Tom Critchlow – Search Engine Land News On Search Engines, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Wed, 29 Sep 2010 17:53:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.5.1 5 Ways To Get Free Conversion Rate Advice /5-ways-to-get-free-conversion-rate-advice-51788 /5-ways-to-get-free-conversion-rate-advice-51788#respond Wed, 29 Sep 2010 17:53:14 +0000 http:/?p=51788 We all love free right? From free beer to free downloads, there’s something about free that makes my mouse-finger click happy and likely yours too. So I’m going to discuss some ways you can get some free conversion rate optimization advice for your site. Site Review Panels At Conferences Ok, so I’m cheating by putting […]

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We all love free right? From free beer to free downloads, there’s something about free that makes my mouse-finger click happy and likely yours too. So I’m going to discuss some ways you can get some free conversion rate optimization advice for your site.

Site Review Panels At Conferences

Ok, so I’m cheating by putting something on the list that isn’t strictly free (since not all conferences are free!) but it’s a free bonus to the already great value of most online marketing conferences. Most conferences these days have site review panels and where historically these panels would only have had SEO advice more and more these panels are including conversion rate optimization advice. So putting your site forward for a live review can get you often extreme expert advice directly targeted to your site, and all it costs you is the slight embarrassment of having your site put up on screen in front of a crowd.

Paditrack

What is Paditrack? Simply put, it’s a way of segmenting your conversion funnel on the fly. Awesome. I’m still waiting for Google Analytics to pull this feature into the product natively, but until they do, a tool like this is invaluable in getting insights into your site. Whether it’s segmenting by browser version or only new visitors this can give you really detailed insights from data that you already have.

Your Mom

No, that’s not a veiled insult! What I’m getting at here is that asking real people (e.g. your mom) for their feedback on your site. You can do this for free simply by asking people you know. Don’t underestimate the power of real people off the street browsing your website in front of you. This feedback from friends, family—even strangers—is invaluable in the first stage of conversion rate optimization of knowing how to make the website better. Focus on getting objections out of these people. Once you have a list of objections, then coming up with the counters to those objections should be fairly straight forward.

To take this idea to the next level, ask your community for feedback. Here’s a good intro to online surveys for your site. But as the comments point out, don’t forget good old fashioned Google Docs. The Google Docs interface and data collection is really solid and can be a great way to embed a link to a survey in an email or on a blog post. Gathering data from these users will again get you solid advice on what to change on your site.

Beyond your own existing users, look for other communities out there which are open and friendly which might be able to give you some honest feedback. For example, the Hacker News community is usually pretty friendly and will give you some good constructive and intelligent feedback if you ask nicely. Check out some of these other topics they’ve posted.

If that kind of public option is too scary for you, consider Feedback Army. It’s not free, but for $15 it’s as good as free. This will let you get some random people looking at your site and is the online equivalent of pulling people in off the street. We’ve used this in the past and seen some amazingly detailed responses on why a site sucked and how we could make it better.

Be Transparent And Friendly

Never underestimate how friendly our industry is. If you’re too small to afford any of the big guns but are willing to send a box of chocolates, then get in touch with any of the hot shots in the conversion rate optimization industry such as Dr Pete, Stephen Pavlovich, CRE etc. and ask really nicely. This works for SEO advice as well. We’re such a nice bunch in this industry that just being nice will get you a long way. The key here is not to be a douchebag.

Ninjabutton

Ninjabutton is a pretty specific tool, but it’s so awesome (and has Ninja in the name!) that I feel compelled to mention them. It’s like a stripped down version of Google Website Optimizer which specifically looks at button conversion rate optimization changes and also provides you with the ability to make nice looking buttons from within the Ninjabutton interface so there’s no need to know how to code or design in order to use the tool. The tool is free for 30 days and only $14 / month for up to 10,000 impressions. Easily cheap enough to dip your toe in the water and justify why you should be investing more heavily in conversion rate optimization.

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Q&A With Conversion Guru Stephen Pavlovich /qa-with-conversion-guru-stephen-pavlovich-43842 /qa-with-conversion-guru-stephen-pavlovich-43842#respond Wed, 09 Jun 2010 12:00:34 +0000 http:/?p=43842 Today, some insights from Stephen Pavlovich at Conversion Factory. He’s a very experienced conversion rate optimizer. I specifically focused on questions around how to persuade clients to actually start testing and to make radical tests. Let’s dive in! Tom: Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get into conversion rate optimization (CRO)? Stephen: […]

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Today, some insights from Stephen Pavlovich at Conversion Factory. He’s a very experienced conversion rate optimizer. I specifically focused on questions around how to persuade clients to actually start testing and to make radical tests. Let’s dive in!

Tom: Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get into conversion rate optimization (CRO)?

Stephen PavlovichStephen: I actually started out as an SEO. I was working as a one-man SEO department for a photo printing company. We’d reached the point where we were ranking as well as we possibly could for all of our main keywords.
I had a choice: either go after broader less-relevant keywords, or focus on converting more visitors to customers.

I chose conversion—and within three months, the company’s revenue had increased six times over. Now I focus exclusively on maximizing my clients’ conversion rates.

There are a gazillion tools out there for different aspects of CRO, from gathering feedback to running tests and tracking data. What’s your perfect setup of tools?

It’s easy to get overloaded with tools. You need to build your tool arsenal to help you:

  • Understand what’s happening on the site
  • Find out why visitors aren’t converting
  • Test the impact of page and site changes

To find out what’s happening on the site, use tools like Google Analytics, Crazy Egg and ClickTale. Crazy Egg is brilliant for discovering clicks on inactive elements—this indicates that your visitors want more information on that element.

Next you need to know why visitors aren’t converting. Here, the best tools are ones that help you understand your customers better: tools like Kampyle, 4Q and KISSinsights. With these tools, you can fall into the trap of relying on numbers and pie charts. The best insight you’ll get comes from your visitors’ own words, not from multiple choice questions.

And finally, you’ll need a platform like Google Website Optimizer to carry out split-tests. Most companies will be fine with GWO—but if you need more advanced functionality like segmented tests, try tools like Vertster or Omniture Test & Target. (The site whichmvt.com will help you find the platform that’s right for you.)

Clients often approach me thinking that CRO is simply a case of changing the color or size of buttons. How do you go about persuading them otherwise?

Conversion rate optimization is a two stage process: find out why your customers aren’t converting, then fix it. That’s it. It’s unlikely that visitors aren’t converting because the “Buy” button is green instead of blue. The trouble is that people are always looking for shortcuts, and misinformation like “Blue buttons convert 14% better than green buttons” can turn into “best practice”. It can have an impact… but you probably won’t double a site’s conversion rate by tweaking the buttons. Instead, you need to speak to your visitors to find out what’s stopping them converting (it’s rarely the buttons.)

Your website says you love to work in competitive verticals like gambling, weight loss, insurance etc. How do you find CRO in competitive verticals like these? Are there any unique challenges which come with these industries?

There’s a huge amount of opportunity in industries like gaming, weight loss and finance. At the moment, the traffic is fiercely competitive, but there aren’t many companies in these industries that are doing conversion rate optimization well. The first ones to nail both traffic and conversion stand to make a lot of money.

But you’re right—there are challenges too. These are normally centered on the limitations of the technology that these sites are using. If you can’t split-test a change in the registration or purchase process, it can make it hard to increase the conversion rate… But that just means there’s more opportunity for the ones that do.

I’ve worked on CRO for various different clients and the biggest challenge I face is persuading clients to make drastic changes to their site. How do you go about persuading clients to implement or test drastic changes?

You’ll normally get the biggest improvements by testing big changes. So if you’re limited to little tests—changing the color of buttons and moving images around—you’re going to be limiting your conversion rate. But it’s understandable that some companies are nervous about making big changes. To get around this, start with a small but meaningful test. Find out what’s stopping visitors converting, then look at ways to overcome those objections without changing the site too much. Try making a guarantee more prominent, adding captions for images or demonstrating the benefit in using this site rather than a competitor.

The worst case scenario is that you lowered the conversion rate for a few days while the test was running. The best case scenario is you increase the conversion rate—and get buy-in for more advanced tests.

Following on from the previous point, large companies often take a long time to get anything done. What are the best things to test or change without massive development work?

Stephen: Here are three tips for working with large companies:

  • Start small—Like we were saying, choose meaningful tests that can be implemented quickly. Then use this to:
  • Get management buy-in—If management can see how much you’re increasing sales, they’ll make sure you’re not held back by limited resources.
  • Use the right testing platform—Some platforms like Google Website Optimizer can increase the workload for a large company, as it requires you to tag each test individually. Instead, try out platforms like Vertster that you just tag once with a sitewide piece of code—just like adding Google Analytics.

You don’t blog too much, but when you do it’s very well received (see The Definitive How-To Guide For Conversion Rate optimization). When’s your next post planned?

Thanks. We’re focusing on client-work at the moment, but I’ll be posting more advice soon. Subscribers to the ConversionFactory.com mailing list will be the first to know about new content.

Thanks again to Stephen for agreeing to answer my questions for this interview and providing these great responses! I strongly recommend everyone to sign up to his newsletter at conversionfactory.com.

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Using Natural Language To Improve Conversion Rates /using-natural-language-to-improve-conversion-rates-41632 /using-natural-language-to-improve-conversion-rates-41632#comments Wed, 12 May 2010 13:21:35 +0000 http:/?p=41632 Languages are powerful things. Emotive, passionate, constructive, descriptive—they are all these things and so much more! This post explores the power of natural language for conversions and first I’m going to look at “Mad Libs” forms. What is a Mad Libs form? Mad Libs forms are a style of lead generation/contact/sign-up form which are designed […]

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Languages are powerful things. Emotive, passionate, constructive, descriptive—they are all these things and so much more! This post explores the power of natural language for conversions and first I’m going to look at “Mad Libs” forms.

What is a Mad Libs form?

Mad Libs forms are a style of lead generation/contact/sign-up form which are designed so that the form fields complete natural language sentences. The name springs from Mad Libs, a game where one player has to fill in the blanks. They’re best explained visually and the most famous example of this in the wild is the Huffduffer sign-up page:

huffduffer

While this might look flash, you have to ask, “does it work?” Well, evidence suggests that it does work. Luke Wroblewski, Chief Design Architect at Yahoo, ran some tests on his own mad libs style contact form and saw a 25-40% increase in conversion rate:

lukew mad libs

In the interests of fairness I should also link to this post from software developer Patrick McKenzie arguing these forms don’t work at all! Personally I don’t really like the implementation but that post emphasizes the most important lesson of all: do your own testing.

Thankfully for those of us who are technical and design n00bs there’s a helpful intro post on how to start creating these things. Visit Rustin Jessen’s guide here.

A real-life example

The inspiration for this post didn’t actually come about because of Mad Libs forms. While they are cool and might quite likely increase your conversion rate, it was actually the following post that inspired me: Boarding Pass Fail. The post is from an extremely talented designer who took it upon himself to redesign boarding passes to be “better”:

boarding pass

But “better” is a difficult concept to nail. The original post inspired many other designers to create their own versions. The following design from graphicology was the one that jumped out at me as being the “best.” For me (and I realize this is a personal preference) this boarding pass gets the information across quickest and clearest:

boarding pass 2

Doesn’t this look quite a lot like a Mad Libs style approach? Behold the power of natural language.

The real lesson here

The point I’m trying to get across here is not that Mad Libs forms are a magic bullet or that you should get a job designing boarding passes. The real point is that natural language is a powerful tool. Let me tell you a story.

We were working with a client who sells kitchens. Obviously they don’t sell kitchens online—no-one buys a kitchen directly online. Instead, people like to come into the showroom first and browse around, play with the taps, open the drawers etc. So the conversion for the client in this case is filling out a contact form. All across the site there are large images of beautiful kitchens and the call to action to book an appointment.

However, the link to “book an appointment” went to their contact page which had a generic call to action to “contact us.” To improve conversions we tried various things on the page, such as modifying the button, the form fields, the color and size of the header but none of these changes improved conversion rate as much as changing the wording of the header.

The winning page had an altered page header that said “book an appointment” and the form title was also changed to “book an appointment” (both of these were previously “contact us.”

contact form

While we have seen some improvements from modifying the button to read “book now” instead of “submit” and changing the col our, by far the biggest improvement in conversion rate was simplifying changing the wording of some text.

So, next time you’re looking at a page and trying to improve conversion rate remember that the message is one of the most important elements of the page. And changing the message can be as simple as changing the wording. Figure out what your users are looking for and give it to them in simple language.

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4 Ways To Increase Conversion Rate Without Testing /4-ways-to-increase-conversion-rate-without-testing-38326 /4-ways-to-increase-conversion-rate-without-testing-38326#comments Wed, 17 Mar 2010 17:54:17 +0000 http:/?p=38326 So much of conversion rate optimization relies on testing. “Test everything, test often” is a good mantra to keep in mind and will do you no end of good. But you can’t always test everything. In this post I discuss a few ways you might be able to uncover some of those conversion leaks that […]

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So much of conversion rate optimization relies on testing. “Test everything, test often” is a good mantra to keep in mind and will do you no end of good. But you can’t always test everything. In this post I discuss a few ways you might be able to uncover some of those conversion leaks that you might not even have been aware of before.

Parlez vous conversion?

This is often a hidden issue with sites which receive traffic from multiple languages/countries. Even if you have multiple language websites or multi-lingual sections on your site to help users, you need to check that visitors are using the right language section pages on your site. If they’re not then you might run into troubles. For example, take a look at this screenshot of analytics data from an international company. This is their UK, 100% English content:

geo

In this situation there’s a very strong business case for not letting those little language selection links at the top of the page do all the work—you should consider investing in some geo-based redirection technology to take your non-English users straight to the correct language content.

Play around with auto-emails

Email marketing is a big topic, and an important component of many online marketing campaigns. Often overlooked is that you shouldn’t just consider email marketing as a once/month push (or once/week etc)—you should consider setting up an auto-schedule of emails for new sign-ups to your site. As soon as a new user enters onto your email list they should enter a cycle of emails which get sent out—above and beyond the initial email.

I’m not talking about spamming but some helpful emails can really help users convert. Pingdom does this very well—I signed up for a free trial of their tool and after a week or so I received an email asking if I was ok with everything on the service, asking if I had any questions etc. This kind of thing will help turn those passive users into active users and hopefully customers.

pingdom

Monitor 404 errors & other site issues

This is web best practice anyway but you should always keep an eye on website issues, whether they’re 404 errors, site downtime (Pingdom has a good tool for this, see above!) or something else. Analytics packages don’t always monitor these things by default so this kind of traffic can often be overlooked. Imagine the (nonexistent) conversion rate of users who see a 404 page! So cleaning up these 404 errors and taking users to a better page can help to increase conversions. If you don’t have big development resources, Google Webmaster Central can help identify 404 errors on your site. If Google is seeing these errors then there’s a good chance that users are too.

404

If you’re running a dynamic site that runs off an ever-changing database then you should also monitor carefully for situations where a user hits a sub-optimal page. It might not be a true 404 error but if for example you have a dynamic product database then you should look out for any visits to category pages with zero products on. These kinds of hidden errors can often be a source of lost conversions.

Gather more data

In the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king, but in the land of the internet the man with most data is king. So alongside testing your website consider adding some extra data collection to inform your next test. A great place to start is with tracking how far users get through forms. My colleague Duncan Morris wrote a great post on how to easily do this using Google Analytics events. The best thing about that post? It works on any form using auto-binding!

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