Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the art and science of persuading your site visitors to take actions that benefit you, by making a purchase, making a donation, or committing to some positive future action.
Note: This chapter in its entirety is available as a sample chapter Conversion Rate Optimization (2 MB PDF)
CRO uses a wide variety of techniques including persuasive copywriting and credibility-based web design to convert prospects into buyers. By planning, designing, and optimizing your website to persuade, you can ensure that it will act as a more efficient sales tool. You can compare a conversion-optimized website to a successful (but commission- and salary-free) digital salesperson who works for you 24/7, 365 days a year, qualifying leads, building rapport, and even closing sales.
The Benefits of CRO
With the average conversion rate hovering between 2.5 and 3.1% (Fireclick 2008, Shop.org 2007), the importance of a conversion optimized site becomes clear. Although "your mileage may vary," you can expect that high-quality optimization will increase conversions by 50% to 200% or even more. For example, in Chapter 4 "PPC Case Study: BodyGlove.com" we discuss a case in which the increase was more than 600%.
CRO helps you to meet the following business goals:
- An increase in sales, revenues, and profits
- The generation of more leads for your sales team
- Boosting "opt-ins" to build your e-mail list
- Reduction of customer acquisition costs
- More page views for advertising
- Engagement of more users
- A permanent improvement to conversion rates
Best Practices for CRO
What follows are the best-practice principles behind CRO. It might seem at first like an extremely broad, almost intangible, idea. However, you can achieve conversion by following very specific steps using tools you already have at your disposal. CRO uses what you already know about your customers and their psychology to your advantage by using language, imagery, and a level of engagement that will make your site stand out among those of your competitors.
First we'll explore how the principle of source credibility can make your site appear more trustworthy. Next, we'll discuss the psychology of persuasion, including:
- The six primary psychological persuaders
- Maximizing conversions with personas
Then we'll highlight the top 10 factors that you can use to maximize your site's conversion rate, including:
- Credibility-based web design
- Easy navigation
- Logo credibility
- Memorable slogans
- Benefit-oriented headlines
- Best content placement
- Calls to action
- Benefit-oriented content
- Using "hero shots"
- Interactivity and engagement
You'll learn how to stage your CRO campaign through the discovery, planning, and optimization phases. Finally, we'll show these techniques in action by analyzing two examples of best conversion practices. Here is an outline of the chapter:
- Conversion Rate Optimization sample chapter (2 MB PDF)
- The Benefits of CRO
- Best Practices for CRO
- Source Credibility: Designing Gut Reactions
- The Psychology of Persuasion
- The six persuaders
- Reciprocation - Repaying an obligation
- Consistency and commitment - Little yeses
- Social proof - A best-seller!
- Liking - Friends selling bonds
- Authority - Dutiful deference
- Scarcity - Exclusive limited numeric offer!
- Maximizing Conversion with Personas (sidebar)
- Building trust to close the sale
- Top 10 Factors to Maximize Conversion Rates
- Factor #1: Use a Credibility-based Professional Design
- Factor #2: Make Website Navigation Easy
- Factor #3: Optimize the Credibility of Your Logo
- Factor #4: Write a Memorable Slogan
- Factor #5: Use Benefit-Oriented Headlines
- Factor #6: Give Important Content the Best Placement
- Factor #7: Include Appealing Offers and Calls to Action
- Factor #8: Deploy Persuasive, Benefit-Oriented Content
- Factor #9: Use Illustrative Product and Service Images - The "Hero Shot"
- Factor #10: Use Interactive Elements to Engage Users
- Staging Your CRO Campaign
- Discovering personas
- Geographic region
- Customer pain points and goals
- Value Proposition
- Benefits hierarchy
- Key frustrations and objections
- Buying criteria
- Risk reversal
- Keyword phrases
- The Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
- Step 1: Use your biggest benefits
- Step 2: Be unique
- Step 3: Solve an industry "pain point" or "performance gap"
- Step 4: Be specific and offer proof
- Step 5: Condense your USP into one clear and concise sentence
- Step 6: Integrate your USP into your website and all marketing materials
- Step 7: Deliver on your USP's promise
- Step 1: Create the redesign plan: planning your site architecture
- Step 2: Plan your website design and color scheme
- Optimize with persuasive copywriting
- Appeal to the value hierarchies of your customers
- Create benefit-oriented content
- Write engaging headlines and copy
- Start (and end) each paragraph with a bang
- Include calls to action - Writing links, buttons, and offers
- Adopt a writing style
- Pain versus gain
- Past, present, or future tense
- You, me, and them
- Be consistent
- Effective writing techniques
- Use verbs and active voice
- Tug emotions through effective mental imaging
- Write for scanning
- Avoid jargon and hype
- Use testimonials
- Don't Be a wimp
- Offer a guarantee
- Ask for the order
- Use graphics to enhance the sales experience
- Putting it on paper and building graphical mock-ups
- Wireframe web templates and mock-ups to finalize "look and feel"
- Optimize your conversion paths to get the click
- Test Everything
- Fireclick, "Conversion Rate: Global," Fireclick Index
- January 19, 2008, http://index.fireclick.com (Jan. 19, 2008).
- Shop.org, "The State of Retailing Online 2007,"
- National Retail Federation, September 18, 2007, http://www.nrf.com/modules.php?name=News&op=viewlive&sp_id=365 (February 15, 2008). The shopping cart abandonment rate peaked at 53% in 2003. The conversion rate for e-commerce sites peaked in 2002 at 3.2%. In the 2007 report, e-commerce conversion was 3.1%.
- Robins, D., and J. Holmes. 2008. "Aesthetics and credibility in web site design."
- Information Processing and
Management 44 (1): 386-399. Preconscious judgments of aesthetics influence perceived credibility of websites.
Voilà! Instant credibility.
- Akamai. 2007. "Boosting Online Commerce Profitability with Akamai."
- http://www.akamai.com (accessed February
15, 2008). Akamai estimated a 9%to 15% improvement in conversion rate after a website is "Akamaized."
- Gamberini, L. et al. 2007. "Embedded Persuasive Strategies to Obtain Visitors' Data: Comparing Reward
and Reciprocity in an Amateur, Knowledge-Based Website,"
- in Persuasive 2007 (Stanford University, CA:
April 26-27), 194.
- Lim, K. et al. 2006. "Do I Trust You Online, and If So, Will I Buy? An Empirical Study of Two Trust-Building
- Journal of Management Information Systems 23 (2): 233-266. Although rewards received more
replies, reciprocation got more detailed responses.
- McAfee. 2008. "HACKER SAFE certified sites prevent over 99.9% of hacker crime."
site/en/certification/marketing/ (accessed February 18, 2008). McAfee claims an average increase in conversion
rate of 14% among 150 million unique visitors who see the HACKER SAFE mark. Your mileage may vary.
- Eisenberg, B. et al. 2006. Persuasive Online Copywriting--How to Take Your Words to the Bank.
- New York:
Future Now, 60-64. http://www.futurenowinc.com (accessed February 15, 2008). This is an updated PDF of
the original 2002 book from Wizard Academy Press.
- Chau, P. et al. 2007. "Examining customers' trust in online vendors and their dropout decisions: An empirical
- Electronic Commerce Research and Applications 6 (2): 171-182.
- Eisenberg, B. February 21, 2003. "How to Decrease Sales by 90 Percent."
- ClickZ, http://www.clickz.com/
showPage.html?page=1588161 (accessed June 5, 2008.) Found over 1,100 factors that affect conversion rate.
- Lindgaard, G. et al. 2006. "Attention web designers: You have 50 milliseconds to make a good first impression!"
- Behavior and Information Technology 25 (2):115-126. See also the introduction to Part II.
- Everard, A., and D. Galletta. Winter 2005-2006. "How Presentation Flaws Affect Perceived Site Quality, Trust,
and Intention to Purchase from an Online Store."
- Journal of Management Information Systems 22 (3): 55-95.
- Robins and Holmes. "Aesthetics and credibility in web site design,"
- Schlosser, A. et al. 2006. "Converting Web Site Visitors into Buyers: How Web Site Investment Increases
Consumer Trusting Beliefs and Online Purchase Intentions."
- Journal of Marketing 70 (2): 133-148. Site
investment equals trust in a firm's abilities.
- Burrell, A., and A. Sodan. "Web Interface Navigation Design: Which Style of Navigation-Link Menus Do
- in ICDEW 2006 (Atlanta: April 3-7, 2006), 10 pages.
- Haig, W., and L. Harper. 1997. The Power of Logos: How to Create Effective Company Logos.
- New York:
John Wiley. Haig coined the term "credibility-based logo design" in his master's thesis at the University of
Hawaii, "Credibility Compared to Likeability: A Study of Company Logos," in 1979. His Logos book
expanding on his thesis followed.
- Haig, W.L. 2006. "How and Why Credibility-Based Company Logos are Effective in Marketing Communication
in Persuading Customers to Take Action: A Multiple Case Study Toward a Better Understanding of
Creativity in Branding."
- Ph.D. dissertation, Southern Cross University, Lismore, Australia.
- Kohli, C., L. Leuthesser, and R. Suri. 2007. "Got slogan? Guidelines for creating effective slogans."
Horizons 50 (5): 415-422.
- Nielsen, J. September 6, 1998. "Microcontent: How to Write Headlines, Page Titles, and Subject Lines."
- Alertbox, http://www.useit.com/alertbox/980906.html (accessed February 18, 2008).
- Spool, J. et al. 2004. "Designing for the Scent of Information."
- User Interface Engineering, http://www.uie.com
(accessed March 30, 2008). Figure 5-2 reproduced by permission.
- Nielsen, J. April 17, 2006. "F-Shaped Pattern For Reading Web Content."
- Alertbox, http://www.useit.com/
alertbox/reading_pattern.html (accessed February 17, 2008).
- MarketingSherpa. 2004. Landing Page Handbook 1. Warren, RI: MarketingSherpa, 91.
- Weinreich, H. et al. 2006. "Off the Beaten Tracks: Exploring Three Aspects of WebNavigation ."
- In WWW
2006 (Edinburgh, Scotland: May 23-26, 2006), 133-142.
- Pirolli, P. 2007. Information Foraging Theory: Adaptive Interaction with Information.
- New York: Oxford University
Press. A theoretical but fundamentally important book for web designers.
- Eisenberg, B. et al. 2006. Call to Action: Secret Formulas to Improve Online Results
- (Nashville, TN: Thomas
- MarketingSherpa. 2005. Landing Page Handbook 1.
- Warren, RI: MarketingSherpa, 51.
- Teo, H.H. et al. 2003. "An empirical study of the effects of interactivity on web user attitude."
Journal of Human-Computer Studies 58 (3): 281-305.
- Lowry, P. et al. 2006. "A Theoretical Model and Empirical Results Linking Website Interactivity and Usability
- In HICSS 2006 (January 4-7, 2006), 9 pages.
- LivePerson. 2007. "Hoover's increases conversion rates and average order values with LivePerson's proactive
- LivePerson, http://www.liveperson.com/customers/hoovers/results.asp (accessed February 17, 2008).
- MarketingSherpa. July 19, 2005. "Video Spokesmodel Lifts Ecommerce Conversions 78%: A/B Test Results."
- MarketingSherpa, https://www.marketingsherpa.com/barrier.html?ident=24086 (accessed February 17, 2008).
- Song, J., and G. Zinkhan. 2008. "Exploring the Determinants of Perceived Web Site Interactivity."
of Marketing 72 (2).
- Mentzer, J. et al. 1997. "Application of the means-end value hierarchy model to understanding logistics service
- International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management 27 (9/10): 630-643.
- Nielsen, J. October 22, 2007. "Passive Voice Is Redeemed for Web Headings."
- Alertbox, http://www.useit.
com/alertbox/passive-voice.html (accessed February 17, 2008).
- Fiske, S. 1980. "Attention and weight in person perception: The impact of negative and extreme behavior."
- Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 38 (6): 889-906.
- Cialdini. Influence: Science and Practice,
- Nielsen, J. May 6, 2008. "How Little Do Users Read?"
- Alertbox, http://www.useit.com/alertbox/percent-textread.html (accessed June 7, 2008).
- Weischedel, B., and E. Huizingh. 2006. "Website Optimization with Web Metrics: A Case Study."
- In ICEC
2006 (Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada: August 14-16, 2006), 463-470.
« PPC Case Study: BodyGlove.com |
Conversion Rate Optimization |
Web Performance Optimization »