Too many webmasters approach website creation and management from a single perspective. If something looks good, they assume that it’s as attractive and as profitable as it’s ever going to be.
But savvy marketers know that this isn’t the case. Truly effective website performance can only come from the measurement of set metrics and experimentation to determine which conditions and variables lead to the strongest website results. By continually measuring and testing using the conversion rate optimization (CRO) process described below, you can boost on-site engagement and overall site profits significantly with just a few tweaks.
Step #1 – Explore your site’s current performance
Before you can begin any CRO campaign, you need to understand how your site is currently performing.
Suppose you want to increase the number of sales that occur from a given sales page on your website. You aren’t trying to boost traffic necessarily – just to increase the number of people who are already on your site who make the leap from reader to buyer.
While you can run a simple calculation – dividing the number of sales you make over a set period by the number of visitors your page receives in the same time – you’ll find the process much easier to manage with the use of Google Analytics or a similar web data measurement system. Use Google Analytics to create a “Goal” that tracks your site’s current performance before moving on to the next step.
Step #2 – Identify CRO test variables
The process of conversion rate optimization involves serving up different page variations in order to measure objectively which version will be more successful. There are two protocols for doing so:
A/B split testing, in which a single on-site variable has been changed, and
Multivariate testing, in which several variables are compared at once.
As an example, an A/B split test might involve changing the wording of your sales page headline in order to test its efficacy. In a multivariate test, different combinations of headline text, color, size and position could all be tested at once. If you’re new to the process of split testing, stick with the easier-to-manage A/B protocol and use it to test any of the following site elements (among others):
Site headline wording and/or appearance
Product image placement and design
Calls to action
Product or sales offers
Size, placement and design of “Add to Cart” buttons
While you can test smaller site features (for example, your site’s body text font), begin by testing the variables that are likely to have the biggest possible effect on your overall conversion rate.
Step #3 – Develop any necessary experimental test pages
Once you’ve decided on a test variable, create any necessary experimental pages before setting up and running your CRO split test.
Following with our example above, if you were to create an A/B split test that measured the performance of different headline wording options, you’d need the URLs of two pages:
Your original page URL
The URL of a live test page featuring your experimental headline wording
Depending on the program you use to carry out your split test, you may also need the site URL that demonstrates a conversion has taken place. In the case of product sales, this will likely be the “thank you” page that visitors reach upon completing a sale.
Step #4 – Run A/B or multivariate split tests
After gathering all of this information, you’ll need to load it into a program that will automatically serve up either your original page or your test page at random to visitors and record the number of conversions that stem from each variation.
For most webmasters, the easiest way to run split tests is with the use of Google Analytics’ “Content Experiments” tool (formerly, the Google Website Optimizer). Not only is this tool free to use, it makes launching a new split test as easy as filling out a few quick forms and adding a small snippet of code to your website. The tool also ties directly to the Analytics “Goals” created earlier, giving you a richer data set to work with when it comes to improving your site’s conversion rates.
Step #5 – Select a winner and launch a new test
Upon completing the steps above, you’ll be able to launch your split test and start generating data immediately. While this information can be exciting to watch, be sure to wait until Google has determined a statistically significant winner before making changes to your site based on this variable conversion data.
Then, as soon as you’ve ended one test, make it a point to start another right away. There are hundreds of thousands of different combinations of variables that can be tested on any given website. Don’t miss out on the one that could make all the difference in your business’s bottom line by running one test and then giving up on the power of conversion rate optimization!