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Conversion Optimization: Do This First, Part 2

In my last post, Conversion Optimization: Do This First we used our analytics package to identify the pages that were important in the conversion optimization process. This month we’re going to look at some tools and techniques which will help us identify which elements of these pages and processes are in need of improvement.

By now, you should have chosen the pages you know are preventing you from achieving conversion rate bliss. Your next tool is decidedly low tech: your eyes. Observe and decide what you think needs to be done; be a dispassionate observer; imagine the testiest of customers and try to be him. And then take advantage of some of the following tools and techniques.


I know heat mapping is as old as the hills, so why don’t people shout about it? In communicating a concept to a client who isn’t paid to be an analytics guru, heat mapping is unrivalled. Marketers get heatmaps. More importantly, their bosses do too. If you’re a marketer, you know that getting top-level buy-in for a conversion optimization project can be tough. Heat maps help. Heatmapping lets you understand how users are interacting with individual elements on your pages, and is also quick and cheap to set up.

Most paid-for web analytics solutions provide heatmapping as part of the service. For some unknown reason, Google Analytics has always done a poor (and temperamental) job of their site overlay. For instance, the overlay report can be misleading as it tracks clicks by link destination rather than location on the page. If you don’t have an enterprise solution, fear not, try one of these (cheap) standalone solutions.

We use Click Density in the UK. In the US Crazy Egg is almost identical. From £20/$20 and ten minutes of snippet pasting you can get started and track enough clicks on one or two pages to get some meaningful data pretty quickly.

The three features I find most useful are:

Tracking the relative popularity of individual elements of the page (of course). We were pleasantly surprised to see a high proportion of users going through to our Team Page in the below example.

Periscopix Heat Map

Understanding which elements are masquerading as “clickable” when in fact they are not. “Dead” clicks seen here in red, lead to frustration and exits.

Periscopix Dead Clicks

Understanding the chronological order that the elements are interacted with. Some heat maps will show you clicks by seconds from page load, use this to gauge which elements of your pages are most attention grabbing. We were concerned that our flash heavy homepage was distracting to users. The number of clicks on the animation in the above screenshot suggests we might have a problem; however shot below shows that very few of those clicks occurred before 20 seconds had passed. Perhaps people are reading the text after all!

heat map 20 second timeline

Google browser size tool

Say you have three calls to action on your page—you’ve given users the choice to proceed as they see fit. Perhaps one of them is a call-back, one is an enquiry form and the third is a price check (this is a recent anonymous client example). The problem is you want your users to book but a tiny percentage are clicking on that button. Well, just maybe your call to action has fallen off the page? Remember, not everyone has a bank of 22″ flat screen monitors at their disposal. The rise of the netbook and mobile internet means that small screens are in abundance. Check your screen resolution report and try emulating some different sizes in your browser. Then paste your URL into the Google browser size tool and see what percentage of users can view your call to action now.

Monsoon Browser Size Capture

Usability on a budget

Do some testing on the site. The importance of this step can’t be overstated. You don’t need to spend a fortune on testing. Try using some interns with less experience of the site, or ask your friends or family, neighbor, the guy in the newspaper shop to have a go. It doesn’t matter who but try to pick people with as little experience of your site as possible. Ask them to carry out 3-5 tasks on the website that are important to the success of your business, such as:

  • Buy an 8gb iPod touch in pink
  • Find the store nearest your office
  • Find out how much shipping would be on product X
  • Check availability for a deluxe room on the 28th of April

Set these scenarios, then let your victims start at the homepage and observe. We use the excellent Google Docs spreadsheet and form creator to ask our volunteers a series of questions at each step of the process. If you can observe them doing it and even use a desktop recording suite such as Camtasia to follow their movements you will get a good idea of which page elements are the most important and the poorest performing. I’m willing to bet that at least one of the below applies to your site

  • Auto-complete postcode field error
  • Broken button in Firefox
  • Missing shipping information
  • Lack of backwards navigation to recap on basket
  • Site search returning zero results on a plural search
  • Site search returning out-of-stock results above in-stock products
  • A form with infuriating resets
  • Bizarre inexplicable signup dead-end

There are numerous budget online usability testing services online which you can use if resources are scarce. Personally, I think you can gain a lot by watching users interact with your site yourself. Another option is to install a feedback/survey solution such as
Kampyle to gain feedback from actual users or install Clicktale to record actual user journeys.

To recap: you know which of your pages are receiving the most views, and of these you have identified the thorniest. You even know which bits of these pages are driving your users into the grateful, open arms of your competitors. Your mind is awash with colors to test and shading and beveling for your chief action button. Stop, think long and hard about the elements you want to change. Then focus on bold changes. Contrary to popular belief, you will not double your conversion rate by changing your buy now button from blue to red. Similarly, switching from “enquire” to “get started” is unlikely to set your world alight.

Tie up all of the considerations and findings you have come across and build some mock-ups, then seek opinions of others. Try to prioritize; you can do too much at once and lose the connection between a change and the results it brings. Before launching a test, make sure you’ve got base metrics in place to compare with the test results and that you’re awash with before and after screenshots for your reference. Now, test away!

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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