With so much riding on your landing pages — and only seconds to capture a visitor’s attention — it makes sense to optimize those pages for customer conversion. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done.

To effectively optimize landing pages, marketers are turning to conversion rate optimization (CRO).

CRO: There’s No Magic Playbook

CRO is a systematic, observational approach to site optimization. The goal of CRO is to increase the percentage of visitors who complete a specific desired action. The desired action may include making a purchase, subscribing to an email list, or even simply clicking a link.

But while supposed experts like to share ‘best practices’ for optimizing site pages, the truth is that there is no magic CRO playbook containing all the best practices that carry over from industry to industry; there’s only analysis, hypothesis, and a whole lot of testing.

These tests provide marketers with reliable data they can use to optimize their pages for increased customer conversions, effectively eliminating the need for guesswork. In fact, the most valuable data gained from CRO is a clearer understanding of your audience. But before you can put the science of CRO to work for your business, you need to determine which tests to perform.

The 97th Floor CRO Process

When 97th Floor approaches CRO for a new client, we typically start by identifying the pages on the site that get the most traffic. The higher traffic gives us clearer results, and allows us to complete tests much more quickly than we would if we were testing low-traffic pages. Additionally, these pages are likely to have the biggest impact on conversions — allowing not only for quick results, but also quick wins for our clients.

With these high-traffic pages identified, we are ready to begin the actual testing.

As previously mentioned, CRO is a scientific approach to landing page optimization. Where intuition comes in is knowing what areas to focus the tests on. And while it’s true that even subtle, seemingly innocuous factors — such as the color or size of a font — can have a real impact on conversion rates, certain tests are more likely to provide better insights and a greater impact on results.

As we approach a client’s highest trafficking pages, here are the six elements that we prefer to test first:

1. Value Propositions

Visitors to a web page are generally there to find a solution to a problem. That’s where the value proposition comes in. A value proposition is something that demonstrates the value of the featured product or service to the customer. That’s because the presence, absence, and quality of a value proposition may have a significant impact on conversion.

Possible questions:

  • What value propositions are on the page currently?
  • What are the power words within a value proposition?
  • What are the different locations on the page where we can test the value proposition?
  • What value proportions matter to users on the homepage, pricing page, product page, or other pages?

Test recommendation:
Run A/B tests to determine which value propositions convert best on a single page of your website.

2. Calls to Action

Conversion isn’t about tricking visitors into doing what you want; it’s about guiding them along a beneficial customer journey. Calls to action (CTAs) are designed to inform visitors of what their next action should be. And whether that action is completing a purchase or visiting another page on your site, CTAs can provide direction to customers who may be looking for some guidance.

Possible questions:

  • What CTAs are currently on the page?
  • Should the CTA appear above the fold?
  • Is the copy within the CTA asking, or is it telling?
  • What complementary or contrasting colors could we test within our CTA font or button?

Test recommendation:

Run A/B tests on the page’s primary CTA found above the fold, as well as other CTAs found throughout the page. These tests may involve changing the language, position, destination, color, or size of the CTA. Testing your CTAs will help you determine what is most effective in guiding your audience.

3. Content

Almost without exception, a web page’s success is determined by its content — the information. that makes up the user facing side of the page. But how much content does your audience want? And how should that content be presented? Determining what content is right for what visitors — specifically, whether those visitors want something light and scannable, or would prefer something more in-depth — is an ongoing concern for marketers and webmasters.

Possible questions:

  • What content do users want to see or need to see on this specific page?
  • What content is on the page now?
  • Which content is essential, and which content can be removed?
  • What elements can we rearrange?

Test recommendation:
Create a test with three different versions of the page in question — one that uses a full block of text, one that breaks the text block into multiple smaller paragraphs, and one that presents information using bullet points. This can help you better understand what your users want in terms of on-page content.

4. Anxiety

Every customer who visits a web page is there for a reason. And nearly every customer who fails to convert likely does so as a result of anxiety. Anxiety generally refers to the doubts, fears, and discomforts that cause page visitors to fall away before converting. Anxiety sources on a landing page may include a lack or proof or credibility, low authority, or non transparency in pricing or policies.

Possible questions:

  • What might be causing anxiety?
  • How can we relieve the user's anxiety?
  • Is there a way to incorporate some limited amount of anxiety to benefit the customer?

Test recommendation:
Run an A/B test where you add content that addresses a potential point of anxiety for users. For example, if you feel that brand trust is an issue, create tests that incorporate social proof — user reviews, ratings, etc. — to help determine what (if any) additional social proofs lead to increased conversions.

5. Diversions

They say that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line — and the same could be said for the online customer journey. As such, the more straightforward the path, the more likely site visitors will follow it. Unfortunately, diversions may interrupt that journey or distract visitors from completing the desired action. Identifying and eliminating possible distractions may allow for a more direct (and more effective) customer conversion path.

Possible questions:

  • What could be distracting users?
  • Which links are getting in the way of a clean buyer's cycle?
  • Can we replace the need for a link with more information on the page?

Test recommendation:
Create a test using multiple versions of the page where specific potential distractions are altered or eliminated. Removing pop ups, reducing the number of on-page links, and changing the hierarchy of on-page elements may help identify which factors may be distracting users.

6. Mobile Responsiveness

As mobile computing becomes the rule (rather than the exception), how a web page performs when accessed on mobile devices becomes increasingly relevant. Unresponsive pages can do significant damage to the conversion rates of mobile users.

Possible questions:

  • What is currently different on the mobile site?
  • What could we be doing differently on mobile, as compared to desktop?
  • How is the content displayed on mobile and how might that affect user journey?
  • Is there a difference in the time on page between mobile and desktop users?
  • Are the links discernible and tappable on mobile devices?

Test recommendation:

Use A/B testing to evaluate the effectiveness of different locations for your CTAs on your mobile site.

Testing Our Hypotheses

The above questions give us a place to start, but more importantly, they give us a chance to test hypotheses.

If we hypothesize that “Learn More” will be a more effective CTA than “Buy Now,” we can then use these questions to help determine what tests we will need to perform to either prove or disprove that hypothesis. More specifically, they help us identify the tests that we believe will have the biggest impact. For example, changing the color of a CTA button may have an effect (positive or negative) on conversion rates. But it’s unlikely to have as large of an effect as adding or removing a paragraph’s worth of text.

As we begin running tests, we generally prefer to test four or five different page variants (along with the unchanged control version of the page). This allows us to test multiple factors, prove or disprove multiple hypotheses, and accurately identify the specific changes that are having positive or negative effects. The end goal, of course, is to then focus on the changes that created positive results for our conversion rates.

This process is simple and effective, but it does require some patience; a high-traffic site will generally need to run for about a month before we have enough statistical data to determine which variants are the most effective. But once the tests are complete, you will have reliable, empirical data to optimize your pages for improved conversions.

CRO — It’s All about Methodology

There’s a lot riding on your landing pages. That’s why, when it comes to improving conversion rates, you don’t want to have to rely on shot-in-the-dark guesses or even gut-based intuition. True CRO demands precise methodology and scientific structure.

97th Floor understands this methodology. We have the structure in place. And we are ready and available to put effective CRO to work for you.