Do you know what’s great about one-size-fits-all clothes you can buy off the rack?
They make shopping easy. Pick one and you’re good to go. Do they fit? Yes. Ish!
Compare that to a suit that’s tailored for you. Every last centimeter measured to your size and shape. Every inch of fabric hugging your body perfectly. If you want to look as dapper as James Bond, you get a tailored suit. One that fits you like a glove.
That’s what a conversion rate optimization (CRO) audit does. It studies and measures the behavior of your users. It doesn’t just pick common practices from a proverbial rack. It sees to it that any optimization changes you make are tailored to your audience.
But do you really have to do it? Isn’t one-size-fits-all good enough?
I know what you’re saying.
It’s tempting to jump right into it and apply best practices. You’ve read enough optimization case studies to know what changes to make. You’ve pored over too many blog posts showing how a simple change can increase conversions! You can’t wait for the same thing to happen to your site, too.
Here’s what I think. Most of the time, these CRO case studies only dangle and sell the big conversion increases. What they play down is the research and work that went into it. That research is the audit. And it’s the magic that drives conversion optimization experiments.
Why is this so?
A CRO audit gets you to laser-point the possible reasons why your website isn’t performing.
Let’s put it this way. Say you come back from holiday to a house that stinks. First, you open the windows. The smell lessens a little bit. But it still stinks. Next, you spray Febreze. That gets rid of the smell. Temporarily. So what do you do next? You look for the source of the smell. That’s when you find a dead rat behind the fridge. Bingo! As soon as you get rid of the animal, it makes a huge difference in getting rid of the stinky smell.
That’s what an audit does. Using scientific analysis and data, you find the root of the problem. You find the rat that’s slowing down conversions. You find the areas that you can change for maximum impact.
Without it, your optimization process is a shot in the dark. It might work sometimes. But most of the time it won’t.
Important elements for a successful CRO audit
So how do you find the bottlenecks? How do you find the dead rat that’s dragging your conversions down? Like a lot of things, there are a few ways to do it. What I’ll show you today is an easy process that you can do by yourself.
Are you ready? Let’s start.
1. First, put your problem into words
Yeah. Yeah. What am I thinking? Of course, you have a problem. That’s why you’re here, right? But as Michael Leboeuf says:
“When you write down your ideas you automatically focus your full attention on them.”
So yeah. Write it down.
This helps you identify what the exact problem is and where you can direct your CRO audit.
Don’t write a general problem like “my conversions are low”.
Put something specific to your site and in line with your business goals. For example:
- “Only 1 out of every 500 visitors to my landing page buy.”
- “The conversion rate on my eCommerce site is at .5% which is way below the industry average.”
- “Out of 2000 visitors from Facebook to my webinar registration page, only 2 registered.
- 50% of customers abandon the cart
You get the gist. It’s specific. It’s a problem you want solving.
So what’s your problem? Write it down.
When you’re done with that, let’s move on to the next step.
2. Use data to know your customers better
In Arthur Conan Doyle’s “Scandal in Bohemia,” Watson says, “This is indeed a mystery. What do you imagine that it means?“
And Sherlock Holmes replies, “I have no data yet. It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”
He might as well be talking about conversion rate optimization. In CRO, data is what’s going to separate you from quackery. It gives birth to your North Star that points to the most efficient way to run your CRO strategy.
Let’s backtrack a little.
You’ve got a specific problem. You’ve written it down, right?
But where do you find this data that will help you find the root of the problem?
The most obvious place to start digging is in your analytics. Here, your visitors leave a trail to let you know why they’re not engaging with you. Why they’re not registering for the webinar. Why they’re not buying.
For this guide, let’s dig into your Google analytics. Let’s have a look at two metrics worth investigating when auditing your site.
1. Know the difference between mobile and desktop conversions. You can find this by going to the device category [mobile>overview>device category].
Why is this important and how can this help you?
There are a lot of opportunities when you optimize for mobile devices. Yet from what we’ve seen in our free CRO audits, most websites don’t optimize for mobile. But why? If you look at your analytics, you’ll most likely find that you get more visitors from mobile devices than from desktop. Here’s the thing. Their psychology is very different. Doesn’t it make sense then to build a page for them?
So have a look at the mobile conversions. If it’s much lower than desktop, then you know you’ve got opportunities for an increase in conversions.
2. Look at conversions by age bracket. You can find this by going to demographics audience>demographics>age
Why is this important and how can this help you?
One demographic may convert more than others. Look at your data. Does any difference in conversions between demographics stand out? Look at the image above, for example. The 65+ demographic converts at 2%. But the 25-34 age bracket converts at only 1%. So this is something worth looking into. Why are they not converting as well? What are their reasons for visiting the page? How are there needs different? Is it possible to make a separate landing page for that demographic?
Just knowing this data from your analytics will give you enough fuel to start your CRO experiments.
Other ways to find the root of the problem
Apart from your analytics, here are two other things you can do to study the behavior of your current visitors.
Heatmaps show a graphical view of the behavior of your website visitors. It tracks things like:
- Which links they click
- How far they scroll down the page
- Where they look
- What they read
- What they spend a long time reading and which ones they rush over
They look like this. The warmer colors like red and orange mean a lot of activity while the cool colors like green and blue mean less.
How you might ask, can this help you?
You see, when you pore over data and do research, what you’re really studying is the behavior of your visitors. With heatmaps, you become a fly on the wall observing what people do when they’re on your site. For example, if you’re looking for ways to optimize a product page, you’ll see which image they look at a lot. You’ll see which content they don’t read.
And these insights are very useful. As an example, if customers click a product image that doesn’t get magnified, perhaps it’s time to change that.
If people click the link to the about page a lot, perhaps it’s time to consider that as an important element in the conversion process.
If people scroll up and down the page many times, then perhaps there’s something missing in your copy.
As you may have noticed, I use the word “perhaps”.
And that’s the shortcoming of heatmaps. They give you insights into what people do but they don’t tell you why. But if you combine heatmaps with other research processes, then you’ll have a better understanding of your users.
Note: Want to add heatmap tracking to your site? Check out our roundup of heatmap software tools.
Ask your customers
Last but not the least, go straight to the source with a good ‘ole fashion interview. It’s delightful to geek out on data and analytics. But a survey or interview will give you answers you won’t get from big data. Talking to your target customers will help you find the why. It can also give you the precise language they use. This will be useful later when it’s time to write copy for your page.
3. Pinpoint the cause of inaction
Once you have the data, you begin to have insights into what could be the problem — what could be the cause of your visitors’ inaction. Tbh, this isn’t always easy to find. For most sites, there’s likely more than one reason why people are not converting.
But if you’ve done the audience research properly and looked into the data with care, then you’ll see a pattern emerge.
Here are some possible reasons for your visitors’ inaction.
1. If the bounce rate is very high, look at the message match. That is, ask where the visitors are coming from. What keywords do they type into Google to get to your page? If they arrive from a paid ad, what does the ad say the page was going to be? Is there continuity from where they come from to the message on your page? If there isn’t, that’s a major problem to look into.
If there is message match, then you might have a different problem. How does the layout look? Is it easy to see what the page is about in the first few seconds? Is it easy for him to know what he needs to do when he’s on your page? Is everything clear even for a new visitor who doesn’t know anything about your page?
2. If most visitors scroll down to the bottom of the page, but you’re getting a very low conversion rate, then investigate the area around the call to action or add to cart button. Is there something there that may be causing some anxiety? Do you offer a compelling guarantee? Is there enough social proof to solidify trust in your company?
3. If people aren’t scrolling, have a look at above the fold content. Have you clearly stated your value proposition? Do the headlines and subheadlines catch the attention of the reader and encourage him to go down the page. Do you need to put a CTA button above the fold?
As you can see from the examples above, for every problem that you have, match it with a possible reason why this could be so. Generally, there are three possible reasons for low conversions that you can look at as you do this.
- The user experience is not optimal.
- Your copy does not reflect the psychology of your buyers. That is, the language you use may not match theirs’. The page may not meet their expectations. The copy doesn’t properly address their objections. There’s not enough social proof. Or the page doesn’t give them enough reason to trust your product and/or your company.
- There are tech problems. There might be problems with loading or rendering. This is of particular concern with conversions in mobile devices.
4. The moment of truth – decide what to change
Have you ever tried to fire-up a wood heater? If you’re having a problem starting it, there could be many possible reasons why. Maybe the air vent isn’t open. Maybe you don’t have enough kindling. Maybe the wood’s wet. There are many things to consider. And at some point, you’ll have to decide what to change. Whether to change one thing or change all of them.
It’s the same with CRO. There are many possible reasons for low conversions. Unlike wood heaters, however, it’s not always easy to see what the problem is. But after an extensive audit, your educated guess will be based on facts rather than just pulling ideas out of thin air. You’ll also find that the more you do it, the better your guesses are.
So using all the research data you’ve gathered, the last point of your conversion optimization audit is to decide what to change. There are two ways to go about this:
- You can do a complete overhaul. This means changing the whole copy and changing the whole layout and look of the page. This is especially true if you’ve got a page with a dismal performance. You build a new page that’s based on the data that you gathered rather than the artistic whim of your designer.
- You can change elements on the page one by one. If your page is already converting ok and you just want to refine it, you might want to test single elements separately. This is when you make changes only to a CTA button for example. Or a headline. Or the images.
So that’s it.
These are the steps you need to take to successfully run a conversion optimization audit on your site. Do them and you’ll have a strong foundation to start your tests.
You’ll run CRO experiments that are tailored to your visitors and not just best practices that were tested on a different audience. And when you do this, you give your conversion optimization campaigns a bigger chance to make an impact on your conversion rates.
What’s next? CRO aren’t the only sort of audits you should be doing on your website. You should also consider content and SEO audits too.