Websites aren’t a “set it and forget it” marketing tactic. After you launch, you should be continuously working to increase your website’s performance.
Conversion optimization provides you with a framework to make strategic site improvements and measure their impact.
“Really, all conversion optimization is is applying the scientific method to marketing,” says Web Strategist Adam Kinsella. “More or less, you need to choose what you want to optimize, make a hypothesis based on what your observation is, set an experiment in place where you can have some sort of boundaries around what you are modifying or changing and then have a way to measure that initial hypothesis.”
By following this process, you can eliminate some of the guesswork about the effectiveness of the changes you make.
“The benefit of conversion optimization is giving yourself a framework to make changes and decisions confidently,” Adam says. “You’re not guessing, ‘Oh, I changed the copy on this page, and I think more people made some choice based on that.’ You give yourself a rigid framework where you can clearly say, ‘Yes, I made a change, and it had X result.’”
The Metrics of Conversion Optimization
Generally, conversion optimization experiments are focused on impacting one of two metrics: visit-to-lead conversion rate and submission rate.
Visit-to-lead conversion rate is typically viewed at the sitewide level, with the goal of increasing the number of visitors who convert into qualified leads by submitting a form or interacting with a chatbot.
Submission rate tends to be analyzed more on an individual page basis. For example, you might be trying to optimize the submission rate on a high-intent landing page.
“You could go down to specific web metrics too, but you need there to be a concrete action that you’re basing your measurement off on,” Adam says. “You could potentially try to reduce the bounce rate on your homepage by doing a conversion optimization test, but you don’t have that concrete decision that someone made to base the results on.”
The Method of Conversion Optimization
The steps of conversion optimization are very similar to the steps of the scientific method.
1. Assessment or Audit
Start by doing a conversion optimization audit from a top-level perspective, identifying potential opportunities for improvement.
“Comb through the website compiling a list of like 20 or 30 things you think you could change where you’re seeing some discrepancies in the outcomes that you’re expecting for that page,” Adam says. “Once you have that list of 20 to 30, whittle it down to 2 to three things that you’re going to create a hypothesis for.”
For example, say after going through your website, you’ve identified a landing page that you want to improve the conversion rate for. You’ll look over the page examining the layout, images, copy, form, buttons and whatever else is on the page to hypothesize what changes you could make to positively impact the conversion rate.
You might notice that the form on that page extends pretty far down the page. So, you might develop the hypothesis that “If we bring the form fully above the fold, it will increase the landing page’s conversion rate.”
2. Plan your experiment
Once you know what you’re testing, you need to plan how you’re going to experiment. First off, you’ll need to collect historical data to establish a performance baseline that you can measure against. Then you can determine what metrics you’ll use to measure success, set a quantifiable goal and define your timeframe.
After that, you’ll need to create any necessary assets for your experiment and set up tracking that will enable you to report on your efforts.
For instance, after deciding you’re going to try improving a landing page’s performance by moving the form above the fold, you’ll need to collect the page’s performance data from the past six months to set your baseline. Then you should modify your hypothesis with a realistic quantifiable goal, like “If we bring the form fully above the fold, it will increase the landing page’s conversion rate by 3%.”
Next, you’ll need to make sure tracking is properly set up on that page to report on conversions and form submissions. Finally, you’ll need to create a new page template that has the form above the fold, potentially create a shorter variation of the form and make any variations to the copy and visuals that the new template requires.
3. Implement your experiment
Once you have a fully developed plan for your experiment and have prepared everything you need to run and report on it, you can put your conversion optimization process in motion.
This is going to look different depending on what you’re hoping to accomplish. For the landing page example, this step would involve pushing the new version of the page with the form above the fold live. However, you could also run an A/B test or multivariate test if you want to compare multiple changes instead of just a before and after.
4. Analyze results
Look at how your KPIs, LPIs and TPIs have performed since you made the change.
If your website doesn’t have a ton of traffic, you might not get statistically significant results during your pre-defined timeframe, but that shouldn’t lead you to leave the experiment running indefinitely.
Instead, compare the data you have collected to your control and determine your experiment’s success based on the margin of improvement.
“The baseline is ‘does it perform better than your control?’ Is the change you made better than what you had prior to the change?” Adam says. “Based on how wide that margin is, you need to infer some things. If it’s really small and it was an A/B test you implemented on a BoFu conversion point, you could say ‘theoretically, they would have converted on either one of these and since only one additional person converted on variation B, I’m going to say this didn’t have any impact, despite the fact that we saw some data increase.”
For the landing page experiment, submission rate is the main KPI, but you’d also look at the number of page visitors, the number of submissions and the number of leads created as LPIs.
5. Begin next experiment
After you’ve analyzed the results of your experiment, you need to act upon the conclusion you drew and move on to the next opportunity for conversion optimization.
If you saw a positive impact, try expanding your experiment to other areas of your website and see if you can replicate the results. If your experiment didn’t work out, then you can return to your initial broader list of ideas to find another way to optimize your desired metric.
“This is a good, controlled way to test something before making a larger-scale change,” Adam says.
So, if the landing page layout change of moving the form above the fold effectively improved the page’s conversion rate, then you’d implement it on other landing pages and see if you can replicate the results on the wider side. If it didn’t work, then you’d try to find another way to improve that landing page’s performance, like maybe A/B testing some copy variations.
“Conversion optimization needs to be a repeatable process that you’re continually monitoring the data looking for ways to improve the website,” Adam says.
Sometimes your results will be inconclusive, but you shouldn’t let that stall your website improvement efforts. You don’t want to end up in a situation where you’ve been waiting a year to get conclusive results from your conversion optimization experiment and have made no changes to your site in that time.
Quinn is a writer and copyeditor whose work ranges from journalism to travel writing to inbound marketing content.