You’ve poured money into designing a beautiful website, spent thousands on Facebook ads, and are pushing social media updates like nobody’s business.
But still, you’re not seeing results — why?
You tear your hair out with frustration. You pump $1,000 more into new Facebook campaigns. And still, nothing.
Before you drive yourself crazy, take a step back and breathe. Your traffic acquisition strategy is probably just fine.
The problem is conversion optimization — the on-site process of transforming prospects into new customers and existing customers into repeat buyers.
Luckily, you can fix this problem with focus and dedication. The next 20,000+ words will teach you how, step-by-step.
You’ll do more than improve your conversions. You’ll double them. In terms of prerequisites to getting started, all that you need is the willingness to listen, learn, and work hard.
No matter where you’re starting, you will still achieve results.
Conversion optimization sounds way more complicated than it actually is. That’s because marketers like to use fancy words like A/B testing, monetization, revshare, and churn to describe what they do.
Don’t sweat the technical stuff. Think of conversion optimization as the process of making a new friend at a bar. Or, if you don’t like bars, think about the Girl Scouts who sell cookies at your local grocery store every February. Their key selling point? Those kids know how to convince their target customers to buy.
Just like with a brick-and-mortar store, persuasion, communication, and human interest are the heart and soul of doing business online. Remember that your website is speaking to a real, live person — not a computer screen.
Conversion optimization takes hard work, and if your company is young or cash-conscious, you shouldn’t feel pressured to drop $100K+ to hire a full-time expert or consultant. Just do it with your team. As you keep reading, remember the following key points:
- Conversion optimization is cross-functional — you involve your entire team from design to copywriting and analytics
- The process is continuous — once you start, you never ever stop
- You’re going to hit roadblocks — trial and error will help you stand strong
- Capture metrics for making actionable decisions — start with your goals and reverse engineer the process to achieve ROI.
All right! Let’s get to Week 1 of doubling your conversions.
Here’s What You’ll Learn in Week 1
- Understand the goals and underlying principles of conversion optimization
- Learn about your users & how to create marketing messaging to meet their needs
- Become intelligent & well-versed in the topic of conversion-centered design
- Get acquainted with tools that will help you execute quickly
- Set up your A/B testing infrastructure
Day 1: Establish Success Metrics and KPIs
You wouldn’t drive from Los Angeles to South Orange County without a map, GPS, or keen sense of direction. Nor would you go play darts with your friends in the dark.
You don’t need a 100-page business plan to develop an actionable, growth-focused conversion optimization strategy.
Start with a map of your company’s conversion funnel. If you don’t have one already, you may need to sit down with your team to sketch one out in a conference room.
Source: Scott Brinker (Ion Interactive) via SearchEngineLand
Conversion models vary between business models and companies. There are a couple different ways to visualize this concept, so pick the one that makes the most sense to you. Here is another infographic that describes the conversion funnel in terms of on-site customer actions:
Know the Goals that Prioritize ROI
Online marketing produces a heck-of-a-lot of data. That’s an understatement. And if you’re not laser-focused on your goals, you’ll get buried under a data avalanche.
To be successful in your company’s conversion optimization, you need to ignore the noise. Think: shining light vs. eightfold path. You need to monitor success metrics that directly influence your company’s ROI. Here’s a breakdown of the categories where these success metrics fall:
- EngagementThis concept relates to stickiness, which is how much and how often your customers are engaging with and returning to your website. Examples metrics in this category include unique visitors, pageviews, average visit duration, return visits, and bounce rate. If you’ve ever taken a journalism class, think: who, what, where, when, why, and how.
- ViralityThink of this concept as a word-of-mouth effect. When people value your content, product, or services, they’re going to tell the world. Shares, tweets, and likes give your content a higher probability of residual exposure. In other words, they generate an echo effect in the form of free marketing.
- Leads and ConversionsAs a marketer, one of your core goals to generate leads to your sales team. When assessing ROI, you need to measure both the number and quality of your leads by forecasting a dollar amount to how much each lead is worth to your company.
- RevenueTying revenue to your marketing efforts is difficult, but it’s mission-critical for your company to do. In order to measure revenue, you need to know the number of deals closed and sales generated from your marketing efforts. (Hint: Segment revenue generated by marketing channel to gauge the efficacy of each individual program)
- Lifetime Customer ValueYour company needs to maximize this number — more so than the value of transactions from direct response deals. Make sure that the lifetime customer value (i.e. the revenue generated from your user base over time) has significantly higher margins compared to your marketing spend.
Day 2: Align Your Business’s Success Metrics with Steps of the Conversion Funnel
The customer journey is a complex lifecycle. When people come to your website, they may not be ready to make a purchase immediately — and that’s okay. Direct response marketers are typically concerned with how many transactions occur immediately. If you follow this mindset, you’re going to overlook an extremely important metric — lifetime customer value.
The first step of a successful conversion optimization strategy is to think of your marketing as a long-term relationship with your audience. There are key milestones in this process that aren’t entwined with direct sales.
This chart will help you align conversion goals to different user intents:
Conversion Goal Map
|Funnel Stage||Customer Mindset||Customer Actions||Success Metrics|
of the funnel
|What do you do?||
of the funnel
|Why should I care?||
of the funnel
|How do I believe you?||
|Lower funnel||When can we start?||
The success metrics you choose should be custom-tailored to your business’s unique model. For instance, e-commerce success metrics may look different from an ecommerce stores. Don’t forget about off-site interactions either — especially if you’re running a brick and mortar storefront, conversions are likely to happen offline.
Example Conversion Goals by Business Type
of the funnel
of the funnel
of the funnel
- Open up a Word, Notepad, or Google Doc in a window next to this guide. Notebooks work too. If you’re a manager or part of an organization, you may want to loop in your team by jumping into a conference room with a whiteboard.Generate a big list of every on-site goal you want your users to complete, and explain why these concepts are important to ROI for your particular type of business.
- Create a diagram of your company’s conversion funnel. There’s no need to create anything fancy. Just make a rough sketch of what your customers are likely to be doing and thinking.
- Map the relationship between steps 1 and 2.
Bonus step: Create a list of metrics that relate to the goals you’ve specified from 1. Ideally, you should track these trends as goals in your analytics software. If you don’t have analytics software, check out KISSmetrics and Google Analytics.
Align User Segments to Conversion Funnels
Conversion funnels can help you understand what your users want and the paths that they’re taking to find what they need on your website. That’s only half the marketing equation. In addition to monitoring what your users are doing, you need to understand who they are.
The fact is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to sales. Conversion optimization is more complex than most business owners realize. Memorize the following infographic from AtBreak.com:
Here Is How Conversion Steps Look
Even for CrazyEgg, it’s rare for people to just come to the site and convert. They need to be wooed, and typically, this process takes a long-time. And realistically, the more expensive your product, the more steps you should expect your conversion funnel to have.
Here is an example conversion funnel for CrazyEgg:
Users first learn about CrazyEgg when researching heatmapping options through a PPC campaign. They come to CrazyEgg, read a couple of articles and then like the company on social media. This user keeps reading articles until finally, they’re ready to sign up for a free trial. After finding value in the free trial, he/she becomes a paying customer.
Conversion Step 1: Discovery through PPC Ad
Conversion Step 2: Engagement via the Blog
Conversion Step 3: Engagement with Brand via Social Media
Conversion Step 4: Free Trial Sign-Up
Conversion Step 5: Sale!
Customers Need Guidance
As you can imagine, customers and prospects need guidance to get through this process that can sometimes span weeks, or even months. The problem is, most businesses leave their prospects in the dark, without clear knowledge of conversion steps they should be taking. Even the most expensive of websites can experience this challenge. Take the Covered California Healthcare Exchange, as an example.
A big barrier to sign-up is that people aren’t sure how to enroll in the right health insurance plan. As a result, they need to rely on customer support agents, which can be expensive and time consuming.
Guiding your users means understanding their needs, pain points, and personality types. There is no one-size-fits all approach to conversion optimization. People come from a variety of backgrounds and have different levels of familiarity with the Internet. The challenge is that you need to talk to all of these people on a 1:1 basis.
Create User Personas
Who are the people you’re marketing to, and what do they value? What are their hobbies? What solutions are they likely seeking out when they find your business? To speak to your customers and prospects on a 1:1 basis, you need to understand who they are.
When you’re going through this process, don’t worry about visualizing groups. Instead, imagine that you’re talking to real people. Hop on Facebook or LinkedIn and print out pictures of your actual customers.
- Here’s an example of a business buyer persona:
- Jen is a 26 year old female who lives in California.
- She is an Internet power user and frequently spends more than 10 hours a day online.
- She’s well-versed in technology and taught herself how to build websites at an early age.
- She has experience building multi-million dollar marketing programs for enterprise organizations, but she recently left her job as a manager at a tech company to start her own content strategy business.
- She makes decisions incredibly quickly, keeps a tight hold over her credit card, and knows how to avoid BS sales tactics.
- She prefers working with her personal networks, and takes a relationship-building approach to business development.
- She only cares about ROI.
- When she was working for a big company, she was not the ultimate decision maker but was a key influencer who worked with her team collaboratively (although she had the flexibility to spend more than $1MM with very little oversight). Now that she’s working for herself, she is the ultimate decision maker.
- She doesn’t make impulsive decisions and gets annoyed by aggressive sales practices. She prefers doing business with organizations who prioritize consulting and educating above selling.
- Now here is my consumer buyer persona:
- Jen is a 26 year old female who lives in San Francisco.
- She’s always cold and always feels inadequately prepared for winter.
- She enjoys shopping but never has time for it because she is working.
- She relies on the Internet to influence her purchasing decisions.
- She is the ultimate decision maker when it comes to her expenses.
- Since starting her own business, she has tightened up her budget to necessities only, but she is always open to great products.
- She enjoys buying gifts for her friends and family.
- She can be way more impulsive than with her business decisions, which are typically calculated, rational, and planned out in advance.
Or, you could have a little more fun with your user personas, and create something like my self-portrait:
- If you haven’t spent time talking on the phone with your customers and prospects, now is the time to start. Talk to 3-5 people, and interview them about their experience with your brand. Don’t run them through a checklist, and don’t come across like you’re fishing for information. Keep the conversation casual — this process is a type of qualitative research, a concept that we’ll review later this week.
- Work with your team to create comprehensive buyer personas of different customer types.If you’re running a B2B business, use the following questionnaire:
- The basics:
- Job title
- Where they’re located (city, suburb, rural)
- Who do they report to
- Years in this role
- Key job qualifications:
- Responsibilities associated with this buyer persona’s job
- Highest job priorities/responsibilities in this buyer persona’s direct area of influence
- The top problems/pain points they’re facing that your company can help solve
- Several perceived barriers to the above problems
- What actions the buyer may have already taken to solve their key problems
If you’re running a consumer-facing business, use the following questionnaire:
- The basics:
- Where they’re located (city, suburb, rural)
- Favorite stories
- Key characteristics of this persona:
- What does he/she do for fun?
- What does he/she value?
- What is this person’s temperament?
- What frustrates this person?
- Who are this person’s best friends?
- The basics:
Alright. Another day’s over.
Let’s jump into day 3. If you’re feeling ambitious, feel free to get a head start.
Day 3: Run Qualitative Research Studies
On day 2, we promised that qualitative research would be an important topic. This technique is so valuable to your conversion optimization strategy, that we’ve devoted an entire day to it.
More often than not, marketers get obsessed with metrics. They’re buried in numbers without fully-understanding the why and how.
Qualitative research is extremely important for making sense of your research. But unless you’ve taken social science or MBA classes, you’ve probably never even heard of this term.
What Is Qualitative Research?
Qualitative research is an exploratory practice that researchers and marketers deploy when they’re not quite sure what to expect. Generally, researchers enter the process with a completely blank slate and open mind.
At the beginning stages of qualitative research, marketers and business leaders may not yet have a thorough understanding of the problem — qualitative research can help define it. Your strategy is to look for connections between concepts and ideas (ones that you didn’t see before — the point of qualitative research is to identify new perspectives).
A common misconception about qualitative research is that you’re not collecting data. This is a myth. It is important to understand that data collection means more than generating statistical analyses and numbers.
Common methods of collecting data include focus groups, triads, in-depth interviews, uninterrupted observation, and ethnographic participation. Methods are typically semi-structured and casual as opposed to rigid and formal.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
Don’t Waste Time: Turn to Existing Data
One way to kickstart your qualitative research process is to turn to the conversion optimization tools that you already have in place. If you’re running live chat software or are working with a full-fledged customer service team, you’re in luck. You probably have a bunch of data that is already going to waste.
Here are three places to turn:
- Your LiveChat transcripts and
- Your customer service records
- FAQs in your knowledge center (via UserVoice)
The strategy you’re using here is observation. Research customer feedback in a natural, uninterrupted setting.
The strategy is to sift through these records until you start to see a clear pattern in customer activity. What are some clear pain points? What do your customers value, and what are they looking for? Why are customers interested in your business?
Jump into these resources with an open mind, but also make sure to maintain a sense of focus. Pick 2-3 questions that most directly impact your business’s ROI. For instance, you might want to research which website elements are posing challenges to conversions.
Run Customer Interviews
The word “interview” is enough to scare anybody. Before you get research-happy and whip out your tape recorder, take a moment to remember your most valuable learning moments. These are casual conversations, not structured, research-driven Q&As.
So do just that. Make an effort to talk to more of your customers 1:1, especially if you are running your business and part of the marketing team. Don’t expect your sales and customer service reps to do this leg-work for you. Offer to listen in on some calls, or handle your calls yourself.
You might want to create a script of questions you want answered, or you may want to keep the conversation completely open-ended.
Whatever you do, keep the dialogue casual. Don’t make it look like you’re fishing for information — that’s a sure way to put people on edge.
If you’re struggling to come up with what questions to ask, just look to some of the concepts that you already want to know:
- What’s stopping people from converting?
- What are some pain points that people experience during the conversion process?
- What is your company’s core value proposition?
- What could your company be doing better?
- What would compel your customers to refer your company to a friend?
- What would it take for your customers to do business with your company again?
Get External Opinions
First impressions are extremely important. If you’re only surveying existing customers, you’ risk missing out on what’s outside your comfort zone. To keep your company’s perspectives fresh, it’s important to talk to people who have nothing to do with your brand.
When you only have a day for this exercise, it doesn’t make sense to go plan a focus group or full-fledged market research study. The solution isn’t to talk to random people on the street, either.
Rely on the power of technology to get you the answers that you need.
This platform provides user research results in under an hour. You can set up a test on your website with instructions for exercises that you’d like completed. UserTesting creates a recording of your screen, collects written answers, and records what respondents are thinking and feeling along the way.
You can select panel participants by demographic data, geographic information, and experience level with the Internet.
Clarity is a matchmaking platform that connects advice seekers with subject matter experts. The majority of Clarity users are entrepreneurs seeking business advice, but you can also use the platform to recruit perspectives from your target customer base.
Clarity is also helpful if you are looking to gather feedback from a niche B2B audience, something that may be more challenging on a platform like UserTesting. When you set up calls on Clarity, you’ll pay by the minute.
If Clarity or UserTesting aren’t viable options for you, just reach out to your friends, family, and professional network. Offer up a gift card for peoples’ time.
Whatever your approach, be sure to be extremely appreciative, and take your conversations extremely seriously. You never know what piece of advice will help you fix an otherwise mission-critical conversion element.
- Create a list of questions that are important to your company’s conversion optimization strategy. These should be actionable points of research that translate directly influence your company’s bottom line.
- Start talking to potential customers, existing customers, and people unrelated to your brand. Choose a mix of approaches that are outlined for Day 3. In case you forgot, here they are again:
- Collection and analysis of insights from live chat transcripts and knowledge center forums
- Listening to customer service and sales calls
- Calling up existing customers and prospects
- Personally participating in customer service calls
- Running a UserTest
- Calling up an expert via Clarity.fm
- Talking to friends and family
Day 4: Fix Low-Hanging Problems
Yesterday, we asked you to run qualitative research studies on your site. Fancy jargon aside, the goal was to start learning from your target customers — to help you diagnose usability challenges that you would otherwise overlook.
What you’ll probably be surprised to see is how much low-hanging fruit opportunities exist for improving conversions. In many situations, it’s simple stuff that bogs down your customers.
Focus on the Low-Hanging Fruit
Find opportunities to make changes without the help of your development or IT teams. Here are some examples of opportunities that other website owners typically find:
- Make your web copy shorter — take what you have, cut it in half, and cut it in half again.
- Adjust your calls to action (CTAs) — make them easier to understand and more prominent on your webpage for users to see.
- Make your web forms shorter — a lengthy sign-up process can turn off your users from wanting to work with your company.
- Clarify your company’s value proposition — the benefits of your product or service may be difficult to understand.
- Boost the incentives — offer up a promotion or giveaway to encourage prospects to engage with your brand.
- Create step-by-step instructions — find opportunities to guide your customers through the sales process.
- Improve trust — ensure that you aren’t scaring your customers and prospects away; implement trust signals via social media details, membership stats, testimonials, or client logo.
Dig Deep Where User Psychology Meets ROI
The heart of conversion optimization isn’t math or science. It’s psychology. Your strategy needs to solve a specific user need. Start by identifying specific user needs and reverse engineer the solution to meet that goal.
Now comes the fun part — prioritizing your time. Your research may end up presenting a laundry list of needs to address. There are only so many hours in the day, and your marketing team (if you are lucky enough to have one) is likely limited on bandwidth.
The way to focus is to look for patterns. Rather than solving every target customer’s pain points 1:1, find opportunities to solve problems in batches. Then, align this list of pain points with your highest ROI opportunities.
Here are some example challenges that could happen on CrazyEgg:
(based on interviews with 14 people)
- Ten prospective customers don’t understand the software
- One person thinks the sign-up process is too long
- Eight people want an easier way to subscribe to the blog
- There is demand from 6 people for a different, complementary product
- People (14 of them) were afraid to enter their credit card details
Out of this list, which do you think are the most immediate options to tackle? They are:
- The fact that prospects are confused by the software
- The fact that people are afraid to enter their credit card details
- The blog isn’t the biggest priority inhibiting sales
- Just one person was bogged down by the sign-up process; not enough to freak out
- The demand for a complementary product is something that requires extensive time and dedication to address — outside the scope of a quick fix.
The sign-up form issue was a challenge that CrazyEgg recently experienced. Visitors didn’t want to include their credit card details to sign up for a free trial. CrazyEgg added an explainer to the company’s checkout page that visitors would not be charged for the trial.
CrazyEgg quantified the difference in performance, and found that the new page yielded a 116% increase in sign-ups.
- Clean up your website copy. Simplify the messaging as much as possible. Cut it down in half if you can, and get rid of paragraphs.
- Of the challenges that you discovered on Day 3, pick 2-3 that you can address right now. Make those changes on your website. If you can’t fit it into one day (and do it well), it’s probably too big an issue for the scope of this exercise.
Conversion optimization is a marathon, not a sprint. BUT, you need to eliminate the hurdles that will inevitably stop you from winning business. That’s exactly what you did today.
Day 5: Learn the Anatomy of a High-Converting Landing Page
High performing landing pages combine form with function. There is more to them than great design — they’re set up to facilitate transactions, sign-ups, and engagement with your brand.
Great landing pages combine disparate elements into a unified, sales-driving tool. Landing page optimization means knowing how the different parts contribute to the overall effect. In addition to the “what,” you need to understand the “why” and “how” of each individual page element.
Know the Following Concepts
- Call to Action (CTA) – The call to action signifies the end goal that you want users to complete on your website. It’s usually a big, bold, bright colored button. Believe it or not, there are entire blog posts devoted to CTAs — they’re THAT important. It isn’t enough to say “click here” either.You need to use CTAs to guide your audience through the conversion process and let them know exactly what to expect as far as next steps — learn more, download e-book, try free demo, etc.Notice how for Speak2Leads, the CTA stands out, includes an energizing action verb, and stands apart from any other element on the page:
- Social Proof – These are indicators that people 1. use your product and 2. like your product. There’s way too much BS and way too many scams online. You need to show that there are real people who use and like your product. We’ll explain this concept in depth later, but think: client logos, testimonials, social media follower counts, subscriber data, etc.
- Trust Signals – Similar to the concept of social proof, trust signals help your users understand that you’re running a legitimate business (and that they can trust you with their personal information, credit card data, etc).
- Cognitive Dissonance – To get your target customers from point A to point B, the path needs to be clear. If you complicate the messaging by throwing a bunch of page elements and concepts together, you risk confusing your prospects with ambiguity. This concept is what conversion rate experts and psychologists call cognitive dissonance.
- A/B Testing – Improvement requires constant iteration. If you’re thinking of redesigning a page or testing a new element, you need to compare two or more versions (and quantify the results). This concept is known as A/B testing.
- F-Shaped Pattern – This is the typical pattern people follow when they read a webpage. Study after study from researchers like Jacob Nielsen shows that people will scan a page from left to right, down, left to right again, and then down. Your design should follow an F-shaped pattern to help audiences digest information as efficiently as possible.Image Source
- One Conversion Goal – That’s right. Just one per landing page. Absolutely no more, no matter how tempting it seems. No matter how much you try to streamline multiple conversion goals, you’ll end up confusing your prospective customers.
- Value Proposition – At any given moment, your prospects and customers have one question in mind. “What’s in it for me?” Your landing pages need to answer this question head-on. Convince your customers and prospects to do business with you.
See How It All Fits Together
The following infographic will help you visualize the anatomy of a high-converting landing page:
Today’s homework will be hands-on and really fun:
- Start by memorizing the landing page diagram above. Learn it, embrace it, and start thinking about it from the perspective of your company. Take out a pen and some paper to sketch out how you want your landing page to look.
- Mock up a landing page for 1-3 product or service pages. Have your team critique to make sure you’re conveying trust, social proof, a clear value proposition, and a straightforward CTA. This should be a real landing page, not a practice one.
- If you’re limited on design and IT resources, sign up for Unbounce. This software lets you create high-performing landing pages, no matter your technical capabilities or experience level. Unbounce will help you save time and get up and running in a few hours max.
Day 6: Create Variations of Existing Landing Pages
Conversion optimization requires constant iteration. It’s rare that you’ll find the right combination of elements on just the first try. To really find a great solution and ensure that you’re positioned for success, you need to keep testing ideas.
Be Smart About What You’re Testing
When it comes to landing page iterations, you can test anything from colors to fonts, messaging, and CTAs. If you spend your time changing anything and everything, you’ll get very little done.
You need to take a step back and think about the big picture. Every testing strategy starts with an intelligent framework.
When deciding what to test, start with the concept instead of the individual page element. Here are some examples:
- Value proposition
- Information overload
- Action items on CTA
- Option Overload
- First Impression
Here’s an Example to Model
There should always be a reason why you’re testing something. Steve P. Young has gone through this process while leading marketing at SmartShoot, a marketplace to connect photographers and videographers with buyers who need media. For SmartShoot to succeed, customers need to go through three steps:
- Fill out a project request form
- Create an account
- Publish the project request
Like most companies, SmartShoot gets significant traffic to their company’s homepage. The funnel looks like this:
The goal is to get more people past step 2 (the project request form).
To boost this conversion rate, SmartShoot could have tested hundreds of variations. But this strategy is like throwing darts in the dark. It’s a huge waste of time and money. The path to ROI would be long and confusing.
To decide what to test, SmartShoot went back to the data.
“To have the quickest and largest impact on our lead form conversions, we won’t work on the page where the conversion occurs, but rather the page immediately before the conversion — the highly-trafficked home page.”
The process would be less complicated and costly but would produce higher ROI.
This was SmartShoot’s original homepage:
Steve guessed that the CTA, “Post a Project” was not as effective as it could be. Who wants to post a project? That just feels like work.
Customers don’t want to do the work. They want SmartShoot to do the heavy lifting. So Steve talked to his customer base to get a more accurate perspective of what they wanted:
Here’s what they heard:
- We want quotes from vetted photographers and filmmakers
- We want samples of their work
- We do NOT want to sift through emails to see the quotes and sample work
Based on this feedback, Steve and his team decided to change three words. They changed the CTA from “post a project” to “get a quote.”
In terms of getting people from the homepage to the request form, “Get a quote” converted at 40% higher rate than “post a project”.
Clicks aren’t the only thing, though. For SmartShoot, the ultimate goal is to move users down the funnel. “Publish request” is the real conversion goal (because it’s the most direct path to monetization).
“Get a quote” won by 35%.
Test concepts that make sense, not on-the-fly ideas.
Open up the landing pages you made yesterday. Pick 2-3 page elements that you think might need adjusting, and figure out an explanation for why. Go through the methodology we outlined in the SmartShoot example to figure out variations worth testing on your landing page.
The goal of this exercise is to have 2-3 versions of your landing page to test. We’ll tell you what to do with these tomorrow.
Day 7: Set Up Your A/B Testing Software
Conversion optimization is a process that requires continuous testing, refining, and scaling. Even the smartest marketers aren’t going to get their landing pages right on the first go. There is always room for improvement, and even the difference of 1% in conversion rates can make a world of difference.
Let’s say you bring in 1,000 visitors, and a conversion event is valued at $100.
At a 1% conversion rate, you’ll make $1,000. At a 2% conversion rate, you’ll make double — $2,000. It goes without saying that every incremental improvement is extremely important for your company.
What is A/B Testing?
The process of A/B testing ensures that you’re always driving these incremental improvements — and that the discovery process never comes to a standstill.
By definition, A/B tests are a type of experiment. You test two (or more) variations of something against each other against a randomized, statistically valid sample. Then, you measure the results to see which variant drives the best ROI.
What Can You A/B Test?
Anything. That’s why you need to be extremely strategic. If you A/B test everything, you won’t get anything done. You’ll be testing all day without driving real results. As we mentioned yesterday, you need to prioritize your educated guesses.
Here are some examples of elements that may make sense to A/B test:
- Page layout
- Communication/value proposition
- Explainer videos
- Calls to action
- Sign-up forms
- Copy length
- Customer testimonials
- Client logos
Here is an A/B testing case study from Underwater Audio, a company that sells waterproof iPods and audio accessories.
Underwater Audio’s primary goal is to sell products. Users are likely to be exploring items, researching options for products, and potentially reading reviews too. For that reason, webpage scanning patterns are extremely important. Underwater Audio suspected that their pages were not designed as optimally as possible.
Underwater Audio wanted to test out a concept that we discussed earlier this week, the F-Shaped browsing pattern:
Typically, companies have just a few seconds to capture their audience’s attention. That’s why the Underwater Audio tam decided to test the visual hierarchy on their product pages.
Here is what the original page looked like:
The CTA and testimonial bubble were moved to become the center of attention. The company hypothesized that these elements were important sales tools that would inspire user action.
Here’s what happened:
The company’s hypothesis was correct. The new page outperformed the original version by a 35.6% bump in sales. The testimonial from a professional swimmer, more prominent CTA, larger font size, and clearly communicated value proposition were key conversion drivers.
How to A/B Test
Don’t do it manually. If you run on in-house IT resources and Excel, you’ll end up taking forever. Rely on software to simplify the process as much as possible.
A/B testing software will help you set-up experiments, randomize web traffic samples, and track results in one dashboard. Don’t worry about building something custom. You can get up and running tomorrow, if you want.
And that brings us to your homework for the week…
Today’s assignment is to get set up with A/B testing software. Here are two options worth checking out. Try demos for both to figure out which functionality you’ll need. Here is a Quora thread that can help you research the features available in both options — most of the reviewers seem to think that Optimizely is the simpler of the two options.
Visual Website Optimizer
This tool comes with more than 100 features that let you split website traffic by geography, run multivariate tests, segment user behavior, and optimize for mobile. You can run tests in just a few moments and track analytics within the same interface.
This tool can help you test website elements and track results on the fly with a single line of code. You can change copy, colors, images, and CTAs.
Unbounce, a tool that we introduced you to earlier this week for creating landing pages, also integrates with both of these platforms. You can also connect both tools to popular CMS platforms as well as Google Analytics.
The first week is over, and boy, did time fly by quickly. Congratulations on making it through. Here’s to an awesome Week 2.
Here’s What You’ll Learn in Week 2
- Over the next 7 days, you’re going to improve each and every website element. We’ll have you perfect your CTAs, revise your copy, organize customer testimonials, and collect media mentions. These are all concepts that we walked you through last week. We’re going to treat week 2 as an opportunity to make you sit down and do it.
- By day 14, you’ll be ready to launch your A/B tests using the software that you chose on Day 7 last week.
Day 8: Perfect Your CTA
The days of “click here” are gone. You need to do more — much more — to convince buyers to do business with you.
The problem with “click here” is that it’s generic, impersonal, and disconnected from what people are actually doing online. When people are doing business with you or learning about your company, they are doing more than just clicking. They are learning about your products, trying out your demo, and buying your products.
Guiding your users through your company’s conversion funnel means helping them anticipate next steps. Your CTA maintains this human interest and 1:1 customer connection.
Tips for Writing Great CTA Copy
- Start with an action verb — these energize your audiences
- Be specific — instead of staying “start now,” say “start using product x”(example below)
- Be explicit about the conversion event — so users know what you want them to do
- Make the value readily apparent — so users have an incentive to move forward
- Communicate simplicity and ease — so buyers don’t feel like they have to do extra work
- Make it about your customers — get inside their heads by using words like “you” and “me” directly in the CTA
- Make it short and simple — so buyers can make a decision instantaneously
- Be transparent — a lot of shady stuff can result from a click; give customers a strong understand of what’s about to happen
Tips for High-Performing CTA Design
CTAs need more than great copy to perform effectively. You need to make sure you’re leveraging the right design techniques as well. Here are some best practices that you should follow:
Every landing page should have exactly one CTA:
If users have too many options, they’ll get confused. Every landing page should support exactly one conversion goal. It’s okay if you repeat the CTA twice on a page — just make sure that it’s the same conversion goal in both instances.
The CTA should be visually prominent on your landing page:
Don’t expect people to be reading your landing page line-by-line. As we explained last week, less copy is typically more effective. Make sure that your CTA is a big button that readily stands out from everything else on the page.
The CTA should be a bold color, different from any other element on the page:
As we explained in #2, users are most likely going to be scanning your webpage. They don’t have the time or attention span to read everything line by line, so make sure that you use color to make the CTAs really, really obvious.
The CTA should be towards the top of the page:
Don’t make your users scroll. It’s not necessary to keep your CTA above the fold, but don’t make your users spend a lot of time scrolling. And by a lot of time, we mean just a few seconds. Keep your CTAs as high up on your landing pages as possible.
Here is an example of a great landing page from UserTesting.com:
Prioritize Cross-Device Experiences
It’s an understatement to say that people are glued to their mobile devices. Expect users to be visiting your website from smartphones, tablets, and desktops. Make your CTAs easy to click and understand from all three platforms. Mobile optimization is another reason why your CTA should be featured as close to the top of your landing pages as possible.
People don’t want to scroll — especially on their phones.
For today’s homework assignment, you’re going to perfect your landing page’s CTA. Here are the steps you’re going to take:
- Start your CTA copy with an action verb
- Communicate exactly what your buyer is going to get after clicking
- Choose a bold button color that contrasts with every other element on your landing page
- Make sure the CTA is as big as you can possibly make it — without looking tacky or ridiculous
- Ensure that it’s placed as prominently as possible on your homepage
- Don’t beat your users over the head — make sure the CTA is repeated a maximum of twice
Day 9: Revise Your Copy, Messaging & Headings
Writing great copy is tougher than it seems. Most people write too much or too little — or they talk about the wrong things entirely. It’s really important that you devote the time to getting your messaging right — it’s the most direct way to forge bonds with users online. Pay attention to the following best practices:
Steps for Revising Your Messaging
Keep your copy short:
Avoid paragraphs. Write what you have to say, cut it in half, and cut it in half again. We live in a cross-device world where audiences have limited attention spans. Say what you have to say in as little space as possible. Before you write any copy, remember that brevity is your goal.
Make your text easy to scan:
Use sub-headings wherever you go into detail. A user should be able to understand your messaging by scanning subheadings only.
Focus your value proposition:
Create a short and to-the-point elevator pitch for why people should do business with your company. This should be the focal point for your landing page.
Use action verbs:
This subtle technique will energize your audience and keep them engaged with your landing page.
Help your readers feel something.
They spend enough time thinking. Emotions will keep them captivated.
Define your company’s tone, voice, and style up-front in styleguide that you can deploy across marketing initiatives.
Create a Brand Persona, Message Architecture, and Styleguide
A message architecture and brand styleguide will unify your marketing messaging across platforms and channels. This process is especially important for multi-marketer teams. You want one, central document to communicate with your users.
Here are the steps that Speak2Leads went through in crafting their message architecture:
You now need to translate these abstract concepts into a concrete set of requirements for your company’s communication goals. Get started by completing the following simple styleguide:
Objective:The goals for your company communication
Audience:The people to whom you’re speaking
Tone:The style in which you speak to your audience
Notes:Any other guidelines that you want to communicate to your team
Keep your styleguide as short and to-the-point as possible, as you will be distributing the information across multiple teams and departments. Make the process of creating these centralized resources as collaborative as possible. Don’t feel that you need to outsource the responsibility to just one team member. Have one person take the lead, but make sure that the dialogue is collaborative.
Today’s homework assignment is about refining your brand communications — once and for all. We want to make sure that you have a reliable and dedicated resource to inform communication best practices across your different marketing mediums.
- Brainstorm a big list of the qualities that you and your team believe that your brand should embody. No need to organize anything yet — just make sure that your thoughts are on paper and that you’ve gathered input from your entire team.
- Quit the brainstorming and start organizing. Take the list you generated in 1., and group similar words/concepts together.
- Take the groupings you put together, and organize this list into a message hierarchy — similar to the example that we showed you earlier.
- Create your messaging styleguide to standardize your tone/voice across marketing communications and channels.
Follow these steps, and your copy will be awesome.
Day 10: Improve Your Dominant Visual
A dominant visual is the feature that first captures your audience’s attention. It is the single most important tool for making an impression — and it can help you forget this bond in an extremely short amount of time.
Keep in mind that the entirely opposite effect can happen too.
If your visual is obnoxiously flashy or ugly/stock photo-esque, you’ll scare people away. They’ll bounce so quickly that you won’t know what hit your landing page.
A high-impact visual should be engaging, explanative, and highly professional. It should communicate human interest, emotional appeal, and educational value.
According to a usability study run by Jakob Nielsen, there is a wide gap in how photos are perceived online. Some are incredibly attention grabbing and conversation-worthy. Others are totally ignored — these tend to be generic stock photos and images generated for the sake of aesthetics.
Eliminate Visual Bloat
Visual bloat (pictures for the sake of having pictures) is annoying — even if your images are attractive. People prefer to have the information they want right in front of them. That’s because:
- Users are impatient. Especially when they’re on their mobile phones, they don’t have time to wait for your images to download.
- Buyers are information driven. They don’t care about bells and whistles. They want information that’s quick and to the point
- Readers want information that helps them make a decision about their purchase decisions. Visuals can help them navigate details more quickly than reading chunks of text.
And from a marketer’s perspective, your goal is the same — you want visual content that can help drive sales. Remember that’ today’s buyer is more information driven than ever.
Focus on People
Photos of people are extremely attention-grabbing. Just take a look at the following report created by Nielsen and his team:
Image Source: Jakob Nielsen
According to an analysis of the company about page featured above, audiences are spending 10% more time reading the photos than reading through the biographies. In other words, it could be more effective to eliminate these chunks of text and instead, feature easy-to-scan quickfacts.
But here’s the catch. The photos you choose need to be of real people. Nobody gives a darn about stock photos, as exemplified by the analysis below — people scanned over the image on the page (because it reeks of generic):
Image Source: Jakob Nielsen
People are engaging when they’re real. A pretty face isn’t enough to fuel engagement — people want the backstory too.
Choose Photos of Products
E-commerce companies need to take great photos of their products. Why? Because people are paying attention to what stuff looks like when they shop. Photos are especially important when product aesthetics are likely to influence a purchase decision. Products that fall into this category include furniture, linens, and clothing. Electronics and TVs? Not so much. Chances are, if products look alike, aesthetics won’t be a deciding factor.
Take a look at the following product page analysis that Nielsen and his team ran:
Image Source: Jakob Nielsen
People paid significant attention to the Pottery Barn products page (less), but they devoted considerably less attention to the televisions listing page on Amazon. People care about what their future looks like. TVs? Well, those pretty much look the same. It’s the tech specs beneath the surface that count.
Create an Explainer Video
Video is an extremely powerful storytelling medium — more so than any static image. Videos may cost several thousands of dollars (at least) to produce, but they’re also some of the most effective tools for communicating your message and value proposition in as little time as possible. According to this analysis on Unbounce, explainer videos can increase conversions by up to 20%.
Here is why they work:
- Visual and verbal learning — people retain more information when learning through visual and verbal cues
- Explainer videos communicate your company’s value proposition clearly, compellingly, and persuasively
- Explainer videos will force your company to communicate your value in a few minutes, max
- When entertaining and executed well, explainer videos can be very shareable — which is great for reaching new audiences through your buyer’s network of family and friends.
If you make a video, make it great. Even if you’re running on a low budget, make sure to be as compelling and engaging as possible.
Today, you’re going to make sure that you have the best images possible on your landing pages. Keep in mind that great photos and videos can take a while to create — at the very least, take today to get the ball rolling to create the best visuals possible.
If you don’t have an inventory of highly effective, original visuals, you’ll need to hire a photographer or videographer. One solution to help you find a creative professional on short notice is SmartShoot, a marketplace for on-demand, on-site video and photo creators. Another company worth checking out is Demo Duck — they produce amazing animated videos.
Day 11: Organize Your Customer Testimonials
Social proof sells. What better way to showcase your company’s value proposition than to share stories from customers that love you. The better (more prominent) the brands you can publicize, the more effective your testimonials will be.
Foundations for Great Testimonials
What we’re about to say is much easier said than done:
Don’t be salesy.
At first glance, the task of creating a non-salesy testimonials seems pretty darn impossible. The trick is to prioritize human interest as well as the story behind your brand-to-customer relationships.
- Explain your customer’s story
- Explain your customer’s pain point
- Illustrate how your product solved (or is solving) that pain point
- Prioritize substance and measurable outcomes over fluff
- Get to the point. quickly — that means no fluff
- Make them entertaining
- Include a picture or video, always — don’t rely on text alone
Clarity exemplifies these concepts on its customer case studies page. These were designed to focus on the Clarity customers (and how they used the platform to make more strategic business decisions).
If you read these testimonials, you’ll see stories about amazing entrepreneurs, not a sales pitch about Clarity and its founder. Not to mention, these write-ups are fun reads that give their Clarity’s users great exposure.
Here is an example from KISSmetrics: the goal is to get to the ROI and value (revenue) as quickly and efficiently as possible. The case study’s title is highly compelling for an audience of business owners and marketers who are looking for solutions to boost ROI.
Play Up the Logo Porn
Customer logos are high-impact. These visuals are the most efficient way to convince users about the credibility of your brand, regardless of whether your company is a startup, sole proprietor, or enterprise organization.
The key is to share customer logos from companies that are reputable and well known — these types of companies tend to be very selective when choosing vendors.
Here is an example from KISSmetrics:
And here is an example from InVision, an app that helps designers create high-fidelity mockups of web products:
Today, you’re going to get your customer testimonials ready to go. Here are the steps you need to take:
- Before you jump and ask customers for a case study or testimonial, you need to do a little digging. FIrst, figure out what it is exactly that you want to communicate to your audience. Are you hoping to explain how your company saves time or money (or both)?
- Based on your goals from #1, research which customers are in the best position to tell that story about your brand. Reach out to these folks directly.
- Collect testimonials over the phone or via email.
- Ask permission to share your contact’s name and photo.
- Offer to take your contact to lunch or coffee. Remember to show your gratitude, as these folks are going out of their ways to give you support.
Day 12: Showcase Additional Social Signals
Yesterday, we walked you through the concept of social proof, encouraged you to collect testimonials, and helped you organize your client logos. Today, we’ll walk you through some additional social signals that will help you drive sales.
No need to repeat what we already taught you. Let’s get right to it: 10 social proof metrics that can help grow your business:
Beyond Testimonials and Logos: Social Cues Worth Giving
Real-time user behavior data
To boost your reputation as a popular business, communicate how many people are using your product right now. This tactic will be especially effective for high-traffic e-commerce storefronts.
Running low on a product? Let your customers know, so they’ll be compelled to take action.
Have you built up a significant customer base? This is no easy feat. Convince buyers to work with you by showcasing how many partners are working with you already. Prospects will feel comfortable knowing that they’re working with a reputable brand.
Are you running a blog with a significant social media following? Make the most of your stellar reputation by sharing your subscriber count data. Trust is tough to earn. Subscriber data can help you show your audience that you are a true authority and influencer in your field.
No need to pull an exact number. Approximations are just fine. Here is an example from Help Scout, a platform that helps companies provide help desk support:
Social Share Data
If you’re integrating a storytelling component (via written or video content), make sure to showcase social media share data. You can install a plugin like ShareThis that can manage and track all sharing activity for you.
The process of choosing the right social cues combines art and science. You need to make sure that you’re choosing the right numbers that exemplify your brand’s strengths. Pay attention to the following key steps:
- Decide which metrics present your brand in the most favorable light possible. Your social media shares may be lackluster, but your subscriber counts might be high. That’s fine. No brand is perfect — you’re going to be strong in some areas and weaker in others. Handpick the social metrics that make you look awesome.
- Make a list of the data points you collected in 1. Figure out the most visually compelling way to present this information. Remember that these numbers are tools for persuading prospective buyers.
- Integrate the numbers you picked from #1 with your landing page design. Focus on delivering a cohesive experience for users on the page. Display social cues prominently, and make sure that you’re paying attention to how the parts fit together into the whole picture.
Day 13: Finalize Your Landing Page Variations
It’s hard to believe that the week is almost over. You’ve spent the last few days tweaking elements on your landing pages. Today, you’re going to finalize your variations so that you have 2-3 versions to test.
If your website is high traffic and receives more than a few thousand hits a day, it’s safe for you to pick 3 landing page variations. If your page only receives a few hundred, pick only two variations.
What to Prioritize
Choose concepts that you want to emphasize before selecting tactics. For instance, you might want to see how different types of social proof (social media shares vs. customer counts) compare against one another. You might also decide to test the performance of an explainer video vs. an infographic.
When deciding what you prioritize, start with what you think your customers want, and reverse engineer the tactics you’ll deploy to get there. The most high-impact strategy for driving sales is to prioritize what your customers care about.
Why Only 2-3 Variations?
At this point, you’ve probably guessed why we’re having you create multiple landing page variations. Tomorrow, you’re going to set-up A/B tests, and by the end of this 30-day period, you’ll have data to tell you which landing page was most effective for converting your web visitors into buyers.
A/B testing software will test each of these landing pages randomly. You’ll need high-volumes of web traffic to be evenly split against landing pages. Otherwise, your test won’t be statistically valid (and you’ll be drawing conclusions from skewed data).
When you have multiple landing page variations, your sample sizes will be much smaller. If you’re running a high-traffic website, you’ll probably be okay, but if you’re running moderately trafficked website, you might end up taking a hit. It’s better to have statistically valid sample sizes than option-overload to test.
Just keep things simple. You can always test more options later, incrementally.
You’ve been making a fair number of tweaks to your landing pages in the last week. Today, all of these changes stop (temporarily). Commit to the variations that you want to test.
- Combination A (or what’s already up on your site) will be your control.
- Combination B will be the variation that you test against A.
Make sure that your landing pages make sense. Combine elements in a way that there is absolutely no cognitive dissonance or confusion for what your company is trying to communicate.
Day 14: Set Up Your A/B Testing Software
A few days ago, we had you try some demos for A/B testing software. Today, you’re going to finalize which one you want. You’re also going to launch your first round of A/B tests so that you have results to measure at the end of these two weeks.
You’re probably going to use Visual Website Optimizer and Optimizely, the two solutions we introduced you to previously. Regardless of which one you choose, you’re going to need to know the following:
How the Software Will Help You
Your A/B testing software will be a comprehensive platform for launching tests, monitoring patterns, collecting data, and extrapolating trends. The software will take care of randomizing your web traffic, creating random and representative samples, and providing recommendations based on findings.
There will be no leg-work required on your part. At the very least, you’ll need to implement a few lines of code. The software will take care of everything else for you. The overall process will be extremely low-touch.
Why You’re Setting Up Tests Today
A/B tests take time to generate results. You need to make sure that your sample size is large enough to generate accurate results. You also need to run your tests over an extended period of time — a day or so isn’t enough time.
We recommend that you run your tests for at least two weeks to capture natural fluctuations (like seasonality). Ideally, your A/B tests should be running on an ongoing basis. Check performance at regular 2-week intervals. Make optimizations iteratively. The end of this month is a great time to start this process.
How to Get Started
Today, the goal is to get set up. You’re not going to do any analysis, and you’re not going to check numbers compulsively. You’re going to get your A/B tests up and running, make sure that everything is working, and then close your browser window.
As tempting as it is to watch your data like a hawk (like watching stock prices), don’t do it. It’s a waste of time to chase numbers. You should be doing other things (like building a business) instead.
As a part of getting started, make sure to set up the conversion metrics and KPIs that you want to track. These include:
- Traffic to your website
- Relevant click-through rates
- Conversion rates
When you set up your tracking in A/B testing software, make sure to keep everything simple. It’s better to track one or two metrics than to waste time buried in a gigantic data dump. Specify what you want to track on day 1 so that you’re laser focused on results when they’re ready.
We want you to pick the right testing software for your company. Instead of listing out step by step instructions here, we think you should work with the vendor you chose to make sure that everything is up and running efficiently. Follow their instructions, support teams, and troubleshooting tools to make sure that you’re good to go.
What’s worth noting is that Optimizely is based in the U.S. and has a set of conversion optimization consultants who can help you make sure that you’re up, running, and testing the right approaches for your website. If you think that you’re going to be relying extensively on support (i.e. need a lot of hand holding), they might be the solution you need.
Once you’re done, sit back, relax, and enjoy your evening. Another week is done, and you’re about halfway through the the program. Conversions en route.
Here’s What You’ll Learn in Week 3
Are we really entering week 3 already? Boy does time fly. We spent the last two weeks helping you perfect your landing pages. Today, we want to stretch the concept a bit further. Week 3 is devoted to plumbing. Here’s what you’ll learn:
- How to deliver a cohesive user experience
- How to deliver an integrated marketing experience
- How cohesion can help drive conversions
- How to prevent user drop-off at different conversion steps
Day 15: Map Conversion Paths to Drop Off
In week 1, we helped you create conversion funnels to visualize your company’s sales cycle. Today, we’re going to help you transform that abstract concept into something more concrete.
We want you to outline the steps literally that people take on your website en route to becoming first-time customers and repeat buyers. Draw these paths on a whiteboard or sheet of people. Use Photoshop. It doesn’t matter how pretty these diagrams look. They need to be tangible and accurate. You can even just create a list in Word:
Example Conversion Paths
Here’s what an example path would look like for an agency-based business:
- Step 1: Discovers brand through guest blog post
- Step 2: Clicks on link from guest blog post to company blog
- Step 3: Shares content via Facebook
- Step 4: Likes the brand on Facebook
- Step 5: Finds another article from the company blog on Facebook
- Step 6: Becomes an email subscriber
- Step 7: Opens an email that links to a blog post > clicks
- Step 8: Finds out from boss that he/she has budget to hire a consultant
- Step 9: Requests a phone consultation
And here’s how a path might look for an e-commerce company:
- Step 1: Discovers the brand through a word-of-mouth referral from a friend
- Step 2: Browses the website for the first time
- Step 3: Signs up to receive a deal via email
- Step 4: Goes back to the website to redeem the offer
- Step 5: Adds item to shopping cart. Gets lazy. Falls asleep at computer.
- Step 6: Receives an email reminding him/her to check out.
- Step 7: Checks out. Completes first transaction.
Understanding Drop Off
At each of these steps, there is significant potential for drop-off. Drop off happens when people start, but don’t complete, the conversion process.
There are a number of reasons why drop-off can happen:
- People forget about your brand.
- People get bored.
- People get lazy.
- Something breaks on the website.
- There is too much friction on the website.
- People procrastinate and put things off.
Drop Off Is Entirely In Your Control: Prevent It
It’s easy to categorize drop off as something outside of the marketer’s control. Too easy.
Don’t fall into this trap.
If you think you can’t influence these user actions, you’re in denial. You’re afraid to confront reality. The ability to keep users engaged is entirely in your control. That’s the point of conversion optimization.
By analyzing the different steps of your conversion funnels, you can pre-empt drop off by responding with cues to move people along. Here’s an example for an e-commerce business:
- Step 1: User finds website through word of mouth
- Step 2: User places an order and completes checkout
- Step 3: User forgets about e-commerce company > after the sale, follow up with an email offer with a deal, coupon or promotion.
- Step 3: User comes back to redeem offer.
- Step 4: User adds items to cart. Falls asleep at computer. Forgets about shopping cart > e-commerce merchant can send an email to logged-in users with abandoned shopping carts; remind them to complete the transaction.
- Step 5: Repeat purchase = conversion = success
The steps mentioned above are very likely to be a real-life scenario, so let’s imagine that it was. Had we not taken steps to prevent drop-off, the sale would have never happened.
- Go through the list of conversion steps that you expect website users to take on your site. Audit each of these steps to determine how to prevent drop-off. Write these steps down so that you have the information in front of you, visually — similar to the lists we walked you through a few paragraphs ago.
- See how this list stacks up with actual user behavior on your website (assuming that you have analytics installed). See where people are actually dropping off.
- Provided that you have analytics in place, create an email marketing campaign to start tackling drop-off. Your CRM or email marketing system should have a way to set-up rules to target the people who are likely not to convert.
When you set up these rules, make sure that your email messages make sense. It would be embarrassing to send a “don’t forget to checkout” email to someone who hasn’t visited your business in months. If you get it right, marketing automation is an awesome conversion optimization tool. Get it wrong, and you’ll embarrass your company.
Day 16: Start Collecting Email Addresses
Your email list is one of the most powerful tools you can have. Even if you don’t know what to do with it. Even if you don’t have a real company. Set up a pre-launch page and start collecting emails.
People are glued to their inboxes. Thanks to mobile, you can reach your target customers, no matter where they are. And if you write compelling copy? People will actually look forward to your messages.
Email marketing is one of the most direct ways to reach buyers 1:1. On social media, you’re sending the same message to your entire community, but with email, you have more opportunity to specialize and custom tailor your message. As we’ve mentioned earlier in this guide, personalized messaging is one of the most powerful strategies for driving conversions.
Why Build Your Own List?
If you’re a marketer, you’ve probably come across opportunities to purchase email lists.
This strategy is ok in some circumstances, but 80% of the time it’s not. People who aren’t expecting your message will find your approach spammy. They’ll be turned off to your brand.
As it is, people get enough junk mail. It’s why we’re all sick of the postal service and why we dread checking our mailboxes every day. Email spam is much, much worse.
Shady email marketers will try to tempt you, promising you a significant ROI from very little effort. You know what? They’re probably lying. As with many things in marketing, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Marketing is hard work. Resist the temptation to take a potentially dubious shortcut.
Think about it. When people opt-into receiving more information from you, it’s a sign that they’re engaged with your brand. They’ll welcome your emails. They’ll read your messages with an open mind and heart. They’ll care about what you have to say.
When you build your own email list, you’ll build a distribution list of people who are genuinely interested in your brand. The process of building an email list isn’t easy. It takes time and energy. But it’s totally worth it.
Treat Email Sign-Ups Like a Conversion Goal
People get a ton of email. On a daily basis, they’re bombarded with spam. They’re incredibly skeptical of (potentially shady marketers) who want to collect their personal information.
You need to convince your audience that signing up is worth the effort — and that you will treat their information with respect.
Clarity does a great job incentivizing sign-ups by offering a free ebook download:
So does Noah Kagan with his blog, OkDork:
Strategies for Collecting E-mail Sign-Ups
Wondering how to get started?
Here are some techniques for generating e-mail list sign-ups:
- Set up a landing page with an offer for a free e-book. Request that users sign-up to download the e-book. When a user signs up, send him or her the e-book via email. That way, you can encourage more opt-ins to your e-mail list.
- Include a subscribe widget on your blog, next to your best content.
- If your website features account sign-ons, require e-mails as part of the sign-up process.
- If you’re running an e-commerce business, you can offer an incentive (like a coupon, deal, or promotion) in exchange for your users signing up.
- If your company hasn’t launched yet, you can validate your idea by setting up a pre-launch page like the one that PitchBox created:
Start collecting e-mail addresses using at least one of the five techniques that we mentioned above. Choose the techniques that best complement your existing marketing strategy. Remember — conversion optimization is about leveraging key brand assets for growth.
If you don’t see an immediate opportunity to start generating e-mail sign-ups, don’t worry. Spend sometime refining your overall marketing strategy instead. Commit to producing an e-book or whitepaper, for instance.
Day 17: Start Planning Your Email Marketing Campaigns
Yes, you started building your email marketing list yesterday. No, we’re not going to take room to pause. We want you to stay on your toes and continuously moving forward. That’s why we’re having you plan your email marketing campaigns today.
When to Send Your First Email
The short answer? Immediately. You want to email new subscribers as soon as they sign up. Establish an instant connection to be at the forefronts of your buyers’ attention spans.
Send your subscribers an e-book or great piece of content. Add value right off the bat, and you’ll instantly grab your audience’s attention.
Keep in mind that you don’t be executing your email campaigns manually. You’ll use automation software like Marketo, Eloqua, InfusionSoft, or MailChimp to reach your prospects.
Think in Terms of Sequences
Plan your email campaigns around specific conversion events. Keep a long-term view of your funnel. When people aren’t buried in emails, they’re not necessarily looking to spend money. They’re looking to relax, feel entertained, and learn something new.
Your email marketing sequence should promote engagement, not direct sales. Conversions will happen — we promise.
Plan out the steps you want your users to take. This process is called sequencing, and you can do it in a spreadsheet.
Think in Terms of Segments
One way to focus your email marketing strategy is to segment your list. Create groupings for customers and prospects. Segments will allow you to tailor your messaging to specific customers and prospects.
Your CRM software can help you organize your segments. Just think about how you want to organize your email list. Here are some grouping ideas:
- Prospective customers
- All repeat buyers
- One-time buyers
- Place of residence
- Business type (small business, startup, enterprise)
Know the Law
The FTC is serious about preventing spam. Make sure to follow the CAN-SPAM Act so that you’re not exposed to potential lawsuits. Here are the rules from the FTC:
- Don’t use false or misleading header information. Your “From”, “To”, “Reply-To” and routing information — including the originating domain name and email address — must be accurate and identify the person or business who initiated the message.
- Don’t use deceptive subject lines. The subject line must accurately reflect the content of the message.
- Identify the message as an ad. The law gives you a lot of leeway in how to do this, but you must disclose clearly and conspicuously that your message is an advertisement.
- Tell recipients where you’re located. Your message must include your valid physical postal address. This can be your current street address, a post office box you’ve registered with the U.S. Postal Service, or a private mailbox you’ve registered with a commercial mail receiving agency established under Postal Service regulations.
- Tell recipients how to opt out of receiving future email from you. Your message must include a clear and conspicuous explanation of how the recipient can opt out of getting email from you in the future. Craft the notice in a way that’s easy for an ordinary person to recognize, read, and understand. Creative use of type size, color, and location can improve clarity. Give a return email address or another easy Internet-based way to allow people to communicate their choice to you. You may create a menu to allow a recipient to opt out of certain types of messages, but you must include the option to stop all commercial messages from you. Make sure your spam filter doesn’t block these opt-out requests.
- Honor opt-out requests promptly. Any opt-out mechanism you offer must be able to process opt-out requests for at least 30 days after you send your message. You must honor a recipient’s opt-out request within 10 business days. You can’t charge a fee, require the recipient to give you any personally identifying information beyond an email address, or make the recipient take any step other than sending a reply email or visiting a single page on an Internet website as a condition for honoring an opt-out request. Once people have told you they don’t want to receive more messages from you, you can’t sell or transfer their email addresses, even in the form of a mailing list. The only exception is that you may transfer the addresses to a company you’ve hired to help you comply with the CAN-SPAM Act.
- Monitor what others are doing on your behalf. The law makes clear that even if you hire another company to handle your email marketing, you can’t contract away your legal responsibility to comply with the law. Both the company whose product is promoted in the message and the company that actually sends the message may be held legally responsible.
- Study the FTC laws to make sure your emails are compliant.
- Create 3 segments in which to group your email list.
- Draft a warm, engaging welcoming email based on the guidelines we specified above.
Day 18: Create a Free Trial Program
People are protective of their wallets. Same with businesses. As a seller, you need to prove the value of your product upfront. A website, product descriptions, and even video may not be enough.
Users may want to preview your product before they commit to becoming subscribers or first-time buyers.
Prove the Value of the Product
Give them full transparency or functionality, but put a time limit on the trial. For instance, CrazyEgg (heatmapping software) gives users a free trial for a full 30 days:
Fuze, a platform for video collaboration, conference calls, and presentations provides a 60-day free trial.
KISSMetrics provides a 14-day trial before users can opt to pay for a subscription:
If You Can’t Do a Free Trial?
One option is to feature a demo. A Speak2Leads free trial is quick to set up, but because there is people-power involved, it is not instantaneous. That’s why the company offers a demo as well:
If you’re a consultant, you may not have a free trial or demo to offer up. What you can do in this situation is provide advice for free. You can schedule a free consultation call and/or produce free content to demonstrate your expertise.
Match the Trial to the Right Funnel Stage
Advertise your free trial on your website —especially where early funnel users are likely to be browsing. Audiences who aren’t yet ready to buy need an intermediate step. Free trials are highly compelling offers for people who need more time to decide.
For instance, when readers come to the CrazyEgg Blog, they’re not necessarily ready to become paying customers. A sidebar banner showcases a free trial instead:
Today’s homework may take more than just today to complete. At the very least, you can get the ball rolling with your development teams to get your free trial ready as soon as possible.
- Set up your free trial. You might offer a free consultation or trial account that’s limited to a specific period time. Choose whichever framework will make the most sense for your business.
- Adjust your product pricing page to reflect the free trial (once it’s ready)
- Advertise your free trial on your blog and homepages (once the trial is ready)
- Notify your email/distribution list that you have a free trial.
Day 19: Add Live Chat Software
When customers visit your website, they likely have questions. They want to find answers with as little effort as possible. Most companies have detailed knowledge centers, extensive FAQs, and customer support phone numbers.
Image source: LiveChatInc
The thing is, you have to consider what your website visitors are doing when they come to your website:
- They’re at work, tackling multiple projects at once
- They’re at home, watching TV (and don’t want to hop on the phone)
- They’re exhausted from a long day at work and don’t want to spend hours reading through knowledge centers or FAQs
By installing live chat on your website, you’ll empower users with on-demand information. Live chat also lets you keep scripts of conversations for your customer support teams (and company leadership) to analyze.
Staffing Live Chat Software
The concept of live chat may seem overwhelming, initially. How can a sole proprietor possibly manage incoming query requests? Businesses need to make sure they’re operating as cost effectively as possible — it doesn’t make sense to pay a sales director a six-figure salary to sit around fielding live chats all day.
Here are a couple of options:
- Hire an intern: Live chat is a great way to teach a young, hungry, ambitious professional the nuts and bolts of customer support.
- Rotate the responsibility between entry level team members so that you’re optimizing your resources.
- Outsource the responsibilities to live chat agents.
- Make live chat a part of your existing customer support team’s responsibilities (if your organization is large enough to afford a support team).
- Park your live chat after-hours. Nobody expects your business to be fielding requests after hours. Let your customers leave messages, but let them know when you’ll be back the next day — give a specific time if possible.
The point is that solutions are available for organizations of all sizes. Don’t shy away from live chat just because you’re running a small business.
Choosing Live Chat Software
Don’t design anything custom. There is software out there to get live chat up and running with minimal effort.
As with any software or platform, choose what best complements your business’s strategic goals. Here are some of the best options on the market:
This LiveChat platform allows you to administer a pre-chat survey and view what page the respondent is browsing at any given moment. These features will help you know your customers and what they’re doing.
Image source: LiveChatInc
This live solution was one of the first available online. The software integrates with Salesforce and Facebook and comes with a suite of analytics tools for administrators and operators to access.
This platform features several tiers of live chat software, depending on what your business needs. Administrators can distribute chains based on operator availability and expertise so that customers won’t be passed through chains of agents.
- Choose a LiveChat software provider.
- Start the process of getting the software up and running on your website. Realistically, the process may take several days (or weeks), especially if you need to put together a live chat script for your agents to follow.
Don’t rush the process. Your live chat agents are likely to be the first line of communication between your brand and your customers. Make sure that this process is set up to drive conversions and to move your customers through the conversion funnel.
In addition to introducing prospects to your product (and answering questions), live chat agents need to be trained to find answers to important support requests.
Day 20: Install Google Analytics
About half the people reading this guide will have Google Analytics up and running already. If you’re already running analytics software, you can skip today, take a break, or get a head start on tomorrow.
If not, today is an ideal break point to get the plumbing in place.
Why Google Analytics?
Google Analytics is a robust platform for tracking your traffic data. Both free and paid plans are available for a range of websites and business sizes.
If you’re operating a company with high volume web traffic (more than 10 million hits/month), you may need to pay for Google Analytics Premium. This tool will give you access to better support and unsampled data — in other words, you’ll see a complete data picture of everybody visiting your website.
Google Analytics premium comes with the following:
- Processing for up to 1 billion hits per month (vs. the 10 million/month with standard accounts)
- Faster, same-day processing
- Service-level agreement around data collection, reporting, and processing
- Up to 50 custom variables
- Unsampled reporting
- Unaggregated report downloads
- Dediced account management
- Phone & email support
- Implementation consulting
- Live & webinar training
- 24/7 emergency escalation support
Most small businesses and startups are just fine using the free implementation of Google Analytics. You can find a complete list of features here.
Google Analytics will help provide tools for the following:
& campaign performance
|Analytics & testing||
characteristics & behavior
& cross-platform measurement
|Mobile app tracking||
|Sales & conversions||
What Should You Track?
When it comes to web analytics, focus is key. More is not necessarily better. It’s easy to become buried in the world’s biggest data dump.
Focus on reports that drive ROI for your business. If you’re not sure where to start, browse through the videos here.
Here are some helpful pointers for what to start tracking:
- Goals completed on your website: You specify which conversion goals you want to track. These include free trial (or user account) sign-ups, demo completions, and key pages visited. You can segment these conversion events by web traffic source.
- Visitor behavior by marketing campaign: You can track performance by implementing custom UTM tracking code. See a crash course from HubSpot here.
- Referral traffic sources: Pay attention to who’s sending traffic your way.
The only way to learn Google Analytics is to try it out yourself and practice. Today, you’re going to get started by taking the first step.
- Install Google Analytics. Follow the official step-by-step guide here.
- Log-in to Google Analytics. Start poking around. You won’t have any data on your website, but you can at least start becoming acquainted with the website’s functionality.
- Watch 3 Google Analytics training videos here. Keep watching the videos consistently, every day — especially as you start to collect more data.
- Monitor your referral tracking sources every day.
- Once you are feeling comfortable with Google Analytics, set up your goals.
Day 21: Launch User Surveys
Google Analytics is a great way to collect and monitor website trend data. But what are your visitors thinking? To answer that question, you need to ask your users some basic questions.
If you’re like most website owners or marketing managers, you don’t have time to reach out to everybody 1:1. Administer a web survey instead.
Market research surveys have a bad rap (because they’re annoying). It’s common for companies to spam their customer list with phone calls and really long email surveys.
Stop badgering people. You’ll only scare them away.
But don’t be overly cautious and quiet, either. People want to share feedback about your company. They’re happy to help, and they feel good knowing that you value their opinion.
Just be sure to follow the golden rule of web surveys:
Keep it short.
Don’t worry about being scientifically accurate. Even the most sophisticated survey tools have natural biases in the data. Just make sure you’re focused on the information that matters most for creating the best user experience possible.
Now that you know the golden rule, here are some others:
Make sure your survey has a purpose
Avoid asking questions out of curiosity. Anything you invest your time, money, or resources into should directly influence revenue. Ask questions related to user experience, usability, and buying decisions. Translate this feedback into revenue-generating initiatives for your website.
Keep the questions simple
Get right to the point. Don’t use technical jargon. Be direct. Don’t assume that your website visitors know what you’re talking about.
Be consistent throughout the survey
A rating scale is a great way to capture user sentiment. and to quantify key variables. If you decide to use a rating scale, make sure to stay consistent. If you switch your rating scale around, you’ll end up confusing your respondents.
Keep the order logical
Begin with an introduction that inspires your website visitors to take your survey. Jump into broad questions and then narrow down your focus. Ask for contact information and demographic details at the end of the survey.
Offer a ‘thank you’
Reward your users for taking the time to complete your survey. Give them a discount or promotional code. Incentives are a great way to boost response rates. But keep in mind — incentives also create sampling biases in your data. Not everybody will be motivated by the same incentives.
Tools to Use
There are range of tools available for getting started. Choose the option that best supports your implementation, customization, integration, and analytics needs.
This tool is ideal for website owners who need control over their surveys. Key features include question creation, custom branding, response collection, and robust reporting. Pro plans start at $24 per month.
SurveyGizmo is ideal for website owners who want to fully customize their surveys. The platform features pre-programmed question types, a custom questions API, advances survey logic, and integration partner support. Customers can also partner with the SurveyGizmo team to get surveys designed, customized, and deployed. Plans begin at $19 a month.
This tool allows website owners to collect answers to a range of research questions. The platform immediately captures information including location, IP address, operating system, browser type, and version. You can also listen to customer information in 32 languages. The platform comes with advanced text mining capabilities and the ability to collect information on a secure site through encryption features. Premium plans begin at $399 per year.
This tool will help you understand and optimize your website experience. Qualaroo Insights will let you ask focused questions to your website visitors. Qualaroo lets you target the right questions at exactly the right moment you are likely to uncover critical insight. You can serve unique follow-up questions based on previous answers. For instance, when a user answers that a certain feature is important to them, you can ask why.
Set up your first online survey. Here’s what you need to do:
- Decide what level of customization you want. This will help you figure out whether you need to use a tool like SurveyMonkey or SurveyGizmo or whether your time is better spend using something like Qualaroo.
- Go through each platform to try demos. Decide which one complements the look and feel of your website.
- Decide what questions you want to ask about your website. These questions should influence decisions about your business. Have your team weigh in with ideas.
Whoo hoo! Another week down. Time to jump into the final stretch.
Here’s What You’ll Learn in the Final Stretch
- Bring everything you’ve learned this month together
- Streamline moving parts of your conversion optimization framework into a cohesive strategy
- Analyze trend data from this past month
- Deliver a seamless user experience
Day 22: Improve Your Checkout Page
Shopping cart abandonment happens to the best of brands. Just think about it. When people shop online, they’re probably multitasking. They’re on their lunch breaks at work, watching TV, or sitting in class during a lecture.
It’s easy to say, “Ehhh. I’ll come back later.”
According to Shopify, retailers are potentially losing 67.45% of their sales. For every 100 customers, 67 of them will leave without purchasing. Imagine the revenue stream you’d be able to build if you could convert those missed connections into paying customers.
Image source: Shopify
According to analysis done by Statistica, shoppers leave for the following reasons:
These barriers to sale are all fixable. Here is what businesses can do:
- Presented with unexpected costs: Be transparent about your costs from the get-go. Don’t surprise customers with any unnecessary processing fees. Remember that today’s consumers are entirely self-directed. Empower them with as much information as possible during the research process.
- People who are just browsing: Give buyers a compelling enough reason to buy. Coupon codes, promotional offers, and freebies are significant value propositions. Additionally, you can follow up with a personalized email marketing campaign.
- Found a better price elsewhere: Offer a competitive price match.
- Decided against buying: Deploy a personalized, non-spammy email marketing campaign.
- Website navigation complicated: Simplify it, or offer LiveChat.
- Website crashes & process taking too long: Monitor bugs. Make sure that your website is fully optimized. If you can’t make any interim changes, give customers a head’s up of how long they should expect the process to take. The more you can curb expectations, the better.
- Concerns about payment security: Optimize your checkout page with security badges and trust seals. Prove to your users that you care about their privacy.
Suggestions from Shopify
Shopify (a platform for powering e-commerce storefronts) has put together a great blog post on specific steps you can take to optimize your checkout pages. Here is an adaptation of the list they’ve provided:
Make sure that users can see the items they’re buying. Don’t show generic images. Be exact, so customers know what they’re buying.
Display Security Logos
In a recent test published by Get Elastic, an online retailer was able to boost site sales by 4-6% after placing a security badge on their website. Shopify points out, however, that there are other studies that show a decrease when using these logos. Make sure to test the placement and style as well.
Test Single Page vs. Multi-Page Checkout
Some conversion optimization specialists believe that single page checkout is more effective. Other retailers see stronger results from multi-page checkout. If you’re going to take the multi-page route, make sure to include a progress bar so that users don’t get frustrated.
Make It Easy to Edit Shopping Carts
Shoppers need the flexibility to make changes. Don’t lock them into a transaction they don’t want.
Offer Multiple Payment Options
FreshGigs saw a 15% increase in their checkout process by enabling the option to pay with American Express.
Provide the option for live chat and a customer support number directly on the checkout page. Remind customers that you’re there to help if systems get wonky or processes get confusing.
Don’t Make People Register
Don’t make people register. That’s a total turn-off. Give them the option to just buy. A study by User Interface Engineering showed a 45% increase in customer purchases when forced registration was removed from the checkout page.
Offer Free Shipping
Free shipping is high on your shoppers’ priority list. A Deloitte study from 2011 revealed that 69% of shoppers are more likely to buy from a retailer with free shipping. Here’s an example from LL Bean:
We’ve said over and over again that social proof sells! Build trust with your buyers by showing how much the community loves your brand.
Offer Price Guarantees and Refunds
Mistakes happen. Shoppers get it. They just want to make sure that they’re fully protected. Make sure that your brand articulates that guarantee.
Here’s an example from CrazyEgg. The company offers a free trial for users to try before they buy. At first, the company asked for credit card details, which really hurt conversions. Prospects didn’t want to enter their credit card details for a free trial.
Maybe they were scared that they would be automatically billed. Maybe they didn’t want to go through the process. Regardless of the cause, the result was that people just didn’t want to sign-up. And that’s a problem.
CrazyEgg tested its guess by adding an explanation that prospects would not be billed. The result was a 116% boost in sign-ups. It looks like the problem really was trust.
The lesson learned? Communicate with your buyers, directly on the checkout page. Make sure that they know what to expect. Make trust-building a priority. Empower them with information to make the right judgment calls about their purchase decisions.
You guessed it. Today you’re going to fight shopping cart abandonment by optimizing your checkout experience.
Implement at least 3 of the techniques that we walked you through in this guide. Figure out a way to build incentives and interest, demonstrate trust, and keep your customers interested in the checkout process.
Today’s homework may take some time, but don’t feel rushed to get everything done in one day. Give yourself a few days to get up and running. Just get the process started today.
Day 23: Start Collecting Customer Reviews
As we’ve mentioned throughout this guide, it’s important to keep in mind that today’s buyers are entirely self-directed. They’re constantly researching products and constantly consulting peer networks to make the best decisions possible.
If you operate an online business, you need to feature customer reviews. No exception. From consulting agencies to e-commerce storefronts, you need to let customers review you.
At any given time, you’re probably working with a handful of clients. It doesn’t make sense to collect product reviews on your website. BUT, you do need to feature reviews of what people think about your work. Props to blogger Kristi Hines for having rockstar reviews of her services:
For Online Stores
Expect that users will be scrutinizing your product. Be transparent, and don’t make buyers leave your website to get the information they need.
- Provide a tool for users to rate your product
- Let users leave customer reviews
Be fully transparent. Don’t push good reviews to the top, and make it as easy as possible for buyers to get the information they need to make a decision:
- Summarize the reviews for them
- Give buyers the ability to filter through good and bad reviews
And if somebody leaves a bad review?
Don’t worry about it. Consumers are used to it. A few bad reviews won’t hurt your brand — especially if most of the reviews on your website are overwhelmingly positive. A bad review can be a great opportunity to showcase your brand’s great customer service:
Women’s clothing retailer ModCloth does a great job checking in with reviewers and making sure that they’re 100% happy:
Why Reviews Matter
Don’t trust our word. Consult the data instead. Here’s a study from Visual Website Optimizer that explains how a customer review widget increased one retailer’s sales by 58.29%.
Express Watches is an authorized Seiko watch dealer that ships to more than 23 countries. The watch dealer has been in business for more than two decades.
In the last 4-5 years, fakes have entered the watch industry. Customers are skeptical of watch dealers and worried that they’ll accidentally get scammed.
Express Watches ran a study with Qualaroo and confirmed that their own website browsers were feeling this way. Here is what the company learned from administering a simple survey:
- Customers were wondering whether they were getting the best price.
- Customers were worried about getting a replica instead of the real thing.
- Customers wanted confirmation that Express Watches was a great company with great service — and safe online payment methods
The company needed to step in and emphasize their credibility.
In addition to placing a “Seiko Authorized Dealer” badge and a small “Trust Pilot” badge on product pages, the company decided to feature customer reviews more prominently on product pages.
Express Watches ran a two-month test across thousands of visitors. The 58.39% sales improvement was assessed at a 99% confidence interval.
- If you’re running a consulting or service-based business — get your customer reviews up on your website. You should have collected these earlier in the month. Get this information organized and make sure it’s up on your website (if you haven’t done so already).
- If you’re running an e-commerce or product-based organization — work with your dev team to get a customer reviews widget up and running (prominently) on your product pages. Work with your dev team, and put them in charge of finding the right solution and customizing it for your website’s UX, look, and feel.
Day 24: Add a Seasonal Message
We’re writing this guide right-smack in the middle of November, so the holidays are on our minds.
Today’s tip applies specifically to online retailers who know that Q4 is the craziest time of the year. If you don’t jump into the holiday rush, you risk missing out on valuable sales opportunities.
A simple “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Thanksgiving” won’t be enough. Here’s how to push seasonal messages that convert.
Make Shopping Easy for Your Customers
The thing about the holidays is that people are swamped. They’re not looking for celebration — they’re looking for solutions to make their lives easier.
REI gets it. Last year, they advertised an exact cut-off date for shipping.
The “Gift Ideas Made Easy” message is calming to frantic last-minute shoppers. And then, an intuitive button with the text “Shop Last Minute Gifts” moves the shopper right down the funnel.
Get ‘Em to the Store
Shipping crunch-time is natural for the holidays. When push comes to shove (and shipping isn’t an option anymore), get users into your store. In an ad for a Christmas Eve sale, Target makes it easy for customers (read: procrastinators) to find the nearest store.
Sell Printable or eGift Cards
Everyone wants to have something tangible to give their friends and family — even procrastinators who wait until the day before to start shopping.
Give procrastinators the ability to print their gift card online (or to send it via email).
Conversion = 1. Empty hands = 0.
Offer Gift Suggestions
Everyone wants to have something tangible to give their friends and family — even procrastinators who wait until the day before to start shopping.
Holiday shoppers have way too much on their minds. Do the thinking for them. For some shoppers, it’s not only a matter of where they will shop but what they will buy.
Consider putting together a page on your website like
“10 Last Minute Gifts for Dad.”
Get it out to your customers through social media and email. Buyers will be so relieved to find a great gift that they can buy from you.
Keep Your Buyers Looped In
In Q4, your shoppers are moving in 8 different directions at once. They’re planning trips, wrapping up at work, and eating way too much delicious to stay focused.
Push your holiday messages out. Integrate your holiday campaigns with social media and email. Make it unbelievably easy for people to find out about your store’s promotions or offers.
If you’re reading this guide during the holidays, keep reading. If you’re reading this guide in March or April, feel free to procrastinate a little. Otherwise, here’s what you’re going to do:
- Finalize a promotional offer that you want to promote. Distribute it through email and social media. Make sure that you take shipping times into account.
- Have your team write 2-3 top-10 lists with gift suggestions. Promote these via social media. You can start creating these guides at any point during the year (even if it’s not the holidays). Creating these pieces earlier in the year will give them time to index in search, which will have significant SEO value come holiday time. Maybe Christmas in July does make sense after all…
Day 25: Create Customer Stories
Note that we’re talking about customer stories and not generic “case studies”. Nobody wants to read a shameless plug about your company, especially when there is so much great content available online.
If you put together a sales pitch or sales deck, the sad truth is that your customers won’t want to read it. People want to read great stories.
So make your case study an amazing customer stories. Here’s how:
Generate Human Interest
Clarity.fm’s case studies are not about the Clarity marketplace, platform, or founder. They’re not designed to sell, either.
These customer stories are designed to showcase the experiences of Clarity’s amazing entrepreneurs. The truth is, this company is an extremely novel idea. It’s tough to understand. People who find out about it are likely problem, but not solution aware — that is, they’re entrepreneurs who know how tough it is to find great advice.
Clarity’s customer stories are heavily focused around who’s using the platform, how they’re using it, and what ROI they’re deriving. But it’s not about convincing people to spend money. It’s about empowering readers with interesting stories about their fellow entrepreneurs. Straight from the trenches.
Today’s consumers are highly self-directed. By the time they’re in touch with your sales team, they’re pretty much committed to buying. Behind the scenes, customers are doing significant research about products and services. They’re digesting information, asking for input from their teams, and building their knowledge.
Customer stories can help move this process forward by empowering consumers with the information they need to make a decision. That’s the exact idea behind the Buffer case study on KISSmetrics.
The case study walks readers through Buffer’s exact pain points — what many market teams experience on a regular basis.
The idea is simple — show how KISSmetrics solved a very specific problem. Make this process extremely tangible and easy to follow for prospective customers. Let them decide whether your product or service is the right solution for their needs.
Create Detailed How-Tos
People love to learn. Case studies are a great tool for empowering audiences with new information. Transform your sales pitches into in-depth educational resources. And if you need inspiration, check out Optimizely’s hub for customer stories:
These are interview-based, technique-heavy analyses of how clients are using Optimizely’s A/B testing software to boost revenue. Marketing managers, directors, and analysts can read these to learn about best practices in the conversion optimization world.
- Decide how you want your customer stories to look, and finalize what message you want to convey. When you specify your goals, you’ll save a lot of time. Information-gathering can be an extensive process. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, you’ll end up wasting time.
- Create a list of interview questions that address the goals you’ve specified in 1.
- Interview one customer. You can either record the conversation using a cell phone app like Record My Call, or you can take notes very quickly (might be tough if you’re new to this). If you record the call, you can hire a transcription service to put your information in writing.
- Transcribe the interview into a customer story. Depending on how quickly you write, this process may take more than one day. Take your time. Have your team help proofread. Imagine that you’re writing a blog post, and aim to produce something valuable and entertaining.
You can repeat steps 2-4 to create multiple case studies. If you’re not a fan of the process, you can always hire a writer to help.
Day 26: Start Generating Heatmaps
You’ve spent the last few weeks focusing on analytics, copywriting, and design. In a few days, you’re going to have an initial set of data from your first A/B tests.
Even though you’re running Google Analytics and testing landing page concepts, you will still face major blind spots in your conversion optimization study.
That’s where heatmaps come in.
What Is a Heatmap?
Heatmaps are an important part of your website’s usability strategy. By using software like Crazy Egg, you’ll be able to understand where people are clicking, where they’re scrolling, and where you need to make changes to improve conversions.
You’ll be able to summarize user behavior with easy-to-visualize patterns. Here is an example from one of the CrazyEgg demos:
Interesting Heatmap Studies
Heatmapping isn’t new. This technique pre-dates the days of CrazyEgg. Here is what researchers have found (pulled from a recent post on the CrazyEgg Blog):
- Business Insider ran some cool experiments as part of this post. As one example, they tested a webpage with a women in a bikini, comparing results from groups of men and women. The verdict? Men spent more time looking at the woman, while the women red more of the ad.
- Almost four years ago, ProBlogger’s Darren Rowe summarized some insights he came across in reading about an eye-tracking case study. What stood out to him — smaller type encourages focused viewing behavior, close proximity to popular editorial content helps ads get seen, and shorter paragraphs tend to perform better than longer ones.
- Mashable put together this breakdown of key focal points on your Facebook profile. It’s no surprise that your profile photo is what people see first. Keep in mind that this article was written in 2011 before the release of cover photos.
- Usability expert Dr. Pete conducted this study on Google search results pages for SEO Moz back in 2011. The key finding? Pay close attention to your thumbnails because they could end up giving your brand an invaluable visual boost.
Sign up for a CrazyEgg trial to get heatmaps up and running on your website. Read through some of the case studies we mentioned earlier to get a sense for how you can analyze results.
Remember that heatmaps need to generate actionable insights about your business. As you start collecting data, you may notice some dark spots on your landing page. Use this information to create more visually compelling calls to action and attention-grabbing visual disclaimer.
Full disclosure: CrazyEgg is my company.
Day 27: Launch Retargeting Campaigns
Retargeting is a powerful advertising practice. It’s the process of advertising users to people who’ve visited your website.
If you’ve been to Quicksprout, you’ve probably seen this ad on Facebook:
When people visit Quicksprout, they get cookied with a pixel. Ad networks can then reach these users anywhere online — you can remarket to users anywhere that there is available ad space.
Steps to Get Started
- Choose an ad network based on where you want to reach buyers. AdRoll can help you reach prospects on Facebook. Google AdWords can help you reach visitors across its display network. Retargeter can help you reach prospects through banner ads across the web.
- You’ll need to create a banner. If you aren’t a designer, check out Fiverr — you’ll find someone to do it for $5.
- The banner ad should directly state the value of the product or service you’re advertising. Here is example copy for KISSmetrics:“Stop wasting time, and start making money with KISSmetrics”or“Stop missing out on valuable data. Convert more visitors with KISSmetrics today”Your copy should motivate users to move forward towards a transaction, but don’t be too pushy. If you’re too aggressive (and bombard prospects with aggressive advertising messaging), you’ll turn them off.Aggressive ads can backfire, instantly transforming tasteful retargeting ads to downright creepy.
- If you’re running an e-commerce business, a valuable strategy is to show your customers products that they’re browsing and considering buying. Any ad network can help you get this technology up and running — if you’re not sure where to start, ask to talk with a customer service rep or account manager.
Don’t Be Creepy
Some buyers welcome retargeting with open arms. Others simply don’t. Make sure that you’re respecting the folks who don’t want to see your ads everywhere:
Implement frequency caps
Limit the number of times per day that your visitors will see ads for your website
Let ‘em opt out
Whenever possible, work with ad networks that give users the opportunity to x-out your ads.
Retarget users based on specific actions that they’ve taken on your website, like downloading a piece of content or signing up for your email list. Customize your advertising practices to actual user behavior.
Make sure that you’re setting up attribution models in Google Analytics — or at least tracking spend vs. revenue at a high level. If your retargeting campaign isn’t generating results, it isn’t worth the invested time or money. Here is a great guide to help you monitor performance accurately.
Set up a small retargeting test with a budget of about $50 a day. Get an image designed, and work with a great writer to get some ad copy ready. Implement the tracking pixel on your website, and you’ll be up and running in just a few hours.
Monitor your ad spend closely using the tracking framework that you’ve set up in Google Analytics. Pay attention to whether users are completing goals or conversion opportunities that you’ve specified.
Be careful about how aggressively you’re targeting your users.
Day 28: Check Your A/B Test Results
Two weeks have passed since you launched your A/B tests. Today is the day that you’ll check your data.
In future weeks, as you boost your website traffic, you’ll start to see statistically significant results more quickly. If you’re still getting your website up and running, have patience. Results take time. It’s not uncommon for marketers to keep A/B tests going for months at a time.
If you’re new to testing, the results can seem overwhelming. You’re probably buried in data, wondering how to interpret your results. The following step-by-step guidelines will help you navigate this process.
Step 1: Gather Your Data
When you set up your A/B tests, we asked you to pick exactly one conversion metric to watch. Here are some examples of what you might have been tracking:
- Product sign-ups
- Ecommerce transactions
- Email list sign-ups
- Tree trial sign-ups
- Demo completions
- Ebook downloads
- Video plays
- Social media shares
- Blog post comments
- Revenue per visitor
…The list goes on. Prioritize the conversion events that grow your business.
Step 2: Revisit Your Hypothesis
Before analyzing your results, turn back to your original research question. Statistical significance means that results couldn’t have happened by choice. There will be an explanation for the trends you observe.
When you analyze results from your A/B test, you’ll have a strong understanding of what happened. Your hypothesis is a crucial step for understanding ‘why’.
What user behavior to expect to observe and why? This crucial question will help you translate quantitative insights into strategic best practices.
As an example, take a look at the following A/B testing customer story from Optimizely and Backcountry, an online retailer that sells outdoor gear, clothing, and accessories.
The company wanted to optimize its upcoming shipping strategy for the holidays. The company decided to test a series of shipping deals during other high-traffic holidays. Shipping deals often help entice customers to make a final purchase.
Backcountry’s product team hypothesized that offering free, two-day shipping during its annual Fourth of July sale would increase revenue per visitor on its site.
Lower shipping costs would incentivize customers to buy more.
Here are the original and variation shopping carts:
Step 3: Check Your Results
Backcountry did not share the results of this study. Can you guess what the outcome might have been?
Remember that the goal of this test was to determine which shipping option would boost revenue per website visitor.
For discussion’s sake, let’s make a guess that the variation shipping option won.
Keep the Process Going
A/B testing is a continuous process. Don’t stop with the first set of results.
The Fourth of July test was the Backcountry team’s first step. At the time of Optimizely’s customer story, the team planned to test other high-traffic holidays for insights into Christmas and Thanksgiving.
- Interpret your A/B test results by following the steps that we just outlined.
- After analyzing your data and confirming whether results were statistically significant or not (i.e. whether or not they were valid), put together an action plan for the next set of tests. Don’t let the momentum stop, and continuously strive for improvement.
Day 29: Do Qualitative Research…Again
We had you set-up your first qualitative studies on day 3, at the beginning of this conversion optimization process. Today, you’re going to do it again. Why?
Over the last month, you’ve made significant changes to your website optimization strategy. There could be blind spots that your testing, product, and marketing teams are overlooking.
The changes you make to your website will affect your users. Keep a pulse on what your users are thinking and feeling.
Validate Your A/B Tests
Yesterday, when you ran your A/B tests, you made some educated guesses about what your users were thinking and feeling.
Qualitative research can help you validate those insights.
Validation comes from talking with a number of people, until you start to see a pattern.
Don’t rush these conversations. In all honesty, today’s homework assignment should probably take you a couple of days — maybe up to a week. Devote enough time and attention to collecting in-depth insights and identifying patterns.
Go back to day 3 and repeat those exact steps. Compare your findings today with your findings back then. What’s changed? What hasn’t? How do your conversations compare with the results from your A/B tests?
Day 30: Conclusion – Future Proof Your Testing Framework
Conversion optimization is not a one-time deal. For your strategy to succeed and continuously produce results, you need to create a testing culture within your organization.
What does that mean?
- Put someone in charge of overseeing testing
- Make testing a part of your processes
- Don’t jump to conclusions about user behavior
- Make it a habit to test assumptions, always
- Always be driven by data rather than inferences
- Make the data collection process extremely quick
- Build relationships with vendors so that testing is a continuous process
Conversion optimization should feel like a habit rather than a special project. Hopefully, with 30 days of analysis under your belt, you and your marketing team are comfortable with creating a routine for your business.
If there’s anything you should have learned over these last 30 days, it’s that the process of conversion optimization needs structure. You need to outline a strategic plan and roadmap for the goals you want to achieve.
Start with the big-picture objectives, and reverse-engineer the process.
In these first 30 days, you likely came away with some very tangible insights and conclusions. The results of your A/B tests may have pointed you to a high-converting landing page.
Now, it’s time to start planning the next 30 days.
How does conversion optimization fit into the scope and framework of your marketing goals?
Today, you’re going to start figuring out the answer to that question. But don’t worry, you don’t need to do it alone. Get your team involved. Build a plan together, and get the entire team involved. Testing is a collaborative effort. You’re not alone.
What do you want to learn?
What do you think your company should be doing better?
These two questions are powerful motivators through the testing process.
It’s not easy. Sometimes, it will be fun, and sometimes, it will be tough. Just remember that your investment is well-worth it in pushing your organization forward.
Always be testing. Always be learning.