By Andreea Nastase, Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) specialist at Fasthosts
Every business wants its website to be effective. That can mean any number of things, such as getting people to sign up to something, providing contact details, making a call or – for ecommerce sites – making a purchase.
Businesses don’t just want visitors to a website, they want them to convert them into something more valuable: a subscriber, a lead or a customer. In a world where online activity has never been more important, this requires new thinking.
Enter the idea of conversion rate optimisation (CRO). Put simply, this is the process by which a website can be improved incrementally to help it achieve its primary goal more effectively. While it might sound like another bit of jargon to understand, it’s actually simple if you follow a basic three-step process.
- Know your customers
Firstly, anyone embarking on CRO needs to get into the mindset of their customers. All too often, small businesses focus on what they think is right for their web visitors, without ever even stopping to see if that’s correct. It’s vital to put personal views and prejudices to one side and study what people do on a site. This can uncover useful habits or problems, such as buttons not working, or that confusing pricing is putting off visitors.
- Create a hypothesis
Once this is clear, it’s important to create a hypothesis about a single change to the website that might improve the situation. This can be as simple as updating some wording or the colour of a button to make it clearer.
- Make the change
Finally, make the change and track the results. Do more people take the desired action? Do fewer? Importantly, let the change run for at least a week to get a full view of the impact – and consider A/B testing to compare results. Ideally, test the hypothesis for three to four weeks to avoid knee-jerk actions that might be wrong in the long run. At this point, you can analyse the outcomes and either keep the change you made or revert it before repeating the process.
By way of example, let’s consider a real case of a cruise company website. Its customers are primarily over 65. By understanding the needs and wants of this age group, the firm knew that they don’t often buy online. They want to speak to an agent to ask questions and gain trust before purchase. In fact, if they speak to someone, the booking rate increases. The website therefore has one conversion goal: to make a visitor call the company.
A reasonable hypothesis in this case was that adding a telephone number to every booking page, with a click-to-call button, would increase the number of calls made and result in higher booking rates. This is exactly what the company did and the number of calls increased by 360 per cent. What’s more, the increase in calls was measurable as the numbers used were all unique and traceable.
Of course, not every small business has the luxury of spending hours a day making changes to its website and tracking the outcome. With that in mind, while CRO is an ongoing process of testing and improving, there are some quick actions most people can take to set them on the right path.
Get a customer tracking tool
To understand customers and what they do on a website, invest in tools like hotjar. This is invaluable for collecting data, gathering user feedback and to see customer journeys so you can make informed hypotheses. Google Analytics is another good tool, which allows users to understand website performance.
Test, test, test
There’s no point in making hypotheses and implementing changes if you don’t test the outcomes. A simple way to manage this is Google Optimize, a free tool that allows small-scale changes and testing. It’s limited, but perfect for anyone considering getting going.
Always fix bugs
As a busy business owner, it’s easy to think that small bugs on your website don’t matter. But they do, and discovering and fixing them is vital. Not only do they frustrate visitors and reduce conversions but, collectively, they can also reduce trust in your brand.
When converting a visitor, you’re asking them to do something. If it’s not obvious why, explain it to them. For example, if you’re asking for an email address, tell them how it will be used and what benefit they will get.
Don’t overload pages
If a page is full of copy, images, fields, buttons and more, a visitor is unlikely to know what action to take. There are too many options. Make it clear what a visitor needs to do and guide them there in the way the page is set out. Also, keep in mind simple things, like calling out headers and only using red, which normally signifies danger, sparingly.
Learn and read
Becoming a CRO expert overnight isn’t going happen, especially if there’s a business to run. However, it’s always important to learn how to keep up with the competition and improve a website. A good place to start is the CXL Institute blog, which has all sorts of resources on digital marketing.
With that in mind, it’s also important to understand how CRO fits in with other marketing disciplines more widely. In fact, in many ways it ties them together by letting customers dictate how a brand should present itself.
For example, banking websites need to feel secure, while travel websites need to be dreamy or adventurous. This can inform an entire marketing approach, supporting UX, content strategies and more, all based on evidence of what customers are doing online.
CRO is becoming vitally important. By following the three-step principle and implementing some simple changes, small businesses can incrementally improve their websites, making them more efficient than ever.