Over the past several years, there have been many articles and guides on how to get more of your website users to convert so you can increase sales and leads. With so many views and tips on Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO), if you’re new to the idea or wondering what the best way to get started is, you might come out thinking all you have to do is crunch numbers in a formula on an Excel spreadsheet or try a series of so-called “best-practice” recommendations to get better conversions and more leads, but is that really going to get you the best results?
In this post, you’ll learn what CRO is and discover how to use the right tactics to achieve higher conversion rates on your website landing pages. Landing pages are pages on your site created specifically to convince people to take a desired action such as make a purchase, sign up for a webinar or subscribe to your newsletter.
What is conversion rate optimization?
Simply put, Conversion Rate Optimization or CRO is a systematic method for getting website visitors to take specific actions. When looking at website traffic reports, it can be easy to forget that behind every data point is a customer, a real-life human being who you are working to build a relationship with, in the hopes that they will become a customer.
The problem starts with focusing only on an end conversion – That conversion goal might be a purchase, but it might also be subscribing to your newsletter, filling out a form, downloading an eBook, filling out a survey, signing up for a webinar or phoning your business.
According to the CRO experts at Hotjar, a better way to look at the process is as “focusing on understanding what drives, stops and persuades your users, so you can give them the best user experience possible.” It’s this focus on understanding that identifies ways to increase your website’s conversion rate. It involves taking the time to do research, getting to know your audience, looking at their behavior on every page of your site, and systematically changing and testing various elements to discover what works and what doesn’t work as far as bringing users to your landing pages and persuading them to take a desired set of actions.
What are website conversions?
We’ve already talked about how conversions aren’t just used to describe when a website visitor becomes a customer, but to describe any desired action a user takes on your landing pages. Furthermore, your business’s website exists specifically to generate conversions – to promote your business, to get leads, to make sales, to earn subscribers, etc. These desired steps or conversions are sometimes referred to as a conversion path. The conversion path is simply the journey you’re guiding website visitors on, while they navigate their way towards a final website campaign goal.
There are two types of conversions, micro-conversions and macro-conversions.
- Micro-conversions. Micro-conversions happen when a website visitor takes a desired step toward the end goal of your landing page. For example, if your end goal is to increase sales of a new product, say poster frames like these, then micro-conversions could be watching a video about the new items or subscribing to blog updates on the topic of photo displays.
- Macro-conversions. Macro-conversions describe the final step in the path or journey a website visitor takes towards converting from a user to a customer or a viable lead. In our example above, your end goal was to sell a new product. Therefore, a macro-conversion would be when a visitor orders poster frames via the landing page on your website.
How to improve your website’s CRO
To convince more people to convert via pages on your website, you need to first focus on all the smaller actions they take along the way, and what ultimately made people take the final step and convert.
The following list of tips includes methods, tactics and specific landing page elements that can help improve your site’s conversion rates. The important thing to remember about CRO, is to research and test every stage in the path to a final webpage conversion to see which tactics work best for your landing page.
1. Determine your conversion rate
Before you can look at what’s driving visitors to your website, what’s causing them to abandon your website– to bounce, and what’s persuading them to complete a final action, you need to determine your conversion rate. To calculate it divide the total number of conversions by total website visitors and multiply that result by 100.
Conversion Rate = Number of conversions/Total number of website visitors x 100
Let’s go back to our example of new acrylic poster frames. If your website sold 89 new frames and your website had 2700 visitors last month, then your conversion rate would be 3.3% because
89/2700 x 100 = 3.3
You might be thinking the percentage is low or wondering what a good conversion rate looks like. The answer is that it can vary by industry, demographics and campaign goals. On average, 2% to 5% is considered a good rate. To understand what benchmarks, you should be aiming towards when you’re first starting to think about CRO for your website, look up average rates in your industry. Ultimately though, you also want to focus on improving user experience and learning about website visitor behavior while they’re on your website landing pages. So, while increasing this number of conversions is important, it should not be your main focus.
2. Understand your target audience
Because your customers are people and not numbers on a spreadsheet, you need to understand what they want and need. The best way to do that is to ask them. This doesn’t just hold true for increasing the number of website conversions, but for your business in general. If you develop new products and services that nobody wants to purchase or create content nobody wants to read or watch, then no amount of CRO on your site will help.
So, just like you would for product development, you need to perform research to find out what your customers want, need, like and don’t like about how you present information on your website, or if they can even find what they’re looking for. Furthermore, these things might change over time. What worked last quarter or last month might not anymore.
However, focusing on understanding your website visitors and target customers will help you become less attached to just building a website for your business and never changing anything. Instead, it will help you turn your site into a tool that helps turn users into customers, subscribers, audience members or leads. Furthermore, elements and navigation pathways on your site will be constantly evolving to suit your visitors’ and customers’ needs. And that’s ultimately what will cause your conversion rates to rise.
3. Determine what is driving people to your website
When you start to evaluate your website through the eyes of your visitors, first find out what’s driving them to your site. Is that driver or drivers relevant to your end goals in some way? Don’t just look at your site but at each webpage, and even which parts of a page they linger on the most or the longest. Heat maps, like this one here, show you a graphical depiction of your website visitors’ behavior when they interact with a page on your site.
It might seem promising if a landing page is getting hundreds to thousands of visits per day, but if the reason people are coming to a webpage has no relation to what your business does or to your conversion goals, then despite the numbers of visitors, the percentage of those visitors who convert will probably be low.
For example, if what drove a significant number of people to your acrylic poster frames landing page was a reference to their favorite chocolate because they were looking to purchase it, not poster frames, then in spite of the high visitor count, your sales of the new frames would be low. Conversely, if you discover that the reason lots of people are visiting your website is because of a blog post on how to display poster sized photos and artwork that referenced acrylic frames, then you’d know that the post was relevant to your target audience, and that it’s a page you want to optimize as part of the conversion path towards the purchase of acrylic poster frames.
In this case, looking at numbers shows you part of the picture, the total number of visitors and how many of them completed a desired action on the page. Other tools might tell you which parts of the webpage got the most attention. The comments section, if there is one, might provide direct insight from individual users, who like to comment, about why they visited your page. And, you could also just ask visitors why they came to your website by asking them fill out an optional survey. We’ll talk more about specific CRO tools later in the article.
4. Identify which website elements are barriers to conversions
After you have analyzed what’s driving people to your website pages, you need to look at what barriers are preventing them from taking desired actions on your conversion path. In the example above, one barrier could be that the main driver to the content was chocolate and not poster frames.
There are other reasons why people might not convert, or may even abandon your site altogether, rather than click through to another page or perform the next step on your conversion path. They include things like no clear navigation tools on your website, vaguely worded or no calls to action (CTAs), too much or too little information, or information that’s hard to scan or irrelevant, dead links, and many other possibilities could be related to how user friendly your website is or isn’t.
Uncovering and analyzing these barriers will help you understand your audience and what you need to change to ensure more of your visitors will convert.
5. Discover what persuades your website visitors to convert
You can read endless blog posts and articles that claim to know the magic ingredients to increasing website conversion rates. Just Google “ways to increase conversion rates on your website,” and you’ll find pages of links to them. Many will provide a list of “best practices” they claim are guaranteed to improve conversion rates. They might talk about what colors to use, specific sizes and shapes of CTA buttons, or the exact phrase they use to convert visitors every time.
It’s not that they’re lying. No doubt the highly precise tactics work, or worked for them. That does not mean copying everything they did will be your magic bullet to huge increases in sales or a gigantic jump in newsletter subscribers. Instead, be a detective and uncover what hooks and elements are converting on your website. Be methodical and test out your theories. Don’t guess. Look at data from any tools you use and ask your customers what made them decide to make a purchase or fill out a form, or series of forms, on one of your website landing pages.
6. Make your website user friendly
Once you have a clear understanding of your target audience, creating a website designed with your visitors and customers in mind becomes less daunting. Because you’ve done the research and built relationships with your website users, you know who they are, what they’re looking for when they come to your site, and what they like and don’t like, as well as what makes them take an action on your site and what will cause them to click away from your website rather than convert.
By using this understanding, you can optimize your site so it’s easy to navigate with clear paths of how your users can find information and that guides them along a clear journey or journeys, depending on the reason they’re visiting your website or what drove them to one of your landing pages in the first place, as well as the desired actions you want them to take while they’re there. You’ll also know where and how to add shortcuts to a macro-conversion, such as filling out a form like this one, or making a purchase. And when you need to add effective CTA buttons that direct visitors to more in-depth information.
7. Use clear CTAs
If the pages on your website, especially your landing pages are missing CTAs, you’re confusing users and making it almost impossible to know where they’re supposed to go next. This might be obvious to you, or you might assume you’re insulting your customer’s intelligence by literally telling them what to do or where to go next, but you’re actually helping to guide your visitors towards taking a desired action, such as providing their contact information.
Going back to our example new product landing page for acrylic poster frames. If your goal is to get contact information and gather and nurture potential leads from people who are at varying stages of interest in the frames, you will want their contact details – that’s the conversion goal. You’re enticing them with downloadable content, a whitepaper or an eBook on effective poster and print display options, but to download it they need to fill out a form.
On the landing page for your content asset, your CTA link or CTA button might say the following, “Get the Book,” or “Download Info.” When they click on the link, they are taken to a form where they will provide their email and/or other contact details. The form itself, will most likely include another CTA button telling them to “Submit” the form to receive the content. Without the CTAs, they wouldn’t know how to receive the eBook or whitepaper and would abandon your website. And you would miss out on a potential lead and/or a sale. Multiply this by hundreds or thousands of visitors and you get the idea of how much in potential lost revenue that could become.
8. Test and evaluate elements on your website landing pages
Before we get into running website tests, such as A/B testing, lets go back to a specific type of webpage, the landing page.
A/B testing, also known as split testing, describes the process of comparing two different versions of your landing page, an email, a video, or even just a single element on a webpage. For example, the text on a CTA button, or even just the size of the button.
If you’ve done the work to understand your website visitors’ behavior and your target market, then you will hopefully know which elements on your landing pages are boosting conversions, and which ones aren’t, or could be performing better. Those elements are good places to look at testing first.
You can also use split testing to determine if a new style of CTA or longer or shorter landing page content performs better, etc. You might be surprised at the results because sometimes what you think is a fantastic headline or CTA text idea, doesn’t convert. Alternatively, your customers might tell you in a survey or comment that they like something, but their behavior doesn’t match what they say. Either way, you can often improve a landing page by testing small changes, then implementing those changes versus tossing the landing page and starting from scratch.
9. Rely on tools not your gut instincts
After reading everything involved when it comes to increasing your website’s conversion rate, you might decide it’s too much work and that your gut instinct or doing nothing to improve your site and landing pages is working fine. But is it really? And what if doing a little extra work could increase your sales and make your business more money?
The good news is that there are tools to help make website CRO easier. The following is by no means an exhaustive list of them, but they’re a good foundation to get you started.
- Talk to your customers, your website visitors, your staff and your website developers.
- Observe how people use your site.
- Look at other websites and landing pages in your industry.
- Track and analyze website traffic with tools like Google Analytics.
- Examine webpage scrolls, clicks and movement with heat map tools.
- Measure when website and landing page visitors leave your conversion path.
- Employ Customer Satisfaction Tools (CSATs) to see where your customers’ level of satisfaction falls on a 1 to 10 scale.
- Track form submissions with form analysis tools.
Again, the above tools don’t include everything, nor is it necessary to employ every single one, especially when you’re just getting started. Furthermore, we can’t say enough about how getting to know and understand your website audience is always more important than any numbers you can collect and plot in a graph or chart.
10. Remember that CRO takes time
The main thing to remember about CRO, and increasing the number of desired actions that website visitors complete on your landing pages, is that the improvements you see won’t occur overnight. CRO takes time, effort and research to do properly so that you see results. However, the effort you take to build relationships with your target audience and increase conversions on your website will always pay off in the end.