Understanding Conversion Rate Optimisation

We’ve always said that when it gets right down to it, the objective of your website is to convert visitors.  A conversion could be a sale, it could be a lead.  It could be somebody signing up for your newsletter or creating an account.  A conversion is a specific action carried out by a visitor to your site, and what it is will depend on your objectives.

So…what is conversion rate optimisation?

Conversion rate optimisation is the process getting the most possible conversions out of the traffic your website gets.

Increasing Conversions

Traditionally, the way that marketers have increased conversions has been simply to drive extra traffic to your site.  If you are currently receiving 1,000 visitors a month, and 10 visitors convert, then the usual approach is to drive 2,000 visitors to the site, on the assumption that 20 people will convert.

That’s all very well, but your conversion rate would still only be 1%.

The object of conversion rate optimisation is to keep those 1,000 visitors, but instead convince 5% of them to convert.  Get more conversions from the same amount of traffic.

How To Optimise Your Conversion Rate

Conversion rate optimisation is not based on guesses, or on coping other people’s sites.  It’s not down to opinions, or about getting as much traffic as possible, regardless of the quality of that traffic.

Conversion rate optimisation requires a systematic approach that is informed by data generated from sources such as your site Analytics account, and feedback from users via a process of user testing, user behaviour analysis, and split testing in order to determine the outcome of any possible changes, and identify the aspects which can be improved in order to encourage more conversions.

Important Factors

Several factors are taken into account when it comes to deciding where to begin with your conversion rate optimisation.  These include the bounce rate of your site, (how many people leave after only looking at a single page), the exit rate of individual pages, (how many people leave the site from each page), the average time spent on your site, and the average number of page views per visit.

Once you have this Analytics data, it’s time to move onto the next step, and plan an optimisation strategy.

Optimisation Strategy

Based on the data, you should have a basic idea of potential problem areas on the site.  The next step is to decide where the problems are, which ones you’re going to tackle first, and how you’re going to do it.

Since Analytics can give you the data, but not the reasoning behind it, this is often a good point at which to invest in some user testing, or user behaviour analysis.  Before you can fix problems, you need to understand why there is a problem.

A wide range of tools are available to allow you to analyse how people are interacting with your site.  Things like click and scroll maps will give insight into where users are focusing their attention for example.  You can even record users sessions on the site and see exactly what they’re doing while the view your site.

This information should provide you with sufficient insight to allow you to formulate theories on what is causing the problems, and set up a plan on how to test those theories.

Testing, Testing and More Testing

Testing is the most critical part of the process, and a site that is truly committed to optimising their conversion rate should really never stop testing.  If, for example, you can see that people abandon your contact form at a specific field, then set up a split test where one version of the form doesn’t have that field.

If more people complete that form where the field is removed, then you’ve proven your theory that the field is a stumbling block in making contact, and you can remove it entirely.

That’s just one example, and as I said, the testing process should be an ongoing one if you’re serious about conversion optimisation.  The best tests are small ones.  Ideally you want to test things that are easy to change, and easy to measure, but which have a good chance of making a difference.

Test Everything

You can test content, images, forms, buttons, and so much more.  Remember though, that a single test isn’t the be all and end all of conversion rate optimisation.  You may run tests that don’t improve things.  That just means you need to test something else.  You may run tests that show big improvement as well, but that’s no reason to stop either.  If a test was successful, it’s time to test something else and make an improvement there.

Every aspect of your site can be tested to find a better way, or to confirm that what you have is already the best way.

If At First…

The real goal of conversion optimisation is to get as many of the visitors to your site as possible to convert.  If you’re testing something and it doesn’t work, you design a different test, or a different variation, or you change something else.

The best website in the world can’t stand up to the average site user.  the trick is to find out how they expect and want to use it, and then provide them with something that works for them.

User testing, split testing, behaviour analysis, these are all essential tools that, used correctly can provide the opportunity to really get the most out of your site.

Getting the highest possible conversion rate is a process.  You can’t decide to optimise today, and expect a higher conversion rate tomorrow.  This process takes time, but in the long run, it’s worth it.