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Tuesday, Mar. 2, 2010 at 1:30 pm

Getting Started With Conversion Rate Optimization: Our Way

By Melissa Burdon
March 2nd, 2010

Many Grok readers have been curious about our online marketing optimization services and what kind of process to expect when working with us.  I’ll use some work we’ve done with a client to show you some basic things you should be looking at when optimizing and testing your site. A client of ours, Universal Accounting, offers successful bookkeeping courses to those who are looking to start their own accounting and bookkeeping businesses.

We started by looking at this client’s traffic sources and separating them into early, middle and late stage buyers.  None of this client’s traffic is truly “late stage” because very little traffic actually uses their brand or specific course names in their search to get to their site.

Their traffic is mostly in the early, middle and middle/late stage buckets.  Their middle/late stage visitors come to their site from search terms such as “starting a bookkeeping business” and “how to start a bookkeeping business.”  The homepage is the top landing page these types of visitors land on.

We start our continuous improvement process by making recommendations to convert more of their late stage traffic.  This is where the fun begins because we get to think and act like these types of visitors in order to understand what their motivations and needs are.  With this, we assess whether the site does a good job of moving the visitors through the information towards giving them the answers to their questions and persuading them to take macro-conversion action.

homepage-originalIf you were searching “how to start a bookkeeping business,” what content would speak to this need if you landed on the homepage? Their original homepage offered no call to action in the active window to speak directly to this visitor.  They had some strong headlines and a small link, “start here,” that blended in to the headline bar.

OnTarget-recommendationThis is the recommendation (click screenshot to enlarge) we gave them through our software.

Start Accounting Bus-HomepageAfter some interaction with this client, they came up with two variations of buttons to test against the original (click screenshots to enlarge). The conversion point of this very simple test was to move more visitors to the next page in the scent trail–in other words, to move them forward in their buying process.

LearnhowtostartIt was found that both variations with buttons performed better than the original.  The version that calls out “Start your own accounting business now” had less success than the “Learn how to start your accounting business.”  This is because the majority of traffic coming to this page is not yet ready to just get started, they first want to “learn how” before they start their business.

What can you take from this example? Start by determining who your late stage traffic is. Look at their keywords: what are they searching for and what are they looking to accomplish when they arrive at your site?  Are you featuring a strong call to action (mapped to a buying stage) that will help this visitor move forward in their buying process? Treat each click independently and help your visitor move through one revolving door to the next.

Have you tested anything similar recently? We would love to hear about your experiences.

Add Your Comments

Comments (102)

  1. Thanks Melissa. It’s nice to read such a valuable article on bookkeeping. It will help a lot. Looking forward to see some great article from you.

  2. Thanks for sharing these great tips. It’s really helpful. It is really important to know what your customers want and then build from there. Keep up the good work!

  3. The insights on optimizing and testing a site is a great one. We should submit to what the people needs as to answer their demands.

  4. Thanks for the thorough disection of the components of conversion marketing and traffic source stages…very informative

  5. with google becoming more and more personalized the era of Rankings is gone, we will have to rely heavily on SMO and ROI and eyeball conversions will become the key

  6. i would agree with what vicky said about the PR era gone, we would greatly rely on ROI and SMO

  7. I use clicktail, it helps me know what is happening on my site and its heatmaps and videos show me i can increase my conversions

  8. Keep my customers moving through my site. Good advice, and I will recheck my site to make sure I’m doing that.

    Thank you!

  9. Thanks for the thoughtful post. I just met with a client (sells software) about how to increase conversions. Do you ever use Crazy Egg?

  10. Crazy Egg shows visitor heatmaps – makes it really easy to refine the design of a landing page – conversion page. Thanks for writing!

  11. Many offline business have started to focus on increasing their conversion rates with visitors and clients so it makes perfectly good sense here.

    I think those who test, persist, and adjust accordingly will do well. I now have more to think about.

  12. thanks for the tips, I’ll keep them in mind.

    and I agree, Some websites out there miss out “the call to action” they don’t realize how improtant it is in terms of conversion.

  13. Interesting how many folks are mentioning “visual” analytics tools like CrazyEgg and ClickTale. We’ll have to blog on this topic soon!

  14. Very good article Melissa.

    I wanted to get ideas from you and others as to what kind of criteria do you use to determine whether it’s early stage, mid-stage or late-stage traffic.

    What are your thoughts, ideas as to how you determine that?

    Thanks,

    -Deven

  15. Thank you for breaking things down in the purchasing cycle – I’ve been trying to explain this to a client and I’ll be using your article the example I’ve been trying to come up with.
    Thank you.

  16. I got a ton out of this article. Never thought about the early, middle and late stages of buyers. Splitting your keywords into these categories and then optimizing your site for each of the categories…

    Now its time to stop reading marketing blogs and get going.

    Thanks alot for the article and the screens definately helped.

  17. Your article shows how careful choice of words, copyrighting can make a big impact to the conversion. Thanks!

  18. Smart to separate buyers into different stages. Late stage buyers are about conversion. Early stage buyers are more about educating them to like the product or service enough to convert.

  19. Some great tips in here. I’d love to know more about your processes. i.e. what criteria do you use to distinguish middle/late stage keywords from early stage keywords?

  20. I think making the call to action larger should just be common sense, but it is usually the simple things that we miss. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  21. Thanks for those great tips. I am new to the world of optimization, But I found numerous nice tips here in your blog as a beginner. Worth reading one.
    Nice sharing and keep posting more like this.

  22. I am SEO writer By profession and very well understand the value of Creative wrting.

    I agree with all points.

  23. We are currently redesigning our website so your post is really timely. There seems to be a very difficult balance between optimization and usability. We also don’t want to have too much of a marketing tone.

    Thanks for writing.

  24. Thank for sharing it. I am starting from zero to build a website and I will implemented your experienced. at this time I only put related post session to expand my visitors.

  25. great post. thanks.

  26. Very nice article. Would love to up my conversion rates.

  27. Thanks for the insights on using certain words on the front page of the site to target certain type of people visiting your site.

    Crazyegg does sound useful in finding out the best places to place adverts etc. Thanks for the advice (:

  28. Great article Melissa, thanks for the tips on improving website traffic.

    I am a big fan of Crazyegg, and have used it for all of my websites. I would strongly suggest others to check it out!

  29. Great article Melissa, thanks for the tips on improving website traffic.

  30. Thanks for this usefull article

  31. Your tips if useful for me,I will try the method to improve my site traffic.

  32. The tips provided in the article are great – no-doubt, wishing that grokdotcom suggests marketing tips for mobile sites too.

  33. A good point
    I will give it a try at my website because at the moment my conversation rate moved down. It is the lowest conversation rate from the bigging of my website. After that will come back and let you now. Also you can have a look at my website (it is in greek :) , so will be dificcult to help).

  34. Great example, it’s a very popular mistake in the UIs.

  35. optimization is good, just a note read this blog post and you are bolding too many sentences

  36. I found your example very interesting… how changing the call to action to “learn how” rather than “start now” … you immediately discovered something about the visitors.
    Thanks!

  37. this is a really interesting article especially for for clarifying the importance of a landing page. definitely something that is overlooked by the majority.

  38. this is a great article. We have since massive results by changing just a few things on a page.

  39. thanks for sharing this great article.conversion rate is a problem for me.i hope i will make it better

  40. It is so easy to change things if you know what to change. Thank you for your great Case study

  41. Hi,

    Thanks so much for this article, it’s really going to help me on my current projects!

    Regards
    Dan

  42. Its these microchanges when tested in a scientific manner (A/B tests) which make the difference between successful and non-successful landing pages. You can have the best graphics but if you’re not testing the micro elements you may as well have not bothered with the design.

  43. Great example, it’s a very popular mistake in the UIs.

  44. There is a lot of opportunity to improve the conversion and tweaking on just the home page alone. We had one case study with a company where USP was free delivery of the products (as claimed by the company and they highlighted it primarily on the home page). 1. The Unique Selling Proposietion (USP) of Free Delivery was too weak both in visual design to be noticeable and value. Free Delivery has become standard on the web. You’ll need to establish what your value proposition is and communicate it clearly. 2. The images of the Top Selling Products did not look clickable. It was not clear what they wanted the visitor to do from home page. 3. The images were weak and did not portray the products in the best of light.
    4. There was no eye flow to the page. The Top selling product images were drawing the eyes in skipping past any and all messaging.

    The visitors were not yet ready to buy from the home page. So we made the home page to help them make a choice to buy and removed too many distractions on the page. A better approach would be to use images of product categories to get them to a product quicker. Rather than than top selling products we tried top product categories. This just scratches the surface, there is much more that can be implemented with A/B testing.

  45. Never really heard the buying stage philosophy before, very intersting.

  46. Thank for sharing it. I am starting from zero to build a website and I will implemented your experienced. at this time I only put related post session to expand my visitors.

  47. Really appreciated the detail explanation of how you worked with your client on conversion and optimization for their bookkeeping business.

  48. Generally I do not post on blogs, but I would like to say that this post really forced me to do so. Really nice post!

  49. Thanks for sharing this study. Your post is very effective with the images.

    We did some homepage A/B testing that not only resulted in higher conversions, but also resulted in a lower rate of shopping cart abondonment.

  50. Hi Melissa, could you give us an idea how much will such kind of of project costs us? thanks

  51. Hmm that’s very interessting but actually i have a hard time understanding it… wonder what others have to say..

  52. I think the essence of this blogpost lies in the very few sentences: Get to know your visitors and learn how they feel so you can understand them and react.
    If the FEEL UNDERSTOOD, they will convert. I’ve tried and this works.

  53. @ Expresso

    Yes it is all about relationships! Understand your visitor and you understand how to convert them, lead them, and close them.

  54. Subsequent to some contact with this client, they came out of bed with two variations of buttons to test next to the original click screenshots to make bigger.

  55. Smart article! It is so fantastic that such information are revealed because it is for our own good. Thanks for sharing one.:)

  56. Thanks for the great tips. You really don’t know what works until you test. I remember seeing a software that actually records user mouse movement and shows with heat map about what portion of the page user is mostly interested in. That’s another great tool to help design a better site.

  57. Well said. I never thought I would agree with this opinion, but I’m starting to view things from a different view. I have to research more on this as it seems very interesting. One thing I don’t understand though is how everything is related together.

  58. @ Stupidly Simply

    That sounds a lot like a Google Heat map to me. They are pretty common on the web today, and most people agree that the upper left corner is the “hottest” area. You can just do a search for “heat map” anywhere and find it.

  59. you know, as i read your post i
    wrote my clients asking for a list
    of the last 50 clients that closed a deal and am going
    to try to suit each website to that type of client

    so.. thanks a lot
    Cheers, Sagive

  60. Its great post. I have learned a lot specially about Late Stage visitors. It was really helpful in my SEO Study.

  61. Free Delivery has become standard on the web. You’ll need to establish what your value proposition is and communicate it clearly.

  62. nice article thanks…

  63. What tool do you use to trace all the traffic came from and from what search term they use. That one get my attention.

  64. Thanks for great post :)
    regards,

  65. Making recommendations is huge, people want to be steered into a certain direction they just don’t know where. If you are nice with what you ask of them, and direct them to something you know they already want. That is amazing!

  66. thanks for article. great post. thanks for share

  67. I remember seeing a software that actually records user mouse movement and shows with heat map about what portion of the page user is mostly interested in.

  68. We had one case study with a company where USP was free delivery of the products (as claimed by the company and they highlighted it primarily on the home page).

  69. You need to be really smart in converting your leads into customers and later on into revenue generating Business.

    You must know your customers, from where they are coming? And most important what are their needs?

  70. Online marketing and online conversion has to be one of the toughest things to do. Everyone is competing for the same data and positioning. I envy anyone in this business who is successful.

  71. I think conversion rate optimisation is best achieved with targetted calls to action to late stage traffic

  72. Marketing SEO is legitimate service in order for your online marketing plan to reach the targeted organization. Search Engine Optimization is in fact one of the fast growing business options for the IT industry and writers. The purpose, as described above, is to maintain a good page ranking and linking. Furthermore it may include web development services, hence the importance of a coordinated involvement with your marketing and sales team.

  73. Great post, very informative stuff.

    Side note: I just noticed that all of the female authors on this website are sexy little things.

  74. In online shopping ,for being optimized it is great information.
    so from your suggestion i am also use optimized content for getting more visitors.

  75. Subsequent to some contact with this client, they came out of bed with two variations of buttons to test next to the original click screenshots to make bigger.

  76. I’m very curious about how yahoo answers attracted so much traffic? Especially in the initial stage. If I am going to start something like yahoo answers but niche area, any bright marketing ideas how I can attract a large amount of traffic?

  77. It’s a useful for me.

  78. [...] View full post on Conversion Rate Optimization & Marketing Blog | FutureNow, Inc [...]

  79. online shop owners used to use the devices ‘traccking’ to record the activities of visitors to the web. There are available reports can be reviewed to improve our online store to be better and have a higher conversion rate. Error in laying down the ‘buy’ even fatal to discouraged buyers to click on the button. So do not be surprised if a lot of shop owners who complain their sales at least monthly

  80. Helal olsun valla ne güzel yazmış yaaa tebrikler

    10.Sınıf Coğrafya Kitabı Cevapları

    10.Sınıf Coğrafya Kitabı Cevapları

  81. Great ideas in this article. I will definitely try to start optimizing my conversion rates by looking at my traffic for early, middle and late stage buckets and try to offer them someting that suits their needs!

  82. Thanks a lot for this post.

  83. Solid Post. Funny how sometimes the smallest changes can make the biggest difference. Find that low hanging fruit.

  84. This is great post. Thanks for taking the time to write as I am interested in the subject :)

  85. Single page checkouts and the use of Ajax andjqeury baskets to speed up and limit the checkout process, Great article …

  86. If I get what you are saying about early/middle/late stage buyers, it’s smart to build a site that not only appeals to impulse buyers but also provides enough content to bring back buyers who might be on the fence or still need some time to think before they commit.

  87. It would be great if there was some way to know what the user have done before coming to your site. For example, if they visited 5 other similar sites already, they may be already a late stage buyer vs an early stage. Without that information, we can only rely on our own navigation cookies to determine what stage they are in.

  88. @greg yup agreed i am also looking for the same solution.
    More on i would say PR is nothing.I rely on ROI & SMO.

  89. good SEO without high convertion rate is unuseful

  90. For example, if they visited 5 other similar sites already, they may be already a late stage buyer vs an early stage. Without that information, we can only rely on our own navigation cookies to determine what stage they are in.

  91. Single page checkouts and the use of Ajax andjqeury baskets to speed up and limit the checkout process, Great article …

  92. The case study you posted here has really helped me. Earlier I didn’t know about early, middle stage and late buyers.

    Don’t you think the placement of the call to action also matters? Like in this case, if we placed the button towards the top left, would it have increased the conversion rate?

  93. I love examples like this. I wish I could run my own optimization experiments. But it always seems like I don’t have enough traffic to my sites to make it worth my while yet since I can’t get a statistically relevant sample in a reasonable amount of time.

  94. Hi Melissa.

    Is it true that plural vs singular keywords indicate which stage a searcher is at? I’ve heard that plural keywords mean that the searcher is in the early/research stage.

  95. The most important thing to have in mind when creating this type of website is to create a sense of “what you see here is what you are going to get”. In my opinion that creates trust.Good to see you around here blogger! Cheers!

  96. @Rob @ Phil and Ted, thanks for the note. There really aren’t any hard and fast rules regarding what makes a keyword early vs. late stage of the buying process. I would say that a single characteristic alone, won’t tell us whether it is early or late stage. If you simply look at whether a keyword is plural vs. singular, you might be overlooking the real basis behind the intent. For example, these are two examples of plural keywords “Devil Mermaid Ed Hardy pants” and “Jogging pants”. They are both plural, but one is very late stage and one is very early stage of the buying process. I think the characteristic of being “plural” vs. “singular” alone, says very little about a keyword. Bundle this with another characteristic though, such as whether it is long tail vs. short tail, and we know a lot more about the intent behind the keyword.

  97. Thanks for sharing this study. Your post is very effective with the images.
    We did some homepage A/B testing that not only resulted in higher conversions, but also resulted in a lower rate of shopping cart abondonment

  98. awesome stuff!!!
    i do believe that keyword selection is the most critical job because it basically depends on determining who is your late stage traffic..??
    and keywords also reflects that whether your site is featuring a strong call to action or not.

  99. Many offline business have started to focus on increasing their conversion rates with visitors and clients so it makes perfectly good sense here.

    I think those who test, persist, and adjust accordingly will do well. I now have more to think about..

  100. That’s what most businesses are looking for now a days

  101. E-commerce is a cut throat business. You have to arm yourself with the proper know-how and the tools to make your site a cut above the rest. Each day, more and more sites are clambering to optimize their rankings in websites and if you lose your guard, you may just get trampled on and be left in the abyss filled with so many failed e-commerce sites.

  102. Thanks for the thorough disection of the components of conversion marketing and traffic source stages…very informative

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Melissa is a Senior Persuasion Analyst at FutureNow.

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