Business Performance Conversion Testing

Making a business case for conversion testing

You see case studies like…

PPC Landing Page Optimization Test with 32.5% Conversion Rate Lift

How we increased the conversion rate of by over 400%

eCommerce Retailer Lifts Sales Conversion Rate by 22% with Conversion Rate Optimization

Soocial: how two magical words increased conversion rate by 28%

…and you just know you should be doing conversion testing (A/B, multi-variant, usability, etc.) on your website. Problem is, you have these other projects to do, you don’t have the resource to assign it to someone else and there is little awareness of conversion testing elsewhere in the company, particularly amongst senior decision makers.

So how do you change that?

Two routes:

1) Case Studies and Hypothetical Data

Take those case studies, pull your analytics data, and build a business case to present to your boss.

The case studies will act as social proof. Look what happened when these (reputable) brands took the initiative. Look at the payoff. This will build confidence during the decision-making process.

Show them the datA from your conversion funnels. We spend our Marketing budget pushing potential customers into the top of the funnel and look how many come out the other end. At this point show them some hypothetical numbers. If we can increase conversion by 10% it will mean £X in additional revenue.

This is important, as you’ll need to be able to demonstrate the financial gain versus the costs of conversion testing (which may only be time – yours and the technical resource to implement).

If your numbers stack up, you’ll have a strong case for implementing a conversion testing programme.

2)  Just Do It

Route 2 is a little maverick.

If you feel like you might need a little more evidence than presented in Route 1, then its time to take matters into your own hands.

The success of this will depend on how your company works internally. A single conversion test, such as an A/B test, doesn’t take much work. For instance, it could involve making changes to just a single static page. All you need is to know what you want to test, tracking code from Google’s free Website Optimizer and a friendly web designer to make the graphics and implement it for you.

(Just make sure the outcome of your test will be significant enough. If the 10% improvement translates into an actual revenue increase of £100 is that really going to impress?)

So, your test runs relatively incognito and you get real data and measurable impact. Providing your results are positive of course, you now have demonstrable proof that conversion testing works for your business.

Both routes could work. You just need to choose the route that is the most applicable to your business. The important takeaway is that you need to prove that it’s the right thing for your business to do. I can’t believe there is a website or business that couldn’t be improved through some form of conversion testing. You just need to show them how.

Business Performance Conversion Testing

5 ways to make your site credible and increase conversions

When you hear someone refer to ‘optimising the website’ you probably think one of two routes – search engine optimisation or A/B and multi-variant testing.

What you probably don’t think of immediately is optimising your website’s credibility.

It doesn’t matter how well you’ve optimised your ecommerce funnel, how much traffic your search efforts bring, you’ll still be missing your potential if your visitors don’t trust you and your site.

They simply won’t buy, sign-up, download or recommend.

So how do you establish credibility?

Here are 5 ways…

1. Appearance

You have approximately 1/20th of a second to make a good first impression with a website visitor. That’s all it takes for someone to form an opinion of your site. Not long is it?

The classic quote in Conversion circles is from a study by B.J. Fogg from Stanford where it was revealed that ‘75% of respondents admit to making a judgement about the credibility of an organisation based on the design of the website’.

That study is over a decade old, but with advancements in design and technology and today’s more discerning web user with higher expectations, it would be surprising if that figure had not increased further.

So what does your site look like at first glance? Does it look modern and professional or does it look like it was built about the same time as Fogg’s study? Can a visitor tell immediately what your site does and how it will meet their needs?

You don’t need to spend a fortune on web design. There are plenty of low cost options (such as if you don’t have the budget to hire a talented in-house designer yourself. Just make sure your site looks credible…somewhere you’d spend your own money.

(Bear in mind Google’s new Instant Preview functionality in search results – if a searcher hovers over the magnifying glass and your site appears, are they going to click or move on to the next site in the listing?)

2. Trust marks

Trust marks are (usually) logos from third parties that are designed to reassure the visitor. Typically they’re from known, reputable organisations that the visitor trusts. It’s like trust by association. If these companies have their logo on this site it must be a good/trustworthy site to use.

Good examples to use:

  • Trade associations (if you’re a member)
  • Industry institutes or bodies (if you’re a member)
  • Secure payment handlers you use (i.e. Paypal)
  • Consumer rights accreditation (i.e. Which? Best Buy award)
  • Media logos (where mentioned)
  • Client / partner logos

Using logos of the businesses that already work with you – either as a client or partner – can be a great way of reassuring a potential customer. If these big name companies that I recognise are using them, I guess it’s fine if we do too.

3. Social proof

Social proof is also known as the wisdom of the crowd – when in a situation where we’re unsure of a decision to make, humans tend to look to see how others have acted in that instance. If all those people have done it, I should probably do the same.

This can be a very powerful tool when optimising for conversions. The moments leading up to a purchase (or whatever your conversion metric may be) are where confidence waivers the most. If you can show that others have reached, and passed this point and are very happy they did, then it will do wonders for your conversion rate.

Examples of social proof are:

  • Customer testimonials (keep them brief)
  • Numbers (i.e. downloads, subscribers, etc.)
  • Product reviews

4. Transaction reassurance

Everyone uses Amazon. It’s so synonymous with online retail that we rarely consider if anything untoward will happen when we buy our next book or lawnmower.

Most sites don’t have that luxury, however. For the rest of us, we need to reassure the visitor that their data is safe with us. You can do this by displaying the trust mark of your payment handler, but you should also consider how you would answer these visitor questions:

  • Is this site secure?
  • How and who will take my money? (i.e. Paypal)
  • Do they have a returns policy or any guarantees?
  • What happens to my data?

Answer these questions and you’ll be a step closer to the conversion.

5. Something for nothing

Okay, not strictly for ‘nothing’. You’ll want something in return.

Not all transactions will happen on the first visit. One of the main reasons for shopping cart abandonment is that sometimes visitors are just not ready to buy.

However, even if a visitor is just researching options, this is a great opportunity to build some credibility for your site. Take the opportunity to give them something – a buyer’s guide, weekly email tips or a tool – that is of some value to them. To appear to be helpful, to offer guidance, is to move you towards a ‘trusted advisor’ role.

In return, you’ll have collected their email address during this process, which combined with your new credible status, will make a future sale smoother.

These are just 5 ways to build credibility to help improve your conversion rates. There are many more. I’d love to hear what you’ve done on your own site, or any ideas you may have that others could try. Please feel free to share your thoughts via the comment section below.

Business Performance Conversion Testing Uncategorized

How to fix the REAL reasons behind your abandoned shopping carts

In early November at the Conversion Conference in London, I had the good fortune to hear Charles Nicholls from SeeWhy speak about abandoned online shopping carts.

He cited a Forrester Research study from earlier this year that examined the reasons why website visitors abandon online shopping carts. The top 5 were:

  1. Shipping and handling costs were too high – 44%
  2. I was not ready to purchase the product – 41%
  3. I wanted to compare prices on other sites – 27%
  4. Product price was higher than I was willing to pay – 25%
  5. Just wanted to save products in my cart for later consideration – 24%

Interestingly these 5 reasons can be classified into 2 groups:

  • Issues relating to cost
  • Issues relating to readiness to buy

Whilst you should quite rightly review your shopping cart process to increase conversions, addressing both these other issues may in fact have a greater impact.

1. Cost

Comparison sites, such as and, have made it very easy for consumers to find the best price for a product, dramatically reducing the research time and frustration of visiting multiple websites. Whilst that’s great for the consumer it’s meant the business owner needs to ensure her prices are competitive if she is to secure the sale from an ever more transient audience.

It’s not just the product price; the shipping charges are a bigger concern. Buying a discounted book at £6.99 suddenly looks less attractive when you discover you need to add £3.50 to cover postage. In some cases it’s suddenly more expensive than shopping instore.

The two most common ways of addressing this are unconditional and conditional free shipping.

With unconditional free shipping the company absorbs the cost, either by holding the product price and eating into the profit margin or by upping the price to cover the postage. Both can be unhealthy for a business in the long term. It might be okay for a promotional period but you have to do the maths to know whether you’re attracting enough additional business to offset the cost.

The alternative might be conditional – offering free shopping once the consumer purchases a set amount. If you set that threshold at the right point you’ll find your average order price will increases as shoppers add a second item to their order to qualify for the free shipping.

This is the most popular offer from recruiters, with a survey quoted in the NY Times, stating that 71% of surveyed businesses would use this approach this year versus less than half taking the unconditional route.

The same article, however, highlights the risk of experimenting with shipping, referencing a case study that revealed that Timberland would need to generate 40% more sales to justify the cost of an unconditional free shipping promotion.

2. Readiness to buy

You may think there is little you can do if someone is not ready to buy. Many businesses will rely on the potential customer coming back when they have made a decision, but it’s a rather risky approach to take.

So what can you?

Speak to them – why are they not ready? Understand the issues and look for solutions. It may be that they just need a little more information. Run a survey like KissInsights or call if you have a telephone number.

Price comparison – if you’re confident about your prices, why not save them the hassle of research and show your prices versus your competitors. If you’re the cheapest, great, but if not demonstrate why it’s still better to buy from you (i.e. warranty, free accessories, loyalty points, etc).

A Free Whitepaper example from

Whitepaper & tools – Offer them a free whitepaper, guide or tool relevant to the product they’re considering buying in exchange for their email address. By giving the visitor something of value, you’re positioning yourself as an authority on the subject and providing a positive brand experience. As such they’ll be more inclined to part with their email address (for you to remarket to) and you’ll be a step closer to a future sale.

Scarcity & Urgency – how can you create a sense of urgency to encourage a quicker or immediate sale? Add a time-sensitive price (i.e. Offer ends Monday), or limit availability (i.e. Limited edition prints).

Build Confidence – when they say they’re not ready to buy, maybe they’re just not ready to buy from you. Maybe they don’t have confidence in you just yet. So what can you do?

You need to provide assurance. That could be via authorative trust marks, such as secure transactions seals, badges from trade association or industry body membership, logos of media you have appeared in/on or customer or influencer testimonials (social proof). These will help build credibility and confidence in your brand.

Finally, if you can afford it and have the resources, give them a Free Review. This can be just a sampling of your service, but like the Whitepaper, should give them something of value. The customer feels they are getting something for free (who doesn’t love a freebie?) and at the same time you get to showcase your business and product to them.

It’s not easy selling online; so many factors are out of your control. Leaving it to chance however, will not grow your business. Understand you customers, understand why they don’t buy and then address their concerns quickly. Then sit back and watch your conversion rates and revenue rise.

(Actually that’s just the beginning, there is a lot more work to be done, including continuous conversion optimisation to ensure you’ve got right. But, hey, that’s a story for another day)

What changes to your site or ecommerce pages have you made that helped you reduce your shopping cart abandonment? I’d love to hear your tips, please share them in the comments below.

Conversion Testing Innovation

Impact of TV imagery on website conversion rates

It’s an unwritten law: spend big £/$ on a TV campaign and your website traffic will go through the roof.

Your overall cost per visitor will naturally follow suit. So how do you get more out of the traffic you’re buying in?

The answer is pretty simple – conversion rate optimisation. Test and tweak your pages and processes until you can get more people doing much more of the things you want them to do.

A case study in conversion rate optimisation

The company I work for – – is into its 2nd year of TV advertising. The traffic levels during the campaigns have been incredible (see graph below for search query peaks during two TV bursts).

UK search trends for ‘jobsite’ – Google Trends

Whilst looking at the data, I wondered what the impact on conversion rates would be if we used the same imagery from the TV ad on the site’s homepage search box. Would it encourage more searches?

As we were about to run another burst of TV advertising in January 2010, we had a prime opportunity to do some conversion testing to find out.

If you’ve worked on a brand’s website during its TV campaign you’ll be familiar with the following traffic pattern: a tremendous surge during the ad period, followed by a gradual, not sudden, drop during the subsequent weeks – known as the ‘Halo Effect’. In our case, TV ads aired throughout January, with the halo effect running into February.

The conversion test

I wanted to test 3 things:

  1. What impact would TV imagery have during the TV period?
  2. What impact would it have during the halo?
  3. What impact would it have during a ‘normal’ month?

When testing, you need to identify which conversion metric you are looking to improve. Given the nature of our site, my preference tends to be job applications or CV (resume) uploads. However, in this instance, I felt there were too many variables that could influence either metric (particularly the fact that jobseekers often leave the website to prepare their application before returning in a separate session to apply). So for this test I chose to track on site job searches.

Could switching the search box imagery from the default stock photo of people over to the TV image (featuring British actor, Max Beesley) actually increase the number of visitors that become searchers?

Rather than a simple A/B test (Max vs the People), we ran multivariate tests, featuring variations of the search box heading, the search field label and the imagery. This would give us insight into which element(s) improved the number of searches.

Results during TV

As expected, the winning page combination during the January TV campaign was a version that featured Max Beesley. Based on the visitor figures for the month, running this version on 100% of visits would have resulted in an additional 11,328 job searches.

The % uplift over the default version was not dramatic – a 1.3% increase – but sufficient enough to be noticeable when you’re dealing with a highly trafficked website.

What was clear with this test, however, was that the heading ‘Find a Job’ outperformed the default heading ‘Job Search‘, with an 87% chance of beating the original headline (on the default version).

Into the Halo Effect

Things began to change in February with the ‘halo effect’. Traffic to the site was still high, TV had stopped but other digital brand advertising (PPC, Mobile pre-rolls) continued.

The same Max variant continued to outperform the original, but its impact had begun to decline (down to +1.0% over the original combination). In fact, it had slipped into 2nd place, behind a variant using the original stock library image (+1.18% over the original combo). Based on February traffic figures this new lead variant would have generated an additional 8,181 searches if the creative had run for 100% of visits.

The impetus for this performance increase was the heading ‘Find a Job’ (+1.09% over the original heading) – the call to action was more of a factor than the choice of image at this stage.

Interestingly, we also saw a rise in the performance of a 2nd heading – ‘Search Jobs’ – amongst the successful variants (+0.93% over the original)

Under ‘normal’ conditions

As we moved into March, there was enough distance from the high profile ‘Above the Line’ activity to consider it a ‘normal’ environment.

Of the 19 variants we were testing, only 3 outperformed the original – and just barely. All three made use of the stock library imagery. The best performing variant was almost identical to the original, with the only difference being a heading of ‘Search Jobs’ instead of ‘Job Search’ (a simple switch of word order creating a call to action instead of a description).

This variant increased searches by 0.32% over the original – extrapolated to 2,338 extra searches in March.

When you look at the individual components’ performance, ‘Find a Job’ was still marginally ahead of ‘Search Jobs’ (+0.54% to +0.52% improvement on the original), but in combination with the other elements, the latter featured in the best performing variant throughout March.

Interestingly, if we’d used the best performing TV imagery variant in March, it would have resulted in 1,169 FEWER searches than the original.

Learnings from conversion testing

Overall, we can conclude from this test that the use of TV imagery within your search box DOES improve your conversion ratio of visitor to searcher during your campaign. However, it should be coupled with a strong call to action to maximise its impact. In this case study, it provided the possibility of 22,000+ additional searches over the 3 months.

So what else can we take from this test?

In general terms, I would recommend the following tips:

  • Continuous testing is important – external influencing factors, e.g. advertising campaigns, news, events and seasonality, can impact the conversion performance of your site. Test and change your design accordingly
  • Give consideration to your use of imagery – its not there just for aesthetics. It can be a powerful aid to conversion
  • Use clear Calls to Action in your copy, especially titles and/or buttons. Stick to a single call to action in a creative to avoid mixed messages

In regards to Jobsite, we’ll be returning to TV again next month (May ’10). My specific recommendations are:

  • Use TV imagery and ‘Find a Job’ title throughout the broadcast period
  • Continue with same creative for first fortnight of halo effect period
  • Switch back to original creative thereafter but with a call to action in the title – either ‘Search Jobs’ or ‘Find a Job
  • Continue testing – introduce new variant options, such as alternative imagery, text, buttons or even background color.

As with all conversion testing, this isn’t a blue print for success with your own website. You’ll have your own set of external factors to contend with, your own site design and product offering to influence results. Set up your own optimisation tests and see how you can improve your own conversion rates.

I’d love to know about your successes with conversion rating optimisation – what has been your most interesting or successful conversion test? Anyone done any conversion testing with websites & TV with a story to tell? Please do share your comments or experiences.

Business Performance Conversion Testing

How to increase landing page conversions by 100%

An inordinate amount of time, effort and money goes into optimising paid search accounts. If you’re good at it, you can either save a lot of money, or get a lot more bang for your buck.

Anyone that has done paid search advertising will know that you can make some big improvements quite quickly just by optimising your accounts (I say ‘just‘, there can be a lot of work involved and unless you’re blessed with such talents it usually involves getting in a specialist or search agency to help).

However, there comes a point where the changes you make result in smaller and smaller gains. It’s still getting better but you’re not getting as much return on your efforts as you once did. This leads to a belief that the only way to achieve more conversions is to increase the budget.

Wrong. There is in fact, a massive opportunity staring you right in the face. The problem is you can’t see it because you’re probably looking in the wrong place.

Chasing your tail

Tell me if this sounds familiar.

You need to bring in traffic to your site, traffic that converts, buys your product or uses your service. You set up paid search accounts, organise your campaigns, ad groups, keywords and tracking URLs. You choose a page on your site to send them to (or knock up a bespoke one for that purpose, because that’s better right?) and start feeding Google the cash.

You check the reports, you make some tweaks, you fist pump when the conversions improve, you pour in more cash, report, tweak, fist pump, cash, report, tweak…until you reach the point when you run out of ideas to make it work better.

Enter, landing page optimisation.

Where did it all go wrong?

I say enter landing page optimisation, but to be perfectly honest, you should really be doing this right at the beginning of your campaigns, not when you’ve run out of ideas.

So how did we end up here?

There are basically two common mistakes with approaches to landing pages (or any website pages, in fact).

1. The ‘Build it and Leave it‘ approach – usually found in companies under-resourced or over capacity with ideas. There is so much going on and not enough time to do it. So the first page up there is staying up and don’t even think of slowing down the next project in the pipeline, thank you very much.

Unfortunately, there is a very high probability that this page is not the best it could be at converting your endless stream of – paid for – traffic. Whilst your company is quickly moving on to the next project to make money or improve efficiency, you’re busy pouring part of your marketing budget down the drain.

2. The ‘I Know Best‘ approach – is found everywhere experienced, enthusiastic, opinionated people are striving to make their company successful (it’s also found in companies where people couldn’t give a hoot for that matter).

Regardless of intention, sometimes that experience, enthusiasm and opinion can get in the way of making the right decision.

Avinash Kaushik, Google’s Analytics Evangelist and author of Web Analytics 2.0, describes this quite nicely when he talks of HiPPOs (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion). In a room full of potential contributors to a solution, the HiPPO’s way is invariably the way that it’s going to be. It’s not necessarily the wrong solution, but it isn’t always right. It’s just human nature – in times of tricky decisions we tend to look toward authority first.

The MVT Generation

The answer to both problems can be found in data. Yes, I know, big yawn, but trust me, when you use it in the way I’m about to describe you’re actually going to get excited about data.

What you need to do is employ Multivariate Testing (MVT).

If you’ve never come across the term before, then essentially, multivariate testing is a process by which multiple components of a page (or pages) on a website are tested simultaneously in a live environment to determine the variant with the highest probability of achieving your goal.

In other words, test a whole bunch of variations of the same page to find out which version is more likely to get your visitor to convert (i.e. purchase / sign up / download, etc.).

The great thing about multivariate testing is that it removes ego and opinion from the process. It relies entirely on data from real activity on your site. This is true customer led design. Who better to determine how your site should work than the people who actually use your site?

And for this small concession, this release on decision-making, you get better conversion rates. In other words, you get the greater return on investment you were looking for.

CASE STUDY: increase registration sign-ups by 103%

In the not too distant past, Jobsite were sending PPC traffic through to a site registration form, with a goal of increasing volume and lowering cost per registration. It wasn’t a particular pretty page – a clunky two column design made it unreasonably long, despite the minimal number of questions.

Start Simple – A/B testing

We started our experiment with a simple A/B test (one version versus another). As ever, you need a default design (A) to compare against the new version (B). In this instance, A was the single page form and B was the same form split over two pages.

Variant A – Single Page

Variant B – Two Pages

There is a web convention that says you should minimise your user journey to increase the likelihood of the task being completed. It’s not unreasonable to view this as a recommendation to minimise the number of pages.

Well, in this case, it didn’t work out that way. Sometimes conventions just have to fall by the wayside.

Our visitors preferred to complete the process over two pages, as we experienced 30% uplift on Variant B over Variant A.

Whilst unconfirmed, it could be surmised that breaking the form into two chunks made it a less daunting task for the visitor.

Step it up a gear – multivariate testing

Next, we moved to testing the elements on the two pages – titles, text, buttons, colours and positioning.

Multivariate testing page elements

How this works technically will vary depending on the MVT product you use. Essentially, you get to slice the page up into element boxes and the software will create variations of your original page using different combinations of these elements. This could result in 5 pages, 50 pages or 500 pages, depending on the number of elements involved.

The software will then serve these variations to visitors in a live environment. You do need a reasonable amount of traffic to the page to run a test; otherwise the sample size will not be sufficiently robust to make an accurate assessment.

As visitors interact with the test pages, the software will identify page combinations that are converting higher than the default page. More traffic will then be diverted to those pages to test the indication. The test will continue until a point where a page (or pages) has established a clear higher probability of outperforming the default page.

Depending on traffic levels, this could take a few days or several weeks.

At the end of the Jobsite test, the winning combination of elements produced a page that increased registrations by an incredible 103% over the original page.

Looks like hard work – do I need it?

If a significant proportion of your marketing budget each month is spent on PPC to buy in new business, then you need to be doing multivariate testing.

What do you think the reaction would be in your company if you reported a 100% increase in conversions?

Let’s make up an example and do some sums:

PPC spend of £10,000 – gets 15,000 visits – converting at 5% = 750 new customers

Average spend per customer = £20
Revenue = £15,000

50% higher conversion following A/B test (1125 new customers)
Revenue = £22,500

100% higher conversion following multivariate testing (1500 new customers)
Revenue = £30,000

Now I’m not saying multivariate testing is guaranteed to get you a 100% increase in your own key metrics, but it is possible. The important thing to remember is that every site, every page and every audience is different. What works for one site does not necessarily work for another. You have to test it for yourself.

A few landing page tips

To get you started, here are some pointers on good practice for designing landing pages. Remember, your site is different to my site, so experiment.

  • Streamline to one objective on the page.
  • Minimise on-page distractions and means to navigate elsewhere.
  • If you’ve pushed visitors to the page (e.g. via PPC), ensure the page meets their expectations. If you’ve promised a free whitepaper, do not dump them on your homepage and expect them to go find it.
  • Minimise the work of the visitor – keep it simple and collect only the data you need.
  • Experiment with differing headlines, buttons, images and calls to action.
  • Consider adding examples of social proof – e.g. testimonials or statistics – to demonstrate why the users should be following the wisdom of the crowd and signing up to your service.

Multivariate Testing Tools

I have experience of using Maxymiser and Google Web Optimizer and both have done an excellent job. Maxymiser is the more advanced offering of the two and they can provide an account team to minimise your workload (they’ll help set up the test, design the page elements and provide you with reporting), but obviously this comes at a price.

Conversely, Google Web Optimiser is a free service, and hence you don’t get all the bells and whistles, but it is a very good piece of software and is perfectly capable of doing the tests most people need.

Other multivariate testing providers include:

Web Trends

Next up

As you can see, multivariate testing can be a game changer for you and your company. On a personal level, it’s a great opportunity for you to make a substantial difference in your own performance. Big improvements at no extra cost tend to get you noticed.

I for one will be doing a lot of testing in 2010. I have a very exciting test underway, as I look to understand how above the line TV advertising impacts online conversion metrics. I’ll share the results at a later date.

I’d be very interested in hearing your own multivariate testing stories. Either leave comments here or share them with me on Twitter.