I’ve wanted to do an examination of conversion rate optimization (CRO) for a while now. When I started out, it was a big, scary term that seemed far too complex for me. As a fledgling affiliate marketer (or should we say apprentice?) I soon learned that is was utterly vital and, in some cases, more important than the volume of traffic that websites receive.
Yes, that might seem a bit mad especially if you’re starting out digital marketing. But remember…
…conversion rate optimization is what brings in the cash!
What’s the point of an ecommerce or affiliate marketing site if you are not focusing on converting the users? You might as well set up a shop and completely abandon your customer service skills, scowling at anyone who walks through the door. Which brings me to my next point…
Why is conversion rate optimization important?
This is a question that is thrown around the search engines. Conversion rate optimization obviously means something if there is so much already written about it. Yet how many digital marketers actually understand it? It could entirely depend on what you’re focusing on. Some of us take on clients who want as much traffic as possible and our focus stops there. Yet when you are concentrated on the entire success of a website and its conversions, it becomes important!
The sad truth is that apparently few marketing teams seem to consider conversion seriously (and sometimes, we are instructed to only work on driving traffic, while CRO remains an afterthought). Once the site has phenomenal amounts of traffic, they’ll sit back and think their job is done. I suppose a part of the job is done, if you’re going to be nitpicky or lazy about it.
Web traffic volume vs. conversion rate optimization
Web traffic volume is the amount of traffic your site receives (a hundred million, billion views etc.) and conversion rate optimization is the fine art of getting those users to click on your link, buy your product/service, sign that petition or order an inhuman amount of cake or whatever KPI you’re gunning for.
Think of it this way: traffic is simply exposure. Once you have exposed yourself (no, not like that, unless you’re AdultFriendFinder), you need to sell. Sell, sell, sell. And there are a million ways to do it.
So how do I sell myself?
You’ve used the right keywords. Your website is nice and user friendly, it’s siloed to the brim, the customers are happily wandering around the shop. Some are making sounds like, “Mmm… That looks nice” and “George, George, we simply MUST have that for our next box social…” (apparently my imaginary users are still stuck in the 1950s). Others might be a bit skeptical and wondering if they should just leave. Now’s the time to hit them.
I’ll give you an example from affiliate marketing: I’ve SEO’d my site to the highest possible standards. There are hundreds of users browsing every day. People are interested and some stay on the page for a rather long time. They’re clearly reading and clicking on the relevant links. However, I want to get them to click affiliate links. In a lot of cases, I also want them to sign up to the product so I can get money. This is the process that gave birth to the convoluted term conversion rate optimization.
I can write my content in a way that it links to the biggest and best products that I’m selling. And that’s it, really. That’s what conversion rate optimization is in a nutshell. You’ve got the customers, now start selling to them.
Conversion rate optimization and the art of selling
Conversion rate optimization techniques can be subtle, they can be informative, they can be in-your-face and they can be downright obnoxious. Different techniques work for different industries and types of customer. We are pretty much back to the traditional method of selling since we’ve done all that work to get the user this far. So, consider these strategies:
- The CTA: The Call To Action gives the person that little, tiny human nudge which may further convince the user to click that precious link and fill your piggy bank. You can of course use a banner, but in my own efforts I’ve found a text-based CTA tends to work better (banner blindness, anyone?).
- Lead flows are essentially pop-ups and while they may seem obnoxious, they can work well in some cases. This is usually if they are relevant to the content on your site. It makes sense: Old Auntie Mildred isn’t going to be interested in an anti-wrinkle cream if she’s searching for a cheaper brand of cat food (which I can sympathize with… being a cat person myself).
- Try out real-time messaging on high-converting pages: if a user spends more than a certain amount of time on a page, offer them real-time help and advice. It’s the equivalent of going up to someone in a shop with a big smile and asking, “Hi, how can I help you?”
Consider your website copy as well. Conversion rate optimization involves persuading your users. Of course, this depends on the tone of your website’s content to begin with. If you’re running a review site, you may want to present yourself as a notable authority on the subject. So, your content may have to have a couple of pros and cons (even cons of your best product). This gives it more authenticity.
CRO was something I started from the beginning, even before I actually knew what I was doing (just writing dating articles for a blog). Some people do it in their sleep without even really being aware of it. But remember: awareness of CRO means you can sell your products effectively.