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Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) Guide 2018

Updated: Feb 11, 2019


What is CRO and How Does it Affect Website Performance?

Optimising your website’s conversion funnel to increase sales, downloads or subscriptions can be a daunting task to start. There are typically two approaches to Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO). The first can be achieved with Google Optimise, a tool which A/B tests different versions of your website (e.g. Anything from differently coloured buttons to completely redesigned webpages). Google Optimise then provides thorough statistical analysis about the differing performance of your website. This is a sure-fire method used by many large businesses to increase conversions, however it usually requires many months of high-traffic activity (think of it as a long-term CRO strategy). The second approach to CRO is a little more risky and requires you to know what you’re doing, otherwise you could end up investing in new website designs that performs worse than your original. The goal of this blog article is to minimise that risk by passing on some of our CRO expertise to you. So, the first question you need to ask yourself is: “Does my website need minor adjustments, or does my website need a facelift?”

If you chose the former, you’d benefit from checking out this article: Usability Testing For Websites — A How To Guide. If you chose the latter, the first hurdle your website will face is being re-indexed by Google’s crawling bots (software that periodically examines your website so that Google knows what it’s delivering people on search results pages). If Google senses a large change to your website, instead of immediately dropping the positions of your ‘unproven’ website, it can give it a temporary ‘boost’. This lets Google test how your new website design performs at different positions on search results pages. If users engage positively in your new website (which they should if you follow this guide), Google will rank your website higher. Alright, let’s go.

Conversion Rate Optimisation – A Checklist for your Website

You've probably heard about the 5 second rule. Your website should achieve the following within 5 seconds of a visitor landing on it:

  • Clearly communicate what your website offers (this can often be improved with proper use of h1-h6 headers).
  • Help visitors easily navigate from your non-specific homepage to a specific webpage which answers their questions. If it’s appropriate, try using progressive Calls To Action that involve no-obligation and/or limited-time offers to help visitors down the sales funnel.
  • Communicate your Unique Selling Point (USP). What makes you differ from your competitors in a way that entices visitors to choose you?

Completing the above list, won’t necessarily make visitors give you their money or share your content, but it may keep them around long enough for them to do so.

White Space for Better Conversion Rates

Achieving all the above will be wasteful without the proper use of white/negative space. But white space isn’t about having a huge image in the background and oversized headers. For an example of strategic white space, just check out the website of any successful company (e.g. www.google.co.nz or www.apple.com/nz).

People scroll a lot more in today’s mobile-first world, so don’t be afraid to spread things out vertically. The first thing to consider is ‘above the fold’ content. That is, when someone loads your website, everything they can see without scrolling is called above the fold. There are two main rules here: Most navigation must be doable without scrolling; Your above the fold line should not include white space (there should be some content cut off at the fold so that people are cued to scroll).

Many websites make the mistake of having a small font size and/or a small line height. Your paragraph text should be at least 16px to 19px (or about 1em to 1.2em) in size. And don’t be afraid to set your line-height to 1.5 spacing. You can also set your letter-spacing around 0.2px to 0.3px (or about 0.01em to 0.02em) to spread out characters, making words easier to read. Readability is also affected by paragraph width. Paragraphs become especially hard to read on desktops when the width of the paragraph is greater than the height of the screen (about 60%).

Designing white space so that your website is optically balanced is a skill which can be self-taught over time. If you are in need of design expertise, you can always contact the Adhesion team.

Using Testimonials and ‘Social Proof’ to Increase Sales

This one is much more straight forward. If you don’t already have your business listed on Google My Business, do that today (not tomorrow). You’ll want to put as much accurate information on your listing as possible, and add high quality logo, profile and cover photos (e.g. your logo will appear in a circular element on Google, so make it a 1080px by 1080px square if you can). After that, you should start soliciting reviews from customers you’ve pleased. Aim for at least one review every month. To increase buyer confidence, you should add a section near the bottom of every webpage in your conversion funnel (e.g. the Adhesion website is a good example). Don’t just put any 5-star review on your website. A 4-star review which allays some fear of purchase is much more trustworthy than a generic 5 star review. And don’t stop there. For each review, include a small image of stars, and a small image of the person/business to increase authenticity.

Some people prefer to leave reviews and comments on Facebook, so make sure you have a Facebook page for your business (even if you don’t really use it).

Total Transparency is a Strong Competitive Advantage

If you’re not a large business, it’s likely that you’re in an industry with competition that doesn’t disclose prices, budget estimates or hidden costs. Leverage this. You probably won’t want to, but put your prices out there for everyone to see, and ensure your website visitors know if your competitors don’t do the same. It’s not slander. It’s healthy competition which promotes transparency.

Adhesion used to not have pricing available online. Then, prices were available via brochure downloads, but required you to enter your email. Now, we’re putting prices out in the open. So, when our potential customers are comparing marketing agencies, they immediately see Adhesion as more trustworthy.

Menu Design and Navigating the Sales Funnel

Your website likely has many more pages than are in your menu. Any page that isn’t your homepage, a product/service page or your contact page should arguably not be in your main menu list. Other pages like About Us, Locations, Terms and Conditions, and Blog should go in a secondary menu or in your footer to prevent people leaving your sales funnel (e.g. again, the Adhesion website is a good example).

Mobile navigation is tricky. Many websites focus too much on minimalistic design and hide navigation in a hidden hamburger menu. If somebody finds your homepage on their mobile and your menu isn’t immediately available, this introduces one more click they have to make to find where they want to go. On the other hand, webpages featuring a product or enquiry form should have their menu closed on mobile, as this is further down your sales funnel. Unfortunately, there isn’t any consensus on the best practice for mobile menu design (yet). Keep an eye out as this might change when mobile browsers adapt to larger, full-screen phones like the iPhone X. For example, I would like to see a mobile menu placed at the bottom of the screen where it’s easily reachable, but tapping the bottom of an iPhone’s browser currently toggles a hidden ‘options bar’ to slide up (instead of allowing users to click things at the bottom of their screen). That begs the question: Have you tested your footer on an iPhone recently?

Quality Imagery Improves Conversion Rates (a lot)

Quality photography one of the most underrated aspects of small-to-medium business websites. Your customers will pigeon hole your products and services within seconds, and you can leverage that with HD images that conveys trustworthiness and respect. It’s worth investing some time in getting good photos and video since you can use them in many other places like online advertising and social media. You don’t even have to pay for a photographer if you or a colleague has a new-ish smartphone, and access to some photo editing software like Adobe Photoshop or Affinity Photo.

So how do you know what size to use? A rule of thumb is to go to your website, right click on an existing photo, click “Inspect” and then hover over the image element or look in the bottom righthand corner of the popup to see its size in pixels (It’s okay if you’re confused, just ask your web developer to show you). Whatever the size is, you’re going to want to open your photo editing software, and create a new file with the size doubled (e.g. 400px by 300px becomes 800px by 600px) and the resolution set to 72 (a.k.a. PPI or pixel density). Put simply, we’re doubling the size now so that browsers will squish the images into a space half its size, causing its resolution to double and look crisp.

Once you’ve saved your resized image, you’re going to want to compress it so its file size decreases and they take less time to load on your website. The best tool to use in 2018 is ImageOptim (and it’s free to download). Only Mac devices can utilise this tool, but there are decent Windows Alternatives for ImageOptim out there. Before optimising your images with ImageOptim, you’ll want to go to ‘Preferences’ and enable Guetzli. If you want the best-looking images, go to ‘Preferences’, then ‘Quality’ and make sure the ‘Enable lossy minification’ is unchecked. If you care about your website’s load speed (you should because it’s good for Search Engine Optimisation), then ‘Enable lossy minification’ and set the quality bars to 80%.

That’s it. You can now optimise your images and upload them to your website. All you have to worry about is Choosing Product Photos to Increase Conversion Rates. Speaking of product photos, remember to add thumbnails of recommended and related products near the bottom of each product page. You can even offer discounts for bundles of related products (see Amazon’s “Buy these 3 related products and get 10% off”).

Website Load Speed versus Conversion Rate

Understandably, small and new businesses often don’t have the resources to invest in a professional website that is fine-tuned for SEO and hosted on a quality server. Unfortunately, this is one of the worst bottlenecks for growing a business online. There's a plethora of research articles which show that Websites which take longer than 1 to 2 seconds to load suffer significant drops in conversion rate. It is absolutely worth getting your web developer to spend time reading these articles to improve your site’s speed, and investing in a website host with the smallest response time possible. We strongly recommend Google’s affordable cloud hosting platform because they’ve invested millions into their own private, low-latency fibre network.

Bad Pricing Strategy + Hidden Costs = Poor Conversion Rates

Got shipping costs? Time to get rid of them. Credit card fees? Get rid of them too. Online and administration fees? Bye bye. All hidden costs must go. Think of a hidden cost as anything that causes an increase from a product’s quoted price, to the amount a person pays.

Hidden costs hurt your brand’s trust, and they tend to appear right before a user makes their final purchase decision (and often when they’re comparing competitive offerings). From your customers’ perspective, they are paying for you product or service, and that’s it. For example, if you need to pay to ship a product to a customer, that really isn’t their problem (they don’t care that you’re in another city or country because they’re online). Same goes for credit card transaction fees. People expect to be able to pay by credit card. It’s no longer a premium ‘feature’ you can charge extra for. So what should you do?

Well, let’s say it costs $10 to ship a product to a customer. Instead of charging your customer an extra shipping fee, quietly increase your product’s price to compensate. This actually has two advantages. Firstly, when a user is at the final stage in making a purchase decision, they will likely be comparing shopping carts across multiple websites. If yours doesn’t have shipping costs, that’s one more reason to choose you instead of a competitor. You might be thinking, “But if my relatively expensive product costs the same as my competitor’s cheaper product plus shipping, then I don’t think there’s much point.” This brings us to the second advantage: By increasing your products’ prices, they will are perceived as having higher quality.

So, in short, if you have multiple expenses for a single purchase, try quietly bundle all the expenses into one price. Keep it simple.

Customer Support, Live Chat and Google’s Popup Penalties

Live customer support is awesome for helping on-the-fence customers, but if you have a chat box that pops up, follows people or covers any content, Google will see that and penalise your ranking on Search results pages. Why? Because it doesn’t make for a good user experience. If a customer wants support, make sure your menu and footer make it easy for people to navigate to your contact page. Your contact page is the perfect place for a live chat, as well as a link to your facebook page (more people are starting to prefer the private chat rooms they’re used to on Facebook). Just be careful not to distract people from completing an enquiry form.

Regarding conversion rate, a live chat is not a replacement for a good Frequently Asked Questions page. If you’re customer support experts don’t have the authority to really help customers with specific requests or complicated products, then they’ll likely waste your customers’ time instead of offering a true solution.

Need Help with Conversion Rate Optimisation?

Adhesion's team of online marketing specialists work with all kinds of NZ businesses to improve their website performance. If you have any website questions, feel free to get in touch.

Fully certified, year after year.

Our reputation goes hand-in-hand with our team’s dedication to best practice. As a registered Premier Google Partner, our team refreshes our certifications every 12 months — A tradition we started over a decade ago. To stay ahead, we are always looking forward to upcoming certifications for online advertising, website development and search engine optimisation.