Conversion Rate Optimization is also referred to as A/B Testing, and is the process of comparing two versions of a webpage, simultaneously, to determine which performs best. A/B Testing software automatically directs half of all traffic to the original unmodified page and half to the modified version and records user activity to determine which performs best based on pre-determined goals.
This method of improving the usability and conversions of websites has been a staple in Internet marketing for many years. And because of this I thought I would share many of the strategies I’ve found to be most effective when running A/B tests, which I’ve been fortunate to have been able to do for many large companies.
Friction is any element on your page or within your join form that slows down the conversion process. These elements often include the form fields you choose to display, the number of steps in the join process and the length of your pages. As Internet marketers and website owners it’s easy for us to assume that the average surfer shares our level of comfort with join forms and the billing process in general, but the truth is that we give surfers far too much credit. Many are naturally skeptical of online billing as a whole, many are confused over the join process and others simply may have language barriers that makes understanding the process and terms clearly a challenge. All of these equate to a level of friction within your join process and each should be considered and thoroughly tested to minimize it as much as possible.
Avoid Long Join Forms
Long join forms are common, but they’re not necessary. Just because the default gateway templates in your CMS might display many fields for potential customers to fill out does not mean they are necessary to display. It’s been proven many times over that long join forms have a tendency to create levels of anxiety and confusion that can turn people away.
So it’s important to consider and test the join form options you display. For example, there is no need to display one field for the customers first name and a second for their last. These can easily be combined into one single field. Also, it’s not necessary to make potential customers tell you what kind of credit card they have, since credit card billers can determine this automatically based on the credit card numbers entered. Also consider using geo targeting to determine the location of the potential member so they don’t have to fill out these additional fields.
Eliminate Steps in the Join Process
Many websites require customers to fill out two forms, one collecting initial information and another collecting billing information. If you’re not restricted to using 3rd party billing companies you have the option of combining both join forms into one. So rather than collecting an email and other initial information before sending the user to an additional page with a longer form to fill out, consider displaying only one short form on one single join page. By testing this you might learn that the reduced step results in more conversions.
Keep Primary Benefits and Membership Options Above the Fold
“Above the Fold” is the portion of your page that is viewable without having to scroll. This is where all of the most important elements of your page need to be displayed. If your site scatters these elements throughout your tour, try consolidating them above the fold and run tests to determine conversion improvements. This is especially important on join forms, the submit button should always be visible without needing to scroll.
Clarity Trumps Persuasion
Rather than working to explain to potential customers where to click, why they should join and where to click if they do want to join, try modifying your tour pages and your join process to make the process exceptionally clear. The clearer your process is, the less you’ll have to explain and the fewer chances your explanations will be lost on potential customers.
To make your conversion process clearer, be sure to make it obvious to your customers where they have to click, what they have to do, where they’re at in the overall process, why their attempts to join aren’t working and what they should do next at every step in the process.
Test Your Pricing
I’m sure every website owner has tested pricing in the past, but if that testing was done without the benefits that professional conversion rate optimization testing software provide, then they should be tested again. It’s important to test multiple price points simultaneously on your live traffic to truly understand what your customers respond best to.
Test Social Features
It’s important to consider, and to test, what impact social media has on your site. It might seem obvious to place social icons on your tour to allow surfers to easily share your site among their friends, but it’s possible that this sharing comes at the expense of conversions. Also, where you place your social icons could have an effect on how your surfers navigate and use your site and could also have an effect on how affiliates view the effectiveness of your product pages. The degree to which social affects your sales, either positively or negatively, can only really be determined through proper testing and analysis.
Test All Best Practices
Everything you think should be on a page should be properly tested. Test your calls to action, test any trust icons you might be using, test the use of landing pages on organic traffic, test the style of your product and billing pages and test how you display your content. Customer experience and perceptions are always changing and the best practices you’re employing might not be helping conversions as much you might think.
Test Your Message
What is the primary message you’re sending to your potential customers? Are you trying to sell them on how much content you have? Are you trying to sell them on the value of what your memberships or products are priced at? The customer service they can expect?
It’s important to focus your message to potential customers and then test that message against others to see what your traffic responds best to.
Learn From Failed Tests
Tests that result in worsened ratios are just as valuable as test that improve your ratios, because they show you what does not work on your traffic. And as you learn more about what your traffic does not respond well to you can begin to only implement tests that they typically respond positively to. Reaching this point is very valuable because you begin to naturally avoid tests that worsen your conversions.
Always Be Testing
Traffic is always changing and what surfers respond to changes with it. So even though you tested your homepage or a particular landing page to near perfection does not mean it’s going to remain near perfect forever. Testing should be an ongoing process to make sure that your homepage as well as each and every one of your internal pages are always converting as well as they possibly can. And remember that every site is different and has its own traffic base, so what works on one site might not necessarily work on another. It’s important to test each site within your network individually to determine what truly performs best on each. It’s only after doing this that you can be sure you’re making the most of every single click you work hard to get.