As someone who spends her professional life focused on how users experience websites, I’ve encountered a number of articles that explain the value of conversion rate optimization (CRO) from the designers point of view. And rightly so. After all, the goal of many of our projects is to get your users to engage with your site in a way that is measurable and deepens their connection with your brand.
That’s a great goal.
But oftentimes, these articles are too dense, too high-level, and ultimately too ineffective. They aren’t practical. They focus too much on the biggest things conversion rate optimization can accomplish and forget to address the basic steps.
I want to discuss the basics.
I want to give you five actionable items that can get you on your way to benefitting from conversion rate optimization.
- Make sure your marketing plan is crystal clear
You have great content. You have a beautifully designed website. Now how will you make the two fit together? In some web design processes, the look and feel of the site is created first, and then the content is retrofitted to fit that look. With conversion rate optimization, though, that doesn’t work. You want to make sure you’re designing the site around the content, because it is the content that will drive the user to engage.
Similarly, make sure you have the resources available to successfully execute your marketing plan. If your plan relies on publishing daily blog posts to drive new readers and potential customers to your site, yet you only have one employee who can commit two hours per week to blog posts, your marketing plan is going to fail. Before finalizing your plan, make sure you understand what content is/will be available to you and how you can utilize it. From there, make sure you have the infrastructure in place to support your goals.
- Use best practices that work best for you
At Duo I’ve encountered this scenario more times than I can remember throughout my career. A client comes to a meeting and says:
“I’ve seen that ______ is considered a best practice. Shouldn’t we do that on our site, too?"
My response is always:
“In theory, it would be great to implement _____. But does that make the most sense for your business?"
Not every best practice makes sense for your company. Let’s say you read that if a business hosts a webinar, a best practice is to ask for registrant’s home address so you can send them follow-up marketing material. That is useful if your business is large enough to have relevant post-webinar content to send. But what if you don’t? If you don’t have anything to send registrants, do you really need their addresses?
Beyond that practical element, you also need to consider what other actions you’ve asked of the registrants in the past. If you’ve never asked visitors for more than a “Like” on Facebook, then it will likely be jarring to suddenly be asked for such personal information. I would recommend a more gradual shift when it comes to requesting information — perhaps you could ask for an email address first.
Whenever you test the waters and change something with your site, be it requested visitor information or a change to your site's font, you want to be gradual. Don’t go from having one conversion point on a page to six. If you’re changing six things at once, it will be hard to track what’s successful.
Lastly, let your design standards be your guide. You chose your brand colors and style for a reason. Just because you may hear that orange buttons receive more clicks than any other color doesn’t mean you should overhaul your website to have all orange buttons, particularly if orange isn’t part of your color palette. Your branding needs to feel consistent. Don’t compromise that for a few extra clicks.
- Create a backlogI frequently work with clients who routinely email me and say, “Oh, I just saw this new feature on a website, let’s make sure we include that in our new redesigned site before we go live.” We like that type of enthusiasm from our clients; the problem with how it’s presented, though, is it makes this new feature sound like it should be our most important priority. We already agreed with the client on three other aspects that were highly prioritized, so what should we work on? A backlog helps solve this problem.
A backlog, in essence, is a to-do list for your project. Each entry on the list can be categorized by its priority in the grand scheme of the overall project, as well as who is responsible for it, how long it will take and what it’s impact will be. You can include other categories as well, but the point is it gives structure to the project. It makes it possible for everyone involved to see what the highest priorities are and how much effort will be required to complete each task. That, then, makes it easier to create a roadmap for the project.
- Grab the low-hanging fruit
Conversion rate optimization does not necessarily require major changes. You can use data to make subtle changes that could ultimately have a big impact on your conversion numbers. Run small A/B tests for items that can easily be changed, like font size or the placement of a button. If you have a lull in work, take a look at your backlog and see if there are any items that don’t take much effort to complete. I know it’s not sexy or exciting, but little tweaks like these easily can make a big difference.
- Don’t be discouraged by a slow start
Remember that until your site is launched, you can’t predict how your users are going to behave. If you launch your site and your numbers plummet, don’t panic. That’s the beauty of conversion rate optimization — figure out what happened and switch it up. Maybe you need a homepage font that is more legible. Maybe your numbers are influenced by something outside the scope of your project. Perhaps your company just hired a new social media manager who changed strategies and is not drawing in as many social viewers as you previously had.