10 easy steps for higher conversion

Working as a conversion optimization officer for a few years now I want to share the process I use to increase the conversion of websites. This method has proven successful for me on all various websites I have worked with.

Previously I wrote more in general about this process, this is a more detailed how to guide. You will find the previous article here: My A/B testing guide.

1.       Start by looking in your web analytics tool.

a.       Pull out your top 20 most trafficked pages.

b.      Look at those pages on traffic volume, conversion rate and bounce rate.

2.       Now apply the segmentation of traffic source – direct, seo, ppc, social media, other websites.

a.       How much traffic do you get from each traffic source?

b.      What is the conversion for each traffic source?

c.       What is the bounce rate for each traffic source?

d.      Notice any difference. How could you explain the difference?

3.       Pick the page you think has the most potential for improvement.

a.       It can be either low conversion or…

b.      …high bounce rate

4.       Apply any search engine or ppc keywords.

a.       Keywords tell you a lot about behavior i.e. if people enter the site with the keyword “buy a bike” that says something about users intention. Compare it to the keyword “best bike” which is not at all as strong user behavior as the first one.

b.      How similar are the keywords? Can you group them?

5.       Look at your web analytics data for next page flow and the click density. Basically you are looking for user behavior. Anything that can explain why people act as they do.

a.       Where are people going after this page?

b.      What elements are the most clicked on?

6.       Look at your chosen page and try to determine which of these areas you want to improve by testing.

a.       Headings – are they crisp and attractive? Do they make people want to take action? (Read my post on the top 3 most converting headings)

b.      The offer – how attractive is your offer? What are the benefits for the user?

c.       How clear is the layout of the page? Do people know what you want them to do next or are they left with many different options? Do you need to rearrange the page elements and remove some to make the action more clear?

d.      How clear are your elements? For example is your buy button dull and hidden?

7.       Cooperate with your designer to create a wireframe and a new design to test.

8.       Setup the AB test.

9.       Measure the effects

a.       Where do people click on the new design.

b.      How big conversion increase did you have? Are your numbers significant? You want statistical significance to be able to draw correct conclusions.

10.   Apply the learning and move on to the next page or redo this page.

Notice you can also apply this on a section level. I have done it many times by looking at our review pages and try to improve the whole section. I do this mostly when the traffic is not big enough to reach statistical significance within two weeks.

My life as a Web Analyst – February 2011

This is another post on my hands on life as a web analyst. Week 8 was a busy week. Lots of things happened, good and bad. Although we are getting to exciting times, a lot of work is being released so we will see the effects very soon.

  • The week started with looking at the numbers. Both at the customized dashboards in Omniture and some ad hooch analysis of the effect of a landing page. Unfortunately the data was not enough to draw any conclusions.
  • The dashboards that I have been perfecting for a month or so is proving to be up to the task. I spotted a small trend break and reported this to the stakeholders. Small wins are always good.
  • I had a meeting with the designer discussing wireframes on a few pages. I laid the ground and got some help to finalize them. Unfortunately we are lacking an Interactive Designer so I have to be hands on with wireframes, which is a bit outside my area of expertise – notice the understatement.
  • A colleague of mine wanted some help understanding the behavior of some key pages. We investigated why people did not convert and the answer was very clear. Immediate improvements of the pages had to be made.
  • Meetings with two of our tech groups. Both of the groups have new members so I have to have several meetings with them to set the long term agenda on where we want to take the sites this year. I find it very important especially in the beginning to have everyone aligned towards the same goal. It saves a lot of energy in the long run.
  • Together with the designer we “invented” a new landing page for a financial product. Let us now see how it performs. To be honest the one we have today is very ugly but this website has blown my mind. Everything we throw at it, it rejects more or less. Conversion increase is very hard I have found out.
  • The bad news of the week was the new Google algorithm update. It punished some of our sites, making people almost get into the panic mode.
  • Finally this week we have prepared for the redesign release next week. We have reported bugs and made quality checks all week long. Let’s see how it will be received by the users’

My life as a Web Analyst – January 2011

When I meet new people they ask me what I work with…and to be honest…explaining is actuall not that easy, especially for people outside the online sphere. This gave me an idea, to write small posts recaping the week that has pased explaining on some of the issues I work on. I this way you might better understand what a conversion specialista aka web analyst job is truly like. I promise you  it is not as glamourous as you think…

Week 2, January 2011.

  • First week on the New Year. We had hoped to have a new site release up by now but now it looks it will happen in the end of the month. You know how development is, not a straight road.
  • I documented on the whiteboard the development process for the rest of the year. This has to do with the previous post I wrote about conversion increase as part of the business development process. What I have done is to put small notes on the whiteboard to visualize the actions we will work during the year.
  • I have worked on doing the same thing for a second website. The progress of this website is not as far as the first one mostly due to the fact that a vision of the business is lacking. I cannot stress the importance of having a vision that is driving you.
  • We had several meetings with our designer concerning the new logo. We finally decided that we want the logo to feel more newsworthy than corporatate. The logo that won the logo contest was not used at all – waste of money but it assisted to narrow our current view.
  • I had an interesting meeting with one of the guys working with the core analytics team. We discussed what we could do with all data we have collected. We share the common view that the difference between companies that become sucessful in todays online environment are the ones that use data in their decision process. Personally I want us to move towards a predictive analytics path and ultimately towards prescriptive analytics.
  • I created a handout document describing why and how one can increase the conversion for casino websites. We designed a new casino landing page according the recommendations. I must say it looks good lets now see how it performes.

How I work to increase conversion

On my current position a lot of people rely on me to increase conversion on their sites. Increasing conversion are in many cases not as straight forward one many think. If you have worked with it you might testify on the frustrating side of trying ideas that do not show any lift. On the other side I see a lot of successful cases of button placements that can increase conversion but those changes on a website or a page are few and you have to be a bit lucky to find them straight on. What many people don’t tell you is that when you have one successful test you most likely already have done a few unsuccessful tests.

My method for increasing onsite conversion is to work hand in hand with the business development of the site. My view is that sustainable online conversion can only be achieved when you understand the need of your users, and then applying this knowledge to the development process. Unfortunately this view is not commonly shared among online companies since many of them started small, grew and now is in a phase when growth is all about user knowledge tied to the business development – a phase that requires different skills than when you are a startup.

The other day I picked up this book and boy I was glad when my view was confirmed by the authors (The book is called: “Conversion Optimization; The art and science of converting prospects to customers”). This is the passage that elaborates on my view:

“The question is not whether you can achieve a double-digit conversion rate; the question is whether you are willing to do what it takes to achieve a double-digit conversion rate.

Expectations for conversion optimization results should be combined with realistic expectations regarding the amount of work required to achieve these results. Because many clients do not understand the investment and commitment required from their team, they give up too soon. Conversion rates won´t increase overnight. You must start by understanding the visitors you are trying to convert. You then have to create hypotheses about these visitors and why they interact the way they do with your website. Then you have to validate these hypotheses by making changes to your website and tracking the customer response. All of these steps require time resources and a financial commitment, which is why they must be done accurately and with great focus.”

So two keywords can be extracted, commitment and knowledge of the user intention. When you do a new conversion test you create a hypothesis, design your test, run it and confirm or deny your hypothesis. Thereafter you probably need to refine it and test again. This cycle might repeat itself a few times.

So far this process has worked well, with conversion increases of up to 40% but lately I am facing more and more obstacles, since the low hanging fruits have already been picked. Now I am trying to steer more and more towards the business development process adds the complexity since you also have to manage the expectations of various stake holders – a fun process but nontheless not as easy.

My advice to you is to inform your stake holders that quick results are actually not that quick in reality. Knowing what to test and doing it successfully in the long run demands a fair amount of deep user research and strong comittment. There is no way you can cheat on the users investigation step, since it is your fountain for testing. Remember to drag your stake holders into this since you need their long term comittment to be successful.

Good luck, and if you have questions dont hesitate to ask…

Why I think Amazon can increase their conversion

The other day I tried to make my first Amazon purchase but failed. The process of ordering was nothing but smooth and straight. I even struggled to figure out the price of the product I wanted which makes me wonder, am I a total weirdo? If I that have extensive Internet experience and have setup my own webshop, worked with usability and seen the most on the web have problem ordering then how many others are not in the same position with less experience. Amazon is one of the highest converting shopping sites out there making tons of cash but I wonder if this is not due to their strong brand recognition and other services.

The other day I heard they are selling 73 items per second and they have a conversion rate somewhere between 5-7% which is extremely high for an e-retailer which usually is around the 2% mark. Amazon though is really good at expanding their business model into areas that they will make money. For example today they announced that they would start selling movies on demand competing directly with Netflix.

To be honest I have always wondered why their site looks like 1999 in a time where we have extensive tools for web analytics, usability and AB testing. I know they have a good web analytics team and they do a lot of testing but from my point of view their pages are so cluttered that as a user I have big problems understanding what I should do next, which in all known cases is a conversion killer.

What I think is wrong and what they should do to change it

On the product page first of all I had a hard time finding the price. It is cluttered around text which is trying to convince you by reinforcing the good things. The add to basket button is far away from the price. I would like to see the price much clearer and closer to add to the basket button.

The up selling part on the page is a very clever element. I guess they get a bit more money from this.

Clicking the next button I get a page which trys uppselling again, athough the page is very cluttered and the next step is not that clear.

The payment page is a bit clearer but still not as clear s it could be.

All in all I think there could be some improvments but the question is why have they not done it? Or have they and not managed to improve conversion. All my experience tells me though that a better usability will increase conversion.


Why have they not tried a better usability/design?

Here are my my five cents on the above question:

  • Why change a model that works. The problem with this is that you don’t know your conversion roof, how high can it be?
  • Changing one page design might require you to change all other pages.
  • This might sound silly but the cluttered pages might make up selling easier.
  • Internal politics.

What they are world class in

So, all in all I think Amazon most likely knows their stuff very well but the issues I raised above are more or less best practice according to my opinion. Having that said let me give you my opinion on what they are world class at:

  • Up selling. In several steps they try to up sell items.
  • Understanding what users are looking at and getting more of that i.e. user reviews.
  • Behavioral targeting – displaying products based on your history.
  • Getting promotions to the right people.

How we increased the conversion by 40% on a casino landing page

I want to share with you one of our successful test we conducted in 2010 on the online casino market. I want to do this because I want to give something to the online gambling community, a community that as I have experienced it prefers to live in the dark and not share that much between each other. I also think that we in the casino market have to start listening to the customers much more and try to build sites that talk to the user needs.

If you are familiar with our company you will know that we have worked extensively with improving the conversion on several gambling sites both within casino and poker. To our disposal we have used almost all research methods that are available such as on site surveys, ab tests, external surveys and focus groups and of course web analytics. This research has culminated to the the creation of three profiles/personas which has been our guiding star to increase the conversion on a casino landing page.

How we started

We know that all traffic goes through one specific page, the landing page as we call it, which made it a logical for us to start at that point. After clearing the technical hurdles to do ab-testing we started by designing the first landing page without having the personas defined yet. Of course this was a failure. The conversion did not increase at all, on the contrary, it decreased. So we had to go back to the drawing table. Test number two did not show either a positive lift so we went back and asked ourselves why? By this time we had defined our three personas.

  1. The first persona  was the bonus junkies, people who are totally focused on the bonus and do not care much about anything else.
  2. The second persona was the game focused player. The one that liked a specific game and wanted to play just that.
  3. The third persona was the more general type that is just looking for a casino to play at.

We took these three personas and applied them to the design.

This is the original design…

…and this was the winning design where you have clickable tabs for each game type…

The picture below you can see how we thought when we applied the various personas to the design. Notice how the general feeling of the design is to convey a professionalism and seriosity something that is important for all profiles but a bit more important for the third persona type.

The result +40%

From the very start the new design outperformed the original by 40% in terms of depositing players. We could see that the tab functions was very popular.

By now you will probably ask yourself, will this work for all online casinos? Well to be honest I think so. My two strongest reasons are that:

  1. We see more or less the same user behavior on all casino sites we have worked with.
  2. Multiple independent surveys point in the same direction when it comes to the casino user profiles.

Various people within the web analytics business have preached about the importance of segmentation so I will not go into that discussion, but this test shows exactly how important segmentation is. Finding your segments is like unlocking the potential of your website. For you who have seen the movie Matrix it is like the character who plays the keyholder.

When does it not work?

I think the design itself will work independent where your traffic comes from. Of course the composition of the traffic and the user intention will determine how successful this design will be. Looking around at today´s landing pages I can say that I am not impressed at all. There are a few low hanging fruits there and the biggest of them probably the above segments.