Optimization is a Process
Think about conversion path optimization as the process of improving your visitors’ end to end experience with your brand with the goal of turning those visitors into customers.
Conversion path optimization is not a formula or checklist.
When it comes to conversion path optimization, most websites and tutorials will tell you that all you need is the right combination of the following elements:
- Landing page
- Call to action
- Form to collect user information (Try these 6 tips to boost form conversions)
- Thank you page
- Thank you email
You should hear warning bells anytime someone says things like “all you need” or if it sounds too good to be true. Sure, all of those things are important, but you still have to think through the entire interaction flow of users.
Here are some of the things I’m looking at that go beyond the formula.
Discover what your audience needs
Hint: the answer to this is going to be more complex than “my audience wants to buy my product/service.” If you know what your audience needs, then you’re in a good place because people will be more forgiving of any mistakes you make if you’re giving them what they need.
At Mediacurrent, we accomplish this through buyer personas. With some research and interviews with actual customers, we can get a good idea of your ideal audience, what questions they have while they’re evaluating a product/service, and what pitches might resonate with them.
The funny thing about this process is that a lot of times, users are looking for a lot more than whatever you’re selling. For example, they might want a partnership or to be apart of your greater mission. These are the emotional triggers you have to be aware of when you’re layering your content strategy into your wireframes.
Almost anything could be their first touchpoint
The ideal conversion path might be taking a user from a landing page, to a form via a call to action, then a thank you page and then a thank you email. The tricky thing is that a user’s first interaction with you might not be the specific landing page you want them to visit. It might not even be a landing page at all. It could be a blog, a social media post, or a search engine result page. Their journey probably won’t be so linear either. This is the reality of our digital world, but as marketers, we have a couple of things we can do to hedge our bets.
First, make sure you’re doing everything you can to point people to the right landing page. That might mean search engine optimization for specific keywords on landing pages or getting things like your paid media, email, and social media campaigns in-tune with the land pages.
Second, don’t let any page be a dead-end. No matter what page someone comes through to, that visitor should be able to easily get the information they need with a minimal amount of clicks or confusion. Smart website navigation can go a long way toward this initiative.
Having personas can help you test the effectiveness of this planning. Take all of the questions/goals from the personas and then go through the pages that have the highest entrances. For each entrance page, see if you can answer all or at least most of the questions/goals within 10 clicks.
Give visitors the right information when they need it
These days, most conversions don’t happen in one site visit. That means you have to think about what new visitors need to know, how to bring those visitors back, what the next level of information they might need on their return visit, and on and on. Most people map their content to a sales funnel. That way, they’re confident that their content strategy is on track to serve the right content for each stage of the funnel. Then they map out the pathways to help users navigate through the content.
Not sure what information your visitors need? Check your personas again. All of the information should be there and if it’s not, you might need to add more detail.
Don’t scare visitors away with too many choices
Have you ever landed on a website that had a very complex navigation, a ton of features, and way too much information? How did you feel?
A convoluted website can annoy people and compel them to leave the website. Usually within 5 seconds if it’s their first time visiting the website. At best though, too many choices can be paralyzing (there’s an excellent TED talk about the downside of too many choices in our lives).
You’re actually doing people a favor if you make it extremely clear what you want them to do and how to engage with your company. That laser-focused message also helps visitors trust your company because you’re putting your cards on the table.
Show visitors how to convert
Piggybacking off of the previous section, it helps if you prioritize your conversion goals. This allows you to design your website to give more weight to one choice over another.
It’s probably safe to assume that the big win would be to get someone to buy your product or hire your company. If someone can do that from the website, great.
However, several companies need an intermediate step where someone from the sales team gets involved to customize the product, create a quote, or deliver a demo. That’s when it gets a little more complex. I think the most effective conversion paths clearly define the next steps and process because people who know what they’re getting into will be more likely to convert and will be happier with the process in general since they know what to expect.
It’s important to remember secondary conversions too. Those might be signing up for your newsletter, connecting on social media, or downloading a gated piece of content.
When in doubt and when you’re completely confident, conduct user testing
I’m not just talking A/B testing here (which will give you extremely valuable information!). I also like to ask recent customers and long term customers why they chose to convert and listen to their opinions on what was difficult or easy about the process. This is especially helpful if you’re testing whether or not the conversion path is compelling.
If you’re more curious about whether or not someone can actually use the platform to find what they need, try giving someone specific actions you’d like them to take on the website (ex: request a demo) or a list of questions they need to find the answers to (ex: can Drupal scale to meet the needs of my project?). Then observe how they complete the actions or search for their answers. You can follow it up with questions afterward to get further clarification on why they chose specific actions. Just try not to interfere too much during the actual test.
You’re never done
It’s a mistake to have a “create it, then leave it” approach. Not only do you need to keep conversion paths in mind for all of your digital activities, but you also have to be ready to evolve your strategy. Here are a few indicators that you might need to make some adjustments:
- Your conversion rates drop.
- Your customers start asking different questions.
- Your competitors start doing something different - which by the way, doesn’t mean you have to immediately change. You should just stay aware of what they’re doing and if their new strategy is working.
- You offer a new product/service or change what you have currently.
- You go through a redesign or rebrand.
The best way to get that predictability is by defining a process around conversion path optimization- not just for users but also for how you want to approach it. What has been successful for you in the past for conversion path optimization?