such as regional accents. Culturally, some populations are more sensitive to non-standard accents although even the BBC has long moved away from only allowing presenters to use Received Pronunciation.

8. Is Animation The Best Option?

Gone are the days when animators would painstakingly draw every frame of a film separated by minute changes and photographed in succession to give the illusion of movement. Today’s animators have a wide range of images and effects available at the click of a mouse. You can go from storyboard to completed animation within hours. You can change your mind and implement those changes with very little fuss to produce professional looking and stylish animation that delivers your message and engages your viewers.

On the left a human presenter delivers the message to camera. On the right, animation is matched to a voiceover.
On the left a human presenter delivers the message to camera. On the right, animation is matched to a voiceover.

Animation is attractive, flexible and quick. But is it more effective than recording a human being talking to camera or interviewing someone on camera? In other words, is there a trust issue here that may impact your conversion?

The question doesn’t have to binary. There are ways of combining the flexibility of animation for the parts of the video that may change over time with the authority of a human face delivering a message to camera with sincerity and integrity.

Also the answer is not going to be the same for every site. If you are a lawyer should you let an animated avatar tell your story? If you are a medical practitioner should you have an actor say your lines? If you are a service provider, how important is a live testimony to your message?

If you already know for sure which of these approaches works best for your target market then there is no reason to run a test. But if you don’t want to look like a mickey mouse marketer, you need to understand the power and the risk of using animation in your video.

9. How Important Is Music To My Video?

Where would Norman Bates be without screeching violins to accompany his killer moves? How menacing would a mechanical shark named Bruce have seemed without the chromatic rumblings of the double bass in John Williams’ score?

How does music enhance or interfere with the messaging in your video? As with many of the earlier tests, there can be no definitive answer to this question. Different viewers in different markets may have different expectations for background music.

Licensing professional music is time-consuming and expensive. It’s even harder to determine the ROI for such an investment. Creating your own sounds or using a copyright-free loop is usually the cheapest option, but is it the most effective? Have you ever tried watching your video without music? Was it clearer or less clear? Will you viewers notice a difference and how will it make them feel?

You may be absolutely positive that the video is better with a stirring score, but how can you know for certain without trying the alternative? The results will either confirm that your intuition is great or they will surprise you. Either way, you will have learned something and moved closer to tested and proven optimized conversion.

10. How Important Are First Impressions?

First impressions are undeniably important. But second impressions can be important too. If the gods of the Internet didn’t want us to deal in second impressions, they wouldn’t have created cookies. Your site probably knows when a visitor arrives for the second time. It’s up to you what you do with that information. Do you use it to change the way video is presented? If a visitor has already seen your video once, do you offer him the same thing again or do you use the real estate to try a different approach?

You may even take it further by developing a second video for repeat visitors. Maybe just the highlights with a different Call To Action. A second visit is a second opportunity to achieve the goals you have set for your visitors. Perhaps the best way to do this is by experimenting with the video you show.

Depending on the market you work in, it may be perfectly acceptable for visitors to convert after more than one visit. Make sure your video does not become an obstacle for returning prospects.


Q: When will I be finished optimizing conversion for my video?

A: Not for a while.

Whoa! The reality is that you might never know for sure whether a tiny tweak here or an extra word there will make a difference to the conversion rate of your site. But that doesn’t mean you should do nothing. If you start with the tests laid out in this document you should be well on the way to understanding the impact of video on your conversion rate and better informed about how video can help grow your revenue.

In an internet world of infinite variety you cannot say that what works for one will work for another, but you absolutely can say that what should be tested for one site should be tested for others. The tests listed here are just examples of variables that could have significant impact on your conversion rate and therefore on your revenue.

About our Guest Author:

Daniel Sevitt spent several years at Metacafe heading the content division and working with online video creators from independent producers to established Hollywood heavyweights. He worked on content acquisition and development, helped create branded entertainment experiences well suited to the short-form video environment and oversaw Metacafe’s content standards and copyright policies. Daniel joined EyeView in May 2009 to discover that there was more to life than “unmanageable UGC, unimpressive CPM and unaccountable ROI”. Daniel regularly blogs about the best ways to get value out of online video on the EyeView Digital Blog.


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