Marketeers Guide To Conversion Optimization

Found this excellent introductory article to the mindset behind conversion optimisation here and wanted to share it. It certainly isn’t the definitive piece written on the subject but offers both a nice intro as well as a perspective that is valuable when continuing the discussion internally.


Guide To Conversion Optimization

The goal of CRO is to increase the value per [whatever metric you are measuring]. For example, that could be the value per click, per subscriber, or per purchase.

You go about this process by testing different variations of your landing page. Things like the headline, images, layout, button color, call to action, social proof, and urgency have some of the biggest impact on the conversion rate.

And that’s where *most* people go wrong.

They assume that higher conversions just means “more” of something. (e.g. more clicks, more opt-ins, more views…)

And then randomly test anything that might increase those *vanity* metrics. This is as opposed to the correct way, where you optimize for key performance indicators like revenue/profit/value per subscriber.

So you end up with newbie marketers that take their original landing page — which converted decently — and make the language extremely confusing, make the value proposition unclear… but throws in a higher contrast button, and more powerful (but not-relevant) headline, and more compelling copy (but to the wrong audience). What happens? You get ‘higher’ conversions but less value from your traffic.

Optimizing for the highest opt-in percentage (or the amount of people that view/click on your sales page) is NOT the same thing as optimizing for KPIs. The former leads to lower profit, unless you get lucky, while the latter leads to more money in your pocket. You DO want more money, right?

Reverse-Engineered CRO: The 80/20 Approach
For a variety of reasons, I can’t teach you copywriting/CRO with one forum post.

So I’m going to take a different approach than most CRO advice… we’re going to forget the tricks, strategies, case-studies and other less-important stuff. Instead we will apply the 80/20 rule… (in short: for most skills, you produce 80% of the results with 20% of your work… and the final 20% of results comes from 80% of the workload. So if you focus on the important 20%, you are much more efficient.)

We will do this by understanding the “behind the scenes” part of conversion rate optimization.

1) The Offer Is All That Matters
In a nutshell — all that matters is how compelling, relevant, and clear your offer is to your target audience. Your offer could be *anything.* (e.g. An eBook, paid course, free newsletter, infographic, free consultation etc. So this applies to all landing pages.)

Remember: Having the three elements above will ALWAYS matter more than little page elements, because the offer shapes which people will connect with your offer — and then convert: (There’s typically only one audience/demographic you want in your sales funnel… having lots of the *wrong* demographic will just produce bad conversions, while having a smaller but more targeted list comprised of the *right* demographic will produce high conversions.)

How do you come up with a killer offer?

Think about it from your customer’s point of view: (get as specific as possible…)

  • What problem does your website/product/offer solve for them?
  • What result is the customer hoping to get from your website/product/offer?
  • What timeframe are they hoping to achieve that result?
  • What ‘barriers’ to conversion might there be?

(Pro-Tip: Answering these questions yourself is good… but getting the answers to these questions FROM YOUR LEADS/TRAFFIC/CUSTOMERS is *way* better.)

That’s your rough headline…

Aka. If I was to answer those questions for a weight-loss product…

1. They want to lose their “beer belly.”
2. They want to lose on average 15-30 pounds.
3. They want to achieve this goal in 3 months or less.
4. They don’t want to have to workout excessively.

So my rough headline could be: Lose 15-30 Pounds In 90 Days Or Less With Our “Beer Belly Blaster” Weight Loss Course… (*Without* Having To Hit The Gym Regularly!)

It gets the point across in a clear, compelling, and relevant way. It will only speak to the EXACT demographic you are trying to reach with your product. (This is a good thing, you want to disqualify bad traffic just as much as you want to qualify the right traffic. You only want relevant, converting traffic in your marketing funnel…)

2) The Formula
Now, let’s move onto the the rest of the landing page.
(Remember, anything from a squeeze page to a sales page can follow this formula… you just format it a bit differently.)

Elements of an effective landing page:

  • Get The Attention – Arguably the most important part of a landing page… you need to get the attention of the ideal prospect for your offer. The headline normally accomplishes this.. but you need to really *hook* the reader in again and again throughout your entire landing page so they actually consume the copywriting that you put so much work into.
  • Address the problem – What’s the *burning* pain-point your product solves?
  • Who And Why – Make it very clear who will benefit from your offer — and why they should use you, specifically, over any potential competition.
  • Clear, compelling benefits – The various lesser pain-points you are helping.
  • Trust Factors – The social proof, testimonials, proof, data, etc…
  • Be Compelling But Believable – Demonstrate actual examples of your product/offer achieving the promised results. Remember that your offer is only as powerful as it is believable. For instance, if you promise to help people achieve results that are *too* over the top, you are just going to lose credibility. (The best way to be compelling without unbelievable, is to use an actual case-study, student/customer example, or something that is entirely measurable/provable.)
  • Risk-Reversal – Take on as much of the risk as possible. (e.g. A 30-day no questions asked guarantee) Make it so that the potential customer is risking *nothing* or as close to nothing as possible
  • Urgency – Why should the person act NOW? You will lose conversions unless people have a reason to act… Right. This. Instant. (You can accomplish this with a limited time offer, one-time-offer, short-term discount etc.)
  • Scarcity – People want what they can’t have. If you only have 20 seats on your webinar, it is much more compelling to join than having 10,000 open seats… because the resource isn’t scarce. If you only take on 1 client a month, that makes your leads try to “sell themselves” to you, so you’ll take them on as a client.
  • Bonus – For some reason.. people love bonuses… sometimes people will buy or convert on an offer for the ‘free’ bonuses that come with it… even though the product itself costs money. You can also use this for squeeze pages. (e.g. If your original offer was an eBook titled “15 Ways To Boost Your SAT Scores” then you’d probably get higher conversions if you switched it to “9 Ways To Boost Your SAT Scores” and then added in a ‘bonus’ eBook with the final 6 strategies. “Bonus: If you sign up in the next 5 minutes, we’ll send you our updated “6 NEW Strategies For Effective SAT Domination” eBook 100% Free!”)
  • The End – It is very powerful to end with a personal signature — like your name, or the signature you’d use for an email, make the landing page seem like more of a personal correspondence between you and the traffic. Also, make sure to include a postscript… they are one of the most-read pieces of copy… on emails/landing pages/sales copy. (e.g. “P.S. If you truly want to lose those last 10 pounds of belly fat, AND you are willing to put in the necessary dieting to make it happen… then you have all the more reason to sign up right this instant.”) I personally like to use post-scripts to reiterate the biggest/most powerful benefit or call to action, one last time.

A few random pointers:

  • Remove all distractions – Your landing pages, by design, are created to acheive one goal. You want traffic to do *one* thing when they hit your page. So remove all navigation, or links that take them away from this one page. You want to keep all of their attention on the page, until they either convert or leave.
  • An ugly page does NOT convert better than a professional looking page. – This is a ridiculously false statement that I hear all the time. Sometimes graphic designers will over-design a page which will kill conversions because it makes the process harder to follow — or it makes it unclear where to click/convert. A professional design will not lower conversions… in fact, a professional design will add to your trust factor, and will allow you to come off as a real business versus a scam. (You just need to make sure a marketer, not a graphic designer, is the one putting the layout of the page together.)
  • Test Multi-Step Conversions – I recently was able to significantly boost conversions on a lead-gen page by forcing the traffic to give me an email (by itself, which is low-friction) before leading them to the full long-form lead page (which asks for phone/name/email/more information etc.) I believe this is because the traffic is already partially committed once they have started the process, so people are more willing to finish. On top of that, if anyone does drop off the lead-gen page, I already have the email, so I can move it to an email marketing series to educate/build trust/generate demand and send them back to the lead-gen page to convert at a later date. (This also goes for opt-in forms… and is why so many marketers are moving to 2-step opt-in processes.)
  • Salutation – It is worth testing a typical salutation on your landing pages — meant to connect with your target audience. (e.g. If I’m selling to business owners, I might test a salutation of “Dear Innovative Business Owners,” or “Dear Small Business Marketer,”) Think of this like a greeting, but in written form, the same way you’d start a letter to a friend with a salutation (but normally that would be “Dear Friend,”). The idea here is that you are making the message very personal — less ‘salesy’ and more focused on problem-solving.

Now you have the *simplified* formula…
Understand the psychology in CRO, and you can achieve high-conversions without any ‘tricks.’

If you learn one thing from this thread… make it this:
Conversion optimization… getting the most money from your list… and creating winning marketing campaigns comes down to the offer — above everything else.

Remember that you do NOT need any sly tricks, procedures, or strategies for boosting your conversions. First get the offer perfected, then move onto small optimization. Remember to optimize for back-end profit, or some other key performance indicator, do NOT optimize for the highest percentage of opt-ins or some other vanity metric unless you can correlate that increase to an increase in revenue/profit.

Make sure that you are offering a compelling result/benefit/solution in return for your traffic completing the call-to-action. It is *that* simple.

If I offered you $1,000 in a month… and all you had to do was pay me $500 right this instant, how many of you would take me up on that offer? Almost everyone… as long as I had established enough of the “know, like, trust” factor with you guys, so that you didn’t think it was “too good to be true.”

In essence, THAT is what you need to do to get killer conversions from your landing pages, squeeze pages, sales pages, etc.

Be *so* compelling, that your traffic cannot help but convert.

One of my favorite analogies on this topic came from the guys at the I Love Marketing podcast (Dean Jackson + Joe Polish, two great guys, fantastic marketers… you should check out their podcast if you are new to marketing — it is a *wealth* of introductory-marketing advice.)

Let’s call this the mice marketing theory…
Here’s the idea: Mice have only two prime directives in life. To get the cheese and to avoid cats.
To simplify: Mice only care about generating pleasure (getting the cheese) or avoiding pain (being eaten by a cat).

Dean Jackson says, “So, we’re very similar, as humans. We’re driven to focus on the cheese, if you
want to call it that, for our life, which are all the pleasurable things, the good things that
we want, the things that we are attracted to, and to avoid the cats, which would be the
painful things; getting ripped off or getting hurt, or losing money, or taking risks. All
those kind of things, we’re naturally averse to risk and we’re naturally attracted to

Remember: Any time you are crafting an offer… think about the situation from the eyes of your readers. Answer the question: What is in it for ME?

You make a compelling offer by offering SO MUCH VALUE to the end reader that they cannot help but convert. You make an offer that benefits THEM.

Do you understand?

Let’s look at an example:

Now let’s put everything we’ve learned in this thread together…

First off, Ramit Sethi (really solid marketer, but learn from *how* he markets to his audience not *what* he is marketing… I don’t know if his products/courses are any good because I haven’t gone through any of them yet.)

Here’s his home-page… which is arguably the most important landing page on his entire site. I bet this drives a significant portion of his entire email list/subscribers/profit etc…

Let’s see which elements of an effective landing page he is incorporating.

  • Grabs attention through powerful headline.
  • Establishes trust through personal picture, picture of book cover, and privacy statement.
  • Social proof – Not just any author, he is a “NYTimes Best-Selling” Author
  • Makes a very clear offer: The “Best” Of His Book For Free
  • Call To Action is clear, powerful, and compelling: “Get The Best Of My Book Free” (It even reiterates the main benefit.)
  • Scarcity And Urgency – “So get it now before I come to my senses and take this down.”
  • Believable – “This is a test. I’ve never put all this content online before….” He’s telling you WHY he’s making such a crazy offer… and it seem believable.
  • Clean, professional layout – Does not distract from the one conversion at hand. Even uses high-contrast button and color scheme to make the call to action VERY apparent.
  • Low Friction – Just asks for name + email in return for lots of value.
  • The Mice Marketing Theory – Focuses 100% on the value to end reader, NOT what he gains from this interaction. It’s all about what YOU get for giving your email.