The Minimal Test: A Minimilist Approach to Landing Page Optimization

“Perfection is Achieved Not When There Is Nothing More to Add, But When There Is Nothing Left to Take Away” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

One of the most important skills an affiliate marketer needs to have is optimization. Optimization is simply the art of taking an unprofitable idea and making it profitable.

You can optimize all kinds of stuff. You can change your ads, headlines, landing pages, copy, offers and payouts. You can even split test affiliate networks and ad networks against each other. All of these tests are needed to make a campaign work better over time.

In short: If you can’t optimize – you’re not going to make it here.

Today I’m going to talk to you about Landing Pages – and how using a minimalist approach can open up a Galaxy of Optimization possibilities that you may not even know existed.

oftenminimal-circlesImage: Jana Stýblová @artisconcept //

Optimization By Addition

When you think of Landing Page Optimization your first thought is usually going to be – addition. “What can I add to this page to make it convert better?

And you would be correct to think this way. Adding things to your landing pages is a great way to improve performance.

  • Add new headlines
  • Add new images
  • Add testimonials
  • Add multiple CTAs
  • Add secondary offers
  • Add… Add… Add..

But what I want you to know is that you can also reverse this process and get great results as well.

I have a campaign running right now that has been optimized to death. I’ve added images, scripts, headlines and copy that have taken performance from a dismal –45% ROI to a respectable 70% ROI.

But then I hit the ‘Optimization Ceiling’.

This Optimization Ceiling is the point during every optimization effort where anything you add to the page makes it worse. This is where most marketers stop optimizing and move on to other things.

But you’re not done testing.

Optimization by Subtraction

When I hit the ‘Optimization Ceiling’ – I do what I call ‘The Minimal Test’.

‘The Minimal Test’ is an A/B test I do after a major round of optimizations where I put my best, highly optimized landing page up against a completely stripped down version of itself.

  1. I removed 99% of the images on the page
  2. I removed all of the fancy scripts I may have added
  3. I removed about 40% of the copy
  4. I removed everything but the essential copy, headline and call to action.

Guess what happened?

On my most recent ‘Minimal Test’ I discovered that most of the stuff that I’d added during testing wasn’t really helping at all.

Here’s what the results looked like:

  • Optimized Page: CTR: 25% // ROI: 70%
  • Minimal Page: CTR: 31% // ROI: 111%

Why did this happen?I have no idea – I learned a long time ago that when it comes to Marketing, you don’t ask questions. The Data always tells the truth and is the only answer you need.

One thought is that often during the optimization process, we make decisions too fast and incorrectly declare a winning page that isn’t really a winner.

And then we do it again.
And again.

In a sense, ‘The Minimal Test’ is a “reality check” to finalize your split testing and see if your optimizations really helped.

One-Step Reverse Optimization

You can also do what I call a ‘One-Step Reverse Optimization’ where you only remove one element at a time to see how it affects performance.

  • Will your page work better WITHOUT the big red button you added?
  • What if you remove the big image in the first paragraph?

Removing one thing at a time provides the same benefit as adding one thing at time. It takes longer but you’ll know exactly what element made the difference.

There is No Downside

Doing ‘The Minimal Test’ on your campaign really has no downside. It takes a few hours and a few dollars to do but you win either way.

  • If your optimized page does best, you’ve successfully optimized (win)
  • If a minimal page does best, you were smart to re-test. (win)

Going back and doing a double-check like this is a win/win situation. And it’s just one more way you can make sure you’re squeezing every drop out of your campaign.

In Closing

Optimizing a landing page is one of the most important skills in this game. And when you do it right it can make the difference between making money and losing money.

Most affiliates end the optimization process when they run out of things to add, but as I’ve explained today – adding things is only the beginning.

The next time you have a landing page and you feel like you’ve added everything you can to it…

Do a simple test.

Start taking things away.

  • Will Oviedo

    Epic post brother

  • Erik van Heumen

    Great new insight! Thanks for sharing

  • Prakash

    This is something I have never heard of anywhere in the AM world. Will try this out! Thanks Malan.

  • pauleyh

    Thanks Malan, great idea.

    I’m relatively new to this business and getting stuck on the logic around creatives being an sustainable edge.

    It seems everyone rips others LP’s and banners and is taught this method to get started with a campaign. “imitate then innovate” and all that.

    So if you put all this time and effort into optimising creatives, only to have it ripped a day later, how do you maintain an edge with the campaign and keep making profits? (I have no problem with this strategy just seems unsustainable).

    Does it just come down to having an exclusive offer, and/or higher payouts, and/or direct media buys?

    I’m struggling to work out how money can be made consistently in AM when your creative work is always getting stolen and used to compete against you.

    Thanks for any help you are open to sharing. Paul.

    • Malan Darras

      I’d say you’re worrying about all the “what ifs” that don’t really matter. My creative ideas are stolen every day, week, month and year. Sometimes it effect my campaign a little, but most of the time, I don’t feel it at all.

      • pauleyh

        Thanks Malan, great point and good to know it’s not really an issue. l’ll keep punching on, thanks again.

  • JDI

    Brilliance personified Malan! I keep thinking your creative gift lies in your musical background. Who is else can create an infinite amount of songs with only 12 musical notes and a gazillion dollars with a 3 chord progression except a musician.

    This post reminds me of grandma’s sayings. You know the stuff that we thought was silly but ends up being true; like one bad apple spoils the barrel, chicken soup is good for a cold, and now your minimalist post brings to mind less really is more.

    Can’t wait for the forum to open.

  • Felipe Oliveira

    Nice Malan, very very nice, thank you, I never imagined anything about this viewing angle

  • Simon Tung

    Nice write up Malan.

    “I removed 99% of the images on the page
    I removed all of the fancy scripts I may have added
    I removed about 40% of the copy
    I removed everything but the essential copy, headline and call to action.”

    When approaching this minimalist test, do you test all these together? Or do you test one by one? For example removing 99% of the images on the page for one batch of testing and then move on the next testing batch or you test all those factors mentioned above all at once.

    • Malan Darras

      the answer is in the post: ‘One-Step reverse optimization’

      I do it both ways depending on the campaign. all changes together and/or one by one.

  • Joe

    I like the idea of testing in general… So I got a question would you start the minimal approach before positive ROI or after?

    • Malan Darras

      before positive ROI = big changes, drastic changes to get profitable
      after positive ROI = smaller changes, minimal approach.