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A Chat with Robert Bergquist, CEO of Widemile

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A little while back I got the chance to speak with Robert Bergquist, CEO of widemile (specializing in multivariate testing and optimization – based in Seattle).

Widemile is recognized as one of the leaders in multivariate testing consultation and analysis therefore it was very interesting to get Robert’s insight on the company’s background and latest case studies.

Who are you and what is your background?

I love helping companies with great innovations find success in the marketplace. I’ve tried to make a difference in this regard in several roles, not just as CEO, over the years. (See my bio below for the boring details.) The consistent thread has been spotting great ideas and talent – doing my best to help both succeed. With my background helping companies in media, broadcasting, software and advertising, the Widemile value proposition (higher returns from online ad spend!) was a natural fit. I started as an investor and advisor to the company. Eventually, I was asked to join full time and take the reins. I haven’t looked back since, nor had as much fun. I’m not sure how it fits within this narrative, but other “real life” jobs I’ve held in the distant past are tire builder and commercial Alaska salmon fisherman.

In his 25-year career running and counseling companies, Robert has served as CEO and President, as well as in other roles, to a variety online marketing and advertising, broadcasting and other technology-driven businesses. Prior to his current position, Robert ran an online collaboration applications provider which was acquired by Hewlett-Packard. He has held positions with Bankers Trust Company (now Deutsche Bank) and worked as a corporate attorney and partner advising companies on finance issues and corporate transactions. He has also provided consulting services to businesses, including Microsoft and venture funds. Robert is active in the Seattle technology community, including serving on Washington Technology Alliance committees and as past Chair and President of the MIT Enterprise Forum of the Northwest. He holds a B.A. from Colorado College and the London School of Economics and a J.D. from Northwestern University School of Law. Robert serves on the Seattle Aquarium Society Board of Directors and is an advisor to Red Feather Development.

What is Widemile all about (i.e.: services, offerings)?

Widemile helps companies achieve dramatically better results from their online advertising – meaning higher customer conversion rates and more revenue. We have helped many companies, including The Weather Channel Interactive (http://www.weather.com/), Concur (http://www.concur.com/), SmartSheet.com (http://www.smartsheet.com/), Webex (http://www.webex.com/), Microsoft (http://www.microsoft.com/), Miva (http://www.miva.com/), and Telenav (http://www.telenav.com/), to name a few.We focus on delivering superior results to our clients by leveraging our own advanced multivariate testing and predictive analytics technology, along with an array of professional services, which includes full conversion marketing consulting, “conversion-focused” original creative development and MEC-certified Optimization Analyst project management. Our testing and optimization solutions can be applied to improve the performance of landing pages, microsites, sales funnels, registration pages or other key web pages with a visitor conversion goal – even if it’s just clicking through to the next page. All sources of traffic benefit, including paid and organic search, banner display ads, email, affiliate and direct.

What makes Widemile unique – What’s Widemile’s competitive advantage?

Again, we focus on results. We do what it takes to maximize our clients’ return on ad spend by testing, tuning and optimizing their high-value web pages to maximize customer conversion rates. We have found that great testing and analytics technology is just part of the success equation. Great conversion results also require expert marketing analysis (you have to understand the traffic, for instance), outstanding original creative and copy to communicate the value proposition in an effective way, and expert test design, set-up and interpretation. A simple testing tool alone will not deliver superior results. Our competitive advantage is superior results delivered using our proven testing methodology, original creative development and technology platform.

Can you talk a little bit about the level of knowledge surrounding A/B and Multivariate testing for SEM companies?

Most good SEM companies understand the importance of testing for superior results. However, they apply testing methodologies, such as A/B split testing, to the front-end the sales funnel to improve key word performance and optimize text ads. Some have begun to partner with web page and content testing companies like Widemile, Offermatica and Optimost in order to offer true multivariate testing of web pages as well. We almost always see an increase in the key word budget following a landing page optimization project where the traffic source is paid search – when returns on ad spend increase, most marketers will increase the spend.

At Emetrics you presented a multivariate testing case study for the Weather Channel – can you give some insight on what Widemile did and the results you noticed?

Widemile worked with The Weather Channel Interactive to optimize website customer acquisition for Notify!, a core subscription product that provides consumers with highly relevant and timely severe weather information. Launched in late 2002 as The Weather Channel’s first paid subscription product , Notify! provides consumers with highly relevant and timely severe weather information. The Weather Channel wanted to capitalize on the immense interest in weather information and the traffic provided by weather.com to capture new subscribers for the Notify! service. Initially, Notify!’s access to the massive traffic from the weather.com home page was leading to new subscribers, but conversion rates could be improved further. The landing pages had to quickly and clearly convey the unique selling proposition of the Notify! to weather.com consumers – sometimes in 8 seconds or less. The Weather Channel had done some optimization testing previously, but found the linear/sequential testing approach had limitations – namely timeliness and the identification of the most relevant factors that influence consumer behavior and conversion.

Working with Widemile, The Weather Channel was able to identify traffic sources and consumer segments to understand key user demographics and conversion behavior. Widemile devised an action plan which refined the main value proposition, developed a brand new page based upon best practices, and then designed and executed the multivariate test on new design. Six page elements (factors) were tested, with up to 4 versions of each factor presented randomly to site visitors. For example, 4 versions of the main image were tested, as well as 4 versions of the “hero shot” image on the left hand side of the page. The image of Jim Cantore, on-air talent for The Weather Channel, was tested against other images of snowy or stormy weather conditions to assess which worked better. Widemile tested the equivalent of over 1000 possible webpage combinations for The Weather Channel, including Flash® animated image versions.

The results far exceeded its goals and also delivered some unusual findings. The goal was to improve conversions by 30% over the previous Notify! landing page – any slight increase in conversion rates equaled a big increase in revenue due to the high levels of traffic. In fact, actual results improved results by more than 225% over the original control version. And, contrary to commonly held industry wisdom, the Flash version outperformed its static counterparts by a large margin.

Do you have any additional case studies that people can look at?

See the Smartsheet.com case study. Webinar available at http://www.widemile.com/company/case_studies.html

How Smartsheet.com maximized results and leveraged SEM investments through multivariate testing

Challenge: Smartsheet is an online provider of collaborative task management software and services. Using SEM extensively, Smartsheet.com successfully employs numerous keyword and text ad campaigns through the major search engines. Smartsheet.com, however, felt performance could improve further.

Solution: Smartsheet partnered with Widemile to strengthen the linkage between SEM and landing pages. Using multivariate testing and other optimization techniques, Widemile helped them to increase conversions and performance of the entire campaign. The top 5 Smartsheet.com landing pages, representing more than 50% of pay-per-click (PPC) traffic, were targeted for optimization. Widemile employed its proprietary multivariate testing technology and predictive analytics, original creative development and professional services to accelerate this process for optimal results. Widemile tested the equivalent of over 1000 possible page combinations during the 3-week optimization process.

ROI: The best-performing templates improved conversion rates by an average of 64% over the initial control versions. This translates into a dramatic improvement of 115% in conversion efficiency – capturing over twice the number of conversions for the same level of overall SEM investment!

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A Chat with Robert Bergquist, CEO of Widemile
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About Manoj Jasra
Manoj Jasra is an online marketing veteran of almost 10 years who specializes in analytics, social/search strategy and mobile marketing. Manoj is currently a Sr. Strategist at one of Canada's largest Telecommunications Companies, Shaw Communications Inc., where he leads Social Media, SEO, PPC and Web Analytics strategies. Manoj first started in the search marketing industry with Enquiro Search Solutions, where he spearheaded web analytics, SEO Training and the development of cutting edge search marketing solutions for clients.

Manoj is a Professional Speaker having participated at events such as Emetrics, Web Analytics Xchange, WebTrends' Engage, Internet Marketing Conference, Social Media Innovation Summit and Search Engine Strategies. He authors Web Analytics World (a top 100 Online Marketing Blog) and consults through his firm Jasra Inc. WebProNews Writer
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