This guest post is by Stephen Guise of Deep Existence.
Forming an emotional attachment to any component of your website is dangerous and unwise. Did you know that the smallest changes can have a massive impact on your results? Human psychology is very sensitive to minute details—this means that your visitors are picky!
If you don’t believe small details can make a difference, you probably haven’t heard about split testing. Briefly, split testing allows you to split your traffic towards two landing pages with only slight differences, and then analyze the results. Taking a look at some of the published results of split testing should be all the motivation you need to start experimenting.
Trying new things
Since fine-tuning our blogs can make such a difference, we have to experiment to see what works. What if we were so happy with cars and boats that we didn’t consider flying? Thanks to the Wright brothers, we now have the airplane.
But why would we stop at flying? Next up might be teleportation—and you’ll likely laugh at the idea of teleportation, but is it much more absurd than a 1.41 million-pound machine flying around? I hope we can reassemble the molecules of people after they teleport. Maybe we should try sending a bagel through first?
I do practice what I preach. I’ve made more modifications to my website in two months than some people make in years. It has paid off as I have finally found a design that I’m very happy with. Improvements can still be made. Here is my header image evolution. I have spent dozens of hours on this one aspect.
Note: Some of the following header images are moderately to terribly embarrassing, but I’ll do anything to prove a point.
So my current header image is 1.41 million times better than the previous ones. You’re actually looking at hundreds of changes big and small (not all headers were included here). It took a great deal of experimenting to get a header image that I love. Maybe you love your design already or had it professionally done. Good news! This applies to everything in blogging—traffic building, SEO practices, content, and style.
It is important to mix up your writing content and style enough to be able to home in on what your readers want. Writing about the same things in the same way is a great way to bore your readers. You might be writing the wrong things anyways. Are you a brilliant fiction writer only writing non-fiction material? To find that out, you’ve got to experiment.
Experiment and win!
- Success win:I run a personal development blog that focuses on deep thinking for positive life change. I wrote about an incident I had at the beach with a freaking stupid, cute little puffer fish. I had reservations because it had nothing to do with personal development, but I thought the story was too funny not to share and wanted to see what happened. My readers loved it.
- Failure win: It isn’t all
guns androses! I wrote an article on analyzing 10 step articles a couple months ago and I’m still waiting to hear how the readers liked it. So I learned a lot about what my audience is not interested in by trying something new. That is just as valuable as finding out what they like.
In writing this article, I am experimenting with a new writing technique. I habitually tend to examine my writing very carefully as I write it and try to make it nice the first time through. I’ve heard and read that it is best to write the rough draft quickly and come back and edit it later—so I’m trying this. (Update: I think I like this new method more. What is your writing process?)
Final Experimenting Advice
- Scared about ruining your website somehow? Run a backup first.
- Worried about regretting an experimental post? One blog post will not make or break you (unless it goes viral?) and you have control over that delete button.
Like in scientific experiments, it is helpful—but not always pragmatic—to have independent and dependent variables. Your independent variable is what you’re experimenting with (e.g. header image). Your dependent variable is what you’re observing for material change (e.g. bounce rate, subscriptions, etc.).
Many of us will naturally resist experimentation because it is unfamiliar. To overcome this fear, I’ve found success with forceful action—making myself experiment. When you see positive results from your experiments, you’ll be encouraged to do it more. The unfamiliar is not something to fear.
Albert Einstein (or Rita Mae Brown) famously said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Do you really think you’re going to get lucky and have your blog appear on CNN for a 10,000% increase in traffic by doing the same things? Don’t be insane—experiment instead. The unfamiliar holds the greatest potential for improvement.
(CNN, I know you’re reading this…pick me!)
Text by Stephen Guise. One evening a young shepherd saw a group of wise men gathered in a nearby field. They were all using their laptops, naturally. He walked over and asked them what they were doing. The man with the whitest beard said: “We’re subscribing to Deep Existence, where deep thinking is in style.” The shepherd was amazed.