For the record, I’m extremely skeptical of any conversion optimization “best practices.”
In my opinion, there is no such thing as “best practices” in conversion optimization. There is only rigorous split testing and best practices for your specific site. Anyone who declares a panacea CRO tactic for all sites everywhere is delusional.
That sounded harsh. Sorry.
However, since this is true, I’m forced to be more strategic in my advice. I don’t rely on quick-and-easy hacks to produce conversion upticks. I rely on hard data, reliable tests, and incisive market research.
If you came to this article looking for a few cute tricks to put into play on your site, prepare to be disappointed. Also, prepare for a hard-hitting, no-holds-barred set of recommendations that will rock your world and potentially turn your business around.
Following is my finest list of five things that you may not be doing, and should be — things that could take your conversion rates to a whole new level.
1. You’re not thinking about psychology.
Psychology is the only “real” secret to conversion optimization success. I call it a secret, not to be cliché, but to point out that not many CROs are digging into the psychology behind how people think, why people click, and what makes people buy.
I’ve discovered that, in psychology, there is a treasure trove of information into uncovering how people think and therefore how your marketing can better reach them. I’ve explained my powerful use of psychology in a previous article. (Check it out if you have the time).
You don’t have to have a psych degree or spend a lot of time reading the neuroscience blogs to enjoy the benefits of psychology in conversion optimization.
I would, however, recommend a few simple mental adjustments:
- Always ask why. When you encounter a potential conversion change, hear some advice, or encounter an issue, ask why. Here are examples of questions that you might start asking: “Why does our CTA have the word ‘submit.’” “Why do we have a picture of a puppy on the homepage?” “Why does the landing page have only 150 words of copy?” The more whys you ask, the more you start digging into the psychology of conversion optimization, which leads to major wins and powerful breakthroughs.
- Hypothesize first. Test second. As crucial as split testing is to conversion optimization, there is a necessary first step that precedes testing. Never run a test without hypothesizing on the outcome. When you force yourself to venture a guess at the winner of an A/B test, you start to reveal some of the psychological importance behind the test. The resulting test will affect you in a far greater way.
- Listen to, learn from, and find out as much as you can about your users. Spending time with people, not just data, will turn you into a bona fide psychologist. Study your users and get to know them. The most important psychology you should uncover is the psychology of your target audience.
Digging into psychology is not just fascinating; it’s downright valuable.
2. You’re not examining all your channels for optimization improvements.
Conversion optimization is not just for landing pages.
Did you catch that?
Okay, good, because I’m going to say it again.
Conversion optimization is not just for landing pages.
I get it. Landing pages are the most obvious place to work your optimization power. You can go in there, spiff up a few headlines, enlarge a few buttons, sharpen some CTAs, and WHAM! Conversions move up.
But that’s only the start of conversion optimization. Allow me to introduce you to eight more areas where you should be unleashing your conversion magic:
PPC landing pages
This is the obvious one, but I want to point out a few extra goodies that you could be overlooking. Consider making more than one PPC landing page. Create multiple landing pages, then tailor each one according to its unique PPC ad. By creating a nuanced approach for each audience, you can score more conversions.
"Shopping cart abandonment" is a dirty word (phrase; yeah, I know). You’re losing tons of revenue in your shopping cart. It’s time to find out why. Sure, you’re never going to win 100% of your customers back, but you can win some. Go in there and do some CRO!
Does your homepage convert? Why or why not? Every conversion optimization professional needs to take a long hard look at the homepage. Chances are, a huge percentage of your conversions will begin at this point. Start optimizing.
'About' and 'Contact' pages
Every website has three main pages — the homepage, the About page, and the Contact page. Just check your Google Analytics and see if I’m lying. Since these are such high-traffic pages, I recommend that you make changes that will allow them to become conversion machines.
Email marketing introduces a whole side of CRO that is simply begging to be optimized. A few simple tests on email can create a fresh flood of conversions.
Many CROs are so fixated on their paid traffic that they completely neglect their organic traffic. Organic traffic makes up a far greater share of the traffic to your website, and these visitors are just as likely to convert.
If you have a blog but no conversion plan for that blog, you’re wasting your time and money. The whole point behind a blog is conversions. That’s why it’s called content marketing. You’re not simply distributing content out of the altruism of your loving heart. You’re publishing content to create value in order to attract users so they will become customers!
This simple reality can transform your blog from a free information resource to a lead-creating, conversion-making powerhouse.
The mobile market is hot, and ripe for conversion action. Get your mobile mojo on and start optimizing things. Remember, mobile optimization is more than just having a responsive site. Mobile users demand so much more.
If you thought your job as a conversion optimizer was limited, think again. There’s enough to do in the list above to last you for the next six years of conversion optimization. And that’s only scratching the surface. Leave no stone unturned and no channel untapped in your pursuit to optimize everything you possibly can.
3. You’re not thoroughly acquainted with your market.
Marketing research is an indispensable component of conversion optimization. The most potent conversion optimization changes come from those who really know their market. When you know your customers, you’re able to create changes that satisfy their needs, wants and desires.
Here’s a quick set of tips that will get you on the path to knowing your customers:
Create a persona.
The first step to knowing your market is to imagine them as you’d like them to be. Make a persona.
The web is full of resources and tutorials on how to do this. Do a little research, and then create your own persona.
The only thing better than creating a fictional persona is to interview a real customer. A few phone calls with existing customers will open up new vistas of conversion potential.
Before you go into an interview, write a list of questions that will help uncover triggers and identify the why behind their purchases with you.
Send a survey.
Surveys are able to surface information that you can’t easily get in an interview. Besides, having aggregate data from a lot of customers is sometimes a better approach than hearing just one or two customers’ stories.
Do user testing.
I’ve been incredibly awakened by the power of user testing on client websites. A few tests can cut through the Gordian knots of conversion optimization like few other things can.
You can check out User Testing or similar services to get started on your user testing journey.
Create a customer journey map.
A customer journey map diagrams the path that your customer goes through when he or she engages with your company and progresses toward a conversion.
The whole idea behind a customer journey map is to discover touchpoints that are preventing, enhancing or otherwise affecting the process of bringing that customer to the point of purchase.
The research and thought that goes into a customer journey map is intense, but well worth it.
4. You’re not making huge changes.
Big conversion upticks come from big changes. So many times, I watch CROs mucking around with little color changes, or flipping a word or two in a headline. Tweak, tweak. Nudge, nudge.
Stop. Wasting. Your. Time.
If your conversions are stuck, you’re not going to unstick them by changing your button from green to orange. For the love of revenue, why don’t you do something different?!
Doing more of the same dinky stuff is going to produce more of the same dinky results. We’ve all heard of the lucky guy who switched his button colors and watched his conversions soar by 52,901%.
Good for him! But do you really think that’s going to happen in your little universe? Actually, it’s not. So quit trying!
Instead of more of the same small-potato changes, go for some big ones. Like this ...
Conversion Rate Experts, as you may be aware, happens to know a thing or two about conversion rate optimization. When they contracted to work with Crazy Egg, they didn’t just tweak a few headlines. They created a sea change:
Your big changes may fail. But that’s okay. You need to at least try!
The failure that comes from attempting something big is not nearly as catastrophic as the repeated failure of trying the same old little tweaks over and over again.
Make big changes. Enormous changes. See what happens.
5. You’re not A/B testing.
I’ve saved the best for last. I happen to know that many companies are doing zero split testing.
According to Econsultancy, only 38% of companies are actively doing testing. This is ridiculous. If this statistic is true, then just the fact that you do testing puts you way ahead of the competition.
You must be split testing if you expect to succeed in conversion optimization. There is simply no way around this reality.
You must test.
So you think you get a pass because you have a subscription to WhichTestWon and have used Optimizely?
Okay, let me pull out a few more possibilities about your testing that are still falling short of the mark. I shall make you squirm.
You’re split testing sporadically.
Occasional split testing won’t get you anywhere. Only 1 out of 8 tests produces any results, so you need to be testing a lot in order to get somewhere.
You’re split testing sloppily.
If you have a disorganized approach to split testing, you need to clean it up. Just split testing haphazardly won’t get you anywhere. Split testing with strategy is the path to true success.
You’re split testing the wrong stuff.
Please don’t waste your time testing the wrong things. Go for the big changes, the things that produce real results. Use every test strategically, because you can only run one at a time.
You’re split testing the wrong way.
Are your tests reliable? Only if you they have statistical significance. If your split testing provider doesn’t give you a statistical significance score, run it through this calculator to find out whether you should trust your results:
Failure to conduct A/B testing is Public Enemy No. 1 of conversion optimization. If you really want to screw around without A/B testing, go right ahead. But don’t expect to move your conversion rates in any reliable and sustainable way.
Consistent testing should be part of your daily bread as a conversion optimizer. It’s what you do. Structure your day and your year in such a way that split testing is always going on — systematically, automatically and thoroughly.
I’ve shot straight in this article, because I believe that more marketers need to be doing a better job with conversion optimization.
If you’ve identified an area of potential improvement, make this the year that you turn things around. You can boost your conversion rates. But it just may require you to do a few things differently.
Pick one, and let’s roll.