Conversion Rate Optimization Basics

September 22, 2017

whole brain marketing blog author


Posted by Jonathan Stanis

 Conversation Rate Optimization.jpg

What is Conversion Rate Optimization

What if I told you that there is a way to make your best performing blog posts even better, or that you could generate 50% more leads without producing a new advanced piece of content?

Spoiler alert: There is, and it’s called Conversion Rate Optimization.

In a nutshell, conversion rate optimization is the process of optimizing a landing page or website to make it a more effective conversion tool. What that conversion is can vary, from simply signing up blog subscribers to buying expensive OEM equipment.

Why Conversion Rate Optimization is Important

You probably know that your best customers are your current customers, and it’s far easier to keep a good customer than it is to gain a new one. The same goes for websites: your best pages are going to continue to be your best pages.

Conversion rate optimization leverages those best-performing pages to make them...well, even better. Instead of spending time and resources on a new page that might perform well (and might not), we can put more effort behind an already performing page and see more dramatic results.

There are 3 primary components to CRO:

  • Discovery
  • Experimentation
  • Review

Discovery

The first step in conversion rate optimization is creating a baseline of current analytics. What are your current traffic levels? What channel are your visitors coming from (social, organic, direct, etc...)? What are your most visited pages? To determine current metrics, use tools like Google Analytics. 

You also need to know who your primary buyer personas are and what their objections to purchase might be. This information will help you create hypotheses and experiments to test. For example, if you know your primary persona’s main objection is that they perceive your product to be too expensive, you can build content around the cost in use and ROI to refute those perceptions.  

Hypothesis and Experimentation

The foundation of conversion rate optimization is experimentation. You need to test parts of your website to see how the change affects the number of conversions you get per visit, and to test anything you start with a hypothesis. A hypothesis can be as simple and obvious as, “If we speed up the website’s load time, we’ll get more conversions,” which is always true. It could be something not as obvious, such as, “If we increase the amount of information on the landing page to answer every objection to our product, we’ll increase conversions.” Some experts would say that increasing the page length would decrease the amount of conversions because people get bored, but not according to this post by Jasper Kuria on Moz.com. They massively increased the length of a landing page, which caused a 91% increase in conversions.

Your hypothesis needs to include:

1. What are you testing?

What’s the “thing” you’re going to test that you think will improve conversions? Are you going to test if customer objections are overcome with testimonials? Maybe you’re going to test to see how the wording on your CTA changes its click through rate. Or you could test whether adding a video to a landing page leads to an increase in form conversions. Whatever you’re going to test, make sure you know what success looks like. It’s important to be clear; this will increase the likelihood of getting a clear result.

2. Who are you testing?

Are you testing all website visitors, or are you testing returning visitors? Maybe you’re testing visitors from social media or visitors from organic search. It’s important to understand the specific audience you’re testing because they’ll be interacting with your website with a mindset different from others’ mindsets. For example, if I come to your site because I found it via an organic search for a long tail keyword, I’m very likely to convert. However, if I arrived on your site because I was bored and browsing social media, I’m much less likely to convert.

3. Where are you testing?

Where you’re going to be testing simply means which website, page, or set of pages will you be running the test on.

Conversion rate optimization tests must be run as “A/B” tests. These tests allow you to compare the difference between your control page (“A”) and variations of that control (“B”) to see which performs better. Without the test and the baseline you can’t know if the changes are actually having an impact on conversions. Probably the best known A/B testing software platform is Optimizely, but other platforms can also do the random sampling, including HubSpot Enterprise and Google Optimize.

Reviewing Results

After you’ve performed your testing, it’s time to review results. First, you need to determine if your results were statistically significant; if the A and B results varied only a small amount, the change could simply be random, and not a result of what you changed. If, however, you did managed to produce statically significant results and they were positive, you still have more work to do. Take those results and expand them on to other parts of your website to improve the performance of all pages.

What if your results were not positive? This actually can and should happen – if it doesn’t, you’re not taking enough “educated guesses” about what might work to improve conversion rates. Don’t think of a negative result as failure, but rather a lesson in what doesn’t work.

Once you’ve finished reviewing results and implementing changes you know will improve conversions, it’s time to move on to another conversion opportunity and another A/B test. This process – discovery, hypothesis, experimentation, and review/implementation – should never stop; you should be on a never-ending mission to improve your website’s performance, and fine-tuning to optimize conversion rates throughout your site should be paramount. Avoid a “set it and forget” mindset at all costs – complacency rarely leads to success.

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whole brain marketing blog author
Written by Jonathan Stanis

An engineer by training, Jon focuses on the technical delivery of an effective inbound marketing program. He builds client website plans that solve for conversion potential and utilize smart user experiences. He is also responsible for analyzing and monitoring the success of inbound projects. Jon fits the definition of being a "whole brain marketer" because he is both a strong writer-designer and a deeply analytical thinker.

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