The Ultimate Guide to Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)
Originally we wanted to cover the CRO in 10 different articles. But in the end we’ve decided to publish them as a mega-article and have all the information about conversion rate optimization on one page. This is how it turned out:
For those of you who did not know it, CRO stands for Conversion Rate Optimization and it essentially refers to an increase in sales and leads from a certain website without actually messing with the percentage of people who visited the website. In other words, a website that is optimized in this manner will benefit from an improved conversion rate, which results in more clicks and extra traffic but it involves no extra costs on your part. It is great for that type of businesses which cannot afford to overpay on advertising but still need to attract enough customers to justify resorting to such tactics in the first place. We will talk more about the CRO as well as all of its components and how to deal with them. It may not make you an expert in this field, but it is definitely a good start.
Target Audience & Prerequisites
Even though anybody could benefit from reading this set of articles, they are primarily aimed at professionals who are in need of some good CRO in their business activities related to their website. The goal of CRO is basically to convert as many visitors into paying customers and encourage them to do what you want them to do, but without them knowing it, as this would severely impact your public image if it came to light. Still, in order to do that, we need to cover some of the basics first, before moving on to other functions that are more suited for advanced users.
If you possess even a rudimentary knowledge regarding the way in which a company and its website work, you should have no difficulty in following our simple steps. You will be familiar with some or most of the concepts and all you need to learn is how to implement them in real life. Otherwise, you’d best get some additional reading and educate yourself on this matter beforehand or during this tutorial, as this would offer the best and most favorable outcome possible, at least when it comes to your chances of success. If you’ve handled websites in the past and know a thing or two about how to handle an online survey, you are going to do just fine. So, without further ado, let’s get right to it.
What is CRO?
As we said, it stands for Conversion Rate Optimization. It is a process where you need to analyze the data you have gathered on an issue as well as implement your web skills in order to improve your sales. The goal is to upgrade as many of your visitors to paying customers as possible, without risking some serious backlash and other repercussions I’d rather not go into.
Before you even start working on your CRO, you are going to need to gauge the potential of your website. In other words, you need to find out what people want, and how to provide it for them. Not in a literal way, of course, but nothing stops you from doing some research on what people are searching for and tweak your website in order to conform with these terms.
Why Does it Matter?
In case you were getting ready to dismiss this whole thing as idle chatter, think again. This is a very serious matter, and for several reasons, too.
For one, it will generate customers literally for free. It won’t cost you anything on its own and it will save you money on advertising, especially if you went for those “pay per click” kind of scams. Plus, you won’t need as many ads to generate enough traffic either, so it is definitely better to go through with it than not. Sure, paying for clicks may seem effective, but is it really as cost effective as you might think? Of course it is not. It will chew through your budget like nothing you’ve ever seen; especially nowadays when prices are rising across the board in the advertising world.
How Much Can it Save You?
In fact, this way you can generate up to 10% of increase in sales for virtually no extra costs. Just think of how much money you would have to give to ad companies to generate another 10% in sales? How many ads it would take and how much it would set you back financially? This way you won’t even have to try to your fullest potential. You just have to outperform your immediate competition. How hard could that be?
Besides, since it does not cost you anything per se, you don’t really have a downside here, do you? What do you have to lose? Certainly not money. So it should not pose too much of a challenge, right? You’re not making any new investments; you are merely using the existing ones more efficiently. Of course, this means little on its own, unless you have the quality to back up your claims. The more time and effort you invest in CRO, the more money you can divert to other uses. Such as improving the quality of your goods and services, or paying ad companies for more ads than you could normally afford. Or heck, why not just pocket the difference and call it a day? It’s your money anyway. Whichever way you go, you should do just fine.
Otherwise, people might just gloss over your website and you would accomplish nothing. Today, you need to take into consideration things that earlier businesses simply did not have to bother with. For one, their attention span has changed so much that it now becomes an issue. The sheer number of pages they view has exploded, but this expansion came at a terrible cost. What is this cost? The amount of time and effort they are willing and able to commit to a single website has dropped dramatically over the last decade or so. This is why you actually have to use tricks to capture their attention, and CRO can help you accomplish just that. Or at least steer you in the right direction, which is something, at least. At least, you’ll get the people’s attention. What you do with it is entirely up to you.
The Price of Convenience
Additional benefits would include helping you streamline your business into a legitimate enterprise, by accomplishing a number of key things. For one, it will help you get rid of any obstacles that lie between your client, the screen where he or she landed when they got to your website, and that all-important buy button. In this day and age, people have become spoiled and pampered. As a result, they have come to expect certain things, such as expediency and convenience. Some good CRO can actually help you transform your website into a real money-making machine, and we do not mean that in the illegal, forgery way. You’ll see soon enough.
You basically need to make sure they can do everything with a single click, give them easy access and they’ll love you for it. In fact, they will shower you with money. By making them feel relaxed and at ease, you lull them into a false sense of security where they can confidently exchange their money for whatever kind of goods, services and trinkets you are trying to sell them. If they are scared, anxious or distrustful, they are far less likely of making a purchase. Perhaps this is the reason why your business has not been doing so well lately?
Sure, Search Engine Optimization works too, but it does not produce results fast enough. This way you can see a spike in sales almost immediately after completing the process, giving it yet another bonus feature you need to pay attention to. It is even better in the long run as these benefits keep adding up. And if you want to beef up your odds further, Search Engine Optimization and marketing campaigns are perfectly compatible with CRO.
Conversion Rate Optimization can do a lot more than simply beef up your sales, even though it is its primary function. More importantly, it will change your entire outlook on your business as well as the way you see your clients. Morally speaking, this may not be the best of things, but you are not running a charity in any case. You are running a business and it needs to grow. In order to encourage said growth, you can resort to additional ads, Search Engine Optimization, Social Network marketing and many other little tricks and stratagems. But they will not give you the desired effect. Not on their own, anyway.
Conversion Rate Optimization alone can beef up your performance for anything up to 10%, depending on other issues. What you decide to do with that extra income is entirely up to you. However, for maximum effect, you might want to consider investing it further and growing your business even faster. After all, a business that is not expanding is a business that is slowly dying, and you don’t want that.
In the first part we talked a bit about the Conversion Rate Optimization, or CRO for short, but we have barely scratched the surface when it comes to fully utilizing its potential. It can and will increase your economic performance, but only to a certain extent. It will depend on a number of different factors, but what it all comes down to is your ability to make the most of it. Now, let us discuss some of the basics behind it.
The Basics of CRO
At the very least, you will finally understand why so many of your customers keep visiting your online store without actually buying anything. It has to be frustrating, right? What if you could walk a mile in one of their shoes, find out what turns them off and correct it if you can? With Conversion Rate Optimization, you just might. The first thing you need to rule out is yourself and the price of your goods and services as the most likely culprit. You don’t really need the CRO for this. You can just as easily browse some of your competition and find that out for yourself.
If this was indeed all there was to it, then you are lucky indeed! Because all you need to do is correct your prices and / or demeanor and things should be fine. However, what if there is more to it than that? If the customer is the problem, there is nothing you can really do about it, as there are all kinds of jerks in this world. However, the likelihood of every single one of them visiting your website or running a website that only appeals to them is extremely unlikely.
You may not be able to account for the behavior of your clients, but there are always means you can use in order to tilt the odds ever so slightly in your favor. This is not about odds or luck or anything of this sort. Real Conversion Rate Optimization is science, pure and simple. In order to outsmart your clients, you need to learn to think like them. Put yourself in their position and browse your site for any and all irregularities that might be turning them off.
Things to Look Out For
Basically, there are several things that you need to take into account when looking at your website as a means of generating paying customer. For one, you need to pay attention to your call to action or a similar function, provided you remembered to add one. Next, the appearance might be the reason why your customers do not feel comfortable on your site. You can try and upgrade the graphics, add a bit of aesthetic touch or simply hire a professional to get it done for you.
Also, you need to make sure everything in terms of functions and controls has a clear and meaningful purpose. Otherwise, your website will get cluttered with unnecessary buttons that could be replaced with something that is actually meaningful. Your website has to be practical and useful; otherwise people will gravitate towards the sites that are all that yours is not.
Search Engine Optimization might also be the culprit why so few people actually reach your site. After all, how can you expect to have many customers if you barely register in their search engines? If you increase the attention you are getting, there will be more customers reaching your website and thus more sales to be made. It is possible that these customers that never buy anything are simply using your site as a reference to what else is there to see, before returning to the first or second one that their search resulted in.
If that is not the problem either, it could be that something about payment gateways you are using is turning people away. Maybe your site is not as secure as you think, or your safety system looks too suspicious. If it is on par with what your competition is using, then this is probably not the case. Still, this may be the only way to find out.
Finally, you may be a target of a smear campaign, as somebody is flooding blogs and sponsoring negative reviews on your site in order to direct the attention of your would-be buyers elsewhere. Or perhaps some of these complaints are legitimate, and there is some merit behind their claims. Either way, you need to find out what is going on and do something about it.
Regardless of other issues, every CRO has some basic components that we can identify and help you familiarize yourself with.
The first is called the Message. It refers to whatever you are trying to tell your customers using your platform. It consists of virtually everything you have placed on your site as well as the way in which you have presented all those things. The things you said, or things you should have said but didn’t and the way in which you said them. The colors that you chose for your website and even the overall layout all convey a certain message, whether you want them to or not. So with this in mind, you might want to make this message as informative and welcoming as possible. If you send your clients good vibes from the very start, they will respond in kind – at least some of them.
Usefulness is the second major component you need to pay attention to. The ease with which your customers can get things done on your website needs to be better than all the rest. Otherwise, there is no way of stopping your clients from going to a website where they can get things done in a click or two. This means the layout of buttons, controls and functions needs to be user-friendly and intuitive, so that as many people as possible can jump to it and get things done with ease. After that, they just might tell all their friends about it…
The flow is the sequence of actions that needs to be completed in order for your client to have their way with your site. It needs to be short, but not too short. The sequence needs to be linear and easy to navigate. Otherwise, people will get confused and simply give up. The navigation and checkouts also needs to be taken into account.
Finally, there is the important matter of context. This means the overall experience that your customer is going to receive from your website needs to match what they are expecting. From the language selection, to the history of purchases and all other aspects – everything needs to make sense. In fact, any promotions you decide to make will see their rate of success linked to the kind of devices and operating systems your customers are using, the language they speak and other factors that do not seem to directly contribute to anything, but they do.
From the looks of it, Conversion Rate Optimization may not look like much, but it is far more important than you might think. There is more to it than meets the eye. If you do not believe it, feel free to try making it without it and see how far you’ll get. Not very far at all, I’d wager. In any case, this may give you some insight into the mind of the people who actually use your website. Generating traffic is all well and good, but unless some of those people actually stick around and pay for something, this will prove to be a very expensive publicity stunt that may just tip you over the edge of bankruptcy. In order to avoid all of that, perhaps it would be more appropriate to stick to the basics of Conversion Rate Optimization.
This is far from over, mind you, as the number of things we need to cover will only increase as time goes by. So far, we have only covered four major components of the Conversion Rate Optimization, but this does not mean there is not something else to be said on this issue. But this is a topic for another article. For now, remember to rule out any possible reasons why your business is not getting the customers it should be getting.
Make sure it is not about anything you said or did. You’d be surprised how thin-skinned some people are. Also, if your prices are not right, this might put off a lot of people as well. Perhaps they never meant to buy anything on your site and are just browsing or comparing prices. Or there is something about the customers themselves, which is almost never an acceptable answer. Remember that old catchphrase about the customer being right all the time? People did not come up with it for nothing. Or perhaps they did, but it hardly matters. In any event, all you can do is ensure there is absolutely nothing wrong with your website, that all makes sense and hope for the best.
If you were looking for a way to increase your sales performance at little to no extra cost, look no further than Conversion Rate Optimization, or CRO. While it may be science, it is not an exact science, so a lot will actually depend on you, your actions and probably on the type of customers that you attract to your website. Aside from your gut feeling, however, there may need to be other little tricks you can put to good use in order to get the job done. And luckily for you, we are going to deal with them right about… now!
CRO Tips & Tricks
The first thing you need to know is that this is not like Search Engine Optimization, where you tweak your content so that it appears more often in search engines. Here, what you tweak are your decisions regarding your very site. The goal is to convert visitors into customers, and in order to do that you could do a few things, if you haven’t done them already.
For one, if you insist on having your customers sign up and fill out all sorts of forms, the very least you can do is to make them straightforward and limit the scope to bare essentials. I know you need the info, but if a customer needs to write a book every time they need to buy something, a lot of them will be turned off. People usually only go through hassle if they absolutely have to, and there is no rule that states they have to buy from you. So keep that in mind next time you feel like giving them a pop quiz. Try to limit your forms to two or three fields. Of course, this rule does not apply if regulations state the exact data you need to collect. In other words, unless there is a law that states otherwise, don’t get too nosy about your clients. It’s bad for business.
Stand out From the Crowd
Another thing you could do is make your call to action button (or its equivalent) as conspicuous as possible. This does not mean you need to give them an epileptic seizure or anything with flashy signs and fancy colors. In fact, just keep the button where it can be easily spotted and use colors that stand out against the background. That means if the background is white, you make the call to action button black, or if the background is green, you make it red or something like that. And as for its position, the upper left corner of the screen is actually the most prominent position, and not the center. Whatever you do, do not (I repeat do NOT) place it in the lower right section as almost nobody bothers to look there unless they know there is a reason to do so.
Next, you need to get rid of any unsightly distractions like automatic sliders or something like that. This is known to turn people away en masse. The thing that appeals to most visitors is videos. Keep them short, sweet and informative and your customers will love you for it. Of course, this adds a whole new dilemma and another thing that could go wrong if you screw it up, but then again, it is up to you to wage the possible consequences. Videos are nice – they don’t require your clients to read or do any complicated actions. They can simply sit back and watch. So if they are done properly, this should increase your sales by quite a margin. If videos are not feasible, find some nice and appropriate pictures instead. You can even make them interactive if you aim for a particular niche.
We’re not saying to use click bait in the titles, but if you do not make them interesting and engaging, people simply will not bother with them. And we are not just talking about headlines, either. In order to make the sale, you need to convince people that they actually need (or that they might need) your products and services. That way they have to buy, before somebody else snatches the last item on sale. This is why things like “limited series” or “offer expires in xx days” are so popular nowadays. These kinds of messages create a sense of urgency and hurry people into paying for something right now instead of thinking it over. If they have the time to think rationally, they are far less likely to pay for something. They will realize that they do not really need something, or that they can get it cheaper somewhere else or something like that.
From time to time, the landing page on your site gets bogged down and the clients feels the need to contact you for more details or something like that. For this kind of emergency, most businesses leave their contact details in all sorts of places on their site so that wherever you are you can turn to them for some persuasion and sweet talk. If you can afford it, adding a live chat function is arguably the most effective way of accomplishing all of the abovementioned goals.
You are going to need to work a little bit if you want to establish bonds of confidence between your customers and you. If you can squeeze in some favorable testimonials and reviews, by all means do so. Or you can introduce a comment section where people can sing praises of you and your products and services. Make sure you do not make it too apparent, however. Names and pictures are useful, as they will make the “reviewers” look more legitimate. And make sure they look and sound realistic, or else people will be on to you.
While you are at it, try to add some sort of customer loyalty prize system or just some badges or something like that. Even if your client sees some golden symbol next to their name that distinguishes them from other users will make them feel more important and more likely to spend even more money. You’d be surprised how even trivial awards can motivate people under the right circumstances. What they are really after is recognition from other people, and if you give it to them, they will return the favor.
Aside from that, people need to believe their monetary transactions to and from your site are absolutely secure. And not only that, but you could use some extra protection as well, considering all those hackers and criminals out there. This is why adding extra online safety seals can go a long way when it comes to assuring people that you mean business and that your web page is secure. If they do not believe that, they will likely be too scared to enter all their particulars into your forms.
The Bottom Line
By following these simple rules and pointers, your conversion rate is going to skyrocket compared to what it used to be. Especially if you had none of these measures implemented beforehand. But in this case it is wondering how you managed to survive this long in the first place. By ensuring that there is absolutely no hassle and obstacles between your customers and that flashy buy button, you ensure that a lot more people will make their way to your virtual cash register. Of course, you cannot eliminate every single obstacle out there, as there are laws and regulations and stuff. We definitely do not encourage violating any of these in order to make a profit, or for any other purpose. If you do that and get caught, it is on you. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
However, if you had all of these measures in place and your sales have not gone up, then it means there is another type of problem at play here. Make sure to consult the rest of our articles and try to identify it. Maybe your Search Engine Optimization is not what it could be, or your prices are higher than they should be. Or it could be the quality of your goods and services – or somebody is writing bad reviews about you and leaving negative posts in order to kill your business, but who would do such a thing?
In any case, these are some of the most common things that businesses do in order to tilt the sale numbers in their favor. Most of these features can be introduced and implemented with little to no extra costs, but it remains to be seen just how effective they might become in the future. Usually all it takes is to pretty your website up, add a live chat function, some good reviews in the right places, and tweak the interface a little bit. The security and forms should have been taken care of from the very beginning. If you were looking to find out more about collecting data on your customers, however, the next article is more of your thing.
When talking about conversion rate optimization, there is a lot more than just tweaking a number of features on your website and waiting for cash to start rolling in. However, it can save you a pretty penny when it comes to increasing your sales and can up them by as much as 10% under the right circumstances. Of course, it cannot exceed the actual sum that you could potentially make with the kind of website that you own and run. In other words, you and your offer need to be legitimate in order for this thing to work. Also, you need to do as much as possible to try and understand your customers as this is the best way of learning how to manipulate them into buying your stuff. And in order to do that, you are going to have to start gathering some real data.
What we mean by this is that you are going to have to start collecting information and data on certain subjects for later analysis. First of all, you need to figure out which areas you want to focus on, and then to implement one of many ways to gather these data without anyone being aware of it – except for you of course. After that, you will need to analyze this data and draw conclusions of your own. These will depend on parameters that you have selected, but the whole point is to collect the data, analyze it, formulate a hypothesis, change something in order to test it out, and collect new data again. This never-ending process is supposed to help you refine as many ways as possible in which you can improve the earning potential of your website. It will tell you whether your changes have had any effect and if they have which ones and what kind of effect it really is.
How to Collect Data
There are several ways in which you can do this, but the most common one is simply running a survey among your customers. Basically what you need to do is to assemble a questionnaire with whatever questions you find relevant and program your site to ask the visitors to fill it out, if they have the time. The results you get can be submitted relatively easily. If you make it a closed test, i.e. if all they have to do is choose one of the answers you have offered them, they are more likely to participate, but this will have a cost of its own – assuming some of the people actually bother with this kind of survey.
Sure, you’ll get the quantity and the results are going to be a lot easier to quantify and evaluate, but the quality of answers as well as their reliability is going to be seriously lacking in most cases. On the other hand, if you have people type out their impressions in their own words, you can pretty much forget computer analysis of results. Also, the whole quantification process will get really subjective really quick so you better prepare yourself for this. And on top of that, people aren’t always honest or even polite with these things so you can also expect a lot of saucy comments and dishonest opinions as well. And if you were thinking that you would get better answers this way, think again: the reliability is roughly the same, so it actually pays off to offer a bunch of answers and have them click on the appropriate one.
Alternatively, you can call your customers on the phone and ask them yourself, but keep in mind that, while some of them will genuinely appreciate your concern, a lot would actually feel their privacy being breached and this will lose you more than just a few bucks on your phone bill. You will lose customers this way as well, but if this is the price of doing business, you’d be surprised how many business owners are prepared to pay for it.
Run an Interview
If surveys are not your thing or you need lots and lots of data on a limited number of clients, you can try and set up interviews in which you can collect all the data your clients feel like sharing with you. You record your interview and later on you analyze the recordings for useful data. Whether your interview is structured or not, whether you have a plan or just play it by ear, this is a time-consuming but slightly more reliable way of gathering data. However, just like surveys, your customers will know they are being examined, and this will in many ways invalidate the results of your study.
More Ways for Collecting Data
Have you ever heard of heat maps? Basically, they crunch the Big Data in search for the bits that you need, without the explicit knowledge of whoever supplied these data in the first place. Don’t worry about legality or morality for the time being. These will tell you which parts of your website are being used the most and which ones are used the least. Without going into the privacy of individual users, it will tell you which buttons on your website have been clicked on the most and which ones are being ignored.
This may not seem like much, but if you paid for an entire section or a feature that nobody is actually using, it is better to find out before you decide to build up upon it and get more stuff. On the other hand, this will tell you about the more popular features which you can explore even further on your own terms. If a section is not being used as much as you originally planned, replace it with something more practical or have it repositioned or tweaked so that it draws more attention and gets more people to click on it. Keep in mind that this may or may not actually work on the buy button.
Test Your Users
Whether you decide to hire some help to get this done for you, or conduct this research on your own, user testing involves getting actual people to navigate and use your website with the sole purpose of finding out about their experience. While not exactly a foolproof or cheap for that matter, it can tell you about the more problematic aspects of your website, as well as any difficulties that your average online user might experience. I hear there are even companies that specialize in certain groups of users, so if you wanted to find out about a certain demographic, gender or age group and the way they see your website, they might be able to help you out.
If this is too steep for you, you can try one of the workshops where business owners and their customers interact in order to broaden their horizons and reach a better understanding of each other. It works in a way that can get you about the same results as hiring out a group of test subjects, but it is done on a voluntary basis so it should not cost you that much, at least not in terms of money. Who knows, you might even make a friend or two this way. Otherwise, you could learn a thing or two about how to formulate USPs, what the lagging factors are, how to overcome any difficulties etc.
If everything else fails, there are analytics and studies that deal with abandoning forms and understanding all that they entail. This is not exactly a light reading or anything like that, and it may prove quite complicated for most business owners, but if you can wrap your head around running an entire business, you should be able to surpass any expectations you might have had when you started all of this. Remember, you are looking for whatever is turning your customers away, so be thorough and specific.
The Bottom Line
There is a lot to be said about data collection in this day and age. Many of your customers are going to be understandably paranoid regarding their online safety, and any possibility for abuse will be frowned upon to be sure. However, if done in accordance with some basic rules – not to mention common sense – this should result in some usable data that just might tell you what is wrong with your website and why it lacks the profitability of other, more popular competitors.
Of course, analytics is not all-powerful, and a lot depends on you as well, but of all the things that you can actually influence and modify, this has got to be one of the most important ones out there. Whether you are running a survey or an interview, you are going to need some real people skills so as not to turn people away. Paying people to tell you what they think about your website is another way to go about this issue, and a lot more honest one to be certain. However, there are other ways to consider, too.
Collecting data on your customers may seem like an odd thing to do, even in the course of conversion rate optimization. However, this is one of the main ways of understanding them as well as their shopping habits. This is also an ideal way to find out how to tweak all those factors in your favor without alerting any of your customers. If they knew they were being manipulated, this would certainly ruin your profit margin, so keep this to yourself.
How to Understand Your Clients
You thought just because you have the best product and/or service on the market, that this will automatically get you clients? Guess again, buddy. Even if your offer is the best one out there – which we kind of doubt, since the internet is a big place and somebody out there is bound to be better than you, just saying… But even if you are the best, it will count for nothing if people do not believe in you. If they think you are fake, they will not go for your offer, and they will never get wise on the matter!
Meanwhile, they will continue to throw their money at two-bit frauds who can come off more believable than you. For a fraud, even a lucky guess is tantamount to a jackpot, but since you are looking to keep an established business, this simply will not do. In order to increase your persuasive power, you are going to have to find out what your customers really want and give it to them. Or at least make them think that this is what they need and don’t give any refunds afterwards.
Audience is The Key
Think of the customers as your audience and you the performer who needs to put on a show to get them to like him. Performers in this kind of situation typically have to deal with essentially the same problem as you. Their audience is full of people with different backgrounds, some are young, others old, some educated, others not so much, etc. Sometimes they get lucky and their crowd is really favorable and familiar, and sometimes they are downright hostile. The most effective way for performers to relate to their audience is to reach out to them and try to put themselves in the shoes of an average spectator. From then on, you simply communicate your message and hope for the best. Or you can do a little research and make your own luck.
This is a type of communication research that targets a specific group of people in order to draw conclusions based on their interest, common knowledge, what they perceive and so on. The entire purpose is to gain an insight into the audience you wish to get closer to. Now, since this is for business purposes, you might want to differentiate your target audience in terms of specific qualities, such as their income, gender, profession, age and other factors. After locating a suitable audience group, you can finally proceed to analyze them by using one of the standard formats.
You can distribute, conduct and collect results from surveys and questionnaires that can really steer you in the right direction when it comes to assessing your target audience. The main advantage of this method is that it is easy to quantify and analyze its results. In addition, it is relatively inexpensive and can be done in person or online. All you need to do is figure out a set of questions and ask people on your website to fill them out. In the basic data, you should include questions that will enable you to determine their age, gender and other details that will help you sort them out in terms of general categories that you have established.
Also, do not forget to include the actual questions that you want them to answer. When you work with people, the best part is that you can simply ask them to tell you about the problems you and them might be experiencing. Unlike a machine, a human being can simply tell you if something is wrong and maybe even offer an insight into how to deal with the issue. If you don’t feel like going through the hassle, you can always hire an agency to conduct this survey on your behalf.
They typically have templates that can be adjusted and distributed via newspapers, social networks, online tools or simply pass them on to their subcontractors who fill them out willingly for a price. In any case, once the data has been collected, all you need to do is go through the responses and find out what is the prevailing issue and how to fix it. The downside is that it is really easy for people to lie on these and you have no legitimate way of finding out.
Talk to People in Person
If you decide to go for the more personal approach, I guess you can always talk to people in person. Basically, you’d have a set of questions prepped in advance, but instead of your customers filling them out, you interview them and record the answers yourself. It doesn’t have to be face-to-face; you can talk to them over the phone, engage them in online chat and so on. Don’t be afraid to get creative. In fact, you will have to learn to think outside the box on this one, since the answers are not going to be formatted in the way that is easy to interpret or analyze. This means you’ll have to improvise and think on your feet.
Get a Focus Group
This method is best left to professionals. Some researchers can organize a task group of people, ask them questions and have a group discussion in order to get the answers they seek. After everyone has had their say, the researcher can draw the final conclusion and call it a day. If you don’t have the time or the patience for this sort of thing, you can always hire people to do it. Heck, you can even hire researchers to analyze and observe search patterns and behavior of your customers in order to find out what makes them tick. Just don’t forget that this is a very sensitive topic and there are a lot of implications here. Ethical, moral and sometimes even legal, so make sure to cover your bases or things could get dicey.
Contrary to the popular belief, all data are not created equal, no matter what anyone says. You are already segregating customers in categories for easier analysis, so doing the same to the feedback they gave you is simply the next logical step. You see, everyone who comes to your website has their own needs and their own way of looking at things, while your website is supposed to accommodate all of them. Since this is not possible, you’ll have to settle for the most, just like the rest of us. And that means you have to find the lowest common denominator and appeal the heck out of it. Or, you find the lowest common denominators for each of the groups you have identified and appeal to the ones you find the most relevant.
For instance, you can separate regular customers from newcomers. The latter can get a beginner’s guide, while the former can get preferential treatment. In any case, you should not confuse people who do business regularly to the rest, as they have already been swayed. The goal is to retain the existing customers and drawing new ones is an entirely different matter.
You can separate customers in terms of devices they use or the source that got them to your webpage. This is a great way to gauge the effectiveness of any ads and online marketing schemes you have set up. You can determine which ones are actually generating business for you and which ones are essentially dead weight.
Alternatively, simply group them by certain areas. Like, people who are in the same country as you vs. foreigners. Or if your business is based in one town only, link clients to parts of the town they live in. Other methods include linking products and people who usually buy them. Or linking similar and compatible products together. You know that feature that says “People who bought this item also bought…” and then they offer something similar. You can even offer discounts on such items to boost sales.
The bottom line is that there are numerous things you can do in order to try and get close to your customers. The goal is to understand them, but the only reason you want to do this is to find ways to influence them into doing things that favor you. And don’t get into the whole conundrum about ethics; nowadays, almost everyone is doing it. From the mightiest corporations and organizations to lowest business owners. If you are failing to plan, you are actually planning to fail.
Conversion Rate Optimization is important, but it is not a goal in itself. In fact, there are numerous things that can and should be said about setting actual goals FOR your Conversion Rate Optimization, even though it is you that will ultimately have to get down and dirty setting them up and then turning them into reality – hopefully. It all depends on what you mean by success. Conversion Rate Optimization can increase your sale’s performance up to 10% in some cases, but the results can actually vary. Also, even if you do manage to achieve this success rate increase, it will largely depend on what you were hoping for in the first place. If you were going for 1-2%, great but if you wanted to double or triple your customer number, it is way too early to break out the champagne.
Goals, Goals, Goals…
For the purposes of this discussion, a goal is going to be a certain metric that will signify an increase in profit for your business. As for which metric you choose as a referential value, it is up to you entirely. You could decide what counts and what does not on your own. Some business owners count newcomers on their webpage. Others only count new customers who actually signed up after filling out a form. Others still only look at the newly created accounts for reference. App stores usually count and think in terms of downloads, so this could also be your thing, should you choose to make it so. Or you can just use your shopping cart function and count the actual sales.
How to Identify and Set Goals
Since your business is relatively modest at this level, it is fair to assume that you do not have some elaborate, grand scheme that will turn you into a millionaire before you know it. If you do, let it go – it is a pipe dream anyway. You will think of your own long-term scheme, but for now, listen up. Your immediate goals for your Conversion Rate Optimization are a lot more straightforward, and it will depend on the type of business you have set up. For instance, if your business consists of selling stuff online, your goals are going to be the shopping cart, the number of people who actually bought something, the average value of your sales, etc.
This is something you really should have decided on when you were setting up your website. Were you going for leads or cart? Or whatever you have envisioned that will actually result in profit for you and your business. In any case, determining your goals is only half the fun. The other half is basically a trial and error process, as you struggle to achieve these goals. Just make sure to differentiate your business goals from your marketing and CRO goals. They may or may not coincide from time to time.
Macro and Micro Conversions
There is actually one very important distinction between conversions and that is their division into micro and macro conversions. For instance, macro conversions relate to the completion of actual goals, whereas micro conversions only help you get to that point.
Macro conversions refer to the actual purchases that people make, or the number of times a quote was requested. Call now and cart are also important in this regard. Micro conversions, on the other hand, basically generate potential for actual macro conversions. When somebody downloads one of your brochures, for instance – this could signify that they might buy something later on or perhaps not. When they sign up, they do not actually pay you anything and still have no obligation to make a purchase, but it is definitely a step in the right direction. Whenever they go for that feature that lets them know more about the products and services that you have to offer, this may not mean they are ready to buy but they are definitely getting there.
When they like your page on a social network or share it with their friends, this may not get you any money directly, but if a fraction of the people who see it goes to your site and buys something, you will be doing great. The more followers you have on your social platform, the more likely your popularity is to snowball into something more… profitable. These are all micro conversions that can be quite numerous and perhaps lead to some great things. So, you should not ignore them just because they are not profitable on their own. In fact, they are essential if you are trying to establish a brand or something like that.
How to Measure Your Success
Planning is all well and good, but you need to be able to quantify your success, or lack thereof. If you are into B2B, your calls and quotes may serve well for this purpose, but if you are running an online store you are going to need the average value of your sales and this takes crunching some serious numbers. Just don’t forget any side goals you have set on the side. They should count too, if nothing else, to boost your morale.
For this, you need to make a list and set your priorities straight. This means all of your goals need to be completed accordingly in order for them to register as such. After that, make sure to assign a value to each and every one of your goals. Keep in mind that this is a learning process and that you will have to tweak them a bit over time to get the optimal result but the general process is still the same regardless of other issues. If you were looking for an easy way out, Google analytics or some similar service can help you crunch the numbers without resorting to hiring professionals, which could prove a lot more costly.
In fact, this way you can keep tabs even on your individual products and figure out which ones sell best, or which ones can be discontinued due to poor performance – no reason to stock up on those, after all. Just by tracking all these things you can determine your goals for your social media because of how well they interact with this function.
Some of the best indicators for this type of thing are the number of times you got contacted by prospective customers, whether they were indecisive on whether to buy or they were simply in need of assistance. If you have a subscription-based system, then keeping tabs on your subscribers might get you further than you might think. And if you have a demo version of your product, the number of people who tried it out can also prove useful in this regard.
As diverse and unrealistic they may seem, your goals are still there and you still need to accomplish them. In this chapter, we have talked about Conversion Rate Optimization goals, how to determine and quantify them. However, if you were looking for the way to turn them into reality, that is a story for another time. Besides, there is no universal solution for any of this. This means you are going to need to use your head for something besides wearing headphones. In practical terms, these goals can vary quite a bit.
Sure, the bottom line is to increase the number of sales and common logic dictates that everything else should simply take the back seat, but is it really as simple as that? Perhaps you are so close to the bottom that you cannot even struggle to fathom the big picture, but that does not mean that it does not exist, let alone that it does not matter. For the most part, business owners are happy to take whatever extra income they can get and go about their business, but this does not mean that you must be like that as well.
The other side of the coin, however, is that all the other macro and micro conversions (other than the number of actual sales, of course) do not contribute directly to your business, at least not in the way that you would probably want them to. Aside from that, there are plenty of ways to inflate these numbers artificially, without making any real impact on your profit margin. At least not the one you were looking for.
You can get more people to like, share and follow you on social networks, but what does it mean if the number of people who decide to act on it is even smaller than you dared to expect? And besides, are people not getting wiser to these little tips and tricks? They could not possibly work forever. The more selfish people get, the more difficult it will be for business owners to make a living. The competition is not going to get any lighter – in fact, the more difficult things become for them, the more merciless and aggressive they will become in turn –so you need to do what you have to do to survive.
As much as we would all like to believe that Conversion Rate Optimization will improve your sales without fail and that all will be just dandy no matter what you do in the end, there are plenty of things that are wrong about that stance. As optimistic as it might seem, there are simply way too many misconceptions to be simply brushed aside and ignored. This is why we are going to see just what kind of misconceptions there are regarding conversion rate optimization and attempt to set the record straight. And while we are at it, we might broach a few more subjects along the way.
Let’s Bust Some Myths, Shall We?
One of the most popularized myths surrounding Conversion Rate Optimization is that it uses nothing but the best business practices all around. The truth is that there is simply no such thing as a universal set of practices that would work on any business around the world. The underlying principles of determining what is the best course of action for YOUR business are essentially the same, so we were able to describe them in our previous chapters. However, this is still very much a trial and error kind of process. For instance, you can add and tweak a call to action button, but it may or may not yield the desired result. It varies from case to case.
Another myth is that you can replicate any suitable successful business with relative ease. Look, just because you want to be as successful as your larger competitor, this does not mean that you should become like them. Even if you model your website to resemble that of some larger, more established business, conversion rate optimization may not work the same on your website as it would on theirs. If your website is too cluttered and needs to be streamlined for more efficiency – sure, CRO might be the answer. But if your website is just lame, there is nothing we can do about it.
All that matters is the number of sales – this is also a misconception and it is simply not true. This is because the number of visits to your site can also play an important part. The number of recurring visitors is especially important. It tells you how useful your site is, and if you add a few banners or something like that, you could even make some extra money from the ads. Aside from that, there is another thing to be considered and that is customer loyalty. It is something that is highly underestimated in this day and age but pretty important after all is said and done. Lots of recurring visitors will not make your site successful, but you cannot make a successful site without them. Think about it.
Planning Your Conversion Rate Optimization
Before you start any real Conversion Rate Optimization, you need to figure out a few things. One of which is whether you are going to make a Conversion Rate Optimization plan or a Conversion Rate Optimization tactic.
Conversion Rate Optimization tactics are relatively simple and easy to implement. They involve a bunch of generic solutions that are supposed to add a few paying customers to your list without costing you anything in return. Basically, it is a collection of tips and tricks that you implement one at a time and try to figure out which ones work for you and your business and which ones do not. You are not really planning anything as long as you are implementing solutions and playing it by ear. It is perfect for people who have neither the skill nor the patience to study this subject meticulously and just want quick results – no matter how small they might be. As long as they work, even just a little, and do not actually cost you anything, you are set. Another bonus is that here you don’t really have to bother with what’s on your customers’ minds. After all, you do not plan on manipulating them as much as increasing your own performance in an efficient manner.
On the other hand, with a Conversion Rate Optimization plan, you actually have to make the effort and crunch some serious numbers. The solutions and fixes that you will be applying are essentially the same as with the previous option, but you are much more methodical in your approach. First, you collect all the data, then you analyze it, formulate and test your hypothesis and then you apply the solution. Rinse and repeat. This process is a lot more continuous and strategic in nature, so you are going to be a lot more engaged in planning and getting to know your customers. The odds of success are somewhat better here, especially if you know what you are doing, but the process is a lot more engaging this way.
What is the Difference in Real Life?
The difference between the two is the fundamental approach to the same issue that you are experiencing. Tactics are a short-term solution and a cheap fix, whereas plans are a more permanent alternative. Needless to say, tactics are a lot less dependable but plans take a lot more time and resources. This is still an investment, however, and the dividends of making plans come in the form of further knowledge.
OK, Plans are Clearly Better. What Next?
Since Conversion Rate Optimization tactics does not really involve any principle other than randomly implementing solutions until one of them works, there is not much point in discussing this matter further. However, plans are a lot more structured so we are going to deal with all the phases that are involved in this process. Besides, you need to know all these things if you are to be any good at this.
During the initial stage, you are supposed to determine what you are planning to measure and tweak. Basically, it deals with all the factors that are behind your conversion. Let us say that you have chosen the number of positive reviews from your satisfied customers as your metrics. This means your goal is to find a way to increase these as much as possible.
After you have finished picking the metrics that you are going to improve upon and figured out your basic goals, the time has come to get to work. This means you need the right place to start. Also, you might want to keep records of your previous results in order to compare them in the future. You accumulate data and crunch the numbers.
After that, you need to make a hypothesis – not just any hypothesis, mind you, but rather the one you can actually test. In order to do this, you need to identify an existing problem, such as a number of people who are leaving your website in favor of one of your competitors. A simple survey could give you their reasons and tell you which areas you need to improve upon. Alternatively, you can determine which parts of your website draw the most attention and figure out how to make them even better. Try out your solution and observe the results.
Actually, don’t just observe. Also make sure to record them for future study. Always be methodical and accurate. Don’t be afraid to prioritize some aspects over others. Plan out and implement your tests, but do not forget to record every aspect of them. Most tests involve measuring fluctuation in numbers against your normal figures – you know, the ones you measured before you started doing any tests. The difference between the old numbers and the new ones is your result. Congratulations!
If the numbers are positive, move on to the next aspect you wish to improve upon and start testing again. If not, go back to the drawing board and try something new.
Tools for The Job
If you are going to do this for real, you are going to need some real tools to get the job done. For instance, Google Analytics can help you crunch the numbers and keep track of activities on your website on a daily basis. Surveys can also be effective, much like the interviews. Since you are working with people, they could just tell you why they have decided to quit on you. They may even suggest ways in which you can improve your offer – all you need to do is ask them in the right way. A/B testing is great when you need to quickly compare two or more different methods in order to find out which one works better.
Finally, you can simply increase the speed and efficiency of your website or test it out using WebPagetest or some other service of this sort. In any case, these are only some of the ways in which you can improve your website and find out what is broken so that you may hope to fix it one day. The sooner the better, of course, as customers these days are a lot more pampered than they used to be.
There is a lot to be said about experience, and user experience in particular can be quite important for Conversion Rate Optimization. In fact, generating positive experience for your users is a must if you aim to improve your sales. The better you want your sales numbers to get, the better user experience you will have to provide. If they can get the job done within two or three clicks, you can count your user experience to be quite satisfactory. On the other hand, if they have to wander your site in search for the right button, they will simply move on. Blame the internet and the convenience of online shopping if you must, but those are the terms of doing business nowadays.
You may not have noticed this, but most websites have the structure of a funnel, whereas you are given lots of opportunities but it all ends in the same place – in this case, the buy button. These funnels consist of a number of steps a user has to make in order to make a purchase. They are measured from landing on your website to finally confirming the transaction.
Typically, an online store would welcome you to their home page, offer you a page with various product categories, then the page where you can find the actual product that you’d like to buy, then the shopping cart and finally the money transaction page. This is where most of the relevant data for funnel optimization comes from.
For instance, if the home page has 90,000 hits, the product category page has 55,000, a product page has 15,000 and cart and payment have 4,500 and 4,000 hits each, this would indicate a very high exit rate for this page. This is because out of 90,000 people only 4,000 have actually made the purchase. By simply comparing these numbers, you will find where the biggest problem lies. Of course, some people are meant to quit, either because they realized they could not afford to make a purchase or that they did not intend to come to this page and leave midway, but here we have a sharp decline between the categories and products section. This would indicate that the selection is not big enough or that categories need to change.
In this particular case, it is easy to identify which page is the problematic one, but you would still need to figure out what is turning people off with it. Is it the design? Something you said? Maybe some products have not been properly catalogued? Or this page lacks some serious content. If the sharp drop was between the product page and the shopping cart, we could assume that either there is something wrong with our shopping cart or that people are not satisfied with what they found on the product page.
Maybe there is something wrong with the payment methods? Or the price of items was too steep? The design needs to improve? Can they even find the cart button? Luckily, a simple survey may easily fix your problems in this regard. Or you can usually just figure it out by yourself since a drop in numbers that is this evident is bound to stem from something serious.
So, simply by optimizing the funnel, the user experience will become much more streamlined and there will be a lot more satisfied customers. Keep in mind, though, that a lot of people are meant to quit along the line, for various reasons. There is no way that every single person that lands on your home page will make the purchase. However, vague clicks, bad navigation, pages that take too long to load and many other factors can really do a number on your bottom line. It really pays off to get these sorted out as they could lose you quite a few customers. Also do what you can to alleviate any suspicion or indecisiveness on behalf of your clients. The whole process needs to start from your landing page and last all the way to the end.
Let’s talk about landing pages for the time being. In case you did not know, a landing page is the first page that a visitor sees when he or she reaches your website. Whenever they click on an ad that you placed, it will lead them straight to this page, so keep in mind that the first impression of you and your business is riding on getting this part right. This is why many businesses take this matter very seriously and invest a lot of money into their landing page in order to get as many people as they can to stick around. This is where you initially engage your clients for some conversion down the line.
Keep in mind, though, that landing page is not the same as the homepage of your site. The latter is meant to give the outline of your business offer, so it will be full of all sorts of things and links that are supposed to lead them through to your internal pages. This would be like the main intersection of a small town, from where you can get in any part that you so desire quickly and efficiently. The entire purpose of a landing page is to greet customers to your website and make them feel comfortable and secure.
Usually they are segregated into two broad categories. There are landing pages that are meant for lead generation and those that are of a click through variety. The former live up to their name by leading you to the lead form which you need to fill out in order to get to the home page. But since you are more interested in running a business, perhaps it is not wise to have your customers fill out a form every time they want to log onto your site. For this purpose you might want to opt for a click through page. When using this variety, a user has to manually complete the payment page where they end up directly after finding the right product or service.
Why do I Need a Landing Page?
That is a legitimate question. Picture, if you will, an average user. You want to convert them right away, but you know that they are not idiots and will likely browse other sites before returning to your own. This is where landing pages come in. If you are going to lead them onto the rest of your website, you are going to need some of his or her details. From there on, you can target them for a marketing campaign – I mean email, brochures, deal offers and other things. Just by having several different landing pages can increase your sales as much as 50%.
How to Create a Landing Page?
The most important thing you need to consider when planning your future landing page is the customer’s frame of mind. Try to think like them. Ask yourself: “If I were a client, what would get me to keep browsing?” and then make it happen. Unless you are really weird or something like that. Then it is best to leave this to someone else besides you. Make sure to eliminate any unnecessary steps that would hassle your customers and reduce the necessary ones to bare minimum. Here are some things you might want to consider.
For one, you should keep all the important buttons close to the customers’ field of vision. If they need to scroll up or down in order to find your action buttons, this may turn them off. If you can get a floating version to follow them around as they browse or something like that, that would be great. If you can include images and videos, don’t be afraid to do so. Just remember to keep things neat and orderly. Chaos turns most people away.
If there are any special promotions and offers, lump them in as well. If you can, try to add a testimonial or a fancy quote from someone important in order to make your site look more presentable. As long as what they have to say is relevant in some way, of course. And of course, if you have any third-party endorsements, this is where you point them out. Any seal from a trusted brand can only boost your credibility.
Also, don’t forget to optimize your landing page, as SEO comes into some serious play here. If you can, include some improvements over your competitors and their landing pages. You can easily do a little background check and top the most of them. Call to action in the right spot and you have yourself a winner!
Things to Avoid
There is also a big list of mistakes that you really don’t want to be caught doing, like lying to your customers, which can really sting. Or involving fancy buttons and forms that lead to nowhere. Or harassing people with pop-ups of any and all kinds. No pop-ups, seriously. And no automatic music in the background either.
Conversion Rate Optimization is one thing, but you cannot do that if everyone keeps bouncing off your website. Let’s face it: we’ve all had visitors leave for good, apparently for no obvious reason. Can’t convert them if they aren’t there, right? This brings us to the next part of our discussion, and this one deal with how to reduce the number of people who flee from your website. You may think this is normal, but it is not – not for a successful business, anyway.
This metric stands for all those visitors that fail to get past the first few web pages of your site. They land on your website, browse for a few seconds or maybe even minutes and leave for no apparent reason. Well, some people really do such things, but if this happens to you a lot, perhaps you have more of a problem than you might realize. If you want to get all technical and stuff, a bounce is when they hit the back button on your website, enter a different URL and switch to it, close the tab where your website is, etc. They may even click on a different link or something like that. But in order to get to the bottom of this, first you need to understand why people do such things.
High Bounce Rate is Bad?
The reasons why your bounce rate is high may vary greatly. For one, your website may only consist of a single page. This would technically mean that all or almost every visitor bounces on you by default. Or perhaps your page takes far too long to load and people simply lose patience, think it is bugged or full of malware or something like that and they leave. On average, few people stick around for more than 4 seconds per page – if it does not load within four seconds, they get agitated and will move when their patience runs out.
Perhaps they got sick and tired of all those banners and pop-ups you decided to introduce all on your own. You thought that it was a good idea, but guess again. Just because your site is popular with advertisers does not make it credible – not when it comes to your audience. The same goes for your content. Just because you think it is so important that does not make it true. If the people who opt to visit your website do not find what they are looking for in a matter of a few seconds, they tend to quit. They also do this if you look unprofessional, with poor grammar or if you use difficult words.
Statistically speaking, filling out paperwork is about as interesting as watching paint dry. Well, not exactly – the latter does not actually have you do anything so it is slightly less bothersome. The more paperwork i.e. forms your users have to fill out, and the longer they are, the more likely they are to give up and move on. Of course, a lot of other factors play out here, like individual character or how badly they want what you have to offer. However, unless you have like a monopoly or something, this will likely never apply to you so limit that paperwork, will you?
And finally, if your page is all messy and it is hard to get around on, who in their right mind is going to spend any time on it? Especially if they think there are other pages on other websites that can get the job done just as efficiently if not more so.
How to Lower Bounce Rate?
If you have abandonment issues that you want resolved via your website, there is only so much you can do. Luckily, there are ways in which your situation can be improved so bear with me – and keep in mind that these require continuous effort on your part; they are not just one-time things.
For one, you need to keep your expectations firmly grounded in real life. This means you should not expect like a 90% reduction in your bounce rates or anything like that. In fact, it is perfectly normal to have a certain bounce rate, depending on the type of website that you are running. For instance, if you run a blog or a dedicated landing page, then 70-90% bounce rates are to be expected. This is normal for that type of websites. However, if you have an online store or provide some kind of service, anything over 30-40% bounce rate is simply not acceptable.
Now, if people want to leave their site, this is their choice and you don’t really have the right to force them to stay. It is illegal, immoral and just plain wrong. However, your overall bounce rate can be improved with something as simple as some carefully selected keywords. Sure, using bombastic titles and stuff will generate a lot of traffic, but in your case it will be more of a hit and run type of situation. People will come, realize you’ve duped them and you’ll never see them again. Now, if you run a blog or something, this is perfectly acceptable. But for an online business like a retail store or a service provider, this is tantamount to a suicide. So keep your stuff relevant and on point.
Also, make sure you have different landing pages tweaked for specific keywords and appealing meta descriptions. This way, you will draw in more clients and more of them will decide to stick around, rather than just take the lazy approach and try with “one page fits none” approach and see where it gets you. This way, not only are you going to keep people from leaving, but you may even draw more customers than you normally would.
It is really important to look and be professional. This means your text has to be readable and grammatically correct or people will be turned away by it. Use the appropriate styles, headings and subheadings and don’t goof around too much. Being highly organized is also a large part of this game. This means that your website needs to be a real breeze to get around on. If you really need all those call to action buttons, at least you can spread them out a bit so as not to overwhelm your customers. You’d be surprised how many people bounce because of this particular issue.
However, this number is nowhere near the number of people who simply quit because of the time it takes to load a page on your website. Remember, the more content you put on your pages, the more it’ll take to load them. That fancy multimedia content that loads by itself may seem like a really good idea until you realize people are bouncing on you because your web pages cannot load in under 4 seconds each. If you must display all this fancy imagery and content, why don’t you simplify things and add links to separate pages with said content – even someone else’s. That way, even if the audience quits, it will not affect your bounce rates, but someone else’s.
And absolutely the most important thing is to avoid those annoying pop ups that plague websites of all kinds. I realize it can be tricky making ends meet and that extra income from ads may seem appealing, but is it really worth losing customers over? Surely there are better and more efficient ways to make a buck than that.
Finally, we are going to talk a bit about exit rate and how to keep it to a minimum. Basically, your exit rate comprises of all the people that left your website on a particular page. So each of your pages has its own exit rate and this can be used as a metrics that can be improved upon. This may or may not be the same page they landed on.
Now, the quickest and easiest way to analyze your exit rate is via your funnels. Remember those? If not, look it up, because I do not have the time to revisit this issue. In any case, by keeping a track on this factor, you may find out how to improve your conversion rate. And when you are done optimizing traffic, perhaps you will have the time for your website as well.
This does not mean you should do nothing about this issue. For one, you can create a little exit survey to ask people to find out what made them leave. Now, let’s be realistic: 99% of the people will not bother answering this as they are already fed up and just want to leave, but those who do may provide at least some insight into the matter. Some studies suggest this can save you as much as 15% of visitors – especially if you throw them a one-time special offer in your exit survey… Sure, it may be tantamount to bribery, but you won’t get arrested or anything like that.
In case you failed to notice, Conversion Rate Optimization is really a matter of trial and error. This means a lot of testing and a lot of optimization. Last time around, we talked about funnels and how you can use these to detect where you are doing something wrong, but the only way to correct this issue is to test out a solution, apply it and hope it works. Alternatively, just go for another solution when the previous one fails. Rinse and repeat.
First Things First
Before testing and optimization can commence, you need to figure out which parts of your website you need to test as well as which goals should have the priority. Optimization comes after that. Basically, as you do your testing, try to put yourself in your customers’ shoes and think like they do. You are going to need all the information you can get for this, so don’t get stingy. And don’t forget your KPIs as well as objectives.
Of course, you cannot test all aspects of your website at once. I mean you can, but the results will be useless. Also, keep in mind that there is no way that you can collect all the relevant data possible; there will be gaps no matter what you do, so you’ll just have to learn to deal with them.
First and foremost, let us get on the same page on how funnels work. There are three clear-cut stages where the customer is being persuaded, informed and converted and we are going to describe them all.
The first one up is the persuasion stage, which usually happens immediately after your customer arrives to your site. This could happen at the landing page or it could be any other page that you want. The overall goal is to make your customers feel welcome and at ease. They need to believe they have come to the right place. Otherwise, they are going to bounce and you do not want that to happen. Basically, he or she needs to believe that you have everything and anything that they want. If you manage to do this, almost half of your work is already done. This is the goal of any optimization you do to this stage.
The second stage begins when your customer becomes curious about your offer. Once you have piqued their interest, you are going to have to make the sale. This is where all your persuasiveness and suave manners come into play, if you’ve got them, of course. Or if you have a retail store or something like that, make sure your descriptions are on point and that your customer service employees are doing their job right, so optimization should not be too difficult here.
Finally, the last and the least of all the stages is the transactional one. This one happens after your customer has been successfully converted and all you need to do is seal the deal. The reason this stage is relevant is that you would not believe how many businesses screw up at this last stage because everyone takes it for granted that the customer is in the bag. In order to optimize this stage, you need to cut as many corners as you can, without jeopardizing safety of your data and your clients’ funds. This means removing unnecessary steps or introducing the necessary ones, removing anything that might cause anxiety or distress and simply making this stage as painless as it can be.
It does not really matter which one of these you optimize first, as long as you do it right. The selection of means in which this can be achieved is also entirely up to you. Just remember not to test them all at once. One at the time will do.
Perhaps the most important pages for prioritization are the potential pages. Why prioritize? Prioritizing is important, as you cannot improve all the pages at once, at least not effectively. And besides, your resources are also limited. This is why potential pages need to be prioritized and separated, too. In order to do this, you can use your own best judgment, or you can include some analytics, statistical data etc.
If there is a major concern for your company, this is the one you tackle first. You need to trace the source of the problem and fix it, but this will go a lot easier if you focus on problem indicators, such as a high exit rate. Luckily, there are plenty of programs out there that can analyze your data and figure out your problems with relative ease.
Once you have all the data you could accumulate and you found out what is wrong with your CRO, you can start thinking about solutions. The trick is to take something negative and turn it around into a positive thing, or fix it somehow. You formulate a hypothesis and a bunch of ‘what if’ scenarios and plan out how to implement them. However, as you do this, make sure you know at all times what the real problem, what the ultimate outcome that you desire is and the goal that you are trying to accomplish with this specific alteration.
The reason why having a good hypothesis is important is because this is what gives meaning and purpose to your actions. Otherwise, your efforts are being wasted randomly. Once you test out your hypothesis, you can figure out if the results are satisfactory or not. Keep in mind that the questions that you are trying to find answers for need to be clearly specified. Also, your hypothesis needs to come in the form of a statement that is clear and legible. In fact, everything must be clear, there can be no misconceptions in this regard.
The three most important aspects to every hypothesis are the problem it is trying to fix, the would-be solution and the result that you expect to see. Do not let these get in the way of reality, however. You need to see and measure the results objectively if this is to have any legitimate purpose. And do not give up.
Types of Tests
There are several different types of tests that you could run on your website, but each has its own purpose and may or may not be what you had in mind for your website.
First up, there is so-called A/B testing, where you test two or more variables simultaneously in search of the one that performs the best. This would amount to having visitors try out two versions of your page and you get to use the one they like the best. This type of test can be used on almost any aspect of your website and it can really boost your CRO.
MVT testing, on the other hand, is used on combinations of factors in order to determine which bunch of variables gives the best result. This is done on the same webpage, so it is not as troublesome as A/B testing in this regard. However, this is useful in finding out how different elements interact with each other as well as the experience of your visitors.
Split path testing involves different paths with more than one page and the goal is to find out which sequence of pages gives the best result. This is great if you want to deal with stoppages in your funnels, but works best with linear sites only. If your navigation is more complex, this may prove counterproductive.
Site-wide tests are a relatively new thing, and they deal with the entire website, like the layout and the overall design. Most commonly, people use this kind of tests on product description pages as this is where they do their magic most efficiently. The best part is that you don’t have to sacrifice your site’s efficiency on this type of tests as they can be done relatively easily.
Regardless of which type of tests you decide to conduct, you will need the right tools for the job. They come in various shapes and forms; some are free while others will cost you. The ultimate choice is up to you, however. Nobody else has the right to make that call.
Hopefully this series on Conversation Rate Optimization has helped you in your endeavors and now you are able to resolve all of the problems that you are facing when it comes to your beloved website.