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What is Conversion Rate Optimization & How to Do It Right

February 13, 2018
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Conversion rate optimization is a process for increasing the percentage of visitors to your website that convert into customers, or take any desired action on a webpage. Like sign up for an email newsletter or download a brochure. In order to have a highly converting website you need to quickly meet your visitor’s needs.

By looking at the pages on your site that get the most traffic and optimizing them to convert users into customers you can dramatically increase your success. Finding areas of your site that are not enticing enough to keep users on the page, causing them to bounce, can present opportunities to optimize and reduce bounce rate. In this blog, I will discuss the tools you can use to make CRO easier and the most common trouble areas of a website and what you can do about it.

Use The Right Tools

Setting up and using some type of web analytics tool is absolutely vital to knowing where you need to boot conversion rates. Most web analytics will allow you to measure the date you will need. Starting with overall site performance, like time on site, bounce rate, revenue, conversions and a whole lot more.

Secondly, you will be able to measure and monitor page level data like landing page, exit page, page level bounce rate, highest traffic pages and conversion data per page. Lastly, you will be able to see Traffic performance metrics like traffic types, amounts, and quality and traffic sources. Using an analytics platform is also essential for analyzing your CRO and A/B testing by measuring percent change in conversions and sales.

To help you get started I have listed a few analytics tools to look at:

Google Analytics (Free)

  • It’s free and it gives you everything you need to do your CRO.

Kiss Metrics (Low Cost)

  • Focus on visitors and is good for sites that offer B2B services.

The next tool you are going to need is an A/B testing tool. These tools allow you to easily make changes to elements on your website, test them and measure the success or failure of one-element vs another. For example, you can test a CTA button on your site by having two different looks and measure the success of one style over the other. This is great because you do not have to make these changes permanently on your site and if a test isn’t working well you can turn it off and try a new approach.

This will save you hours of time and a good amount of money too. Using these two tools together will actually make you more money. A few things to mention is that you should never test random things and see what happens. You should always use insights from your analytics to find areas of improvement. You need about 1,000 visitors per week to get good results. Run your test for at least a week, do not end your test too soon.

Here are a couple of A/B testing tools to check out to help you get going:

Google Content Experiments (Free)

  • This tool is free however; it is basic and only allows you to change whole pages and not just one element. It also interacts with Google Analytics

VWO – Visual Website Optimizer (Low Cost)

  • This is the ideal platform to bring together all your conversion optimization programs from visitor research to A/B testing. All-in-One optimization suite

Give Them What They Want Up Front

The number one this you can do to get a start on CRO is for you to know what you visitor’s needs are and meet them as quickly and effortlessly as possible. If you do not they will leave your site and possibly convert on a competitor site instead. With that said, it is most likely your home page that is going to get the majority of the sites traffic. So, it is going to be a great place to optimize to quickly give your visitors what they need. But be careful giving your visitors too many options right way can also have a negative effect and cause loss to your business.

One of the ways you can do this is to find what it is you have to offer that others cannot and make that very clear right up front. Now this does not have to be something that no one else can offer but it should be unique to your site. What unique value can you offer? If you are up against a wall and you need help to discover this you can run online surveys to ask users detailed questions about your site or about a specific page.

There are plenty of free and low-cost tools you can use for this.  A great way to deploy the survey is to have a pop up display the survey. However, be careful not to trigger the survey too fast, give it some time. Sending surveys via email campaigns can work too. It is also important to offer something of value to users for participating. This will increase participation a lot as long as the offer isn’t too cheap.

The Groundwork Of A High Converting Site

First and foremost, when it comes to getting your visitors to convert you must have your CTAs and other most important information above the fold. What is above the fold you say? Above the fold is the part of the website you can see without scrolling. According to the optimization glossary on Optimizely, “most web designers agree that the fold line is at approximately 1,000 pixels wide and 600 pixels tall.” This is definitely dependent on the size of the screen of the user, so it is safe to assume that about 700 pixels in height is the max you would want to go with. Now that you know how much space you are working with, make sure that all of your call to action buttons and your unique value messaging is within this zone.

Warning, do not over do this by adding too much or you will get the same results as not having anything at all. Users do not want to be overwhelmed when they come to your site. One other easy thing to optimize is page load speed. Google has said that this is even a ranking factor, meaning that if your pages load faster than the competition you will rank better. Use the Google page speed testing tool to analyze your key pages and follow the recommendations. A personal favorite of mine is a personal favorite of mine because of the awesome visuals is Think With Google. Below is a screenshot of google.com page speed test.

Screen Shot 2017-12-11 at 2.48.52 PM.png

Key Elements To Optimize For CRO


The first thing I strongly suggest for key elements to optimize is mobile. It is not an on page element but it is becoming increasingly more vital to have a site that performs well on a mobile device. Mobile usage is up more every year and if you cannot satisfy these users, you will be left in the past. The best way to optimize for mobile is responsive design. Building or converting to responsive design is an easy task but you may need a developer to assist you.

Headers and textual content

It is very likely that the first thing users notice when arriving at your site is the headers. If your headlines are boring or bland they will not grab your user’s attention and this will greatly increase bounce rate. Make your headers enticing and easy to scan. People read websites differently than literature, so make it easy to scan quickly. Use strong sub headers and bullet point for key information. Also, keep your language at an average reading level. You do not want to lose visitors because they cannot understand.

Imagery and video

The images you use on your site can be a powerful way to keep users on the page and using them to support your unique offering is a good way to boost conversions. Never use canned or stock images that do not reflect your messaging. Always optimize image file size for faster load times.  Video is a perfect way to keep users on your site. Keep them short and engaging. Video is becoming very popular on the web and it can be a great tool to explain why your offerings are unique and highlight your value.

Navigation and links

It is tremendously important that your visitors can find what they are looking for fast, or you run the risk of losing them. The main navigation should be attractive and they should solve visitor’s top needs. All links on your site should draw your visitors to click and lead them right to your top converting pages. Do not hide your navigation in an undefined dropdown and be sure to make your link text unique to avoid being generic just like most everyone else. Keep your dropdown menus organized and easy to use. In short, make it effortless for users to navigate your site.

Build Trust & Entice Your Visitors To Convert

One of the best way to prove your claims are true are with testimonials and reviews from your customers or clients. Keep testimonials short and to the point when possible. You can test adding testimonials and reviews in a few different top entry pages with A/B testing to see what works better. Using reviews from well-known public figures or people in your field of services can be paramount in proving your value. Add images of the people giving the review because seeing a person’s face can add validity to your claims.

Video testimonials are the cream of the crop when it comes to showing credibility and gaining trust. This type of proof that you are really offing a unique and valuable service. If you are having trouble  getting testimonials or reviews try offering something of value to customers for their time. It will pay for its sell in the end. For an eCommerce site show icons from the services you use for Check Out to prove that your site is safe and secure. Offer a guarantee, free trials, free shipping or free returns. Make these offers visible to users right up front when they arrive at your site. Another great method to drive conversions is to create a sense of urgency. Like “for a limited time” or “while supplies last”.

Optimizing Crucial Pages

The home page is your most crucial page to optimize for CRO. It is usually the page with the highest amount of traffic. It is your first impression and your first chance to get conversions. Clearly state your value on the home page with strong enticing headlines and images. Keep it clean and focus on the core conversions of your business. Be wary of huge image sliders at the top because a lot of the time these will dominate your “above the fold” content. Always have easy to see CTAs on the page and use A/B testing to find the best use of these buttons.

Category, product and service pages are up next. For an eCommerce site, these pages are often top entry pages and get a lot of traffic. It is important that these pages make your visitor want to make a decision to convert. Along with implementing the CROs that we talked about on the home page, you can also use the click map feature. Most A/B testing tools have these to see what users are doing on your site and where they click more often. Some A/B testing tools have video clips of users interacting with these pages. These are an amazing way to get a peek at what your visitors are doing on your site and how you can improve their experience to get higher conversions.

“Checkout pages” are a perfect place to monitor user interactions at the end of the purchase funnel and cart abandonment rates. Keep these clean and clear of distractions so the users can finish the conversion without getting side tracked. You can however re-state your free shipping or money back guarantee here. This is also the best place to really emphasize your security measures and risk free checkout with logos or seals of the services you use. Do not show too many as this can look like you are trying to be dishonest about this. Lastly keep the checkout process as short as possible and make it clear what the next step is Use good error messaging to convey what went wrong to reduce cart abandonment.

Entice Your Visitors Re-Visit And Convert Again Later

Getting visitors to come back to your site gives you a chance to get them to convert. Try to get them to sign up for a weekly newsletter or weekly deals. Offer something of value if they sign up, like 10% of the next purchase or free shipping if you do not already offer it. The better the reward the more likely you are to collect. Make it very clear you do not spam email or sell private info. This can entice them to return to the site repeatedly. Re-targeting ads are another very popular way to grab those lost conversions and bring them back for another try.

Wash, Rinse & Repeat

Just like search engine optimization, CRO is never really done. You can and should go back to the drawing board. Use your analytics and A/B testing to test different ideas until you have found the best conversion rate for the page you are focusing on. If your company is large enough you can benefit greatly from having a full time CRO and A/B tester. Use the resources your peers have and reach out to the pros if you are not sure about what to do next.  In closing, I want to re-state the importance of testing ideas before making changes to your site. Trust your analytics tools and have a little fun trying new ideas. You never know what will work best for your site until you test it.

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