Synopsis — Search engine marketing involves many more types of optimization in addition to the basic search engine optimization, or SEO, that most are familiar with. One such variation is conversion rate optimization, which is the process of figuring out where conversions could be increased on your site and then designing and implementing fixes to do so. It’s almost another side of the coin, where the goal is not directly to increase traffic, but rather to increase the efficiency of one’s advertising and taking care not to miss any opportunity to make the most of the traffic that your search engine optimization efforts have helped to increase.
In his article “Secrets Of Conversion Rate Optimization,” Andrew Follett discusses this process, laying out a basic three-step process to (1) identify barriers to conversion; (2) create potential solutions; and (3) test and measure the results. The article is chockful of tips and guidelines in each of the three steps, providing a blueprint for setting up a framework for quick, effective, and affordable optimization of the conversion rate of your website.
The complete article follows …
Secrets Of Conversion Rate Optimization
For those unfamiliar with conversion rate optimization (CRO), it is really just a fancy term for figuring out why visitors aren’t converting and then taking care to implement fixes. Conversions are based on the goals you have for your website — a typical conversion occurs when a visitor submits a contact form, places an order, or downloads a whitepaper. By having a better understanding of conversion rate optimization, you can identify conversion barriers specific to your website and quickly implement changes that can result in dramatic increases in lead generation and revenue.
So why all the fuss about conversion rate optimization? When given the choice to spend money on driving more traffic or conversion rate optimization, most people choose more traffic. Traffic seems like the logical choice — more traffic means more leads and increased revenue, right? Sometimes, yes, but ignoring conversions means inefficient advertising spend and missed opportunities. Let me explain with an example.
Let’s say that a company providing low-cost, search-engine-optimized web pages for businesses increased their conversion rate (in their case, sign-ups for a free trial) by 90% just by changing a headline on their landing page. They receive 1,000 visitors each day, with a 1% conversion rate, meaning 10 people sign up for a free trial each day. After optimizing their landing page, conversion rates jumped to 2% or 20 signups each day. If half of these additional 10 people decide to join a paid plan at $10 per month, the company makes an extra $50 per day or $1,500 per month.
Here is where it gets interesting. Instead of focusing on improving conversion rates, let’s say they spent an extra $40 each day ($1,200 per month) driving more traffic. Conversions stay at 1%. If the company drives an extra 100 daily visitors for 1,100 total, this results in 11 daily conversions — only one extra conversion per day for an extra $10 per day or $300 per month. In scenario A (change the headline), you end up making an extra $1,500 each month. In scenario B (drive more traffic), you end up losing nearly $1,000 each month. See my point?
Conversion rate optimization isn’t rocket science, but there are tips, tools, and guidelines to help you develop a three-step process to continually identify barriers to conversion, implement fixes, and measure results.
Step One: Identify Barriers To Conversion
To start making improvements to your website, it’s critical to understand where you’re at today. This can be the most difficult and time-consuming step in the process, but in the end you’ll have a much better understanding of your site, what’s working, and what isn’t.
If you don’t have an analytics package in place to track visitor behavior, stop reading this article and set one up right now! Two great options are the free Google Analytics and KISSmetrics (which has a free trial). If you already have one running, make sure you’re tracking conversions or goals (e.g., a new lead or online order). Depending on the amount of daily traffic through your site, it may take some time to develop an accurate picture of visitor behavior. Once you have enough data to work with, you can use certain analytics to identify conversion barriers.
1. Bounce Rate — Find the spot in your analytics program that breaks down traffic to each of the pages on your site. Sort by bounce rate — from highest to lowest — to identify the least sticky individual pages. You can also sort by exit rate. It usually helps to apply a filter to the results to only see pages with a significant amount of traffic. If a page has a higher than average bounce rate, but only receives a few page views, it’s probably not worth worrying about.
2. Conversion Funnels — If you have set up your conversions or goals properly, you should be able to view a conversion funnel to identify where visitors are dropping out of the conversion process. For example, if your checkout has three steps, a funnel shows you the step in the process that most often causes people to leave.
3. Form Analytics — Determining exactly which fields on your contact or checkout forms cause visitors to drop off is another great way to leverage analytics to identify conversion barriers. For example, requiring a middle name or a social security number for no justifiable reason could cause prospects to balk at converting. Form analytics will show you just how many people are doing so and which fields you can remove or consolidate to increase submissions. While some tools like ClickTale have form tracking functionality built-in, you may need to use event tracking or virtual page views in a standard analytics package.
4. Heatmaps — Think of a heatmap as visual analytics. It can help show you, page by page, where visitors are clicking and — maybe more importantly — where they aren’t. CrazyEgg is an industry favorite for this, and ClickTale has heatmap functionality built-in. Site overlay in Google Analytics serves a similar function.
5. Site Search — Allowing users to perform searches on your website is a smart way to collect data on what people are most interested in. If people are consistently searching your website for the same item, it may be an indication that you need to make it more prominent.
6. User Testing — While not a metric, user testing is a must. By having ordinary people perform standard tasks on your website, you can quickly identify where users will get stuck or confused. For companies on a limited budget, grab a video camera and ask for volunteers off the street. Try not to direct them too much — let them find their own way. The results will surprise you. You can also try a crowd-sourced service like UserTesting.com or GazeHawk, which both offer fast, affordable ways to watch users interact with your website.
Step Two: Create Potential Solutions
With a well-defined list of conversion barriers in hand, the next step is to determine how to remove them. Keep an open mind during this stage of the process — like brainstorming, anything goes. Work through your site, developing a list of potential solutions for each critical page.
1. The Usual Suspects — Although an infinite ways to increase conversion rates on your website exist, research shows that focusing on improving the following four components provides the biggest gains with the least amount of “pixel pushing.”
- Copy – Headlines, copy length and style can all have a dramatic effect on conversions. Try to think like your customers and put an emphasis on benefits.
- Call-to-action – What would you like your visitors to do? Make it obvious. Always have a clear, preferably single, call-to-action on every page of your website.
- Clutter – Minimize clutter on your site. Extraneous copy, images, and links only serve as distractions from your call-to-action.
- Credibility – Credibility is more than just a security seal in the footer. Consistent and professional web design plays a major role in how visitors perceive your company. If you have testimonials or case studies, use them.
The items listed above represent macro changes that can have a dramatic effect on performance. Micro changes include things like changing the color of a button or replacing an image. Focus on macro changes first.
2. Get A Second Opinion — After spending weeks, months, or even years working on your website, it can become difficult to see the forest from the trees. You start thinking like an insider, and lose the ability to approach your site objectively. In addition to user testing, survey your customers and visitors. Your customers may not be able to tell you exactly what you need to do, but they will be able to tell you what they want to do on your site. In addition to polls and surveys, getting website feedback from industry experts can help you generate new improvement ideas that you may not have thought of on your own. Some offer free site analysis as part of a webinar or recurring blog post, and a number of online services offer third-party recommendations from design, usability, and strategy professionals.
Step Three: Test And Measure
The final step in the process is to work with your web team to implement and test the new and improved pages. Using the list, create two or three variations of each critical page. Make sure to include at least one new page that is completely different from the rest. An outlier may not seem likely to succeed, but may deliver standout results that you would not have achieved otherwise. Using a split-testing service like Google Website Optimizer or Optimizely, test the variations to determine which offers the best improvement in conversion rate. The service will split traffic evenly between your new page variations and tell you, with statistical significance, which page performed best. Once you have a winner, you can stop the test and permanently implement the new page.
In summary, conversion rate optimization is a fast, effective, and affordable way to significantly increase the return on your customer acquisition strategy. With the right framework in place, achieving substantial gains in performance is straightforward and rewarding.