Ultimate Conversion Optimization Tips from the Pros

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Article written by Claudiu Murariu
Product manager for PadiAct.
Google+ profile

We asked five leading web marketing experts for their best advice for when it comes to Conversion Rate Optimization. Here, their answers about diving into optimization, important concepts, best methods to take charge of your conversion rate, and more.

What is Conversion Rate Optimization?

Answer provided by:

Rand Fishkin (@randfish)
CEO
SEOmoz

Web marketers often focus on improving the sources driving traffic to a website but don’t consider the options and opportunities once that traffic reaches their pages.

The practice of testing, tweaking and getting a higher percentage of visitors to take the actions you desire (buying a product, giving an email address, downloading a whitepaper etc.) is called “conversion rate optimization” (or CRO) and it’s  an essential part of the marketer’s toolkit. Often, CRO is the most profitable and worthwhile practice a web marketer performs – outstripping other tactics for its return on investment.

The practice of CRO includes improving the accessibility of your pages – their loading speed, ability to render properly in all browsers and ease of consumption.

There’s also a lot of art and science to writing copy, designing graphics, filming + embedding video, etc. that will help to convince your visitors to take the action you want. On top of that, there’s testing. Tools like Google Website Optimizer or Test + Target make it easy to run multiple versions of a headline, a graphic, a block of text, a video or even whole pages to find the one that converts best for your site and your audience.

Sometimes segmentation (splitting different groups of users into buckets and showing them different pages) is the best way to maximize your returns. For more check out  The Definitive How-To Guide to Conversion Rate Optimization and  Lessons Learned from 21 Case Studies in Conversion Rate Optimization.

What to focus on the most when it comes to Conversion Optimization?

Answer provided by:

Karl Blanks
Co Founder
Conversion Rate Experts

If we could only pass on one piece of advice regarding conversion rate optimization, it would be this: Only use strong offers.

This conversion rule seems glaringly obvious but almost everyone gets it wrong. Many marketers are tempted to try out the latest technology, redesign their entire website or rebrand the company but never focus on creating a truly compelling offer. A key principle from your old marketing textbook to keep in mind is – sell benefits not features. People buy saws for the cuts they make, not because of the new carbide blade.

Pro Tip – Create an offer that would make you eager to buy

To put it bluntly, never make the mistake of assuming your potential customers are stupid. If you wouldn’t get excited about your offer, why would anyone else?

Today’s consumer is extremely sophisticated. You can bet that they will shop around, look for unbiased information and instantly leave when they see marketing hype.You don’t need the lowest price. You just need to prove and compellingly show that your product/service is solid and perfectly meets their need.

This basic principle is the starting point for many of the projects we undertake. If you’d like to see how this plays out in real life, check out our conversion rate optimization case study for sunshine.co.uk. You’ll learn the tools and techniques that helped us increase Sunshine.co.uk’s revenues by £14 million in 2010. For even more case studies, conversion optimization ideas and useful tools check out our blog: www.conversion-rate-experts.com/blog

How important are landing pages in a conversion optimization strategy?

Answer provided by:

Oli Gardner
Director of Marketing
Unbounce

Visitors to your website or landing page subconsciously walk through a 3-step mental process within the first 5-10 seconds of arriving on your page. They ask themselves: “Am I in the right place?”, “Is this what I need?” and “How do I participate?”. Landing pages are a critical element in any CRO strategy as they address these questions more quickly and in a more focused manner than your homepage can.

Landing pages do this by creating a good “Conversion M.A.P.” for your customers which:

  • M – Matches the expectations of your visitors: by closely matching the message of the upstream ad
  • A – Addresses the needs of the consumer: by clearly communicating the benefits and context of use of what you’re promoting
  • P – Points them forward: by providing a clear call to action (CTA) and using conversion centered design principles to guide visitors towards your intended conversion goal (via directional cues and fewer interaction points)

Just like in the real world – where a map helps direct people and prevents them from getting lost – a strong Conversion M.A.P. can guide your online visitors and turn more of them into converting customers.

For more insight, case studies, and conversion tips you should read this authoritative post featuring  52 Ways to be a Conversion Badass.

How Much Can A/B Tests Improve Conversion Rates?

Answer provided by:

Anne Holland (@anneholland55)
Publisher
WhichTestWon

Even if you’re the world’s greatest conversion expert, you can never know precisely which headline wording, button design, registration form, or even landing page layout will get the better conversion rate… until you run a real-world test.

The world’s most successful sites – including Google-owned sites such as YouTube, Microsoft-owned sites such as MSN.com, LinkedIn as well as 100% of the top 50 eretailers – frequently run tests. They all admit, despite years of experience and best practices conversion research, they don’t know what design or copy will win until they see the real-world data.

The good news is nearly anyone can run a test fairly quickly, cheaply and easily. You don’t have to be a giant site or company to test. You just need a moderate amount of traffic – enough visitors to a particular page or page template to get a statistically conclusive number of conversions (perhaps 10,000-20,000 visitors per month could do it). You need some  testing technology.

Luckily there’s do-it-yourself software online that’s free or fairly low-cost. And, you need to decide what you’ll test. Check out our free online library of close to 100 real-life tests run by sites of every size and type to inspire you. You can see the creative samples and the results data.

According to our research, an ecommerce page that hasn’t been tested before should see a ~20%+ rise in conversions from a series of basic tests. A lead generation offer page can do even better with an average of ~30-40% rise in conversions. (We’ve seen higher lifts, but this is average). This rise is from the exact same amount of traffic, the test tells you how to change your page design, illustrations, buttons, and/or copy so more people convert.

Let’s face it, the vast majority of traffic your site or landing pages get now is bouncing off. You will never get the conversions you deserve unless you’re testing. Why waste traffic? Test.

What is the simplest way to guarantee sales?

Answer provided by:

Bryan Eisenberg
Godfather of Conversion
aka @theGrok
bryaneisenberg.com/

For over 10 years I have been helping clients optimize their conversion rates. In that time, there is one simple tactic, that will guarantee you additional sales.  One of the most important – and often overlooked – ways to boost your conversion rate while improving the experience for your customers is to focus on point-of-action assurances. Basically, these are the messages that smart ECommerce sites give us, just as we’re ready to check out.

What Are Point-of-Action Assurances?

At the point when a visitor is ready to take action, to fill out a form, to click on a button or link, they are at a seductive moment. It’s a delicate place. It’s at that point they could lose confidence in their decision and not take the action you want them to take. That’s why you must provide messaging to bolster trust and confidence.

Point-of-action reassurances help us overcome that one last moment of doubt (“I think she hinted at this one, but can I exchange it if she wants that other digital camera instead?”). These types of messages are especially important when dealing with customers who are buying gifts online. Check out  several point of actions assurance examples.

Your turn now

What is your tip for optimizing conversion rates? Spread the word.

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  • http://unbounce.com Oli Gardner

    Some great insight from some of my favourite conversion experts.

    To get some conversation going, I really like Bryan’s Point-of-Action Assurances. Something that you can also add at the point-of-action are feedback mechanisms to learn what your customers are thinking at this critical moment and turn this data into conversion improvement tasks.

    Thanks for pulling this together Claudiu.

  • http://www.moluv.com/70ways Mo

    All of the suggestions above are great. But, you could spend a ton of time tweaking and optimizing. Remember to keep a balance between what you expect to earn or learn, and how much time you’re dedicating to renovating.

    I have an ebook that lists 70 optimization techniques ( http://www.moluv.com/70ways ), but I’d never have the time to use them all. Even if I did have the time, I still have to keep in mind my success target first. Once I’m there, everything else is gravy. Having that checklist is handy, though.

    As important as optimization is, it’s only one part of marketing, which is only one part of an entire business. Before spending too much time with optimization, be sure that you’re on track to making money, generating leads, or hitting your brand awareness goals with your initial version.

    That being said, here’s my minimalist formula for a winning landing page.
    1. Have a clear and unencumbered offer headline, supporting image, AND call to action (a button) above the fold.
    2. Write as much helpful text (a sales letter, perhaps) below the fold as possible and pepper it with more calls to action (links, buttons, whatever).
    3. In your copy, empathize, compare, promote, and ask for action. In that order.

    Done deal.

    • Claudiu

      I agree with you Mo, and I’ll even emphasize it one more time as well: A strong balance between resources spent in optimizing and the outcomes is really, really important.

      Thanks for the great comment.

  • http://stylounge.com Emil

    This is a great article for anyone running a website with a good visitor count (where A/B/N tests make sense) – but for the guys starting from nothing, this article doesn’t give very much. In other words, I would say that this is not an ‘ultimate’ CRO post, but instead would call it something like “Tips for Conversion Optimization for the Big Guys” (I know, a bit ‘overkill’, but hope you get the idea)

    An ultimate conversion tips blog post should probably include at least some simple points on subjects such as Usability, Colour & Shape psychology (and more psychology areas), relevant research, examples, links to great samples and more reasons to use your methods.

    Sorry about the rambling, but seeing the word ‘ultimate’ put my hopes up a bit too much…

    PS. Great comment, Mo :)

    • Claudiu

      @Emil I do believe the tips here can prove very valuable to people starting from nothing.

      The tips focus on principles on how to approach conversion rate optimization. For example: “Create an offer that would make you eager to buy” is something so many people leave out when talking about conversion optimization. You can’t really optimize selling something if the product itself sucks.

      The reason I consider them as “the ultimate tips” is because they focus on “how to think conversion optimization” and I think that is the way to get started in this field.

      @Jun Yes, the idea of point-of-action-assurance definitely is something worth digging into.

  • http://www.seowebjunction.com Jun Baranggan

    Thanks for compiling this Claudiu. I like the idea of point-of-action assurance. It’s worth an A/B test.

  • http://www.yourwebgurus.com/conversion_optimization Justin Conversion Guy

    This article is great! I was thinking of trying some of the point of action assurances with my clients, I always wondered if that really made a difference, but now I know it probably does. What do you think about having a testimonial during checkout?