website conversion optimization guide

Your Nutshell Guide to Better Website Conversion Optimization: Boost Your Site’s Profitability With These Tips

Even if your content is killer, your conversion rates can still be lackluster.

*mic drop* 🎤

That’s because every tiny detail, including the surrounding content, sidebars, header images, and links (let’s call them the “peripheral stuff”), contribute to your user’s experience (UX, for short).

You may think these extraneous details have no bearing on the effect of your content, but they DO matter – a lot.

As it turns out, they can influence the user psychologically, especially if you cap your content with an ask or a call-to-action.

The surrounding stuff, the little details beyond the meat of your content/copy, can make your reader more or less likely to follow through with your CTA.

For example, did you know that something as simple as removing social login options (like Facebook) from a page resulted in increased conversions for a Norwegian cosmetics retailer?

It’s true. They did a split test, pitting one version of the page with a social login option against another version without it:

#1: The page with a Facebook login, above.

#2: The same page without the Facebook login.

The results? The one without the social login option (#2) earned a 3% increase in conversions and a spike in revenue for the company.

That’s exactly why website conversion optimization exists.

It’s there to help you create the version of your page that is most appealing to your customers/readers/audience and keeps them primed to act the way you want. In turn, this increases the likelihood of those people buying into your CTAs.

If your content is great but your UX sucks, you’ll have a harder time getting people to bite.

Websites that are harder to use due to off-putting ads, poor design choices, bloated copy (or not enough copy), and other UX mistakes are roadblocks to conversions.

The key is not to apply very specific tweaks that worked to increase conversions for another company. Everyone’s customers are different, so everyone’s data from split testing these optimization tweaks is totally subjective.

Instead, try implementing universally approved tactics, then test them to make sure they’re right for your audience.

We’ve rounded up a list of these universal approaches that pretty much work for everybody. Ready? Let’s break them down.

Read a nutshell guide to website conversion optimization and 5 data-backed methods to improve your site conversions, via @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

your website conversion optimization guide

Your Guide to Website Conversion Optimization: 5 Data-Backed Ways to Improve Your Conversions

1. Use SSL Certificates/Trust Badges

One of the major ways to increase conversions on a page, especially a check-out or sales page, is to instill trust in your customers with the right elements.

If a customer is thinking about purchasing, they may already have some level of trust with you. In this case, you want to make that sales/check-out page help them cross the finish line.

Securing your site with an SSL certificate is one major way to build your trust and optimize your conversion rates. (Sometimes your web host will offer this as a service along with hosting your website.)

Take a look at how this appears on our site:

Or, for another example, here’s Amazon’s SSL-secured site:

Want to see a non-secured site? It doesn’t look as trustworthy, immediately right off the bat. This isn’t a good first impression:

Learn more in Google’s useful help article about SSL certificates.

You can also include a “trust badge” on the page. This little graphic is evidence your site is safe and secure as verified by an outside, trusted objective source.

Most of the time, these badges tell the consumer that your site uses SSL (secure sockets layer) technology to keep data like credit card numbers encrypted and safe. Others may simply signify a credible third party deems you trustworthy.

A good example: the Better Business Bureau, or BBB, has “Accredited Business” badges that show they have verified your company as trustworthy.

Here are some more examples of recognizable trust badges:

Using trust badges is a pretty fail-safe method because plenty of consumers are worried about the security of their information online.

According to a European study conducted by GlobalSign, 77% of internet users are worried about their data safety, including whether it will be misused or intercepted. Additionally, most people check for security indicators on web pages, whether it’s right before a purchase (24%), before handing out their details (48%), or just out of habit each time they visit a new website (21%).

People are rightly anxious about protecting their data, so addressing the underlying worry can help ease the way to more conversions, including completed check-outs.

Your website not converting? @JuliaEMcCoy discusses #websiteconversion #websiteoptimization in this nutshell guide to improving site conversions Click To Tweet

In fact, Blue Fountain Media showed how effective trust badges can be when they conducted a split test on their “request a quote” form.

One version of the form didn’t include a badge:

While a second version of the same form included a VeriSign seal:

The results: The version with the trust badge got 81% more form fill-outs than the one without it.

The takeaway: If you could instill more confidence in a user’s purchase or other action on your site, why wouldn’t you?

  • Get verified by a third party, or purchase SSL for your domain (DigiCert by Symantec is a good option.)
  • Slap a trust badge like an SSL certificate on pages where it makes sense
  • Test to see if it makes a difference in conversions

2. Use Pop-Ups Correctly for Better Website Conversion Optimization

There’s a lot of contention surrounding pop-ups. Do they help conversions? Do they hurt? There are arguments for both sides.

So, should you use pop-ups? Shouldn’t you? (Do you want to tear out your hair yet?)

Guess what:

The question is not whether you should use pop-ups.

The question is how you should use them if you go that route.

Your pop-ups could be killing your conversions. @JuliaEMcCoy shares her insights on #websiteconversion #websiteoptimization in this nutshell guide Click To Tweet

A. Avoid Intrusive Interstitials (or Risk Google’s Wrath)

What the heck are “interstitials” as related to pop-ups?

Short answer: An interstitial is a period of time when your website content is supplanted by a promotional message.

Often, an interstitial looks like a pop-up that covers the entire screen. The user can’t see or access the content they were actually looking for until they respond to the interstitial, like so:

Things can get very sticky with interstitial pop-ups. The line between “quick grab for your attention” and “intrusive” is thinner than thin.

For mobile browsing, Google doesn’t want to see intrusive interstitials anywhere near your website. These are pop-ups that impede the user’s ability to access the content.

Google also stipulates when interstitials are okay:

You can use them responsibly if:

  • You need to fulfill a legal obligation (like verifying a user’s age)
  • You need users to log in to access parts of your site
  • You make sure your pop-ups are reasonably sized (read: not gargantuan) and are easily dismissable

For a full explanation of what you should and shouldn’t do regarding interstitials, check out this post on Search Engine Journal: 7 Tips for Using Pop-Ups without Harming Your SEO.

B. Time Your Pop-Ups Right

Perhaps the most important key to getting pop-ups right for more conversions is timing.

When and where your pop-ups pop up can make or break things for you.

According to Sumo’s analysis of 2 billion examples of pop-ups, the ones that converted the worst were rushed. That means they appeared too quickly, such as seconds after the page loaded.

In contrast, a well-timed pop-up can pay off… big time.

Here’s a great example Sumo supplies:

The pop-up below was timed to appear 15 seconds after a visitor started viewing an ebook product page. It offers a free download of the first chapter.

This pop-up has a 38.4% conversion rate, and it’s all because it literally pops up at the exact right time – when the user has had a chance to check out the product and get interested.

The takeaway: For pop-ups, timing is everything.

To discover the best time to launch your pop-up, Sumo recommends checking Google Analytics for the average time on page. For instance, maybe users spend an average of 20 seconds on your page before bouncing. Figure out how to sweeten the deal with a timed pop-up (maybe at the 15-second mark?) so they’ll want to follow through with whatever your CTA asks of them.

3. Entice Users with Buttons That Look Like Buttons

According to CrazyEgg, website users expect buttons. They look for buttons. They need buttons.

Why?

Because, since the dawn of the web (think the 1990s), this is how you interacted with web pages. When users see a button, they expect to take some form of action.

Here’s an example of good button design from a company who placed a PPC ad on Google for the keyword “buttons and website conversions.”

Obviously, they’re aiming for conversions themselves with this ad. The page, as such, lives up to expectations.

May I direct your attention to the CTA buttons on this landing page?

They’re big, colorful, rounded, and satisfyingly button-y.

Plus, when you hover your mouse over them, they change color.

I really want to click this button.

Landing pages without buttons are confusing. What am I supposed to click on?

Unsurprisingly (or maybe surprisingly), studies have shown that this logic holds up.

In a series of tests between pages with buttons that look like buttons and so-called “ghost buttons” (essentially transparent boxes with text in them), ConversionXL showed that users prefer the former over and over again.

For instance, in the first split test, users clicked on the ghost button version 20% less than the regular button.

Another case study from Unbounce shows more of the same. They tested two versions of CTA buttons: A rectangular version and a rounder, more button-y version.

The rounder version won by a landslide – it increased conversions by 35.81%.

The takeaway: When you create CTA buttons, make them look like a button! In other words, make them irresistible.

4. Keep Forms Simpler and Ask the Right Questions

Another piece of your website you can optimize for conversions is your form. Email sign-ups, surveys, check-out pages, and opt-in forms are all fair game.

To get the best conversions from your forms, the conventional wisdom is to keep them shorter.

At least, it was.

As this post from Venture Harbour argues, shorter does not necessarily mean better.

In this piece, the author examines 5 different case studies where other factors played a bigger role than length.

For instance, a case study from Marketing Experiments found that they didn’t need to shorten their form to increase conversions. They just needed to get rid of the copy on top of it:

The copy above the form in Version B reduced conversions, driving them down by 28%. That’s because visitors to this page were already highly motivated to fill out the form, and the copy got in the way. Form length didn’t matter.

In another case study from ConversionXL, they literally tested how form length would affect conversions.

They started with a form containing 9 fields. After whittling it down to 6 and testing the shorter form against the original, they found that conversions dropped by 14.23% with the shorter form.

What mattered more than form length? The type of questions they were asking.

In fact, after tweaking the form copy (but keeping the fields at 9 total), they saw a jump in conversions – 19.21%, to be exact.

The shorter form didn’t have the questions that users were interested in answering. The longer form kept them, but with rephrased copy that helped reduce any anxiety about filling it out.

The takeaway: The context of your form is critical to conversions. Do users expect to have to answer a lot of questions (like if they’re requesting a quote for services)? Or do they just want to get to a freebie download as quickly as possible?

This should come as no surprise, but your particular audience’s needs/expectations should determine the length of your forms. Just don’t get overly complicated, and ask the right questions.

5. Never Oversell

You know that icky feeling you get when a salesperson is desperately trying to wring money from your wallet?

You just want to be left alone to browse in peace, but they carry on with their sales pitch anyway. They’re either totally oblivious to your disinterest or too focused on the $$$ to care.

It turns out you can replicate that exact experience on a website. (Of course, that doesn’t mean you should.)

For example, when I recently visited a blog that usually serves up the good stuff, a pile of CTAs plus a few small pop-ups met me instead.

Where should the user’s attention go in this scenario? If you’re overwhelming them with asks before they can even read your content/start building trust, well…

That’s how you turn them off.

Overselling can backfire.

Instead, keeping the asks simple and focused can go a long way. Take another case study from ConversionXL, where they optimized a landing page for Truckers Report, a resource that hooks truck drivers up with better jobs.

Here’s the original page:

After drilling down and simplifying the page through a few tests, they arrived at a version that converted nearly 80% better than the original (and the original wasn’t that complicated, to begin with).

Sometimes, simpler is better. Just repeating your CTAs all over the place without thinking about UX won’t convince visitors to act. It will do the opposite.

The above example shows us that you don’t have to oversell to get the desired results.

The takeaway: Instead of adding more elements to your webpage to increase conversions, try taking some away, simplifying, and narrowing your CTA down to one well-placed option.

Just repeating your CTAs all over the place without thinking about UX won’t convince visitors to act. This and more #contentmarketing nuggets in @JuliaEMcCoy's nutshell guide to #websiteconversion #websiteoptimization Click To Tweet

Website Conversion Optimization: There’s No One-Size-Fits-All

Optimizing your website for maximum conversions isn’t a straightforward task.

There is no checklist with boxes to tick. There aren’t any “best practices” that work every single time, for every single webpage.

Instead, website conversion optimization will be totally unique for you or your clients. It depends on your brand, your website, and your customers.

The best first step for any website to optimize their conversions is not to look at what their peers are doing, but rather what their audience wants/needs/expects from their website, content, and web pages.

Start with providing the best user experience possible, and you’re on your way.

22 replies
  1. Michael Ligot
    Michael Ligot says:

    How successful are the popups that happen when your mouse pointer goes past the web screen and to other parts of the browser window (e.g. bookmark toolbars)? I get annoyed by them, but since I keep seeing them they must be working.

    Reply
  2. Shuruti Singh
    Shuruti Singh says:

    The post was really helpful for me ,It is an incredible article . Your writing skills are very collective and also i enjoyed reading the post of yours. i will surely share this post. cheers!!

    Reply

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