Improving marketing performance often involves a lot of spot treatment: you spend some time working on your paid search campaigns, then you spend some time working on your organic search, and so on and so forth. One of my favorite things about conversion rate optimization (CRO) is that so much of it is channel-agnostic. How often do we get the chance to work on one central project that stands to improve the performance of all of our channels at once?! Not often enough!
Plus, no matter how well your channels are already performing, there’s always opportunity to generate more business by facilitating conversion. Check out the suggestions below to uncover pain points and actionable tips for increasing conversion rate.
Put your best foot forward
The likelihood of conversion begins before a prospect even reaches the website. We all know that different keywords are likely to perform differently; that’s why advertisers bid differently on different keywords. But this understanding isn’t often translated to conversion optimization, though it should be. For example:
Understanding keyword intent can have an impact on conversion rate. Why? Because understanding keyword intent provides insight into where the prospect is in the buying cycle and, therefore, the type of information that they are looking for. Aligning conversion actions with the prospect’s stage in the buying cycle allows advertisers to provide the right content to increase the likelihood that the prospect will take action.
Depending on marketing strategy and profit margins, some advertisers may want to go as far as to align conversion actions with keyword intent — but that could be a whole post in itself, and it is understandably not feasible for all advertisers, either due to profit constraints or marketing nurture resources.
Ads play a role in conversion optimization, too! Ads help manage the expectations of visitors. This is one of the reasons I like to look at ad performance by analyzing conversions by impressions instead of click-through rate (CTR). The fact is, CTR can be misleading. It’s still a valuable health metric, but if the visitors don’t ultimately take an action, then it isn’t such a valuable KPI in the grand scheme of things.
On-page optimization tips
This is the most commonly discussed part of conversion rate optimization. In fact, when CRO comes up in conversation, it seems like the discussion typically goes straight to landing page layouts. That’s because landing pages play a huge role in conversion rate — and therefore provide some of the biggest opportunities for improvement.
Prioritize your conversion actions and create a hierarchy. Doing so helps facilitate conversions by making it clear and obvious what the visitor should do next in order to continue the buyer journey.
To do this, consider what your primary goal is for each page that you create. The action that you require from the visitor in order to achieve this goal is considered your highest priority. They won’t always be quite ready for the sale or the demo, or whatever your highest priority action is, but that’s a great reason to provide micro-conversions, which allow them to continue to engage with you in the meantime, all while you are tracking their behaviors and providing useful content.
Micro-conversions could be things like downloads, video plays, email subscriptions and more. Determine which of these are most relevant to your goal, or otherwise most valuable, and prioritize accordingly.
As you lay out your landing page, you should place appropriate emphasis on the calls-to-action (CTAs) and where they fall on the page, based upon the hierarchy that you’ve created. The key to micro-conversions is to ensure that they aren’t competing against your highest priority CTAs. This brings me to my next point.
De-clutter & keep it simple. One of the ugliest things in the worldwide web is a cluttered website. Cluttered websites are overwhelming and hard to follow. In some cases, they lack credibility because they look unprofessional. In other cases, even when they are known to be professional, they lose visitors among all of the options.
For example, think about a government site. Whoa. Talk about a house of glass — and I’m not talking about the glass houses that people throw stones at! I’m talking about the carnival glass house mazes that are so hard to walk through because right when you think you’re headed down the right path, you run into a window.
We’ve all been there: At least 10 links seem semi-relevant to what you are looking for, so you choose the one that you think is most relevant. The page loads, and it isn’t what you were looking for, but there’s a link on it that reads like it may have the information you need. You click on it, and it wasn’t what you were looking for, either, and the cycle repeats until you realize that you’re back to where you started.
Cluttered sites can occur for various reasons, but try to keep in mind that sometimes less is more. Providing too many options can create a frustrating experience for visitors. Instead, stick with providing the few that are most relevant.
Consider all devices. Every year, this gets closer and closer to being an unwritten rule, but we’re not quite there yet — so it is still written! As you build your landing pages, and ultimately your site, keep in mind that different devices are used, well, differently. Elements of a page that might be perfectly reasonable on a desktop could be very challenging or frustrating on a mobile device — like a long form or clickable links that are close together. Being without a mouse or a keyboard changes the experience drastically.
In addition, consider the mindset of the consumer when on desktop vs. mobile. Depending upon your business, a consumer may be more likely to take certain actions at certain times of the day, which may or may not coincide with certain device usage. For example, some B2B companies may find that long-form content is more likely to be consumed during the day (and therefore on a computer), whereas those using a mobile device in the evening may just want a short synopsis or a video, and the ability to submit a quick form with questions.
Want to get a second opinion on whether or not your page is mobile-friendly? Check out Google’s free mobile-friendly checker. Although it can’t give you a comprehensive breakdown of tips around intent, it can help you to ensure that the structure of the site facilitates a positive mobile user experience. For more information, dig into the mobile usability section within Google Search Console, which will provide tips for improving mobile-friendliness.
Establish credibility and develop trust. One of the best lessons I’ve ever learned was from a paid search client. They said, “We don’t include the word ‘trust’ in our ads because we don’t believe that we can simply tell someone to trust us.” While I won’t make a case one way or the other for using the word in your ad copy, there is something to be said for the sentiment.
When visitors arrive at your site, they have no reason to trust you beyond your word. Trust symbols can help give them peace of mind. There are plenty of ways to portray trustworthiness: display testimonials, offer references, provide (and maintain) satisfaction guarantees. Displaying awards and badges of trustworthy organizations (such as the BBB) can help, too.
Even beyond the symbols, there are a few things that can help a business look credible at first glance. One is a modern, clean website. Rightly or wrongly, a good-looking website portrays more credibility than an outdated site. In addition, certain secure payment options can also provide a level of trust simply because the visitor can be confident that even if the site is not legitimate, they have a way of refunding their money through a source which they already trust.
Know your audience and write for them. This one ties in nicely with some of the other considerations, but it warrants the individual mention. When you write your copy, use words and language that are relevant to your consumer. As product experts, we sometimes write over our consumers’ heads, which isn’t good.
Write content in a way that is most meaningful to your audience. If you aren’t sure how to do this, start by writing with them in mind. After it’s written, read it and make sure these questions are easy to answer from the consumer’s standpoint:
- Why should I care?
- Does this solve a problem that I have?
- What are next steps to obtain more information or purchase?
Look at site speed. Slow load times can lead to a frustrating user experience. As consumers, we want to find information quickly. If a site takes too long to load, we’ll look elsewhere. You can easily test your site speed with this free Google tool. The tool will test both desktop and mobile site speeds. Bonus: it not only gives you a score but provides suggestions for improvement.
Strategically leverage images. Well-placed, relevant images can transform the appearance of a text-heavy landing page. I recommend testing new images, as well as the placement of the images on the page.
Test, test, and then test some more! I contemplated whether I should put this bullet first or last. It’s arguably one of the most important, but it’s also the most often stated. Everyone knows that landing pages should be tested, but developing tests can still be tough. Hopefully, the above points have provided some inspiration.
Continuing the conversation
Think of the buyer’s journey as a cycle — not a linear trajectory. What difference does it make to view it in this way? The fun doesn’t end after the conversion — the cycle just starts over! After the conversion (or the sale), there are often immediate opportunities to upsell, cross-sell or continue engagement through blog posts, content and social media. A few suggestions:
Cross-sell and upsell. With every sale’s end comes a new beginning. Now that you know more about the types of products or services that the consumer is interested in, you are well positioned to provide recommendations about complementary products. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to provide them with suggestions while they are in the buying mode.
Provide opportunities for them to join in conversation. There are truly endless opportunities for doing this. Here are a few examples: invite them to follow your social channels, invite them to share content, engage them with user-generated content, share your blog or tips, or even facilitate discussion with other customers through the use of a shared hashtag or group.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.