A Guide to Removing Barriers to Conversions
Where to optimize?
What to optimize?
Who to optimize for?
These three simple questions derive the complex riddle of Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). On the surface, many people think that CRO involves A/B testing the color of buttons to see what performs best, changing header colors to red, or copying competitor strategies in landing page design.
But… this couldn’t be further from the truth.
No, conversion rate optimization is more defined and systematic than guesswork or copycatting. There isn’t some magic button or immediate solution to CRO and there is no single framework for optimization. At its core, CRO is designed around a powerful mindset: developing an empathic understanding of your website visitors and customers. To achieve this, you’ll need to do some detective work.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the risks and benefits of Conversion Rate Optimization, how successful hypotheses and applications can generate more profits, and how business owners with zero marketing knowledge can utilize this data to grow their business.
What Is Conversion Rate Optimization?
Conversion Rate Optimization is the scientific process of using detective work to identify and remove barriers to conversions. For the sake of this discussion, we will contextualize Conversion Rate Optimization as an action that occurs after the visitor lands on your website.
This is different from CRO for paid ads, which focuses on who clicks through to your site and how many clicks you get. This is also different from CRO for Search Engine Optimization, which focuses on the keywords driving traffic to your site and who clicks through based on organic search results. However, we will look to SEO nonetheless, as your keyword rankings and organic search results will reveal exciting consumer behavior that we can take advantage of when studying your multi-channel funnels.
There are two types of conversions you should optimize:
- Signing up for email lists
- Creating an account
- Adding a product to a cart
- Purchasing a product from the site
- Requesting a quote
- Subscribing to a service
Micro-conversions help facilitate the more profitable macro-conversions. Though these types of goals differ from company to company, the flow and shared responsibilities of micro and macro-conversions remains constant.
Consider it this way…
Micro-conversions contribute to the greater goal of the company. For instance, customers who sign up for an email list before purchasing might potentially purchase more frequently than customers who go straight to purchasing, as they’ve shown interest in your brand beyond your product offerings. Whereas, customers who provide personal information solely to complete the sales process may not be as interested in future purchases or brand loyalty.
For these reasons, it makes sense to optimize your micro-conversions, especially newsletters sign-ups, as they are strongly associated with increased Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) and Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR).
Your Guide to Conversion Rate Optimization
As we mentioned earlier, CRO should be treated as a scientific process. And like all scientific processes, CRO must begin with detective work.
There two types of methods that you need to consider when building your case for optimization:
- The People Method: measuring qualitative data
- The Analytics Method: measuring quantitative data
Both of these methodologies are necessary to derive a useful understanding of your customers and their feelings about your business. Omit either from your analysis and you will certainly fail in CRO.
All in all, the combination of information gathered from these two methodologies will help you identify what to optimize, who to optimize for, and help you form the hypotheses and solutions you’ll want to test.
The People Method
We typically start our CRO analysis by collecting and analyzing qualitative data. These are most often sentiments shared by your customer base. However, we also encourage you to go a step further by encouraging your sales and customer success teams to act as customers, going through your marketing funnel from start to finish and grading it accordingly.
We start with The People Method, because qualitative data can direct you to areas on your website, or in your marketing funnel, where you should focus your attention. This helps remove a major portion of guesswork from The Analytics Method.
Asking the Right Questions
On-site surveys and satisfaction reports are The People Method’s best friends.
You can use this Google Customer Surveys to get started.
Your questions should be placed within a context to encourage the most interactions. This may seem straightforward; naturally, you wouldn’t want to ask your customers why they didn’t complete a purchase before selecting a product. But, simplicity aside, people do get it wrong.
Be authentic. Heck, let it shine! Taking that extra step to show that you genuinely care will surely appeal to your customers. For instance, if you’re asking a customer “why they’re visiting your website today,” offer a solution. This can be done with a customer assistance widget that poses the question and offers direction. You’re catering to your customer’s needs and they’re rewarding you with information on why they are visiting.
There are many strategies to gauging customer metrics. Asking the most relevant questions is a good place to start.
- What is the purpose of your visit to our website today?
- Were you able to complete your task?
- If you were not able to complete your task, why not?
Ultimately, what we’re trying to learn is your customers’ intentions and any obstacles that have prevented them from completing significant actions (this can be poor page design or even weak copywriting).
This all comes down to motives.
We also recommend that you — as a business owner or marketer — write out your company’s DNA. In your own words, describe your company’s character, values, persona, and how your messaging caters to these sentiments. If your audience doesn’t agree with your perception of your business, then there is a clear breakdown in communication, which is likely affecting your conversion rates.
Secondly, have your sales team run through the sales process. If they’re encountering similar issues that your customers are citing, then you’re one step close to closing the gap preventing conversions. At the very least, you’ll begin to understand which pages to optimize and which elements on those pages need improvement.
The Analytics Method
Quantitative data provides hard information on how users are interacting with your website. To compile the most actionable data, you will need an analytics and lead tracking software. We love Google Analytics, but there are many other options available depending on your needs and marketing knowledge.
Ultimately, your lead tracking software can answer important questions about how users engage with your site.
To start, you should know what types of answers you need in order to optimize conversions.
- Where are people entering your site? Which webpage are they landing on first?
- Which features are users engaging with? What CTAs, where, and for how long?
- What channel and referrer brought them in? Where they found and clicked on a link to your site?
- What devices and browsers do they use?
- What are your customer demographics? Their age, gender, income, interests?
- Where do users abandon your conversion funnel?
- Where or during what activity do users leave your site?
We recommend investing the time to answer all of these questions. The more informed you are, the less guesswork you’ll be tempted to act on — and by extension, the less likely you are to overlook profitable conversion optimizations, or worse, weakening your strongest conversions.
There are various ways of collecting quantitative data and tons of tools on the market. Regardless, the methodology will change for each business. But one thing we all have in common is that we need proper event tracking in place. If you have not already established goals and events via Google Analytics, we recommend doing so. This step-by-step guide is a great place to start.
Multi-Channel Funnels in Google Analytics
Multi-Channel Funnels provide amazing insights into your referral paths and are a major asset when collecting quantitative data.
Multi-channel funnels report on all sources of traffic to your website, such as a blog, an ad, an organic or direct search, a newsletter link, a social media post and so on. These reports show where users first interacted with your content, how they behaved moving forward, and the timeframe from first interaction to conversion event.
By studying your multi-channel funnels, you can identify lucrative referral paths and those that fall short. Additionally, knowing where your customers are abandoning your funnel will show you the areas of your website that need to be improved.
For instance, if a user clicks from your newsletter link to a landing page and immediately bounces, then we can expect that your CTA was misleading or that the content on the landing page did not meet the customer’s expectations based on the proposed value.
Moreover, study the pages that are converting! CRO should never be limited to areas that are underperforming. If you’re seeing increased conversions on a page that has a strong CTA supported by great media and convincing copywriting, and is placed prominently on the top of the page, then you can replicate that design on the pages that are underperforming to increase conversion rates elsewhere.
Don’t stop there! Cross-reference your quantitative data with your qualitative data. If your customers graded the value of a particular page poorly because of specific reasons, like an inability to find the information they needed, then you’re a step closer to closing the gap without relying on guesswork.
Let’s put it all together…
Diagnosis, Hypothesis & Testing
Now that you know the leading methodologies and have an idea of the answers you need to obtain in order to optimize your conversions, let’s break it all down so you can put Conversion Rate Optimization into action.
In the discovery phase we are diagnosing the strengths and weaknesses in your marketing funnel. We’re looking to your customers for valuable insights into why they won’t buy, why they can’t buy, and why they want to buy by studying these three factors:
- Week persuasive techniques — what language is powerful/ineffective
- Usability issues — what functions are user-friendly/objectionable
- Page relevancy — what landing pages are valuable/misleading
We’ll use these customer metrics to identify which pages to focus our efforts on and which elements to improve or replicate.
Use a spreadsheet to organize your findings.
- Create three tabs with won’t, can’t, and want
- List all reasons given by customers and sales staff
- Identify common trends
- Brainstorm ways to overcome obstacles and enhance successes. Add these to to a second column
You’ve gathered data from your website, your customers, and your staff. You’ve identified the pages to test. You’ve analyzed the CTAs, copywriting, and layout of these pages. Now, it’s time to hypothesize your weakness and their solutions.
Again, look to your customer surveys to identify converging trends between qualitative and quantitative data. This will assist your brainstorming process.
At the end of this process, you should have a better understanding of why customers aren’t converting with ideas on how to change that. Now it’s time to test your theories.
3. Testing & Expirementation
Start by redesigning, or rewriting, the pages you’ve identified based on the hypotheses you’ve formed.
Here is some framework to help you stay on track in the experimentation and testing phase:
- Are the changes directly testing my hypothesis?
- Are the changes keeping the design on brand?
- Are the changes technically doable?
Be aware that your site optimizations might not always work as planned. So, expect that there will be trial and error in this process. Don’t get discouraged! All marketers anticipate that some solutions might not be the best solution for optimization.
Once your newly improved optimizations are in place, it’s time to test their effectiveness. You’ll need to track the quality of traffic coming to your site once more to determine if your optimizations are working. Redeploy The People Method and The Analytics Method to see if your conversion rate optimizations were a success.
Get Started With Conversion Rate Optimization
CRO may seem like a long winded process, but, necessity aside, it will turn your website into a seriously powerful profit generator. The more you stay on top of your analytics tracking and customer sentiment engagement, the easier the process will be moving forward. If you feel the full scope of CRO is too demanding at this point, check out these 3 quick hacks for improving conversion rate optimization.
Regardless if you don’t see the numbers you’re after, trust that your customers will appreciate your dedication to improving their shopping experience. In most instances, your customers are buying into your brand, not just your product. So, catering to their happiness is in itself a worthy thing to optimize.