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How to Kick Start Your Conversion Rate Optimization Campaign

conversion rateWhat is Conversion Rate Optimization?
In the most technical terms, conversion rate is the percentage of website visitors who perform a desired action during their visit.  Conversion rate is typically related to the number of sales per user visits, but, in recent years, it has grown to include other types of actions like email subscriptions and divulgence of personal or financial information.  These kinds of conversions may not produce an immediate sale, but often lay the foundation for future sales.

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) are the array of methods used which elevate the number of conversions through your internet marketing efforts. It isn’t difficult to see why conversion rate optimization is a major objective for most online businesses.   The more conversions, the greater the number of sales and loyal customers which translate into heightened brand visibility.  According to the 2014 State of Marketing report, almost 47 percent of marketers list CRO as a major objective in 2014.

In order to optimize the conversion rate, marketers rely on market research which provides insights into consumer behavior.  In the State of Marketing report, almost 29 percent of marketers prioritized collecting, analyzing and using behavior based data in CRO efforts.  Another 21 percent said that testing and CRO were very important.

What Role Does Testing and Research Play in Conversion Rate Optimization?

It is important to recognize that a conversion typically involves a number of steps.  The number and nature of these steps is dependent upon the business, but is generally referred to as the sales funnel.  The initial stage of the funnel is when a consumer finds an ad or reference (e.g. through a Google search page) to your company.  Once the user arrives on your landing page, there are often a series of actions which are required to complete the sale, acquire their personal information or secure their commitment to future communications.

The reason this funnel is conceptually important is that a potential conversion can be disrupted at any of these steps.  To identify the particular point which is stifling conversion requires research.  This research is usually in the form of A/B testing and analytics. 

Data Analytics

One of the most popular methods of determining user behavior is through data analytics.  There are many reliable analytical tools like Paditrack.com or Kissmetrics.com but among the most popular is Google Analytics.  This powerful tool from Google allows webmasters to observe aggregate actions of visitors.  To utilize this free application, merely visit the Google Analytics website and open an account.  Then enter a personalized script into your website’s code. Over time, this script will monitor visitor activity and provide data to your Google Dashboard.

Google Analytics will provide information about the following:

  • Visitors—including number, geographical origin, browser and repeated visitation.
  • Traffic sources—you can learn where your visitors are coming from, e.g. Google search engine optimization, Facebook pages.
  • Page analysis—this monitors the actions taken on each page of your site, allowing you to determine how users navigate, what Calls-to-Actions are most effective, and which pages lead to site exits.
  • Ecommerce—you can learn how various products are performing.

The value of Google Analytics is that it helps you identify the weakest performing parts of your website.  Unfortunately, Google Analytics doesn’t provide a complete picture.

In order to maximize the value of analytics, there are a number of companies which provide additional tools.

  • Click Tale—is a highly praised analytical tool that produces a comprehensive, visual model of visitor behavior.
  • MouseFlow—generates heatmaps of websites which display user activity.

A/B Testing

While analytics can help you pinpoint pages that are underperforming, they do not usually give you the reason why. You may need to build or re-code your site (if it is a structural issue), choose a different product to sell, or implement more effective calls to action.   In order to determine what particular feature of a page is curtailing conversion, you will need to employ a form of testing. 

One of the most popular methods of determining the efficacy of a funnel stage is to utilize A/B testing.  The concept of A/B testing is simple.  You merely tweak a feature of a page and upload it to the web.  You then compare the success of both versions. 

This type of variant testing can help you improve your conversion rate, but you often need a burst of insight to know what part of the page needs to be modified.  It is often necessary to have the advice of an experienced marketer who can offer suggestions. 

Friction Points

With the help of analytics, you can quite easily focus in on underperforming pages, and A/B testing can help you improve those pages.  If there are, however, more global issues with your website, you may need to employ other research techniques. These issues or friction points may require additional methods for identification.

Among the most popular is to directly ask visitors about their site experience.  This kind of interaction usually takes the form of surveys and exit polls.  These questionnaires are typically in the form of multiple choice questions, which may ask about many aspects of the site or merely a specific topic.  The value of surveys is that they can identify more global issues that page analysis is incapable of identifying.  For example, your conversion funnel may involve too many steps, or your website may be aesthetically unpleasing.

Cycling Through the CRO Process

Unless you have a 100 percent conversion rate, there is always something that can be improved on your website.  CRO involves constant attention to your visitors’ behavior, analysis, and testing.  With each successful repetition of this cycle, you can be confident that you are getting closer to the truly ideal website conversion funnel, but you should recognize that your competitors are likely employing a similar methodology.

CRO is a complex process that is in large part science, but also owes a great deal to marketing creativity. CRO specialists can often provide the insights that shift your program in a new, more fruitful direction, but you shouldn’t rely solely on the suggestions of a single “expert” or firm; shop other sites and seek advice from other knowledgeable marketers to learn about emerging CRO techniques.

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