How to Have an Effective Conversion Optimization Strategy Without Wasting Time or Money

by Neil Patel

Last updated on July 31st, 2017

Conversion optimization can be time-consuming and expensive.

I’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on conversion rate optimization. I’m also constantly running tests on my websites. In my experience, conversion optimization has a huge ROI. I’m willing to spend time and money.

But what if you don’t have time or money?

All is not lost. Conversion optimization doesn’t have to be a resource-draining event. In the startup world, I realize that time and cash are scarce. If you want to make stuff happen, you’ve got to be able to do so without a big budget and months of time.

Below are nine tips that will help you start optimizing and get results right away!

1. Analyze your site speed

Site speed is the quintessential low-hanging fruit of conversion optimization. A simple speed increase can achieve cascades of new conversions.

Why? Because web users are impatient. According to research, web users expect a website to load in 2 seconds.

2 seconds!? And what happens if your site doesn’t load in that amount of time? The user bounces, leaving your site never to return. Clearly, a slow site will produce disastrous conversion rates.

Amazon discovered that they improved their earnings by 1% for every 100 milliseconds shaved off their site loading time.

amazon-100-milliseconds

Walmart did the same thing. By squashing their page load time by one second, they gained a 2% increase in conversions.

walmart-site-speed

Shopzilla lowered their load time from 6 seconds to 1.2 seconds. The company’s revenue skyrocketed to 12%, while increasing page views by 25%. Mozilla made their website 2.2 seconds faster, and gained 60 million additional Firefox downloads. Yahoo’s site gained a 400 millisecond improvement, which translated into a 9% increase in traffic.

So maybe you’re not Yahoo or Amazon. So what? Site speed still has an enormous impact upon your conversion rates.

How do you improve your site speed? First, you need to analyze site speed. It’s free and fast.

Go to GTmetrix.com and enter your site.

gtmetrix-website

GTmetrix will analyze the site, which takes less than a minute. They provide a full report on the performance of your website.

gtmetrix-results

The real value of the speed report is the recommendations section. This is basically a how-to guide for making your website faster. The list is arranged from the poorest grade to the best.

gtmetrix-resultspart-two

If the grade for a given element is below an A, you should take action.

Click on a specific element, and you’ll learn more about why the issue is creating a site speed delay, and what you can do about it.

recommendation-leverage-browser-caching

Depending on your knowledge of website coding and development, you may need to enlist the help of your developer to address some of the issues.

Another test resource is Pingdom’s website speed test. They provide a similar set of results and recommendations.

pingdom-screenshot-sept

I often use Google’s Pagespeed insights. The value of Google’s report is in the clear way that it distinguishes mobile speed results.

google-pagespeed-insights

Keep in mind that your website is going to have different load times depending on when and where you test it.

2. Run a survey

The goal of conversion optimization is to get more conversions (customers) from your existing traffic. In order to do that, you have to make improvements to the website.

Where is the best source of information to make those improvements? Your website visitors or customers.

These are the people who are interacting with your site, looking at it with fresh eyes, analyzing its performance, and trying to accomplish something.

You need to listen to what they have to say. You need qualitative data.

Qualitative data is information that can’t be measured by conventional analytics or standard metrics. It’s contrasted with quantitative data, which is something like site speed or number of impressions. Qualitative data is the experience that your customer shares with you about their interaction with your site.

Adding a survey to your website is a great way to get real-life actionable insight. SurveyMonkey is one tool that I’ve used to gather this kind of data.

survey-monkey-screenshot

You can use the tools in SurveyMonkey to gather a variety of different types of information in various ways. A simple survey helps you to understand why users are on your website, what marketing channels work best for them, how they value their privacy, what their view of your brand is, or how often they want to receive information.

Here’s a sample SurveyMonkey question:

sample-survey-monkey-question

When you analyze your survey results, you don’t necessarily want to take action based on a single response. It’s helpful to have hundreds of survey results before you decide on a major change.

3. Create a conversion funnel

The most straightforward way to have a conversion strategy is to have a conversion funnel. The best way to set up a conversion funnel is to use Google Analytics.

With a basic understanding of Google Analytics and an hour or so of time, you can create a conversion funnel from scratch. Here’s a quick how-to:

One of the main advantages of the conversion funnel is that it allows you to visualize the conversion process.

GA-conversion-funnel

Image Source

Based on your visualized data, you can make strategic improvements to the process.

This is one of my preferred recommendations for making targeted conversion improvements. It’s free and relatively quick.

For more information on the process of setting up, optimizing, and streamlining your Google Analytics conversion funnels, read this helpful article.

4. Find out exactly what your users are doing on your site.

Above, I discussed surveys as a form of qualitative data — the responses that your website visitors provide to your questions.

Another powerful source of information comes by discovering what your users are doing on your website. What buttons do they click? What paths do they take? What pages do they spend time on?

Google Analytics can provide some of this data, but only in a quantitative sort of way.

google-analytics-data

You need a qualitative assessment of user behavior.

A tool like CrazyEgg can provide this kind of information. Here are some examples:

  • Heat maps show where your visitors are clicking.
  • Scroll maps indicate where on the page a visitor is scrolling and spending time.
  • Confetti maps display all the areas on a page that a visitor clicked.

Instead of looking at numbers, pie charts, and line graphs, you’re looking at your actual website plus information about how users interacted with it. Thus, you’re understanding the factors that impact the conversion process of your users.

A confetti map — like the one below — shows the areas of a page that people clicked on, along with how those visitors came to the site.

crazyegg-heatmap-results

If you are trying to optimize for conversions, such information is enormously valuable. For example, you may realize that people are clicking around a button, but not on a button. What should you do? Make the button bigger.

Crazy Egg isn’t the only tool of its kind. You can also use Heatmap.me, ClickHeat, Hotspots Analytics (a WordPress plugin), and ClickTale. Each of these tools will help you listen to the story of what visitors are doing on your website.

5. Run experiments in Google Analytics

Most split testing tools will charge a monthly subscription rate. Not Google Analytics.

google-multivariant-testing

It may not be as easy-to-use as something like Optimizely, but Google Analytics does allow for split (more accurately, A/B/N) and multivariate testing of conversion elements.

Here’s how they describe it:

If you have a website, you have activities that you want your users to complete (e.g., make a purchase, sign up for a newsletter) and/or metrics that you want to improve (e.g., revenue, session duration, bounce rate). With Content Experiments, you can test which version of a landing page results in the greatest improvement in conversions (i.e. completed activities that you measure as goals) or metric value. You can test up to 10 variations of a landing page.

Google Experiments allows you to test page elements such as headlines, images, text, CTAs, and layouts. You can also set analytics goals to determine session duration or pages per session.

If you’re high on technical knowledge, but low on monetary resources, Google Experiments is a great way to go.

6. Test a conversion element on Five Second Test

The FiveSecondTest from UsabilityHub is a free and easy way to test component of your website.

All you do is upload a screenshot or mockup to the site, and the test will be sent to test takers who do so for free or in exchange for services. The testers have five seconds to view the screenshot and answer a question that you set.

The approach is simple, but the answers are invaluable:

usabilityhub-screenshot-sept

The goal is to get first impressions — a quick sense of the usability and interface of a website. If you take tests, you’ll earn credit for hosting a test yourself.

7. Test the right things

All tests are not created equal. Some tests are a total waste of time. Some tests produce zero results. To maximize your time and minimize your expenditure, focus on the following tests:

  • Headlines are one of the first things that people see when they land on your page. How does the wording or approach of these headlines affect conversions.
  • People want to be assured that they’re making a safe purchase. What converts higher — a rock-solid money-back guarantee or a free trial of the service?
  • Form fields. Data indicates that shorter forms mean higher form completion rates. See what happens to the quality and quantity of your conversions when you reduce the number of form fields.
  • Testimonials are usually a strong trust signal on a website. How does adding testimonials affect your conversion rates?
  • CTA buttons. The Call to Action buttons on your website are where purchases happen, where subscriptions are started, or where free trials are launched. Adjusting the copy, size, color, and appearance of these buttons will affect your conversion rates.
  • Checkout process. Much of conversion optimization has to do with reducing shopping cart abandonment rates. Test 3-step shopping carts vs. 2-step, and see how it impacts conversion rates.
  • Trust symbols. There are a variety of trust symbols that you can add to your site that could make your site feel safer. Payment symbols, a TRUSTe privacy symbol, or even a Better Business Bureau logo can serve as trust symbols.
  • Page layout. Test your landing pages to see whether a long form or short form approach works best.

8. Optimize for revenue, not conversions

Keep the main goal of conversion optimization in mind. It’s not just about the conversion rates. It’s about revenue.

This simple mental adjustment will keep you from needlessly optimizing minutiae on your site. If a certain conversion improvement isn’t producing higher rates of revenue, then it’s not effective.

It’s easy to get lost in the weeds of CRO and focus only on conversion rates. Keep the big picture in mind, and it will save you a lot of time and cash.

9. Create a testing schedule

To stay focused and motivated in your split testing, I recommend that you maintain a testing schedule.

If you purchase split testing software, but don’t use it then it’s a complete waste of money. If you buy it, get the most use out of it that you can. If you’re not actively running a test you should either be interpreting the results of a test or preparing for your next test. There should be no lag time.

Here are a few resources that I suggest for developing a testing schedule.

Most conversion optimizers tell you to “always be testing,” and this is great advice. The more you test, the more value you’ll derive from your testing software, and the more your conversion rates will increase.

Conclusion

It’s easy to think that conversion optimization has to take tons of time and tons of money. In reality, conversion optimization requires a shoestring budget and not a whole lot of time.

A conversion optimization strategy is, at the most basic level, a focused effort to turn a higher percentage of visitors into customers. Small, inexpensive, and consistent changes can help you to achieve this goal.

What are your conversion optimization hacks?

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Neil Patel

Neil Patel is the co-founder of Crazy Egg and Hello Bar. He helps companies like Amazon, NBC, GM, HP and Viacom grow their revenue.

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