All posts in Conversion Rate Optimisation

Click. Click. Click. Just because they’re clicking in doesn’t mean they’re actually buying. Any digital marketing agency will tell you that CRO, or Conversion Rate Optimisation, is the key to turning traffic into profits. Unfortunately, there are several little factoids they won’t share with you, too.

  1. Conversion rates online are awful. Dream all you want, but no matter what vertical you’re in, you can only really expect a five percent conversion rate, and that’s going to be true even with some optimisation work. Leave optimisation out, and you’re looking at just a rate of just one to two percent.
  2. More businesses are actively optimising. If you’re new to the game, you’re late. According to the fifth annual Conversion Rate Optimisation Report, nearly 60% of businesses see CRO as essential to their success, so if you’re not optimising, you can bet that your competitors probably are.
  3. Any page where you start a dialog with your visitors is a landing page, and thus needs at least some attention. You can’t simply decide that your best pages are the most important ones. Instead, you need to have a broader focus to help convince people to stay on your site and click through to the ultimate reward.

Optimisation is only getting more important in terms of your conversion rate, and with so many companies finally paying attention, your job may only get slightly more difficult in the months to come, so make certain you’re developing the right strategy now.

As you think about optimisation, the chances are good that you’re thinking first about those landing pages that are supposed to be converting visitors into customers. How do yours rank? Many of the worst landing pages have a few things in common.

The worst landing pages have . . .

  • Poor, ineffective, or non-existent headlines: The old adage that you have just a few seconds to capture a potential customer’s attention still holds true. If your headline doesn’t do it, or if you don’t have any headlines, you have a problem. A better headline would grab them instantly and offer a forceful shove into the copy below, which is exactly what you want. If you’re not sure how to craft a proper headline, do a bit of research or hire an effective web copywriter.
  • Unrelated images: Pictures of puppies, kittens, and children are cute, but if they don’t have anything to do with your products or services, you don’t need them on site. Find the best possible images you can to include on your landing pages, even if it means buying better stock photography or hiring a professional photographer to tackle the task for you.
  • Long copy: It’s not hard to make people very, very, very tired of reading about your product quite quickly. In fact, after just a few words, they’re likely to be sick of reading what you have to say. Short, concise copy does it for landing pages. Save the lengthy verbiage for your product pages.
  • Poor lead generation forms: You want them to come to you, to fill out that form, to click submit, so make certain those forms work well. You not only need to test them before you actually put them on the page, but you also need to make certain that they’re the perfect length. Too long and people will get bored. Too short and you may not capture the information necessary to get that lead.

Your potential customers aren’t going to overlook the flaws in your landing pages. Neither are the search engines. Before you do any other optimisation work, focus on those landing pages!

Count On Us

Who are the key visitors to your website? Who are you trying to attract, the crucial – and buying – audience that you want to engage with winning content? Most businesses have a general idea: i.e. we sell football shoes, so we ‘re targeting young athletes or older enthusiasts who star in weekend leagues. But they don’t go much beyond that. Creating user personas gives us an in-depth look at potential audiences, their needs, and potential strategies for converting them into customers.

A Quick Look at User Personas

A persona is a fictional representation of your very nonfictional audience. For instance, we might have Sue, the weekend football star. Your research tells you that this is a demographic you want to hit. Sue is a professional with limited free time. She has children, who also participate in sports, and she wants to be more active and healthy. She is value-conscious, but she also wants great quality. This persona:

  • Describes this type of visitor to your shoe site: mother, busy, professional.
  • Targets her motivation: health, wellness, activity.
  • Hits on her need: budget, value, quality.
  • Implies potential objections: cost of top shoes, time. For instance, time is an issue – so are returns easy and convenient? Is shipping fast?

With this information (and much more – you can flesh these personas out so they actually have an accompanying photo and dossier!), you can develop content and design your website in such a way that her needs are met. What’s more, because you have different demographics within your customer base, you can create a variety of realistic personas.

Creating User Persona

It all starts with research. Who are your users? Why are they visiting your site? What expectations and needs do they bring with them? Can you categorize users? With social media and the ease of UGC, you can collect this data from your customers directly with online surveys, through comments and reviews, emails, and feedback forms. Questions you want to answer:

  • Where do they live? What types of jobs do they have, and at what level? Primary gender? Level of education? Average income? Marital and family status?
  • What types of beliefs and values do they hold?
  • What are their interests, passions, and hobbies?  What are their motivations?
  • What are their most pressing worries or concerns? What are their goals?
  • What’s important to them in life? What is meaningful to them?
  • What behaviors do they want to encourage or change in themselves?
  • How do they view themselves?
  • What value can you give them?

Using this information, develop 4-5 personas, and put as much detail into them as possible. Make them real people. You are trying to sell your product or service to a live audience, not a figment of your imagination! Address their needs and concerns, while offering solutions.

By understanding your customer base, you can build content that meets their needs (not every piece will be directed at Sue, for instance, but you’ll cater to each persona in different ways), and you can begin to optimise content to make it easy and convenient for them to take the next steps.

Do you use user personas to help you make content and design decisions?

 

+Newspaper Series+ 1If 100 people find their way to your blog or website, most will read your headlines. Only a small percentage – 20 percent or less – will actually read your article. It’s the power of headlines that pull people in, that tell them that there is information, or entertainment, in here that is relevant and interesting.  All that power – in just a few words. Far from an afterthought, your headline should be as carefully crafted as the rest of your content.

Here are some tips for excellent, attention-grabbing headlines:

  1. Include a number. 7 Ways to Beat Stress; Top 5 Tips for Synchronized Swimming Success; 3 Easy Steps to Mastering Chess. Whatever your industry and niche, there are always tips, tricks, and lists to share. Numbers indicate to readers that they will be getting some helpful advice.
  2. Ask a question. Increasingly, searchers enter questions instead of keywords. For example, instead of “mount plasma screen,” they might query: “How do I mount plasma screen on wall?” In addition, asking a question in your headline implies that you have the answer. It invites readers to click through or keep reading so they can find it.
  3. Use tried and true structures. Top 5 Mistakes SEOs Make, for instance, combines a number, as well as a point of pain for your audience. Both will help draw people in – if only so they can check whether they’re making the mistake!
  4. Use a thumbnail image to accompany your headline. Research from the Guardian indicates that headlines with an image saw an increased CTR of 27 percent. It’s worth a shot!
  5. Don’t use your brand. Testing shows that when you use your brand in your headline, you see a drastic decrease in engagement and CTRs. Here’s an example: Brand X Announces Their Secret to SEO Success. Well, good for them! Far more effective is: 5 Secrets of SEO Success, or Five Steps to SEO Success. This puts the focus on the value your readers will derive from your content.
  6. Use strong adjectives. While you don’t want to overdo it, adding a descriptive, powerful adjective can help create interest and prompt the reader to continue on.
  7. Get inspired. Take a look at content that has gone viral. It has done so because, in large part, because of the great headlines. Go on Reddit, StumbleUpon, and other sites and see what’s trending.

A great headline grabs the attention and the imagination. It’s just as – or more – important than you content itself!

Shaking Hands

One of the primary goals of content marketing, and indeed, all internet campaign efforts, is credibility. Your online brand is only as good as the trust that you build with your audience, and it is critical that you establish your integrity and authority, especially if you are asking for sensitive personal or financial information. How can you establish greater trust, and put customers at ease?

Trust seals can increase conversion rate optimisations: 86 percent of online shoppers feel more confident when they utilise sites that display the seals. According to research, the most well-respected trusted trust seals are: Norton Secured, powered by Verisign, McAfee Secure, and TRUSTe.

Let’s take a quick look at a Norton option: Secure Site Pro with EV SSL Certificates, for instance, gives you extended validation, green address bar (another visual for customers), 128-bit minimum to 256-bit encryption, and $1.5 million warranty and vulnerability assessment.  Your site will have that level of protection and security for users. McAfee Secure offers daily scans for hacker vulnerabilities and threats, proactive alerts to threats, remediation assistance, and unlimited technical support.

When you get these seals, you get more than a logo to put on your website. You get protection for your site, and for your customers.

In addition to trust seals, you can take other steps to help boost your credibility, including:

  • Posting authentic testimonials and customer reviews.
  • Display and provide links if you are mentioned in industry publications or by news organizations.
  • Create and prominently display a privacy policy, guaranteeing that customer information will never be sold, traded, or used for purposes other than stated.
  • Ensure the trust seals are displayed prominently.
  • Link to social media profiles to further establish a presence and to allow potential customers to engage with your online community.

Download Onscreen ButtonSEO, and search engine visibility, is just the first step. Conversion rate optimisation is focused on keeping visitors on your site and ensuring they complete the desired call to action, whether that is purchasing a product, signing up for a newsletter, or answering questions on a survey. Are your CTAs effective?

Calls to action tend to be relegated to afterthoughts on most websites. A small scale study of businesses presented by Small Business Trends found that 70 percent do not optimise CTAs on their home pages. More – 72 percent – do not have CTAs on their interior pages, and still more – 82 percent – do not mention their social media profiles. Most do not include vital information, such as phone numbers or email addresses; and if they do, they are not featured prominently.

A compelling call to action is essential but how do you go beyond “Contact us”?

  • Learn from the mistakes of these small businesses. Place CTAs in prominent locations and in interior pages. Make them noticeable: contrasting colors for your banners and buttons work. There is some conjecture that different colors – such as yellow and orange– are more eye-catching and apt to convert. You can get into A/B testing to determine that, but in the meantime, make sure they are highly visible.
  • Pair your CTA with your content. “Buy now” is often your ultimate goal, but does that make sense on an information or educational page? A more effective call to action would center around learning more, contacting you for further information, or downloading an ebook or whitepaper.
  • “Learn more” can be ambiguous. Make sure that your CTA tells the visitor exactly what action you would encourage them to take (which will be to their benefit, of course!). Make that value proposition clear. JetSetter does this: they may have a tidbit about an Italian vacation with a CTA button that reads, “Plan a trip like this.” The visitor knows what will happen when he clicks through, making it more likely that he will do so.
  • Inject some urgency. You need to do this now! Is the message, but how to word it? Spotify does a great job with this one: “Music is for every moment.” Then, under,  “Get Spotify for free.” It is inspirational – we have moments! We want music for them! Our very own soundtracks! – and it’s free. That never hurts.
  • Be very clear in your wording. “Buy now” is not earth shattering, but if visitors are on a product page, it only makes sense. When the tried and true works, use it.

Businesses tack on CTAs after carefully working through content strategies. This is a mistake. Spend time crafting your CTAs wording, design, and placement – and then track your analytics to see the difference it makes.

Network Neurons 2

Slow-roasted coffee is wonderful; a slow stroll through the park is relaxing; a slow competitor in a race is just great luck. But slow websites are a huge obstacle to your success. Seventy-five percent of web users will bounce out of a site if it takes longer than four seconds to load. Reducing your load time can help you keep users engaged and on your page.  One way to do that is to enable keepalive. How does it work?

When a webpage loads, the browser sends a request to the server to dish up the content. The server responds and sends the file. The browser has to ask for the HTML file, read it, and then request other files (webpages are typically made up of multiple files).  Now, imagine if this “conversation” had to take place for every single file. This would reduce the speed at which a page could load.

That is exactly what happens when keepalive is not enabled. It is like ordering a meal. Your server comes and you order a drink. Then he goes away, comes back, and you order your appetizer. Then he goes away, comes back, and gives you your nachos. Then he goes away and comes back and gives you the cheese that goes on your nachos…you get the idea. It would take forever to eat, and as a diner, you’d “bounce” away from that restaurant. This is what your website audience will do when your browser has to make multiple, separate requests of the server.

Keepalive keeps the connections open. Essentially, you are allowing the server to deliver content without having to make multiple requests.

The default for HTTP connects is keepalive enabled, but the server might close connections to allow for faster, more efficient performance. It is worth your time to check to see if your connection is keepalive enabled. If not, we’ll show you how to do it in part 2 of this post.

Shopping trolley  2

Abandoned shopping carts are a slap in the face; they are a reminder that you have done great work in getting customers to your site and leading them through the sales funnel. What you haven’t done, for whatever reason, is seal the deal with a purchase. There are a host of reasons for this: buyers might simply change their mind. They may navigate to other sites to compare prices and never return. You may spring unexpected charges, shipping fees, or laborious forms on them. These are all fixable elements of your CRO campaign that can help you convert future visitors. But what about those who have left items in their carts? Can you entice them back?

That is the goal of remarketing. You have probably experienced it yourself. Say you are on Amazon looking for swimwear. You wander away, and when you log into Facebook, you see an ad on the right side of the page for swimwear from, you guessed it, Amazon. Retailers are not allowed to use sensitive information in remarketing, but they can use information about customer interests and geography to target their audience effectively.

Google’s Dynamic Remarketing tool can help you customize ads and reach your customers. This will boost your conversion rate and eliminate a few of those abandoned carts. If you are a member of Google Merchant Center, you can use the Dynamic Remarketing tool to see an uptick in conversions. You will have to put the Dynamic Remarketing tag on each page of your site. Here’s a quick rundown:

  • Find your remarketing tag. This will collect product information and the pages customers visit (product page, general visit, etc.). To do this, go to your AdWords account and click on Shared Library on the left. Select View in Audience section. You will now see a Remarketing Tag box at the top, and it will tell you if it is active or inactive. Click on the View tag details.
  • Assuming your tags are not active, select View remarketing tag and instructions. This will find your tag and instructions on how to add it to your website.
  • Here is a look at what that could will look like from Google (though not exact – you still have to find your own):

 

<script type=”text/javascript”>
/* <![CDATA[ */
var google_conversion_id = XXXXXXXXXX;
var google_conversion_label = "YYYYYYYYYY";
var google_custom_params = window.google_tag_params;
var google_remarketing_only = true;
/* ]]> */
</script>
<script type=”text/javascript” src=”//www.googleadservices.com/pagead/conversion.js”>
</script>
<noscript>
<div style=”display:inline;”>
<img height=”1″ width=”1″ style=”border-style:none;” alt=”" src=”//googleads.g.doubleclick.net/pagead/viewthroughconversion/XXXXXXXXXX/?value=0&amp;label=YYYYYYYYYY&amp;guid=ON&amp;script=0″/>
</div>
</noscript>

 

  • Now you have to add your custom parameters. These will be inserted on top of the tag. Google has a list of custom parameters you can add to properly identify your products and pages. You can see those here.
  • Add the code to each page of your website.
  • Next, create your remarketing lists in AdWords. Go to Shared Library > Audiences > New Audience > Remarketing List.
  • Create a List Definition. You can create lists for people who visit specific pages, specific products, the site in general, who completed a specific step of the process, or who meet other criteria. You can make as many lists as you like without the need for more coding.

The groundwork is now in place and you can design ads that capture – or recapture – the interest of your customers. This is a great tool from Google, and the search engine has a lot of information and instructions, so get coding!

Feedback form: excellentConversion rate optimisation is focused on the factor that really matters in website design, development, and SEO: the user. These other techniques brought the searcher to you. Now you’ve got to keep them. Analytics and split and multivariate testing can help you glean invaluable data, but the best insight comes from users themselves. Using their feedback can help you improve conversion rates.

There are several effective platforms for managing user feedback, which can get unwieldy if you don’t have a comprehensive system in place. Here are a few tools to consider:

  • GetSatisfaction. The premium customer engagement platform allows you to reach customers on your website and via social and mobile features. Customers can have “guided conversations,” offer feedback, ask questions, share ideas, report problems, and much more. It is a tremendously rich platform. If you, for instance, sell bikes, customers can ask questions right on your website, such as, “Which is the best commuter bike?” They can then see answers from other real customers. There are a host of other features, making this a great choice to engage customers and empower influencers.
  • Crazy Egg. This is a different type of feedback tool which focuses on heatmaps. The tool tracks the elements on your pages so you can see “what’s hot and what’s not.” You can also take advantage of a scrollmap tool, which shows how far down the page people are traveling; an overlay tool, which shows the number of clicks for each element of a page; and a confetti tool, from which you can glean data on clicks you get segmented by referral  source, search term, and other factors. As of now, they are offer a free 30 day trial.
  • OpinionLab. This is another fully-loaded platform extends beyond your website. You can get feedback for mobile, emails, apps, ads, physical locations, and products as well. They offer opt-in (most popular) and more targeted approaches, and help businesses engage customers quickly and nip problems in the bud. In a time when customer complaints can go viral, this tool helps you stay in control and respond expeditiously.

There are a variety of other options out there, varying in features and price points. They can be pricy, but it is an investment in your business. If you can eliminate money-wasters and focus on site elements and marketing tactics that actually bring in revenue and increase conversion rates, then you’ll see an ROI.

 

Photo Frame 8January 2013, Google rolled out its new image results format. It’s a great change for searchers; at the top of the page are different categories that you might be interested. If we’re searching for “ducks,” at the top is “flying,” “swimming,” “female,” etc. Under are high-quality pictures. Previously, you’d get a thumbnail and a bit of a description. When you clicked on the image, the site of origin would appear in the background. This no longer happens. Google says this is to speed up the experience and reduce the load on servers. True, but it can also reduce click-through rates. How, and is it still worth optimising your images?

Instead of a one-click process, getting to the original website is a two-click job. This can impact conversion rates, often significantly. Define Media Group did a small scale study of 87 sites along a variety of verticals. Collectively, traffic decreased 63 percent. Optimising images is still important and worth the time to do it. It certainly cannot hurt! It is not the highest on the SEOs to-do list, but it’s not time-consuming either.

Quick steps you can take include:

  • Use descriptive image file names with targeted keywords. Instead of simply “duck,” for instance, you might name a file, “male mallard duck.”
  • Use Alt tags. This will help increase visibility. This will look like the following:

<img src=”male mallard duck.jpeg alt=”male mallard duck”>

  • Use Alt tags for things like products, not decorative images. This may draw an over-optimisation penalty. And while we’re at it, don’t overuse keywords.
  • Minify images. This compresses and formats the images correctly so they load quickly.

These steps won’t take much time to implement for important images. Regardless of whether Google displays them differently in image searches, it’s important to optimise your content with images. Your site should be built for your users, and images help create a great experience.

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