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by Dean Marsden on 9th November 2012
If you’re reading this post you are probably either someone who doesn’t know much about Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) and are keen to know more about how you can implement it on your site or you are a specialist in the CRO field looking to help my cause to make more people aware of CRO and the potential increases in profit margins that can be achieved.
Driving Traffic to a website is one of, if not the biggest concerns for website owners. Millions are spent each year by companies to make their websites more visible in the natural and paid search results, appear on blogs and news sites, and get them mentioned on TV and Radio.
The fact is a high percentage of this traffic (and spend) is thrown away because your website sucks! This isn’t an attack on your brand or business; it’s a warning that a website that was designed to a brief and a small group’s opinion of what’s good isn’t what the majority of your potential visitors will think.
Over my past 10 years in the digital media industry, including 7 years as a designer, I’ve come to expect that everything you create (as a creative) is not what the client will be 100% happy with and the HiPPO effect takes over. For any website designers reading this, I think they will empathize with this fact. If you are luckily enough to be a designer who is respected / lucky enough that clients trust your choices 100% then your day to day life is a lot easier than some designers. However you are not excused from my argument here, this includes you as well.
I believe that with even the most well researched website design, you are always going to be missing out on how your audience will actually use your website. For that reason, Conversion Rate Optimisation is an essential part of maximising conversions or sales through your website, no matter what.
There’s a distinct lack of interest given to CRO from online marketers and designers alike. The priority has always been driving more visits to a nicely designed website. It’s at this point the third gear is needed to get more from the first two.
CRO is the process of testing variations of your website design and content and measuring the results from visitor behaviour and conversions. It’s as simple as that. Supermarkets have been doing it for years. Ever wondered why the fresh foods are at the front of the supermarket? Extensive shopping research patterns have dictated where everything should be positioned in stores in order to gain the most sales from each customer.
Using CRO with your website can be as simple as positioning elements in different places on your page, changing the colours of headings, or editing the text and then running the variations alongside the original over a period of time and measuring the increase or decrease in conversions. They aren’t always going to increase, conversions can just as easily go down, but this is the point of CRO. You never know for sure what the best option is until it is tested by the people that matter most… your visitors.
CRO is thought of as an expensive after service when in fact it can generate the best return on investment of any part of your website production and marketing. And it’s not even going to cost you much.
It’s as simple as being able to have your webpage variations set up and applying the right tracking code. Recording the results of a test is key to CRO; if you don’t do this properly then you will never gain anything from CRO. See this blog post about tracking goals in CRO to understand what sort of data conversion tracking can record.
You’d be surprised how many conversions are being tested by popular websites on the internet. Amazon.com is probably the most prolific, they never stop testing! You may not notice anything different every time you visit their website but the smallest of changes are being tested constantly, collecting valuable data to help increase sales conversions a fraction at a time.
Let take a look at a typical product page on Amazon. See how many different elements you can spot and why you think they are there. I’ll share my list after the picture.
Now that is a lot of elements on one page! But it feels quite natural and comfortable to scan the page and find the information we are looking for. Here are a few things of note (not all) about the page and getting users to action something:
These are just a few things that are featured on this product page and they are all designed to help the buying process. Every shape, size and colour of these sections or graphics would have been tested to find one that generated the most conversions.
You won’t know how much your website’s conversions are going to change until you start testing things, but it’s not uncommon to see 100%, 200% or even 300% increases in sales or leads! I am trying my hardest not to make this blog post sound like a sales pitch, but sooner or later the competition are going to be taking your customers even if they aren’t generating as many visitors to their websites and it’s all because their site is converting better.
I’ll wrap up my little rant of a blog post now. I just wanted to highlight the apparent lack of awareness in Conversion Rate Optimisation and there isn’t really much of a reason why CRO isn’t part of mainstream online marketing yet. Perhaps it’s because designers and website owners are reluctant to concede that their website may not be exactly what users want? I’d love to hear your comments below on what you think the current issues are with CRO awareness and implementation.