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Conversion Rate Optimization

Conversion Optimization Techniques that Actually Work: How to Build Smart Tests

Qualaroo’s Sean Ellis and Unbounce Co-Founder Oli Gardner recently co-hosted a webinar entitled “Conversion Optimization Techniques that Actually Work.” During the webinar, they focused on conversion rate optimization (CRO) techniques that can produce real results for your business, a testing framework that drives results, plus tools for determining what to test and when. If you didn’t have time to catch it you can watch it on-demand at the link above, and we’ve distilled some of the main points into two blog posts. In this first one, we’re going to cover the first half of the webinar, in which Sean and Oli discuss how to build smarter optimization tests.

The Importance of Optimization Test Quality + Velocity

There are two factors that seriously affect the outcome of any website optimization tests: quality (how smart you are about the tests you run) and velocity (how many ideas you’re able to test). Quality and quantity are important for conversion success. Ideally you achieve both, but it’s you’ll get more out of running a few good tests rather than several bad ones.

But how do you ensure that you’re running high quality tests? In a word, research. It doesn’t have to be laborious or time consuming to get real insights into your users. Just an hour of qualitative research can yield information that can be used to design smarter conversion hypotheses. While this might seem like an extra step, the alternative—testing guesses and hunches—is often much more expensive and, since you can’t run tests simultaneously, more time consuming as well.

Bottom line—if you want more out of your conversion optimization efforts, you need to use qualitative insights to help inform your testing process.

Use a Website Testing Framework

To quickly and efficiently get ideas for smart tests, Sean recommends the following three-part testing framework:

Conversion Optimization Framework

Use a testing framework to get more from your conversion optimization efforts.

Begin with conversion analytics generated from your analytics package. You’ll find landing pages that have higher than average bounce rates, and pinch points in your conversion funnel. Once you’ve identified areas of opportunity in your conversion process, use Qualaroo to get user insights to understand the why behind the data. Those insights will help you design test variations based on the hypotheses you form from that information.

Your test results will generate even more insight, which can then be used to inform new surveys and tests. The faster you’re able to move through this process, the faster you’ll find success. By moving through this framework again and again you’ll gain an ever-deepening knowledge of your user base, and improving your conversion results based on what you learn.

The Conversion Optimization PIE Test

In addition to this framework, evaluate your potential conversion tests with the WiderFunnel’s PIE Test. The PIE acronym stands for:

P is for IMPACT – What is the impact of a potential test that I’m running?
I is for IMPORTANCE – How important is the page that we’re testing?
E is for EASE – How easy is it to run this test?

Having done CRO since the mid ‘90s, Sean points out that, in general, the ease with which we can run optimization experiments has greatly increased—thanks in large part to tools like Unbounce, which allow absolutely anyone to design and optimize landing pages regardless of coding experience.

 Micro vs. Macro Optimizations

Ease isn’t the only criteria to be taken into consideration when designing your tests. For the sake of both impact and importance, it’s critical that (regardless of how easy it is to run a test) you don’t become too micro-focused in your optimizations, especially early on. Micro changes like button color and placement rarely have much impact, especially when there are other conversion issues at work.

This is why it’s important to test broad creative and messaging. Run big, bold tests so that you don’t get stuck in a local maxima situation—for example, endlessly tweaking a long form landing page when a drastically different short-form landing page could improve conversions much more.

Start By Optimizing Your Landing Pages

Because they’re a good mix of impact, importance, and ease, landing pages are actually a great place to begin conversion optimization. What’s great is that, especially if you haven’t done a lot of testing up until this point, you can get some really fast wins by just trying out a new landing page that follows the guidelines we share in part two of this post.

Sean points out that this is one of the great things about Unbounce—it allows you to split test two very different pages with ease. Trying something radically different often means you’ll fail, and that’s okay. Still, when those radical tests do succeed, they tend to do so in a much bigger way. These early wins help to make CRO fun, and give the team confidence in the process, giving you the momentum you need to keep moving along.

Which landing pages do you test first?

But how do you know which landing pages to begin with? A simple Google Analytics report can at least tell you the volume of traffic coming to a particular page as well as the bounce rate on that page. If the bounce rate is pretty low, then there isn’t a lot of potential for improvement. But if the bounce rate is high and there’s a lot of traffic, then that’s a great place to begin.

Once you’ve picked a page to optimize, that’s where Qualaroo comes in.

What to Ask (and Whom)

You have two kinds of users, successful and unsuccessful. To those who actually convert, get immediate feedback on their decision-making process by asking:

What persuaded you?
What almost stopped you?

This will give you insight into the last minute objections that may be preventing other people from taking the step you want them to take, as well as the factors that influence them to convert. Your goal is to double down on the good things and fix the things that are hurting your conversion rates.

As for those who don’t convert, ask them a quick question before they leave to gain additional insights:

What were you looking for?
What stopped you?

Through mouse movement indicative of exit behavior, you can trigger a Qualaroo exit survey to pop up and ask users what’s keeping them from doing what they came to do. This information is really powerful when it comes to designing tests that make it easier for users to fulfill their objectives. Just note that response rates for unsuccessful visitors are much lower than those for successful users, who are still engaged with your site.

The qualitative insight you gather from users will be instrumental in designing smart tests. Your research doesn’t have to be complicated for it to positively affect your optimization strategy.

Don’t forget to check back for the next installment, in which we’ll share some of Sean and Oli’s best practices for creating high-converting landing pages.

Want to watch the webinar right now? Watch Conversion Optimization Techniques that Actually Work on-demand.


2 Responses to “Conversion Optimization Techniques that Actually Work: How to Build Smart Tests”

  1. Why is the only CTA on Qualaroo’s site at the bottom of the page? Any particular reason for this?

    Posted by Mike | April 5, 2014, 11:41 pm
    • Hi Mike,

      Great question. The main reason is that we’ve found that people who go straight to a trial without learning a bit more about the product don’t (in general) make for the best trial users (lower conversions) so having people read a bit actually helps with trial conversion rate. That said, we’re running experiments all the time (one right now in fact) with a trial CTA in the header as well. So we’re definitely still experimenting to find the right mix/balance.

      Posted by Morgan Brown | April 11, 2014, 3:31 pm

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