4 Steps to Higher Conversion Rates

buyers-shoppers

This article was originally posted on Inc.com.

Imagine you could increase your website’s sales volume by 20 to 30 percent without spending an additional dime on traffic acquisition. And now imagine how much you could grow your business if your margins allowed you a higher cost-per-click (CPC) or cost-per-thousand-impressions (CPM) ad spend to acquire customers while turning a profit. This is the power of conversion rate optimization.

If you’ve never optimized your website’s conversion funnel, there’s a good chance you are paying more to acquire a customer than you should. In fact, it is common to see 20 percent to 30 percent increases in sales volume after optimizing your conversion funnel, and it’s not unheard of to see triple digit improvements in some cases. The idea central to conversion optimization is to make better use of the traffic you’re already paying for. You can accomplish this by looking at your sales conversion funnel to identify points of friction that can be smoothed out, either by better engaging users or by removing bottlenecks where people are getting stuck. The most critical step in the process is to define your customers and to experience your website through their eyes. Once you’re in tune with your customers and able to empathetically identify possible issues, you begin to hypothesize what problems may exist and what would solve those problems.

Once you define your hypotheses and create test scenarios, you can use split A/B testing tools like Optimizely or Unbounce to randomly serve different versions of pages within your conversion funnel, allowing you to test your theories. As time passes, the tools collect more data and run more tests. You begin to better understand what types of changes your customers are going to respond to, and your test design improves. While much of this is specific to your own customers, there are a few fundamental concepts that can drive better testing from day one:

1. Understand Your Customer
Every demographic is different and the ideal conversion funnel would be designed to anticipate the needs and challenges of that group, so you can keep them focused on your goal of completing a sales transaction. A relatively new approach to interface design called User Centered Design (UCD) addresses this need by providing a set of conceptual frameworks for stepping through the process of understanding the customer. With UCD, you would begin by creating a “persona” and then define the scenarios and use cases of how the customer would interact with your system. This will guide you through the process of digging a bit deeper than you otherwise might have and result in the sort of insights that will yield better design decisions.

A persona is a one-page card that concisely defines the typical user in your demographic. In this exercise, you would define the user’s age, profession, occupation, emotional needs, and frustrations. The second step is to create a set of Scenarios that describe the Persona’s external context and what motivates them to interact with your website. For example, if you are selling printer cartridges, you might describe how they just drove all over town looking for replacement cartridges and came home frustrated that no one had the right size. You would then define a set of use cases to state exactly how they might interact with the website based upon a deeper understanding of why they visited the site in the first place. For example, they may go directly to the search field and type in the printer model number rather than navigating your catalog in search of cartridges. This understanding would drive a very different user experience–and likely higher conversions–since it better engage the user in immediately solving their problem.

2. Pay Attention to Page Flow
Look for problems in the flow of your conversion funnel to see if there could be functional issues or some cause for confusion. A great way to test for this is to sit down with a few of your customer prospects and ask them to navigate the website. Give them the goal of purchasing a certain product and then stand back and watch where they get stuck. Sometimes, this is as simple as button placement on the page. Or, you might be asking for too much information, such as requiring users to create accounts in order to buy your product. More concrete roadblocks include not accepting the method of payment that is preferred among your target demographic. It might also be simply a matter of convenience: To make it easy on customers, look for opportunities to reduce pages and steps in your funnel and deliver the customer to the goal point as quickly as possible.

Another great way to identify problems is through the proactive use of a Web analytics tool to identify bottlenecks in your intra-page flow. Using tools such as Google Analytics, you can define conversion funnels that map the sequence of pages that a visitor is intended to flow through, from the initial landing page all the way to the transaction “thank you” page. By properly tracking and visualizing the conversion funnel, you can easily see where you may be disproportionately losing too many people at a certain stage of the funnel. This can help you figure out which pages or interaction events you should be focusing your optimization efforts on.

3. Hone Your Message
The words you choose in your titles, product copy, and especially the semantics of things like action buttons can have a significant effect on user engagement. Much of effective selling comes down to understanding the needs of the prospect and connecting with them emotionally to motivate action. Presumably, we already understand the prospect’s needs from the user-centered research described above, so now its time apply emotional motivation. The core emotions you need to address in your conversion funnel are fear, desire, and complacency.

To address fear, consider how you can leverage your brand’s authority as a market leader if you are one, or how to leverage social proof to decrease suspicion if you are not. Showing the logos of well-known partners or clients can be an effective way to leverage brand credibility of others when you’re just getting started. To address desire, emphasize how close you are to solving an important problem. And for complacency, consider how you may demonstrate scarcity of your product, such that they have a motive to act now. Amazon does this effectively without appearing manipulative by alerting customers when stock is running low and letting them know they can have the book within 48 hours if they order now, but it could take longer if they do not.

4. Take a Tactical Approach to Design
Graphic design is visual communication and can also be a method by which to more effectively engage a user. Simple layout decisions, such as removing the navigation bar, limiting the number of options between which users must choose, and the use of negative–or empty–space around an object can all help hone the user’s attention on the intended item of interest. Making action buttons larger and placing them above the page fold can also have substantial impact on the user’s likelihood to take the intended action. The sorts of tactical design choices are the visual equivalent of the salesman knowing just what to say–and what not to say–at the right moment.

Color is another effective component of visual design. It not only has the ability to draw attention to something, but carries with it the ability to elicit deeply associated emotions and thoughts. Blue and green have been historically important to the survival of the species, since they are associated with food and water. For this reason, blue and green are universally regarded as calming and soothing. Orange is generally regarded as an exciting color, which elicits action and is one of the best colors for converting buttons. Other colors, including red, carry cultural meaning and need to be applied with recognition of the specific audience you are addressing. In western cultures, red is associated with warning and alert. In the Middle East, it is associated with evil. And, in China, it is a lucky color, eliciting the opposite emotion.

The fundamental key to success with conversion optimization is to understand your customers and to commit to a philosophy of ongoing testing and improvement to zero in on precisely what works with them. It is a process, not a one-time tactic, but the impact to your return on ad spend can be significant.

A Comprehensive Guide To Landing Page Optimization

By now, most marketers are familiar with how online advertising works. First, you place an ad to connect with your audience. Second, bring them back to your site. And third, try to push them through your sales funnel to a transaction. But why do so many marketers stop with step one?

Perhaps if they knew how common it is to lift profit for a given ad channel 10-200%, there would be more interest. For example, let’s say you sell a $30 product, and spend $10 of that on sourcing the product and $10 for customer acquisition costs (CAC), that’s $10 profit. But what if using landing page optimization techniques, you lift actual sales by a reasonable 30%? Your sales just increased 30% and so did your sourcing cost, but your CAC is still the same. Congratulations, you just increased profits by 67%!

Fortunately the concepts behind what we need to do are quite simple, and most of what follows is pretty straight-forward execution, once you have a framework for reference. In this three-part article, I’m going to begin by reviewing 5 tenants of effective selling online, walk through tactical examples of how to apply those tenants, and finally discuss the iterative testing methodology with this these ideas and tactics are applied.  For now, let’s begin with the philosophical tenants of effective selling online:

i. Consistency – Begin by thinking about optimization in context. The user experience begins with an advertisement. You then bring them to your landing page, make a quick pitch and request an action. You want to make the entire lifecycle of this transaction as consistent as possible. Use similar design, marketing copy, and branding through this experience, to avoid distraction and distrust. Think of it as if you are trying to talk someone off a ledge. You need their total focus and trust if you are going to be able to lead them. Any perceived incongruence could confusion or a loss of trust.

ii. Trust – Let’s be honest, the Internet has a little bit of a reputation problem. We’ve all been duped into signing up for something we didn’t want. Next thing you know, someone has sold our email address to thousands of spammers and now we’re having to setup spam filters or outright abandon our email addresses in some cases. Credit cards have been stolen, sites hacked, and we’ve been harassed on the phone by aggressive sales people who bought our online leads. Consumers have been conditioned by the aggressive marketers among us, to not trust brands we don’t recognize online. Think of this like dating a girl who’s been hurt (emotionally) in a prior relationship. She wants to trust you, but you need to give her a good reason to think you’re not like the others. So how do we overcome this?

iii. Simplicity – You need to be extremely clear about what you’re offering and how to get it. To keep your customer focused on the goal ahead, remove distractions and detail that might lead them away from your goal, or remind them of something else they need to think about or do. Or worse, a reason why they need to go research you and your competitors, before they make the purchase. You need to keep eye lock with your users and not let go!

iv. Remove Friction – Spend some time reviewing your site and analytics data to look for any possible bottlenecks.  Does the user flow choke off at some point?  Is there anything that could possibly cause confusion?  Any marketing copy that could possibly be turning off users?

v. Motivation – Assuming you’ve been able to overcome trust issues and you’ve got the trust and focus of your customer, the next objective is to motivate them to take action. Think about how to connect with them emotionally. Don’t focus on features of your product. Instead, focus on how you will solve their problem and help them to feel the tension between the problem and the solution. Whether people want to admit it or not, we make decisions emotionally and merely look for reasons to support our decision. So the key is to motivate them emotionally.

vi. Call To Action – Finally, the call to action needs to be clear and unambiguous. Assuming you’ve successfully motivated your prospect, you want to make it as easy as possible to take the desired action. Try to remove any obstacles or doubts during this process. For example, consolidate steps in your sales funnel, don’t require creation of an account just to buy a product (eCommerce 1.0), and if you’re eliciting a lead generation signup, do not require any more fields of information than possible, particularly imposing ones such as phone number, that might break the trust or cause suspicion.

Believe it or not, the concepts behind landing page (and conversion funnel) optimization really come down to these 5 simple things. But don’t underestimate their importance. In the next blog of this 3-part series, I will get more specific so that you can begin taking action to improve your design, marketing copy, and implementation. In the final part, I will explain the use of analytics and iterative testing. Stay tuned!

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Part 1 of a 3-part series on Landing Page Optimization

Landing Page Optimization #2 (Design, Writing, & Markup)

In the first post, I discussed the high-level tenants for driving sales online, which should drive a landing page optimization campaign. This post is going to get more specific now about design, marketing copy, and implementation. The goal is to provide an actionable 4-step framework for evaluating and improving your landing pages:

 

RESEARCH

When beginning a marketing campaign, you really need to know who your audience is and be clear on your goals, to align the efforts within your organization. A landing page optimization campaign is no different. A good first step might be to create a customer persona. A persona is a fictitious character that represents the ideal target customer. The exercise forces some basic research to answer the questions of who you’re trying to reach.

This can be extremely important, since culture, age, and gender can require profoundly different marketing copy and influence design decisions. It might also influence your defined goals for the campaign, and keywords that you bid on. For example, if you’re trying to reach seniors, an effective landing page might actually have a phone number, rather than a signup form.

I realize it is very tempting to skip over the research phase, but this level of understanding can make all the difference in setting a successful trajectory and authentically connecting with your customer. In the case of the seniors, the phone number alone likely would result in double-digit improvements in leads, but might do very little to improve leads generated for introverted teenagers. You really must know your audience to make effective decisions about how to communicate with them.

MARKETING COPY

The goal of your marketing copy (aka content) is to describe your offering and connect with your prospect as quickly and efficiently as possible. Every word counts though since your prospect likely isn’t in the mood to read at this moment; they’re on a mission.

Consider what level of the conversion funnel your prospect is at. Have they already done their research on the offerings and they’re merely comparing providers now? If so, there’s really no value in explaining everything to them, and they’re probably not going to read it anyway. If you’re trying to establish longer-term B2B leads however, the opposite might be true, in which case you can offer a whitepaper as the incentive to encourage them to complete the requested action.

In either case, the landing page is not the place for overly verbose description. In fact, if you find yourself going in that direction, you’re probably focusing on the wrong points. Your goal should be to focus on solving a problem for them not describing features and positioning statements.

Focus on evoking the emotional pain of the problem they’re looking to solve, and provide a simple, easy solution to their problem. This is called tension and resolution. Despite what most people believe of themselves, decisions are first made emotionally and backed up with logical reasons to justify our decisions. So focus on connecting with your prospect, authentically commiserating the problem, and helping them to feel the emotion of success over that problem; the solution for which you provide!

DESIGN

Landing page design is a complex topic but is essentially just visual communication. To designers much of these points should be obvious if they think about it, but how many designers are actually thinking about the Psychology of the user and how to motivate them toward a goal? Conversely, how many marketers are aware of, or appreciate the significance of implicit non-verbal communication? In any case, effective use of color, layout, and images can have a surprising effect on the efficacy of a landing page. Here are the basics:

i.Color
Color has a surprising ability to effect people emotionally. Some colors such as blue and green seem to have a natural ability to soothe nerves and probably are related to cues in nature. Animal instinct tells us that we need water and vegetation to survive and so we’re naturally drawn to these. Some hospitals never even begun painting walls light green because they’ve found it helps calm patients.

Some colors are more cultural. Red for example is a warm color and excellent for energizing emotion, but it can also be a “stop” color in Western culture, associated with taking notice but also of caution. In Japan, red is considered an angry color. In China though, red is a lucky color! White and black can be equally confusing culturally. Westerners regard black with authority and white with purity, whereas Eastern cultures associate these colors with funerals and death.

Orange is an interesting color and ubiquitously considered to be playful and radical. It is actually a great color for your call to action buttons, since it stands out, is warm, and doesn’t have the cultural issues of red.

According to research by KissMetrics, 85% of shoppers indicate color as a primary reason why they selected a specific product. So, if you consider trying to connect with your audience emotionally, you can see why choice of color, and knowing *who* your audience is, can be rather important. Generally speaking, green, red, and orange can be good colors for your call to action. The exact right color however can often be circumstantial.

Color Europe & USA China Japan Middle East

Red

Stop,Alert

Joy,luck

anger, danger

Danger, evil

Blue

calm, authority

Strength, power, immortality

Villainy

protective

Green

Safe, Arousal, Go

Youth, growth

Future, youth, energy

Fertility, strength

Black Death, evil Evil Evil Mystery, evil

White

Purity, virtue

Mourning, humility

Death, mourning

Purity, mourning

Here’s a great infographic further illustrating color associations in Western culture:
Psychology of Color.

ii. Layout
Layout can be used quite effectively to focus your customer’s attention. Studies have shown that show too many choices can actually cause someone to defer a choice rather than proceeding. Moreover, too many unrelated details on a page can distract a user or remind them of something else they need to think about. If that happens, there’s a very good chance they’re not coming back. For these reasons, it’s a good idea to remove anything that might not be consistent with your goals, such as your website’s navigation bar.

Negative space (use of empty space around a focal object) can also be very effective to help center attention. Effective use of negative space however, means minimizing the elements on the page. Its good to have only have one image on the page, one call to action, and a small amount of descriptive text that doesn’t require much reading. You’ll also want your call to action to be large, clear, and above the fold. If you can, try using muted colors for everything on the page except your product image and the call to action, to help them stand out.

If you have a lot of content that must be on your page, framing and paths can be effective techniques to draw the eye to the call to action. A frame is a bold use of color or shape, to create space and emphasis around an object. Think of fancy frames around paintings on the wall at a museum. A path is a compositional element that guides the eye toward the object you want to emphasize. A path is often subtle and implicit as part of the layout. If appropriate however, you could instead use a more explicit red arrow that points to the button or action item.

Last and certainly not least, keep your significant design elements ‘above the fold’, so the user doesn’t need to scroll to see these important elements. Specifically the title, image, and call to action absolutely need to be above the bottom of the user’s browser (the “fold”). If you need more space for your content, consider placing only a few bullet points or highlights with the CTA above the fold (highlights), and provide the rest of the information below the fold, for those who choose to read further. This can be a nice way to satisfy both prerogatives.

iii. Imagery
A single well-chosen image can do wonders to help you connect emotionally with your prospect and provides a good extension of your efforts with marketing copy. But do not just show a picture of your product, unless you want to be thought of as a commodity to be comparison-shopped. Instead, focus on emotional value for the prospect.

You could try using a picture of someone that matches your persona definition (from the research above), and show that person experiencing positive emotion as a result of successful resolution of the problem. If your product is more technical in nature and the value truly does need to be explained more, a well-produced video can also be very effective in lieu of an image. Again though, the video needs to key off of the narrative of the marketing copy, and focus on connecting emotionally and selling the value of solving a problem, rather than explaining features.

TECHNICAL

If you are using your landing pages for paid search advertising, there are a few things you’ll want to consider when implementing your landing page(s). These tips are partly motivated by good usability, but are also motivated by keeping your AdWords Quality Score high:

i. Segmentation
Consider creating several variants of your landing page, that are targeted for the different segments of your market. You can revise your marketing copy and image to better match each segment you want to reach. Equally though, you can cluster smaller and tightly-related groups of keywords around each segmented landing page to improve relevance.

Google uses a metric known as a Quality Score to rate the relevance of a landing page to the keywords that an advertiser has been on. By keeping your keywords tightly clustered around relevant segmented landing pages, you not only increase continuity of the overall experience and thus likely increase conversion rates, you also help to keep your Cost Per click (CPC) rates low.

ii. SEO Matters
Believe it or not, On-page SEO factors matter when you create a landing page. Sure, your landing page is likely not a navigable page in your site, and is typically only reached by direct advertising campaigns, but if you’re using Google for paid search, they are parsing your content to try to determine relevance for the keywords you are bidding on, and that means your pages will be evaluated just like they would for the organic search results.

Thus, try to follow best-practices for marking up a page. Be mindful of your use of the title tag, and use H1 for your displayed title. Avoid using anything that might obscure your content from the search engines such as bitmapping the content (images), Flash or other embedded media. It is also not a bad idea to place a couple paragraphs of descriptive information below the fold, to provide more text describing your offering. You can use this text to work in more natural use of the phrases you want to rank for, without causing keyword density issues.

iii. Load Time
Load time for a landing page can be critical. When users are quickly cycling through a myriad of competitors, their tolerance for slow-loading pages is quite low. The user may click away in frustration or worse, you may have just soured a relationship emotionally. Look for opportunities to reduce image sizes, and cache any output that might require processing on your server.

Again when using Google AdWords, you need to carefully consider load time. It is primarily an issue with the only the most competitive key phrases, and so it may not effect everyone, but it is worth being aware that load time is considered in terms of quality score of your landing page and may impact your Cost Per Click (CPC), if you are not careful.

Summary

To summarize this post, any campaign needs to begin with proper research to truly understand your demographic and how to communicate more effectively with them. From there, write marketing copy that is concise but effective. Focus on connecting emotionally and selling the value of your solution, not features of a product. When selecting an image for your page, find someone that extends the narrative of your copy. When designing your page think about using color to set an emotional tone. Use layout to focus the user on the goal at hand. Removing any distracting or incongruent elements.

In the next and final post on this topic, we will take a look at iterative testing, an empirical method by which to systematically discover and revise your best landing page variations.

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Part 2 of a 3-part series on Landing Page Optimization

Landing Page Optimization #3 (Testing & Analysis)

This is now the third in a series of three blog posts, providing a comprehensive overview of landing page optimization.  The first post discussed laid out the 5 tenants for effective online selling.  The second applied those concepts to design, marketing and implementation best practices. We are now ready to discuss how testing analysis form the basis of a on-going optimization methodology.

Even though there are known landing page optimization best-practices, and heuristic models for usability that guide us, testing is still at the heart of any effective optimization campaign.  It’s a process.  And the truth is that all of rules of thumb are just like any other advice in life – half true at best. At best you could argue that these rules are true some or most of the time.  No matter how great of an expert one is at site optimization, even the best minds in this space often find themselves surprised at what’s working, as evidenced by the success of sites like WhichTestWon.com, industry experts come to socialize and guess which landing page will win.

Thus what truly separates an expert from a novice is the systematic methods by which they arrive at an optimized page, more than anything else.  Think in terms of what a build > Measure > Learn feedback loop in which you build a landing page using best-practices to begin, then test it against a few other variants, and analyze the results to uncover what’s working. 

Based upon this effort, you not only determined which of your variants was stronger, hopefully you’ve revised your knowledge of what works for your target demographic, so that you can build upon it for the next batch of variants that you will test.  This process repeats until you’re convinced that you’ve optimized sufficiently, or that the law of diminishing returns catches up with you.

To setup your own testing process, you need to properly instrument your site with Analytics tools, and site optimization tools.  Let’s discuss each on of these:

Analytics
The first step is to properly instrument your site with Analytics, so that you can perform behavioral analysis after a test has run.  There are number of tools such as Google Analytics and Adobe Site Catalyst (aka Omniture) that will suffice and allow you to see who came to your page, what keywords they may have been searching how long they stayed, and where they went from there. You can pass tags also to identify campaigns and thus attribute conversions accordingly.  Goals can be defined as well that you can track against your attributed campaigns to uncover the cost of customer acquisition and return on ad spend (ROAS).

There are still other complimentary analytics tools that may make sense at times. For simple landing page optimization, you might also consider looking at CrazyEgg.com, as it provides a simple heat map to indicate where the mouse went on your page, thus indicating areas of focus.  If you’re looking at site wide and conversion optimization, a lifecycle analytics tool such as ClickTale  allows you to track (anonymously) the entire session on your sit, in detail.  Careful study can help you to uncover bottlenecks in your sales funnel that can be corrected for significant gains in profit and ROAS.

Always Be Testing
Separate from analytics tools, there is another class of tools that specifically manage systematic testing of content variations. Tools such as Google’s Website Optimizer (GWO),  Adobe’s Experience Management, Unbounce and others, enable you to  systematically test variations of a page and graduate the winner of a test to primary status.

A/B Testing provides a simple approach to compare different versions of a page whereas Multivariate Testing (MVT) testing variants of specific tagged elements within a page, such as swapping out a headline, image, or button.  Internet marketing companies that are really great at this stuff, make variant testing a regular part of their process and it is not uncommon to be running a dozen or more variants at any given time in these organizations. Internet marketing companies who excel at this stuff, are regularly testing as a matter of process, and it is not uncommon to be running a dozen or more variants at any given time.

Conclusion

So there you have it.  After three lengthy blog posts, you now have a fairly complete overview of landing page optimization.  At a very high level, the goals are to provide a simple and consistent user experience and to remove barriers from achieving our goal, such as opportunities for distraction and trust issues.  To execute on these goals, do research to better understand your demographic and the nuances of exactly what they’re looking for.  You can then respond with more effective marketing copy and improved design that takes advantage of layout for focus, and images to invoke emotion.

Be aware of implementation issues that could handicap your success such as load time, relevance, and SEO accessibility, particularly if dealing with Google AdWords.  And above all else, instrument your site with analytics to gain visibility into what “is* on your site, and make testing and incremental refinement a matter of process, to discover what *could be*.   If you can follow these steps and make a commitment to testing as a matter of process, then congratulations – you’re already well on your way to seeing double, possibly even triple digit gains in returns on ad spend.

Part 3 of a 3-part series on Landing Page Optimization

Website Optimization Tips

Optimizing a site can mean many things.  If you’re an eCommerce site, probably means optimizing your landing page, hiding your navigation so as not to distract, and pushing visitors toward the goal of a transaction receipt page.  For small business and service professionals, it may mean getting someone to fill out a form.  Or if you’re a publishing site, it very well might mean something nearly opposite of those two focused goals – perhaps you actually do want visitors to traverse your navigation, discover and engage with your content or community.  No matter how you describe it though, these things all have one thought in common:  you’re looking to maximize the value of each visitor to your site.

Although this practice is typically referred to as Website Optimization, Landing Page Optimization (LPO) or Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO), it is part of much broader schools of thought.  Many universities now offer interdisciplinary programs called Human Computer Interaction (HCI) that combine the study of Psychology and Information Systems, to better understand how to create systems that do a better job of servicing and assisting the humans that the systems were built for.  Usability and User Experience are two more common terms now used in design circles, to describe how to improve a user’s interaction with a system or website.  In many ways, landing page optimization and conversion optimization are applied marketing concepts, as much as Usability and User Experience are applied design concepts; but they’re all drawing up HCI which simply seeks to create better interfaces that accomplish the goals of the system. For the purposes of this blog post, I’m focusing on the marketing prerogative, but many of these thoughts can be applied to overall system design and usability as well.

Improving Efficacy
So how does one maximize value from their visitor? For the purposes of this discussion, let’s assume we’re talking about the easy to understand and quantify, eCommerce model.  With eCommerce, there’s typically a large spend on PPC and that spend is usually in pursuit of directly-quantifiable direct sales; not long-term fuzzier metric brand building. So our goal in this case would be to get users to our site for $1 and get as many of those visitors to buy something as possible, to increase average profits above the dollar we spent to acquire their attention.

Website Optimization
We’ll ignore the efficacy of the ads themselves for this conversion and focus purely on what happens after they arrive at the site.  Onsite, there are really two things that matter:

  • Focusing attention in the direction we want them to go.
  • Reinforcing trust and removing doubt and fear.
  • Keep attention focused and directed at the goal line (the receipt page).

If we keep those strategic goals in mind, the tactical implementation is relatively straight forward at a high level.  Obvious optimizations would be:

  • Remove the navigation bar on the landing page
  • Use very large submit buttons that are hard to miss
  • Use simple bullet points for details, not long-form text
  • Don’t present too many choices; match exactly the one product they searched for.
  • Use a headline that excites the user.
  • Use trust signals such as testimonials or credential logos on landing and checkout pages.
  • Minimize extra steps that could be hurdles to checkout such as the always-favorite required membership signup.
  • Remove barriers such the form that goes blank and requires refill if one piece of required information is wrong.
  • Don’t ask for more information checkout than is absolutely necessary.
  • For God sake, do NOT use Captchas!

Beyond those basics, there are a number of more subtle opportunities for optimization that simply require a “feel for the art” of it all, and proper domain knowledge, to match the culture of your users.  Catching their attention is key but authenticity and trust are also very important and cannot be sacrificed for a cheap thrill, or they’re not going to give you their credit card number.

Tactics that might work well would include using a larger checkout button with appropriate messaging.  Perhaps something exciting such as “Check it Out!” works for an entertainment product but a move conservative “Get Started” is more appropriate for insurance or financial institutions.  Color choices, images and titles work the same way.  Focus on finding a way to grab attention and infuse emotional excite, without compromising authenticity or trust.

Testing Methodology
As with any advice, there are many half truths in optimization.  What works well for many sites may not work for yours.  A lot of this comes down to culture and the issues f authenticity and trust I mentioned above.  For this reason, you may start with certain known principles as described above and broader usability heuristics, but the only way to truly know what works best for your own audience, is to test.

Testing in fact, is at the basis of most sophisticated online marketing operations today. We should start with a humility that we never absolutely know truth, we can only approximate it, and should always seek to evaluate truth through objective and empirical evaluation.  As such, most online markets today user an iterative approach to their online marketing and optimization strategies.  Continual testing and revision is baked into the on-going process.

To test your overall conversion funnel, you just need to setup goals and funnels in your analytics tools to be able to track and observe where bottlenecks are and results of changes. The efficacy of a specific landing page however, is better instrumented with a tool specifically designed to track changes of that one page, and track the goals against those changes.  There are tools such as Unbounce, Optimizely, and the free Google Website Optimizer (WSO) for that; WSO optimizer in particular is handy due to its one-click Google Analytics integration.

There are two types of tests that you might consider running for landing page optimization – an A/B test, or a Multivariate test.  An A/B test compares two or more separate pages, to determine which is more effective. This is a simple test to setup, requires less traffic, and is great for comparing entirely different versions of page layout.  If you instead want to focus on testing more subtle changes within a page such as title messaging, or button color, or featured image, a multivariate test would be appropriate.

A/B Testing
Using a tool such as Google Website Optimizer (WSO), you’d either setup redirection for the randomly served variants of yourA/B test, or you’d embed a few JavaScript hooks so that you can manage your variations from the WSO tool, if running a multivariate test.  Once setup, just wait for enough sample data to collect and let WSO do its thing.  Over time, you’ll see a percent-likely determination for which page is more successful. For example, “This page is 95% likely to outperform”.  Once you reach around 90-95%, WSO will determine the variant to be a “highly significant” improvement.  From there, you’ve confirmed which variant is more effective and can make your changes, as well as consider the next round of tests based on your findings.  This process can be repeated enlogica as you focus more and more on exactly what works.

For anyone new to optimization, I cannot stress enough, how important these methods are; you’re likely leaving a substantial amount of money on the table.  If you’ve never thought about optimization before, its quite likely that you can increase your Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) by 100% or more. I personally have had experiences in which small changes such as making a checkout but big, green and changing the messaging on it, with a single test, increased conversions by almost 40%.  So, while this form of methodical and detail-oriented optimization may not be the most sexy part of running your online business, it could easily be one of your most important!