Every website is different and has unique challenges, needs, and goals. But I would argue there is one thing every single website in the world has in common: Any website can benefit from Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). CRO is the process of systematically testing variations of your web pages, implementing the winners, and repeating on an ongoing basis with the goal of continually improving your site conversion rate. If you're spending marketing budget and resources in SEO, PPC, Social Media, Online Ad Buys or any other form of online marketing, you're wasting money if you're not also actively engaged in improving your conversion rate.
CRO makes everything else you do more effective. It's simple math. Let's compare two websites and their monthly stats:
Website A and B are exactly the same in every way except Website B has a slightly higher conversion rate - just .2% better than Website A. But that tiny increase translated to an extra $20,000 in profit for Website B. If that was Website B's first foray into CRO, you can bet they're going to continue that program and make their marketing ad spend more and more effective month after month after month.
So the impact of CRO is clear. But how do we go about actually doing it? At eBoost Consulting, we've developed a system that works well for us and I'm glad to share it with you.
Before you start testing page variations, you'll want to gather data about your website usage and your users themselves to start drawing some good educated guesses on what may improve your site conversion rate. There are many free ways to gather this data including reviewing your site analytics for pages with high bounce rates, user exit funnels, average time on page etc. You can send customer surveys or use your own internal search and contact/feedback forms to get an idea of what people are looking for but not finding on your website. Ask friends, colleagues, or people off the street to go through your site and try to accomplish a goal. You'll be amazed at the mistakes they make and the areas of your site they stumble on. Also take a look at sites like usertesting.com and crazyegg.com to get even more insight into how your users interact with your site.
Use the data you gathered in Step 1 to make a hypothesis about what you think users need out of your site in order to convert. It may be more credibility (Adding credibility cues like security logos, logos from media placements etc. can help), easier navigation (Are there unnecessary steps or non-intuitive wording/paths through your site that can be simplified?), a simpler conversion process (Are you collecting info you don't really need? Can your process do without some of its steps?) or even testing a completely different design altogether. This is where you put yourself in the shoes of the user and make a good educated guess about what your typical user needs.
Once you have your user's needs down, you'll need to make some specific decisions on exactly what to test. You could create a brand new page that incorporates all the takeaways from the first two steps and do an A/B test against your control page. Or maybe you think adding a customer testimonial to your existing page will supply that extra credibility you need. Maybe you want to test a few different combinations of elements in a Multivariate test. The most important thing here is not to bite off more than you can chew. Make sure you'll be getting enough traffic and conversions to reach statistical significance in a reasonable period of time. The more things you try to test at once, the longer that process will take. For sites with lower traffic numbers, a simple A/B test is the best route to take.
This is where you lean on your designer and developer to bring your ideas to life. Development resources tight? There are tools you can use to design your own test pages with no coding necessary. Take a look at Liveball by ion Interactive. Or for WordPress users, try out Premise. Just make sure you don't design in elements that are going to be impossible from a coding or operations perspective - like adding a Live Chat to your design without actually having someone to monitor it! (No, of course I never did that!)
The best free testing tool out there is Google Website Optimizer (GWO). For the purposes of most CRO tests, GWO is going to give you everything you need. For more complex targeting and demographics-based tests, you can explore paid tools like Adobe Test & Target. GWO is very simple to set up for an A/B test. Just enter the URLs of your Control page, Test page, and Conversion page, add the code to the pages, and set it to run. GWO will even automatically tell you when statistical significance has been reached.
Once you have a statistically significant winner from your test, take that page content and install it on your website. That's your new control page to test against. Don't be frustrated if your control page beats your test page at first. Not every test is going to win - that's why we test in the first place! Just keep testing new pages and page elements and you're going to start seeing results.
Now start back at Step 1 and do it all again. The beauty of this process is that there is always more room to improve. The more you put in and the more tests you run, the more value you're going to get out. You're never done improving your conversion rate until it's 100% - which is of course never going to happen (the best converting sites online get 30%-40% and a basic industry-agnostic average conversion rate is around 2.3%). You can always test new pages of your site and continue extracting those extra percentage points from your winning pages.
So that's it. A simple 7-step process you can implement using nothing but free tools and your own analytical skills and creativity. Systematically applying this process will ensure a conversion rate that is always going up and guarantee that the dollars you spend in marketing are bringing you the highest return on investment possible.
Evan LaGasse, Consultant, eBoost Consulting
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