If people are flocking to your website but not taking action, it may be time to revisit some conversion rate optimization best practices.
In this article, I’ll go over what it takes to develop and implement a successful conversion rate optimization strategy in 2020.
What We’ll Cover:
- What a conversion is
- How conversion rate is calculated
- What conversion rate optimization (CRO) is
- How start with conversion rate optimization:
- CRO tools
- Time-tested principles of conversion rate optimization
Remember: you want people to not only visit your site but to do something once they get there. That’s why you need to optimize your site for conversions.
Otherwise, your income stream will suffer.
According to a report from Forrester, 90% of firms rated their CRO programs as being “valuable” or “extremely valuable” when it came to helping them achieve their desired business results.
Unfortunately, conversion rate optimization isn’t always easy to distill down to a few quick fixes.
Several components must come together to create a winning strategy that drives conversions.
What Is a Conversion?
For the purposes of digital marketing, conversions happen when your website visitors take the actions you want them to take.
That action could be buying a product, submitting a lead form, signing up for a newsletter, or something else.
Usually, visitors convert by clicking on a button or link. That clickable element is usually called a call to action (CTA) element.
In the case of buying a product, though, visitors usually have to follow a few steps. They’ll have to click the “Buy” button then go through the shopping cart process to complete the transaction.
So here’s the first lesson: some conversions are more complicated than others.
Lesson number 2: generally, we separate conversions into two categories: micro conversions and macro conversions.
Micro conversions are smaller actions taken a long the way to your goal conversions. For example, if someone clicks “shop now” or “learn more” on your website, that would be considered a micro conversion.
How do You Calculate Conversion Rates?
The conversion rate is defined as the percentage of people who convert after visiting a landing page. A higher number is better.
Let’s say you have a landing page that was visited by 100 people. Of those, 7 clicked your CTA button.
That means your conversion rate is 7% (7 / 100).
What’s a good conversion rate? That depends on a number of factors, including your industry and business model.
What Is Conversion Rate Optimization?
Conversion rate optimization is a process that focuses on creating a user experience for your site’s visitors that compels them to take the action you want them to take.
In other words, getting users to convert.
Again, a conversion could mean anything from signing up for an email list, opting into push notifications, making a purchase, or downloading an eBook.
Where SEO is about driving traffic to your site, CRO takes things a step further.
The strategy aims to get the best results from your existing traffic which, when done right, helps boost retention rates, increases referral traffic by way of happy customer advocates, and of course, increases profits.
It’s well-known that CRO strategies include testing elements like CTA buttons, copy, and landing page headlines.
But it’s also important to understand that it also involves many of the same things as a well-planned SEO strategy—engaging content, fast load times, and visually compelling on-site experiences.
When I talk to clients, they often ask: “Where do I start with CRO?”
There’s a lot of moving parts to account for, especially if this is the first time you’re really diving into optimizing for conversions, so I’ll generally recommend starting with the basics. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Why do people visit my site? Are they visiting your site to look for more info? Do they want a question answered? Are they shopping for products?
- What problems do my visitors want to be solved? People who visit your website might be doing so because they’re trying to solve a problem. That problem can be anything from a dry scalp to an inability to manage their business finances.
- What do I want people to do on my site? That’s the most basic question. Also, the answer might vary from page to page. For example, if you have an e-commerce site then you obviously want people to buy products. However, you might also have a newsletter you want people to subscribe to.
The answers to those questions will form the starting point for your conversion rate optimization effort.
These answers get at the idea of intent, a concept that has become increasingly important in digital marketing as Google continues to refine its natural language processing skills in order to surface more relevant SERP results.
For brands, understanding exactly what users want to accomplish while on your website lays the groundwork for you can build the rest of your CRO strategy on.
For example, if you’re running a digital media site like BuzzFeed, you might want people to subscribe to push notifications to drive more traffic to your site.
In that case, you’d promote the “opt-in” as an easy way for people keep up with the latest stories, without having to take that extra step of navigating to the website. You’d also create a big, bright CTA button that reads “Keep Me Informed,” or words to that effect.
Creating Personas for Conversion Rate Optimization
Once you’ve established your goals and what a conversion looks like, you’ll want to create personas that help you understand more about what people want from your business.
What are personas? They’re fictitious representations of real people in your target market.
Take John, for example. John is an entrepreneur who runs a very small business. He has several clients but only a couple of employees. John works long hours and spends way too much time on accounting. He needs an affordable accounting solution that will save him time.
If you run a business that sells accounting software, you’d create several different personas like the one above that represent different segments of your market.
You’d cater to someone like John, who requires his own set of marketing materials, campaigns, and sales funnels, as well as Mary, a CFO for a large company that needs an accounting solution that integrates with a wide range of tools so her team of accountants always has a real-time snapshot of the organization’s financial status.
While John and Mary are two fictitious individuals, their situations, pain points, and desired outcomes should be informed by your actual customers and others that represent your target demographic.
For a deeper dive, I have an entire article on personas that looks at how you can create them using real data as your guide.
What do personas have to do with conversion rate optimization? Everything.
They’re central to personalization—a strategy that has become an essential part of any successful marketing campaign, content strategy, and paid advertising effort.
Think about it: you want your landing page to convince people to take action. You’ll find that it’s much easier to do that if it’s designed for a specific persona rather than applying the same approach to everyone who might possibly be interested in your business.
Much like SEO, CRO is a data-driven game. To understand your personas better, you’ll want to dig deep into your user behavior.
Uncover visitor intent by viewing analytics by audience. Assess how each group moves through your site and which pages resonate most by persona and by stage in the customer journey.
Look for patterns that give you a sense of who wants what at each stage.
Of course, you’ll also need to direct your external marketing efforts to get the right people to each landing page.
Use SEO and SEM to appeal to each persona and direct them to the landing page that will likely lead to a conversion. Ensure that the content, layout, and CTA all appeal to that market segment and test your results as part of an ongoing strategy.
Make CRO About the User Experience
User experience (UX) and CRO are closely related; it doesn’t matter if we’re talking about a single channel or your entire omnichannel strategy.
How to Identify Bottlenecks in Your Conversion Rate Optimization Strategy
Once you’ve got your landing pages established and people are traveling merrily through your site, it’s time to find out where your bottlenecks are.
Sometimes, you need people to go through a process before they finally convert. As I mentioned above, the process to buy a product is typically much more complicated than the process to sign up for a newsletter.
Identify any apparent bottlenecks in the customer journey. That’s where you should focus your optimization efforts next.
For example, let’s say that you’re running an e-commerce site. People are clicking the “Buy” button on your products and getting to the shopping cart. Unfortunately, a large percentage of visitors abandon the shopping cart before going any further.
What’s the problem? It might be that many of your visitors are on a mobile platform and your shopping cart isn’t mobile-friendly. Or maybe your shopping cart is asking for too much information and people don’t feel like completing the form. Or, there may be an issue with slow load times or page security.
Whatever the case, begin by identifying where your bottlenecks are and then finding out why people are bailing at that point.
To gather that info, you’ll likely need to enlist the aid of a tool. One of the easiest ways to do that is to set up funnels in Google Analytics.
You can also use Google Data Studio to create CRO reports.
While Google Analytics is still relevant, Google Data Studio allows users to create custom reports from multiple sources that help you essentially tell a story using data. Here, you can bring in data sources from your Analytics account, Google Search Console, Facebook Insights, YouTube, TV ads, and more.
You can even pull in data from your third-party Facebook Messenger bot and SEO tools like SEMRush—the benefit is, you’ll have all of your customer data in one place and can account for every channel in your strategy.
Collect Feedback to Inform Your Conversion Rate Optimization in 2020
It would be nice if software could tell us everything, but we’re not quite there yet. Maybe by the time we talk CRO 2030 we’ll have those insights available, but in the meantime, you’ll need to conduct surveys to collect feedback.
Reach out to your customers and ask them a few (a very few, if possible) pointed questions about why they picked your product or service and what you could do to improve.
Also, ask questions like: “Was there any information you needed that you couldn’t find on our website?” That’s exactly the kind of feedback that will help you boost your conversion rate.
It’s a good idea to offer an incentive to get people to fill out your survey. Folks generally don’t want to take time out of their schedule to complete a survey if they’re not getting anything in return. Consider incentivizing your audience with a giveaway or a gift card to thank them for their time.
Look for trends after you’ve collected lots of responses. You might uncover some hidden nuggets of wisdom that will tell you how to improve your marketing.
In addition to surveys, you’ll want to use unsolicited feedback to learn more about your audience and their perception of your brand. As a point of reference, unsolicited feedback refers to things like social media posts and reviews that mention your brand.
Where surveys can help you get answers to specific questions, social posts and reviews can reveal brand sentiment and uncover issues in your customer experience you may have never realized on your own.
One of the most important aspects of conversion rate optimization is split testing.
Here’s Rule #1: Never assume you know what’s going to work.
Instead, test everything.
Try different landing page layouts, marketing copy, CTA button color, CTA text, and more. Find out what works best and use that to maximize your conversions.
Start your testing by creating a hypothesis. For example: “If I change the CTA button color from orange to blue, I can increase conversions by .5%.”
Next, determine the sample size you need to create an effective test. That’s an important step often overlooked by digital marketers.
If your sample size is too small, you risk making a decision with incomplete data. If your sample is too large, you might wait longer than necessary to determine the results of your test.
Optimizely has a great sample size calculator that you can use to determine how many people need to go through your test before you can reach a conclusion.
Next, launch your split test (sometimes called an A/B test). To continue with the example above, half of your visitors will see the landing page with the orange CTA button while the other half will see it with the blue CTA button.
You’ll likely need to use a tool to determine which version of the landing page is the “winner.” I list plenty of tools later in this article.
After you have declared a winner, adjust your landing page accordingly.
Once you’ve completed that test and made the necessary changes, you’re still not done. It’s time to come up with another hypothesis and another test.
CRO Tools for Conversion Rate Optimization
As with almost every other aspect of digital marketing, you’ll need to enlist the aid of tools to optimize your conversions. Fortunately, there are plenty of them on the market.
Here are some of the best:
- Google Analytics – One of the best CRO tools is also free. Google Analytics will show you how people are getting to your site and their behavior once they get there. Even better, GA lets you set up goals that can help you track conversions.
- Kissmetrics – Kissmetrics gives you the ability to engage with customers based on their behaviors. It also offers “powerful segmentation and precision targeting all in one place.” If you’re interested in appealing to personas, Kissmetrics is a tool that can help.
- CrazyEgg – “Make your website better. Instantly.” That’s the promise of CrazyEgg, a heatmap tool that shows you where people like to focus their attention on your website. Armed with that kind of info, you know where to put your best marketing text and CTA buttons.
- Qualaroo – Would you like to know what people think about your site? If so, then take a look at Qualaroo. It’s a tool that helps webmasters build, manage, and analyze an actionable insights program.
- UserTesting.com – The unimaginatively named UserTesting.com will help you answer one simple question: Why? Why do people bounce off your site after a few seconds? Why don’t people click your CTA button? If you’re looking for an answer to those kinds of questions, pick up this tool.
- Feng-GUI – Looking for some feedback on your UI? If so, then check out Feng-GUI. It’s a tool that will help you optimize your page layout to maximize conversions.
- Unbounce – If you want to quickly create a great landing page without the aid of a developer, have a look at Unbounce. It will also help you with split-testing.
- Optimizely – “The world’s leading experimentation platform” will give you an exhaustive analysis of all your CRO testing. It’s not a cheap solution, but with a client list that includes Microsoft, IGN, H&R Block, and Blue Apron, you know that you’ll get what you pay for.
- Visual Website Optimizer – An all-in-one platform that not only helps with split-testing but also enables you to conduct visitor research and build an optimization roadmap. Clients include Ubisoft, eBay, and Target.
Follow Time-Tested Principles for Conversion Rate Optimization
It’s always a good idea to follow tried-and-true principles of conversion rate optimization. Here are some that you should keep in mind:
- Use social proof – Include positive customer testimonials on your landing page. Additionally, add case studies, scientific tests, and anything else that will help people understand that you’ve got a reliable product or service.
- Use trust badges – People want to know that their financial transactions will be secure. That’s why you should include trust badges on your website.
- Don’t perform multivariate tests – It’s best just to test one option against another. If you try to test several options at once, you’ll likely end up with a hodgepodge of data that’s difficult to decipher.
- Optimize for revenue, not just conversions – You’re in business to make money, right? It’s not good enough to measure how often people just click a button. You want those people who clicked to follow through so you eventually land more sales.
- Get a professional copywriter – Unless you are a copywriter, it’s probably best not to handle the landing page copy yourself. Instead, outsource that task to a qualified professional who knows how to highlight the features and benefits of your offer in a way that connects with visitors’ emotions.
- Let the data be your guide – Too many marketers rely on gut instinct or their own biased opinions to make decisions about strategy. Instead of following their example, look at what your analytics are telling you. They never lie.
- Review and optimize your analytics – Even your analytics can use a refresh from time to time so you can be sure they are serving your objectives well. In order to gain complete insight into your customer’s journey, review and optimize the data you collect and how you collect it. You may be surprised to find that what worked in 2019 doesn’t offer the same impact in 2020. After all, this year has seen some major shifts with tons of updates to Google Search, Google Ads, and social algorithms
- Wait – CRO, like SEO, is often a game of patience. You have to wait before you check your test results. You have to wait to see how much your recent changes have increased your conversion rate. Be patient and you’ll be rewarded.
- Don’t assume what works for others will work for you – One of your friends might have told you that his conversion rate went up 20% when he changed his CTA button to red instead of blue. Just because that worked for his website doesn’t mean it will work for yours.
- Focus on CTA text – The actual text in your CTA might be as important as the text on the landing page itself. Never use the generic “Submit” text on your CTA button. Instead, try to emphasize how the visitor will benefit by clicking on it. Something like “Yes! I’d like to save money!” is very tempting.
- Make use of images – Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words. In your case, it might be worth a thousand dollars. Use pictures to promote your product or service and see if they improve your conversion rate.
- Remove navigation elements – Don’t make it easy on people to click away from your site. Instead, make your CTA the only clickable element on the page.
- Use multiple CTAs – There’s no rule that says you have to include only one CTA on your landing page. Sprinkle it throughout the page to make it easier for people to convert.
- Realize that less is more when it comes to design – You might think it’s neat to have a lot of technological bells and whistles on your landing page. But do they help increase your conversions? It’s often the case that a simplistic design will more likely get people to click on that CTA.
- Minimize form fields – People generally don’t want to fill out a lot of info. That’s especially true if they’re on a mobile platform where they have to type with that tiny virtual keyboard. Keep the required input to a minimum.
- Anticipate and address objections – Think about the reasons people might decide not to buy your product. Maybe it’s too expensive or too difficult to figure out how to use. Address those objections in the copy on your landing page.
- Focus on one type of conversion per page – Each landing page should have as its focus one and only one CTA. Avoid advertising multiple products or services on the same page. When people are presented with too many options, the overall conversion rate tends to drop.
- Never force users to sign up to buy – There are still some sites that require visitors to create an account before they make a purchase. If you do that, you’ll limit your conversions.
- Learn from competitors – Take a look at some of the landing pages on competing websites. If they’ve used those landing pages for a while, that’s a good indication that they’re getting a decent conversion rate. Consider applying some of the elements of those pages to your own site.
- Eliminate risk – Offer people a 100% money-back guarantee. Give them a free trial without entering a credit card number. Convince people that they’re at no risk of losing money if they don’t like what you’re offering.
- Generate scarcity – Give people a reason to act now by generating some scarcity. Let them know that your offer only lasts for another 24 hours. Tell them that there are only a few items left at the current price. Fear of loss is a powerful motivator.
- Use video – There’s a reason why a lot of the landing pages you’ve visited have a video that auto-plays at the top. It works. Consider putting an explainer video on your landing page to improve your conversion rate.
- Accept multiple payment options – Be sure that you take all the major credit cards and PayPal at a minimum. It’s getting to the point now where you should also accept Google Payments and Apple Pay as well.
- Add Bios and Team Photos to Your Site – People like to know who they’re doing business with. Have professional photos taken of your team, behind-the-scenes operations, and spend some time creating author bios for your content—not only does it help personalize your brand, but it’s also an E-A-T factor.
- Build Trust – Trust is something earned, not given. Gaining trust takes time and dedication. Build a rapport with customers, and potential customers, by engaging with them on social media or through emails and messaging. When they know you are there for them, that trust translates into conversion.
- Reward Customer Loyalty – Rewarding loyalty can go hand in hand with building trust. When your customers feel appreciated, they want to reciprocate their feelings by showing loyalty in return. Customers show their loyalty by continuing to purchase from your business and sharing how great your company is with others. That is HUGE for continued conversions.
- Get Personal – Understanding your customer’s journey and being there for them every step of the way is crucial to conversions.
- Embrace the Bots – In 2020, using chatbots and digital assistants can help you provide a personalized, seamless journey for your customers and can help increase conversions.
Wrapping It Up
In the end, conversion rate optimization in 2020 has a lot in common with the CRO efforts we’ve been using for years. However, new trends, innovative technologies, and higher expectations from both Google and the modern customer are changing the game.
Conversion rate optimization remains critical for driving profits and retaining customers. While the goal of CRO is all about directing traffic toward specific milestones, it’s by creating an engaging, easy experience for customers and building a great brand that moves visitors to take action.