Does this guide about
conversion rate optimization best practices really stink?
Come on, I can tease a little.
I wanted to use the title the definitive guide to conversion optimization.
But knowing the vast nature of this subject,
I felt I would not be doing justice.
Hence, I ended up creating
this stinking guide.
Read on and get the most of CRO
to engage and convert more users to your website.
Why on earth would I spend hours researching and implementing conversion rate optimization best practices?
Because it matters!
And given the data-driven growth marketer that I am,
here are some stats to bring you on board:
A mere 22% of businesses are satisfied with their conversion rates.
Did you know businesses spend $92 to acquire customers
while their expense on conversion is a petty $1?
I am sure you would agree that
landing page performance is useful to measure a campaign.
Well, turns out that 57% of B2B marketers believe conversion rates to be the most useful metric for analyzing landing page performance.
Alright, enough of research!
How about we talk ROI numbers?
Perhaps, that is the metric that matters the most.
On an average, the ROI from CRO tools is a whopping 223%!
On another note, it takes a person 33 to 100 ms
to form a first impression upon a single glance.
Yeah, I know this is not a dating article.
Well, turns out we Homo sapiens are worse than even goldfish.
We have an attention span of 6-8 seconds
while our aquatic friend can hold on for 9 seconds.
So fellow marketers, please optimize your website!
Are you convinced yet that conversion rate optimization matters?
How about we officially define CRO
so we have no confusion about this throughout this
conversion rate optimization guide?
What is Conversion Rate Optimization?
I will spare you technical jargon
and explain CRO in the simplest possible way.
It is a structured and systematic process of improving your website performance by analyzing data from analytics and user feedback.
Yup, don’t expect it to work overnight!
What I like most about CRO is that it
leaves guesswork and hunches off the table.
Absolutely no room for opinions and spine-less theories there!
In marketing, the term
key performance indicators (KPIs) hold immense value.
With help of conversion optimization,
you can improve almost every website KPI.
Most common KPIs involve customer acquisition,
downloads, email signups and more.
Think of CRO as the actionable set of tactics
to turn browsers into customers.
When you can understand what users are looking for on your site,
a whole new world opens in front of you.
The potential to use that conversion rate optimization data
to generate more revenue is endless.
Here are some of the terms you should understand to master CRO:
Call to Action (CTA): This is the primary button, link or
a UI element that encourages the user to take an action.
Some examples: Buy Now; Learn More; Download Now.
Think of this as a route a consumer takes
before buying a product or service online.
You can also call it the online sales funnel.
Understanding the flow through which a user comes to your website,
to the point when he converts into a customer, can help reveal useful insights to tweak different elements of CRO.
For example, if you go to Amazon.com,
your funnel could look like this:
Home page > search results page > product page > checkout.
Let’s talk about the Holy Grail of A/B testing.
A/B Testing & Multivariate Testing
No, it is not the same as Multivariate testing.
(We will cover the latter a little later-
damn nice alliteration there)
Suppose you have a page version A on your website.
And you want to compare it with Version B of the same page using live traffic.
This process is known as A/B testing in the digital marketing world.
Also called Split testing,
it is one of the easiest ways to evaluate page design.
This image explains the process in a logical manner:
Take the same logic as before,
just this time throw in more variables,
and you would have a Multivariate testing model.
This takes A/B to a more analytical level,
and hence helps marketers get better intel on how these variable interact with each other.
For example, you can test text and visual elements simultaneously,
or the number of form fields and CTA text together.
Other terms such as total conversions, conversion rate,
average time on site, bounce rate and exit rate are often used
in conjunction with CRO.
Why conversion rate optimization is important?
Website traffic is most important. Right?
I have met with several business owners who complain NOT about generating traffic,
but about not having enough conversions.
For example, suppose you have a B2B website selling software license (SaaS).
And I bring you thousands of users
who are rather interested in buying a pair of shoes,
would it bring you revenue?
Well, this example is extreme.
But you get the idea?
High conversion rate = Better return on investment (ROI)
I am sure you know that it is more cost-effective to retain a customer than to acquire a new one.
Don’t just take my word.
A business can observe a 75% increase in profitability
by a mere 5% increase in customer retention.
61% SMBs suggest that more than 50% of their revenue
comes from repeat customers.
CRO helps your customers become brand ambassadors
If you like a product and the buying experience on a website,
wouldn’t you recommend it to your friend and family?
Word of mouth marketing is extremely powerful.
A study conducted by Ogilvy, Google and TNS reveals that
74% of buyers make purchase decisions based on
a recommendation from a friend or colleague.
CRO helps generate more Consumer Spend
A study by HBR shows that on average
a customer spends 40% more on his sixth purchase
and 80% more on his eighth purchase than the first.
Look at this image below.
I bought nutrition supplements from this website the first time August 2014.
Since their prices are better than the competition,
and because they offer me incentives such as 10% offer my next order for being a loyal customer,
I have continued shopping with them for over 4 years now.
I have purchased 23 times on their website-
the last purchase being in April 2018.
On average, each purchase has been $70-110.
That means over the course,
I have spent $1610 to $2530 on their website.
Imagine if they have even 10,000 loyal customers like me,
they would be making $16.1 to 25.3 million in four years
assuming they spent a similar amount.
Customer loyalty can generate massive revenue for a business.
Lower CPA and Higher ROI
A higher Conversion rate results in
lower CPA (cost-per-acquisition).
As mentioned earlier,
it is more cost effective to retain a customer than acquiring one.
This directly affects your ROI.
Alright, now that you know the fundamentals of CRO,
what are the best practices for conversion rate optimization?
Gather Conversion Rate Optimization Data
Without this, you cannot do much.
But remember, data without conversion optimization strategy is useless.
You can collect important information about
user behavior on your website using conversion rate optimization tools
such as Google Analytics, and Heat Maps .
Talking about metrics to help you analyze conversion rate optimization,
CTR or click though rate is my favorite.
High CTRs result in high conversion rates.
This, in my opinion, should be the MOST important metric in your analysis.
You can always pay attention to other metrics
such as bounce rate, time on site, clicks, cost per conversion,
email opt-in rate and shopping cart abandonment rate.
But guys please do NOT ignore the CTR.
Test Everything (No guesswork- put data to work)
I can tell you this with all sincerity that
tests and experiments are the best friends of a CRO guy.
You would want to test the page elements thoroughly before coming to a conclusion.
The following best practices work only if you test them,
and not simply by taking my word.
Red converts better than green on a Buy Now CTA!
A form with four fields can improve sign-ups over a 5-field form!
Get my point?
Test Test Test!
Relevant, Fewer Form Fields
What happens when you visit a website and a long, ugly form pops up, looking right into your face?
You run away- aka, exit the site.
Expedia is a household name in the global online travel industry.
Their checkout page form was running them losses.
What was so bad about that form?
The original form had a “company name” field under the “last name” field.
Data showed that users were putting in their bank name in the company name field.
This confusion was leading to higher abandonment.
Expedia decided to address this issue.
They removed the Company Name field from the form.
This simple tweak helped them generate $12 million in profit a year.
Avin Kline has written a detailed article on this.
Color is important,
and it can significantly affect conversions on a website.
Remember those days when we were in school,
anxious about our grades?
And then when the professor would hand over the graded exam paper,
our eyes would immediately look for those comments in RED?
A study actually showed that a student could
under-perform if they saw red color before the test.
Check out Kendra Cherry’s in-depth post on color psychology. (see image below)
Another research revealed that men preferred bright colors significantly more than females, whereas women have a soft spot for light colors.
Let us see some real-life examples.
In one of my posts titled 17 Digital Marketing Trends 2018,
I had talked about how the search engine Bing generated
an additional $80 million in annual revenue simply by tweaking the color.
The one on the right is the new color:
Here is another example from the pricing page of Optinmonster:
Now, what if we replace the green CTA with blue?
See how the one in green stands out?
I do not believe in a universal rule of one color converts better than the other.
I’d say it all depends!
In this case, the green button color contrasts the white background color.
And that is why green CTA here looks better than blue.
Now, let’s change that green CTA in the right a bit,
and see how it compares with the blue button.
In this case, the blue button wins hands down.
Subtle tweaks to color, font, and other design aspects
can change the persona of the button and the page.
CTA Size and Placement
While the color of the button is important,
its size and placement can make a big difference in conversions as well.
Make it too small, and users will not notice it enough to click.
Make it too large, and you will overwhelm the user,
aka, higher bounce rates.
Talking about placement, the Z-shaped rule works in most cases.
When you see a web page,
your eyes scan from the top left to the top right,
forming a horizontal line.
Thereafter, there is a diagonal line formation
as you scan down and to the left side of the page.
Finally, it culminates into another horizontal line
as you back across to the right again.
The shape resembles the letter Z, hence the name.
Here is an example:
How about this theory in practice?
Check out how the Facebook page follows this pattern:
This pattern is especially useful for Landing Page design.
As stated earlier, test before you accept a theory.
On our website homepage,
we have put the call-to-action button on the left,
and above the fold.
When we tested it on the right,
it was looking kind of “lonely” without any text.
And based on data,
we found more clicks when it was on the left.
You might have heard of the “above the fold” theory,
which argues that the CTA should be placed above the fold
for maximum impact.
While I would not dismiss that,
I have seen high converting pages with
the call-to-action below the fold.
This is because users want to read more about
your product/service before they add it to their cart.
Michael Lykke Aagaard observed a 304% lift
by moving the CTA on a page below the fold.
While working with a client
having conversion issues on their display banners,
I observed that their call-to-action button was not optimized.
After testing a few different versions,
I found that the conversions were 62% higher
when the CTA button was centered.
My decision was not based on my opinion alone.
We looked at data from different sources-
analytics, heat maps and other tools before proposing
a change in the color, position, size or content.
Call-to-Action Button Text
I love Evernote’s success story.
Recently, I even wrote a post on Evernote Growth Hack.
“Meet Evernote, your second brain” and “Remember Everything.”
These messages on the home page make it clear to the user what the company is about.
Observe how the call-to-action button (signup for free) and
Evernote’s logo is the same color.
The text “sign up for free” encourages the user to try the product
without having to worry about the price.
Also, see how they have used a spin of
the same text “sign up for free” and
“sign up free with google” above the form.
There is no confusion there since it is clear that
you can try Evernote free of cost.
CTA text such as “submit” or “sign up” on that button
might not trigger the user to click.
Are you on board with me?
How about another creative example?
Companies resort to using the generic “start a free trial” text in most cases.
Treehouse does it differently.
Their “Claim Your Free Trial” call-to-action button has
the right feel to drive the user to click.
So how would you come up with the right text ideas
for your call-to-action button?
I can go on and on, but the best way is to ask yourself two questions:
What would motivate a user to click on the button?
What will they get after clicking on the CTA?
This may sound simple,
but I have seen several businesses fail to optimize the CTA content.
Words such as “Submit” and “Click Here” are too generic,
and lack the creative drive to motivate the user to click.
Another way to find the useful text for your button
is by completing the sentence (from the user standpoint):
“I want to __________”.
“I want to Start my Free Trial”.
“I want to Download my Free Report”.
Whatever you do, do not sound authoritative in your CTA text.
Landing Page: Short or Long?
The short answer- it depends.
Don’t worry, I will not tease you and leave you hanging.
Actually, that strategy works too!
Almost as age-old as ‘clever vs. clear’, is ‘short vs. long’.
Websites such as CrazyEgg and Moz realized
a massive increase in conversions due to long-form, high converting pages.
But as I said, in the world of CRO,
there is no one perfect way to do something.
Let us look at this gym landing page:
In this example,
the shorter LP for PPC ads resulted in 11% more conversions?
Breaks the rule, isn’t it?
According to Ben Gheliuc,
the well-known gym chain’s offer is inexpensive.
Hence, the level of commitment and perceived risks are both low.
As a result, there is no sense in creating a long-form LP.
Had the gym chain been not popular
and they had to educate the visitor about their services,
a longer landing page would be more fruitful.
Generalizing (although I suggest experimenting first)
Well-known brands, simple and inexpensive offer,
low level of commitment and risk = short form LP
Less-known brands, complex and expensive offer,
high level of commitment and risk = long-form LP
I cannot emphasize how important this is for conversions.
Everyone knows this.
Yet, I come across annoying landing pages that bear
no relevance to the PPC ad or social media ad.
Let’s find it out.
I searched for “charcoal grills” on Google,
and here is what I got:
As you can see, the paid ads are from
Lowe’s, Home Depot, Walmart, Sears, and Wayfair.
All these are pretty reputable sites.
Since Wayfair’s price is the highest of the four ($279.99),
I might be tempted to check the other three.
I’d, for the sake of this example, focus on Lowe’s vs. Home Depot:
The landing pages of Home Depot and Walmart have too much information,
which might overwhelm the user.
I agree it is helpful to have the “Similar options to consider” section.
But putting it right on top of the charcoal grill
for the PPC ad takes the attention away from the primary CTA.
In contrast, Lowe’s LP for the grill is clean,
and has fewer distractions:
They also have the “customers also viewed” section,
but you can find it upon scrolling down.
This allows the LP to focus on the primary object,
which in this case is the “Char-grilled super pro 29-in Barrel….”
Do you get the idea?
It is important that the Ad Copy and the
associated landing page speaks the same language.
Video on Landing Page
Did you know that using video on landing pages can increase conversion by 80%?
As dumb as it feels to say this,
but the human race is getting lazier day by day.
And that is why most of us prefer
to watch a video over reading a lengthy post like this one.
Still, I continue to write.
Seriously this guide stinks!
Anyhow, video also increases user engagement,
aka, the average time on page.
Try both short and long versions of videos
before deciding upon which works best for your brand.
Adding a CTA in the video can help boost the conversions too.
Make sure that you put an eye-catching thumbnail for the video.
This will boost the CTR (click-through-rate).
Remember the growth hack of Dollar Shave Club?
Video played an important role in making it viral.
Here is the link to that video.
I love the fact that one can use videos for content repurposing.
Social Proof aka Positive Peer Pressure
Accept it or dismiss it, but peer pressure works. Almost always.
Harvard Business Review puts it brilliantly- “Monkey see, monkey buy.”
Take a look at the Hatchbuck’s PPC Landing Page:
Observe how they have the name, photo, title, and a relevant quote.
Could we improve this landing page using
the CRO theories we talked about earlier?
If they put this testimonial near the “Request Your Demo” CTA button,
they may see higher conversions.
Trust Badges and Awards
What happens when you go to a pricing page
and see trust badges such as these (this one comes from hatchbuck)
It convinces you that the product or service is safe and secure,
and is “trusted” by reputed brands.
Security seals like the ones below verify
the legitimacy of a web page.
McAfee observed a 12% increase in sales when they deployed the McAfee Site Secure seal.”
Last year, consumers lost more than $16 billion to online fraud.
That gives you another strong reason to build trust on your landing pages.
Having these badges/seals on your landing page
is a great way to improve conversions.
We have talked about what you CAN do to convert better.
Here are some things you want to AVOID in order to get the most out of CRO.
Automatic Image Sliders
Now, this does stink!
What’s the issue with using Automatic Image Sliders?
This website has perhaps the most ingenious explanation:
Given their low Click Through Rates and aversion to
SEO and mobile friendliness, automatic image sliders do no good
Get rid of them!
Using CTA Links Excessively
The purpose of a link is to take the user somewhere.
Main, local and contextual navigation are the main types of navigation links.
In my experience,
I’d stay away from using links excessively on the landing page
as this takes the focus away from the primary call-to-action button.
Take a look at this landing page:
The “contact us” link in the footer does not add value to this page.
On the contrary, it distracts the user from the “Get eBook” button.
Hope you get the point?
I am an advocate of having a landing page minus the navigation elements.
A study by Marketing Sherpa suggested that this can increase conversion from 10 to 50%.
Go naked, guys! (I am talking about landing pages by the way)
CRO is a science that can only be perfected
when you are data-driven and experimental in nature.
Data-analysis and testing/experimentation
go hand in hand in the conversion optimization world.
How does your conversion rate optimization checklist look like?
What techniques have you used
to optimize your assets:
website, landing pages, social media ads, PPC ads or email newsletters?
Any conversion rate optimization question(s)?
Hit the comment box below
and let’s engage in some CRO-discussion.