Generating enquiries from your website is a great way to grow your business. For that to happen your website needs visitors but many people focus on numbers and miss something just as important, conversions.
Dave: Alex, what are we going to talk about?
Alex: We're going to talk about getting more from your website traffic.
Dave: When people look at digital marketing, quite often the starting point is we need more visitors to our website and that might be the case if you've got a website that's a complete billing omit, and it's not getting any traffic at all, then yeah, you've got no data. You've got no traffic. You've got nowhere to start. But 9 times out of 10 websites that we work on actually are not starting from zero traffic. Not always, but a lot of the time they've already got traffic. They've already got search rankings and it might make more sense to start by looking at what that traffic's doing and whether or not we can get more value from it.
Dave: Okay. We're back with digital marketing from the coalface and today it's me and Alex. And Alex, what are we going to talk about?
Alex: We are going to talk about not CRO. We're going to talk about getting more from your website traffic.
Dave: Isn't that known as CRO Alex? Think it is.
Alex: Yeah. I mean...
Dave: Okay. What we're talking about when we say CRO is Conversion Rate Optimization, which sounds really geeky and is not what this podcast is all about. So CRO in plain in English, Alex?
Alex: Is about taking your preexisting web traffic and turning it into more converting customers.
Dave: Yeah, I think so.
Dave: Yeah. Basically, when people look at digital marketing, quite often the starting point is we need more visitors to our website and that might be the case if you've got a website that's a complete new site and it's not getting any traffic at all, then yeah, you've got no data. You've got no traffic. You've got nowhere to start, but 9 times out of 10 websites that we work on actually are not starting from zero traffic. Not always, but a lot of the time they've already got traffic. They've already got search rankings and it might make more sense to start by looking at what that traffic's doing and whether or not we can get more value from it.
Alex: Yeah, that's exactly it. You can spend a lot of money trying to get at more visitors to your website, but two things, firstly, if you've already got visitors coming to your website then just get more out of them. And the other thing is, of course, if there is something fundamentally wrong with your website, you'd be better spending your time and money fixing that problem than just pouring more traffic in, I guess.
Dave: Okay. So the whole idea of Conversion Rate Optimization or getting more value from the traffic that you're already getting is, it's a big subject.
Alex: Yep. Big and complicated but we'll try and demystify it.
Dave: Yeah, it is complicated but certainly it doesn't need to be, some of it doesn't need to be, I mean, as simple as using a tool like Hotjar, which will record the visitors on your website so you can actually see what they're doing.
Dave: So something as simple as that can uncover some roadblocks, it can uncover some things that your website is well, rather, it can uncover the way that users are interacting with your website and let you see, "Well, I can see now why they're not clicking that button or they're not doing whatever" because that person's looking at our website on a mobile phone and that form that we want them to fill in isn't even there. That's unlikely to happen if you've got a good web design team, but it might happen.
Alex: Yeah, definitely. So I think you've slightly done the thing, we talked about last time about jumping ahead, because before we get there, I think I'd like to unpick a really common misconception about CRO, right? Which is the squeezing more out of your customers, getting more value of the people landing on your website and converting people is about putting banners on your website or popups that tell people they'll get 10% off if they buy now or that spinning wheel that you see all the time on like cheap e-commerce sites where it's like, "Oh, if you feel lucky, give us your email address and we'll let you spin the wheel and win something free."
Alex: It's not that. Is it? We are talking, I guess, about let you say sitting down, looking at what people are doing and working out where the problems are, working out where, I guess we talk about roadblocks a lot. Right? It's like things that stop people from purchasing. They've got your website, they're interested in what you're selling, but something is stopping them from actually kind of clicking the "Add to cart" button or the "Enquire" button.
Dave: I suppose, this starts with the premise that you've developed your website and you've looked at every page, you've developed every page with a mindset of who is this for? How are they going to find it and what do we want them to do when they find it and when they'll land on it, when they view it. And that isn't always the case, is it? I think that it's rare the case.
Alex: No. Well, I think the last bit, especially what do you want people to do, is the key. We were talking internally the other day, weren't we? About landing pages and this whole idea that if you send somebody...
Dave: When you say talking internally, do you mean those voices in your head?
Alex: It's a Friday, so you never know. I'm close to the edge sometimes. But it's this whole idea that especially if you're paying for traffic using paid search marketing or something like that.
Dave: Google ads and stuff, yeah.
Alex: Yeah. You're paying to get somebody onto a page, but a lot of people don't really think about what you actually want people to do once they hit the page. It's about creating an experience that encourages people to do a specific thing, whether that's buying from you or inquiring or it has to have a purpose.
Dave: Okay. So, is trying to get more value from the website visitors you've already got or rather you're already getting a worthwhile investment?
Alex: Yeah, definitely.
Dave: It seems pretty obvious that it would be, isn't it?
Dave: Okay, so is it cut and dry or is it somewhat experimental?
Alex: I think it's incredibly experimental.
Dave: Leading question.
Alex: Yeah, I see where you're trying to take me. No, I think two things, firstly, it's very experimental. Secondly, it's very difficult, right? There are no easy solutions here and I think this is why maybe a lot of agencies don't offer these services. A lot of businesses don't dabble with this kind of thing, because there are no hard answers, there are no, what's the best way to format a landing page, should you do this? Should you do that? Should you have forms? Should you have popups as people leave?
Dave: People follow best practice and leave it at that instead of following best practice and then seeing if that best practice is actually effective for them.
Alex: Right. Because we've talked before, I guess, about how every audience is different and unique and has its own kind of expectations. And I guess that's a really important part of this. But yeah, it's very worthwhile. It's just very challenging I think, to get it right.
Dave: Okay. So give me, or rather let's discuss, but I'll throw it to you initially, give me an example of where it might be worth looking at conducting a conversion rate optimization or get more value from a website type experiment.
Alex: Well, I think you have to pick a page, to start with, that has a lot of traffic. I think that's really important. You have to, for any of these experiments to work, when you're sitting there and saying, "Oh, I want more out of my traffic. I'm going to try changing the colour of my buttons or adding more pictures of people" or whatever it is you think you're going to do, that's going to inspire people to take action. You can't really test those ideas and this is a decent amount of people. So I would say always start with pages that get plenty of visits, maybe that's a little bit simplistic. I guess you also have to start with a page that can steer somebody towards taking an action, right? So it has to have like a clear call to action at the end, it has to be designed to sell something, whether it's a service or a product or whatever, you can't do it with the about us page really. I mean you can, but you shouldn't start that.
Dave: I guess the only exception to that rule might be, if you are creating a landing page and you are going to buy traffic using Google Ads, LinkedIn Ads, Facebook Ads...
Alex: Yeah. I mean, we've done that haven't we?
Dave: ...then set that page up. So right from the start you're running an experiment and the experiment I'm thinking of, which is a common one, which some people might have heard of is what's commonly referred to as an A/B test. So you basically have a webpage that's built with a technology that allows you to show 50% of the people who visit one thing and the other 50%, another thing, I mean you can make, that's a simplification of it, but in essence, that's what an A/B test is.
Alex: Yeah, absolutely.
Dave: And it might be worth doing that even if that page currently is brand new, if you are sending traffic to it.
Alex: Absolutely. Yeah, I think the important thing is just that, like you say, "If you're going to test something like whether a certain layout works better than another or certain pictures work better than others" or whatever, you do have to have traffic, whether you're paying for it or it's there naturally. I think, I would say one of the easiest ways to get started with this though, this kind of squeezing more of your web visitors if you like, is to pick a page on your website that already gets quite a lot of traffic. I think that's something that we do recommend a lot. Isn't it?
Dave: Yeah. Now one of the things that people might find slightly concerning is if web page is getting a lot of traffic, but it's not converting and if you start messing about with it, then it might stop getting lots of traffic. You might break it from a Search Engine Optimization point of view, suddenly you've tried different things and it's broken. How do we get around that conundrum?
Alex: Well, look, the thing is if a webpage is getting lots of traffic and it's not converting, one of two things is happening, right? The webpage isn't good enough or the traffic isn't relevant. Either way, there's no actual benefit to you, to business in having traffic that isn't converting. It's a waste of time, it's fantastic. It looks great on your graphs and your reporting and stuff but at the end of the day, if people aren't doing what you want them to do, it's a waste of time. So, I would just say, be brave, right? It's like if you ruin the page and it stops ranking, you've lost a load of non-converting traffic.
Alex: Or the sensible option.
Dave: You use a tool like Google Optimize so that you can actually put different versions of the page in front of visitors without changing the original page at all, so that you don't lose the rankings. You get to play with the page in terms of the elements that, the colors that you use, the buttons that you use, the call to action that you use and everything else. And that's one of the beautiful things about this area of digital marketing is that there are some pretty good tools out there that let you conduct these experiments safely.
Alex: Well, I think it's worth saying isn't it because I think we've talked about Google Optimize in other podcasts, but it's worth pointing out that it is yet a completely free program that basically lets you run an experiment on a page and you can literally clone or duplicate a page, change whatever elements you like and then just set it running as a test and 50% of your web traffic will see one version, 50% will see another.
Dave: Yeah. And you can actually set all of that. You can decide how much traffic you want, how many of the visitors you want to see the original page and how many of them you want to see the tweaked version or versions and then it gives you feedback. It says, "Based on this experiment, this version is getting way more form fills, way more inquiries or way more phone calls or whatever, than this version. So it lets you make some informed decisions.
Alex: Yes. However, I'm going to be very boring now and say that when you sit down and play with something that I Google Optimize, there's a temptation to just test random things. It's like, "Oh, I can just change this about the page and see which works better." I think all of these tools and all of this whole idea of like A/B testing requires that you have a hypothesis first as to why your page isn't working and an idea to test, you have to have a clear goal in mind and you have to have a clear idea of what it is that you're going to change and why that's going to inspire more traffic. You cannot and should not do the classic thing, which is, "Yeah. Change the color of your buttons or I'm just going to run a test where I take some of the text away and see if that works." There has to be a more developed thought process to it, I think.
Dave: Yeah. I think so, what I would say, what I would caveat that with, Ooh...
Alex: We're just having a competition. So you can say the longest words.`
Dave: You'll win that. You'll win that, you've got a degree in English. I'm just a dumb engineer.
Alex: It's some engineering words are pretty long to be...
Dave: You've got to be prepared to fail when you do this stuff. It's not an exact science and there's a lot of great information out there about how to make websites perform better. I'm not talking about the speed, I'm not talking about Search Engine Optimization, I'm talking about once all the hard work's done and people are on the webpage looking at it to, get it to perform better as in to generate more leads or sales or whatever it is you want it to do, there's a lot of good information out there.
Alex: There are tons. There's a very good e-book that you recommended that I read.
Dave: That's right.
Alex: But yeah, there are so many resources out there and I guess that's one of the great things about coming to this thing now, right? Like, are you late to the part? A little bit, but the great news is that other people have been doing this testing for years now and you can look at their results and take a guess at what kind of things might help your website.
Dave: I would hazard a guess that if you get your agency to look at this Conversion Rate Optimization for you, then you will be in a minority. There are not many businesses that are investing in this stuff and taking the time to do it. And if you read some of the really good case studies that are out there, the returns can be quite startling, but I don't think it's widely adopted. I think Conversion Rate Optimization is so important, yet it is not main stream for most marketing people, I don't think.
Alex: Well, I think just going back to something you said earlier about being prepared to fail, I think, in my experience that's been the biggest problem with it because a lot of people will dabble in it. They'll experiment once they'll try something, it won't work and they think, "Oh, this is a waste of time. I'd be better just getting more traffic." Right? It's that horrible thing with marketing where you've got a limited finite amount of time or money or whatever to spend. And it's kind of, how do you approach digging up those resources and if it's in something that isn't yielding results, it's a temptation to say, "Oh, this doesn't work."
Alex: I think in reality you have to go at it again and again and again until you find a formula that works. It's not an easy or quick thing to do this.
Dave: No. And do you think, if you read on this subject, a lot of people will say, you need to be bold. You need to be quite like, "Oh, we think that should have a comma there. Let's put a comma there in it and try that." That's kind of like me, it's not really going to help, but you need to be bold. For example, if you're using very formal language on a landing page or on a webpage, that's getting lots of traffic and it's not performing, it's not turning into sales or inquiries or anything, it might be worth trying to use plain English or maybe even just bolder language. I'm not talking about the font, I'm talking about the actual language that you are using a different approach. Try it.
Alex: Yeah, I think that's exactly it. Isn't it? Don't be afraid to tear up the script. At the end of the day, I think a lot of the time, assuming that your website exists alongside other similar websites selling similar things, is a real danger of just doing the same old, same old and I think the best results and returns always come from people who are not afraid to say, "Okay, this is what all my competitors are going to do. I'm going to do something completely different and just try something off the wall." We did a thing once, didn't we? Where we changed all of the text on one of our pages to kind of Scottish dialect, just to see how that kind of went down with people. I think it stuff like that. Yeah, I mean...
Dave: I keep meaning to change it back. It is getting traffic that page and it's...
Alex: People probably like, "What the hell is this?"
Dave: So, it was just one of my moments of madness, I think, with that one particularly and I think it's important that you're bold. It's also, I think, important that you don't focus in on one thing. I'm talking about using, you know what I've just said, using bold language and try it. But that doesn't mean for the next six months, just keep trying different headlines and seeing if it's, because it might be that it isn't the reason that, that page isn't working. So you've got to just maybe run an experiment and that made no difference at all. Right? Let's look at other things.
Alex: Well, I think that's it, isn't it? I guess we try to approach these things with a page has a problem, let's brainstorm all the different possible reasons. What is it that people maybe don't like about this page? And then we'll work through them and test each one, one by one until we stumble across the correct answer. But I think that's exactly it, isn't it? It's like, don't be afraid to say, "Okay, this isn't working, let's try something completely different" because you don't know going in, it could be something completely random. That page is a really good example. We could just have not been saying something that people wanted to see on the page. And we've spent ages messing around with the language.
Dave: Yeah, I think that's why it's important that you don't test for testing sake. You need a strategy. Everything we do, we think we obviously like start with a strategy, not with the tactics. So the tactic might be, change the text, move the form around, change the color of the buttons, that might be the tactic, but what's the strategy, right? So where are we now? The webpage is getting traffic. The traffic is arriving because, for example, they're searching for a company to look after their website, so they're searching for website management, for example, the lands... Sorry?
Alex: Not blue widgets? You sure?
Dave: Not blue widgets, we've dropped widgets. Now we've sold them. We've sold that business, the blue widgets business. So people are searching for a company to help them with managing their websites. So they search for management company, website management company or whatever. So the webpage has attracted them because it's been optimized and bang the landing on the page. So you now in a situation where maybe not the best example, because some people looking for website management are looking for technical management and other people are looking for content management but that's part of the experiment probably.
Alex: I was going to say, I think that's the real value of this, isn't it? So you don't necessarily know. This is the thing, I mean, whatever you're selling, people land on your site by searching for something specific who knows they're actually searching for the exact thing you are selling? Right. And unpicking that as part of this, I think. But yeah.
Dave: Well, if we assume that right now they've searched for website management, as an example, they've landed on a web page and that web page is offering the service that they want, but hardly anybody, if anybody is filling in the form and to make an inquiry or picking up the phone. So, your starting point there is, we are getting the right eyeballs on the webpage and they are not responding to what they're seeing. So what elements of that page, is it the design of it? Well, it's unlikely, but it might be. Is it the fact that the form is right at the bottom of the page? So they never actually get that far down to fill the form.
Alex: Assuming that there is a form.
Dave: Assuming that there's a form there, is it the language that we're using? Is it the lack of social proof? The fact that we're not saying, "Hey, we manage hundreds of websites and we've been doing this since god was a boy" who knows? But you've got to think about it like that and then write down all the things that might be having an impact and then plan out the experiments in order to test all those theories.
Alex: Yeah. I think trust's a really big one that you just touched on there. The idea of social proof and I think a lot of the things people overlook when they're writing a webpage is they want to fill it full of claims, we can do this, we can do that, we're the people you want to choose and it's not, you know, the idea that people shop around online and are just kind of convinced by the things you write is a little bit archaic. I think you have to do a little bit more to get people to trust you.
Dave: That's right, yeah. One of the really nice things about Conversion Rate Optimization is both in conversations with clients and internally at the agency, you don't really have to have those sometimes pointless conversations, where should it be this, or should it be that? Should we use this photograph of that photograph? Should we use this word or that word? Should it be this color? Should it be that colour? You can actually find out which is the most effective. And that's one of the really nice things about this kind of work, isn't it?
Alex: Yeah, it is definitely. I think that's a really interesting point though. Isn't it? Because it is all about really finding what is effective, not what we like the most, not what we think is the best fit for the business, but what actually makes people kind of convert. And that is I guess, yeah, that has to be the focus. Doesn't it?
Dave: It does. Yeah. So we've talked briefly about the most common type of test, the A/B test. So I think it's fairly self explanatory, but just for argument’s sake, talk about it. Tell me what an A/B test is?
Alex: Are you trying to trick me?
Dave: No, I'm really not trying trick you. I'm never tried to trick you Alex.
Alex: Yeah, it's just have a theory, have two variants that let test different parts of that theory. You put them both live simultaneously. Some of your traffic goes to one, some of it goes to the other and then at the end, and it is important that you decide an end date, right? You say, "I'm going to test this for a month. I'm going to test this for a thousand visits" or whatever. And then you sit down and you say, "Which of these two variants performed the best." And then you take your findings from that and you test something else. And that's the critical bit that a lot of people miss, right? You're not doing an A/B test to find the best version of a webpage. You're doing an A/B test to find which of your two versions is of the better performing one, but there's always further improvements to be made.
Dave: That's right. It's an ongoing process for sure. So an example, just so people get this absolute clear, say for example, you've got a webpage on your site that's selling a particular service rather, that you offer. So quite often when we're working with customers, they want to say, "We do this, we do that. We are great. We, we, we, we" And we and try and get them to think about, stop doing that and talk. But it's fair enough that they might think, no, no, I mean, people are on our website, they want to know that we can do this and we are great and we've done it before and we are going to do a good job for them. So we might run an experiment where we use language that's, "We are great" and then change that to, "Your problems are" I'm trying to think without using the "We" word, your problems solved or something, you know what I mean?
Dave: That's a really crap example, but we might use language. That's all about the customer, not all about our client or the owner of the website as an experiment, for example, because that's a conversation, I was saying that the thing about this stuff, about testing is it means that you don't have to have those conversations that never end well, where you think as an expert in the field of digital marketing, we should do one thing, what the client, who's the subject matter expert in their line of business, wants to do something else and you are trying to persuade them, look, we get that but we think that this is going to resonate more. And though you run an experiment to find out.
Alex: Yeah, definitely. I think everybody listening to this will have had that experience at some point in their life where they call them highest paid person in the room. Don't they? Who says, "No, this is what we do as a company." And it's nice sometimes to be able to go back and say, "Well, actually this works better than, than what we've been doing previously."
Dave: We live in a world of social media, we're all used to reading about what people reckon, "Oh, I reckon this. And I reckon that" and it's...
Alex: Take the guesswork out a bit. Yeah.
Dave: Isn't it? So, yeah, that's one of the areas that CRO, Conversion Rate Optimization can definitely help. And that's a simple example of what an A/B test might be. It might even be that you use completely different imagery. If you sell a particular product or service, you might want to show an image of that thing, whether it's a piece of equipment or whatever it is, or you might think, "Well, an image of people using it might be more effective" again while A/B tested and see which one seems to resonate more.
Alex: I think that's exactly it. If you go away and read up on the stuff online, what you'll see as a lot of these kind of things where people say, "Oh, put pictures of people on your page and that'll increase your conversion rate, put a picture of somebody using your product on the page and that'll increase your conversion rate, put smiling people on the page and that'll increase your conversion rate." These are all great ideas. It's just really important that you actually go and kind of test them for yourself. Right? Because it is very dependent on your audience. Some people find that stuff gimmicky in and other people will find it really enthralling and you just never know until you test it really.
Dave: Okay. So what are some of the key takeaways for people who've listened to this? Because what we've said is we're going to talk about slightly geeky subject of Conversion Rate Optimization. Hopefully we've explained it in language that will make sense to the majority of people listening.
Alex: It's always the hope.
Dave: Let's just recap on what those takeaways are.
Alex: So I guess, first of all, there's real value in spending time and effort, trying to get more out of your preexisting visitors. You don't always necessarily have to just be chasing more traffic, more traffic, more traffic, you can actually back and say, "Okay, with the visitors that we're getting, let's turn more of them into customers." And that there is a set methodology for doing that. There might not be easy answers, but there is at least a set and scientifically proven way of getting to those answers.
Dave: That's right. So the process is, there are tools to help you with the process, which means you don't have to ruin any really good search rankings that you've already got, for example. So, that's fine. So there are tools that let you run these experiments. They are in all likelihood going to help you get more business from the website trash that you're already getting. And anything else really?
Alex: No, I would just say that the long you spend using tools like Hotjar, and I know we don't do it that much, but another thing I'm a really big fan of the whole idea of user testing, we can get members of the public on a website and watch them, you set them tasks and watch them click around what they're doing. And\ it's the time spent uncovering the problems that really brings the value in this process I think, so the more time you can spend trying to diagnose what's going wrong on your page and coming up with theories is how to fix it, the better A/B tests are going to be. So yeah, if you're sat there thinking, "Okay, I'm going to go away and change 60 different things on this landing page and make it convert better, you probably better spent sitting there for a couple of hours and working out what is exactly that's holding people up.
Dave: Yeah. Otherwise you finish up and stay in the obvious, but you'll finish up in a situation where you're not actually sure, which change had the effect that you were looking for in each case. You then, because if you uncover one simple thing that can be, well, that can be game changing.
Alex: It can, yeah. Sometimes it's really, really simple things, isn't it? Well, there're obvious things like not having a form on the page, if you put a form on the page, suddenly a conversion rate shoots through the roof, but there's other really interesting examples. Like you say, "Just changing the language of titles so that they kind of appeal to somebody's kind of pain point or problem" and that kind of thing where people find suddenly...
Dave: Pain point, that sounded very markety.
Alex: It did. Yeah. If you can directly address the issue that somebody's trying to solve when they were looking for whatever it is you're selling and you can speak to them directly and empathize with their problems, sometimes that can triple or quadruple conversion rates. It's all just about trying to tap into what your audience wants to see really. And what's going to cut through the noise because ultimately, there are probably a hundred websites selling what you are selling or at least three or four. And it's just anything you can do to kind of stand out from that crowd really.
Dave: So basically, if you are getting visitors to your website and specifically a web page, because we're not talking about Conversion Rate Optimization being a site wide endeavor, it's like you pick a page, so if you're getting visitors to a page and it's not generating any inquiries, there's a problem or if you're getting a lot of visitors to a page and it's not generating many inquiries, there's potentially a problem. Depends. You know, if the page is a page which is information that people would be looking for when they're at the very early stages of making a purchase, you wouldn't expect it to convert. So you wouldn't waste time on CRO, Conversion Rate Optimization on a page, which is really just there to give people some very simple advice. You might get some conversions at that point but you're not going to, whereas if you've got a page, which you've created for people who are probably at the point of making a purchasing decision, then you definitely want to spend some time getting that one working better.
Alex: Yeah. Definitely treading that. I wanted to start talking about funnels then but I think that's a discussion for a different day, isn't it?
Dave: Yeah. That's right. Whether it's a sales funnel or whether it's the cyclonic buyer journey or whatever it is that people have come up with, it's basically giving people the information they need to take them, through a process of deciding that you might be good guys to do business with. Isn't it?
Alex: It does touch on an interesting point though, that we should probably cover in another podcast, which is just about kind of setting expectations because I'm sure a lot of people who will be here listening to this and thinking, "Well, how am I supposed to know how many people should be converting on my page? How am I supposed to know what is normal or expected for a page?" And I guess, yeah, without going into too much detail, is exactly like Dave says, "You have to think about what kind of people are landing on your page and what stage of the process they're in really." But yeah, makes sense. Generally pick a page that you think should be converting, lots of people play around with it and then I guess just going back to what you did say though about it just being for one page, I will say that you can always take the things you find on that one page and apply them across the site.
Alex: If you find out that people only really care about your product, if there's a picture of a smiling person at the top of the page, that's something that you can use on every page of your website.
Dave: Yeah, that's right. You're actually looking for trends. You're looking for information. That's going to help you across the site in a wide context. That's absolutely the case. If you are thinking that maybe your website isn't generating as much business from the traffic that you're currently getting and you'd like an audit, then feel free to get in touch with us. You can go to the contacts page. If you've got any questions about Conversion Rate Optimization or any aspects of digital marketing and you want us to do a podcast on that subject fill in the form and we'll record something. If you want to come on the show and talk about some aspects of digital marketing, whether you work in another agency or you work for a business and you want to come talk to us, that's also something that will be great. In the meantime, anything else to add on this CRO Podcast?
Alex: I don't think so.