If people are flocking to your website but not taking the action you want them to take then you’re in need of conversion rate optimization.
In this article, I’ll walk you through the steps necessary for successful conversion rate optimization in 2018.
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.
What Is a Conversion?
For the purposes of digital marketing, conversions occur 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.
What Is the Conversion Rate?
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.
In some cases, a tiny conversion rate of 1% might be profitable. If you’re running a cash cow, though, a conversion rate of 50% isn’t out of the ordinary.
What Is Conversion Rate Optimization?
Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is any attempt to get more people to convert on your website.
Sometimes, webmasters try to get more conversions by doing nothing other than changing the color of their CTA button. That can work.
Other times, website owners go through a more exhaustive process: they change the entire layout and content of their landing pages.
On other occasions, marketers will offer an incentive in exchange for conversion. For example, they might offer a free giveaway to people who sign up for a newsletter.
The bottom line: any effort to increase conversions is called conversion rate optimization.
Where to Start With Conversion Rate Optimization
When I talk to clients, they often ask: “Where do I start with CRO?” I tell them it’s a great idea to begin by asking themselves 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 problem do my visitors want 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 ecommerce 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.
For example, if you’re running a viral content site like BuzzFeed, you might want people to sign up for your daily newsletter. In that case, you’d advertise your newsletter as an easy way for people to get all the latest and hottest content without the need to browse all over cyberspace. You’d also create a big, bright CTA button that reads “Keep Me Informed” or words to that effect.
In a nutshell, begin the conversion rate optimization process by giving the people exactly what they want.
Creating Personas for Conversion Rate Optimization
Once you’ve handled the basics, it’s time to move on to more advanced aspects of conversion rate optimization. That starts with creating personas.
What are personas? They’re fictitious representations of real people in your target market.
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. I wrote an entire article on the subject of personas if you’d like to learn more about how to create them.
What do personas have to do with conversion rate optimization? Everything.
Think about it: you want your landing page to convince people to take an action. You’ll find that it’s much easier to do that if it’s designed for a specific persona than if it’s just a generic appeal to the masses.
That’s why you should create a separate landing page for each persona. Ensure that the content, layout, and CTA all appeal to that market segment.
When you create persona-focused landing pages, you’re practicing personalized marketing. That’s going to help your conversion rate.
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.
Checking Your Bottlenecks for Conversion Rate Optimization
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 ecommerce 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.
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.
Conduct Surveys for Conversion Rate Optimization
It would be nice if software could tell us everything, but at this point in time, it can’t. That’s why you need to conduct surveys.
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 tempting them with an Amazon gift card or some other product that will interest people in your target market.
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.
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.
Always look for ways to improve your conversion rate.
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 all by your lonesome. Instead, outsource that task to a qualified professional who will know how to highlight the benefits of your product or service.
- 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.
- 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 awhile, 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 your picture to the page – People like to know who they’re doing business with. Get a professional photo of your pretty face and put it on your landing page. That will help build trust.
Wrapping It Up
Conversion rate optimization is important to ensure maximum profitability for your business. If you haven’t yet optimized your website for conversions, why not get started today?