ContentBiz Summit 2006: Hoover’s Website Design Tests Results to Increase Conversion

by David Eckoff · 0 comments


NEW YORK – Hoover’s delivers comprehensive company, industry, and market intelligence services. Paul Pellman, EVP Marketing of Hoover’s, presented a case study on the redesign of Hoover’s free website.

Hoover’s typical prospective customer: people researching a topic stumble across Hoover’s. Once on the site, Hoover’s needs to quickly communicate the value proposition of their service – and get the person to subscribe.

The goals of the redesign were to 1. Improve the UI to better communicate Hoover’s value and quickly guide users to the information and tools they need; 2. to showcase subscriber-only content and tools; and 3. to improve advertising integration and generate more advertising revenue.

The key challenge Hoover’s faces is finding the right balance between the free and paid portions of their website.

Hoover’s worked with Optimost to perform multivariate testing (a statistical methodology of testing many variables at once vs. the slower process of A-B testing).

Key points covered by Pellman:

  • Homepage: Adding a search area, enlarging button size and designing button text in all caps significantly increased click-through rate. In addition, Hoover’s streamlined search, included prominent placement of “sneak peek” access to some premium content, showcased how many articles were updated today (to reinforce Hoover’s timely updating process) and provided an opportunity to use the service’s list-building tools. The result, according to Pellman: triple digit improvements in conversion.
  • “Fact Sheet” about a company (which you might come across if you search for a company name such as “Dell”, using Google or Yahoo): these variables won in testing: including the toll free ordering phone number prominently in the masthead, streamlining the left navigation area and clearly separating free and paid sections.
  • Subscriptions Options Page: Use of more benefits-oriented language that focus on the value proposition – specific calls to action with the ordering phone number more prominently placed – resulted in double digit improvements. A benefit to Hoover’s sales process: potential customers calling the order number are better educated about Hoover’s services and the quality of inbound leads is higher when they reach a salesperson.
  • Further testing of the subscriptions options page found these variables greatly increased conversion: simpler graphics, a focus on concepts of “affordable”, “exclusive editorial” and more active words such as “Click Here” and “Get”. In contrast, words such as “Subscribe” and “Subscription Options” tested poorly.
  • Registration Page: According to Pellman, every time you take a piece of data away from the registration form, you increase conversion. Hoover’s reduced the number of fields on their registration form from 12 to 9. Pellman advises: “Is every piece of information absolutely critical? If not, remove it.” For example, Hoover’s removed the traditional “Address 2” field. Additionally, Hoover’s learned that it’s better not to give an option to go to other pages – you want the person doing one thing only – filling out the web form.
  • IT resource issues: Pellman said that outsourcing to Optimost helped get around a scarcity of internal IT resources.
  • Creative/design: Pellman noted that general web design creative services are often horrible at the specialty skill of direct response design. I’ve seen that time and time again. His advice (which isn’t commonly followed but should be): hire creative talent that specializes in direct response design.

    Next Up: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Tactics for Premium Content Providers

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