Cofounder, Chief Creative Marketer and Strategist
Before we dive into helping you get more website conversions, let me start with some good old storytelling. Since we opened our doors as one of the few differentiation firms in the world, there has been one question that has worked its way into every single conversation we’ve had with our clients.
“Do you guys design websites?”
Our answer is always the same, “Yes…”, but instead of asking the client what they’re looking for in a website, which has led to such crazy requests as a white and grey color scheme and automatically playing music, we always answer their question with another question.
“Yes… what goals do you hope to achieve with a new website, and what is your current conversion rate?”
The two most common responses are: “I don’t know.” and “It’s not good, and it needs to get better… fast!”
Notice how they avoid the question about their goals for the website. We get it. Keith and I worked in the corporate world for 15 years each. Deadlines, personalities, fluctuating priorities, too many hands in the pot, and new ideas overtaking programs that are ready to launch. It’s awful, but there’s an easy path ahead.
Clear, focused goals are the first step to improved, consistent conversion rates.
Now, as a case in point, let’s look at a swimming pool company that had one BIG problem, a consistently below-median conversion rate. We quickly helped this company create a clear and focused goal for their home page, which led us to redesign the above-the-fold section and add interactive content.
After just four weeks, we helped the swimming pool company get 25 times more website conversions than before, moving them from a below-median conversion rate to a Top 25% conversion rate. They’ve since sustained that conversion rate, doubled their organic traffic, and they had to hire an inside sales representative to handle the demand!
We helped the swimming pool company achieve these rate increases by following a unique website analysis we call the C.R.O.W. — Conversion Rate Optimization Write-up.
In this comprehensive post, I’ve consolidated 25+ steps into a 10-step guide on what we do to help clients find HUGE success with Conversion Rate Optimization [CRO]. You too can follow these steps to increase your website conversion rates… or you can have us personally [no robots] perform a C.R.O.W. Analysis for free [a $5,000 value].
As our swimming pool client told us, “It’s C.R.O.W. to Grow!”
How to Get More Website Conversions Guide
click the chapters below to jump to a specific section
- Focus on One Goal for Every Page on Your Website
- Learn from Google & Improve Your Search Engine Optimization
- ‘Cause Every Girl Crazy ‘Bout a Sharp Dressed Man
- Speak to Your Audience’s 5 W’s
- Communicate Your Difference
- Logos and Testimonials are Gold
- Deliver Peace of Mind
- Light as a Feather, Faster than a Speeding Bullet
- Report, Review, Revise, Repeat
- It Ain’t Over Till the Fat Lady Sings
- Helpful Tools
1. Focus on One Goal for Every Page on Your Website
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You and I have seen these head-spinning websites before. While it may seem obvious to you and me what a website wants us to do FIRST (especially if it’s our website), it’s not that obvious for most human visitors.
Allow me to introduce you to William Edmund Hick and Ray Hyman.
Way back in 1952, these gentlemen examined the relationship between the number of choices presented to a person and the person’s reaction time to any single choice. The conclusion was that as the number and complexity of available choices increases, so too does the person’s time to make a decision.
When web designers combine a complex interface with too many choices, or as we like to say call-to-actions, visitors suffer from something called Cognitive Overload.
Cognitive overload makes for a problematic and frustrating user experience, which is why we shouldn’t be surprised that such websites have high bounce rates and misleading conversion rates. See the two home page templates below. Which will have a high conversion rate, and which will inspire cognitive overload?
When you focus every page on your website around one goal, one call-to-action, not two, five or ten, you will experience an uptick in website conversions.
Here come the objections. “Only landing pages should have a 1:1 attention ratio!” and “Yeah, but what about the navbar, what about our home page?!”
If you got on an elevator with Elon Musk and asked him, “Tesla? What does Tesla do, and why should I care?”, which of the following elevator pitches would interest you more?
- “Tesla empowers everyday citizens like you and me to contribute to the world’s transition to sustainable energy. Would you like to know how you can help?”
- “Tesla manufactures electric-powered cars, like the Model S, and we can power everything else, would you like to place an order or view our inventory?”
If you chose the first elevator pitch, you chose wisely.
First, the above-the-fold section of your home page should only present two things to your visitor: your organization’s inspirational Unique Selling Proposition and an irresistible Call-to-Action that delivers value to the user. This is no different than a simple, well-delivered elevator pitch. If you don’t think that’s enough, then you may need to revisit your differentiation strategy in addition to your website strategy.
Second, if you think your navigation bar (or even a sidebar) is competing with your above-the-fold call-to-action, then either your deliverable value isn’t powerful enough, or there isn’t enough contrast between the two elements, or both. We see this quite often with companies who are so tied down by branding that they refuse to use more than 1 to 3 colors across their website. If your brand guide doesn’t already have a Secondary Color Palette, you’ll want to revisit your brand strategy before optimizing your website.
Lastly, while landing pages don’t have to compete with navbars, and they have extremely tailored messaging around the referral source of the visitor, they shouldn’t be the only 1:1 attention ratio web page on your website. “Do you know how many more pages we will need to add to our website to achieve 1:1 Attention Ratios across the board?” Yes, I do, and that leads us to the next way to improve conversion rate optimization — SEO.
2. Learn from Google & Improve Your Search Engine Optimization
If you’re wondering how more pages on your website can lead to more website conversions and better search engine optimization, then you may not have heard of Google’s Core Update of 2019.
Some of the leading SEO experts on this planet saw their clients’ Page 1 Ranked web pages drop to Page 3 or even Page 10 of Google Search Results! These were multi-million dollar clients who had sustained a Page 1 ranking for years.
Give Google credit. They do their homework, they care about their customers, and they know what their users find valuable (CRO websites) and what they perceive to be least valuable (non-CRO websites).
Good thing you’re reading this post because I’m about to give you three clues, courtesy of Ahrefs (if you’re not using their platform, take them up on their $7 trial). These clues are a good, initial roadmap on what you have to do to move back up to, or stay on Page 1 of Google (stay tuned for Keith Dubuque’s full list of to-do’s in his next blog post “So Today You’re Gonna SEO like it’s 2019”).
It’s easier than you think, but you’re going to have to roll up your sleeves.
- Your website needs to be Mobile Optimized: This may seem obvious but keep reading. Did you know that more than half of the pages shown to Google Users are indexed for mobile, not desktop? We shouldn’t be surprised. Just ask your local Chiropractor how much time people spend on their phone. In a nutshell, this means that Google is also using your website’s mobile version for page ranking. “But wait, I entered my URL on this website, and it said I scored a 40 out of 40 for mobile!?” There are dozens of tools that offer generic grades and ways to improve, but be sure you use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test first (always ask the teacher how to ace their test).
- Perform Keyword Topical Research: After the core Google update, targeting individual keywords is the wrong way to win the SEO game. Most popular pages across the internet rank for 1,000’s of keywords, but what sets them apart is that their most searched for keywords full underneath a Topical Umbrella. The deeper your page and pages can go into your most popular keywords’ “Parent Topics”, the more traffic Google is going to send your way.
- Build Topical Authority: Now that you have the necessary topical research, your next task is to build Topical Authority. Google understands which websites are authoritative over a topic, and which ones are not. They prioritize it so much that we’ve seen websites with topical authority outrank websites with 5 – 10 times more quality backlinks. Google wants its users to find their query’s answer right away and to stay on the page/website for an extended amount of time. The best way to do this is to create Content Silos, which are well-structured and internally linked topical-hierarchies on your website. Google’s index LOVES Content Silos.
“But how does this help me get more website conversions?!”
You can design the most CRO friendly website on the planet, but if the content and user-experience do not match the behavior and interest level of your online audience, you’re not going to see results—especially with organic traffic.
Now I’m not saying that every page on Page 1 of Google results would pass our C.R.O.W. analysis, but what I am saying is that there is insight to be gleaned from every page that you want to outrank on Google. Your goal should be to deliver Google and your users a website optimized for Conversion Rate Optimization and Search Engine Optimization.
3. 'Cause Every Girl Crazy 'Bout a Sharp Dressed Man
In addition to focused goals and SEO, high converting websites also require Applied Psychology. But I’m not going to reference Sigmund Freud here. I’m going to reference ZZ Top. Keep reading to learn how their biggest hit gives a BIG clue on website design.
Websites optimized for conversions have an outstanding visual hierarchy, which is the order in which copy, graphics, call-to-actions, and other elements are organized and presented on your website top-to-bottom.
“Ok, but who determines the hierarchy of our website?”
It’s not you. It’s your users… but not necessarily in the way you may think. Continue reading as I have a warning to share with you later in this chapter.
The human eye perceives information visually, NOT as blocks of data. And we’re not just at the mercy of the eye, but the mind, the behavior of the visitor.
When mapping out each page of your website, you should start by focusing on the following four elements.
- Size: If you have a unique selling / value proposition, call-to-action, headline, subheadline, and images for a web page, shouldn’t they be the Visual Focal Points for your web page, too? The answer is a resounding, “Yes!”, but with a caveat. Similar to a newspaper layout, you need to assign a priority grade to each element and allow that to dictate what element gets the most attention, which gets the most attention first (which may be different), and where to place each element. This will be addressed in more detail under ‘Layout’.
- Color: Remember when I recommended a secondary color palette for your brand guide? Here’s more insight related to color. While bright colors do better than dark colors, it’s best to concentrate on establishing Contrast with your brand’s color palette. Here’s an excellent resource. Call-to-actions with a contrasting color have been found to generate more clicks than those with little to average contrast. You also need to be attentive to “common beliefs” on colors. For example, red may deter visitors in one industry because of its associations with violence, while attracting visitors en masse in another industry because of its associations with love. While other thought leaders will recommend A/B tests, we suggest A/Z tests. No, we’re not saying you should try 26 variations of a colored button, but we are saying that you should test more colors over an extended period of time to gather quality, quantitative data without mixed results.
- Layout: Once you assign the appropriate size to your page elements, you need to organize the elements in a fashion that delivers both readability and usability. This is why you should involve your traditional Graphic Design staff to this task. Why? Graphic Designers know how their audience reads, and more importantly, how they scan. They know that the human eye and mind make predictable movements when looking at anything, from a person to a website. English is read left to right, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that Graphic Designers recommend a layout that accommodates “F” or “Z” Scanning Patterns. The big difference between the two? Z-scanning patterns are best for content that is displayed in rows, such as pages with substantial aggregated / curated content. Consider CNN or AdWeek. F-scanning patterns are best for content that is heavy in copy and displayed in one column with occasional visual anchors or links. Think Best Buy or Target.
- Predictability: Before I deliver the warning, I’m going to deliver the solution. Now’s the time to talk about ZZ Top’s smash hit Sharp Dressed Man! What would you rather do: put in countless hours trialing the best visual hierarchy with your users, or design a visual hierarchy that you already know will captivate your users? The correct answer is a hybrid approach, but the latter of the two methods is most dominant, and it’s not even close. Listen to ZZ Top’s hit Sharp Dressed Man. You can glean significant insight into your website’s design from head to toe (no pun intended). There’s no reference in the song that the “Sharp Dressed Man” trialed different outfits countless times before attracting women. He already knew what attracted women. ‘Clean shirt, new shoes… silk suit, black tie… gold watch, diamond ring…’ . His target audience already knew WHY he dressed that way. The same goes for your website. Predictability in the user experience is measured by how well your users foresee a positive / negative experience when entering and browsing your website. This is most important if the user has had previous interactions with your business because it will impact how they grade your company on things like trust and consistency. There are several ways to accomplish predictability. The critical approach is to make their experience Intuitive. In addition to making the design intuitive using psychology and branding, you have to know WHY they’re on your website in the first place. Understanding what your stakeholders expect when they land on your website, and then designing your website around those expectations, will double your site’s intuitiveness and increase conversions. You can measure this by tracking how much time it takes a visitor to convert on specific call-to-actions, such as ‘How long does it take clients to visit our website and create a customer service case’? We’ll address intuitive design in greater detail in the next chapter.
Warning. If when reading this chapter, you thought, “This is interesting, but I use HotJar (or Crazy Egg).”, then I have some insight to share with you. Heatmapping is a good start if you’re looking to optimize your website design and trial different elements, but it has its downfalls.
If you’re unaware of what heatmapping is, it’s a data visualization tool that aggregates the user experience on your website using colors to track their concentrated eye movement.
The problem is that they’re far from perfect for three BIG reasons.
First, they use mouse cursor tracking, NOT eye tracking. Therefore, it’s hard to rely on this data because it inspires mixed assumptions and interpretations (if you’re interested in tracking clicks, click-tracking software such as FullStory may be more suitable; if you’re interested in actionable insight, check out Oribi).
Second, user interfaces and web pages are always changing. Heatmapping tools have had a hard time telling the difference between the extensive devices being used these days and the interactive / personalized content being displayed on these devices. How do users experience your website on an iPhone 6, iPhone X and Galaxy S10, and how does that compare to a 27” iMac and a 23.8” Dell Inspiron.
Lastly, some heatmapping tools require you to tell the software how to interpret your website, which seems counterintuitive to many website owners.
I’m not opposed to heatmapping. I think it’s especially useful for landing pages more than anything. However, I would recommend that if you’re using such a solution, that it is thoroughly integrated with your website’s goals and visual hierarchy, so the data is more natural to interpret and make decisions, and the results can be tied back to your conversion rate optimization.
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4. Speak to Your Audience's 5 W's
You’ve read about contrast. Now it’s time to focus on another subject that improves website conversions—Context.
Delivering optimal context to your user is to demonstrate that you are the best at understanding their unique situation and sequence of events before, during, and after they visit your website.
Who is your LinkedIn ad speaking to? What is your visitor’s intent when they click? What are their expectations when they arrive on your website? And so on, and so on.
Too often we’ve worked with clients who had previously run social ads with one graphic to only send website visitors to a page with a different graphic above-the-fold. Or, we’ve had clients who had already run an online search ad focused on a single solution only to send website visitors to the home page, not the solution’s page.
These examples are enormous red flags to the user’s intuitive experience (esp. trust) because the user instantly believes they have landed on the wrong page, or worse, the wrong website. High bounce rates and low website conversions abound! Once we started working with these clients to deliver their prospects and clients better context, lower bounce rates and higher website conversions followed.
You too can master context for conversion rate optimization! All you have to do is speak to your audience’s 5 W’s.
- Who: The most important of the 5 W’s. This fuels everything else. Your message, content and placement, among other factors, are all driven by the who. The more focused you are on who you’re selling to, the more likely you’ll catch the attention of your target audience. You should always be engaging with clients via Customer Immersion Programs so you can better perfect your persona profiles.
Who are our buyer personas? Who is our primary website user?
- Why: When someone lands on your website, they’re looking for something… but why? For the most part, people visit websites because they want to achieve a goal. Goals can include information gathering, purchasing, paying bills, and so on. Just as important is why they chose to click-through to your website. If they’re not a direct source of traffic, why did they click on your Facebook Ad or why did they click on your Google Search Title Tag. In addition to Customer Immersion Programs, you should implement Progressive Profiling in your forms to progressively learn why they’re choosing to express interest in your company, solution, or content.
Why do users visit our website? Why are they interested in our eBook?
- What: Now use the who and why to shine a light on the what. If you know Who is visiting your website and Why they’re using your website, you should also understand What they expect before, during and after they visit your website. If you don’t, then you’ll need to reimagine your website design around the user experience to make these visits, and the behavior of the visitors, more predictable. Sound familiar… What also plays a large role in your Buyer’s Journey, as does Where…
What is our Who looking for? What does our Who’s User Experience Map look like?
- Where: Your user’s location is four-fold: where they are geographically, where they are when engaging with your website (traveling, in your store, etc.), where they are digitally, and where they are in the buyer’s journey. Personalization is a considerable strategy for acing context. Landing Pages and PURLs (Personalized URLs) are best utilized to address where your user is, where your user is coming from, and where they’re going after the visit. You can turn up the technical language as your user advances to the consideration and decision states of their journey, and you can create a PURL for your southeast regional sales rep’s prospective clients. The applications of achieving context by meeting users where they are is plentiful.
What is our user’s source? Where is our user going after they leave our website?
- When: While time can inform us of a user’s readiness to buy, it can also signify relevance. Your users are overwhelmed like never before with endless volumes of communication, communication channels, and solution choices. Therefore, their buying behaviors have become more immediate, which is why your website, and its integrated communications, should leverage People-Based Marketing. You should be responding in real-time with relevant content across your interested user’s channels and devices, meeting them wherever they’re located, making the process faster and more intuitive.
When do our user’s buy? When does our website encounter spikes in traffic?
5. Communicate Your Difference
This wouldn’t be a White Buffalo Creative post without talking about differentiation and its impact on website conversions.
When it comes to your website, especially individual web and landing pages, you can’t overcommunicate your difference.
Your differentiating idea is a motivational tool no matter what your call-to-action is—Learn More, Register for our Webinar, Schedule a Meeting, Start a Free Trial, Send Me 1 Million Dollars [we haven’t found a website with this button, but if you find it, please share].
Most companies we work with encounter two hurdles in communicating their difference. One, they make their differentiating idea hard to understand, and Two, they’re not confident that their differentiating idea is any different than that of their competition.
This is a problem for several reasons. Minds can’t cope with overcommunication and too many choices. Minds are limited in interest, they hate confusion, they are insecure, they hardly change, and they can quickly lose focus. You get the picture.
The Power of Simplicity and Specialty are your keys to breaking through the mental walls of your prospects and customers.
Begin simplifying your differentiating idea by focusing on the single word that makes the most context in your category [eg. Volvo and Safety]. Now in one sentence, communicate a single, simple, educational, and empowering idea that solves a problem [eg. Volvo: Our vision is that by 2020 no one should be killed or seriously injured in a new Vovlo]. Lastly, create a call to action that offers the visitor a sense of accomplishment [eg. Volvo: Help us make cars equally safe].
Why did I share Volvo to demonstrate simplicity? Because they’ve communicated their single difference so well, for so long, that over time they’ve become the perceived authority in car safety, whether you’ve driven a Volvo or not. There is the Power of the Specialist. When you communicate from the chair of the specialist, your communication becomes consistently more straightforward with an unbeatable tone of confidence. And when you do that, you have a superior competitive advantage because you can start speaking to your reader’s logical side of the brain just as much as their emotional side of the brain.
6. Logos and Testimonials are Gold
Imagine that you’re in the US Military. You approach allied forces, but you don’t speak their language. How would you know who the commanding officer is?
That’s easy. You look for whoever has the most badges.
Logos and Testimonials work the same way for establishing credibility and trust with your visitors. New visitors will approach your website with some level of scrutiny, caution, and skepticism, so logos and testimonials are a great way of extinguishing such behavior.
When it comes to logos, we’re not limiting them to clients. Logos can also consist of vendors or partners [eg. ‘We keep good company’ sections], media channels where your content has appeared, awards that your company has received, and the list goes on.
Placement of logos is crucial. They should always complement the surrounding content. Your home page should prioritize your blue-chip clients near the above-the-fold, your product pages should highlight clients who use those particular solutions, and your about-us page could highlight awards and media recognition.
Selection of logos is another thing to consider. We’ve all seen websites with the same enterprise-level IT logos scattered about—Dell, Ingram Micro, Oracle, I’m sure you can name 6-12 more.
One way to narrow down the list is to share logos for the same companies that shared testimonials and case studies. While some websites like to mix it up, using the same company across all three endorsements is one of the most powerful ways to overcome skepticism.
Placing a testimonial section underneath your most recognized logos with a background portrait of the logo’s contact who contributed the testimonial—that defines best practice.
I need to address the difference between a testimonial and a review. Testimonials will always be a positive review sent from the client to the vendor. Reviews, on the other hand, are more transparent and honest, because they’re freely submitted and for the most part are not screened for approval. You may be surprised, but it’s reviews that have a stronger conversion rate influence, not testimonials.
Reviews require frequent, sometimes daily maintenance. The reason reviews influence more conversions is due in part to the vendor responding to both positive and negative feedback. Most clients are hesitant at first to display negative reviews, but if you approach complaints with a sense of service, understanding and resolution, you shouldn’t be surprised when the reviewer amends their feedback and rating. This has a powerful impact on website conversions, especially those that come from Google My Business.
Two more things…
One, you should be empowering and rewarding staff to perform logo and testimonial outreach to customers. If you don’t, and if you’re not tracking one or two logo / testimonial acquisition KPIs in your reporting, chances are your competition is already out in front.
Two, if you’re hesitant to share some of your most prized clients, then I would like to take this time to challenge you. Request a differentiation roadmap after you request a C.R.O.W. Analysis, because if you think that a few of your clients are not loyal customers, I would like to help you turn them into raving fans.
7. Deliver Peace of Mind
Once you’ve established a good amount of trust with your visitor by sharing blue-chip logos and testimonials, you’re only halfway there on improving the likelihood that they convert.
As you know from the previous section, visitors will have some level of skepticism when they first land on your website or landing page, especially if you don’t have any brand equity built-up in their mind. When it comes to them converting, whether that’s via a form submission or a purchase, you also have to overcome their anxiety sharing personal data.
This anxiety can be two-fold.
One, your visitor may be cautious sharing their personal data when making an online purchase because of all the news on hacked credit card companies and other data breaches, or they may be protective of their data and want confirmation that you’re not going to misuse it.
Two, and this is more exclusive to your business, your visitor also knows that their job is on the line for possibly making the wrong decision or making their network susceptible to attacks, especially if they’re the decision-maker charged with considering you as a new vendor.
While you deliver outstanding service to your clients to achieve logos and testimonials, the path to delivering an online environment rich in security and privacy is quicker but just as thorough of an approach.
We’re always amazed by how many websites do not have a Secure Sockets Layer Certificate [SSL], ie., HTTPS. While most of your visitors do not know what it is or how it works [an encrypted link and private transmission of data between you and your visitor], the ‘s’ in https, the lock symbol in your browser’s address bar, and the color of the lock symbol are just a few elements that users are now cognizant of online.
Now if you’re thinking, “We have https! Check!”, there’s more to this trust factor that you can leverage as a future competitive advantage. On your online roadmap, be sure to assess the benefit of using Extended Validation SSL, the highest form of SSL certification that also requires the highest validation of your legal, physical, and operational security. If you’re looking for the holy grail ‘Green Bar Certificate’, then you’ll want to pursue this.
Achieving HTTPS from your domain or server provider may be enough, but other companies have become woke by paying a premium to recognizable security providers like Symantec or McAfee. If you’re hesitant to their price, consider their case studies that demonstrate a 10 – 40% increase in website conversions when their clients add their logo near forms or checkout areas.
When we refer to improving your website’s security and privacy as a thorough approach, we’re referring to the increase in data regulations across the United States, Canada, and the World. If you integrate marketing automation / email marketing with your website, you’re probably familiar with CAN-SPAM [USA], CCPA [California], CASL [Canada], and GDPR [Europe].
These laws are not exclusive to B2B, as there are tuned-in customers in both arenas that will file complaints that could impact your legal budget and online presence. We’ve seen internet users file data regulation complaints with online customer advocacy organizations, such as Spamhaus. The websites in question were taken off the Internet for one to two weeks. If that doesn’t scare you, I don’t know what will.
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8. Light as a Feather, Faster than a Speeding Bullet
Remember in section 2, when I shared insight on Google’s recent “Core Update” and how it impacted Google Page Rank across the board?
I want to offer a friendly reminder. Google may not share in detail what it is that you need to do to rank number one for every search query, but they do offer plenty of hints and tools to help you reach consistently high rankings.
One of these tools is Google Lighthouse. You can add it to your library of Chrome extensions to run reports on your website or a specific page’s overall performance.
While the Lighthouse Report publishes 50+ key metrics for you and your web team to review, for conversion rate optimization we will want to start by focusing on your website’s performance; specifically, its speed, a key ranking factor for Google.
Can you tell me a product that isn’t popular for being “fast and easy to use”? Your website is a product, and it deserves the same amount of attention for delivering a positive customer experience as your product [Google feels the same way about its customers, i.e., the ones searching for faster websites]. Without a positive experience, how can anyone expect positive website conversions?
Here is a checklist of 5 ways you can improve your website’s speed:
- Optimize Media: Photo, video, and audio files can have a severe impact on your website’s speed. If you use Adobe Creative Suite to design creative artwork or captivating photographs, always, always save your files at a maximum quality of 60, perform compression as much as possible without sacrificing quality [some apps will do this for you Squoosh.app, ImageOptim, ShortPixel, TinyJPG, Compressor.io], and make sure that your image’s dimensions do not exceed that of your theme’s dimensions. SEO and CRO sharps are also fond of leveraging YouTube, Vimeo or Wistia for video delivery, or general Content Delivery Networks like Cloudfare, Stackpath and Cachefly that accelerate the delivery of your content between the server and user.
- Remove Bulky Code & Clutter: Step One: Do a complete audit of your website with your marketing, sales, product, customer service, and other teams to determine what content is useful and what isn’t [do not ask what’s missing, this will sidetrack you]. Step Two: Remove the unused/useless content. Step Three: Remove any unused plug-ins. Step Four: Remove unused CSS from your website. “Wait, how do I know what’s unused content?!” Great question. If you’re confident in doing this yourself, you can discover your unused CSS via Google Developer Tools [like here], or you can use tools like UnusedCSS or Topcoat.
- Use an Elite CMS: In the past few years, there have been several studies done on content management systems; i.e., what you use to create, manage, and distribute your website and digital content. First, there was a study published that ranked CMS’ on their overall speed to delivery. People were blown away by the first-place finishes of HubSpot and Demandware, and the last place finishes of Joomla and WordPress. Shortly after this finding was published, a client reached out to me and asked: “Should we change?! Should we change?!”. I looked at the study, reclined in my chair, and confidently said, “No. Let me tell you why…” Second, I love using the word inverted. Obviously, I grew up watching Top Gun 25 times a year in the ’80s. While the study showed that HubSpot delivered content faster than WordPress by a mere half a millisecond, the study didn’t explain how those two CMS’ compared on the number of users, because if they did, the graph would have been inverted in favor of WordPress. With more users, and we’re talking like 20 times the users if not more, a CMS is apt to have more websites in need of optimization, thereby slowing down site speeds across the board. Let this settle in if you don’t believe me, “WordPress automatically solves a ton of SEO issues.” Matt Cutts, Google.
- Choose a Clean Theme: When you choose a CMS, you must also choose a CMS theme that controls the appearance of your website. This also factors into the speed of your website. Choose a theme that has light, clean, and Google-friendly code that minimizes HTTP Requests and Total Page Size. When you’re browsing themes, and you choose your three to five favorites, be sure to copy each theme’s demo site, and paste it into Pingdom’s Website Speed Test. Compare the results and choose one of the top-performing themes in speed. Stay tuned as my business partner and cofounder of White Buffalo Creative, Keith Dubuque, will soon be posting about his favorite and fastest WordPress themes in the coming months.
- Use Lazy Loading: “Wait a minute! You want me to use something called Lazy Loading to speed up my website performance?!” It’s not just me recommending Lazy Loading; it’s Google. Lazy Loading is programming your website to only download and display your content when your user requests to view it [ as they scroll]. For example, let’s say you’re writing a long-form blog post [like this one], and you make the educated guess that only 30% of the visitors will read the whole post. Why then would you want to load the entire blog post instantly when you can… are you ready for this… reduce your blog post page load time by anywhere from 75 – 95%? If you’re not capable of writing complex script and adding it to your website, then you can add an easy-to-use plug-in like Crazy Lazy or Lazy Load, or optimize your Lazy Loading with Smush Pro or BJ Lazy Load, and then use Lazy Load for Videos as the icing on the cake.
Friendly note. Start with Google Lighthouse and branch out from there for additional insight. There are some cool tools out there that will tell you a different story about your website performance, conversion rate optimization, search engine optimization, and other metrics, but always start with Google… because that’s what a Lighthouse is for, to shine light in an area with dark, murky visibility, so you know where to go and where not to go.
9. Report, Review, Revise, Repeat
The organizations that execute Conversion Rate Optimization well do it for one clear reason—to grow their bottom line. And this isn’t just a short-term play for these organizations. This is a long-term investment that grows their revenue over and over.
There are countless paths to success for your organization, but it shouldn’t be a surprise to you when I share that the most profitable companies started with KPIs and analytics.
I could have said metrics instead of KPIs, but it’s imperative to highlight that Key Performance Indicators are the metrics that will have the most impact on growing your bottom line.
You may be asking, “Okay, Kyle, but which KPIs should I be measuring?!”
This answer is different for everyone. Your portfolio of marketing technology, your ad placements, if you’re a B2B or a B2C… many factors come into play when deciding which KPIs to track initially for conversion rate optimization, but you should start with reviewing this starting list of KPIs and then answering this question:
Which of the following KPIs are you and your team the most confident in making an immediate impact on?
- new leads
- form submissions
- average cost per sale
- revenue per visitor
- a/b test: transaction rate
- mql to sql rate
- sql to win conversion rate
- cost per conversion
- unique visitors
- returning visitors
- conversions from email marketing
- bounce rate
- time on page
Some of these KPIs offer an crow’s eye view of your conversion rate program’s success, while others offer a more granular view. There is a reason for this…
Let’s say your conversion rate program has a team of four. You, Dan the Lead Generation Guru, Michelle the Website Designer, and Fonz the Email Marketing Expert.
Start simple and small. Empower each member of your team to choose three to five KPIs that they are confident in driving short-term results, and have them set parameters for success. You, as the team leader, then must choose three to five team metrics that each of your team’s metrics will fuel over time.
Every week… YES, every week… you and your team should update a KPI Dashboard such as this:
Let me make something abundantly clear. When a weekly metric is in the red or yellow, you should not panic, and your team member should not be shamed. This is progressive and offers learning experiences and opportunities that will only help grow your program faster.
New Visitors dropped from green to yellow… Should we turn the YouTube ads back on or crank up email marketing to prospects?
Website conversions from email marketing dropped from green to red… Are we sending too many awareness-level emails? What was the focus or form of content that was causing green-level website conversion rates?
Over time, tracking these KPIs and making weekly or monthly adjustments will lead to a successful conversion rate program, as well as recognition from the C-Suite!
Two more things…
Google Analytics. If you’re not using this or maximizing its capabilities, then your conversion rate program’s KPIs are going to be a bit hazy.
Where are your visitors coming from? Are you using UTM parameters in your email marketing, social media, and online advertising campaigns? Where are your visitors in the buyer’s journey?
If you can’t answer these questions, then you and your team will have to optimize Google Analytics before you do anything, and this also involves integrating GA with your marketing automation, email marketing, CRM and other relevant software.
If you’re an SMB, SME or Enterprise level company, then I think you’d be interested to know that you can gain visibility into most, if not all, of your competitors’ analytics.
After you pick your jaw up from the floor, you’ll want to do two things in the next few minutes before you continue reading.
Sidenote: Nacho Analytics is closing operations. They were giving companies complete visibility into your competitors’ Google Analytics. This is unfortunate news.
Go to Crayon.co. Request a Demo.
You can save time and money spent on one to two staff members by subscribing to Crayon, a fun tool that we’ve been using for years to view our clients’ competitors’ digital footprint, lead sources, media sources, their newly published content, A/B tests, and more.
Using Crayon, we were able to tell what forms of content were creating the most conversions for one of our client’s competitors, and we turned that into a content strategy that led to the competition copying our client’s content strategy. BOOM!
Imitation is the most excellent form of flattery, and our client loved it.
Always be tracking your conversion rate optimization program’s success, and don’t forget to track your competition’s conversion rate program’s success.
10. It Ain't Over Till the Fat Lady Sings
For those of you that are quick to say, “That’s offensive!”, understand the context here and the history of the saying. It comes from the opera. It was a way of answering a bored spectator’s impatient question, “When is this going to be over?”
When it comes to website conversions, think of it this way.
Your business is the opera house, your conversion rate optimization program is the play, your cast and crew are your team, and your customers and prospects are the audience.
You run a play for a season and more times than not you receive applause instead of tomatoes and lettuce. You close the doors, write a new play, and reopen the doors for a new season.
I know what some of you may be thinking. “Wait, conversion rate optimization shouldn’t be the play in this analogy—that’s marketing!” Shouldn’t it? In the digital age, CRO is a critical part of your marketing strategy that concentrates on increasing the likelihood that a prospect converts and decreasing the average cost per conversion.
What I’m trying to say is, while marketing also needs to be optimized at all times, more times than not Conversion Rate Optimization is overlooked as a critical element of what separates a successful marketing program from the rest, especially in today’s connected world.
This isn’t as much a reference to the fact that you need to always be coming out with new content that will captivate your audience, but instead, it’s a reference to the fact that you need to always have a calendar integrated with your KPIs so you create the right content at the right time.
There are few plays people do not get tired of. Les Misérables. Phantom of the Opera. You, too, will have similar viral content, but more times than not you’ll need to respond to a dip in website conversions with new content.
It’s that predictability that you need to detect and get ahead of in your KPIs to optimize your content calendar. Trust me; theatre managers thrive off of predictability.
How frequently do we need to change the CTA link on Instagram if we post three times a day? If we send our consideration-level prospects to a series of solution pages, what is the optimal sequence of above-the-fold USP’s and content offerings for accelerating their path to decision-level? What monthly email newsletter converts the most, the one with three new pieces of content and six pieces of curated content, or the one with five new pieces of content and no curated content?
In addition to the fruit of predictability, an ever-optimizing conversion rate program will also help you with the aforementioned
credibility and authority.
How many people have downloaded your eBooks? How many people have attended your webinars? How many people have purchased your new product in the past 30 days?
Once these numbers reach a platinum level, you need to present them in your messaging across the board. If your numbers are not yet at that level, you should be pushing the gas to get them there, because once they are you can expect to have more conversions per user, an outstanding form abandonment ratio, and new levels of brand equity.
As you know from SEO, topical authority is the new goal, and with an ever-optimizing conversion rate program, you should be doing two things—lengthening existing and future content, and creating more pages around the topics that are influencing the most website conversions.
Google is smart, not just to search queries and traffic, but to website conversions.
The infamous, ever-evolving, work-of-art that is Google’s algorithm focuses on several elements of your website, and two of them correlate with your conversion data. Google will match your conversion metrics to your user / usage data like bounce rate and average session time to determine whether or not your content receives a high-quality grade, i.e., that it matches their users’ search queries, and thereby you deliver a great user experience.
In summary, your marketing department likely has a mission and vision statement, and you need to make sure that there is some sense of conversion rate optimization in one or the other, if not both. If your marketing department does not have a mission or vision statement, be sure to add that to your calendar, too.
Would you like to know more?
Request a Free C.R.O.W. Analysis and we’ll also schedule a Free 30 Minute Consultation to review the results with you.
11. Helpful Tools
- Google’s Mobile Friendly Test
- Google Lighthouse
- BJ Lazy Load
- Lazy Load
- Crazy Lazy
- Smush Pro
- Lazy Load for Videos
- Google Analytics
- CROW Analysis