CEO Don Ross: Testing critical to success in performance marketing

By John EganJuly 28, 2014

Once you graduated from school, you probably thought the days of tests were behind you, right? Well, if you work in the performance-marketing arena, you actually could be involved in more testing than ever before.

Don Ross, CEO of personal finance website, said investing in a solid analytics team and embracing “a willingness to test, retest and test again” are two of the keys to success in performance marketing.

“Platforms, technologies and the ecosystem are in constant change, and the firms that are willing to establish a culture of creativity and inquisitiveness to generate success and then iterate to enhance on those successes will outpace their competition,” said Ross, a speaker at the upcoming LeadsCon New York.

Ken Esterow, president and CEO of’s parent, Bankrate Inc., recently told Wall Street analysts that the number of tests running on the company’s flagship website has jumped more than fivefold since last year. Esterow said is notching some “early wins” in its “money ball initiative,” aimed at continuously testing and optimizing the user experience.

In the first quarter of 2014, Bankrate spent a couple of million dollars on testing across all of its web properties, said Ed DiMaria, the company’s chief financial officer.

It’s no wonder that testing plays a big role in performance marketing. According to Direct Marketing News, performance marketing represents nearly 70 percent of the online advertising industry’s estimated $35 billion in annual advertising spending.

Aside from testing, automation is a significant component of performance marketing, Ross said.

“Automated platforms are generating huge efficiencies,” he said, “but marrying marketing messages within environments providing contextual relevancy will always generate a better ROI for marketers.”

One area generating ROI for is its content, which has garnered numerous journalism awards. Esterow said visits to have nearly doubled since 2011, and the site set a single-day record of 5 million page views on March 25.

“Unique content also has the added benefit of producing a strong SEO footprint over time,” Ross said.

However, providing unique, authoritative, relevant content doesn’t quite cover all the bases, according to Ross.

“In today’s world, great content is at the fingertips of everyone who marketers are interested in targeting,” Ross said. “The content not only has to be custom-tailored in a first-class, easily consumed fashion for all devices, but also it increasing has to be more personalized to the specific needs and interests of each consumer, reader or customer. Bankrate is moving aggressively in this direction.”

This article is brought to you by LeadsCon New York.

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