If you are like most of our clients, you’re probably looking to increase the number of leads, sales, and overall value that you provide your customers. We feel your pain, we’ve felt how you do, and we’ve found a solution! But contrary to what HIPPOs (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion) say, driving more traffic is not the answer. No…it’s not SEO, or PPC, or email marketing, or even direct response that will drive the most value, though they are on deck. The answer is conversion rate optimization. Conversion rate optimization is not just a website redesign or a simple a/b test; these are tactics – not strategy. Instead, conversion rate optimization is better viewed as a process or a series of strategically oriented tests, analytical analyses and feedback loops, which are used to help present your customers the information they desire while focusing on your business goals. Conversion rate optimization is a floodgate for the success of all traffic driving activities.
In my experience, the most powerful optimization has not been the product of one round of analysis, but rather a result of continuous iteration and impeccable data organization. That process of iteration and organization will be the focus of this article. So, if you want to increase that 125% improvement to a 300% increase in conversions, read along. The next six steps will help your team to keep their eye on the prize and help you iterate your way to endless conversions.
Step 1: Understand Your Key Business Drivers
I cannot stress enough the importance of understanding your key business drivers. Your business drivers are the money making actions that a consumer takes, which allow your business to exist. It’s no breakthrough that revenue drives business, but business drivers need to be taken one step further. What is it that makes up your revenue? Is it the number of customers that purchase your product? Is it the average order value per customer? Or perhaps it’s a customer’s lifetime value. Whatever they are, these key business drivers need to be communicated in the beginning of the optimization process to keep the focus on conversion points. I spend too many hours a day looking at websites filled with clutter that distracts and detracts from the overall business objectives. Instead, websites should spend more time focusing on the intersection between customer objectives and business goals.
At this point, it would irresponsible for me to not mention KPI’s. KPI’s, or key performance indicators allow you to monitor the health of your business drivers and are divided into leading and lagging indicators. Lagging indicators are generally business drivers themselves: revenue/customer, # of purchases, # of repeat purchases, etc. Leading indicators are those actions that hint that a customer is moving toward a conversion. For new businesses, often times leading indicators are not apparent, but over time, they can be identified and refined through analytical analysis. A leading indicator could be the # of page-views, a specific page or piece of content that is viewed, or the # of times someone visits a site. Whatever they may be, it’s extremely important that you understand and optimize for leading indicators as they may be the necessary step for a customer to “cross the chasm”.
Step 2: Make a plan
Making and testing hypotheses on the fly is not sufficient. There is too much noise during testing, analysis, feedback and implementation to keep track of best guesses and intuitions. Instead create a schedule for testing and a plan for monitoring the success. Ask yourself, what is the goal of this test, and what do we consider a success? How should I prioritize my tests? Which traffic am I sending to each test page? Is it email traffic? PPC? Organic? Which stage of the buying cycle are my customers in and how will their purchasing behavior affect the goal of the landing pages? You should consider how long you need to test for and what types of traffic fluctuations to expect. Think about how you will segment data so that you can make actionable insights. And lastly, understand what the plan is for implementing the winner of the tests and moving on to the next step in optimization.
You would be amazed how many times these questions go unanswered and the number of amazing insights that get lost in the mix. So, if ever in doubt, err on the side of anal retentiveness.
Step 3: Involve and Engage Your Resources
Those who have done extensive conversion rate optimization know it is not a small task. For larger businesses especially, conversion rate optimization can be a full time job and often takes entire teams to launch successfully.
So, in order to involve and engage your team correctly, here is what you do. After you have your plan, take a step back and look at the scope of the project. Are you simply redesigning a landing page or are you recreating a user’s experience?
Ask yourself, what resources are needed to make this happen? Do you need a graphic designer? A front-end developer? Are you integrating with your database or adding advanced functionality? Perhaps you need to consult our back-end developer. Is this a sales page? If so, you’ll likely need a copywriter and a marketing executive to sign off. Or maybe you need to consult an outside user experience expert. Knowing these things ahead of time gives you the can chance to bring in the correct resources and reduce bottlenecks.
Once you have your list of resources, reach out to them and give them the project run-down. Show them the schedule and where they fit in so they are able to give the project the time and mindshare that it needs. During the process, give them support and after it’s done show them the result so they can feel proud of their work or understand what should have been done differently. The optimization process is exciting and the impact can be significant. Share your results with those teammates who may not see the fruits of their efforts.
Step 4: QA, Implement, and Analyze Your Test
Before launching your test, be sure to QA it for bugs and confirm that conversions are tracking properly. There is nothing more upsetting than a perfectly designed optimization test that does not track results correctly. Poor quality data can skew analysis, slow the team’s momentum and delay future optimization.
When you do launch your test, monitor it closely for the first few days and look for outliers in the data. Regardless of the testing platform you use, you should look for unnatural patterns or variations that would indicate a problem in data tracking. An unusual spike or drop in conversion may mean that something is not working correctly. It could also mean that you created a kick-ass landing page. Either way, you want to know about it.
When you analyze at the data, be sure to segment your customers. Do not look at the aggregate or you will inevitably dilute your findings. For example, if you are interested in why people left your site, segment out customers who bounced immediately and look at the exit points of those customers who engaged with your site. If you are testing a specific traffic type (email, PPC, organic), segment your data by source. Segmentation is not difficult but it is often overlooked when analyzing traffic. Remember, segmentation produces actionable insights.
Step 5: Get Feedback
Quantitative data is not enough! With all of the information gathered by today’s analytic packages, internet marketers often forget the value of PEOPLE! We forget that numbers can only tell half the story. The human experience, cognition and emotion paints the true picture; although, the most powerful analysis does combine both quantitative and qualitative data.
If you already have customers, surveys are a great way to get feedback from unbiased eyes. You can place the survey on your conversion page or email your customers directly. If you are launching a new site or not looking to use current customers, user testing sites allow you to choose your testers’ demographic information, provide a scenario, assign tasks, and ask questions after the test.
These types of data can be far more valuable than the numbers. For example, you may find that while customers identify with the design and colors of your site, the text uses confusing company jargon and is inhibiting conversions. This type of information easily discovered through qualitative feedback.
Keep in mind your conversion objectives when you design surveys and test questions. The goal is to convert assumptions about your customers and the way the use your site into usable data through your questions. Your questions should be clear, open ended and never lead a response in one direction or the other.
Step 6: Reflect & Repeat
By this point, you’ve undoubtedly found invaluable data, kept it organized, stuck to your schedule and added items to the queue. Whether this was your first time going through the process or your hundredth, it is important to take some time to digest and reflect on the process. Was there anything that you could change to make things go more smoothly? Were your data collection and analysis process as organized as you would have liked? Did your team feel the same success you did? Make sure that you add those items into the next iteration.
The question will always remain, “When do you stop optimizing?” and the short answer is never. However, you will reach the point when your conversions begin to plateau or you are happy with the revenue generated from the increase in conversions. Once you reach that point, you should consider reallocating resources toward scalable traffic efforts that that will take full advantage of your conversion optimization rate. But you will always want to keep a watchful eye on your conversion percentages as new customers’ needs change and performance varies.