Optimizely’s So Fast, Web Surfers Won’t Notice It

For years, online marketers have focused on using Internet search advertising to get as many consumers as possible to a desired Web site.

But many have found this focus on search-engine optimization doesn't accomplish their marketing goals.

That's because only about 2% of e-commerce visits lead to a sales transaction, while about the same percentage of visitors to media Web sites actually click on the ads they see.

"About 98% of the people who go to a Web site don't do what the Web site owner wants them to," says Dan Siroker, CEO and co-founder of Optimizely, a start-up whose software is designed to change that.

While Internet marketers see such low conversion rates as a pain, Siroker and Pete Koomen, Optimizely's president and co-founder, saw it as a business opportunity.

Fresh from directing then-candidate Barack Obama's sophisticated Internet operation during his 2008 election campaign, the pair decided to launch a company together.

But that company wasn't Optimizely, and it didn't last a year. Nor did the second company founded by the pair, both former associate product managers at Google.

With Optimizely, however, the two knew they might be onto something big when they earned their first paying customer the very first day they launched their service in October 2010.

Catching On with Companies

Since then, the company has signed up 6,000 businesses that want to boost their online conversion rates, including major retail brands such as Starbucks and Crate & Barrel and cable news channel CNN.

"We built the right product at the time the market was in need of Web site optimization," Siroker says.

The company's technology is designed to improve what's sometimes called A/B testing, because it allows Web sites to customize what a visitor sees based on a series of choices between two options.

It's similar to how an optometrist finds the correct prescription for someone who wears...

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