Traffic acquisition is only half the marketing equation.
In addition to bringing visitors to your website, you need to keep them there. Not only that, you need to transform them from interested prospects into customers. Your website needs to move the relationship forward (and seal the deal).
And once they complete their first transactions?
Conversion optimization is the process of transforming new website visitors into paying customers — and first-time customers into repeat buyers.
This is a concept that every online marketer needs to thoroughly understand. If you don’t have a website (or marketing strategy)that’s optimized for conversions, you’ll end up wasting your web traffic.
Conversion optimization isn’t rocket science. In many ways, it’s common sense. But you need to actively think about what you’re doing. Know your best practices.
You need to convert your first-time visitors into repeat buyers.
Table of Contents
START BY STUDYING THE CONVERSION FUNNEL
A typical conversion funnel looks something like this:
Or maybe something like this:
Metaphorically speaking, conversion funnels come in all shapes and sizes. Pragmatically speaking, conversion funnels will almost always look like a funnel. That’s because visitors are dropping off at every stage. Maybe they learn early on that your product isn’t a fit. Maybe they can’t afford to become a customer.
These points of divergence are natural and impossible for your business to avoid. But there are some things that can easily be avoided. Like when your company looks untrustworthy. Or when audiences can’t understand what the heck is going on. Or when sign-up processes are so convoluted that prospects just give up and move on.
Conversion optimization is the solution to these problems. But we’ll get to that later. In the meantime, we want to make sure that you really get the basics.
It’s rare for a company to have just one conversion funnel. That’s why you want to think about your customers and users first:
- A college student will have a different decision-making process from a financially stable 27-year-old.
- Your more expensive product line may be a tougher sell than than the $5/month subscription.
- Return-website visitors may have already built trust with your company while brand new visitors who just found your website through a banner ad might be more skeptical.
Keep in mind that conversion paths can also vary within a website traffic source. On Facebook, someone might find your company through a banner ad, fan page, or referral from a friend. You might guess that the personal referral will instill the most trust in your brand.
An optimized conversion funnel starts with a thorough understand if your audience and user segments. Conversion optimization is a term that many marketers toss around as a buzzword — it’s a buzzword that comes with many, many more.
- CONVERSION OPTIMIZATION IS NOT TESTING
- CONVERSION OPTIMIZATION IS NOT THE PRACTICE OF TRACKING WHICH PPC ADS GET MORE CLICKS
- CONVERSION OPTIMIZATION IS NOT THE ART OF CREATING CLICKABLE GRAPHICS AND LOGOS
What #s 1 through 3 share in common is that they are tactics. These are important as part of your conversion optimization process, but they are not enough to BE conversion optimization.
- CONVERSION OPTIMIZATION IS A COMPREHENSIVE STRATEGY THAT STARTS WITH USER PSYCHOLOGY.
- CONVERSION OPTIMIZATION IS A BLENDED DISCIPLINE THAT INCORPORATES FOUNDATIONS OF PSYCHOLOGY, DESIGN, DIGITAL ANALYTICS, RESEARCH, AND QUANTITATIVE ANALYSIS.
- CONVERSION OPTIMIZATION IS MOST EFFECTIVE WHEN YOU LET YOUR CUSTOMERS, PROSPECTS, AND AUDIENCE GUIDE YOU.
Treat your customers and prospects as you would your most valuable collaborators and business partners.
Website visitors go through a series of steps before converting into paying customers or repeat buyers. These steps will vary based on your business model, industry, and product/service price points. Your job as a marketer is to understand these natural paths and make the process seamless.
KNOW HOW THE PARTS OF
CONVERSION OPTIMIZATION FIT TOGETHER
- The most effective conversion optimization strategies should prioritize your customers’ and prospects’ most pressing needs and priorities. Know where they’re coming from so that you can deliver the most effective design, messaging, and copy possible.
- Understand what messaging makes the most sense at each stage of the conversion funnel. This step is crucial for developing marketing messaging that effectively guides prospects towards a purchase. Early funnel prospects, for instance, just want to gather information. If you push them too hard with an aggressive sales pitch, you risk damaging the relationship. Mid-funnel prospects, however, want more than research and may be ready for a conversation with your sales team. Understand the stages of the conversion funnel to know what your customers and prospects need. Then, craft your message accordingly.
- Avoid creating cognitive dissonance. This is a fancy way of saying that your marketing messaging does not fit together or make sense. The opposite of cognitive dissonance is cohesion — ensuring that your headings, sub-headings, calls to action, and images all make sense into a unified marketing message.
Conversion optimization is a blended discipline that is equal parts psychology, design, copywriting, A/B testing, and analytics. Here is how each of the elements fit together:
The Coworks homepage, for instance, is clearly targeted to new users. The design conveys significant human interest while remaining simple and aesthetically pleasing. Text is kept short and clear to just a few lines.
In addition to building human interest, Coworks implements subtle design elements to convert new website visitors into users of the platform.
- The website call to action is clear and simple — placed prominently in the middle of the page.
- The call-to-action is bright blue, a vibrant color that stands out from each of the other elements of the page.
- The page communicates prioritizes visual communication over text through strategic use and placement of web copy. Coworks makes it a point to call out that joining the platform is free — right next to the page’s call to action. The company also uses engaging icons, rather than text, to explain the platform’s core specialties in design & illustration, writing & translation, photo & video, and web/app development.
It is important to keep your design as current and updated as possible. A cruddy design could be costing you business.
Conversion-centered designs blend form with function. Your web pages should be aesthetically pleasing, quick to read, and driven by human interest. Beauty alone, however, will not drive sales for your company. The design elements you choose should be custom-tailored to the precise conversion funnel stages that you’re targeting.
Copywriting is an area where website owners get hung up. When in doubt, here is what you do:
- Consult your company’s message architecture to communicate your brand’s value proposition and story. This is the step-by-step process that we walked you through back in chapter 3. Going through this exercise will help your company define its voice and tone in communicating with customers. What you say to your target audience is just as important as the style in which you say it.
- Write down the content of what you want to say.
- Proofread what you wrote, and then cut it down in half.
- Bonus step — cut it down in half again.
Be as succinct and to-the-point as possible. Keep in mind that your audiences will engage with your website using a variety of devices. They’re not just sitting at the computer. They don’t have time to kill. Marketing copy needs to communicate as much information in as little space as possible. Clarity is important. Be prepared to sell using just a few lines.
The fact is that you probably don’t. That’s what A/B testing is for — to help you continuously iterate and improve.
A/B testing is also known as split testing. The process involves comparing multiple variation of a page element (or entire page) to pinpoint the best performer.
It’s especially important to run A/B tests when redesigning your website. Even if you have a great idea, it may fall flat as a total dud. If you’re not careful, your company may lose valuable sales. An A/B test will help you ‘try before you buy’ and forecast unexpected boosts and losses before they happen. In other words A/B tests help mitigate the consequences of marketing gone wrong.
Here are the steps for conducting a successful A/B test:
- Start with user psychology. What elements on your homepage, product pages, landing pages, or online advertisements are likely to influence purchasing decisions? These could be specific word choices general concepts and themes. Here are example elements that may make sense to A/B test:
- Color schemes
- Landing page copy
- Explainer video vs. no video
- Call to action copy
- Requirements for credit card information
- Page templates
- Homepage concepts
- Determine how many variations you want to test. This will depend on how much web traffic your company is generating, as you want to maintain a meaningful sample size for each group.
- Form hypotheses about what you think will perform better and why. Make this a cross-functional exercise by gathering perspectives from your entire team. Be sure to include a blend of opinions from designers, engineers, copywriters, and everyone in between.
- Choose a tool like Visual Website Optimizer or Optimizely to help run your test. These tools will split your web traffic. It’s important that each group of visitors is representative and entirely randomized, as unforeseen trends in the data can skew the interpretation of results.
- Run your test until you see a stable pattern. If you end your test too soon, your results may be invalid — and your efforts will have been a complete waste of time. And if you don’t see a pattern in the data? That’s just the way it is — it’s perfectly acceptable to have inconclusive results. This trend happens in formal research all the time, and it doesn’t mean that you’re doing anything wrong.
- Having a statistics background can help for interpreting the results of your A/B test, but don’t feel held back if you’re not a mathematician. The tools we mentioned in #5 can help you make sense out of your data. Visual Website Optimizer is especially powerful for website owners and marketers who may be new to statistics. The software will give you a framework to make sense of your data.
- Be consistent. Testing is something that your company should do on a consistent basis so that your team is constantly gathering insights and learning.
- What are people doing, and why?
- What went wrong, and why?
- What’s going right, and why?
The answers to these three questions are foundational to your online marketing strategy. They will help you:
- Understand how to appeal to different customer segments.
- Fix problems that are causing you to lose business.
- Identify initiatives that you can scale and grow for even more success.
The thing about analytics is that there is no formulaic approach. You need to identify the right tools and metrics to help tell your customers’ story. And before you go software shopping, you need a clear strategic vision for what you’re hoping to achieve.
If you’re not careful, you can easily become buried in a sea of data. There’s just so much. It will keep you entertained and intrigued for hours.
But that’s not the point. Data should have value beyond entertainment. What you study should have a clear connection to your company’s most pressing strategic goals. Before running any analyses, you should ask yourself whether there is a clear connection between what you want to study and how your findings will impact your business decisions.
Analytics should be actionable and should tell a clear story about the people browsing your website. They should also capture the entire buy cycle in the following key areas:
Metrics to watch include unique visitors, natural search, and referring links.
Metrics to watch include pageviews, return visits, social media engagement, and completion of on-site tasks (e.g. video views)
Metrics to watch include return visits, repeat buys, long-term customer value, and churn.
Conversion optimization and A/B testing goals should be compared against benchmarks established from your analytics.
One challenge that marketers face is that they have infinite options for trying concepts, copy, and headlines. How do you know that you’re running with the best possible option for converting users?
LET’S GET BACK TO THE BASICS:
WHAT’S A LANDING PAGE?
Speak2Leads has an integration partnership with Infusionsoft. Here is what users see when they click through to Speak2Leads from the Infusionsoft app marketplace:
- Infusionsoft App Marketplace — where Speak2Leads can recruit new prospects
- Infusionsoft-focused landing page, hosted on Speak2Leads, to convert prospects into leads.
As the Speak2Leads landing page exemplifies, your marketing messaging should make sense for your target audience. Cognitive dissonance will cause users to become confuse. Whenever possible, try to avoid creating one-size-fits-all landing pages for your different website visitors.
Landing pages can also be set up to gather interest from potential customers, even before your product launches. This is called a pre-launch landing page. Here is an example from Pitchbox, a software platform that helps companies streamline their prospecting and sales:
Unbounce is a platform that can make the process of creating and A/B testing your landing pages much easier. They’ve put together a great diagram that explains the components of a high-performing landing page. Especially if you’re a newcomer to online marketing, this guide can help you overcoming any design learning curves to start generating results immediately.
- The starting point of your marketing campaign is your ability to define your company’s unique value proposition. Be clear in what sets your product apart from the competition. Your value proposition can be communicated through four page elements:
- The primary headlineThe very first thing that people will see or read.
- The sub-headingThe best way to keep your primary headline short & sweet. Add supplemental details to communicate as clearly as possible.
- The reinforcement statementInclude this statement for backup (to cover bases) since people will be scanning your page.
- The closing argumentYour final chance to convince your website visitors to do business with you.
- Unbounce calls this the hero shot. Its purpose is to build human interest and clarity ambiguity. It can be a picture or explainer video that showcases your product, service, or team in the best possible light.
- Provide a more detailed description of your product or service’s main features and benefits. While your headline is the main attention grabber, these blurbs jump into the most important details. Answer the one key question that website visitors are inevitably asking: “what’s in it for me?”
- Provide a bulleted summary of core features or benefits. Write one brief sentence or paragraph (at most) and explain the rest via bullets. Come back to this section once it’s written, and edit out the bloat.
- Provide detailed benefit and feature descriptions to describe what you’ve explained briefly in A. Communicate the benefit of your offering first. After, start describing the features. These details will be important for reaching users who need in-depth information to make a decision.
- Social proof is a powerful and persuasive concept (in Unbounce’s words exactly). These are social signals to explain that your product or service is in high demand. The concept is that users are more likely to convert if they know of other customers that have been happy doing business with your company.
Examples of social proof include:
- Customer testimonials
- Social signals via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn
- A count of how many customers your company has
- Trust seals to establish security of information
- Awards from reputable organizations
- Customer reviews that differentiate your brand from competitors
Here are some examples of the concept in action:
- The final section should prioritize your business’s conversion goals. To a visitor, this is communicated as your webpage’s call-to-action (CTA), which can be a standalone button or part of a lead gen form.
- Copy text and color are the elements that you should prioritize most in your CTA.
- Be very direct (and tangible) about what audiences can expect after clicking through on the button.
- Make the button as attention-grabbing as it can possibly be. General best practices are to choose a color that contrasts with the existing color scheme. Use additional visual cues to draw attention to it.
Look at the following example from the CrazyEgg homepage. What is more compelling? A button that says “click here” or CTA copy that tells you exactly what you’re going to get?
And with that final thought, we’re ready to move on from chapter 5. At this point, we feel that you’re well-empowered with the basics to move forward. Now that understand how to build a marketing system, we’re ready to talk campaigns.
And here’s an example from QuickSprout:Your CTA should convey energy and communicate the specific ROI that users should expect to derive from working with your company or using your product. After all, you’re talking to humans, not click bots.The company is in private beta, and their conversion goal is to gather interest and sign-ups.A landing page is a single web page that appears after a user clicks on an advertisement. These can be used to capture leads, communicate information, or generate website sign-ups. They are different from a website’s homepage. Here are some examples:
- Getting audiences to your website is only half the marketing equation. Your company needs to invest in a powerful conversion optimization strategy.
- Start by understanding the steps that prospects take in moving through your company’s unique conversion funnel. Keep in mind that you likely have more than one.
- Conversion optimization is a blended discipline. You need to pay attention to the full spectrum of website elements that influence user psychology. These include design and copywriting. A/B testing and analytics are also crucial for optimizing conversions on your website.
- Landing pages are a discipline where art meets science. They need to be attractive, but they also need to be effective in moving prospects through your sales conversion funnel. Re-read the last section of this chapter. Print it out, and pin it on your marketing team’s wall.