In our fourth episode of WebStrategiesLive, we discussed how and why testing your website is the most important thing you're probably not doing.
This is a high level introduction to conversion rate optimization, or CRO.
Watch the broadcast below.
Below is a transcript of our broadcast. It’s been edited for readability, and if you’re interested in a certain part, you can use the time stamps above to skip right to that section in the video.
Chris: Hello everyone and welcome to Web Strategies Live, the broadcast for the modern marketer and business owner where we share with you how to generate leads and sales online.
Today's topic is Conversion Rate Optimization, also known as CRO, also known as testing on your website. Essentially what we're talking about here is, your website is converting at a certain percentage, and a certain percent of people who come to the web site turn into leads. We want to increase the percentage of people who do that thing that your website is built to do, okay? And there's a process that you go through to do that and a lot of things that you should avoid so that you can get a result that actually makes an impact.
So, here's a breakdown of what we’ll cover today.
- Who should test
- The businesses that should test
- Under what circumstances you should be testing to improve your website performance
- The types of things that go on your website that you should test
- The types of things on your website that you might be compelled to test but you really shouldn't test
- The process that we've developed, a proven process that you can use either by yourself or through an agency to get better performance on your website
So, what is testing and why are we doing this? This is nothing new, testing has been around for a very long time in the online space, and there have been some really nifty tools that have come around to help you do this.
Now, a good healthy website could be increasing its traffic 20% year over year. A website that's really rocking it may have triple digit growth year over year. You may see 100% increase in traffic year over year, if you're marketing is really hitting the nail on the head. And that's really the most you can expect out of just organic website growth. But what if you want more than that? Or what if you can't rely on your traffic increasing because you've hit some kind of saturation point? That’s where testing can come into play.
Testing has the ability to lift the rate at which somebody takes an action by 10, 20, 30%, or even 100% or 200%, right? So, your traffic could be flat lined. You could have exactly the same number of visitors in 2017 as you did in 2016. But of all the sudden your conversion rate, through testing, has moved from 2% to 4%. You just doubled your leads.
Who should be testing? And what are the best case scenarios to test? What it really boils down to is that you need one thing to be happening to do this- that's volume. That can be volume terms of traffic, maybe one, two, three thousand visitors over just a few day period, and maybe you're in five digit volume in a month, or you're generating a good number of leads from your website. You can run a test on that, and you're going to get to a pretty good sample size in a good enough period of time to make it worth your while.
If you haven't gotten to the point where you have a steady stream of conversions or outcomes happening on your site, testing is probably not the most important thing you should be doing. It should be figuring out why isn't anybody buying from me online? Why isn't anyone filling out the form? Now, you can still go through the process that we're going to talk about a little bit later in the episode, to fix that. So, if that's your situation, set it aside for now and focus on the bigger problem which is actually trying to get real leads on your site.
What is worth testing? There's a really cool approach that gives a straightforward answer to this, and it's called the PIE approach. And it stands for potential, impact and ease.
- Potential- you only test things that, if that experiment works, you're going to make more money. If you're talking about testing home page color, or you're testing kind of just moving some things around on the page, and you can reduce bounce rate, okay. That's nice but if you're a small business and you need to make money right now and you rely on these leads to keep the business going, you only want to test something that's going to have the potential to really lift the business. Are you testing something that really matters?
- Impact- if this test works out is my business going to actually be better for it in a real dollars and cents type of way?
- Ease- is this something you can realistically do or are you talking about a redesign of the entire shopping cart which is going to take months and could cost $20,000. Not so easy, right?
My philosophy is, it's better to move fast with this stuff and try to do more things, than it is to be slow and methodical about it and then six months goes by and maybe you've only run one test or you're still waiting to launch your first test.
Phil: It's a really good point because it's easy to get caught up in all the mechanics and everything that you could potentially do. But, we've seen in a number of the examples that we've done, some of the really simple experiments have yielded really great results. So, at that moment where you're thinking this is really complicated, start thinking about how you can simplify your experiment.
Chris: Some of the things that are worth testing are:
- Your lead generation page, the page where people are most likely to contact you.
- Product page configuration if you're an e-commerce site, you can test the different layout of the product page.
- Shopping cart if you have the time and resources because shopping carts get double digit abandonment. If it passes the ease test, that would be worth checking out.
- The form itself. If you have a form that's present on different pages you can say, what if we asked for different information? Or what if we didn't ask for so much information? What if we added some extra text on the form to make people more comfortable with filling it out?
How about some of the things that are not worth testing?
- A video is non-transactional in most cases. So, how are we really going to measure if having a video drives the user engagement we're looking for and ends up ultimately affecting the bottom line?
- It oftentimes comes down to a home page because a lot of small businesses focus on their home page so much even though many organizations see less than 50% of their traffic lands on their home page first.
- Changing the formats- should you go to like an infinite scroll or go to a single page? Those kinds of major structural changes which often impact the home page a lot. Again, it's a type of thing that's much more difficult to execute, much more difficult to measure the impact. And if we can focus on something that's very transactional in nature such as a user fills out a form to get a free trial or the user fills out a form to register, or to request a download of something or to request a demo of some sort, depending on the business type. That's a transactional experience and we can usually control that in a way that makes it kind of meaningful and measurable for us as marketers.
Chris: Why is it so important to have a very clear transactional moment of truth that someone either does or doesn't do? You've got to collect more data so that you can confidently say that we are better off because we have this new version of the page. We want to run something that is high impact, high volume and we'll know pretty quickly whether or not it's working.
First thing that you should go after is the most single important thing that you want people to do on your site. Test that and frankly, you can only test that forever. You can just always continue to test that one page, that landing page, that form and keep finding ways to make it better a process that we're going to talk through in just a second.
Phil: We've got an example here on the screen that we want to walk through.
Chris: Let's go through the process here and this is really the outcome, the result that we've got to and then we'll share the data with you which is pretty cool. The first thing that you need to do, whenever you're going through a test on your website is, you've got to start by defining the problem. Being very clear about what you think is not working and why you think it's not working.
So, the theory could be, it starts with a data point which is, let's say our form converts at 5%. And we think that could be better. 95% of people are not filling out that form, we want to figure out why, we want to make it better. And this such an important point because so many people get this wrong. Conversion optimization is a messaging challenge and a psychological challenge. It is rarely a design challenge. Most people want to jump in and say the reason people aren't converting is our page looks bad or look it's old, it just doesn't look good, and if we had a better looking page, people are going to convert better. Reality check, that's rarely the case. Yes, design can be an inhibitor and design can be improved and design can improve conversion rate. But most of the time it's a messaging problem.
So, you want to start with messaging and then build design around that. This example was a client that has lead generation on their site. They're a service company and they have dozens of people a week fill out their form. And in their peak season, because they're seasonal, they have 30 or 40 people fill out this form. So, it's a really important form.
Here was version A. Version A was very text heavy. So, an image here, a little form here and it's the same form that was everywhere else on the site. Now, the thing that was interesting about this page is, it was actually talking about two different service levels. And it was communicating all that through this type of layout which we thought was suboptimal especially when we visited some competitors and we saw how they were doing it.
Now, I don't ever recommend that you just go look at your competitor and you try and copy what they're doing because your competitor is solving for their problems and you don't want to make them your problems.
Phil: Not only that, but you don't know if what they're doing is working either.
Chris: Absolutely. However, having said that, your potential customers look at you in the context of your competitors. In other words, if they're shopping around, they're going to look at you and then they're going to look at a couple other people who are showing up in the search results and they're going to look at them side by side and say, which one do I want to approach.
So, we went out and identified a couple other competitors when we did one of our primary keyword searches that dropped people on this page. The next thing that we did is we ran some user tests. With a user test you get a person to sit down at a computer and you have them complete a task on a series of websites and you have them their rate the experience, and you're looking over their shoulder, or there are services like usertesting.com. You can pay people to go and do this for you, virtually. And you have them just narrate their experience.
So, what we did in that test is we took competitor A, competitor B and then us. And we said, you're looking for a quote in your area and you see these three sites. We don't tell them who we are affiliated with we just say go use them and do it for each site and then narrate what your process was. You don't have to have too many, I think we probably did five and then we watched three, and then it was very clear what's going on. You'll learn very quickly in any user tests something that you can improve on your site for conversion.
We collected that data, that's a qualitative data. We start with the quantitative data 5% conversion rate and we know this is a popular page. We mixed it in with some qualitative information from running these user tests, and then we said okay, we've heard the feedback, we know which competitors people like and why. How they're presenting their solution and how that's presented and what the messaging is there. Let's now create the best version of all of those pages. And that's what we did here.
Now in this case again, remember we were presenting two different options a standard and a premium level offering. And what we found here is that, this was so text heavy and the design was trying to explain the differences using just words but nothing visual to support the words.
Phil: It was difficult to comprehend the difference between the two.
Chris: So we came up with this page, and what this is essentially a checklist. We added some more information that people were mentioning in the test. We realized we didn't have it here and we broke it out into more of a list format and then we use this checkbox type approach, right? So, the standard package didn't have all the whistles and the premium one did. The call to action was up here. It was actually higher on the page than the old version, and it was lower on the page in the new version, but Phil, what did we end up getting, do you remember the percentage increase?
Chris: It was around 40% lift, right? So, think about that, 40% to 80% of your leads are coming into this and all of a sudden you can increase by 40%, right? That's huge. And this process from start to finish was only a couple months, right? But it took listening to the customer, running people through some experiments, listening, getting feedback, looking at the competitive marketplace to see what our potential customers might see and then creating the best version of all of those, right? And then the best part was that we ran it through a testing tool so that we could get a definitive result to say that this one was better.
Now again, the tool that we used here was Google Analytics. Google analytics has a free testing tool. All you need to do is have your web developer create another page on your website that represents the new version. And maybe that page isn't linked to from anywhere else on the site. But you go into this tool you say, here's my current page, the new testing pages version two and then the tool will just separate the traffic between those two. We told the tool that someone clicking this red button is the action we want them to take and the tool does the rest. It separates out the traffic, it runs its statistical analysis, and it will tell you if over time you created a winner or not.
Phil: If you want to set this up in Google Analytics, it's pretty straightforward. Under the behavior menu on the left hand side, you go to experiments. And if you haven't yet set one up, you just walk through the steps and then you click what statistical significance you want to set your test at. So, if you want a 90% confidence level, you'll select that and then the test will run for as long as it needs to run in order to achieve that confidence level.
This test here, you can see it came out with a really clear winner in the end. The new page was the pretty clear winner with 33% better results over this period of time. So, this is a free and really easy way to get all of the data you need an order to confidently run these types of tests.
Chris: In this example, the gross number of conversions was lower because there was a lower grouping of people who got sent to the new version. But a 33% increase. And this was in a down season for this particular client, its 15 days' worth of data and you see how many total conversions that there were between the two, right? It was 300. So, if you're generating 1000 conversions a month on your site, and you can just through one new page on your site find that you can lift conversions 33%. Now, you have over 1,300 conversions coming off of that page.
This is another example for a client of ours who is generating a lot of leads on a regular basis. If all we did was obsess over this one page and keep running tests on it, we could increase results year over year into the triple digits in terms of lead generation and that's essentially what we did, right? Now, traffic was also going up at the same time but traffic could have been flat and we could have doubled sales just off that process alone, right? And that's why testing is so absolutely powerful and why you should be doing it.
Chris: Thanks everyone again for attending, we'll be live again in three weeks.
Phil: If you want to get notified of when the next Web Strategies live episode will be, go to our website webstrategiesinc.com scroll down to the bottom and make sure you subscribe, and you'll definitely get notified when we do this again in a couple weeks.
Chris: If you have any other questions, feel free to shoot me an email firstname.lastname@example.org.