Little Black Dress

Like most women I have more than a few black items in my closet: pants, skirt, sweater, jacket, dress, and several pairs of black shoes. These items form the foundation of my wardrobe, the elements on which all new purchases are built.

Search engine optimization (SEO) has been the “black” of the web design world for years. Web developers and marketers, building on the SEO foundation, relentlessly tweaked web designs to accommodate new accessories or changes in Google rules. But web fashion is changing and conversion rate optimization (CRO)  is quickly becoming the new black. In 2014, well-dressed websites will shift their focus from driving traffic to creating conversion which is getting visitors to do something once they arrive.

CRO is more than just slapping up a landing page, making an offer and hoping someone will fill in the form. CRO is a structured process designed to improve the performance of your website. Like any form of marketing, your conversion program begins with your objectives. Some websites make products available for purchase, and in that case sales is an effective measure of CRO. Many companies, however, use their website as a step in the sales funnel rather than the end goal. If this is the case for your website, CRO success indicators might be completion of a form, creation of an account, or a request for more information.

To ensure a perfect fit that looks good on you, establish your goals first, then build the campaigns to achieve that. And remember, CRO isn’t guesswork. It is built with repeated testing and analysis.

Here are a few key terms you should know to build your CRO wardrobe

Landing Page

Your CRO process begins with a visitor arriving at a landing page. Unlike your home page or blog post, a landing page exists to capture a visitor’s information. Effective landing pages drive people to want what you have by creating a sense of urgency. You want visitors to feel like they have to what you are offering right now. If they click away, they may never come back.

Call to Action (CTA)

A call to action (CTA) is the focal point of your landing page. It may be an image or text link which drives visitors to do something. While many pages on your website may have CTAs, such as the link at the bottom of this post, on a landing page there are no distractions, no choices. There is one thing you want visitors to do. That action might be signing up for an email newsletter, downloading a workbook, creating an account with a login and password, completing  a survey, or even making a purchase. Keep it simple and have one offer and one submission form. No need to over-accessorize and confuse the visitor.

Build Your Email List

A good CTA is the first step in your email program

Conversion Funnel

The purpose of a funnel is to transfer things from one container to another without spilling. The purpose of a conversion funnel is to move visitors from one place to another without losing them along the way.  On an ecommerce site, the funnel might be home page > search results page > product page > checkout. For other services, the funnel might start with an advertisement or email promotion which drives visitors to a blog post > landing  page > submission form. Improving your CRO relies on studying the fallout at each step in the process.

A/B or Split Testing

Are people more likely to click on a button which says “download now” or “free trial”? Will they give you their contact information more often in exchange for a checklist, a white paper or an ebook? When it comes to CRO don’t guess! A/B testing, also called split testing, takes the guesswork out of the equation. You simply create two identical landing pages then modify only one element. A green button one page, and yellow on another. Promote the pages the equally via email, PPC or social media, then measure the results. Which one converts more prospects? Repeat the process often, varying different elements, form the offer to the position of the download form. This is not a set it and forget it process. Things change, and your landing page will need to change over time.

Unlike fashion trends which come and go, Conversion really is the new black. Spend some time getting your pages set up correctly, and I know it will look good on you!