As the old adage goes, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” In a digital world, a lack of ability to convert website visitors into customers can crush your business. Rather than invest in driving more traffic to your website, money is better spent maximizing the value of existing visitors through conversion optimization. This article will outline a process for developing, implementing, managing and measuring an effective conversion optimization plan.

The Impact of Usability

According to KISS Metrics, there are a plethora of reasons to embrace conversion optimization:

  • 96 percent of website visitors are not ready to buy
  • You have less than 8 seconds to capture a visitor’s attention
  • A one second delay in site speed equals a 7 percent reduction in conversions
  • 61 percent of companies do less than 5 conversion optimization tests per month
  • More landing pages equals more leads

Building a Conversion Optimization Plan

Now that I have your attention, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page in regards to optimization terminology and techniques. Industry guru Avinash does an exceptional job defining key terms relating to conversion optimization, so make sure you understand fundamental terminology like: conversion funnel, goals, metrics, key performance indicators (KPIs), targets, dimensions and segments before reading further. Search Engine Watch also does a fantastic job of outlining advanced channel sequencing elements, which round out key components of the sales process which need to be measured and managed.

A good plan should have a good dashboard associated with it. An article by Aaron Aders outlines the Top 5 Marketing KPIs for your Dashboard, which I recommend considering when developing your conversion optimization plan:

  • Site-wide Organic Traffic
  • Total Unique Keywords Driving Organic Traffic
  • Referral Traffic Growth
  • Individual Channel Net CPA
  • Growth in Total Conversion Value

When it comes to setting goals in your conversion optimization plan, refer to Avinash’s chart below outlining the best metrics based on business size and type:

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Make sure to map your metrics to your industry and business size. In another article, Avinash outlines Ten Fundamental Web Analytics Truths, many of which should be considered for your dashboard. Ion Interactive, developer of a landing page optimization platform known as LiveBall, is an excellent resource for all things conversion-oriented. Ion created a list of the top 5 landing page KPIs in an infographic, of which I’ve included the top 2 below:

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Ion also developed a conversion optimization checklist, which should be incorporated into your plan to ensure you’ve covered all bases:

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When setting goals, understand conversion rates vary by industry. MarketingSherpa recently posted industry average conversion rates, which range from 2 to 10 percent.

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To be complete, a conversion plan should include a dedicated section for landing page optimization for online advertising (typically pay-per-click campaigns). Since a majority of companies lack the necessary monthly advertising budget and associated keyword inventory, I recommend starting with a simple A/B testing program before considering multivariate testing.

A typical landing page optimization plan includes the following steps:

  • Define the objective/challenge
  • Develop a hypothesis to test
  • Select test components
  • Set up test (software or service)
  • Analyze the data
  • Implement the ideal design
  • Continue to test against benchmark

And include testing the following elements:

  • Landing page layout (colors & fonts)
  • Imagery (banners, logos, people, etc.)
  • Icons (navigation & CTA buttons)
  • Headline (dynamically-generated incorporating keywords from searches perform well)
  • Copy (messaging, bullets, short, long)
  • Call-to-action (more information, order, demo, trial, subscription, etc.)
  • Forms (number and types of fields)
  • Pricing (discounts/promotions)

Landing Page Template Design

While every industry, company, product and prospect are unique, years of testing has brought to light best practices for landing page template design. KISS Metrics comes through again with a helpful landing page blueprint. The 5 primary elements include: headline, hero shot, data collection (form), call to action (CTA) button, benefit-oriented copy and “safety net” CTA. The article does a fantastic job of highlighting best practices for each section of the landing page blueprint, so I encourage you to read it.

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Landing Page Design Best Practices

Regardless of your campaign type, audience or objective, it is always prudent to adhere to best practices, at least initially, until you have sufficient data for a baseline against which you can test less conventional approaches. A few of the most common best practices are outlined below:

  • Start with a simple, proven template
  • Make unique value propositions clear
  • Keep copy short and sweet
  • Utilize short forms liberally
  • Include trust marks (i.e. VeriSign)
  • Incorporate chat/click-to-call
  • Test price-based messaging (i.e. $ off vs. % off)
  • Segment your visitors
  • Test multi-step pages to identify weaknesses

Making Sense of Analytics

Before launching a conversion optimization plan, it is important to ensure analytics data is accurate and reports are properly configured. While the reporting options are nearly limitless, there are three primary reports you must make sure you review regularly.

Top Landing Pages

Understand which pages are receiving the most traffic and how they are performing. Average visit duration can be an indicator of how effective the page is at retaining visitors. On the other hand, longer visit time without a conversion could tell a different story: confusion or frustration. Bounce rates are also important, as you need to know what percentage of visitors are leaving without taking a desired action.

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Top Keywords

Another important metric to analyze is which keyword phrases are driving the most traffic to a given page. Are these keywords ones you’ve proactively targeted, or are less relevant keywords driving a good deal of traffic and not converting? Beyond the metrics outlined above, take a look at average pages per visit and percentage of new visitors, which can tell you which keywords bring back repeat visitors and thus potential buyers.

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The holy grail of optimization is the conversion rate. At Anvil and Formic Media, our optimization plans (as well as a vast majority of our other digital marketing initiatives) are guided by conversions. The greater number of conversions means the greater level of confidence and statistical significance of your results. In the example below, conversion rates vary significantly by page, from .31 percent to 5.25 percent. Spend time evaluating each page’s design, copy and offer to look for opportunity to improve overall performance.

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Goals by Source

To understand where marketing dollars are best spent, make sure you are looking across traffic sources for patterns and opportunities. Make sure to attribute (estimated) dollar values to leads or (actual) ecommerce sales. Take a close look at Average Value across each channel, as not all channels are created equal.

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Conversion Funnel Visualization

If you’re like me, you need to visualize the data. Google understands this and offers a funnel visualization report for shopping carts. The obvious trick is to minimize drop-off rates through each stage of the sales process. Interestingly, in some cases, overall conversions can be improved by adding steps, vs. deleting them, but each case is unique.

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Real World Example: TEKsystems

There is no substitute for rolling up your sleeves and executing on a plan, as theory can take you only so far. For the past few years, Anvil Media has teamed up with LiveBall to develop and manage landing page optimization programs. TEKsystems, looked to Anvil for help maximizing conversion rates. Anvil designed and tested landing pages with dynamically-generated headlines, plugging in keywords from search results.

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The results were compelling: ongoing A/B and multivariate landing page testing increased conversion rates and decreased cost-per-conversion by 50 percent, saving over $100,000 in media spend over the course of a year. Read the full TEKsystems landing page optimization case study.

In Conclusion

Now that I’ve taken you through the conversion optimization process, you should be adequately equipped to give it a try yourself. Start with initial goal-setting and report configuration for analytics, then develop a testing plan, select appropriate tools, implement and manage your conversion optimization program. Once underway, you’ll have clear insights into existing website performance and visitor behavior as well as understand how to get more from your website visitors through conversion optimization best practices.

Recommended Conversion Optimization Tools

Additional Conversion Optimization Reading