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How An SEO Conference Helped Us Embrace CRO And Sell More

Patrick Hathaway

by Patrick Hathaway on 19th September 2012

ConferencePatrick Hathaway is taking over the Koozai blog today to talk about the CRO lessons he learnt at a conference and how they helped him improve sales.

The first conference I ever attended was Distilled’s SearchLove last October. I went along with Peter, my MD, and we were blown away by the content. We were particularly taken with Stephen Pavlovich’s talk on Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) and vowed to implement some of these CRO tactics in our forthcoming website redesign. Our previous dealings with CRO had simply been to iterate and successively optimise our lead generation form, but Stephen’s presentation opened our eyes to other opportunities to get more out of existing traffic.

In this post, I am going to show you some of the recommendations that we implemented on our site and share the results generated from each example. We saw some great results from tweaking various elements of the site and these recommendations could be applied to many websites out there for a quick win.

What We Wanted To Optimise

Ideasbynet.com is a B2B lead generation website which delivers enquiries for our sales team to follow up. CRO is not simply about generating more leads, moreover, it is about increasing the amount of times that users perform actions that we wish them to perform. We defined four areas we wished to improve upon:

  1. Increase the number of phone leads – we get a better conversion rate from phone leads, so an increase in these should result in more sales
  2. Improve our product pages – these are the money pages, if people are more convinced by our product offering, they should be more likely to enquire about that product
  3. Improve our navigation – more people finding what they want should result in more leads
  4. Display more trust signals – if people trust our website they should be more likely to enquire

Increasing Phone Leads

One of the neatest tricks we borrowed from Mr Pavlovich was a call-out alongside the phone number in our header. He claimed that users like to talk to see real people, so instead of using a stock image of a telesales operative you should use someone who actually works for you, and state exactly that. So we did.

Improve phone leads

Although Stephen claimed a 4-5% uplift in phone leads in his case study, we only saw about 2.5% increase, but an increase nonetheless. And a fair few phone calls where people ask to speak to Carla.

The other thing we did to try and increase phone calls was to add clear Calls To Action (CTAs) on our product pages wherever we reasonably could, and altered our lexicon from sales speak to ‘assistance’ to emphasize the service element.  That’s why in the below image you’ll see multiple instances of our phone number.

More ways to improve phone leads

Improving Product Pages

In another Searchlove talk, one of the key points that Tom Critchlow made during his presentation was the emphasis on improving your page types, making sure that your pages earn their rankings. We started applying this by creating video content and encouraging customer reviews.

We initially produced 50 product videos across our most popular lines, specifically choosing items that lend themselves to video content (seriously, there is only so much you can say about a plastic pen). It was important to us to focus on quality whilst keeping a natural feel, so we kept it in-house and it was basically unscripted. Granted, our effort was nothing compared to the 50,000 videos that Zappos created, but we were pleased with the results.

Sports bottles

We have a YouTube-style video CTA at the top right of the page, which then plays in the panel below.

Product pages that we have added video content to have shown a 15% increase in conversions, enough to justify the outlay of producing another batch later this year.

One of the other great benefits of video content is that it can help expedite sales when a customer is unsure. Since we started doing video, I have received several reports from our sales staff that they have got a sale in quicker by showing customers the videos instead of sending samples out. In one instance, a client was asking if our Brite Dock Phone Holders could support an iPad. Rather than simply saying ‘yes’, he could prove it by showing them the video. Sale won.

The other element we brought into our product pages was customer reviews. They have been more difficult to obtain than I would have liked, as our customers tend to instead give us more general testimonials on service, so we often have to go out of our way to ask people to review products for us. However, when they do, they can add a richness to the page that simply cannot be achieved with product copy alone:

User reviews

I guess it is pretty annoying when you get to the supermarket and you don’t have a pound coin.

Improving Navigation

In another session Rand Fishkin and Will Critchlow did a head to head with site reviews, that inspired us to take a closer look at the way out own website works.

Google Analytics Site Search is great for giving you a better idea of user behaviour and customer intent. When we analysed our data, we found that several product groups were coming up a lot more regularly than others:

  • ‘usb terms’ – people searching for ‘usb’, ‘USB’, ‘usbs’, ‘usb flashdrive’, etc…
  • ‘lanyard/lanyards’
  • ‘stress terms’ – people searching for ‘stress’, ‘stress toys’, ‘stress balls’, ‘stress relievers’

These are all products that have their own subcategory page. Users are searching for this stuff either because they want it or they can’t find it. We were concerned about the latter, as some users may be exiting the site without actually searching.

On our old site our category pages were arranged as an alphabetical list of subcategory pages. For small categories with only a few subcategories that was fine, as users could easily navigate to subcategories they were looking for. However, for larger categories (and we have some big ones. Yes I’m looking at you Travel & Leisure), this became an incredibly long list, which was difficult to navigate and resulted in certain product groups being buried.

Instead of just an alphabetical list, we also wanted to offer a more focussed set of subcategories, featuring the most popular ones. In addition to our own experience, we used the data from Google Analytics Site Search to help inform these choices.

Redesigned navigation

Some of our important sub-categories were getting buried in the a-z list. This made me sad.

By improving the navigation we managed to reduce the search velocity for these terms and make them more ‘findable’ on the website.

*we also brought USB products into the category heading for ‘Desktop & USB’, which was previously just ‘Desktop’, which may explain the more significant change.

Offering More Trust Signals

As a company that focuses on service above all else, we have never had any trouble getting testimonials from our customers. We wanted to make a bigger feature of these, so decided to feature some of our favourites on our homepage. They were all completely genuine testimonials, and we wanted to highlight the ‘human’ aspect by including real photos of them too.

Trust reminders

Actually Jill Hislam preferred an illustration of herself instead of a photo. That is her carrying a small bird above her head…

The ‘Read More’ button allows us to track clicks through In-Page Analytics, which showed an incredible 8.7% of users opting to read more. This is over double the clicks for the second biggest ‘event’ on our homepage.

The other thing we did for our homepage was make a video. That was inspired by Rand’s talk on Content Marketing where he referenced Dollar Shave Club and This Made By Hand.

We were looking to create something unique and personal, that reflected our company values and was a point of difference from our competitors.

The IdeasBook from IdeasByNet on Vimeo.

Sadly I’ve no real idea if the video has actually increased CRO, but our customers like it and it was a blast to make. The video has actually generated a few leads of its own – some of our customers like it so much they want us to make something similar for them, and we are working on 2 pitches as I type.

CRO is Win-Win

Our overall site conversions have increased from 1.64% to 1.97%, which may not sound like a lot, but actually constitutes a 20% increase in conversion rate (if only I could increase our traffic by that much!). What is great about these improvements is that in addition to increasing lead generation, they also improve customer experience, so it’s a win-win situation. Fortunately for me we were redesigning our site anyway, so I just added them into the build and didn’t really have to justify potential ROI.

I am very pleased with the ROI on the conference tickets however, which have paid for themselves several times over. We went to an SEO conference expecting to hear how we could increase organic site visits, but what we came away with was so much more – hard edged business advice that really stacks up, and is both Panda-proof and Penguin-proof!

In summary, the following CRO recommendations really can help you improve your Conversion Rate:

  • Humanise your team by adding faces and real names
  • Add clear Calls To Action on product pages
  • Reduce sales speak
  • Add video content and user generated content
  • Analyse site search data to make it easier for people to find results
  • Implement trust signals

SearchLove 2012, you’ve got a lot to live up to.

The views expressed in this post are those of the author so may not represent those of the Koozai team

Image Source

People on conference via BigStock

Patrick Hathaway

Patrick Hathaway

Patrick works in-house for promotional gifts distributor Ideasbynet.com, fitting SEO in around website maintenance, blogging, social media and everyday IT firefighting. He typically blogs about real life experiences with the Ideasbynet website, and B2B online marketing. His hands star in the video above.


  • Amy Fowler 19th September 2012

    Great post Patrick. Particularly like the idea about using a photo of a real staff member instead of a stock photo, and pointing out that they are in fact, a real staff member.

    I’m surprised by how many companies still use stock photos. Especially since they always seem to come from such a limited pool of photos, meaning they’re almost always instantly recognisable.

    Reply to this comment

    • Patrick Hathaway 19th September 2012

      Thanks Amy. I know what you mean about the stock photos, there must only be about 4 on the whole internet that get reused by everybody.

      When we heard that tip at the conference I turned to my boss (who loves anything ‘businessy’) and he was like ‘we are definitely doing that’.

      In actual fact Stephen said to test different staff members and use that one that converts the best, which is something we are going to try soon.

      Reply to this comment

  • Mike Essex

    Mike Essex 19th September 2012

    Thanks for the post Patrick, it’s great to see real world actions and examples. The “real faces” part of Stephen’s talk struck a chord with me as well. At one point the redesigned Koozai site had a different team member’s photo on every page.

    We ditched it in the end as it became hard to manage and made it seem like each person only had one core skillset, but you’ll see echoes of the friendly aspect of showing faces on the blog, Koozai TV and team pages.

    A quick question with faces. Do you have a plan in place in case Carla was to leave the company? I suppose that’s always the risk if someone starts to be seen as “the face” of a company. Maybe we could see some videos from you too in the future?

    Aside from that at least 10 decisions we made on the site design came as a result of things we’d seen and heard at Searchlove and Linklove. Well worth the money spent.

    Reply to this comment

    • Patrick Hathaway 19th September 2012

      Thanks Mike. Yes that is a very real concern – we will just switch the photo for another staff member. Then concept behind it, as Stephen pointed out, is that you want to emphasize the fact that you are talking to a real person, not some automated phone system. Effectively, as a middle man type company, our value add is our expertise, which is borne out in a 1-to-1 account managed service.

      I like a lot of the personal/human touches you have on your site, I definitely think that sort of thing makes a site feel more ‘real’ and trustworthy.

      Reply to this comment

      • Mike Essex

        Mike Essex 19th September 2012

        That’s a good point, and I’m glad you stayed well away from the stock photo trap. Although the problem I find is if you see anyone with a headset or sitting at a laptop it’s really easy to think “stock photo!” so the text was a great addition.

        In terms of personal touches the other thing we did was to rewrite the entire website content on service pages. It was really corporate which didn’t reflect any personality. So the whole text was written from scratch with the goal of adding personality (and the hand drawn sketches came from that). So “personal” can apply to more than just faces too.

  • Anthony Pensabene 19th September 2012

    I enjoyed reading this, Patrick; and, you presented me with ideas I haven’t thought about before.

    I like lampooning the fact you are using a real employee in the almost-expected-stock-photo position.

    Also, I like how you used the ‘read more’ implementation in your testimonials, peering into the click rate.

    I also love the video implementation, as I believe we will be seeing an explosion of video. However, what’s going to differentiate good/bad is knowing when/where/how to implement it.

    Reply to this comment

    • Patrick Hathaway 19th September 2012

      I totally agree with that last point Anthony. You see a lot of examples coming out of people doing video seemingly for the sake of doing video.

      We were even quite picky with the products we chose – you don’t need a video to demonstrate a pencil, for example. As with all content, video needs to communicate a message to your audience – if it doesn’t do that then it’s valueless.

      Reply to this comment

  • Patrick Hathaway 19th September 2012

    I like your point Mike about the service page copy, think I will revamp ours as well.

    I find these days that ‘About’ is one of the first pages I visit on a website, particularly a blog. There is something about knowing what makes a person/company tick that allows you to engage with them more completely.

    Reply to this comment

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