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There Are No Such Things as ‘Best Practices’


DATA-DRIVEN CMO is an ongoing series on the Brooks Bell Blog that focuses on topics for the modern day data-driven CMO.

Gone are the days of Internet marketing when you could go to a playbook of tried and true techniques and get results.

Remember when we could default to statements like “Make sure the page isn’t wider than 640 pixels!” and “That banner ad must have the logo on every screen!”? Those standards worked then because—let’s face it—customers didn’t know any better. We took advantage of the naive online shopper who didn’t know that was a text link to an affiliate ad or a post broken up into 10 pages was meant to maximize pages per visit.

Road sign pointing to true and false

There are no such things as ‘Best Practices.’

At least there are no such things as “best practices” in the ways that marketers are using the term these days. Best practices are thing like using clean JavaScript code or proper calculations in determining statistical significance. “Best practices” in this data-driven marketing world is about the mechanics of the testing tool and the process, not the testing strategy itself.

At Brooks Bell we frequently get asked to “apply best practices” to our test ideas, as if we have a special toolbox of ideas that we can use at any time for guaranteed success. Today’s optimization experts aren’t mechanics—we’re strategic thinkers who know how to use data to support testing ideas.

Does video work to lift conversions? Yes! And No! And it depends!

There is no such thing as “best practices” in a data-driven marketing world. For every successful test that we have run for our clients, we have an example of the tactic failing. And this isn’t simply a case of two different companies. We sometimes see the same tactic failing in the same client!

For example, we ran a test where we added an auto-play video to a PPC landing page and saw huge lifts! And the video wasn’t even that well done. The logical conclusion is it doesn’t matter how good the video is, put one in and rake in the money! Let’s go chisel that into our Golden Test Ideas Plaque! Not so fast.

We ran a similar test for another client and it failed, and failed big. Maybe it was the content of the video. Maybe it was the customer segment. Then again, maybe it was the entry page, the benefit headline, the page load time, the time of year, the color of the logo, the reputation of the brand, the price, the supporting copy, the grid, the wonkiness of it’s responsive design, the “insert practically anything else here”.

Remove the term ‘Best Practices’ from your vocabulary…

…At least in regards to testing and optimization. Best practices aren’t in the tactic, but the strategy to get you to the tactic. Best practices are embedded in your test strategy process and methodology. What works for others may not work for you.