Today’s show is all about making the most of your web site traffic through Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). Eric Brende and Meghan Kelly join Daniel Parscale to talk about effective techniques to optimize your sites and digital campaigns for action.
Read the transcript:
So, today we are all gathered here in the booth to talk about a topic that’s been brought up a lot in the office lately. CRO, or conversion rate optimization. And I’ve got two experts in the field who are going to be helping me. Eric Brende and Meghan Kelly, thank you both for being on the show with us today.
Thanks for having us.
So, where we usually start off the show, especially when we’re talking about a specific topic, is we want to really identify what it is that we’re going to be talking about. So let’s start with the basics. How would each of you define CRO? What are we talking about here today?
I think I can start, especially because it’s a basic question. CRO stands for Conversion Rate Optimization. And essentially, in a nutshell, conversion rate optimization is ensuring that all of the traffic on your website is converted to its fullest potential. And essentially, what that means is your website is going to receive a certain amount of traffic in a given month. And we want to ensure that the majority of that traffic, as much of that traffic as possible, takes a positive action, an action that’s valuable to us as a business. So that might be watching a video or filling out a form and contacting us for an appointment, or the ultimate, placing a phone call and requesting an immediate appointment.
I completely agree with Meghan’s explanation of CRO there. I mean, essentially it’s always– with CRO, what we’re always looking to do is improve basically the user experience of a website or a landing page, so when someone comes in from a paid search campaign, from a specific ad, they are finding the exact information that they were looking for. So if there was an offer on that ad for hearing aids for a 75 day trial, there’s a specific mention of that on the landing page that speaks directly to that. So we’re carrying that great user experience and always looking to, again what Meghan said, to create those phone calls, form submissions, or those key metrics that we’re looking for when people come to the website.
So the user experience that you pointed out here is going to be identified by a couple of things. And probably the most obvious one from the user’s perspective is, did I get what it was that I really wanted when I started searching in the first place? So, being able to identify your goal and the user’s goals and then using that as kind of the driving philosophy that you use to make these changes, right?
I mean, essentially with Google Analytics and all of our data tracking, we’re looking at how people are interacting with the website or a landing page, and how they come in from. So do they come in from a mobile device? How did they specifically interact with the website when they were looking on their smartphone? And how do they move throughout the site? Are there specific pages where they leave without converting? And we can identify those with conversion tracking, and that’s essentially kind of what this whole CRO process is. It’s finding those leaks and holes in the websites where we’re losing people.
In my experience, one of the things that’s interesting about this process or way of thinking about stuff is that the goals can be internal– they can be your own as the webmaster or the marketer– but they can also be kind of developed a little bit by what you’re seeing that your visitors are doing. So for instance, you might think that– we’ve talked about form submissions here, which is pretty classic method for conversion– and that might be your primary method going into this. You’re like, I’m just going to focus on getting as many of that as possible. But if people are calling more often than using form submissions, they might actually be coming to your site or your landing page looking for that kind of conversion, and you might need to use both of those data sets to really figure out what your change is going to be.
That’s exactly right. You know, I think that user intent is something that we need to be able to anticipate. In the case of audiology, which we’re spending I would say 75% of our time creating hearing aid, hearing focus, hearing loss focused campaigns, we’re dealing with just a slightly older demographic. And a lot of those individuals are more inclined– I think we’re seeing more inclined to, they’re more inclined to call and ask questions. We also manage a number of dental campaigns, and we see significantly more forms on the dental side. So you’re absolutely right, your audience is certainly driving your changes on your website.
I guess one of the things that we need to establish for this is that goal setting is more critical for this than anything else. Because you can spend all your time really collecting and analyzing data, but you need to figure out what it is that you really want to do. And ultimately when you’re doing this, of course, you’re focusing on a conversion. You’re focusing on a form submission, or a phone call, or a video play, or whatever other metric you’re going to be doing. But you need to establish that. So what have you guys thought about in the past that’s helped you to come up with what those goals and metrics are?
So we’re working with clients. Any time we’re developing a website, well I would say 99% of the time– sometimes we’re working on our own internal projects but I’ll speak for when we’re servicing clients– we’re developing a website or a paid search campaign on someone else’s behalf. And they’re paying for this thing, right? And so we need to make sure that our goals align with their goals. So the very first thing that we do is have a conversation about what success looks like and mutually agree on what that success looks like.
If we have a client that comes to us and their end goal is cost per appointment of $25, I’ll tell you right now we probably can’t deliver on that. So we wouldn’t accept that campaign because it would be an expectation that we’d be unable to meet. Does that ever happen? No. But the very first step is defining with your client what success looks like. And I think a lot of digital agencies skip that really important part of the conversation, where everyone gets on the same page and determines this is our end goal.
And the path that we take to get there, we don’t necessarily know what that is because we haven’t launched the campaign and we don’t have the data from our prospects in order to weave us in the direction that we need to go just yet. All of that is a very organic process that takes place in real-time. But the most important conversation that we can have with our prospects or with anyone that we’re doing business with, is defining what success looks like and agreeing that we’re both going to work together to achieve that.
There’s also the goals that we look at internally. Doing these paid search campaigns, or working on a member’s website, we identify things that need improvement. So whether it’s the mobile site that we see the conversion rates are low, we’ll set our internal goals to say, hey, the conversion rates for the mobile site is low, these are goals kind of where we want to hit and what we want to get it to still see improvements. So, like Meghan said, we have the goals that we set with the members, but then as we’re working internally on the members websites or paid search campaigns, we have all these other goals that we’re trying to meet as well.
We’ve established some goals. We’ve talked it out, and we’re saying, OK, we’re going to work forward on completing these goals. Analytics, of course, are going to factor into this. Well, how do we apply analytics? That’s a broad question but that, and then also, what other tools do we use to really figure out if we’re getting there?
The tools that we really use to do conversion rate optimization is one, Google Analytics. Number two– we are working on this currently– we’re working on implementing Tag Manager, Google Tag Manager on member websites. And this allows us to really get granular in the goals that we’re tracking. So not only just the phone calls and the form submissions, which we call macro conversions, the big ones, but we’re looking to identify the micro conversions. Things like PDF downloads, button clicks, video views, how far people are scrolling down the website page, and are they reading this content? Because all these micro conversions, what’s really important about them is that they lead to the macro conversion. Those are the steps that people take. So we’re not just trying to figure out how people made that phone call, but it’s all those previous steps that finally created that phone call or that form submission to contact the practice. So these are kind of the tools that we’re using. So Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager to really figure out how people are moving around, how they are really creating that ultimate goal of the phone call or the form submission.
But you talked about micro and macro conversions. And so, just to clarify that, a macro conversion could be the actual appointment, for instance, in our case. And then the micro conversion is going to be a lot of the other things that you’re talking about that brought you along the way to get there. So for instance, if you have a form that leads to an appointment, let’s just say on page b, the micro conversion would be getting you from page a to page b.
Yeah. I mean, really a conversion could be anything that we establish, whether it’s the digital team that’s establishing this is as a conversion for a website or a landing page, or if it’s something that’s important to the member themselves, as far as conversion. If they’re really trying to push on some brochures, or if they’re really trying to increase video views, we want to establish those as conversions or micro conversions. So yeah, the micro conversion is kind of any of those previous steps or anything we’ve identified as somewhat important to again get to that ultimate goal.
How do you feel like the user experience factors into this? Because we’ve mentioned that a couple times already, but it’s a subjective bit of data that you can– it’s important, I think, but you can’t really just go into Google Analytics and look at the user experience module and see happiness with this particular page is at 96%. It’s not like that, right? So how do you establish whether people are using your pages the right way, and what does that look like when you’re actually deciding on what to change?
Well, I think if you’re getting engagement– let’s say you have a situation where you have a whole bunch of traffic to one page on your website, your hearing aids page on your website, that’s the most trafficked page on your site. But you get no conversions off of that page. There’s no phone calls or form submissions. Nothing good or valuable to you that is measurable is happening. I would say that there is likely a poor user experience on that page because we know that people are looking for that information because they’re winding up there. So you’re winding up on this page for whatever reason– you being the user– you bounce after you, you leave once you wind up on that page. We know that user experience is poor and we need to fix something.
I love heat mapping a lot, and click mapping too because you can get a certain amount of data from how many people are landing on the page and whether they’re bouncing, or whether they’re converting or whatever they’re doing. But that doesn’t always tell you what they’re doing with the page before they take those actions. And I was looking at a landing page that I was looking to update recently and seeing that, I’d say probably 50% or 60% of the landing page most people didn’t look at all. You can see how far they had scrolled. And I was like, well if they’re not looking at this, then it says that that information, they’re just not getting to it. So that whatever is above that is not providing them enough incentive to go down. But if we had just looked at how many people visited the website or the landing page, for instance, we might not have known that right away. So it is kind of like a mixture of what’s practical and what’s quantitative hard data.
I mean, it’s a lot of guessing. I think Eric will agree. It’s a lot of educated guessing, making a change and then checking analytics later to see if you were right. Yeah. And that’s where AB testing comes in too, right? We make our hypotheses, and then we try it both ways and see which way works better. And then we make these small incremental changes so that, hopefully, we end up better than we were before.
At what point do you know that you need to actually start applying CRO practices to your web page? Is this something that you should apply right off the bat? Do you need to do it reactively if you know that you’re not getting results? Is it both? And how much data do you need to really start it off?
If you’re building a new website, you obviously need to build it with certain types of best practices in mind. We’ve managed a lot of campaigns, we’ve gathered a lot of data, so we have a good understanding of what works and what doesn’t. So we apply those best practices typically right off the bat when we launch a new campaign or a website, to kind of ensure success as we’ve seen in the past. But then we kind of move on from that. After we launch a site or campaign, we’ve established those goals, figured out what metrics we want to track, and that’s when we begin gathering the data and taking a look at from what we’ve launched to where the improvements that are needed.
So for example, if we launch a website, we’re seeing great conversion rate from people viewing the website on a desktop, maybe after several months we’re seeing poor conversion rates from people viewing it on a mobile device. So we’ll go into the website, take a look at how the mobile website is set up and figure out where the holes are. Are people not clicking on the phone number to call from the website? Is the phone number too small they’re not able to see it? Is the layout formatting incorrectly on specific devices? Because we’re able to see that in Analytics. We’re able to see what the user experience or how people are viewing the website on an iPhone, as compared to a Samsung device. So what we’re able to see are things laid out completely differently on these things. Are there load issues on a iPhone compared to a Samsung? We can get this granular when we’re working on a website or optimizing a website.
So what’s an example that comes right to mind about a problem that can be optimized, that you see all the time on pages?
Yes. So one of the biggest problems we see, especially with websites, is the amount of content that some people have on a specific page. Not only just the amount, but how it’s laid out. There are stats that show, from various sources, that people only read about 20% of the content on a website. So if people are only reading 20% of content, you need to make sure that what you’re putting on your website is crucially important to creating those goals, or getting those phone calls, those form submissions.
So what we see is that a lot of websites– a business will, on a specific services page, will have just paragraphs and paragraphs of content. And people typically, most people just scanned text. They don’t sit there and read it, unless it’s maybe a blog post. But if it’s a page for dental implants or something, they’re coming there for a specific reason. They’re looking to get information about dental implants and how that dentist could help them.
So make your content very readable. Use bullet points, break it up with images, but quality images that are relevant to the service that you’re speaking about. Stay away from stock photos because those are very generic, it’s very impersonable. But make it very readable and easy to digest because people, they don’t have the time, people have that squirrel syndrome. You know, when a dog sees a squirrel, they go in a different direction. So that’s kind of the main thing that we see. One of the biggest reasons that pages don’t work, or landing pages on the paid search site don’t work, is when there’s just way too much content. People can’t digest it quickly enough.
Yeah. I think that the focus on any topic on a page is really critical. I’m guilty of scanning things. I can’t tell you how many articles I’ve read on New York Times, where I’ve read like the headline and the first paragraph, and then I’m like, well I think I got enough out of this, I’ll move on to the next piece, or whatever it’s going to be. And so I really don’t pick up on it so much. But if I have a paragraph of just exactly what I’m looking for, that’s going to answer my question that brought me there in the first place, and I’ll know I got it what I wanted and the page will have been a success. I think right off the bat, even in just finding that page, Google expects that kind of quality out of your content to begin with which is what’s going to bring people in in the first place. So you kind of get a double whammy by being highly focused and specialized in your content, depending on the page. That’s my opinion anyway.
And this is where it can be a really delicate conversation between a team like ours and a client because oftentimes that content is written, or developed, or very dear to a client. And they feel very strongly that that content and that specific way that that content is displayed very robustly on a page, they feel like that speaks to their brand and they’re very endeared to it. And sometimes it’s a delicate conversation giving that type of feedback to a client. Saying, hey, we understand that this is important to you. However, best practices in the data that we’re currently capturing regarding the analytics on your site is leading us to believe that we need to format this differently, remove some of this, simplify.
When you encounter a situation like that where the content is around to stay, or the formatting, or some other aspect, but you’ve got a reason to suspect that it’s getting in the way but it’s sticking around, what do you do with that? Do you kind of say, OK, we’re going to keep it around and try something else on that page?
Well, I think that that conversation takes place– Eric and I both work on the paid search team– and on the paid search team, we have a rule where we don’t allow our clients to make subjective changes to their landing pages. The landing page is just a one page website, just for anyone who doesn’t understand what a landing page is. And we don’t do that because we’re lazy, or we’re control freaks. We do that because in the end, it gives them the best opportunity, the client the best opportunity to achieve that goal. The goal that we set up previously on what success looks like. So on the paid search side, we don’t deviate from landing page creative, based upon member feedback. Unless there was a situation where, let’s say we offered a 75 day trial on a member’s landing page and they said that, oh we don’t actually offer a 75 day trial. Obviously we would remove that.
But we don’t add additional pages of content, or paragraphs of content, or swap out an image for a different image, or a change of background from blue to green just on a whim because the client might prefer that. We go back to that end goal and the conversion data that we have on that particular landing page, knowing that it’s already optimized and we don’t want to move away from an optimized page in order to risk decreased performance for that client.
Something that comes to mind with that. You mentioned changing colors, and I think that’s a good example because you know that’s something that’s easy to change and I think we make those changes quite a bit when we’re developing a site or a landing page. People have opinions on that and they want to style their page to work with their brand. But there are certain things to take into consideration with that too, I think I’ve read that if you have a call to action on the button, the button should be– what’s the term? It should stand out against the color scheme of the page. So if you’ve got a blue page, a red button, for instance, stands out more and therefore it’s a little bit easier to convert with that.
I think we’ve read that the button should be green. I mean, is that right? Is that right, Eric? Or that there should be a green arrow pointing to the button. There’s all sorts of “this is what works best” data out there and everybody has an opinion and they can prove it. Sometimes there’s so much data out there that you can pull from whatever to support your opinion. I don’t necessarily know if I personally buy into there’s the perfect color for a button against this specific type of background. You might have a different opinion, Eric. But to me, a lot of that is garbage and if you pay to close of attention to that, you’re kind of going down a rabbit hole.
Well, Eric. What is the perfect button?
I can’t remember the exact number, the hex number. But I’ll have to get back to you on that one.
It’s so perfect that we can’t remember it.
Like Meghan said, there’s best practices out there. There’s tons of them. And you can always start with best practices and kind of learn from what has worked for other agencies or other paid search teams. But that’s the great thing about analytics, is that on the paid search side, we’ve applied best practices, we’ve created new landing pages, and they haven’t worked as well. And that’s just the honest truth, is that not everything that you test out there– whether it’s a new headline, new page, new ad copy– not everything is going to work the way you want or expected it to work. Sometimes, like Meghan said previously, sometimes it’s just a gut reaction what you’re going off of. But we always start the analytics and kind of work our way from there. But as far as the best button color, I don’t know. I like orange. It’s typically–
Yeah. Orange is nice.
So we’ve been talking from the perspective of landing pages a lot of today, and websites. Where does this practice actually apply? Can it work for improving organic results, for instance? Can you use it for email marketing or other things? Where does this live?
CRO conversion rate optimization lives everywhere when we’re speaking digitally. So whether you’re doing an e-mail marketing campaign, social media, paid search, it applies to all of that. And when you’re doing conversion tracking correctly, with analytics you can identify and see how people are moving in and out your website, or all the median touch points that it took to create that conversion. So you know, for example, we can see that if someone is looking for a dentist, they come in for the first time from a paid search campaign, off a paid search ad. They come to the website, they leave. But then 10 days later, they come back by doing an organic search for your practice. And at that point in time, they make that phone call or make that form submission.
So this conversion rate applies to everything, and by doing this conversion tracking, we’re taking away the silo effect of marketing. It’s no longer social media one silo, email marketing another silo, paid search and organic. We can really identify everything as a whole and how everything really works together. So we’re kind of removing those walls, seeing the impact that each of these mediums plays with one another, and we can optimize not only just a website, but conversion rate optimization or conversion optimization. We can say, hey, the email marketing campaigns doing this for– really helping out with this type of conversion, or playing this type of role in your conversion process, so we can create campaigns that way or move strategies around from one medium to another. So it kind of breaks down those walls and shows how everything works together a whole.
So something that’s coming to mind, and I think this ties back to what we were talking about with content that’s dear to the heart sometimes, is are we talking about basically filtering out everything that is not going to lead directly to a conversion? Are we talking about really limiting stuff, or are we allowing some room for something that’s maybe really just is fun, or is important to you from an emotional level and brands you? I mean, I think that there’s a place for balancing both of those things, but what does that balance look like? And how do you really decide where to level yourself out?
Is it OK, or even advisable to have content on your website that isn’t going to convert? Yeah, totally. Not everything is going to bring you to that end conversion. Not everything is going to get you a phone call and a form submission, the ultimate conversion, right? But if you have content on your website that people aren’t engaging with, I would say that is a problem. That is a sign that maybe that content isn’t relevant, or maybe it needs to be rewritten in a way where it could be more relevant. So, I think that CRO is important for all of the content on your website, but you should also have realistic expectations of what is going to drive to the end conversion, and what really is more interesting, maybe just more branding type, feel-good, introductory, trivial content on your site.
So it’s the time of the show where we’re going to start wrapping things up, and I want to ask both of you what are your top three takeaways? What should people really remember about the conversation we just had?
I would say number one of the top three, probably the most important is goal setting. Goal setting is important when you’re starting on any project, and it really ensures that both the agency or the individual who is managing the campaign and the client are on the same page and have defined, if we’re really successful, this is what it’s going to look like.
Going back to content and things that you add to your website or any page, to keep in mind anytime you’re adding something to your website, ask yourself, is this going to help lead to that conversion? My putting this piece of content on here, is this going to help create a phone call or form submission? Is this image that I’m putting on my website, is this relevant? Is this going to help with my conversions, or am I just adding this image because it looks nice? Just always to keep that thought in mind. Whatever you’re adding to your website, is this going to help those conversions?
So number three, I think we want to stress that the very word “optimization” implies that this entire process of CRO is this ongoing thing. And I think it’s really easy when you’re spending money and you’re someone who has a difficult time spending money, like me for example, to take a look at one snapshot in time. Let’s say your campaign didn’t perform to your expectations in January, but you’ve been running since 2014. But man you are focused on January because January was bad. I think it’s really important to not freak out because January was bad, but to look at trends from the inception of your campaign to where you’re at currently to determine success. Because there are going to be those peaks and valleys and those can sometimes be really, really scary, but that doesn’t mean that you should throw in the towel. That also means that you should reassess, and take a look at what happened in January that led to those peaks and valleys. There’s some assessments that we can make. Perhaps maybe you’re in the Northeast, and it was a major snowstorm, and there’s absolutely nothing that anyone, other than– I don’t know, never mind.
But some things might be out of control, and bad numbers don’t always mean bad performance. It just means they change. So patience is a virtue, as my mom used to tell me.
That’s exactly right, yes.
OK. Well thanks for those three takeaways, and for your time in discussing really important topic here. Eric and Meghan, thank you for joining us on Reach.
We had fun. Thanks for having us.
Thanks for having us.