As an SEO by trade, I regularly hear website owners say things like “I want to rank better for these keywords”, or “I want to get more organic traffic to my site”. While those are both great things to look at, they’re really kind of high up in the conversion funnel and aren’t directly indicative of success. At the end of the day what website owners really want is to make more money, right?
With the goal of making more money in mind, one of the first things you should do is to begin optimizing your conversion funnel (assuming of course that you have some existing traffic to work with). Better rankings and more traffic are great, but if you make your conversion funnel more effective before you pay for more traffic you’ll get a heck of a lot more bang for your buck down the road.
Conversion rate optimization, or CRO as it’s commonly called, is both an art and a science, and as such there really isn’t one correct way to go about doing it. If you’ve ever read about CRO you’ve probably hear things like “change the color of your buttons to red” or “add a VeriSign logo to your site”. While neither of those are necessarily bad suggestions, they might not be the right suggestions for your particular site and audience.
Different websites and different audiences respond differently to different things, which is why you need to TEST EVERYTHING. Button color and trust elements are great things to test, but again, there isn’t one right way to implement those things. So the real question is, what should you test?
While there are hundreds of possible tests you could run, I’ll give you 5 key things to look at that could potentially provide a huge boost in conversion rates.
1. Make your forms and/or your checkout process as short as possible. Fewer steps and fewer form fields = more conversions. I’ve never seen an instance where removing a field or shortening the checkout process didn’t result in an increase in conversions. This might be a tough one (I’ve had to fight tooth and nail to get a form field removed by a client), but when it comes to conversion optimization less is almost always more. Only ask for what you absolutely need right now…you can always ask for the rest later.
2. Don’t offer coupon codes, ever. If you have a field in your checkout process for a coupon code, the odds are incredibly high that people will see that and leave your site to go find a coupon code. If they don’t find one, or if they find one that doesn’t work, the odds of them abandoning their cart increase significantly. In addition, by offering coupon codes you lower the perceived value of your product, and run the risk that people (even your loyal customers) may only shop with you when they can find a coupon code. If you want to offer something, offer free shipping…it’s pretty much expected at this point anyway.
3. Don’t force people to sign-in or register before they purchase. Always, always give the option to checkout as a guest. When someone goes to checkout you don’t want a registration, you want a sale! Let people give you their money first, and then you can try and persuade them to register. Once they’ve paid you can let them know that they can save their purchase and get access to future deals by registering, and you can auto-populate the parts of the registration form for which you captured data during the checkout process.
Along these lines, I’ve found it handy to make Step 1 in the checkout process to provide a name and an email address, and then have them click Next or Go To Step 2 and have that trigger your system to save that name and email address into a database. This way, even if they abandon their cart in Step 2 or later, you can at least try and bring them back by sending a nice email (don’t, DON”T add them to your general email list…just send one follow-up email saying something like “You saw that you left a few items in your cart, and we wanted to offer you the chance to complete your purchase”, maybe with a free item or free expedited shipping added on to lure them back.)
4. Make sure your site loads FAST. If your site takes more than 2-3 seconds to load (5 seconds on mobile), you’re losing customers because of it. Studies have shown that for every tenth of a second improvement in page load speed, conversion rates increase 1%. If your site takes 5 seconds to load right now, and you cut that down to 2 seconds, you could potentially improve your conversion rate 20-30%, maybe more. I wrote a post previously on how to significantly improve your page load speed.
5. Provide multiple payment options. Customers want to pay how they want to pay, and by providing multiple payment options you can increase your conversion rate significantly. For example, if you’re not a well known site, people might be hesitant to give you their credit card information. But if you allow them to pay through PayPal or Google Wallet or Amazon Payments, brands they probably know and trust, you could capture a sale you might otherwise have missed out on.
6. BONUS – Make it absolutely crystal clear on every page, at every step in the process, what you want your visitor to be doing. Minimize distractions (especially on product pages), have clear calls-to-action, clear pricing…keep it simple. If you’ve never read the book Don’t Make Me Think, go read it! Yes, I know this is a very broad tip, but it encompasses the very heart and soul of conversion rate optimization.
Of course, keep in mind that CRO is never a one-and-done sort of thing. You should always, always be testing new things. Don’t ever assume that you’ve got things as good as they’re going to get!
Once you’ve at least started down this path and adopted a conversion focused mindset, all of your subsequent marketing efforts (be they PPC, SEO or otherwise) will yield more fruit than they otherwise could have.