A Look at Conversion Rate Optimization

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.

girl relaxing computer
In online marketing, there’s no such thing as quitting time.

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.

big hammer
Not literally, of course.

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.


SEO Tips: Optimizing Images

Not many people think about optimizing images for SEO purposes.

Which I can understand.

Images and I have not been friends. We’re slowly repairing our relationship though. SEO image optimization was unfortunately a technique I had to learn. Not difficult, but it did mean I would have to learn a lot when it comes to image editing. As someone who is eager to learn as much as possible, I decided to get over my fear of Photoshop and other image editing tools.

Which brings me to this particular post on images and how you can optimize them for web search.

SEO, Pictures and Images – Give them a name!

When optimizing images, every SEO person understands that you can get traffic through pictures and images. How does a search engine know how to direct this traffic? Yes, by using keywords. Which means naming your images. Those keywords are vital. A string of numbers and letters with .jpg or .png isn’t going to tell the dear search engines very much.

In naming your image, you’ll be picked up both through the image search and the regular text search (…is there another defining name for that? :/).

Don’t forget ALT tags!

Alternative text tags provide a description of the picture that’s being uploaded. So, for example, if you have a picture of a new blender you’re selling on an ecommerce site then you can easily have a short description (with relevant keywords).

Optimizing Images for SEO – Don’t forget about resizing!

Your image has now been named (shameless-self-promotion-lady-waving.jpg – something relevant to the topic of your content). Since page speed is a ranking factor, you don’t want your content to take a million years downloading a single image onto the user’s browser. Not only will Google take a disliking to this, but user may simply think “Well, feck it anyway” and simply click “Back”. Now you’re in a pickle, because it’s just contributed to your bounce rate!

NOTE: It’s also pretty crap for web accessibility, too.

So, make sure to scale the image to the size you actually want it to be (and please keep mobile in mind…). You may also want to reduce file size. Ultimately, the image has to download as quickly as possible and not be too big for the user’s screen. Hell, test it out on a bunch of devices if you feel like.

File type? That too?

GIF, JPEG and PNG are the three image file types generally used when it comes to SEO. GIFs are low-quality images. That’s why you’ll see them turn up in the form of simple images (icons and whatnot tend to be GIFs). They do, however, look rather horrible if used for bigger pictures with more complex colors. Yuck.

JPEG is often the standard for bigger pictures. For the most part, it is advisable to do your images in JPEG however PNG can also work as an alternative to GIF (and won’t degrade over time if it is constantly resaved). Unfortunately, PNGs are still rather big and therefore can affect page speed. It’s not an absolute tragedy if you use them, but I tend to stick to JPEGs and try to avoid GIFs when I can.

These were the first things I learned when it came to SEO image optimization. There always seems to be a fine line between the user and the search engine… As always, you sometimes have to please two rather fickle masters.