13 Experts on the Single Best Piece of Advice for Improving Conversion

by 26 09/18/2012

Listen: you don’t need double digit jumps in conversion percentages to get more traffic through your search listings, more subscribers to your email newsletter or more sales off of your product landing page.

Often just a three or four percent jump can lead to significant increases in traffic, leads and sales. Furthermore, the changes you need to make often can be done under 45 minutes.

Sadly, most people don’t make the changes. They just “finish” the product and then forget about it.

But if you knew how to make changes to your marketing funnel that would lead to single–even double-digit growth–wouldn’t you be wise to make those changes?

To help you out I contacted thirteen conversion experts and veterans to see what single best lesson they’ve learned when it came to improving online conversions.

It could’ve been a tweak to a landing page or SE listing, an overhaul of an email newsletter or Facebook ad. Whatever it was a it was a defining moment.

The only other requirement was to keep the advice under 100 words (this will make sense of Derek Halpren’s sublime answer).

Enjoy.

Carlos del Rio | Unbounce

The best lesson I have learned is that testing doesn’t have to be comprehensive to be effective. The first time that I used SilverBack was a defining moment. I recorded 5-minutes of a real person using an e-commerce site and was able to raise cart completion by 13-percent. It only takes a few minutes to solve customer problems if are willing to let go of your ego about the site and hold the customer sacred above all else.

Bryan & Jeffrey Eisenberg | Bryan & Jeffery Eisenberg & Associates

We started optimizing websites for conversion in the mid-90s and it wasn’t until almost 15 years later that I discovered the magic shortcut to conversion success. After I left the agency my brother and I built that focused exclusively on improving conversion rates was able to look back at thousands of tests and discover that every successful CRO improvement came from enhancing one or more of factors from the Conversion Trinity.

  • Relevance. Are you relevant to my wants/needs/desires (search query)? Have you maintained scent/ad consistency?
  • Value. Do I know why you are the right solution for me? Have you explained your value proposition/offer well?
  • Call to action. Is it obvious what I need to do next? Have you given me the confidence to take that action?

AJ Kumar | Single Grain

The single best lesson we’ve learned with improving conversions is that you must survey your audience. Changing a button color doesn’t necessary make a significant difference in your site’s conversion, it’s the overall message that’s being conveyed. Too many people make blind changes and as a result see little to no lift. If you survey your audience, you get to understand the minds of your visitor and then can alter your marketing message accordingly. You may learn that you should push more of feature XYZ as opposed to ABC.

Neil Patel | Quick Sprout

The best lesson I learned about boosting online conversions for your website is that you just can’t create a ton of a/b tests and expect to boost your conversion rate. You need to gather both qualitative and quantitative data, analyze it, figure out what changes to make, and then run a/b tests. Even then a test isn’t guaranteed to win, but your odds dramatically increase.

Sean Platt | Ghostwriter Dad

You must reach in and touch the reader’s heart long enough to feel the muscle twitch. This works no matter the venue. On a landing page or a subject line in an email, a headline that hits the heart will always set the reader up to receive with their brain. “You Are Not Alone” is a headline I’ve found especially effective.

In copy, truth is everything. I wrote something recently (this week at the time of this writing) that wasn’t even designed to serve as copy. It was simply an open letter to my audience. Yet it served as one of the most effective pieces of copy I ever wrote, with a better than 50% conversion rate. I wasn’t trying to do anything other than honestly express myself, but sometimes that honesty is the best conversion tool there is.

Rand Fishkin | SEOmoz

Creating a singular, cohesive story through words, visuals, testimonials, videos, and other elements is far more powerful than simply testing and tuning the little things (buttons, colors, titles, etc).

Landing pages don’t makes sales. The story makes the sale. It starts with the first time someone hears about your company or product and continues through all the touchpoints along their journey of interactions with you. If that journey tells a remarkable narrative, your online conversions will be equally remarkable.

TL;DR – don’t just optimize the landing page, optimize the customers’ journey to find you.

Derek Halpern | Social Triggers

I don’t need 100 words. I need 4 words: One page, one goal.

Daniel Gonzalez | Conversion Love

The best lesson? Well, it would have to be identifying and testing appeals that your audience will respond to. Basically, I was working on a landing page designed to onboard small business owners as service providers in a marketplace for services. It was free for small businesses to register, so that was one less barrier to getting people to take action.

Before I went to work on the page, the headline explained how the market place worked. But, the main appeal to the small business owner was that they’d “Get Free Leads for Their Business.” I rewrote the headline to so that the appeal was focused on getting the business owner free leads.

The result? I got a 100.85% conversion lift on that page. So, to sum it up, identify several appeals your audience might respond to, then test them.

Jason Acidre | Kaiser the Sage

I’m pretty sure that there’s a lot, but if I have to choose one, I’d definitely say the perceived value and trust built through the middle of the funnel processes. These processes involve content and strong brand indicators that a site builds to promote itself such as highly-informative blog posts, design/presentation/experience, reviews and mentions from other people/sites, and a lot more.

These things have fueled my business, seeing that most of the clients we have acquired through my SEO services page (3% – 5% monthly conversions) are majorly attracted by what they have seen from my content and from what others are saying about my brand.

Wayne Mullins | Ugly Mug Marketing

One of our clients has a very successful local restaurant and a very effective online presence. The form on their website, which was above the fold and beautifully designed, was getting an 18% opt-in rate.

We decided to try getting people to opt-in to the restaurant using those old fashion tools called a pen and piece of paper – and it WORKED! We created small opt-in forms that asked for the person’s First Name and Email address. On the bottom of the form, it had some text that basically said “by filling this out, you understand we are going to email you.” The result: the first week the opt-in rate from patrons at the restaurant was over 40%.

Sean Work | KISSmetrics

Improving the product and helping new customers understand what to do once they signed up. The more focus we put on helping them understand the value of the product and where to start with it, the healthier our conversions became.

James Chartrand | Men with Pens

Online conversion is really a game. So many factors affect it that it’s almost mind boggling. Your brand, your image, your content, the way that button lines up on the right, the color of the background on that section down there, the expression on the person’s face in the photo…

People try so hard to “get it right” but there are just too many factors about online conversion to control, experiment with and test.

So that’s my best piece of advice: That there is no right answer. That you CAN (and should) play with your website’s look, content and appeal. There aren’t any rules. Tinker away! (And measure carefully, of course.)

Kristi Hines | Kikolani

The best conversion tips I have found are the simplest – if you have a page on your website where there is a particular conversion goal, make sure that goal is first and last on the page, make it obvious, and don’t let it compete with a lot of other things people could take action on instead.

Take the average blog post for example. People are given the options to click on links within the post, share the post on social networks, and (lastly) comment. Chances are, once they’ve done any one of those things, they will move on. Plus, there is usually a header to take you to other parts of the website and a sidebar with even more actionable items including subscribing to the blog, signing up for a newsletter, or clicking on advertising banners.

This is why sales pages and squeeze pages need to be removed from the website’s main theme if possible. Take away the header menu, social sharing buttons, sidebars, and other features so that the person who lands on it will only have the choice to buy your product or sign up to your mailing list.

Once they can’t get distracted from your conversion goal, they will be more likely to actually convert. I learned this from my own eBook sales page. While it was in the standard page template along with a sidebar with tons of options, sales were alright but not plentiful. Once I just removed the sidebar, sales went up.

I’m sure that if I took away the header, that it would increase sales even further. Although website usability standards usually includes letting your users navigate to other areas of your website, there are times you just don’t want them to. On a sales or squeeze page, you definitely want them to just have one or maybe two goals to choose from.

So, what about you: what’s the single best lesson you have ever learned when it comes to improving online conversion?

About 

Demian Farnworth is a freelance writer who hustles the finer points of web writing at The CopyBot. Follow him on Twitter or Google+.

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26 COMMENTS

Seth Waite

Conversion rate increases come from connecting user intent (purpose and need) with page copy. Every time I create quality leads to a page that speaks to their specific need for visiting the page I win. Too often we worry most about “the Page” when we should be worried about who is coming to the page. Quality inbound traffic that is EXPECTING what you have to offer on the landing page converts.

Sales are easy to make when your customers come to you wanting to buy.

September 18, 2012 Reply

Alex Adekola

Great round up on converison advice from some major names.

September 18, 2012 Reply

Kris

Great post!! Its hard to decide which is the best tip but I think I have to choose Kaiser’s tip.. amazing! Using content strategy to increase conversion not by increasing the traffic side of the equation but by pre-selling them and getting them ready TO buy when they arrive.

One sentence summaries for everyone:

Carlos del Rio from Unbounce
Testing doesn’t need to be hours of work, 5mins of usability testing resulted in a 13% increase in cart complition.

Bryan & Jeffrey Eisenberg from Bryan & Jeffery Eisenberg & Associates
Successfull CRO ALWAYS came from improving relevance, value or the call to action.

AJ Kumar from Single Grain
Survey your audience the feedback helps you understand how the audience understood your messages.

Neil Patel from Quick Sprout
Don’t just run an a/b test blindly, gather qualitative and quantitative data, analyze it, figure out what changes to make, and then run a/b tests.

Sean Platt from Ghostwriter Dad
Two tips so two sentences :)
1. Say something that will hit home with a customer “You are not alone” is his example.
2. Honesty is powerful.

Rand Fishkin from SEOmoz
Don’t optimize the landing page, optimize everything a customer sees and hears about you.. especially your story.

Derek Halpern from Social Triggers
This one is a bit pointless since his is so short.
Every page should have one goal only, optimize for that one goal.
(I happen to disagree with this though, you need a goal but have a backup goal or goals.)

Daniel Gonzalez from Conversion Love
Identify and test different angles or appeals to a person, for example it will save someone time or save them money.

Jason Acidre from Kaiser the Sage
Get people ready to buy before they get to your buy page, this can be gaining trust and perceived value through blog posts and content before they ever get to your landing page.

Good tip! My favourite! This just tied in content strategy with conversion.. very nice!

Wayne Mullins from Ugly Mug Marketing
Don’t confine yourself to conversion entirely through the website thinking outside the box can increase conversion, in his example an email optin can be gathered from the site or in person and the in person had a 40% increase.

Sean Work from KISSmetrics
Improve the post sale experience, doing so in a recurring situation can keep customers longer and help them see why they purchased it and not refund it.

James Chartrand from Men with Pens
CRO is just a big game, you never really know so tinker away. (My advice here is to couple this piece of advice with Neil’s and you’ll have a good mindset for moving forward.)

Kristi Hines from Kikolani
Remove distractions and make your goal the first and last thing on the page so when people scroll through the content of the page they’ll see your goal again.

September 19, 2012 Reply

syed shehzad

Some customer hesitate to sign-up and provide loads of personal details or they simply don’t have time to give all those details, for such customer it is important have an express checkout option that doesn’t require signing up.

September 19, 2012 Reply

Mike Arsenault

Thanks for putting this post together, Demian. Great stuff.

I second AJ & Neil’s points about using qualitative data to inform your testing and messaging strategy. I would also add that qualitative interviews are great for understanding what your customer’s real PAIN is. It’s critical to understand what keeps them up at night and what the most challenging part of their job is.

Communicate that your solution/offering alleviates the real pain experienced by your customers and conversion will improve.

September 19, 2012 Reply

    Russ Henneberry

    Sage advice Mike.

    September 19, 2012 Reply

    Demian Farnworth

    Yep, knowing that PAIN is critical. The difference between getting a nod and someone pulling out their wallet.

    September 19, 2012 Reply

      Kris

      @Demian Farnworth its actually showing them you have a solution to their pain and that after buying your product/service their pain will be relieved/gone :)

      September 19, 2012 Reply

Andrew Anderson

The single greatest thing I have learned is that it is best to be wrong. Way too much time is spent trying to come up with the “perfect” plan, or trying to prove you are right and someone else is wrong. All the upside is when you are wrong with what you thought would work, yet in almost all cases people do not set themselves up to even find this out.

By its very nature, finding out you are wrong means that you tried something else and it outperformed what you thought would win. You have to prepare and create tests that enable this, but all the sites I have worked with that got the greatest return, they all did it by having experiences that were not the popular choice and that did not follow “best practices”. They did it by thinking in terms of what is feasible, combine that with what they thought was best, and compared them all together.

If all you test is one idea, or what you think is best, all the downside is when you are wrong (then the test was pointless as pushing it forward would have made you more money). All the upside is by adding things that go beyond the normal and seeing how they perform. Don’t be afraid to be wrong, relish it and look for every opportunity to find it.

September 19, 2012 Reply

Andrew Anderson

The single greatest thing I have learned is that it is best to be wrong. Way too much time is spent trying to come up with the “perfect” plan, or trying to prove you are right and someone else is wrong. All the upside is when you are wrong with what you thought would work, yet in almost all cases people do not set themselves up to even find this out.

By its very nature, finding out you are wrong means that you tried something else and it outperformed what you thought would win. You have to prepare and create tests that enable this, but all the sites I have worked with that got the greatest return, they all did it by having experiences that were not the popular choice and that did not follow “best practices”. They did it by thinking in terms of what is feasible, combine that with what they thought was best, and compared them all together.

If all you test is one idea, or what you think is best, all the downside is when you are right (then the test was pointless as pushing it forward would have made you more money). All the upside is by adding things that go beyond the normal and seeing how they perform. Don’t be afraid to be wrong, relish it and look for every opportunity to find it.

September 19, 2012 Reply

Nazmul

Pretty big names with awesome but short advices, I’ve got no choice but to love it. I’m a writer myself and I have to deal with clients everyday, I’ll surely use some of the advices to improve conversion rates. Thanks Damien for putting the advices together from the industry leaders.

September 19, 2012 Reply

Andrew Woo

What are some examples of qualitative data that Neil Patel discussed, and how do you recommend obtaining them?

September 19, 2012 Reply

Demian Farnworth

Qualitative data isn’t numbers driven. It’s the kind of information you learn from focus groups, heat maps, usability studies, post-test interviews. Quantitative data are your web analytic reports. Reading those alone can be like reading tea leaves, so bring in qualitative studies to help you interpret that data.

September 20, 2012 Reply

Christelle Hobby

This is a collection of really smart conversion minds, it’s nice to see them all in one place. It’s interesting the way conversion is so incredibly simple, but so difficult to master. Everytime I read an article or hear a speaker that covers conversion, what they are saying seems so obvious, but it can be hard to implement.

There are so many parts to conversion and a seemingly endless list of tests and tweaks that can be performed, but ultimately I think the most human-driven actions are the most helpful.

One of my favorite tips, which is one I heard from Bryan Eisenberg and which he stated again here, is about maintaining the scent. That consistent, compelling factor that pulls a visitor from beginning to end is fascinatingly basic, but as Bryan showed during his session, it gets missed over and over and over again by some of the biggest companies.

All great information, thank you!

September 20, 2012 Reply

Cathy Presland

Some great insights and advice there. And I like that it’s about improving. We all start where we are and that isn’t perfect. But just a little insight and some small changes can help us get better. Thanks for sparking my imagination!

Cathy

September 21, 2012 Reply

كافى نت

Some great insights and advice there. And I like that it’s about improving. We all start where we are and that isn’t perfect. But just a little insight and some small changes can help us get better. Thanks for sparking my imagination!…

October 28, 2012 Reply

Ben

great stuff seth

September 13, 2013 Reply

Ben

Really enjoyed reading this, very interesting

September 13, 2013 Reply


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