Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the widely used practice of using analytical data to improve specific metrics on your website. Improvement goals for every website will vary considerably but common targets are: obtaining new customers, form registrations and additional downloads.
At its primary level, Conversion Rate Optimization is figuring out what your visitors are hoping to find when they start browsing your website and giving it to them as hassle free as possible. This can be as simple as changing the color scheme of your call to action (CTA) so it’s more eye catching, or, as advanced as multivariate testing several pages, with multiple variables changed on each one.
Conversion Rate Optimization
Thinking about Conversion Rate Optimization should be the forefront consideration when creating content and designing your web page structure. It’s essentially a way of giving you a better return on investment (ROI) for free if you’re paying for traffic. For natural traffic, from search engines and unsponsored social media posts, Conversion Rate Optimization is a way of making sure that as much of that traffic doesn’t go to waste as physically possible.
Another thing to consider is the attention span of the average user. With how readily available high-speed internet is and how good search engines are, it has never been easier to scan through multiple websites to find the information and products you’re looking for within minutes. Having a well thought out CTA is necessary to capture these type of visitors.
Optimizing and conversions
A conversion, as we explained briefly earlier on, is an action performed by a visitor on your web page, that you want them to take. Conversions take on many forms, depending on the type of website involved and your overall goals. These could range from completing a registration form, signing up to a newsletter with their email address, or even making a purchase.
Whatever action you wish to increase will be the one that’s recorded, optimized and continuously tested.
Optimizing your conversion rate is essential for making the most out of the traffic you’ve managed to pull in. As every website is different, there is not a standard procedure that’s followed, as what may work for one site, may have the complete opposite effect on another. This means that you should avoid taking action on guesses and only make specific changes with data accurately recorded.
Gaining low-quality and poorly engaging traffic is not the focus of Conversion Rate Optimization. If your traffic is not even remotely targeted, your results will show very inaccurate data. You may have the best sales pitch in the world, with perfect CTA placement, but if you’ve been wasting your time with untargeted traffic exchanges or ranking for unaffiliated keywords, then you won’t see the conversion rates you deserve.
Concepts and statistics explained
You’ll encounter many different terms and abbreviations once you start getting move involved in your Conversion Rate Optimization. While some are more essential than others, having a basic understanding of them all will be beneficial for yourself and your website.
Call to Action (CTA)
We have spoken about CTA several times already as it’s something most webmasters are aware of, due to it being one of the most basic forms of Conversion Rate Optimization. CTA are usually buttons or hyperlinks that will take the visitor one step closer to a successful conversion. “Download now”, “Add to cart” and “Register” are all standard CTA examples. Banner advertisement options like Google Adsense will also fall under this category.
Split testing is also another relatively straightforward Conversion Rate Optimization practice as there’s only one variable. Testing different colors on CTA buttons and banner advertisement placement are popular choices amongst webmasters. This is achieved by sending traffic to two different pages with one variable element changed to measure which has the better click through rate.
Think of a conversion funnel as a flow chart of steps involved by the visitor, to become a successful conversion. An example of this could be landing page > filling out opt-in email form > targeted email > successful sale.
Multivariate Testing (MVT)
Very similar to split testing, MVT is a way of testing many different variable combinations together, in order to gain as much information as possible, in the quickest amount of time. Testing text and visual elements on a web page together are primary MVT methods.
First, we have basic conversions. This is the number of people who have who have fully completed you desired action. Signing up for your newsletter or completing a purchase, are conversions. Secondly, we have conversion rate. This number is achieved by dividing the number of conversions by the amount of visitors that went to your web page.
For example, if you had 100 visitors to your page and you tracked 5 conversions during that period, your conversion rate would be 5%.
The bounce rate of a website is the number of people who are leaving after just viewing one page. A high bounce rate is a good indicator of having a poorly placed CTA and should be one of the first metrics that’s looked at when organizing your Conversion Rate Optimization.
Similarly to bounce rate, your exit rate is the percentage of people who have left your website on a particular page. This metric can help pinpoint the exact place where your visitors are exiting your website, during your intended conversion funnel.
Average Time On Site
This metric works hand-in-hand with bounce rate, as generally if visitors aren’t spending a long time on your website, it’s likely that you’ll have a very high bounce rate. There can be many reasons for this, although the most likely causes are non-adequate content or a poorly placed CTA.
Average Page Views
The average number of pages your visitors are viewing before leaving your website. This metric can vary massively depending on the type of website you’re running. However, if you aren’t getting conversions and you’re receiving a lot of page views then there’s unmistakably a problem in your conversion funnel.
Conversion optimization tools
When it comes to internet marketing, there are thousands of tools at our disposal, for every type of job available. However, rather than spending our time setting up and using several tools, we’ll just focus on the mandatory ones.
Without measuring your conversions accurately, it will make it tough to pinpoint the exact areas that need improvement. Luckily for us, there are many tools out there for us to use.
One of the most basic, yet essential tools available to us is analytic packages. The most commonly used one being Google Analytics. These tools not only display the basic information that we want, such as bounce rate and time on page but are able to track advanced metrics like conversions and can segment data.
Segmentation allows you to separate your data into different sets, which will allow you to examine your visitor’s behavior in finer detail. The data segmented could be users from different countries or those who landed on different pages initially.
Perhaps you feel that you can’t isolate the problems you’re facing with just statistical numbers alone. User testing tools are a great way of looking at how your visitors are navigating your site and its functionality.
Tools, such as CrazyEgg, will produce multiple heatmaps and scrollmaps to show exactly where your visitors are scrolling to and clicking; or more importantly, where they aren’t.
If you’re looking for a reliable way to perform split and multivariate testing, then Google Content Experiments is the ideal solution. This tool comes with having an Google Analytics account.
Once you’ve created multiple landed pages to be tested, Google Content Experiments will allow you to rotate these pages for a predetermined amount of traffic automatically. Once you’ve gained your data back and can see which landing page drove the most conversions, you can then make only the best converting page live for all users.
Again, there are literally hundreds of different tools available and most of them do pretty similar jobs. If you’ve got a toolset you are comfortable with, there’s no need to go out of your way to change them unnecessarily.
How to identify conversion funnel difficulties
Making a plan – be proactive, not reactive
After establishing where you believe you need to start optimizing, it’s time to decide which path you’re going to take on how to obtain the results you want.
The reactive strategy:
- Testing the most basic of changes, like CTA button color only.
- Following other webmasters optimization plan to see if it’ll work for you.
- You have no forward thought on what you’ll do if you see particular results; you’re hoping for the best and will react accordingly when you get them.
The proactive strategy:
Creating the preliminary work
We’ve spoken about the different types of conversions beforehand, but it’s important that you’re completely confident that you’re analyzing and targeting the correct element when creating your Conversion Rate Optimization strategy. In turn, this will enable you to understand what boosts your conversions.
For example, let’s say you’re running a dog walking business. On your website you have a form that enables your visitors to contact you to schedule a free 1-hour dog walk. Your conversion rate for visitors who fill out the form that turn into long term paying customers is incredibly high, but how do you channel more people into filling out that form? Does having numerous happy customer testimonials help, or is it simply having large, high-quality images around your CTA button. It could be either of those or something entirely different. That’s the conversion that needs to be analyzed, and the only way to do that is to isolate every variable possible.
A simple Conversion Rate Optimization plan for a dog walking business could look like the following:
- Your primary goal is to increase the number of people who fill out your form for a free dog walk. Even though you’re doing this for free, the percentage of those who turn into paying customers is incredibly high.
- You guess that by adding happy customer testimonials will boost confidence in your visitors and will help channel them onto your contact form.
- You decide to create a basic split test, where you’ll have one landing page that has testimonials placed on it, and one that doesn’t have any displayed.
- By measuring the number of consultations (conversions) you receive from each page, you’ll be able to see if your theory was correct.
You’ll continue to do this for every type of variable you think can affect your conversion rate.
Establish your current performance
A suitable conversion plan can only be successful if you have the statistics and metrics to begin with. Only once you confirm your current performance can you accurately measure and gauge any positive or negative changes due to your Conversion Rate Optimization. It won’t be possible to see if your well thought out optimization strategy has been successful unless you have the data to compare your results.
Before you start testing, it’s imperative that you do some of the following:
- Re-establish the goals you set out for yourself during the preliminary planning stages.
- Analyze all of the metrics related to these goals. What’s your current conversion rate and what is your main source of traffic?
- Run a non-intrusive user survey to see whether your visitors are happy with the services you’re currently providing, if applicable.
Designing your tests
After spending time on your preliminary work and establishing your current performance, it’s now time to create your tests. Producing a list of priorities is a good way to start. If you went down the survey route, prioritizing points that came up more often than others would be beneficial, as you’re already using real visitor feedback, rather than guess work.
Attention to detail is essential, so make sure you check your metric numbers again and have them well recorded.
A few things to consider when designing your tests:
- For your initial test, start off by choosing something that isn’t too challenging to change but could give the potential for massive improvements.
- There’s no need to throw yourself in at the deep end; starting with split tests is the best way to start. Once you’ve got a feel for it and can see the results of your actions, it’s then ok to move on to multivariate testing.
- Have someone else look over your site. Sometimes fresh eyes will spot obvious potential problems, which you may have missed. This is especially true if you designed the site yourself.
- Don’t be too eager to push your CTA onto your visitors. It might be worth considering to offer free promotions to gain trust and exposure. This means that when you do want to secure your conversion, it will be laser targeted and likely convert better.
- Try and source comparative data from other businesses in your field; this applies especially to those who run e-commerce and is relatively easy to find.
- Make sure that you double check that your webpage analytical data is being tracked correctly before you start.
We’ll use the dog walking business again, for another example. You’ve noticed that you have a high bounce rate on one of your pages that is somewhat dominated by images of dogs. Most of this traffic has been sourced back to social media sites like Pinterest and other dog-related blogs. These visitors are here because they want to see additional photos of these dogs and are likely unaware of any of your services. You choose to duplicate this page, with the addition of a banner that reads something along the lines of “Do you require dog walking services? Click here to schedule your free dog walk!”.
Once you’ve collected enough data, you can now start comparing it against your original statistics. Depending on whether it was successful or not will dictate how you go on from here.
- If the test was a success then you can now focus on finely tuning and improving your optimization over time, but this will now be the lowest priority as you’ll be focusing on testing other pages primarily.
- If the test wasn’t a success, it isn’t a problem! Go back and go through your original data and come up with a new test. Unsuccessful tests give almost as much valuable information as successful ones.
Always remember that, regardless of the outcome of your initial tests, you should constantly be thinking about optimization as a continuous process. This is because the needs and wants of your visitors may change over time.
Optimizing your channel funnel
When designing and focusing on your end goal, it’s sometimes easy to completely disregard the importance of your visitor’s experience. This doesn’t just refer to the aesthetics of the site but also how easy your site is to navigate, as well as it being optimized for browsing.
The two most important factors to consider when thinking about your channel funnel are:
- Eliminate as much waste as possible. Are people ending up on the wrong page by confusion? Do you have redundant pages that users have to continue through before they have a chance to convert? All of these are something that could potentially make a visitor leave your website prematurely.
- Is there anything on your site that will put your trustworthiness into disrepute? Coming on too strong in your sales pitch and CTA can make your site look like a scam
Using flow diagrams is the best way to plan and visualize how you want your users to navigate your site, to eventually reach the goal of converting. Multiple goals can be planned and tracked at the same time, as someone who ends up subscribing to your email newsletter may have likely taken a different path through your site, compared to someone who ends up converting straight away.
It’s also important to bear in mind that users from different traffic sources will also vary in engagement. Users who have stumbled upon your site due to a well-targeted keyword will certainly have a different user experience, compared to those who followed an email blast or social media post.
Some simple examples of different channel flow starting points:
- From paid advertising, a visitor has reached your site through an advertisement banner.
- A user has clicked on a friend’s social media share
- One of your inner pages has ranked well on search engines and users are clicking it.
- Your website gets featured and spoken about on other blogs and news outlets.
As you can imagine, each one of these visitors will likely have different needs and expectations and will need to be funneled slightly differently.
Like many successful websites, let’s assume one of your main traffic sources is from paid advertising. Due to this traffic not being free, you’ll want to funnel these visitors extra carefully to achieve the best ROI possible.
When creating and designing your advertisements, you should ask yourself a number of these questions:
- What type of person am I trying to target?
- Will they come to my website to seek the answer to a problem, or solely to browse?
- If they are seeking answers, what are they?
- What is the best way to capture their attention?
- Can I relate to the visitor? If so, how?
- How best can I work my CTA, to get the right person to click?
Go over all the data you’ve previously collected via your analytical software and user surveys, if applicable, and confirm that your advertisement has a captivating enough hook for the audience you’re trying to bring in.
Optimizing your landing page
Your landing page is perhaps the most important page on your whole site. A visitor’s first impressions of you as an authority and a business will be decided within seconds of viewing this page. However, don’t get this confused with just those who create a particular one-page purpose-built landing page for paid click campaigns; a landing page is anything that your visitors are viewing first.
Using your analytic statistics, you’ll be able to see what pages your visitors are landing on. You may be surprised to find that pages you have barely put time into, for whatever reason, has gained a lot of natural traffic due to search engine results. In the unfortunate event that this page is not optimized well, this could be wasted traffic and potentially be one of the reasons why your conversion rate is so low.
Key elements for a successful landing page include:
- A captivating headline. How do newspapers gain the attention of people browsing? They all use simple, yet compelling headlines that grab the attention of a potential buyer instantly
- A well-placed image. Ideally, this image should reinforce whatever statement your headline is portraying, which will strengthen trust for the visitors
- An easy to use call to action. Regardless of the type of landing page you’re creating, you want your call to action to be readily accessible and easily seen
- Testimonials and other legitimate social proof can have an amazing effect on a visitor’s thought process. If they trust your business, they won’t hesitate to follow through with a conversion
- Networking with other known companies and blogs in your niche. This then enables you to show off their logo on your site, with their permission. This will add another element of trust to your visitors.
Your landing page copy
The primary goal of your initial landing page text is to make it flow and engage your visitors as much as possible. Think about how many times you’ve landed on a website when browsing the internet, only to end up hitting the back button within seconds. You don’t want your potential clients or customers to do the same to you.
However, engaging your visitors does not mean trying to turn them into a conversion at the quickest opportunity. Delay your sales pitch as long as possible, in order to not put them off. Don’t add too many different options, regarding CTA. If you have multiple “Click here”, “To view more…”, “Sign up today!”, then your visitors may feel overwhelmed and may just leave your site altogether. Having a single CTA also has the benefit of it standing out.
Combatting bounce and exit rates
Studying and understanding your bounce and exit rates is one of the key components when it comes to conversion rate optimization. You may think you have the best website ever created, but for some unknown reason to you, people are leaving far sooner than they should be.
Bounce rate is the number of visitors who are leaving after just viewing a single page, and exit rate is the percentage of people who have left your site on a particular page. Each page will have its own exit rate.
As I’m sure you can guess, if an individual page in your channel funnel has an incredibly high exit rate, then that’s an enormous red flag and should be one of the first things you focus on.
Your website doesn’t look professional. If your site isn’t aesthetically pleasing, chances are your visitors will not be impressed and will just click the back button on their browser. Always strive to create a sleek and attractive website.
Similarly to looking profession, your site may be a nightmare to navigate. Broken hyperlinks or poorly formed navigation structure could be causing your visitors problems.
Perhaps all this traffic you’re receiving is just not your target audience. If your ads aren’t optimized correctly, which includes being written poorly, then you could just not have the right sort of people viewing your landing pages. If that’s the case, then no amount of optimization will help.
Is your call to action too passive? We have spoken about how important it is not to be too aggressive with your call to actions, but if your visitors are having to spend time looking for one, then you’ve made a vital mistake. Examples of this could be a poorly placed shopping cart link or download button.
You’ve now armed yourselves with the tools and methods to understand the impact and importance of conversion rate optimization. It’s paramount that you stay hungry for increased results and that you realize you’re never finished with testing.
Don’t fall into the trap of following Conversion Rate Optimization myths and other businesses’ strategies; what works for them may not work for you. Act accordingly to the data you’ve been presented.
Make sure that you are testing everything possible, just not at the same time. Testing takes time; there is no rush, you’re in this for the long haul.
Best of luck! May your ROI increase and your campaigns be profitable.