In childhood, our parents used to teach us the difference between right and wrong. As time passed by we defined by ourselves the moral values and principles that guide us towards life. This post is not meant to discuss ethics, but to reveal the difference between the right decisions, which are the ones that support the business objectives, and the the wrong ones that play against achieving these goals.

Optimize conversion rate

I remember that when I’ve started to do conversion rate optimization I couldn’t decide where to start from. Even if I had a template to work on, I couldn’t deliver the promised results to the client. As a beginner, I used to study every day how to optimize conversion rate, but the problem was how I looked at the problem, not the solutions the internet provided. As long as I was searching for CRO case studies, best practices, and testing ideas, the search results couldn’t deliver something else, right?

What can you learn from this?

Don’t start conversion rate optimization without having basic knowledge about what conversion rate optimization is and what it involves, how can it support your business and marketing goals and what are the additional services that would go hand in hand with CRO to achieve your goals.

The wrong way to optimize conversion rate – DON’Ts

1. Assuming that people don’t like the design of your website and start changing colors and images without testing them

Your website design might be terrible, but that could be only your opinion. No matter how convinced you are that the design hurts conversion rates, it’s not you the one who is buying from your website, but the customers. They are the ones who could tell through their actions on the site if there is something that bothers them.

The visitors’ reactions to design changes can be measured with an A/B testing software.This takes me to the next pitfall.

2. Running tests without having a well structured A/B testing plan

The decisions to modify the visual elements on a webpage need to come as a result of a Conversion Rate Audit. A vital step to determine whether you need to change or not something on your website is data analysis. Numbers will tell you which pages need optimization based on potential, importance, and ease.

3. Believing that best practices are better than testing 

Optimize conversion rate don'ts

“Look at what others have accomplished with that simple test!”

Great, but do they have the same business model and website as you have? Certainly not.  Best practices provided by the industry’s experts are meant to guide you through the process to optimize conversion rates. They give you an idea about where to look when analyzing data, which anomalies should catch your attention, what to ask your customers through surveys and how to generate hypotheses for your tests. Therefore, use best practices and testing ideas for inspiration and then start analyzing your website to see where it can be improved.

4. Testing on a few visitors or on the wrong ones

A/B testing software allow you to include only a part of the website’s traffic in the test. You could choose to test hypotheses on 5% or 30% of the traffic. Any percentage is OK as long as you know what’s the goal of running a test. The problems appear when your websites don’t receive too many visitors. Another warning would be to choose wisely between regular and new visitors. People who visit you on a regular basis may get scared if they get a different version of the website. The risk isn’t worth it especially if the variation is just temporary running on the website until the A/B test is finished.

5. Testing the impact of a change on unimportant metrics

 This issue is linked to testing small changes such as the color of a call-to-action button or contrast, borders or other esthetic aspects. It is a waste of time to measure how changing a color impacts the click-through rate. The major problems of a website that is not converting at the desirable conversion rate concern aspects such as Unique Selling Proposition, trust, converting barriers, the customer’s behavior and needs.

The right (and smart) way to optimize conversion rate – DOs

1. Creating conversion funnels

The ultimate goal of using conversion rate optimization tactics on the website is having successful marketing campaigns that support the business objectives. Therefore, funnels help with setting up intermediate goals that lead to achieving the greatest goals of one’s online business.

The funnel has the role of showing the stages that the website’s visitors have to pass to arrive at the final status: customers or brand fans. Once you have established the exact steps that visitors need to complete, you can target them with conversion rate optimization efforts in order to move them to the next stage.

For instance, an e-commerce business can have the following expectations from the website’s visitors. They should arrive on the website as visitors, then become subscribers, come back to the website as a result of email marketing or remarketing efforts, purchase goods and, thus, becoming customers. Finally, they have to make repeated purchases and become VIP customers and raging fans.

Learn more about creating sales funnels for an e-commerce store.

2. Understanding data

Once you have created the funnel, you know what your target is and what are the exact steps that visitors need to follow to become customers. The next task for you is to analyze the website data and figure why it is performing in this manner, in this particular moment. Identifying the current status helps with finding the most efficient solutions to achieving the target goals.

3. Figuring conversion barriers

Unlike analyzing quantitative data, figuring conversion barriers involve qualitative data, collected through surveys. Underperforming pages that need optimization should be included in this process. For example, if the traffic received by a landing page doesn’t convert at the desired conversion rate, you could get insights directly from customers to see what is stopping them from moving further. Survey tools allow setting up one question surveys that do not disturb visitors in their journey. The major benefit is that you get ideas that you couldn’t ever think about and then test them with the A/B testing software you’re using.

4. Getting insights from the sales and support teams

The website’s visitors interact not only with the website but with your colleagues. Either they report an incident to the support team or they ask questions to the sales persons, they are desperately asking for help to solve their specific problems.

5. Testing solutions

Data mining doesn’t stop at figuring the current status of one’s online business. It has to be supported with further efforts meant to drive to achieve the ultimate business goal. Therefore, data has to be transformed into information by formulating solutions to the website’s problems. The marketer’s job is to prioritize and select the solutions that could be implemented on the website without too many efforts in terms of duration, technical requirements, and financial resources.

6. Replicating successful tests

 The secret to success is related to consistency. Why changing something that is working? If you have succeeded with a test, replicate it to other pages that need optimization, by adjusting it to the page’s goals.

7. Repeating

One successful test is not enough to consider that a page doesn’t need further conversion optimization efforts. The consumer behavior is volatile, and the marketer’s duty is to keep an eye on his moves constantly. Therefore, once you have passed through all of the steps mentioned above, create a framework that will be the base of your future efforts to optimize conversion rate.

I hope that I managed to put into light the most important principles that you have to work with to optimize conversion rate. It’s your decision now how are you going to apply these principles. I encourage you to use the information provided by this post about how to create an A/B testing plan – it includes a how to tutorial about setting up funnels in Google Analytics, templates for data analysis and choosing hypotheses for an A/B test  and a structured procedure to include A/B testing in your business strategy. Another suggested reading is our CRO for beginners article.

Images via Martin Cathrae,  Ervins Strauhmanis