How To Become A Conversion Optimizer
How do you become a kick-ass conversion optimizer? What does it take to roll into town and tear things up?
There are CROs who have been doing this for a while. They seem to have a knack for it — cool, calculated, and wickedly skilled at what they do. They can eyeball a landing page, make a few changes, and WHAM! Conversions hit the roof.
How do they do it? What’s going on?
If you’ve spent anytime reading the CRO literature or using the tools, you’ve probably learned a lot about what it means to be at the top of your game. In this article, I’m going to share with you a few of the top-shelf skills that will turn an ordinary CRO into a killer CRO.
1. Writing: Write copy that sells.
Most of what appears on the web is written. It’s words, sentences, paragraphs, articles, guides, white papers, discussions, forums — copy.
If you can become a better writer, you will become a better CRO. It’s that simple.
What kind of writing does the conversion optimizer need to be good at?
There are several different types of copy that you will need to become proficient at:
Landing page copy.
The most obvious form of copywriting has to do with shaping a landing page. The landing page, especially a long-form landing page, is where the conversion optimizer’s skills are on display. Long-form pages require lots of explanation, lots of persuasion, lots of flow, and lots of words in general.
Ninety percent of the people who view your page will see your headline. Creating a compelling headline is at the core of having a successful landing page.
Of all the writing that a CRO will do, this form of copywriting is most essential. In a sense, it’s ironic. How can so few words have such a big impact? Even though it’s counterintuitive, it’s essential. If you’re CTAs don’t sell, your page is a failure.
PPC ad copy.
PPC writing is a skill all its own. A PPC ad must be attention-grabbing, clickable, relevant, keyword-relevant and compelling — all with fewer than 100 characters.
Thankfully, the days of keyword-stuffing and keyword saturation are long gone. Even, so the CRO needs to understand how SEO affects landing page copy.
That’s where the CRO will spend most of his time.
But what specific writing skills have an impact?
What writing skills does the conversion optimizer need to have?
There are a few writing skills in specific that will be highly beneficial for the CRO.
I don’t mean to sound like a grammar Nazi or anything, but you need to make sure that your English 101 skills are up to snuff.
If you don’t have the confidence in your abilities, or need a little brush up, you can certainly hire an editor to help you out. Craigslist is full of them.
Some of the most powerful persuasive copy is emotional. You can gain a huge persuasive advantage by developing arguments that attract a user’s emotions.
This isn’t easy. Emotional copy needs to be balanced, without going overboard into purple prose.
CROs have to wear a lot of hats. Depending on your niche, you’ll need to have a technical mastery of your product or service. Technical writing is very different from typical emotional argumentation, but it’s still critical to have.
If you write, you must research. There’s no way around this. Thankfully, the Internet has all the resources you need for competent and successful research.
Every writer needs to know how to shape the flow of copy. This is crucial. As I alluded to above, the entire flow of a landing page has its own persuasive potential. The better you are able to master flow, the better you will become at bringing people to your point of view.
How to become a better writer.
Here are a few resources that will help you to become a skilled CRO writer:
- WordStream — Learn how to write better PPC ads
- 8 Simple Online Copywriting Case Studies with Examples from Real A/B Tests, by Michael Aagaard
- What 7 Legendary Copywriters Can Teach Us About Web Copy, from Crazy Egg
- 7 Principles of Effective Sales Copy, from ConversionXL
- Storyselling: When Your Customers Don’t Want to Be Sold, from Crazy Egg
- 3 Long-Form Copywriting Tricks You Should Steal, from Unbounce
- Three Basic Elements of Click-Grabbing PPC Ads, from Invesp
- 5 Criteria for Writing Powerful Headlines, from Copyhackers
- [How To] Write a Call to Action that Converts — With Case Studies
2. Creativity: Come up with creative conversion ideas.
It’s hard to teach creativity, learn creativity or catch creativity. Still, it’s possible to be creative, with a little practice and some pointers in the right direction.
By creative, I mean, “relating to or involving the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.”
As a CRO, you are an artist. You must come up with the original ideas that will drive a client or business from the conversion doldrums to the stratosphere.
How do you do this?
Good question. The best source of creative ideas is the conversion optimization work of others. I spend a lot of my time analyzing case studies. There are huge advantages to examining case studies:
- You get to vicariously solve real life problems with zero risk.
- You get great ideas to test.
- You find parallels with your own niche or industry.
- You understand a conversion situation on a detailed level.
Some of my most creative insights come after I’ve spent some time with case studies. A lot of times, these case studies are shocking.
Here are some of the top spots on the Internet for CRO case studies:
- 6 Conversion Rate Optimization Case Studies With Surprising Results — ConversionXL
- 6 Of My All-Time Favorite Conversion Rate Optimization Case Studies — Crazy Egg
- Lessons Learned from 21 Case Studies in Conversion Rate Optimization — Moz
- 5 Conversion Rate Optimization Case Studies You Should Bookmark — Omnicore
- How we made $1 million for Moz (formerly SEOmoz) with one landing page and a few emails — Conversion Rate Experts
- 100 Conversion Optimization Case Studies — Kissmetrics
- Regular testing and solutions — Which Test Won.
You can’t use case studies to tell you what you should do in your situation. Case studies are case-specific, and not all the actions are transferable from one industry or niche to the next.
Use case studies for creative inspiration, not necessarily instruction.
3. Testing: A/B test like crazy.
Every CRO is an A/B tester. The better you are at A/B testing, the better you are at conversion optimization.
As you gain more experience at conversion optimization, some things will become second nature. You’ll figure out the tricks and pitfalls. You’ll spot familiar mistakes and common opportunities.
But how do you really know what’s going to improve conversion rates? It all goes back to A/B testing.
Although split testing is invaluable, it’s often misguided. Testing for testing’s sake is not effective testing.
Truly effective A/B testing should have the following characteristics:
- Intentional test subjects. Do not haphazardly throw together some tests. Create a testing schedule that allows you to focus on a few key elements — the low-hanging fruit of conversion optimization. Testing is crucial, but it takes time. Choose your tests carefully.
- Segmented testing. One common testing mistake that people make is that they fail to segment their tests. I recommend that you conduct testing in conjunction with careful segmentation. This will give you the best and most actionable results.
- Consistent testing. Another mistake that CROs make is they run a few tests, then get busy and stop testing. This is a problem, because they are neglecting the opportunity to get even better. Every single test that you conduct will show you how you can either 1) improve your conversion rates, or 2) keep them the same. Once you stop testing, you stop getting the data you need to improve your rates.
- Hypothesis-driven testing. Every test needs a hypothesis. The hypothesis is your predicted outcome of a certain test. Before you start a test, you need to come up with what you think is going to happen. Testing without hypothesizing is a waste of a good test.
There is a lot of technical instruction involved in A/B testing, but what I want to stress is this principle: The more you A/B test and apply test results, the better your conversion rates will be.
If you can test harder, test longer, test better and test more aggressively than the next guy, then you’ll win. The path to conversion success is paved with A/B testing.
Testing is like any other skill in CRO. The more you do it, the better you get. Work on sharpening your skills at testing, and you’ll be able to whip your site into shape.
4. Psychology: Develop Neuromarketing and Psychological insights.
This is easily the most neglected CRO skill of all.
If you are a reader of my blog, you know that I spend a lot of time discussing more than mere conversion optimization.
I delve into the science behind CRO — neuromarketing and psychology. Even when I discuss something as mundane as popups, I can’t help but explore the psychological principles behind them.
Behind every successful conversion optimization is a medley of psychological insights. Fascinating findings from the field of cognitive psychology and neuroscience form the basis of human behavior, decision-making, clicking and converting. This is actionable and exciting information, and it will absolutely revolutionize your ability as a conversion optimizer.
Let me give you an example: Color.
There’s an entire field of research in color psychology. Different colors make us respond in different ways. We have a different emotional reaction to, say, purple, than we do to orange.
The way that a user feels when he or she looks at a landing page will have an impact on if, how, or when that user converts.
But how the heck do you develop this skill? Go to college? Get a psychology degree?
Here’s what I recommend:
Roger Dooley, entrepreneur and consultant, is one of the leaders in neuromarketing research and implementation. His blog, where I occasionally contribute, is packed with some of the best findings and research in neuromarketing.
This blog is one of the few go-to resources for straight-up, undiluted neuroscientific and psychological insights. Few others provide this level of research and power.
Do your own research.
I spend a lot of time researching the original sources for the psychological and neuroscientific research others write about. There’s no shortcut to mining up this level of information, but let me share how I do it.
Google Scholar is a search engine that covers only scholarly literature. In other words, this is the place to go when you want to research a polymorphism consisting of the presence or absence of a 250-bp DNA fragment within the angiotensin I-converting enzyme gene (ACE) using the endothelial ACE cDNA probe.
Sorry, no BuzzFeed results here.
But even without an advanced degree in medicine, you can benefit from some of the findings that Google Scholar delivers.
Next, search for your area of interest. For example, I’ll search for the “psychology of decision making.”
I immediately have access to cutting-edge research in the field of the psychology of decision-making. Note the ability, in the left-hand bar, to set the date of results. That's helpful.
The resources provided through Google Scholar are authoritative and trustworthy. For example, here’s a citation from the above search that comes from the American Psychological Association, which is a reputable source.
Another note: Many of the studies you'll find through Google Scholar are only available at a cost.
Conversion rate optimization is an awesome industry to be in. Whether you are providing consulting services or are an in-house marketer, there is an incredible amount of stuff to learn and implement to achieve success.
As you’re honing your CRO skills, here’s what you need to focus on:
Nail these four skills, and you’ll become an absolute master of your trade.