Few marketing subjects are as discussed as conversion optimization. There are two main reasons for this, and the first is somewhat obvious: conversions are important. They’re what translate your traffic and visitors into paying customers who provide revenue to your business. The second reason is that despite this level of importance, conversions aren’t an exact science. There’s no magic formula for achieving a perfect conversion rate, and there’s often conflicting evidence about what works and what doesn’t.
So if there’s no set of effective conversion optimization tactics beyond the basic best practices, isn’t conversion optimization just guesswork? Yes and no. There are certain identifiable areas, or phases, of improvement that you’ll need to go through, but the specifics are a bit harder to direct. This is mostly due to the vast number of different industries, brands, and demographics out there—a compelling headline for one set of circumstances might fall flat for another.
With that in mind, I can tell you the five key phases of conversion optimization you’ll need to go through:
This should be a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people miss it. Include more calls to action throughout your site, and make them more prominent and more relevant for your readers. For example, if you’re attracting email signups, consider offering a signup box on the side or at the bottom of each of your pages. Consider including a specific callout in your blog posts occasionally. Consider creating a landing page for it, or even a mild popup requesting enrollment.
The trick here is not to go overboard. You want your CTAs to be seen, but there’s a fine line between “prominent” and “annoying.” Ditch the flashing lights, exclamation points, and other gimmicks, and focus on making your CTAs balanced.
You may think of your conversion as one-sided (your customers giving you something, like money or their information), but it’s actually an exchange. People are giving you something in return for something else, and if you want to maximize the number of times that exchange is committed, you have to maximize the value of that exchange for your users. That means presenting a better deal.
There are two ways to do this. The first is easy, but less rewarding: offer something objectively better, like an eBook instead of a whitepaper, or a two-pack instead of a single item. The second is trickier: take what you already have and present it in a more compelling way. This includes showing more visuals of the offer, displaying more reviews and testimonials, optimizing your headline copy, and listing better benefits. You can even add a sense of urgency to make your offer more immediately compelling.
All users crave simplicity. The moment they feel inconvenienced or confused, they’re going to abandon you. Prevent this by making the process as simple as possible. There are several ways to do this.
First, reduce the number of fields you request. Only ask for the most pertinent, necessary information—the rest is just a hassle. Second, make the process literally fast by reducing loading times, improving checkout speeds, and otherwise concluding the transaction as quickly as possible. Third, accept as many alternative payment methods as possible and offer flexible terms for those with unusual needs or requests. It’s also helpful to include a phone number or live chat box, to immediately help anyone who might be having trouble with the process (it also demonstrates trustworthiness).
With all these factors in place, your next job should be optimizing the audience. When you first start out, it’s natural to opt for quantity; after all, more visitors means more chances to convert and more revenue flowing in, right?
This isn’t necessarily the case. Extra visitors won’t do much harm to your strategy, but your efforts are better spent pursuing visitors who already have a predisposition to convert. You can maximize your chances of attracting these types by producing and syndicating content tailored toward your target demographics late in the buy cycle, and by funneling users to targeted landing pages based on known interests or previous habits.
The final phase is the most important, and it should be used as a means of revisiting each former phase. Here, your responsibility is to experiment. Try something new, such as a headline, a new button, a new offer, a new target audience, and so on—it doesn’t matter, as long as it has the potential to bring more conversions. Put it to the test; if it succeeds, keep it. If it fails, toss it. Only through this process will you be able to improve your conversion rate on a consistent and recurring basis.
With the exception of the fifth and most important phase, all these phases are mere starting points. I’ve given you the details about why they’re important, how you can learn from them, and some pointers on how to be effective, but without foreknowledge of your specific business and customers, I can’t make any concrete recommendations that are guaranteed to work. The flip side is, if you pay attention to all these areas, commit yourself to making gradual tweaks and improvements over time, and always work with your audience in mind, I can guarantee you some level of success.