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A blog about branding, marketing, and design, mostly through the lens of practical psychology, intended to be a resource to small businesses and entrepreneurs. Unless otherwise noted, all articles are written by Nyla Smith, owner of n-Vision Designs. {Subscribe to the RSS feed here: RSS}

"C" is for: Conversion Optimization

Nyla Smith | Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A B testingThere is an old saying, "If you build it, they will come." Even if this were true (it’s not, but), even if they come, you still need them to buy! When it comes to your website, having one is only the first step. The second step is getting people there. The third step is where conversion optimization comes in.

What is Conversion Optimization?

So, you may be wondering what the term conversion optimization (also called conversion rate optimization, or CRO) means. Well, let's break it down. A conversion is the act of changing into a different condition, nature, or character; and optimization is the process of making something as effective, perfect, or useful as possible.

In essence, it's the systematic process of tweaking a webpage to become more effective at changing visitors into customers.

The goals will differ depending on the type of site. For an e-commerce site, the goal is to get more people to buy more products. For a service-based business, the goal is usually to get more people to sign up for a newsletter, email list, quote request, etc.  — in other words, lead generation.

Conversion optimization is all about testing — to prove or disprove hypotheses, and gain insight along the way.

What needs to be tested?

Your Value Proposition

One of the biggest factors to consider when testing out a marketing hypothesis is your value proposition. You will normally test this in the headline of your website. The best headlines are the ones that clearly state a benefit to your visitor. Headlines are the first thing (and sometimes the only thing), that people read. Which means this is one of the most important things to get right. So please, please, pleeaaase, never use "Welcome to our website" as your headline on your homepage. This is prime real estate and you're doing yourself a disservice by not considering your opening sentence.

Your Imagery

The images you use can make all the difference in conversion. Images of people as opposed to objects tend to result in higher conversions. Of course, it all depends on what you’re selling, and how your specific audience can relate to the image of the person. So, keep in mind whether the person is male, female, average-looking, a supermodel, young, old, smiling, gesturing, and so on. Test several of these visual features to see what type of a response you get from your particular audience.

Your Copy and Microcopy

Your copy, or text, is your salesperson and is key in conversions. You're essentially persuading people to do something, so of course, the words you use to do so can make or break your conversion rate.

Microcopy includes things like what your calls-to-action say. Does your form button say "Submit" or does it say “Get your free report”? Or does it say "Get my free report"? Believe it or not, the minor difference of using first-person vs. second-person pronouns can affect the conversion rate drastically. Who would've thought?

Trust Elements

Trust elements are things like social proof (testimonials, reputable endorsements) and security seals for e-commerce. Maybe you need them; maybe you don't. You won't know until you test. If you're already a trusted business, these elements could actually end up being a distraction and result in less conversions.

That's not all...

There are lots of other factors to test. A few to consider are:

  • button color
  • button size
  • overall layout
  • whether to include explainer videos
  • the fields in your forms (how many and what they are)
  • multiple aspects of the checkout process for an e-commerce store (product photos and placement, upsell techniques, reviews, how many steps in the checkout process, and so on)

While all of this may seem overwhelming, starting with a hypothesis and testing one thing at a time will help make it manageable and ensure you know what exactly it was that made the difference.

How to test?

Two methods of testing can be used, A/B split test and multivariate testing.

A/B testing means that you have two versions of your page, a control and a copy, with one thing changed on the copy. That one difference is what you're testing to see if it has an impact on conversions. It could be a headline, could be a different image, or even a larger button.

In general, 50% of your audience is shown version A and 50% is shown version B (though you may decide to split across different percentages, maybe 75/25 if you just want to see how B performs without risking losing a lot of conversions from A). This is done without them knowing that they are in a test. When they visit your site for the first time, one of the two versions is randomly shown, and a cookie is placed on their computer so that when they come back to the site, they will see that same version again. In this way, you are able to measure which page is more successful.

With multivariate testing, as the name suggests, you are testing multiple variables. That means between the two versions of your page, you may have a different headline, a different photo, a different button color, and different microcopy. That makes it a little more difficult to determine what one thing makes the difference in conversion rates, but it's something that can be done if you have a large amount of traffic that frequents your site.

While any method of testing requires considerable traffic in order to get statistically accurate results, sites with lower traffic should stick to A/B testing.

What tools to use?

Many tools are available; some popular ones are:

Always Be Testing!

Conversion optimization is a scientific method for improving your bottom line. There are general best practices, but you won't actually know what works for you until you test. You may be surprised at what is actually working and what isn't! The worst thing for any online business is to have traffic coming to their site without capitalizing on it. Losing potential customers just because your buttons are too small — can you imagine? Conversion optimization is an important process for any business that has a web presence. And it's a process that doesn't stop. There is always something that you can be testing. Your profits depend on it!

Nyla Smith is a Graphic Designer, Web Designer, Front-End Web Developer and Consultant with over 13 years of experience. She is the owner of n-Vision Designs, LLC in Hampton, Virginia, which exists to provide marketing support and brand consulting to small- and medium-sized businesses needing creative solutions. Contact Nyla if you'd like to discuss your next creative project. She can usually be bribed to a meeting with a cup of green tea and an oatmeal cookie.
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