Does my website really work?
Conversion Rate Optimization (Part 1)

July 11th, 2013  |  No Comments

In an economy that is, at best, growing VERY slowly, ensuring that every penny in your business’ marketing budget is spent in the wisest manner possible would seem a top priority. More and more, the entire global population engages in its search for goods and services on the internet. Additionally, at the same time that marketing budgets are getting tighter, consumers are branching out into using newer technologies (i.e. smartphones and tablets) and new interfaces with these technologies (i.e. social media) to conduct their searches for services, products, and information.

So, as your company has tried to keep pace with the ever-morphing marketplace, how can you be sure that you are getting the most for your money out of your website?

Well, the answer to these questions all comes together in the fancy Internet marketing and digital consulting term of “Conversion Rate Optimization.” If you’re not up to speed on all your “hip” and “techie” Internet marketing terms, simply put, Conversion Rate Optimization is studying and testing how making adjustments to your website can mean extra customers clicking on your “Buy Now” button or performing whatever action you wish for them to take without spending money on attempting to attract more visitors. You already have a certain number of visitors to your website. Given that number of visitors, Conversion Rate Optimization seeks to make a higher percentage of them purchase your product or service, sign up for your email list, or whatever.

Conversion Rate Optimization is also known as “CRO” if you’re a geeky Internet marketing agency type. Essentially the testing helps you “optimize” the “rate” that your website “converts” your website visitors who are only browsing into PURCHASING or ACTING customers. Other terms like A/B testing or multi-variate testing are all terms associated with CRO.

As the Internet itself is a relatively new phenomenon in the course of human history, CRO is, of course, also a fairly new concept. But it is something that is beginning to be embraced by people from small businesses to large corporations and local politicians to Presidential hopefuls for one simple reason: It works.

If you’re not familiar with it, here is a basic example to grasp the concept of CRO testing. A simple CRO test would be to look at if changing the color of your “Buy Now” button to a different color effects your sales. Do the customers that go to your specific website purchase your product more often if the “Buy Now” button is red, or does green (or some other color) work better? On some levels this sounds too ridiculous to be true. However, people for whom success is of the utmost importance have found CRO testing to be indispensable.

In 2013, at a Conference in Europe conducted by “The Next Web”–an industry leader in analyzing the interface of Internet technology, business, and culture–conference attendees from around the world came to hear a pioneer in CRO testing, Dan Siroker (one of those “former Googlers”) speak on this. Dan worked on U.S. President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign. (we ask you to put politics aside and focus only on the content of the video) This lesson is unbelievably valuable—and also, it is of note, that in Dan Siroker’s full talk, which we cut down to include on this post, he notes that both of the major American Political Parties incorporated his company’s technology in the 2012 campaign. The video below ought to make your eyes pop out of your head as he explains how relatively simple changes (if you know how to manipulate and adjust your website and know the proper questions to be asking) can make drastic changes in your website’s conversion rate. We encourage you to watch the first 6 minutes of this video. You will not be disappointed! (full length video located here if you have time).

How did you pick? “Eye opening” is beyond an understatement. Perhaps the most shocking moment is this: This conference lecture was given by someone who was a major part of an American President’s Presidential Campaign–one would have to assume that a vast majority of the people attending would be relatively successful and savvy when it comes to digital marketing and Internet marketing analytics. How well did those “smart and successful” marketing folks do when selecting which combination of “Button” and “Image” would perform the best? If you didn’t take the time to watch the video, the answer is ZERO. The audience appears to be at least several hundred people—maybe more. Out of all those people NOT ONE of these “smart” marketing people picked the correct combination. Not one. And Siroker and his team discovered the best combination—which was different than their original assumptions as well–through Conversion Rate Optimization Testing. It was determined that these simple changes led to an extra $57 MILLION dollars in campaign contributions.

Here are Dan Siroker’s “Lessons Learned” from this:

  1. Define quantifiable success metrics.
  2. Less is more. Reduce Choices.
  3. Words matter. Focus on your call to action.
  4. Fail fast.
  5. Start today.

Out of all of those, one point to highlight is number 4: “Fail fast.” You may find that changing your “Act” Button from left to right doesn’t make a difference on your website. You may find, much to your surprise that it actually decreases your “click through” rate. That’s fine. You’ve learned something about your potential customers at this moment. But obviously you need to learn this FAST, especially if doing something decreases your “click through” rate. “Failing” may sound scary, but if the CEO asks you as V.P. of marketing what you’ve done in trying to get the most for the company’s money out of the website, that even giving an example of this “failing fast” would make you seem focused in on the big, long-term picture of increasing sales at the company. At worst you would be telling the CEO that you’ve tested some things which enable you to say with confidence that the way the website has been organized in the past seems to have been a fairly optimal way of doing things. And then continue looking at CRO testing different aspects of the website to fully optimize your website’s ability to make “lookers” into customers.

This post to be continued…

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