Conversion optimization is hard just because you never know how this or that form is going to convert. Often learned through failure, CRO is nonetheless exiting.
As business owners and digital marketers, we know the value of high conversion rates. Especially for ecommerce sites, a poor conversion rate is a big red flag that can result in a low ROI, insufficient revenue and a future potential crisis.
This is why every business owner must learn how to optimize their website in order to generate better conversion rates. Here are eight simple steps to help you get started:
1. Adopt a growth optimization mindset
First, it makes sense to clarify what the end goal of conversion optimization is. Perhaps surprisingly, “increasing conversions” is only half of the equation. Focusing on growth and improving marketing strategies is much more important.
Let’s imagine you own an ecommerce store that sells shoes. You currently maintain a conversion rate of five percent; and after you make changes to your homepage, you plan to increase your conversions by another five percent.
But should you use conversion rates as the only benchmark for success?
The answer is no; and here’s why. Suppose you drop the price of your shoes by 20 percent. You’ll probably attract more customers to your site and sell greater quantities of shoes, but you won’t be making much of a profit. In this scenario, you ultimately end up meeting your conversion rate goal, but at the cost of reducing prices and losing out on potential revenue.
Remember: The goal of conversion optimization is to increase revenue and boost the growth of your company simultaneously. Improving conversions by 10 percent matters only when your final revenue also grows by five percent or more.
The overall quality and efficiency of your digital marketing are equally important. As you improve your optimization strategy, remember to:
- collect and analyze data
- create a list of possible weak conversion spots
- hypothesize on every potential issue
- run A/B tests
- list and analyze insights
- seek opportunities for iteration
- implement changes based on your findings
Conversion optimization shouldn’t be based on opinion and certainly not on guesses. To effectively convert your visitors, you must rely on data analysis and constant testing.
2. Research conversions
To conduct a thorough analysis of your conversions, you need data.
Don’t collect data just for the sake of collecting data, though. It doesn’t matter how many files of data you gather, prioritize quality in order to gain actionable data that can be used for testing and improvement.
Here’s how you can collect data to research conversions:
- Test your site from a QA perspective, locating and reporting bugs to your developers
- Check how your site performs in different browsers and devices
- Track and analyze page loading time on desktop and mobile
- Set up or check KPIs in Google Analytics
- List high-priority pages and check them for friction issues
- Sift out pages that lead to traffic leakage
- Analyze site heatmaps and click maps
- Run user testing sessions
- Collect feedback from real customers
Gathering data about conversions is only the first step. Once you have your conversion data, you have to analyze the collected data to draw usable insights.
The ability to analyze data comes with experience. The best way to become an expert data analyst is to simply dive into the data and start practicing with the data you have.
3. Collect and analyze data in Google Analytics
I can’t stress enough how important Google Analytics is to every digital marketer. It is the key to every successful digital marketing strategy.
As a professional marketer, you have to know Google Analytics from inside out. That means understanding how to check traffic sources, the average time on sites and bounce rates isn’t enough.
If you feel that your Google Analytics expertise could use some work, I strongly suggest enrolling in these Google Analytics Academy courses. With Google Analytics, you’ll be able to identify things like:
- User behavior on your site
- Impact of pages, elements and specific features in terms of CTR, traffic and more
- How certain features bring or waste money
Remember: be specific and don’t be fooled by average data points.
Average numbers are like mean temperatures — they tend to be vague and don’t say much about any particular point. You could rely on the average temperature for today to determine how you dress, but the actual temperature could be drastically different.
Instead of looking at averages, look at specific segments of your audience by device, browser, segment and so on. Ratios can be a bit tricky to infer from, so prioritize absolute numbers from which to draw your insights.
Another key point to remember is to track important actions on your site.
You should already know your KPIs and be able to set proper goals in Google Analytics. Using Google Analytics without measuring the KPIs of your site doesn’t make any sense. Just collecting data with no purpose has no value. To track and measure your KPIs and other related goals, you must know how to use Google Tag Manager.
This approach guarantees you are kept in the loop of all business happenings and can fix any problems on your website almost immediately.
4. Gather more data with heat maps
This step is fairly straightforward. The more data you collect and analyze, the higher the chance you will be able to draw insights from it. Heat maps are just perfect for drawing useful insights.
There are two types of heat maps available to marketers:
- Hover maps
- Click maps
Hover maps track a user’s activity when they hover on a page, but these maps can be vague and inaccurate. You never know whether a visitor is actually interested in, say, a service he or she hovers over.
On the other hand, click maps display where users are clicking, making them a useful tool to acquire insights. Specifically, these maps are ideal for locating confusing, non-clickable elements. This could be a part of your website that a user thinks is a link, tries to click on it, but ultimately realizes is not a clickable link.
As a digital marketer, you understand how poor user experience can result in poor engagement. Make sure that you run a detailed website audit and either make a non-clickable element clickable or completely change its design.
To enhance the data you gather from hover/click maps, I recommend utilizing the power of scroll maps and session replays.
Scroll maps are easy to read and understand. Red stands for the areas that are scrolled the most; dark grey stands for areas that are least scrolled. Scroll depth is pretty important, especially if you hypothesize that a page length causes visitors to leave. Locate drop-off areas and figure out how to improve them.
If you truly want to optimize conversions though, I strongly suggest that you start using one of these user session replay tools. User session replays are full of usable detail as they show you how users navigated your site. You can see how they scroll and fill out various forms, what buttons or links they click and other activities they engage in.
5. Survey your customers
Feedback from real visitors and customers is another valuable source of data, but it can also be tricky to collect.
When it comes to feedback, most digital marketers immediately think of the comment section or social media comments. And while these comments do come from customers, they aren’t necessarily useful for conversion optimization purposes.
To collect informative comments, focus on surveying your targeted audience instead. Here’s one way to collect user feedback for website optimization purposes:
- Figure out when it’s the best to survey your customers — when they purchase a product or visit a specific page or simply exit your site
- Design a pop-up window for your survey that isn’t intrusive and visitors can opt out of
- Come up with a list of actionable, specific questions related to your end goal
- Place your individually crafted surveys on specific pages
- Collect and analyze the surveys. Wait until you collect at least 100 answers per page — you don’t want to tweak your site’s design based on scarce data
- Create a table of trends per every page and prioritize certain issues
6. Test conversions with real users
While user session replays are very informative, observing how real users interact with a site is still the most valuable source of information. In user testing sessions, actual people not only use your site but also comment on what they are doing in real time.
How do you organize a user testing session?
- Determine if you are going to hold a session online or offline
- Come up with detailed user testing protocols. Prioritize specific actions and be descriptive about what you want your recruits to do
- Hire recruits. Make sure that you pay your testers — you don’t want free results that are not actionable or misleading
- Collect and analyze user session videos, prioritizing specific issues
The important thing about successful user testing is you have to be specific. Simply asking testers to go through your site is too generic, and you won’t get the results you want. Instead, focus on specific actions like:
- Find and fill out a subscription form on a site’s homepage in five minutes
- Use a site’s search to find and purchase a book by Ernest Hemingway
- Download an ebook from a site’s “Resources” section
7. Run A/B tests
When the data is collected and analyzed, you should then test any assumptions, hypotheses and insights.
Testing is a key element of any conversion optimization process. Even the best professionals who have been in CRO business for years make mistakes, and it doesn’t hurt to double check every element of your strategy twice.
Remember: You don't know and can’t be sure of anything until you test it at least several times.
But if you can’t do A/B testing on your site, sometimes it’s best to just not do it. Poor quality tests can also hurt your business.
Poor quality A/B tests include:
- Tests that are done without a substantial audience(e.g. 10 people use a conversion form differently and you decide to change it)
- Tests that are performed without a developer’s assistance
- Tests with results influenced by random, external factors
- Tests that are run for a limited period of time
There are multiple ways to ruin your A/B testing results, so before you start testing check out this list of tools and tread with caution.
8. Execute what you have learned and test again
At this stage, you should have three lists:
- A list of pages with issues
- A list of prioritized issues
- A list of tests per issue and the ensuing results
So, what’s next?
Analyze what you have learned from your test results and hypothesize and create new tests to try again. As you gather data and make improvements, you should be continually testing to ensure your site is functioning the way you want it to. Patience is key — while you can’t predict how your future customers will act, you can keep testing to ensure your website is the best it can be.
Conversion optimization is by no means easy, and if you really want to master it, you must be ready to learn through failure. Your tests could fail miserably, but don’t let these results discourage you — when it comes to conversion rate optimization, everybody makes mistakes. Practice makes perfect, and with enough experience you will undoubtedly see tangible results
Conversion optimization isn’t about doing what is supposedly the “right way” of doing things. To become a conversion rate optimization professional, you have to come up with your own systematic approach to conversions that is best suited to your needs.
Photo credit: Shutterstock / Tashatuvango