Plenty of people will offer tactics for conversion rate optimization. As CRO has grown in importance, everyone wants to find the quickest ways to increase their conversion rates.

Unfortunately, it's not a simple task. There is no magic wand. To improve conversion rates in a significant and long-lasting way, you need time, testing, and careful examination.

In other words, merely whipping out a few tactics and making a couple of quick changes will not produce enduring results.

The contemporary marketing frenzy over conversion rates has left us in a morass of confusion, disappointment, and senselessness.

This is my attempt to help you wade through that mess of information. The recommendations I've outlined in this article aren't hacks. They are considered advice that will help you develop a strategy that works for your business. There is no one-size-fits-all.

Start with your customer persona in mind.

Where does conversion optimization start?

Everything you do, change, implement, test, and analyze should center around customer preferences, dispositions, demographics, psychographics, and interests.

When you execute conversion optimization with your customer persona in mind, everything begins to make sense, and it correlates with your own business reality. By doing this, you avoid the pitfalls of "best practices" or "conversion benchmarks" articles, and you are able to view decisions through the lens of your unique customer base.

Don't implement everything you read.

Read everything you can about conversion optimization. But don't implement everything you read.

When CROs share their success stories, it's tempting to want to do exactly what they did. For example, you may read an article about "How a Single A/B Test Increased Conversions by 336% [Case Study]."

336%?! Wouldn't you want to do the same?

So you rush off to make whatever changes produced the 336% uptick.

Applying someone else's data-driven changes to your website is like wearing someone else's prescription glasses and expecting them to improve your eyesight, or wearing an olympic runner's shoes and expecting to be able to sprint as fast as she does.

Only make changes based on your own data, and don't implement everything you read. Take cues, not roles.

Target specific results.

Specificity is essential in conversion optimization. Particularly, the following three types of specificity.

1. Understand industry-specific conversion rates. Everyone wants to know, "What's a typical conversion rate?" The fact is, there is no "typical" conversion rate. Every landing page, ad, CTA, and website is different. Besides, every industry differs based on its customer base. Some companies are more Internet-dependent than others.

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The results you target should be relevant to your industry, rather than compared with some conversion freak story in which someone's split test somehow produced a 90% conversion rate.

2. Identify specific rates of increase. Setting specific goals for your conversion rate improvements is important. Simply wanting to "improve conversion rates" is not a measurable method for improvement. Target specific metrics, such as a 25% conversion rate improvement within six months.

3. Make changes in specific areas to effect conversion rate increases.A successful conversion rate optimization strategy must focus in on specific areas of the website. Start with the high-traffic macro conversions, and move to smaller micro conversion methods.

Focus on big changes for big results.

You will never see massive improvements in conversion rates if you insist on testing micro conversions and teeny little changes. Those are important, but eventually you'll need to take the plunge. Your eye should be on the macro conversions--those actions that produce bottom-line revenue.

Button color and headline tweaks are easy and fun, but they're like conversion optimization candy. They're fun to eat, but they won't build muscle or add nutrients. Focus on macro conversions--the completed order, confirmed purchase, or a finalized contact form.

Your macro conversions will give you the most value for your efforts.

Ignore tactics. Implement strategy.

Tactics abound, but strategy is rare. Chris Goward of Wider Funnel explains, "There are two kinds of people doing conversion optimization: tacticians and strategists."

Tacticians are people who do the testing, analyze the results, and make specific changes. Their actions are crucial to conversion success, of course. That, however, is only one piece of the puzzle.

The other group--the strategists--is different. They follow a process for conversion optimization, test against hypotheses, and focus on the ultimate goal of conversion optimization--revenue.

Tactics may accomplish small wins, but they will fail to produce the long-lasting changes that you really need.

Test extensively.

One risk of conversion optimization is getting stuck in a rut--testing a specific set of pages or type of conversion markers.

For example, it may be easy to test your landing page headline. So you test, retest, and retest your headline, tweaking it until it's perfect.

Meanwhile, you accidentally ignore a whole swath of potential conversions--your email marketing, for one. Your landing page gets a trickle of visits, but you have a mailing list that reaches tens of thousands of people each week.

Wouldn't it make more sense first to implement split testing on your email list rather than your landing page?

Keep in mind that you can apply the power of split testing to a huge array of online marketing approaches:

  • PPC and landing pages
  • Email
  • Social media
  • Graphics
  • Video
  • Mobile
  • CTAs and CTA buttons
  • Website usability and navigation
  • Website load time
  • Content and copy

Try and track a variety of landing pages. Test different offers and flow to identify what works best for your company.

Make data-driven decisions.

In conversion optimization, it's incredibly important to be data-driven.

What does this mean? It means that you only implement changes if you have the data to back it up.

For example, let's say you are preparing for the holiday season. You've heard that bigger images produce higher conversion rates. So (without testing), you make all the images on your product page 30% larger.

And what happens? Your conversion rates plummet.

Your decision to enlarge the images was based on a hunch, not data. It would have been more effective to test your hunch for accuracy.

In the case of the bigger images, you may have realized that larger images resulted in longer load times, which had a profoundly negative effect on conversion rates.

Never act on conversion hunches! More often than not, doing so will produce more harm than good.

Conclusion

Conversion optimization should be a central business practice for any organization with an online presence.

How you execute conversion optimization is just as important as the fact that you're doing it. CRO may result in wasted time, money, personnel, and effort if you simply follow in the footsteps of another without looking forward and around you.

True conversion optimization success comes when you intentionally ignore the sexy tactics and "massive improvements" to focus on your customers and on your functionality according to well-informed strategy.

What strategic insights have helped you reject unhelpful conversion optimization advice?

Published on: Jan 14, 2016