Welcome to another episode of the Foremost Media Marketing Chat Podcast with Jon Ballard and Evan Facinger. This, we’re talking all about conversion rate optimization or CRO. The big question to ask, how can we continue to grow a customer’s business if their site is already highly optimized? Here’s why CRO is an evolution of marketing. 

  • What is conversion rate optimization, exactly?  [01:38]
  • Example of CRO [08:03]
  • Testing ideas you can implement. [17:05]

Resources Mentioned: 


Intro: You're listening to the Foremost Media Marketing Chat Podcast with John Ballard and Evan Facinger.

Jon Ballard: All right.

Evan Facinger: All right, thanks for joining us today at the second episode of the Foremost Media Marketing Chat Podcast. How's it going, Mr. Ballard?

Jon Ballard: I'm good, Evan. Thanks. Sun's out here in Wisconsin and it's not below freezing, so that's a good day, and it's a Friday.

Evan Facinger: That's always a good day. Yeah. And it's a Friday, so that's even better. And today we're going to chat a little bit about how you can get more leads in sales with your website through conversion rate optimization or CRO.

Jon Ballard: This is something that I'm pretty excited about. I just actually spoke on this at the DNN conference in Orlando a few months ago, and it was really well received. And we've had some really good success with our clients doing this and even on our own website, so it's a topic that's near and dear to my heart.

Evan Facinger: I love it too. And I think it's something that a lot of times we spend with search engine optimization getting more traffic to the website, and then CRO, that's how can we get more value out of that traffic? And once you start doing that, you start to... And it doesn't seem to be eCommerce either, it can also be lead generation, but they both really impact the bottom line. And I think that's what people can really gravitate towards when they see... Traffic is one thing. When they see more leads, I think everybody gets a lot more excited then.

Jon Ballard: So let's back up a minute. CRO conversion rate optimization, what is it and how do you describe it, Evan?

Evan Facinger: I describe it as the act of getting more people on your website to do what you want them to do. So whether that's fill out a form, whether that's purchase something, maybe you just go to the next page, whatever act you're trying to get somebody to do on the website, that can be considered a conversion. So when you're doing conversion rate optimization, you're making adjustments to the website to optimize for that.

Jon Ballard: Right. So, we see this as kind of an evolution of marketing, right? So a lot of our clients have long time been SEO customers, and there's always new stuff to do and new changes at the SEO, but at some point you get to this point where the changes you make aren't as effective or not as... What's the word I'm looking for? Maybe not as impactful because you've so highly optimized a site that now we're just kind of maintaining search engine rankings and going after new terms or new content.

Jon Ballard: So one of the ways we look at, "Okay, how can we continue to grow this customer's business if they have a highly optimized site?" is conversion rate optimization. We've got a ton of traffic coming there. What if we had over the thousand people that come there every day, what if 10% more of them converted or turned into leads? So that's kind of what I think of when I think of CRO. It's doing more with the traffic you have. So I think CRO is great. I don't know that I'd do it on a brand new website necessarily. I think there the thought is, we need to work on your basic search engine optimization and get a lot of traffic there, and then CRO becomes important. So, what's your thoughts on that, Evan?

Evan Facinger: I think that it's usually the case because you need to have some sort of a baseline to understand it. There's a good part of our CRO methodology basically is that we have a refined testing process, and understanding when we're taking a look at the analytics for the website, where there might be some testing opportunities. It's a little difficult when you have a brand new website. There's no real analytics to go off of. Even a fresh redesign sometimes, you don't have any of those baseline analytics to start coming up with those hypotheses to test. But yeah, at the end of the day two, you can also use best practices and try it.

Evan Facinger: I'm not saying that's something you can't do, but a big part of what we do when we're going through those tasks is we're looking at the analytics. We're seeing if there's any sort of bottlenecks for the conversions, there a big drop off or exit rate may be that we want to take a look at? And then we can actually come up with a list of those hypotheses that we can test. And the idea there is to try to be specific with it.

Evan Facinger: So I'm a big fan of the PIE Framework. That's where we use the potential, the importance, and the ease. And we're going to give them a score between 1 to 10 and rank all of that. So every test that we want to run, whether it's something as simple as changing a button color because we think that if we put a contrast color on this button, then more people are going to see it. It's going to provide that visual cue to click on it, and thus, we're going to get more people to that next page. Well, if that's a test that we want to run, that's got a good potential, I would say, so we want to rank that accordingly. The importance depends on what pages are going to, I guess, and then ease, you know, that's an easy one to actually implement.

Evan Facinger: So I would have a high score on the PIE Framework, whereas some other ones, other tests that we've run, which are changing the entire layout of a page, testing one template for an interior page versus another one, also has a high potential, also high importance, but that ease of use is a little bit harder because we're changing the entire template. So that gives you an idea of how you can go about your tests and actually score them so you know which tests you should run and when, and are based on having some sort of framework for that.

Jon Ballard: And I think even before you get to the PIE thing, it's important to think about what the purpose of your website is. Is it thought leadership? Is it lead generation, online sales? What am I trying to do with this website? So think about as you start to develop your PIE list, so to speak, what is the purpose of this website? What's going to make this website more successful? So if you're in online sales, obviously it's to drive online sales. So what tests can I run that will help me move them further towards that, getting something in the basket? Or if we're having problems with people dumping out of the basket, is it something there? So, there's all sorts of places you can look for ideas on what to test. Google Analytics is great, bounce rates, how traffic funnels, some of that. So those types of things.

Evan Facinger: And the big thing that I like about it most probably is that it's actually data-backed. So before, we'd be looking at a website, and you'd have an idea, I'd have an idea, somebody else would have an idea, maybe the client would have an idea of things that they'd want to do, and a lot of times it came down to who argued their point the most, who was the most vocal about the change that they wanted to see, or who the boss was. So a lot of times that's going to dictate what tests you're going to go with. And we implement it, and maybe the results were good. Maybe they weren't. Maybe they were just average, and we never knew was that a good change to implement? Was that something that should be carried on across the website, or should it be changed to something different?

Evan Facinger: And since we're doing more CRO, we can actually test that. So if everybody has an idea, we don't have to just pick one, we can start to set up those A/B tests. We can actually pick and choose which ones maybe we start with. But then we can run it and say, definitively too, especially if we're able to get any sort of statistical relevancy from it based on how many people are going to that page, we can say, "This was a great change. We're 90% sure based on statistical relevancy that this is the change that you want to implement on here because it improved the conversion rates." Or we could also say, "No. This didn't work at all, so why don't you try to do something else?"

Jon Ballard: And one of the things I love about CRO is it as data-driven. So a lot of times, your boss walks in and says, "Why aren't we doing this? We need to change this." It's a great way to test his opinion. And it's hard for him to argue with, or her to argue with data, right? So for example, if your boss says, "Our calls to action should be request a quote," and you think it's get a free sample, you can end that argument really quickly with some testing. So it's not always the highest-paid individual, HIPPO I think they call it, in the room's opinion matters when it comes to CRO.

Jon Ballard: And to give a little bit more example of what conversion rate optimization is, we did a test on our website, just a simple one, and I kind of reference this in some of the things I do presentation-wise. And there was a request for quote button on the website and we... This was Evan's idea actually. It was like request for quote button was the same color as all the other buttons on the website, so we thought about, "What if we change that to green?"

Jon Ballard: And some of the data from that, so to do that, it was a simple test. We used some software that basically served up a green button and an orange button to everybody that comes to the site or every other person until they get statistical relevance. So basically what happened with that is we served 2,836 versions of the original orange button to people and we got 11 conversions. And then the variation, the green button served approximately the same number 2,901, and got 14 conversions, which is about a 23% increase in conversion just from changing a button color, which is pretty cool. And what we can call a conversion, right, Evan, is when they go from click on the request for a quote, fill it out, and actually submit it. So it was a thank you page.

Evan Facinger: Exactly. And 23%, that's a good number to have in terms of increasing your conversion. So if you look at it and say, "Okay, what does it look like if I get 23% more leads just from making a simple button color change, what else could I do?"

Evan Facinger: So one thing that I really like about this is that we have the conversion rate calculator too. So at the end of the day, it comes out to be... I don't want to say simple math because it does have a little bit of logic behind it for it, but you can make it simple math just by putting in some basic numbers that you have.

Evan Facinger: So once you understand how many visitors you have coming to your website, what's your typical conversion rate, and then what's the average order value of that conversion too, so what does a typical lead close at and what's your average sale going to be? And then based off of that, you can actually go through and put your specific numbers on this calculator, which will be in the show notes. So you can go there, find it at foremostmedia.com and it'll be in my show notes there. And it's going to be able to actually pull up that information where you can show what the results were of those conversion tests. So not just that you increase the conversion rate 23% like we did with our button color, but you can also go through and say, "Not only did this increase the conversion rate 23%, but the value of that was almost $13,000," which was pretty close to, I think, what our actual numbers were. Weren't they, Jon?

Jon Ballard: Yeah. The calculator basically told us for every 3,000 visitors we get to the site, by having a different button color, we're getting about $12,000 more in revenue for every 3,000 visitors, which is pretty amazing just for a simple button change. And that's probably an extreme example. I would have been happy with a 5% increase for a button color change or something like that.

Jon Ballard: And the other thing that's really interesting is we went button color crazy after we did this. We thought, "Well, let's change buttons, everything go orange. And sometimes it didn't matter a bit, so you just never know. Sometimes it impacted it negatively. So testing is key. Test, test, test, and document your results, and use the calculator to determine ROI.

Evan Facinger: And the more that you do it, it keeps compounding over time. So after we increase the conversion rate 23% there, what does the next test result do? It's not always changing the button color. Like you said, there's always going to be that entire testing repository that has all of these different things that we want to test, always looking to make improvements. It becomes sort of that evolutionary site design concept at that point. We don't go through those huge redesigns anymore every couple years like you're doing right now, but you're always making iterations, you're always changing your website, and you're always implementing those changes that lead to high conversions. At that point, the website's evolving over time and it's based off of actual data.

Jon Ballard: We started with the money pages so to speak, the request for a quote when they're ready to take action, but as we started kind of optimizing those and got those work better, then we started to look at, "Okay, how do people get to that point in the website?" So we're looking at their path, and following their journey, and seeing along the way maybe where people got lost. At one particular page, we noticed that it was kind of our money page when people got to that page, they were able to more often than not convert, turn into a lead. So, how are people getting to that page? And we found it wasn't really clear. They just kind stumbled upon it. So we put a lot of effort into sculpting the traffic to flow to that page, and then that helped increase conversions as well. So, it's not just like the final result, add to cart or request a quote. Sometimes it's how do you get them to that point? So, interesting psychology.

Evan Facinger: And I personally think that this is going to be even more popular as... All right, I couldn't pronounce prelevent. Prevalent?

Jon Ballard: Prevalent?

Evan Facinger: Prevalent. Yeah.

Jon Ballard: Leave that one in.

Evan Facinger: So, I think that this is something that is just going to get more and more popular. The data backs it and you can show all the results that you're doing, actual bottom-line numbers that everybody can kind of gravitate towards and understand. At the end of the day, the more you do this, it's almost like you're essentially guaranteeing the success of redesigns because you're using data and you're only implementing changes that work.

Jon Ballard: The other cool part that I thought about when we first started on this was our graphic designer/art director hated the fact that we made him stick a big green button on our website. They're like, "That can't be it." So, they got really engaged with this. "What if we just make the button bold?" So we tested that. "What if we change the call to action?" So, the request for quote. "What if, what if, what if?" And we kept testing everything and the green just kept winning, and they hate it, but how can they argue with data? So it's kind of changed our perspective.

Jon Ballard: And the other side of that is that they've been really more engaged in this and coming up with their own ideas of what to test. So, it's kind of catchy. And to that end, if you have a big organization, maybe think about sending out tests and results of tests to get them engaged and get your organization thinking about what you're doing. So, it's pretty cool.

Evan Facinger: Definitely. It adds the function to the design, because like they always say, "Design without function is just art." So this way you can make sure that not only does it look good, but it's also going to perform the way that you need it to.

Jon Ballard: So, Evan, I'm just going to put you on the spot here. As far as testing ideas go, can you throw out like eight or nine of your favorite, or five or six? How many can you name off the top of your head? Somebody is getting new on this, where should they start?

Evan Facinger: I'm going to use the famous SEO answer, it always depends. But some of that's just so I can collect my thoughts. I think a lot of it does depend on the data though. And a big piece is that I like to take a look at it. I like to use best practices. So there's a lot of best practices around what can you do to draw the eye somewhere, play off the Von Restorff effect and psychology where the human brain is meant to recognize patterns. So anytime you have something that breaks that pattern, it's going to draw attention to it, and that kind of sends that visual cue to that visitor. So that's why the button color idea works well in a lot of cases because it provides that contrast and color.

Evan Facinger: I like to also take a look at different template layouts. I think where you have certain things positioned either draw the eye or don't draw the eye. That's why I like to have call to actions actually directly in the content, as opposed to just on the side, because so many of those on-the-side ads are just ads basically at this point, and you kind of go put your blinders up. So you can make sure that you've got it right in their playing... right in their vision.

Evan Facinger: Encapsulating elements, and especially when we're talking form fields or even visual elements that we want to draw attention to encapsulating them so they look like a button if we want them to click, that was probably one of our bigger test results too. Just from putting a thin gray line around an image that we wanted people to click on ended up, I think it was something ridiculous, like 600% increase in clicks, wasn't it?

Jon Ballard: Yeah, that one was amazing. It blew my mind.

Evan Facinger: Copy is the other thing too that I think, it's not just design that you want to use CRO for. What does your headline say? Does that work? Does that draw people in and get them engaged with the content, or get them to click? What does the button actually say for it? It's a lot cheaper to run these tests and see what headlines work, what marketing messaging works best, especially when you're talking your money pages, like landing pages, versus putting together a big print piece and sending it out and hoping that your message resonates with the audience. Here you can test that. It can help craft your entire messaging for your marketing efforts.

Jon Ballard: And the other one I like is using negative keywords versus positive, like sign up for free, or you can change that whole narrative to like don't miss out, limited time download, so you create kind of a negative, or... You're better at psychology than me, but you understand what I'm saying?

Evan Facinger: The loss aversion, loss aversion there. You'll do a lot more to not lose $20 than you will to gain $20.

Jon Ballard: Right. So think about your offers if you're offering products or services or an opt-in type thing. The one we've always found works well for contact forms is removing extra fields. If you don't need their full name, just ask for name, first name, last name if there's no reason to have two separate fields. Maybe you don't need their birth date in there, weight, and height to do a sale. So think about what fields are not. Almost statistically, almost every field you reduce or take out of a form increases engagement by 3, 4%.

Jon Ballard: Another one I love that it should be just not even tested, but is if you're on a mobile device and there's a form field for phone number, you can actually have your programmers dictate what keyboard comes up so they're not having to use that tiny keyboard on like an iPhone. You can actually say, show them the number keypad on the phone, which helps increase conversions on mobile. Shipping offers are always a good one. Try different options, $40 or more is free shipping, that type of thing.

Jon Ballard: I'm cheating a little bit. I got a list in front of me. The possibilities are endless. I'm hoping we're just giving you some ideas on... getting you inspired on what you could go back and test on your site.

Evan Facinger: And if you're looking for tools, we can list some tools in the show notes as well, so that'll have some CRO tools that we use. Some are pretty expensive, but we've got a good option, I think, for a lot of people, especially if you're just getting started in testing, that's going to give you the features that you need to actually roll through and have those tests implemented, verify the results. We'll also put that traffic calculator, like we said in the show note, too so you can see if it's going to be worth it trying to get those numbers and see what it's going to look like. Especially if you need to get any sort of buy-in from anybody, kind of presenting those sorts of things and expecting that is going to go a long way I would think.

Jon Ballard: As we're kind of wrapping this up here, I would leave you with a couple of things. One set some goals for yourself. Say, "I want to set in the next 60 days, I want to increase conversions by 3 or 4%." That's a good goal. Make time for it. Set some time on your calendar each week or each day to work on conversion rate optimization if you're serious. And then be prepared for some failures. We've had a lot of stuff that I thought would really convert well and it didn't make a difference, or it actually negatively impacted our website, so that's part of the CRO game, so be prepared for successes and failures. Any last words of advice from you, Evan?

Evan Facinger: No, I think you nailed it with that. You never know what's going to work. If you knew what was going to work, you wouldn't have to test it, and that's why we run the test to see what's going to work, what isn't going to work, and then be able to make those decisions from there.

Evan Facinger: You always want to have a good testing repository lined up. That's why we use the PIE framework. There's other frameworks you can use, but that way you can prioritize your tests and make sure you've always got one ready to go, and then analyze the results. You want to make sure that you're taking a look at it, seeing what those changes were, what does that data actually mean, providing that insight. If you don't have a lot of traffic, it's going to be tough to get to statistical relevancy, so you want to be careful that you're not too... interpreting the data too soon, because then you can lead to changes that while you think they're data-backed, they're actually not if you don't have that relevancy.

Evan Facinger: For sites that don't get a lot of traffic, sometimes it's just the time. How long are you running it? Is that going to be long enough measurement to say that this data can be trusted? And don't just kind of gravitate towards the first thing that you see. A lot of times, if you don't have the data behind it, you don't want to make the change just because you like it and you're trying to talk more about psychology, confirmation bias, to try to get that data to prove what you want it to. You got to be careful of that too, I think.

Jon Ballard: And to your point, if your site doesn't have a lot of traffic, maybe your efforts are better spent on SEO or pay-per-click campaigns, because this stuff, to get statistical relevance, you need a fair amount of traffic coming to the site on a regular basis, so all things to think about.

Jon Ballard: And we're here to help. If you have any questions or further comments or want to know more, feel free to reach out to us on the website, or in the show notes we'll have our contact information, I'm sure. Anything else today, Evan?

Evan Facinger: That's all I got today.

Jon Ballard: All right. Thanks for joining us, everybody. I hope you've enjoyed this. And if you have ideas or want to be on the future shows with some topics and rapping with us about SEO or whatever might be on your mind, give a call.

Outro: Thanks for listening to the Foremost Media Marketing Chat Podcast. Don't forget to like and subscribe so you can stay on top of your game by never missing an episode. You can find even more marketing insights and show transcripts at foremostmedia.com.