Digital Marketing Trends, Challenges, and Top Optimization Pet Peeve with Tim Ash

tim ash interview

Conversion Conference Las Vegas kicks off tomorrow! In case you didn’t hear, the conference SOLD OUT on Friday – the Rio is going to be packed to the roofs with conversion optimizers from 27 countries. We know you’re as excited as we are for the big show so here’s an interview with Conversion Conference founder and chairperson Tim Ash to make the waiting more bearable.

Tim Ash is the author of the bestselling book “Landing Page Optimization”, and CEO of SiteTuners, a conversion rate optimization (CRO) firm that helps companies make their websites and online marketing programs more effective. He is one of the pioneers in the CRO space – he’s been in this space since the mid-90s.

Over the past two decades, Tim has helped major US and international brands to improve the outcomes of their web-based initiatives. He has worked with companies like Sears, Google, Expedia, eHarmony, Facebook, American Express, Canon, Nestle, Symantec, Intuit, Autodesk, Yahoo! and many others. Aside from being a highly in-demand and popular speaker at industry conferences worldwide, he also contributes regularly to several online and print publications.

Here’s Tim’s take on the most important trends and challenges for digital marketers this year, and his biggest optimization pet peeve:

ConvCon: What do you think are the trend/s which will define digital marketing this year and how can digital marketers best take advantage of it?

Tim: This year, the omni-channel conversion is key.

Mobile conversions are rising. Additionally, even though conversion rates on smart phones are significantly lower than on tablets and desktops, the mobile “assists” are becoming more important – that is, the number of times actions on a mobile phone helps visitors convert somewhere else, whether it’s offline, on a tablet, or on a desktop.

To get good at this, a lot of marketers have to get past last-click attribution – you have to figure out what people are doing across multiple touchpoints, and despite advances in multichannel funnels, tracking and optimization are still definitely in their nascent stage. You have to experiment, innovate, and push yourself past what you’re used to doing right now – that’s 2015 in a nutshell.

ConvCon: What’s the biggest challenge for digital marketers today? Can you give us a short advice on how marketers can solve or overcome this problem?

Tim: I’m not sure if it’s the biggest, but it’s certainly one of the most pressing issues of marketers today – it’s dilation of expertise.

It used to be that a conversion expert was someone who understood what made pages work, and tested for improvements. SEOs were people who understood information architecture, and on-page and off-page optimization for Google and other engines. UX experts were people who understood the psychology behind failed tasks, and conducted usability tests or card sorts. And we didn’t even have mobile SEO and CRO to worry about back then.

Today, those divisions are a blur. Technical SEO is less effective today without web usability, social knowledge, and CRO. And the same is true for the other fields – the distinctions are going away, to a degree.

On top of that, there’s more expertise to develop, but it’s not like marketing staffing suddenly exploded five-fold – with the same number of people, more fields need to get taken care of. So you need marketers who have a passing familiarity with multiple fields, and deep expertise in two or three – that’s not something everyone can keep up with.

My advice is to look beyond your pond – definitely learn enough about multiple fields to be effective – but to keep your mastery over your key field.


ConvCon: Lastly, what’s your top pet peeve when you’re optimizing a website and why? 

Tim: A lot of ink has been spilled on how ineffective rotating banners or moving carousels are for home pages. There’s Nielsen data about interviewed users, there’s multiple explanations from my site about why it steals attention from key tasks, and a range of other experts agree that they don’t work – but those things refuse to go away.

That’s really my peeve because it speaks to a bigger set of issues – lack of prioritization, an absence of cross-department agreements, and spaghetti-on-the-wall mentality that hurts lot of marketing departments even today.


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