Beginners Guide to Conversion Optimization

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? You need to convert your first-time visitors into repeat buyers.

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) provides a significant opportunity for businesses of any size.

It takes a scientific approach to optimizing websites and enables businesses (and organizations) to convert more visitors into subscribers or customers.

We wrote this guide to help anyone interested in conversion rate optimization learn how to get started and how to get the best possible results with their testing program.

This guide is for entrepreneurs, founders, marketers, bloggers, and anyone else who would like to improve conversion rates on their website.

You’ll find the guide useful for many different types of organizations, including eCommerce stores, SaaS businesses, non-profit organizations, political campaigns, and more.

Conversion optimization isn’t rocket science. In many ways, it’s common sense. But you need to actively think about what you’re doing and know the best practices.

That is where this guide comes in.  Let’s get started.

What Is Conversion Rate Optimization?

When it comes to internet marketing, you can generate more revenue in one of two ways. You can drive additional traffic to your site in order to increase sales, or you can improve the effectiveness of your site to boost sales with the same amount of traffic you’re currently receiving. Conversion rate optimization (CRO) focuses on the latter.

With conversion rate optimization, you evaluate your website’s sales funnel to identify ways you can improve your site in order to get a higher percentage of people to sign up for your product or service. Next, you come up with a hypothesis to test, and then you create a new version of a web page or landing page to test against your current version to see which one is more effective at getting visitors to sign up or buy. In the end, you implement the variation that convinces the highest percentage of people to buy what you’re selling.

What may come as a surprise is that both small and big changes to copy, layout, and design can have a big impact on the number of people who sign up for your service or buy your product. Switch Video, for example, found that changing a single word in a call-to-action button copy increased qualified leads generated from their homepage by 221%. In another test, Performable, a company acquired by Hubspot in 2011, was able to increase click-throughs 21% by using a red button instead of a green one.

Performable was able to increase click-throughs 21% by using a red call-to-action button instead of a green one

Results like this make it obvious why conversion rate optimization optimization is so valuable to companies. Even small changes can have a significant impact on the bottom line.

However, testing is the key factor when it comes to CRO. Without testing, you’re left relying on your gut instinct to determine what will be more effective, but once you test, you know right away whether a change leads to an increase or decrease in conversions. It takes the guesswork out of knowing what you should say and how you should design a new web page.

The number of tests you can eventually run are endless. You can test different headlines, new value propositions, varying button colors, different call-to-action copy, and much more. Each change has the opportunity to impact conversions, and small wins add up over time.

Why Is It So Valuable?

As you can probably imagine, conversion rate optimization is important because it generates more sales for the same amount of traffic you’re currently receiving. Instead of sinking additional money into PPC ads or other digital marketing methods to drive more traffic, you’re more efficiently convert your current traffic into leads or sales. And if you do decide to drive more traffic, your CRO improvements mean you’ll get more out of your increased marketing efforts.

Consider a hypothetical scenario where you’re the owner of a software-as-a-service (SaaS) business. Before optimizing your site, you convince 5% of people to sign up for your service which costs $50 per month. That works out to 50 new customers per every 1,000 visitors and $2,500 in monthly revenue. Now, suppose you optimize your site and raise your conversion rate from 5% to 7.5%. At this rate, 1,000 visitors turns into 75 customers and $3,750 in monthly sales.

Do you see what happened? You didn’t change anything else about your business, but after making your conversion funnel more effective, sales increased by $1250 for the same number of visitors and with the same pricing as before. Your sales funnel is more effective, and you make more money as a result.

One key formula to remember is this:

If you double conversion rates, then you cut your cost per acquisition in half.

This means if you currently spend $5.00 to acquire each new customer, after you optimize your site and double conversions, your cost per acquisition goes down to $2.50. At that point, you can afford to invest in more advertising or simply benefit from the increased profit.

As you can see, if you want to increase your sales and boost your bottom line, CRO is the way to go.

Case Study: The 2008 Obama Presidential Campaign

The 2008 Obama Presidential Campaign has become a famous example of how conversion rate optimization can help businesses, organizations, and even political candidates accomplish their goals.

During the campaign, Dan Siroker, the founder and CEO of Optimizely, was serving as the Director of Analytics for the Obama Campaign. He proposed that different headline and image/video combinations should be tested to see which one was the most effective at getting people to sign up for the President’s e-mail newsletter. The campaign team knew that a large percentage of people who sign up would end up supporting the President financially, but the trick was getting the most people possible to sign up for the campaign newsletter.

Dan’s team ended up putting together 24 different variations with four button options, three images, and three videos. Interestingly, most people on the team assumed the videos would be the most effective at getting people to sign up.

This is a screenshot of the winning variation from Barack Obama’s 2008 successful presidential campaign.

So what was the result? After testing with 310,382 visitors with each variation seen by around 13,000 people, the version with a picture of Barack Obama’s family and a “Learn More” call-to-action button led to a conversion rate of 11.6% for the winning variation, a 40.6% increase over the original conversion rate which as 8.26%.

Even more impressive than the increase in conversions from the winning variation is the fact that the new version let to approximately 2,880,000 additional sign ups, 288,000 more volunteers, and an additional $60 million in donations over the course of the campaign.

What Exactly Is A/B Testing?

A/B testing is when you set up two different variations of a web page or landing page and send an equal amount of traffic to each. You then measure the number of conversions for each variation, and declare a winner based on which one generates the most conversions. Once a winner is identified, you switch to that version so you can begin benefitting from the improved conversion rate provided by the winning variation.

A/B testing is different from before and after testing. With before and after testing, you measure conversion rates on your site to set a benchmark. You then create a new version to see if it improves or decreases conversion rates. The problem with this kind of testing is that it doesn’t take a scientific approach to measure the results. Conversion rates fluctuate from week to week so it’s impossible to know for sure whether the change in conversions is from the new version or from a higher or lower quality of traffic for that particular week.

One week you might get a large amount of traffic after getting mentioned on Mashable, but the traffic ends up not being a good fit for your product, so even though traffic and possibly total sign ups increase, the conversion rate could go down. This can lead you to think the new version led to the decrease, but actually lower quality traffic should be held responsible.

What you need to remember is that a scientific approach to testing is the only way to know with a high level of certainty whether or not a new version is impacting conversions positively or negatively. Multivariate tests are another more advanced option, but we recommend sticking with A/B tests for now until you get more familiar with conversion rate optimization and how to conduct tests on your site.

Here are the steps for conducting a successful A/B test:

  1. 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
    • Headlines
    • Landing page copy
    • Themes
    • Explainer video vs. no video
    • Call to action copy
    • Requirements for credit card information
    • Images
    • Page templates
    • Homepage concepts
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Be consistent. Testing is something that your company should do on a consistent basis so that your team is constantly gathering insights and learning.

When executed correctly, A/B testing yields powerful results. Consider the following example from Nature Air. The company had 17 separate landing pages and did a single A/B test on each landing page. The only difference is that the tested landing pages had contextual calls to action while the original landing page did not.

A/B testing with a new call to action boosted conversion rates from about 2% to more than 19% — an increase of almost 600%.

Is It Really Necessary to Test, or Can You Just Learn from What Other People Have Done?

When it comes to conversion rate optimization, a lot of people talk about testing, but not as many end up actually doing it. For the ones who don’t, they usually copy tests that produced a winner on another site. There’s a problem with that approach, however.

First, if you just copy what someone else has done, you don’t know for sure whether or not it will have the same effect on your site. Just because Performable increased conversions 21% by changing their call-to-action button from green to red doesn’t mean you’ll experience the same lift. Red may complement their design better than it does yours, or it might resonate with their customers more than it will with yours. Unless you test yourself, you’ll never know for sure.

Second, you can’t always trust wins reported by other sites. Lots of people talk about the wins they get from conversion rate optimization, but you don’t know whether the test has been carried out properly. How long was the test run? What’s the statistical probability that the test found the winning version? Answers to these questions will give you a better idea about the accuracy of the results, but often you can’t find them out unless you test for yourself.

How Often Should You Test?

When it comes to testing, you should do it every time you make a change that will potentially affect conversions. If you change the copy buried on a customer service page on your website, you don’t need to test to see what effect it has, but if you change the copy or design on a prominent page, particularly one that’s part of your conversion funnel, then you should run a test.

The reason for this is that you never know how a change will impact sales. You might be convinced that a new testimonial will boost conversions, but after testing you find out it doesn’t. Seasoned CRO consultants and professionals learn never to trust their gut. Quite often a version you’re convinced will win doesn’t, and one you aren’t so sure about actually does.

One of the biggest benefits with taking this approach to testing every significant change you make on your site is that you can always resolve arguments with co-workers based on data. If you don’t have test results, then you’ll go back and forth debating which version is better based on the preference of each member on your team. The problem with this is you never know who’s right. But once you test, you know exactly which version you should use. In this way, conversion rate optimization is a great way to limit inter-office debates over which design or copy version is better than another.

How Much Improvement Should You Expect?

You shouldn’t always expect a drastic improvement. Many blog posts brag about conversion boosts of 100% and more. While you may see those kinds of results, and obviously that’s the goal, you won’t always experience huge wins.

But you also shouldn’t be disappointed. By increasing conversion rates an average of 19% over four tests, you’ll end up doubling your conversion rates. When you look at it that way, you realize that even small wins can add up and lead to big improvements in the end.

What Should You Be Testing For?

Ultimately, you should be testing for your final conversion goal for your website. If your goal is to increase free trial sign ups, then you need to measure for that. If it’s to increase sales in an eCommerce store, then that’s the conversion goal you should measure.

If the goal of your website is to increase free trials and eventual paid sign ups, then you should measure that as your conversion goal, not click-throughs from the homepage to the sign-up page.

If you don’t, you’ll end up measuring micro-conversions which doesn’t always lead to an improvement for your final conversion goal which is what really matters. For example, you might measure the number of people who move from your homepage to the sign-up form for your free trial. After running a test, you find out that 10% more people move on to that page with your new version so you decide to make the change.

What you didn’t know is that even though it increased click-throughs to the sign-up page by 10%, it decreased paid sign ups by 5%. And that’s why you need to measure your final conversion goal. Micro-conversion improvements are great, but that’s ultimately not the goal of your test. Your goal is to increase sales.

This kind of scenario is not uncommon. One version may increase click-throughs to the sign-up page by 2%, but the other one increases actual signups by 8%. Or in another scenario, both versions might lead to the same number of people clicking through, but the new version leads to more people eventually ordering. Unless you measure for your final conversion, you’ll never know, so it’s much better to measure final conversions and not over emphasize micro conversions.

At this point you’re probably excited about conversion rate optimization. You’ve learned that doubling conversion rates will cut your cost per acquisition in half, and you’ve learned how the 2008 Barack Obama presidential campaign used CRO to activate 288,000 more volunteers and generate an additional $60 million in campaign donations.

With numbers like that, you’re likely ready to dive right in and start testing. That’s great, but you have to know where to begin. A lot of people get excited about CRO, and then they run the first test that comes to mind. That’s fine, but it’s not the best way to increase your chances of getting a win.

Why You Should Begin by Gathering Data

One of the most important lessons I learned after spending $252,000 on conversion rate optimization is the importance of gathering both qualitative and quantitative data before beginning to test. If you don’t gather data, then you’re left guessing what to change based on your gut. This isn’t a good idea and can lead to wasted time and money. It’s better to spend a month or so gathering data so you’re testing based on insights you’ve learned, not on your gut feeling. Without taking this step, you’ll end up running a lot of tests that fail.

It’s also important to gather both quantitative and qualitative data and not just to look at numbers. Quantitative data provides a good starting point, but numbers don’t paint the whole picture. For that reason you also need qualitative data which means you need to ask your current and potential customers questions about your product or service. Qualitative answers provide you with more insights about why customers are or are not buying your product and service and most often lead to the biggest breakthroughs.

Use tools like SurveyMonkey to gather insightful qualitative data.

Last but not least, it’s better to have too much data than not enough. It’s easier to identify patterns and find useful information with 100 survey responses than it is with 10. Yes, you can learn something from both sample sizes, but you’ll learn even more with additional information. And if it ends up being too much, you can always ignore superfluous information, but it’s difficult to make a decision based on inadequate data. This is why you should spend at least a month gathering and analyzing data before you even begin testing because you’ll end up saving time and money as a result.

Option One Google Analytics

One of the best places to start is with Google Analytics (GA). GA provides numerical data about how people are using your site, which steps in the funnel they’re dropping off from, and much more.

Google Analytics provides a great starting point for analytical data that will help you learn more about your website and how customers are using it.

To begin, click on “Conversions” and then “Funnel Visualization” to see what the funnel conversion rates are for your site.

If you don’t have this set up, you’ll first need to set up conversion goals, and then you’ll need to set up a conversion funnel. Conversion goals show you what percentage of your site visitors convert, and the conversion funnel shows you how many visitors move on from one step of the process to the next.

If you’re site visitors follow a standard conversion funnel, you can benefit a lot from evaluating this information in Google Analytics. For example, if you run a SaaS website that directs visitors from the homepage to a pricing page to a free trial sign-up page and finally to a confirmation page, then the conversion funnel in Google Analytics will show you what percentage of visitors move from the homepage to the pricing page, what percentage moves from the pricing page to the sign-up page, etc.

Knowing this allows you to measure each step of the funnel to find out where there might be a bottleneck for sign ups. If 50% of visitors move from the homepage to the pricing page, but only 5% move on to the sign-up page, you need to figure out how you can get more people to move on to your sign-up page in order to increase overall conversions. Conversion goals and funnels in Google Analytics helps you to keep track of these valuable stats.

To learn more about conversion goals and funnels and how to set them up, read this post titled The Google Analytics Conversion Funnel Survival Guide. You can also watch this Youtube video titled How to Set Up Conversion Funnels in Google Analytics.

Once you have conversion funnels set up and give it some time to gather data, you need to come back and evaluate the results for conversion rate optimization purposes. The key thing to look for is where in your funnel there might be a drop off. Are more people dropping off from step one to step two, or are more people dropping off at the final step? Take some notes about where there might be a bottleneck, and consider what changes you possibly can make to improve conversions.

Now that you’ve identified the drop offs, you can use the information to come up with hypotheses to test each step along the way and also to prioritize the tests you’ll eventually run. It’s still a bit early to start running a test, but go ahead and make a mental note of what you’ve found and begin to consider what changes you might be able to make to improve your conversion funnel. You also want to monitor your overall funnel conversion rate to know how well your site is converting. (And don’t worry, we’ll talk more about how to come up with ideas and how to prioritize in later chapters.)

Another key piece of information we can learn from Google Analytics is load times for your site. To find out what the load times are for your website, click on “Behavior,” “Site Speed,” and then “Overview.” The chart shows the average load times for your site, and you can dig in to find the average and daily load times for individual pages.

Knowing load times for your site is crucial because every second counts. A one second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions. If an eCommerce site makes $100,000 per day, a one second page delay could cost $2.5 million in lost sales every year. In addition, 40% of visitors abandon a site that takes more than three seconds to load. (You can learn more about loading times and conversions by reading this nifty infographic: How Loading Time Affects Your Bottom Line.)

If your load times are slow, you can take steps to decrease page load speeds in order to improve conversions. These steps include decompressing images, switching to a better hosting company, optimizing your CSS, and more.

There’s additional data you can use from GA that provides insights about your conversion rates and how you can improve your website, but we’ll use conversion funnels and page load speeds as a starting point and move on to cover how to gather qualitative data.

Option Two Customer Surveys

The next step in gathering data is to survey your customers. By surveying customers who successfully made a purchase or signed up for your service, you’ll learn what motivated them to buy and you’ll gain a wealth of data about how to convince more customers to sign up or make a purchase.

But before we get into the details, here are a few tips for conducting successful surveys:

  • Don’t ask too many questions at once.
    Customers tend to get annoyed by longer surveys, and everyone’s time is valuable. If you present customers with a shorter survey, there’s a greater likelihood that people will fill it out, which means you’ll receive more responses to evaluate. Our recommendation is to limit your survey to 5 or 10 questions and to use multiple surveys if you need to ask more questions.
  • Offer a prize as an incentive.
    As we’ve already mentioned, everyone’s time is valuable, including your customers. By offering a prize as an incentive, you’ll increase the number of people who take the time to fill out your survey. This can be a $50 gift card to Starbucks, or a free iPad. Either one of those options is sure to get more people to fill out your survey.
  • Ask open ended questions.
    Multiple choice questions are great for some surveys, but when it comes to CRO, you want to hear subjective responses written in the customers’ own words. If you ask too many multiple choice type of questions, you’ll miss out on insightful customer answers that don’t match up with the multiple choice options you supply.

As far as a surveying service, you can use whichever one you prefer. Lots of people like SurveyMonkey so you can’t go wrong using them. Other options include Wufoo and Google Forms.

Once you’ve picked a survey tool, you need to decide which questions to ask. The goal is to ask questions that will provide insights about what convinced customers to make a purchase and what hurdles stood in their way and almost deterred them from making a purchase.

Good questions include (these questions are variations that borrow heavily from questions recommended by CRO experts Peep Laja and Joanna Wiebe):

  1. How would you describe [product/service name] to a colleague or friend?
  2. What other options did you consider before choosing [product/service name]?
  3. Why did you decide to go with [product/service name]?
  4. What almost prevented you from signing up?
  5. What questions did you have about [product/service]?
  6. What ultimately convinced you to sign up?
  7. How could we do a better job of persuading your friends or colleagues to choose [product/service name]?
  8. How would you persuade more people to choose [product/service name]?
  9. What are you hoping to accomplish with [product/service name]?
  10. When did you realize you needed a product like ours? What was going on in your world that caused you to come looking for [product/service name]?
  11. What problem would you say [product/service name] lessens for you?
  12. What two adjectives/words would you use to describe our product/service?

Each of these questions needs to be tweaked based on your product, service, or niche, but each of them provide open-ended responses that will teach you more about your customers and help you to get a better idea of what they value about your service, what features matter to them about your product, the words they use to describe what you do, etc. It’s ok to ask some multiple choice types of questions that make sense for your business, but you’ll learn the most from open-ended responses. (We’ll talk more about how to evaluate the responses in the next chapter.)

This is an example of a CRO survey created as a Google Form with open-ended questions.

Option Three On-Site Surveys

The next type of survey you can consider are on-site surveys. Options for this include Qualaroo and Google Feedback Surveys for Website Owners.

On-site surveys allow you to ask questions to visitors who are currently on your site which provides you the opportunity to survey visitors who eventually become customers and ones who visit your site but may not end up making a purchase. This second type of visitor is exactly the one you want to target with on-site surveys. Why? Because the goal is to find out what’s preventing visitors from becoming customers. You want to figure out what it is that’s preventing them from taking whatever step you want them to take on your site. Is it the price? Are they confused? Is the website not working? These are all questions you want to get answers for with on-site surveys.

Here are some great questions you can ask to learn more about your site visitors:

  1. Is there anything you can’t find on this page?
  2. Is there anything confusing about this page?
  3. Do you have any questions at this point?
  4. What’s your biggest concern about purchasing [insert product name here]?
  5. What’s the number one reason that’s stopping you from making a purchase?
  6. What else would you like to see on this page?
  7. What can we help you find?
  8. Why didn’t you complete your purchase today?
  9. What could we have done to convince you to complete the purchase?
  10. What’s the biggest problem we can help you solve?
  11. What are you looking for in your ideal solution?
  12. What else can we place on this page to convince you to buy?

Again, the purpose of on-site surveys is to find out what’s preventing visitors from becoming customers. The answers will let you know if they’d like to try a free trial first, if your prices are too high, or if something else is the problem. We’ll talk more in the next chapter about how to evaluate the results.

Option Four Usability Tests

Usability tests are another great way to learn more about your visitors and to find out what’s preventing them from placing an order on your site.

With a usability test, you provide a series of steps for a user to complete. Then, you find someone to complete the steps, ask them to talk about what they’re experiencing as they use your site, and record them while they’re talking and completing the steps you’ve provided. The video of the session then provides you with information about what was confusing on your site, what the user liked, and what they had questions about.

If you don’t conduct user tests, you can miss really obvious ways to optimize your site. For example, visitors may have trouble with the check-out process because they can’t figure out how to enter their phone number properly. Your IT team may not have given the phone number entry form much thought, but it’s become one of the biggest frustrations for users. Without conducting a user test, you’ll have difficulty discovering these kinds of easy to solve problems.

So how do you carry one out? There are two options. The first is to conduct the user test and to recruit participants yourself. You can set up your computer with a microphone and a screen recording software, visit a local coffee shop, and recruit participants for your test. That’s one way.

Another way is to use a site like UserTesting.com. UserTesting.com makes it easy to conduct user tests by automating the recording process and providing scenario templates you can use for your type of business. The tests cost $49 each, but since you only need around 5 tests at a time to get good results, the cost isn’t exorbitant for the level of service provided.

Regardless of which option you choose, the purpose of user testing is to find out how visitors are using your site, what they think about it, which questions they have, and what they have a problem with. It’s the best way to get into their to heads and really understand what’s going on when they use your site.

So who can you test your site on? Here are some options:

  • You are a prime candidate to use the site and to carry out a user test.
    Often marketers and owners create something and then leave it for other people to use, but to put it in industry terms, you need to “eat your own dog food.” In other words, you need to use what you’ve created so you can understand your site in a more intimate way and so you become familiar with each step of the process.
  • Your customers are another testing option
    since they’re obviously great candidates to use your site and to let you know what they think about it. When possible, it’s best to find people within your customer group to test your site.
  • Anyone else can be a good candidate for testing.
    Even though they may not be within your target customer group, there’s a good chance they can point out glitches or confusing parts of your site since most people are familiar with websites and know what’s confusing and what’s not.

Depending on who’s available at the time you conduct your test can determine who you test. You can begin by asking employees in your office to test the site, move on to ask patrons at a coffee shop to give it a go, and finish by using a site like UserTesting.com to test people that are within your customer demographic.

To carry out a test, you first want to come up with a series of tasks for your test participants to carry out. You can start by asking users to follow a path that your customers normally take to get to your website. For example, you could ask them to visit Google to search for your product and to talk about what they see and what impression they have about the search results. You could next ask them to click on your result or visit your website, look at it for five seconds, and then tell you what their first impression is of the site. After that, you could ask them to attempt to order a certain product and then watch them carry out the test to find out if they’re are any hurdles along the way.

This is an example of a user testing template provided as a starting point from UserTesting.com

What Does This Look Like In Practice?

Recently, Switch Video was looking to improve conversion rates on their homepage. They weren’t sure what to do, but they wanted to generate more leads through the form located on the right side of their homepage. The form is used to generate leads from companies that are interested in creating an explainer video.

To begin the process, Switch decided to survey their customers to learn more about them.

They asked questions like:

  1. On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely are you to recommend us?
  2. If you were to recommend us, how would you describe us to a colleague or friend?
  3. Were there any questions you needed answers to but couldn’t find on our website?

Not surprisingly, the third question provided the most helpful results. A large percentage of respondents mentioned that the biggest question they had was about finding out how much a video would cost. Switch didn’t include pricing information on their site, so an overwhelming number of responses mentioned that the biggest question they had and couldn’t find an answer for was related to how much a video would cost.

Based on these results, Switch decided to run a test. Their original CTA button copy said, “Get a Free Consultation.” They decided to test new copy that said, “Get a Quote.” So they set up a test, ran it, and evaluated the results.

After testing, they found that the new version increased full form completions by 221%. That’s right. Changing the copy on a CTA button increased lead-generation form completion by 221%.

But before you go out and make this same change to your site, you have to remember that this result was specific to Switch’s business and was based on information that came in through insights from customer surveys. Switch Video didn’t just guess what to test and then get amazing results. They followed a proven conversion rate optimization process in order to generate measurable and lasting results.

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:

  1. Awareness

    Metrics to watch include unique visitors, natural search, and referring links.

  2. Engagement

    Metrics to watch include pageviews, return visits, social media engagement, and completion of on-site tasks (e.g. video views)

  3. Retention

    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.

Let’s Get Back to the Basics with Landing Pages

A landing page is a single web page that appears after a user clicks on an advertisement and is where a lot of companies do their A/B testing the most.

Here are some examples to help get your creative juices flowing:

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

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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.

As mentioned above, 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.

  1. 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:
    1. The primary headlineThe very first thing that people will see or read.
    2. The sub-headingThe best way to keep your primary headline short & sweet. Add supplemental details to communicate as clearly as possible.
    3. The reinforcement statementInclude this statement for backup (to cover bases) since people will be scanning your page.
    4. The closing argumentYour final chance to convince your website visitors to do business with you.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?”
    1. 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.
    2. 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.
  4. 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:


  5. 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 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.

Use these steps to create multiple landing pages that you can A/B test with to find your winner.

Conclusion

Only one in seven A/B tests actually improves a website’s conversion rate. Why? Because conversion rate optimization is more than just testing colors or call-to-action buttons.

If you want to see significant gains in your conversion rate, you have to learn how to come up with the right tests, and you need a better understanding of the conversion optimization process.

By following the guide above you will learn to improve your conversion optimization strategy in no time, and with less mistakes.

In order to help you act quickly (since I know this guide is a lot to digest at once), I’ve created an infographic showing the perfect execution to conversion rate optimization.

The Perfect Execution to Conversion Rate Optimization