Gettin' Higgy Wit It

or, If you predict it, it will come

So today (July 4th 2012) it seems like the scientists at CERN have finally found sufficient evidence to confidently say that the Higgs boson exists - although they're being understandably cautious about saying that with 100% certainty.

There's still some months of research ahead to confirm for sure that the particle they believe they have detected is indeed the so-called 'God particle' that allows other elementary particles to have mass, and not just energy (you don't need to understand that part).

One of the most impressive things about this potential discovery is that, like many of the elements on the periodic table, the Higgs boson was predicted long before any hard evidence for its existence was discovered.

And that got me thinking about the nature of eCommerce and online marketing...

The Tenuous Link

Like the prediction of the Higgs boson, web marketing efforts depend on your ability to foresee how much traffic your website will receive, and what those people will be looking for.

In essence, you're predicting the existence of customers who may or may not actually be out there - and when you convert a prospect, you turn them from an ordinary person into one of those theoretical money-spending customers.

Forget about quantum physics - this is alchemy in its purest form, and if you find the right formula to convert your prospects, you're effectively turning lead into gold.

What's the Formula?

Well, that's the million-dollar question (quite literally, in some cases) and, like good science, it may take some trial and error before you get it spot-on.

However, there are lessons to be learned from good science - for instance, in many experiments, scientists work to prove or disprove more than one hypothesis.

For instance, if you predict that a particular SEO campaign will improve your search rankings, there are two alternatives to look for as well - your rankings may actually worsen, or they may stay the same.

By checking for each of these eventualities, rather than simply dismissing the work you have done if your rankings don't improve, you can learn valuable lessons for the future.

Similarly, you can predict that a marketing campaign will increase your overall earnings, but it may be more valuable to look at whether it's your total number of customers, individual basket/order size, or both that have increased.

Look to the Future

Like in science, you'll sometimes get it wrong - such as the recent announcement that researchers had transmitted information faster than light (which was later dismissed as instrument error).

Even in these situations, you can learn. Look at what you did wrong - or what got you penalised in the search rankings, even if it was not 'wrong' as such - and find a different approach to your campaign.

Trial and error are key to empirical science, and to web marketing - the best agencies do more testing than anyone else, with AB content comparisons and complex multivariate analysis.

Don't be afraid to be wrong - simply be ready to learn from your mistakes and improve your campaigns for the future, and you could yet find the online marketing equivalent of the God particle.