Conversion rate optimization is quickly gaining popularity in the digital landscape because it is a data-driven method for increasing profits without investing more in advertising. This method provides excellent opportunities for large and small businesses alike to optimize their websites and convert more visitors into customers or subscribers.
The following guide will walk you through the basics of conversion rate optimization, from why it matters, to the best strategies and practices. Before we delve into the details of CRO, let us quickly define the term.
What is Conversion Rate Optimization?
CRO refers to the practice of using customer feedback and analytics data to improve the performance of a website using key performance indicators (KPIs). At its most fundamental level, conversion rate optimization means monitoring a customer’s journey on your site, from the moment they land, and figuring out what they are looking for. At a more advanced level, CRO means relocating or removing unnecessary or time-consuming steps that are negatively affecting your sales funnel.
Below is another all-encompassing definition by WordStream:
“Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the process of optimizing your sponsored search ads, landing pages, and overall website design to raise your conversion rate. In other words, the goal is for the highest possible percentage of visitors to your site to convert, or complete your desired action.” – Source: WordStream Blog
Why Should I Care About Conversion Rate Optimization?
Conversion rate optimization is crucial for several reasons. The first, and undoubtedly most important one, is that it allows you to make the most of paid traffic & marketing efforts without increasing your advertising budget. CRO will allow you to convert visitors that you are already attracting, instead of attracting new ones.
Here are a few other reasons why you should care about conversion rate optimization:
- Improved conversion rates = better return on investment (ROI).
- Better user-experience.
- Cost-effective solution for small businesses.
Conversion rate formula: number of visitors / number of conversions = conversion rate.
For example, an eCommerce site with 20,000 visitors and 400 check-outs will have a conversion rate of 2%.
Important note: Blindly optimizing conversion rates based on generic strategies might not work for your campaign. You have to understand your visitors’ pain-points, desires, and needs in order to acquire customers that will love and spread the word about your brand. Otherwise, CRO is a waste of valuable time and resources.
Key Conversion Rate Optimization Terms:
- A/B or Split Testing: represents the process of testing various website elements, such as call-to-action buttons, against each other to measure their effectiveness.
- Conversion Funnel, also referred to as the ‘customer’s journey’, is the primary flow of the user experience, from the entrance point to acquisition. Example of funnel: Homepage > Blog > Online Resource > Subscribe.
- Call-to-Action (CTA): a button, link, or interface element that asks the user to take an action which results in a conversion. An example of call-to-action: “buy now”, “subscribe today”, “add to cart”.
- Multivariate Testing (MVT): refers to the testing of multiple variations of page elements, in different combinations, with the ultimate goal of determining top performing combinations.
1. Landing Page Optimization
A visitor’s first impression of your site is based on his/her experience with your landing page. A quick Google search for “landing page optimization tips” will reveal a plethora of contrasting “rules”. Remember, strategies that work for some websites might not produce the same results for you. That is why you have to analyze your data and build your own plan to optimize these pages for conversion.
Before you do this, you should consider several page elements that all successful landing pages have in common. These elements are important because they communicate critical information to users:
- THE HEADLINE is the most important element of the page. As is the case with news-papers and articles, the goal of the headline is to attract the visitor’s attention and to persuade him to read the next line.
- THE HERO IMAGE should work together with the headline to reinforce the value proposition and draw visitors further in. The hero image is the primary creative element of the landing page.
- PROOF POINTS. Clients don’t care about features or services. They care about With the help of proof points, you can articulate the promise you made in the headline.
- The CALL-TO-ACTION varies from one landing page to the other. It can be a form that collects data or a button. A rule of thumb would be to use a maximum of 2-3 call-to-actions on one landing page, so as not to lose a visitor’s attention. The call-to-action should appear once, above the fold, and be repeated at the end of the page.
- SOCIAL PROOF, such as testimonials or reviews, validate your product or service.
- THIRD-PARTY ENDORSEMENT can be used to create confidence. Leverage connections you have with recognizable brands to earn the trust of your audience.
Long-form v Short-form Landing Pages
There has been a lot of heated debate on the topic of long-form and short-form landing pages. Some say rich media is the secret to good conversions while others believe that short, minimal landing pages that quickly respond to the needs of visitors sell better.
Both forms of landing pages work. However, I have found that long-form landing pages are generally more successful for new companies that are trying to build trust while short-form landing pages are effective for products that are easy to understand, or established brands.
2. User Experience & Funnel Optimization
User experience refers to the totality of experiences that visitors have on your site. UX goes beyond visitor appeal. It is also related to site navigability, speed, and ease of use. User-experience also applies to funnel optimization.
As part of your funnel optimization efforts you should focus on two main UX aspects: 1. reducing friction (e.g. slow page loads, false starts, excess content, wasted clicks, etc.), and 2. Reducing cognitive overhead (e.g. elements that make visitors doubt their decision to convert).
You can optimize your funnel by answering a series of questions:
- What type of visitor am I targeting?
- What problem am I trying to solve for my visitor?
- How do I relate to my user’s pain points and desires?
- Will my message resonate with the user?
- How can I clearly articulate a solution?
3. How to Run & Interpret A/B Tests
A/B tests are extremely important for conversion rate optimization. For split tests to be successful, you have to be methodical. Here are a few points to consider when you put together your test:
- Start small. Focus on simple elements that will have a real impact on your conversion rates (e.g. CTA buttons, images, etc.).
- Be creative.
- Ask for a second opinion.
- Model your results and measure their impact.
- Look for benchmarks for companies in your industry.
- Decide on a sample size and stick to it.
- Start testing, be patient, and interpret your compare your results to your initial baseline. If the test was a success, implement the change immediately. If it wasn’t a success, don’t get discouraged. Conduct more A/B tests to discover the underlying problem.
“You should think of conversion rate optimization as an ongoing process, not as an end goal.”
4. Eliminate or Optimize Cheesy Stock Photos
Nothing screams ‘fake’ quite like stock photography used for about us pages or live-chat icons. If you really want to earn the trust of your audience, you have to keep it real. Remember, the purpose of a landing page isn’t necessarily to look pretty, but to achieve certain business goals.
Familiarity breeds conversion. People want to deal with real humans, not phony models that pose for stock photography sites. So, even if your customer representative isn’t the prettiest of the bunch, you’re better off using his/her pic than a stock photo that thousands of people are plastering all over their sites.
If you really want to use stock photography on your site, you should at least try to make them look less ‘stocky’. You can do this by editing & cropping an image, adding filters or interesting text.
5. Place CTAs Above the Fold (Most of the Time)
Image Source: EcoConsultancy
Unbounce tested the performance of its call-to-action by placing it above the fold, at the bottom of the page, below the fold using direction cues, and in a minefield of clutter. The result? The call-to-action placed above the fold, unsurprisingly, performed a lot better than the others.
For this type of placement, Oli suggests using the 5-point punch, which consists of a powerful headline, complimentary sub-header, a brief benefit statement, call-to-action, and urgency statement. He also mentioned that you shouldn’t be afraid of placing your CTA below the fold and to experiment with different placements.
Case Study: Where’s the Best Place to Put your CTA, Unbounce
6. Use ‘Magical’ Words
Words can change the meaning, mood, and motivation of readers. When you’re trying to persuade people to take action, you always have to give them a reason to do so.
You should never underestimate the impact of power words. For example, the word ‘free’ can increase your conversion rates tenfold when placed strategically. This word, alone, has contributed to the conversion rate of innumerable websites.
Best of all? It takes less than two minutes to include power words in your page’s copy. Take a look at Buffer’s list of 189 Powerful Words that Convert for inspiration. According to this article, the five most persuasive words in the English language are you, free, because, instantly, and new.
7. Add “Real” Testimonials or Videos
When I say ‘real’ testimonials I’m not referring to this:
“Heyyy! I love your product! It’s so cool. – Eliza, USA”
I have stumbled upon hundreds of sites that use fake testimonials, just like the one above, to ‘boost’ the credibility of their site. Most of these companies fail to understand that real testimonials should include pictures of customers, full names, link to their social profiles, and other elements that instill trust.
Image Source: DesignFinder.net
The best testimonials are the ones that tell the story for you. They should come from people who have experienced your service or product and wholeheartedly recommend it. If you can’t provide a real testimonial, you’re better off without it.
8. Add Security Seals & Trust Badges
Displaying security seals and trust badges can lead to huge increases in conversions. Trust badges are particularly effective or links to review sites, such as Glassdoor or Yelp, can also help with word-of-mouth advertising and validate your products to new users.
9. Use Personalized Pop-up Forms
I’ve never been a huge fan of pop-up forms, but I have to admit that they can work. Snap Deal uses witty & user-friendly pop-ups to great success. As a matter of fact, the company has been able of capturing a huge number of email subscribers with its catchy & genuine copy. Pop-up forms can be used for any type of website, may it be eCommerce, SaaS, or blog.
Pro tip: Pop-up forms are generally used to capture subscribers. This does not immediately result in increased conversions, but it can help you increase customer retention rate and offer you the opportunity to follow-up via email.
10. Use Contrasting Colors for your CTAs
Different CTA button colors | Image courtesy of Vin65.com
Still wondering how to get better conversions? Try experimenting with different CTA colors. We’ve all read the case-studies that say red is the best color for conversion. However, this doesn’t mean that green or blue cannot be used on your landing page. As a matter of fact, the secret to CTA colors is contrast. You have to choose the color that pops up better on your background. Using red against a red background won’t help you one bit.
Another trick would be to go for a color that hasn’t been used anywhere else on the page to make sure that it stands out from other page elements.
Not sure what color to choose? Split test several variations and see which one works best.
Recommended Read: Call to Action Buttons and the Psychology of Color
11. Eliminate Unnecessary Form Fields
Your primary goal should be to make the customer’s journey as simple & enjoyable as possible. One way to do this is by stripping down unnecessary form fields to make their work easier. Ask yourself: do you really need their zip code, company name credit card number, or reconfirmation for the email & password?
A company reduced its form fields from 11 to 4 and saw an increase in conversions by 160%. Why not do the same?
12. Reduce Bounce & Exit Rates
Nothing is more discouraging than seeing visitors leave after less than a minute when you’ve put hours into creating the perfect landing page. Where conversion rate optimization is concerned, number of visitors & number of conversions aren’t the only key metrics. Bounce rate, exit rate, average dwell time, and average page views could indicate problems with your landing page that are preventing users from converting.
High bounce & exit rates are generated by many of factors, including inconsistency between paid ad and landing page, over-optimized pages, and high-trafficked pages. You can keep an eye on your exit & bounce rates using Google Analytics. For more specific information, check the Behavior -> Content -> All Pages.
I hope you enjoyed these conversion rate optimization tips. Eager to find out more about CRO? Learn by example or read some advanced guides. Here are a few useful resources:
– 100 Conversion Optimization Case Studies, by KissMetrics
– The Definitive Guide to Conversion Optimization, by QuickSprout
Image Sources: depositphotos.com.