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Book Review of: Landing Page Optimization

The Definitive Guide to Testing and Tuning for Conversions

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Review of Landing Page Optimization, by Tim Ash (Softcover, 2008)

(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you want a hardcopy)

Reviewer: Mark Lamendola, author of over 6,000 articles.

This book is two starkly different books back to back under one cover. It consists of three Parts, with Part 1 being the first book.

Part 1 consists of four chapters. The first two Chapters are Conversion 101, information that anyone in e-commerce should already know. Chapter 3 is some marketing info that is not especially useful and is a detour in the book. It should be in an Appendix, if it's included at all.

Chapter 4 is good. This is information my company has been focusing on for the past year, with great results from that effort.

The next four chapters comprise Part II. Chapters 5 through 8 exist, it seems, to convince you of how difficult it is to assess and tune your conversion issues so you really need an expert.

In Part II, Mr. Ash describes and prescribes methods that are suitable only for very high traffic Web properties. Almost none of what he talks about applies to the kind of people who would buy a book on this subject. Almost all of what he talks about does apply to the C-level person who has a big budget for hiring a conversion consultant. Guess what Mr. Ash does for a living.

For further evidence of the goal of Part II, we need only to turn to Part III. The audience of this chapter is a large company with many departments. Again, we're talking about the C-level person with a big budget for hiring a consultant. The general message I read between the lines here is, "Here's how to sell our services inside your company."

Had I bought this book when it first came out, I would have found it useful because of what's in Chapter 4. For many e-commerce site operators, it would still be useful. Very useful.

If you haven't spent much time and energy on optimization, you need the information in Chapter 4.

What's missing from this Chapter, though, is any discussion of the techniques being used (e.g., sliders, content tabbers, etc.), a discussion of graphics (a huge area for conversion), or much else beyond the basics. He does make some key points about eliminating things that don't need to be there (especially in checkout), and more discussion on that would have been good. In short, he gives a surface discussion of the key issues.

I still see sites that could double their revenues simply by applying what Mr. Ash discusses in Chapter 4. If your conversion rates are less than 2% or not even known, then buy this book for Chapter 4 alone.

The other 10 Chapters don't seem useful to me.




About these reviews

You may be wondering why the reviews here are any different from the hundreds of "reviews" posted online. Notice the quotation marks?

I've been reviewing books for sites like Amazon for many years now, and it dismays me that Amazon found it necessary to post a minimum word count for reviews. It further dismays me that it's only 20 words. If that's all you have to say about a book, why bother?

And why waste everyone else's time with such drivel? As a reader of such reviews, I feel like I am being told that I do not matter. The flippancy of people who write these terse "reviews" is insulting to the authors also, I would suspect.

This sound bite blathering taking the place of any actual communication is increasingly a problem in our mindless, blog-posting Webosphere. Sadly, Google rewards such pointlessness as "content" so we just get more if this inanity.

My reviews, contrary to current (non) standards, actually tell you about the book. I always got an "A" on a book review I did as a kid (that's how I remember it anyhow, and it's my story so I'm sticking to it). A book review contains certain elements and has a logical structure. It informs the reader about the book.

A book review may also tell the reader whether the reviewer liked it, but revealing a reviewer's personal taste is not necessary for an informative book review.

About your reviewer

  • Books are a passion of mine. I read dozens of them each year, plus I listen to audio books.
  • Most of my "reading diet" consists of nonfiction. I think life is too short to use your limited reading time on material that has little or no substance. That leads into my next point...
  • In 1990, I stopped watching television. I have not missed it. At all.
  • I was first published as a preteen. I wrote an essay, and my teacher submitted it to the local paper.
  • For six years, I worked as an editor for a trade publication. I left that job in 2002, and still do freelance editing and authoring for that publication (and for other publications).
  • No book has emerged from my mind onto the best-seller list. So maybe I'm presumptuous in judging the work of others. Then again, I do more describing than judging in my reviews. And I have so many articles now published that I stopped counting them at 6,000. When did I stop? Probably 20,000 articles ago! (It's been a while).
  • I have an engineering degree and an MBA, among other "quant" degrees. That helps explain my methodical approach toward reviews.
  • You probably don't know anybody who has made a perfect or near perfect score on a test of Standard Written English. I have. So, a credential for whatever it's worth.

About reading style

No, I do not "speed read" through these. That said, I do read at a fast rate. But, in contrast to speed reading, I read everything when I read a book for review.

Speed reading is a specialized type of reading that requires skipping text as you go. Using this technique, I've been able to consistently "max out" a speed reading machine at 2080 words per minute with 80% comprehension. This method is great if you are out to show how fast you can read. But I didn't use it in graduate school and I don't use it now. I think it takes the joy out of reading, and that pleasure is a big part of why I read.

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