If you were to ask 100 marketers how to increase sales on a website, chances are they’ll be a huge selection of different answers.
However, it’s very likely that the majority will respond with ‘increase traffic’ as their solution.
The theory behind it is that more traffic equals more conversions. Whilst the theory is relatively accurate, it’s missing one vital factor.
Increasing traffic doesn’t necessarily mean you will be able to bring more users to your site that buy the same as they do currently.
And if you’re spending money on paid ads to acquire that traffic, it’s also going to cost you to do it!
If you were to ask me the same question, I would give you one straight answer: Conversion Rate Optimization.
Of course, I’m biased, I’m the founder of a CRO agency. But hear me out.
Successful Conversion Rate Optimization is the only guaranteed way to increase your sales, without having to spend more money to acquire additional traffic.
In this guide, I’m going to summarise what Conversion Rate Optimization is, the various parts that make up a successful program, and I’ll provide relevant resources if you want to go in deeper on any particular topics.
These are the topics we’re going to cover :
- What Is Conversion Rate Optimization?
- What Conversion Rate Isn’t
- Heuristic Analysis
- Quantitative Research
- Qualitative Research
- Prioritizing Findings
- Is Split Testing Right For Me?
Let’s get started.
What Is Conversion Rate Optimization?
Conversion rate optimization is the process of turning more users that visit your website into sales or leads.
This is done by:
- Finding aspects of a website that could be improved during a research phase.
- Taking these findings and creating a better alternative version of the current version.
- Testing the new version against the old one, to see if it performs better.
Let’s make it clear with an Example:
Let’s say that your website receives 10,000 visits per month and from those visits, you receive roughly 300 sales.
This would give you a conversion rate of 3% ( (Total Conversions / Total Visits) * 100 = Conversion Rate %).
As an example, from those 300 sales, you have an average order value of $200. This would give you a total sales revenue of $60,000 each month.
By implementing conversion rate optimization (CRO), you can attempt to increase your conversion rate and therefore increase sales.
For instance, we might estimate that we ‘could potentially’ increase our Conversion Rate by 25% (which isn’t uncommon) during a CRO project. This would be done by fixing a range of technical and usability issues that we have uncovered.
If we were correct with our estimate, we could say that rather than 300 sales each month, we would instead receive 375.
And rather than generating $60,000 in revenue, we would instead generate $75,000 in revenue (if the average order value stayed the same).
So from that lift, we would see a monthly revenue increase of $15,000.
Which isn’t too shabby.
But if that increase in conversion rate stands true for the next 12 months (in an ideal world), this series of CRO could generate additional sales totaling $180,000 for your company.
And the best bit?
You’ve haven’t had to pay one penny for additional traffic.
As I’m sure you can imagine this is a very simplified explanation, the real world doesn’t quite work like that and there are lots of other factors that can play their part. But you should be able to understand the fundamentals of what CRO is.
What Conversion Rate Isn’t
CRO is not making lots of changes to headlines and button colors and hoping to see an increase in sales.
It also isn’t finding out that 2 people don’t like your website design and using that as the reasoning behind a complete landing page redesign.
To implement an effective CRO strategy, you need to be methodical. It’s a systematic process which needs to be adhered to, in order to get the results that you’re looking for.
Just guessing what to test is unlikely going to get you the results that you want.
Instead, if you actually make any optimizations that are backed up with real-life data, you’re far more likely to see positive results.
Conversion Rate Optimization step 1: Heuristic Analysis
Now we’ve got that out of the way, it’s time to get into how we go about finding the various different areas of your website to optimize.
First of all, we’re going to start with Heuristic Analysis.
What’s involved here is a walkthrough (usually an expert) of a website, following the usual paths that users take.
Whilst performing the walkthrough, you’re going to be evaluating the website based on various different factors.
To help with this, we have created our own method for doing it, which helps you evaluate web pages based on 5 different factors. It’s called the PRICE Heuristic framework.
The framework uses the following evaluation points :
The goal here is to walk through the most common flows through your website and evaluate each key page based on our framework.
Please bear in mind that these walkthroughs are extremely prone to bias. If you’re doing the walkthrough, then it’s likely you don’t think that something is as bad as it actually is.
Finally, any findings that we make will need to be backed up by data, which we’re going to discuss next.
Conversion Rate Optimization step 2: Quantitative Research
Next up, we’re going to move onto our Quantitative Research stage.
This involves looking at analytics data to see if you can find any areas that are underperforming.
This could be underperforming because of poor user experience or it could be because of a technical issue.
For the majority of you reading this, you will be using Google Analytics to collect your analytical data. For any of you that aren’t, you will be able to apply the same techniques to those tools, just in a different way.
Now you will begin working your way through the various different reports and seeing if you can spot any fluctuations in conversion rate, that could be a cause for concern.
Expert Tip: A cause for concern in percentage terms would be anything more than a 20% difference in conversion rate.
Looks like mobile needs some serious work here.
The different reports that I like to start with are :
- Landing Pages
- Devices Overview
- Operating System
- Screen Size
Within Google Analytics, there is a wealth of information at your fingertips and yes it can be slightly daunting at first.
But once you become more familiar with using it, you’ll become much more confident.
Here’s a great tutorial to get you started.
Some of the issues may be on a different device or browser. So you’ll need to spend testing your website in these different scenarios to see if you can replicate the issue.
Remember our PRICE framework that I mentioned earlier?
Any findings that we have in there can also be cross-checked with any findings we have found here. That way we can see if they back up our assumptions.
Conversion Rate Optimization step 3: Qualitative Research
Qualitative research is extremely user-centric. Rather than looking at numbers, we’re instead working more closely with people to find areas to focus our optimization efforts.
Expert tip: This is where you will get the majority of your insights.
Our goal here is to understand two important things :
- What is causing users to abandon a website?
- What are the main reasons users decide to become a customer?
By beginning to understand what is causing users to leave your website, you can do something about it to hopefully lower the frequency that it’s happening.
This may be down to a bottleneck in the flow through your website, that you haven’t spotted before. Or maybe not having enough information for the user to make an informed decision.
Here we can start to use tools like User Recordings, Scroll Tracking and Heatmaps to get an idea of how people use your website.
Look at the example Heatmap below. Which area is getting the most attention?
Next is when the fun really starts.
5 Examples of qualitative research that you could use
Everything we have done so far hasn’t been influenced by ourselves. We haven’t been able to ask any questions or have any kind of input.
Now we’re now going to start speaking to people and asking questions, to try and take our research to the next level.
Here’s how I do it:
1) Run Usability Tests
This is when we ask several users to complete certain tasks whilst on a website.
We can observe them once they have done it by watching a recording and look for any roadblocks that they run into.
The beauty of this type of testing is that we can see what they are doing whilst trying to perform a particular task.
The participant will explain their thought process out loud which we can listen to at the same time, this usually provides really valuable insights.
Here you can find a great beginners guide to running Usability Tests.
2) Speak To Customer Service & Sales
Who else knows more about your customers than the people that are dealing with them day in and day out?
These people hold a wealth of information that can help with CRO and they probably don’t even know it.
Our goal here is to find out :
- Customers top pre-sales questions
- Answers that persuade users to buy
- Common objections
- Any competitors that are mentioned
From here we can use this to see the bigger picture of our customers journey.
If we can find out frequent questions that they have and address these on our landing pages, we will hopefully be able to answer the same question for more users. Which, in turn, will lead to converting more of them into customers.
Next, if we can find out what answers persuade users to buy, this is half our job done for us. We already know what motivates a user to pull out their credit card!
3) Use Customer Surveys
Imagine we could find a group of people that know about our business and can provide useful insights as to why someone would become a customer?
Well, I’m pleased to say that we can. Say hello to your previous customers!
By talking to our existing customers we can start to gain insights about the following :
- Why they decided to purchase from us.
- What nearly stopped them from buying.
- What competitors they were evaluating at the same time.
This can be done by either telephone or email depending on how many customers you have.
You’ll usually be able to get a better quality of answer if you speak to people that have become customers recently as opposed to older ones.
Try not to be too subjective though, users will usually tell you what you want to hear so it’s best to only ask questions that you can receive a straight answer to.
4) Use Live Chat Transcripts
Did you think live chat was just messaging and nothing else?
Your transcripts will contain conversations between potential customers as well as actual customers with your sales staff.
You can work your way through them and see if there are any patterns in the conversations.
Maybe users are constantly asking for returns information or maybe they can’t find out if you deliver to a certain area.
5) Use Website Polls
Our goal with these is to find sources of issues whilst users are using a particular webpage.
They’re usually little pop-ups that will display one or more questions to a user.
An example of a website poll.
We might want to find if a user can find all the information they’re looking for or if there’s anything holding them back from completing a purchase.
All of these helps with our understanding of the users on your website.
These are just a few examples of qualitative research that you could use.
Each business is unique so it’s likely there could be other areas that you could explore to draw data from. It’s up to you to be creative and uncover the gold!
Anything that we find in either our Heuristic research or Qualitative research can be cross-checked with our Quantitative research to see if our assumptions or findings can be backed up with data.
Conversion Rate Optimization Step 4: Prioritize Findings
By now you should have a big list of findings that you have collected during the various research phases.
What we’re going to do now is beginning deciding on the areas that we’re going to focus on first.
If you have made some findings that you’ve managed to match to corresponding data in Google Analytics, then this is probably a good place to start.
So we have a big list of areas we’re going to work on, what we’re going to next is rank those findings to decide the roadmap for our optimization.
There are countless amounts of prioritization frameworks that have been produced by CRO companies. One of the easiest ones, to begin with, is the PIE Framework.
Is Split Testing Right For Me?
Whilst covering the ins and outs of split testing is out of the scope of this blog post. There’s a very important point that is definitely worth mentioning.
Split Testing isn’t right for all websites.
Your website is going to fall into one of two categories :
- You have enough traffic to run regular split tests
- Your website doesn’t have enough traffic to run regular split tests
If you don’t have enough traffic, then you will essentially implementing the optimization without any testing and compare the results over a date period (i.e. 4 weeks).
If you do have enough testing then you will have the ability to run regular split tests, which involves testing various versions of a webpage to see which one performs the best.
For one of the best guides I’ve seen on ab testing, take a look at this post.
I really hope that you’ve managed to find some useful information from this beginners guide to Conversion Rate Optimization.
It’s an extremely systematic process, which once you begin to understand, will all slot into place.
Please feel to reach out with any thoughts, comments or questions. Thanks for reading!
Dale Broadhead is the Founder of ConversionHut, a PPC & Conversion Optimization Agency focused on accelerating business growth. His biggest passion is to drive quality traffic to websites and then make sure as many of those users turn into customers using CRO. You can get in touch with him on LInkedIn or shoot him an email at email@example.com.