Google's favored rocket scientist?

October 27, 2009: 1:32 PM ET

Google-approved Conversion Rate Experts use statistical analytics and gumshoe tactics to help sites boost online revenue

By L. Michael Cacace, Senior list editor

Jesson, left, and Blanks, right, help companies convert online visitors into buyers. Photo: CRE

Blanks, left, and Jesson help websites convert online visitors into buyers. Photo: CRE

If you think it takes a rocket scientist to improve your corporate website, you would be correct.

Conversion Rate Experts, a London- and New York-based company founded by Ben Jesson, 30 years old, and Karl Blanks, a 37-year-old former rocket scientist (really!), guarantees to increase substantially the revenue generated by a company's website. Google (GOOG) thought so much of their methods that the online ad giant named CRE one of the first authorized consultants for Google Website Optimizer, a testing tool that helps sites figure out how to improve sales.

How is it possible to "convert" more website viewers into buyers? Jesson says his company has developed techniques that systematically analyze the behavior of a website's viewers. Basically, it is a combination of multivariate statistical analysis and good old-fashion detective work.

First, CRE determines the website's current conversion rate. For example, if 95 out of 100 visitors to the website leave without buying anything, the current conversion rate is only 5%. CRE then examines and analyzes the data of those 95 visitors to understand why they did not take action.

Perhaps the visitor wanted to see how the product compares to a competitor. Or they may have had concerns about product quality or the shipping policy. CRE gathers this information, then uses it to create a different version of the website.

Finally, to verify that the new version of the website is truly outperforming the existing one, 50% of the website's visitors are directed to the test site and 50% are directed to the current site. Software is used to keep score of which version of the site generates the most business.

Phone company success story

The process, dubbed "conversion rate optimization," or CRO, was developed by Jesson and Blanks when they worked for a telecommunications company in 2005. After implementing almost every web marketing strategy, they found that CRO provided the best opportunity for improving the  profitability of the telco's website. Using CRO, they tripled the company's web revenues over a 12-month period to $9.1 million.

They founded Conversion Rate Experts in 2006, with Jesson as CEO and Blanks as chairman. Their clients now include Sony, Vodafone, casino site 888, and BT (formerly British Telecom).

Jesson declined to disclose the company's revenue, but says it has had strong demand for its services in 2009. As a result, CRE has hired five new consultants, doubling the size of its staff.

"The same scientific techniques that revolutionized the world of manufacturing are now revolutionizing the web," says Jesson. "If anything, the current economic climate has accelerated the demand for such efficiency, as website owners demand a greater return on investment from their advertising spend."

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