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4 New Years Resolutions For Conversion Optimization In 2011

It’s the start of the new year, and high time to whip your website into ideal conversion-optimized shape. No regrets! Carpe diem! Here are some of the most important conversion resolutions you can make – and keep – for your site this year.

Resolution 1: Get Fit

Every second of every day, your site is in competition, often standing toe-to-toe with bigger, stronger, better-funded challengers. To succeed, a site must essentially be as fit on the Internet as an elite athlete is on the field.

But what does fitness mean, exactly, for a website? In a word – fast. Fast page load time, fast app response time, fast demo streaming time, fast everything. If you’re serious about conversion optimization, speed is no longer optional, it’s a basic requirement.

This means those sites truly committed to conversion fitness will (dare I hope) turn their attention from button design and instead invest in the highly technical, behind-the-scenes deal-makers such as beefed-up servers with fat reliable connections to the Internet, and screaming fast content delivery networks (CDNs).  They’ll compare potential vendors on not just price and services, but also on documented uptime, response time, and delivery speed.

If you haven’t already taken steps to punch up your site’s performance speed, 2011 is the time to do it.

Resolution 2: Spend More Time With Loved Ones

Visitors are key to most web sites’ success, but when was the last time you took a few hours and got to know them? And no, I don’t mean reading customer survey results from a research firm. That doesn’t count. Judging by past experience, it’s too easy to ignore a PowerPoint deck, and to put off making the improvements it might indicate.

So, by ‘spending more time with your loved ones,’ I mean watching real people try to get real things done on your site. Observe live usability tests if possible, so you can see the facial expressions of the test participants. If that’s out of your budget range, set up a task through UserTesting.com, watch the videos, and be sure to listen to the voices.

Watch, as they struggle with your login form. Listen, as they look in vain for the Continue button. Be shocked, as they ignore your beautiful banners or curse your site and your company for losing 15 minutes’ worth of their form input. That lip curled in contempt when a page display breaks? It might not get written up in a report, but that equates to loss of credibility for your company. The deep sigh and bored tone of voice on the 3rd process step? That’s form dropoff.

However you go about it, in my experience time spent observing will provide very useful inputs towards optimizing your site, including:

  1. Valuable, sometimes subtle insights into your audience, that you might have otherwise missed
  2. Memorable, illustrative stories to tell while socializing and selling a conversion optimization project within your organization
  3. More humanized reasons to motivate you while pushing the project through

Resolution 3: Learn Something New

In 2011, I’d like to challenge each reader to test at least one site page or element other than a landing page. Keep plugging away at those, too, of course – but try spreading your wings and mix in other areas of your site as well. Here are a few simple but potentially rewarding suggestions:

  • Update your error messaging to be clearer, nicer, and more visible. Customize the copy for each individual error. (See my previous articles on error optimization – #1 and #2 ).
  • Make your shipping rates and return policy more visible (assuming they’re reasonable).
  • Get new, more professional photos of your products.
  • Replace any cheap stock photos with custom photography or higher-quality stock images.
  • Create and add a demo video (or two).
  • Make your page headings, site-wide, larger and more visible.
  • Add social sharing tools on your product or service detail pages.
  • Add social sharing tools and cross-promotions on your purchase or lead-gen form Success (or Thank You) pages.

Resolution 4: Don’t Make Resolutions – Set Goals

Every January, the population of my local gym suddenly doubles from an influx of sweaty, determined-looking newbies. Their passionate resolve typically lasts about 3 crowded weeks, after which all of us regular gym rats breathe a sigh of relief and get back to our usual routines.

And that’s often the problem with resolutions, no matter the topic – they’re all gasoline and no engine, all earnest willpower with no real planning, structure, or accountability in place to make it all happen.

So when it comes to improving your website’s performance, be sure you don’t fall into the enthusiastic resolution trap. Set specific, measurable goals, for instance:

  • By February 15: I will enable a CDN (content delivery network) for our site, and review the results of a YSlow test.
  • By March 1: I will address at least 5 issues from the YSlow report, and observe at least 5 real people trying to do a specific task on our site
  • By March 15: I will launch at least one A/B or Multivariate test on a site page other than a landing page
  • And so on…

Here’s to a successful and profitable year – I hope to see amazing conversion improvements for each of you in 2011!

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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