This Is How You Build an Effective Conversion Rate Optimization Strategy

Billions of people are online but they have at least 1.6 billion websites besides yours to choose from.

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By Harry Kabadaian

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Today's businesses rely on their web properties to drive a great deal of their sales and lead generation processes. In a world with more than 1.6 billion websites for users to choose from, however, grabbing a slice of user attention is no small task.

For the average business website, organic search engine traffic continues to be the primary source of visitors, with some statistical analyses putting the share of traffic generated in that way as high as 50.1 percent. Is it any wonder then that businesses in the United States alone are on track to spend upwards of $80 billion in search engine optimization (SEO) services per year by 2020?

Driving traffic to a website is a fine goal, but it isn't an end unto itself. To make that traffic worth anything, you must make sure that the site that visitors see when they arrive is compelling and designed to elicit a particular user response. That's where a different web design discipline comes in: conversion rate optimization (CRO).

Creating a CRO strategy.

To get started, the first thing that you need to do to create a CRO strategy is to make some broad decisions about what website behavior you're trying to promote. If your company has no existing CRO strategy at all, it's best to start small because making changes to existing sales processes without a plan can have disastrous effects on your bottom line.

A great place to start is to look for ways to improve the conversion activity that leads up to making sales, which are generally known as micro-conversions. They include:

  • Newsletter or email list signups
  • Pageview thresholds (number of pages viewed per visit, an indicator of engagement)
  • Comments on site content
  • Adding product reviews
  • Add to cart button clicks
  • Social media shares

Once you've selected a target for your initial CRO effort, the next step is to collect the right data to inform your strategy.

Related: 6 Ways to Cure Your CRO Woes

Generate a baseline.

The first kind of data that you'll need is a measurement of how well your website is currently accomplishing the conversion you're hoping to optimize. The easiest way to gather this information is by using Google Analytics, which allows users to configure goals to track specific activity on their connected websites.

In general, you'll want at least one month's worth of tracking data to eliminate the possibility of short-term anomalies providing a distorted picture of performance. For example, if your business is currently running a deep discount special on a given product, it's a good idea to avoid using any data connected to that product as a baseline.

Once you're able to gather a baseline data set for the current conversion rate of your target, your next step is to decide on two things:

  • What percentage improvement you're aiming for
  • How long you're going to give yourself to accomplish that improvement

Take care to avoid the temptation to set unrealistic goals. For example, don't expect your conversion rate to hit 74 percent. If your website could do that, it would be on par with Amazon Prime. Instead, aim for an achievable goal of a 2 percent improvement over your existing conversion performance. Then, it's time to collect some more data.

Related: 7 Tips to Improve Your Site's Conversion Rate -- Fast

Understanding your users.

Once you know what your target is, it's time to turn to the most important part of the conversion equation: your users. It's critical to gain an understanding of who they are, what they want, and why they may be looking elsewhere for it.

The data you'll need to create a profile of your users will need to come from a variety of sources, including:

User Interviews: Believe it or not, the best way to find out what users want is to ask them. CRO experts like Convincely make user research and interviews the first step in their optimization process because it can quickly illuminate specific barriers to conversion activity like user experience (UX) issues, navigation problems, and poor content engagement.

Visitor Recording: Using software to record the moment-to-moment interactions that users have on your existing site can help to paint a clearer picture of the customer journey, as well as allow for comparison between visitors that converted and those that didn't. There are a variety of tools that will accomplish this task, any of which would make an excellent addition to a business's analytics toolkit.

Heatmaps: A heatmap is a graphic representation of where a website user is focusing their attention and in what order. They allow you to figure out where to place your most vital content, relative to the existing design of the page. Google's own research has shown that eye movements are an excellent predictor of mouse activity, so they help paint a picture of which elements work on a page, and which might be causing visitors to leave.

Related: 5 Tips, Tools and Tricks for Understanding User Intent

Creating a hypothesis.

At its core, CRO is all about developing theories as to the best ways to elicit a specific user response. To do this, you're going to need to look at your user research data to try to identify changes that might lead to better conversion results. For example, if your user interviews revealed that a common pain point in your conversion process is that users find it difficult to determine what action you'd like them to take, and indicated that a clear graphic link would help; your hypothesis would look like:

"If I add a call to action button in a prime location as determined by my heat map, then users will know exactly what I want them to do because I have provided them a clear indication, just as they've asked."

The above statement consists of three components:

  • A proposed change
  • An expected result
  • And the data that demonstrates why you believe the change will work

Testing your hypotheses.

After identifying a proposed change, you'll want to create a few versions of that change based on the data you've collected. In the above example, you can try a text-based call to action, or a few different button designs to figure out which works the best.

To test your versions, you'll need to conduct A/B or multivariate testing based on the complexity of your proposed changes. If you're only changing a page design or a single element, an A/B test will let you check the design's performance against your existing page by randomly showing either the original or new design to visitors.

Related: Why Your Approach to A/B Testing Is Costing You Sales

Bringing everything together.

Now that you're familiar with the basic nuts-and-bolts of CRO, it should be possible for you to take the process and scale it up into a full-fledged CRO strategy. To do it, you'll have to identify multiple areas and conversion activities you'd like to improve, starting with the micro-conversions mentioned here, and working through the list up to macro-conversions, which are things like:

  • Completed sales
  • Qualified lead generation
  • Completed customer contacts

The good news is that the micro-conversions that your initial efforts will focus on will make improving your macro-conversion activity much easier. That's because getting the little things right not only helps you to refine your CRO processes, it also builds a design foundation that leaves visitors primed to embrace macro-conversions as well.

Harry Kabadaian

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Writer

CEO of Fancy Lab

Harry Kabadaian is the CEO of Fancy Lab, a digital marketing agency. Kabadaian is also the co-founder of Ideal Evolved, a Magento development company. He's a serial entrepreneur and brand strategist who is passionate about marketing, tech and small business.

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