The Skill Arms Race in Conversion Optimization

By Martin Greif, EVP, SiteTuners

Martin Greif, EVP, SiteTuners

When online marketing was relatively young, the best players in the field tended to be Fortune 500 companies with a hefty software budget.

There was a software arms race, and only the biggest companies were able to afford the combination of paid traffic monitoring tools like WebTrends, testing tools like Optimizely, and survey software like iperceptions. Playing in the same field meant spending a healthy portion of your marketing budget on the tools - the software budgets of organizations had a large impact on how much you learned about the visitors and what kind of tests you could run.

Today’s market looks nothing like that

Google Analytics has democratized traffic monitoring, and even the largest sites see it as a stable free product with a ton of flexibility, especially when combined with tag management tools. There are free or relatively inexpensive testing software and website surveys.

Given the democratization of tools, online marketing has become another kind of an arms race - what companies used to stockpile in software, they now stockpile in expertise.

It’s what you need to get good at, too.

"Broad specialization marketers are highly valuable assets in this new age, as companies seek marketers who have the chops to keep up with the times"

Tag Management

The 2018 landscape for marketers requires at least entry level knowledge in tools like Adobe Tag Manager or Google Tag Manager. The difference between waiting for two weeks to get some kind of tracking script changed at the hands of IT versus 30 minutes at the hands of an analyst is drastic. Once you experience that level of freedom as a marketer, you’ll know there’s no turning back. You’ll be able to:

• rely on your development teams less,
• lower the preparation time needed for campaigns
• extend the functionality of existing analytics tools like Google Analytics

Perhaps more importantly, you’ll get marketing more control over its own destiny.


Even if your job title doesn’t contain the phrase “search engine professional,” you should understand the fundamentals of search and the tools related to the craft:

• A conversion expert should understand which search terms are likely to be bottom-of-the-funnel terms that are close to a sale, versus research terms that should lead to educational pages for brand exposure and lead nurturing.

• UX professionals should understand how to craft pages that meet the “intent” of particular search terms.

• An online marketing project manager should be able to help improve visibility and reputation for the website, whether via adding sitemaps on Google Search Console for better indexing or adding HREFLang tags to serve the correct pages to the right countries.

That means tools like Moz, SEMRush, Google Search Console, and Google Keyword Planner should not be solely the province of people whose job exclusively revolves around search.

You need to have an understanding of how these tools fit into your technology stack, and how you can use the tools to improve overall marketing.

Web Usability and Satisfaction Surveys

Even if your main job is optimizing the cart and maximizing customer lifetime value, it pays dividends to understand how your visitors feel about the website. At minimum, you need to have enough voice of customer literacy to understand.

• what people are looking for on your web site,
• what percentage of visitors can find what they need,
• if the visitor did not find what they needed, why is that
• how happy (or unhappy) your visitors are with your site.

That’s where surveys come in.

Whether your site uses no-frills tools like Survicate or you have the big honking benchmarking features of iperceptions or ForeSee, you need to have at least a passing familiarity with survey design and voice of customer analysis.

It is data that can directly impact what parts of the website you need to fix first, and whatever your core training is as a marketer, it’s good information to have.

Conversion Optimization

Split testing knowledge is what often comes to mind when you mention conversion professionals, but the craft is so much bigger than that. You need more than just knowledge about Optimizely, VWO, or Google Optimize to succeed as a conversion specialist:

• You need to have at least a passing familiarity with UX practices like usability testing and interviews, so you can help if the website requires more than tactical changes, or in some cases, complete overhauls.

• You need to be able to diagnose other aspects of the business and see if the bottlenecks are in places not traditionally thought of as web-related. This why the business analyst skillset is important for conversion experts.

• Conversion professionals need to be experts at navigating through organization-related and technology-related challenges and still produce results.

That’s expertise that you develop over time.

The “Broad Specialization” Marketer

Specialization in one field with multiple tools is fine, but in today’s landscape, it tends to not be enough.

Search, web usability, and conversion rate optimization are increasingly intertwined, and the tag management skills that support how well you can do those things are becoming less of a “nice to have” and more of a “requirement for survival.”

What companies increasingly need are people who can run a gamut of different tools across what used to be different specializations. Broad specialization marketers are highly valuable assets in this new age, as companies seek marketers who have the chops to keep up with the times.

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