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Why Online Marketers Should Act Like Scientists

Scientific research lives and dies by the scientific method. Perhaps you learned about it in middle school chemistry class. The process can vaguely be summed up in the following steps:

1. Ask a question
2. Gather data in relation to the question
3. Form a hypothesis
4. Conduct an experiment to test the hypothesis
5. Analyze the data
6. Come to a conclusion
7. Repeat as necessary

By leaning on this time tested methodology scientists can push their research forward. Online marketers would be wise to act under a similar type of rigor. SEO, social, paid search, and email marketing; it’s all just a big experiment. The problem is that we often neglect to treat it as such. We become victims of our successes or poisoned through the knowledge we’ve acquired over time. Eventually we give up and stop experimenting.

Think like a scientist

Opportunities for improvement are abundant. It’s your job to seek out an opportunity, isolate it, and begin asking questions.

Should I send an email newsletter out bi-weekly, weekly, or daily?
How many times per day should I Tweet?
Am I targeting the right key words?

All of these questions can be scrutinized using the scientific method. Let’s use an example:

1. Ask a question

I want to find out if long blog posts are worth the extra effort as opposed to short blog posts for the purpose of inbound marketing. To put this in question form I can ask:

Are long 1000+ word blog posts more valuable than short 250 word posts?

2. Gather data

How long are my current blog posts? What does Google Analytics reveal? Are my longer and more detailed posts attracting more traffic and inbound links, or are the short and quick posts just as valuable? What types of information can I find by looking at trusted resources?

Blog Tyrant: Writing One Post for a Week: Are Long Articles Best?
ProBlogger: Post Length – How Long Should a Post Be?
ViperChill: Bloggers: This Is How Long Your Posts Should Be

3. Form a hypothesis

Based on the data available, I’m going to hypothesize that longer blog posts are more valuable than shorter blog posts.

4. Conduct an experiment to test the hypothesis

For the next 6 weeks I decide to write 2 posts a week that are over 1000 words in length.

5. Analyze the data                               

What does Google Analytics reveal? How much new traffic, social media mentions, or inbound links was I able to gather over 6 weeks?

6. Come to a conclusion

After the experiment is over I should be able to determine if longer posts were in fact more beneficial than shorter posts. I can listen to what trusted resources have to say, but without conducting the experiment myself I wouldn’t know with absolute certainty what length of blog works best for my blog.

7. Repeat

Was 6 weeks a long enough testing period? Should I try again except with shorter or even longer posts? Was there any outside contributing factors that may have led to the data being misconstrued? If so it may be smart to repeat the test.

Never stop experimenting

By conduct regular experiments and leaning on the scientific method, online marketers can push the boundaries of efficiency and make their dollar and time investment stretch farther. At minimum it sure beats shooting from the hip and falling victim to assumptions.

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