The Art or Science of Conversion?

Conversion rate optimization has been an oft-discussed topic in the world of digital marketing. Conversion rate optimization, or CRO as it’s often called, is the practice of fine-tuning your design, copy advertising and other variables to maximize the number of audience members who are not only exposed to your message, but actually take the desired action, whether it be signing up for a newsletter, buying a product, scheduling a demo or something else.

As you can imagine, CRO is a complex process – and it’s not a one-size-fits-all thing, either. You can’t develop a CRO formula that will work across the board for every website goal, every ad or every product. Furthermore, you definitely can’t take the same approach to CRO for both paid and organic search. There are a few reasons why.

Visitors reaching a landing page from a paid search advertisement have different expectations than an individual who reaches a landing page based on organic search. Additionally, paid search visitors almost always have the same entry point – and ad – whereas organic search visitors might have happened onto your landing page from a social media update, another area on your website, an email newsletter you sent out or on the recommendation of a friend. That’s a lot of different scenarios you have to consider when designing your CRO strategy.

You might also have different CRO goals depending on the campaign you’re running. In email marketing, you have to consider the percentage of subscribers who will actually open the email, the percentage of those openers who will actually click on the link, and then the percentage of clickers who will ultimately convert.

By the time you filter out those various conversion points, you’re probably left with a pretty slim-looking conversion rate. For email marketing purposes, that might be just fine, but you might shoot for a larger conversion rate from social media because those users are already familiar with your brand and – ideally – a member of your target audience. They should be easier to convert – a warm lead, if you will.

So what goes into conversion rate optimization? A few factors, depending on the context:

• Landing page design

• Landing page copy

• Call to action

• Offer

• Urgency

• Social proof

• Value

Whether you’re using PPC or organic search to drive traffic to your landing pages, any page designed to convert a visitor to take a specific action is typically considered a landing page. It might not be a hard-core sales landing page – the squeeze pages of the days of “internet marketing” that you used to see everywhere – but it contains specific language and elements designed to entice visitors to take the desired action.

Many marketers focus heavily on either the design or the copy, falling short in the other area. Conversion rate optimization requires balancing the two with careful attention and combining them in such a way that they naturally compliment each other. Your landing page layout should contain the ideal combination of colors, elements and white space to both provide visual appeal and direct visitors’ eye paths to each specific element in sequence, ending with your call to action.

Your copy should be easy to read and easy to skim. Use bulleted lists and bold headings to separate and highlight key points. Most visitors won’t take the time to read every word of your copy anyway, so your goal is to make the most compelling information stand out.

If this sounds intimidating, it is. But the good news is there are dozens of tools that provide an abundance of data to help you fine-tune each of these elements with such precision that your conversion rates will soar.

Heat maps, for instance, show you exactly where visitors’ eye paths go once they land on your page. In fact, there are tools that can track each and every visitor through your entire website, allowing you to drill-down to user-specific data for every individual. You can segment those visitors out and determine what characteristics make a visitor more likely to respond to different elements in your landing page. Ultimately, you can make it as comprehensive as you like, whether that means simply identifying the elements that perform best overall or creating a series of sub-campaigns with distinct landing pages, copy and calls to action for each target demographic.

Data-driven marketing works. A study by Adobe found that the top digital marketers achieved triple the conversion rates of the bottom third – attributable, at least in part, by their use of data analysis. The top 20 percent of companies achieve 1.7 times the average conversion rate of the remainder because they invest in the tools and resources required to take a data-driven approach to their digital marketing efforts.

So what should you be shooting for? About 68 percent of marketers achieve conversion rates of 2 percent or higher. The top 20 percent are achieving conversion rates of 9 percent or better – an impressive feat, most CRO experts will tell you. Before data, conversion rates that good were possible only because of the newness of the industry; but as consumers become more immune to online advertising tactics, data is the key to skyrocketing conversion rates.

By Nicholas Silver

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