heatmaps

Heatmaps are just the first step to obtaining useful insights on your website visitors. Today we’ll find out how heatmaps helped increase prospective student inquiries by 20% for a University and have a chat with Andrew Michael of Hotjar. Find out what he has to say.

Andrew Michael | Understanding Your Users: Leveraging Tools to Grow Your Website

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Resources and links discussed

How Heatmaps Helped Increase Prospective Student Inquiries by 20%

We were looking at the heatmap report for the website of Northcentral University, a non-profit online university headquartered in Arizona.

Reading a heatmap report is like looking at a weather radar, but instead of blobs of green, red and yellow showing us where rain is falling around us, a heatmap report shows us where visitors are clicking on a web page.

And it was raining clicks in an unexpected spot on the NCU website.

Specifically, visitors were clicking on one of the fields in the middle of a form, and only on that field. Not the name field, not the email field. The majority of them weren’t completing the form.

So, why were visitors so interested in this one field?

It was an important question, as this form was the primary invitation to get more information on the University. It was on almost every page, ready to start a more in-depth conversation with any visitor.

The field visitors were clicking on was “program of interest”, a dropdown field that listed the degrees offered by NCU. It was meant as a way for prospective students to tell NCU which degree program they were interested in.

These prospective students were using it as an information source.

While the copy on the page was regaling visitors on the value of NCUs one-on-one learning, it’s 100% doctoral professors and it’s diversity, visitors were telling us that they had one question first.

Do you offer a degree program I’m interested in?

At least, this was the hypothesis. So we designed a test.

At the top of every page, we placed a dropdown menu that listed the university’s programs, just like that on the form. When a degree program was selected, we took them to the part of the site that described that degree program.

Half of NCUs visitors would see this dropdown. The other half would not. They’d have to use the dropdown in the form.

When we measured the results, the visitors who saw the dropdown in the page were 20% more likely to fill out the form completely, requesting information.

This indicated that the change would increase prospective student inquiries by 20%, a very significant improvement in the key metric for the site.

The current site offers a complete section designed to help visitors find a degree program they’re interested in.

This is something that we would not have been able to find any other way than through a heatmap report. It doesn’t show up in analytics. No one would have complained.

This is the power of a class of report called user intelligence reports.

Anyone who knows how to read rain chances from a weather radar can use this kind of report. More and more of us are doing this.

These reports are surprisingly easy to generate and the tools are inexpensive.

You can bring people to websites all day long but if it’s not optimized and it’s not user friendly and you’re going to lose all day and you just can end up throwing money down the drain.

Leading the way is a company called Hotjar. On today’s show we’re breaking down HotJar with Andrew Michael. A tool focused on helping you understand your users. Andrew got into marketing because he’s intrigued by psychology – understanding what drives people’s decisions.

An Insightful Chat with Andrew Michael from Hotjar

Intended Consequences podcast with Hotjar's Andrew Michael

Intended Consequences podcast with Hotjar’s Andrew Michael

Time is precious for overburdened marketers. On this show, we seek to understand which tools are truly valuable, and which are just giving us “interesting” insights.

We install something like Hotjar on every one of our client sites when optimizing.

Tools like Hotjar are a part of what I call ‘the golden age of marketing’. These tools are continually evolving, getting easier to use and less expensive.

These are the tools that buy you more time to be creative, ground breaking and successful.

We start off the podcast talking about all of the things Hotjar brings to the table under a single subscription. Then we talk about the outcome of leveraging tools like this – how do they actually empower marketers serve their online prospects better?

Listen to the Podcast. It’s well worth it.

When You Get Back To The Office

I’m not a shill for Andrew. I just know these tools are a great value and easy to learn.

When you get back to the office, i recommend that you do a trial of Hotjar. Add it to your homepage, or one of your “money” pages where you ask visitors to take action. Setup a heatmap report on it.

Let it run for a few days, and then look at the scroll report. This report tells you how far visitors are scrolling on your page. This is one of the first things we look at when we start analyzing our clients’ sites.

Where is the report turning blue? This is the place on the page that visitors stop reading. Look in the blue area. What key content are they missing?

If more than half of your page is blue, you have a scroll problem. Visitors aren’t being engaged enough to get through your content.

Reasons for this include: false bottoms, where visitors think the page ends when it doesn’t. It can mean that your content isn’t engaging them enough high on the page. It can mean that you’re not handling a key objection.

Your strategies include moving key content to the top of the page, putting arrows, chevrons and “v”s on the page to tell visitors to keep going, or re-thinking the story you tell on this page.

Don’t be discouraged. This is progress! Next, share this report with your design team and see what they think.

This is how pages get better and businesses grow.

You can get all these links discussed on this week’s episode in our shownotes. One thing to remind you all of is that Hotjar is a freemium model so it’s one you can definitely

Alright scientists, that’s it for this week.

Andrew Michael | Understanding Your Users: Leveraging Tools to Grow Your Website

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A website redesign is like a Hollywood movie reboot. It really is.

There have been two attempts to reboot the cultural phenomenon that is Star Wars. George Lucas gave us three prequels that, while generating some $2.5 billion in box office worldwide, were largely reviled for their lack of magic and stunted acting. Now JJ Abrams is rebooting with a sequel to the series called Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Redesigning your website should be seen as a reboot of your online properties as well. Watch The JJ Abrams School of Website Redesign, and learn how to avoid creating a Phantom Menace when the Force Awakens for your website.

This is not the first reboot that JJ Abrams has helmed as visionary and director. We’ve got his incredibly successful treatments of the Star Trek franchise to consider as well.

Don’t Just Blow Things Up

The problem we have with the popular Responsive Web Design strategies is that you must change everything in order to create a “mobile-friendly” website. Responsive designs are programmed to make decisions about page content when smaller screens are encountered.

Many of these decisions are wrong, and we’ll cover them in our webinar.

Your responsive design may be creating the equivalent of Jar-Jar Binks, a figure hated perhaps more than Darth Vader himself. In the webinar, we’ll show you how what happens when redesigns go bad.

Bring Back Beloved Characters

Your website redesign isn’t about changing things. It’s about building on what currently works, adding to the experience.

George Lucas managed to work merchandisable characters R2-D2 and C-3PO into the prequels, as well as beloved Obi-Wan Kenobi. But these characters didn’t create the esprit décor that the original ensemble did. In Star Trek, Abrams brought back young versions of the entire ensemble: Kirk, Bones, Scotty, and even two Spocks. Chekov, Sulu and Uhura were thrown in for good measure.

Your website is an ensemble cast of pages and experiences. Your landing pages need to prime buyers to get through the subscription process. Your category pages have to drive visits to product pages that entice visitors to add to cart.

Huge amounts of data is available very cheaply. Use it to know what to keep or suffer the consequences.

Don’t Create Any Jar-Jars

You don't want to create any Jar-Jar Binks features during your redesign.

You don’t want to create any Jar-Jar Binks features during your redesign.

I’m sure George Lucas was certain that the Jar-Jar Binks character introduced in the Phantom Menace would be a beloved, merchandisable character. He was wrong. Abrams introduced Keenser, a (thankfully) silent alien who was Scotty’s sidekick in the first Star Trek reboot. However, he didn’t rely on this character for comedic relief nearly as much as Lucas did with Jar-Jar.

The cost to create the all-CGI Jar-Jar was huge, and probably took resources that could have been used elsewhere in the movie.

Unless you’re testing your way into your redesign, you are going to create some Jar-Jars in your redesign. These are features that you believe in, but that are rejected by your visitors. Don’t over-invest in these new experiences without testing them first.

Have A Reason for Radical Changes

Every website has return visitors. Your website, no matter how ugly you believe it to be, has visitors who feel at home there, enjoying a comfortable familiarity. They’ve invested the time to understand your site, to make it theirs. When you change it, they’ll be pissed.

These visitors need some rationale for your removal of familiar features and the addition of new ones. Avoid the pro-innovation bias, which is a tendency to change things because they are cool. Your returning visitors won’t think they are cool.

Is this little header animation really necessary? It's a technical error waiting for the wrong browser.

Even simple parallax animations are dangerous. It’s a technical error waiting for the wrong browser.

Don’t let your design firm add any “alien” features to your site. For example, parallax design causes animates to occur as your visitors scroll through the site. It’s the web equivalent of Jar-Jar.

Parallax design elements are like the blinking text of 1990s era websites.

Parallax design elements are like the blinking text of 1990s era websites. Or the Jar-Jar Binks of the Web.

In the Webinar, we’ll show you how to find out what is and isn’t necessary in your particular redesign.

Add Segments

This ain't your father's Star Trek.

This ain’t your father’s Star Trek.

JJ Abrams brought whole new segments into the Star Trek and Star Wars franchises. For Star Trek, he cast young heartthrobs Zak Quinto, Chris Pine,  and Zoe Saldana in key roles. This brought a younger, hipper audience to the Star Trek universe. Star Wars: The Force Awakens features females in key hero and villain roles.

Your website redesign should be about two things:

1. Keeping your existing visitor segments happy.

2. Engaging new segments that need what you offer.

There is no such thing as an “average visitor” to your site. Design should specifically target key segments. These segments should not just be demographic as much as needs based. Segment by device type, by geography, by whether they are at work or play, or by the kinds of search terms they are using. Target segments at different stages of your funnel.

The death of a redesign is guaranteed if you design for the “average” visitor or design for yourself. See below.

Avoid Executive Influence

Don't let your execs usurp your redesign.

Don’t let your execs usurp your redesign.

After several significant successes, J.J. Abrams has considerable freedom to do what he wants. He ignored all of George Lucas’s ideas for the new Star Wars movie and took it in his own direction.

The executives that you report to will want to have a say in the redesign. Statements like, “I would never respond to that!” are poisonous to the process, unless you site is targeted at them.

Abrams didn’t get such freedom until he had a win under his belt. Your ace in the whole is research and data. If your redesign is questioned, you better have the studies, heatmaps, split test, and analytics you need to make your case.

If you don’t have this information, you’re not likely to have a success anyway. You may want your executives to attend our webinar.

Lens Flair Comes Last

Only after you’ve considered all of these key issues can you put your own unique stamp on the site design. Abrams has a thing for lens flair in his movies.

But none of this means anything unless you have beloved features in your new site, avoid adding Jar-Jar Binks experiences and address your visitors segment by segment.

Attend our free Webinar The JJ Abrams School of Website Redesign and make sure your next redesign isn’t a Star Wars prequel.

If you’ve ever read the book The Design of Everyday Things you may recall one of the stories. It tells of a typist asked to evaluate the design of a new keyboard. She reported back to the keyboard designer that she liked the new design and didn’t find any faults with it. The designer asked if they could watch her use it. What they observed was that she kept making a particular typing error over and over again.
The new design had moved some keys around, so the typist kept hitting the wrong key. She was used to the old layout. When they asked her about it, she blamed herself and not the design because the key was clearly labeled.

I Blame Myself

A couple of weeks ago, my favorite artist released a new album. It’s always a long time in coming, so album release day felt like Christmas morning to me. I even woke up early, ready to download it and spend my whole morning listening to it.
After about a decade of not spending money on music, I decided 2015 is the year I wanted to start doing it again. This year I also bought Taylor Swift’s newest album and the soundtrack for a deeply cool movie, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. I bought both on Google Play, and as we mentioned in a different post, spending money on Google Play is distressingly easy.
When I went to work buying Joanna Newsom’s latest, I expected a similarly unremarkable experience. I thought two taps to purchase and one tap to play would get the job done. But her album wasn’t for sale on Google Play, so I decided to buy it directly from her record label, Drag City.

Joanna Newsom's artist page was my first touchpoint with Drag City

Joanna Newsom’s artist page was my first touchpoint with Drag City


I couldn’t actually remember the name of her record label, so I got there by a search, and I bypassed the homepage entirely. My first impression of the page was positive but ultimately irrelevant since I knew that I would definitely be spending my money on this website regardless of my experience because I really wanted this album, and it wasn’t readily available everywhere.

Strategic Use of Invisibility

After a moment I saw that there isn’t a buy button anywhere on this page, nor are there any prices. Apparently, I needed to find a product page to get to that information. Like most people comfortable with technology, I scan and click links quickly and with little thought.
I ended up in a loop where I clicked “Joanna Newsom” two or three times before my brain caught up with my finger. I was just taking myself back to the same page over and over again.

I needed to find my way to the product page, but I kept ending up back on the artist page.

I needed to find my way to the product page, but I kept ending up back on the artist page.


The page I wanted was strategically hidden behind the album image and the name of the album. Despite the page’s every attempt, I made my way to the product page. This wasn’t to be the last time I felt sheepish.
Which download do I want?

Which download do I want?

This Product Page is FLACed Up

I already disclosed that I don’t buy music often (I’m more of a book and movie person), so maybe it’s unsurprising that I was caught off-guard by one of my purchase options: the FLAC Download. Is that a normal thing now? It better be because 1) I had to do a Google search to figure out whether I needed to adopt FLAC instead of MP3 and 2) I was irritated that I had to leave the website to find answers instead of Drag City just telling me on this screen.
Not everyone is going to find their way back like I did.
My search told me that I don’t care enough to know more about FLAC downloads to spend an extra dollar, so I selected MP3 and moved on to the next step.
[sitepromo]

The Payment Method Shell Game

Technical errors are always a problem. In this case, the inconsistency happened in the all-important cart. Sometimes when I visited my cart, I was given the option to purchase with Paypal. Sometimes it wasn’t.

Option 1: No PayPal

Option 1: No PayPal


Option 2: Checkout with PayPal

Option 2: Checkout with PayPal


I saw both of these screens in the process of writing this article. If I didn’t feel like I absolutely needed this album right this instant, I would have just bailed without a PayPal option. For some people it’s the borrowed trust that the PayPal logo provides that would cause them to stay. If I have to get off my couch and find my credit card to buy something, I can probably live without it.
Since I was borderline desperate, I journeyed onward regardless, perhaps even going so far as to walk across the room to fetch my purse.

How to Treat Your Repeat Buyers Like Dirt

I had high hopes that I was almost done using this website when I got to this page.

I had high hopes that I was almost done using this website when I got to this page.


The first time I went through this process my purchase was a cinch. Replicating it for this post didn’t go the same way, however. The first time around I created a new account and moved on. I assumed it would be even more straightforward after I had my own account.
When I logged in with my new account, however, I wasn’t taken to the next step in the purchase process. I was taken to Drag City’s homepage.
So here is how they treat return buyers: Find music. Add music to cart. Click checkout. Login. Get sent back to the beginning.
I thought it was because I typed my password incorrectly. It felt like I had done something wrong. I felt bad. Being a returning customer is not nearly as easy as being a new one, apparently. I persevered.

Here’s Your Order. Not.

When I finally made it to the through to a screen thanking me for my purchase, I didn’t know what do from there. Where was my download? How was I going to be able to listen to my album? Had I just sent my ten bucks into cyberspace never to be seen again?
I searched through Drag City’s FAQs and even tried to find a customer forum where I could find the answer to those questions, but I came up with nothing. My emailed receipt also got me nowhere. I returned to the browser where I ended my purchase to see if I’d missed a message telling me what to do next, but that also left me empty-handed.
Me dumb. That is the message.
I ended up emailing their customer service to ask what was up, but I felt incredibly stupid about it. I felt self-conscious, like I’m sure my dad feels when he calls me for the seventh time to ask how to use his TV remote, but it seemed like the only option. And dang, after all it took to get there, I couldn’t just give up.
My story ends rather anticlimactically because about an hour later, I got an email back letting me know that I would receive my download via email, and I should please let them know if I didn’t receive it. I had indeed received it – but about ten minutes before customer service got back to me. It was weird.
It was great customer service with a quick response, but I prefer not to feel like an idiot, even if it results in a kind email from a stranger.
You may think it’s not fair to compare a small business website to an e-tail juggernaut like Amazon, but it is. If I had decided I didn’t want to support Drag City, using Amazon would have been so much easier. Amazon loves taking people’s money, and Drag City makes it feel like a burden.

My Amazon search result for the same album

My Amazon search result for the same album


Just my search result on Amazon gave me more information than Drag City’s entire Joanna Newsom page. And notice the “Available for download now” message. The last time I spent money on a digital download from Amazon was probably about five years ago when I purchased an episode of Vampire Diaries, and even that long ago, the whole process went very smoothly. I definitely didn’t have to wait an hour for an email.

Who is to blame for negative shopping experiences?

Re-living my buying experience in excruciating detail began to make me think “I don’t know why this bothered me at the time. It seems pretty obvious in hindsight.”
Some websites have very poor design, and users will openly criticize it, but others have design flaws that are subtle. After spending a few minutes using the navigation and thinking about the purpose of the page, a visitor will figure it out, but they may blame their own alleged stupidity for being slow on the uptake.
It’s one reason that self-reporting is so notoriously inaccurate: the reasons we think we behave a certain way aren’t always clear. It’s also why tools like heat maps are so eye-opening. It’s also why I was mad that I got up early on Nerdy-Christmas Morning only to have this experience be the thing that woke me up.
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Feature image by greg westfall. via Compfight cc and adapted for this post.

As a Conversion Scientist, I used my background in Conversion Rate Optimization and Landing Pages to create the first draft of my OkCupid profile, the landing page of me. I utilized the chemistry of a successful landing page formula to make sure I hit all the known conversion points. OkCupid’s setup will limit me in the type of test I do. We’ll be doing pre/post testing so I started by putting my best page up, letting it run for two weeks and calculating my “pre” conversion rate.

[dating-series]

[pullquote]This is a key piece of knowledge for any business ready to test – know your base conversion rate.[/pullquote]
During the first 14 days my profile was live, I had 104 visitors with nine messages. Those nine messages resulted in four qualified leads. My starting overall conversion rate is 8.65%. My qualified lead conversion rate is 3.84%.
My first stop in testing was a critique with an expert in landing pages. Lucky for me, I work for one. Sometimes, it’s difficult to asses your own work, so calling in an outside expert is always a great place to start.
The Conversion Scientist, Brian Massey, was nice enough to do one of his famous live critiques. In his video critique he pointed out blind spots and a few things that might be troubling.
If you’re not ready to call in an expert, there are tools you can use to give you a better sense of what might be happening. As a Conversion Scientist, I always start with analytics, click-tracking heatmaps, and screen capture sessions. These data points allow me to come up with a hypothesis list.
When creating a hypothesis list for a client, analytics is always the first stop. It allows me to identify key pages and performance metrics. I look at landing pages, all pageviews, audience channels and conversion metrics for each. This is where I start to see patterns and look for what pages I should be testing.
Questions to ask when looking at analytics:

  • Where are visitors coming from?
  • Which pages are they landing on?
  • Which pages get the highest traffic?
  • What are the key pages in the funnel?
  • Are there pages with high exit or bounce rates?

I use this data to compile a list of key pages I want to look at more closely.
With OkCupid — and most landing pages — it’s pretty easy to know what to target. Visitors are coming from /match or /quickmatch pages and coming to my profile landing page.
Once I know what pages I will focus on, I switch to another set of tools. Heatmaps and Session Recordings provide a lot of insight into where visitors are getting hung up. The data these tools generate is a hot bed for hypothesis generation.
They allow me to see if a key call-to-action is in blind spot or if something on my page is getting surprise attention. Check out the Conversion Lab for a list of awesome conversion tools options.
[sitepromo]
Even though OkCupid won’t let me install Crazy Egg or Hotjar, I’m still going to treat my dating landing page like I would a client’s website when I start the optimization process. I make a list of hypotheses I think could improve the conversion rate and come up with a plan of action about how to test each one.
Normally the resources I can install on a client’s website inform the hypothesis list and the recommendations I come up with, so I have to be creative by relying on my own experience and on an expert’s opinion, namely Brian Massey.
Here are a few hypotheses from his analysis.

I create a list of hypotheses to test when I begin optimizing

I create a list of hypotheses to test when I begin optimizing


Brian’s critique gave me some great ideas on what to test. I know that my copy needs a bit of work, as does my landing page’s scannability. This is the first hypothesis I’m testing:
Hypothesis: If I change the copy to be about the visitor, instead of myself and improve scannability with bold text and paragraph breaks I can improve conversions.
I carefully changed all of the “I” statements and made them about the visitor. I also added more paragraph breaks and highlighted key words in my text allowing a visitor to more easily scan my profile.
revised okcupid profile

My revised profile


When testing, it’s important to isolate as many variables as possible, so for now the copy is the only thing I changed. I could have swapped out my headshot for a party shot, but if I see an increase in conversion rate, I won’t know if it’s the photo or the copy that’s improving my numbers.
For our testing purposes, my primary goal will be to beat my qualified lead conversion rate of 3.84%, but I will be tracking my overall conversion rate and visitor count as well.
I’m going to want to test more than one hypothesis to get this profile just right. For my next test, I’ll focus on images. Choosing the right images are vital to the success of a landing page, maybe even more so on this particular type of landing page. Since my next test will focus on the images. I did some research, scouring the internet for articles from online dating experts and determined the best profile photos were a smiling woman looking at the camera, showing some skin but not too much skin.
I had a small selection of photos I thought would fit the bill so I decided to take an informal poll of men that fit the type I was looking for: I asked a bunch of my guys friends to help me choose a photo. The photo of me in a black sleeveless dress smiling warmly at the camera was the clear winner. I filled out the rest of my profile photos with a variety of activities and a few shots of me dressed up a bit to show that while I may wear a lab coat to work, I do clean up okay for a night on the town.
This first test isn’t about the images, but after Brian’s critique, I knew that my images might not be saying what I wanted them to say. For this initial pre/post test, I left the photo winners from my poll as they were but added captions to clarify what I wanted the viewer to get from each image.
I've shared what I was doing when this photo was taken and also indicated that it's a fairly recent photo

I’ve shared what I was doing when this photo was taken and also indicated that it’s a fairly recent photo.


With my changes made and my visitor count ticking up, there’s nothing to do but wait and see. We’ll check back in a week (and I’ll look every day in between) to see how my text changes have fared. With any luck (or in my case, with science), I’ll have upped that 3.8% conversion rate.

[dating-series]

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An effective conversion optimization team requires a set of players with special capabilities. Here is the CRO team structure that we put behind each of our clients at Conversion Sciences.

We’re proud of our website optimization family here at Conversion Sciences and display this fact proudly on our fictitious mobile conversion vehicle, CRO-1. This represents the team we put on each of our clients when we look for more revenue on the site.

Who should be on your Conversion Optimization team? Here is the CRO team structure that we put behind each of our clients at Conversion Sciences.

If you were to build your own conversion optimization team, this is what it would look like. Of course, we have just such a team ready and waiting to serve you today.

The data scientist is essential to the Conversion Team.Conversion Team: Someone Who Knows How to Turn Data into Good Questions

The Data Scientist is a strange duck. We’re not talking about someone who spends all their time in spreadsheets, charts and graphs. This is a person who knows how to generate good questions from data. Questions like, “What do our best buyers have in common?” and, “Why are so many people abandoning on step two?” and, “What would happen if we changed the call to action?”

A great data scientist knows where to look for answers to business-changing questions. In some cases this requires a split test to get the best bona fide answers to burning questions. Yet, a good data scientist knows how to use data to decide what NOT to test.

Your data scientist can’t be a spreadsheet socialite. They need to pull their head out of the data and communicate insights with clarity. They will direct the actions of the developer and designer. They will persuade site owners to try new things and measure results.

For this reason, we call our data scientists Conversion Scientists. Data is just one part of what they do.

In a Conversion Optimization Team, the Developer rocks multivariate and split testing tools.

Optimization Team: Someone Who can Make Testing Tools Dance

If the data scientist is responsible for what gets tested, the Developer is responsible for how it gets tested. The developer gets her god-like power from the multivariate and split testing tools available on the market today. In the hands of the right developer, these tools allow one to present a different experience to each visitor to a site.

This person is capable if dissecting web pages, laying the pieces out on the floor, and reassembling them, all in the blink of an eye. He is comfortable with the vagaries of the different browsers on the market that often drive lesser talents into crying fits of rage.

Conversion optimization demands data-driven creativity from its designers.

CRO Team: Someone to Walk Your Visitors Around a Page

While we admire designers with creative minds, we work with designers of a different stripe. We seek data-driven creativity in our designers. Whether we’re redesigning an entire landing page or developing product images, our designers have to be able to park their egos at the door and let the visitors guide them. These designers understand a little motion or a couple of design flourishes can have a negative impact on conversions.

Our designers job is to guide the visitors’ eyes to the important parts of a page, in the right order. They use their knowledge of color, font, white space, negative space, juxtaposition and visual cues to take a visitor by the hand and introduce him to the content on the page.

Faithful optimization tools for the best conversion optimization team.

Conversion Optimization Team: Loyal and Reliable Tools

I’m fond of saying that we are in a golden age of online marketing tools. Inexpensive, feature-filled software allows us to answer almost any question we have about our visitors and our websites. Our digital laboratory is bursting with analytics tools, click-trackers, session recorders, multivariate and split-testers, simulators and more.

The best of these tools greets you at the door and is always glad to see you. And they occasionally poop on the floor. There are many companies out there with the tools, but not the team. It’s great to have a pet, but we recommend having someone train it for you.

The Supporting Cast of the Optimization Team

The rear window of CRO-1 isn’t big enough to represent all of the people we rely on when optimizing a website. A well rounded team will have ready a good copywriter, an expert in email marketing, a paid search advertising guru, a search engine optimizer, an analytics monster and more. It takes a village.

Let us be your conversion optimization team. We offer turnkey website optimization services and can be hard at work on your site in a matter of days. Get a free quote from us, the agency that pays for itself.

Brian Massey

I am one of the many people obsessed with increasing conversion rates.  Were you to wake me up in the middle of the night with the word ‘conversion,’ I would probably respond with a long, haunting sigh, “…raaaates.”
That’s how much I’ve been possessed by the topic.
I’ve seen lots of unsuccessful attempts at increasing conversion rates based on conventional wisdom that isn’t necessarily backed up with data. Make your calls-to-action (CTAs) big! Change your layout!  Make it scroll horizontally and design it in Adobe Flash!  One funeral home changed all their colors to blacks, and it proved to be successful in increasing conversion rates: it is bound to work for you, even if you sell lollipops!
The lists are endless, and sometimes they are just empty promises. [pullquote]What you really need is data: tangible, real-life data which is related directly to you, your website and your customers’ needs.[/pullquote]
Click tracking is one of the methods for gathering real data about what your website’s visitors do. It is a good start when optimizing your design and understanding how your customers behave and why.
[sitepromo]

What is Click Tracking?

By using a click tracking tool, you can see where your users place their cursor and press the mouse button, usually in the form of a convenient heat map.  The studies are qualitative and allow you to have tons of participants.
You can learn a lot from these studies such as where people focus their clicks the most, whether they react to the buttons placed on the website, whether they navigate the website properly, is something distracting them and so on. You figure out the questions, and click tracking will provide the answers.
What are the benefits?  First of all, the study is incredibly cheap – you don’t have to gather tons of participants in a lab and pay them; you can do it remotely and even without your users’ knowledge. Secondly, because the study is not overt, visitors on your site behave normally rather than exhibiting the unnatural behaviors inherent in those being observed.  They simply react to visuals like they usually would because they are in their natural environment.
Armed with this knowledge, you are well on your way to optimizing your website’s design and increasing conversions.

Case Studies

The North Face & ClickTale
ClickTale is one of the services offering click tracking, and one of their clients, The North Face, wanted to increase the conversion rate of their shopping cart, but their own tools had been inadequate in accomplishing that goal.
With the heat maps provided by ClickTale, The North Face saw that many users didn’t pay attention to the checkout button on the shopping cart page. Instead, they were focused on the promotional banner above the button, which invited everybody to become a rewards member.
While attracting more rewards members was one of the goals for The North Face, the placement of the banner resulted in the loss of potential conversions in the shopping cart.
In order to fix that problem, they ran an A/B test which tested a different position of the checkout button. The results were much better:

Click tracking heat map

Mouse-move heatmaps revealed that visitors interacted more with the checkout button when it was moved above the banner (B) with a 21% increase in clicks


Optimal Energy & UsabilityTools
Optimal Energy – one of the largest price comparison systems for energy distributors in Europe – had a big takeaway from a study with click tracking service UsabilityTools.
Optimal Energy’s website had a slider with images that appeared to be clickable CTAs, containing words like ‘Start’; these images were only samples, however, so they were not clickable.  Click tracking data showed that up to 24% of clicks on the website as a whole were on unclickable elements and about half of them on these false CTAs.
Click tracking tools will reveal where visitors are clicking. These "start buttons" aren't clickable.

Click tracking tools will reveal where visitors are clicking. These “start buttons” aren’t clickable.


In order to solve this problem, Optimal Energy immediately made these elements clickable, leading the user to a submission form. Thanks to this change, the effectiveness of CTAs increased by 66.2%, and the conversion rate increased by 122.6%.

Closing Thoughts

Click tracking provides actual, real data instead of relying on hunches or unfounded hypotheses.  The success of optimization projects on one website doesn’t necessarily generalize to other websites because every company has a unique set of clients, so you need study the behaviors of your clients to inform design changes.
In addition to ClickTale and UsabilityTools, other click tracking tools include Mouseflow, CrazyEgg, EyeQuant, and Inspectlet.
Sezgin Hergül is the marketing manager at UsabilityTools. He specializes in content marketing and website growth. Besides his love for marketing, he enjoys good design and music.
Image of mouse licensed through Creative Commons by Erin Kohlenberg & adapted for this post.

Ghostbusters was a touchstone for us. Seven years ago, we were launching into a new marketplace – conversion optimization. Like the Ghostbusters, many didn’t understand the value of what we did. Like the ghosts of the movie, the goblins in a website were invisible and ethereal.
So, we turned up the volume, donning lab coats and teaching anyone who would listen. Today, conversion optimization is quickly becoming a must-have discipline in any online business.
Four Ghostbusters
We have always taken inspiration from the trio of Venkman, Stantz and Spengler, collectively known as the Ghostbusters.
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the release of the Ghostbusters movie, we offer nine important lessons that we’ve taken from this classic comedy.

1. Get Yourself Some Cool Toys

“It’s technical. It’s one of our little toys.”
Batman had the Bat Cave. Ghostbusters had ECTO-1. We have CRO-1.
For us, we have to be able to bring our tools of choice to our clients. You probably don’t need the mobility that we do, but should have your own digital lab, stocked with the latest toys.

This modified ambulance carries some cool CRO tools.

This modified ambulance carries some cool CRO tools.


For us, we require a solid analytics setup to build on. We further like to add some click tracking tools to see how visitors are interacting with pages. Our split testing software allows us to segment visitors into tests and to inject JavaScript into their experiences.
In the past, we’ve used session recorders and eye-tracking software to get more info on how visitors are using a site.
Yes, we think these are pretty cool toys. You will too when you wield them with a little finesse.
Build your own digital lab for free at ConversionDashboard.com

2. Save Your Tests

“Please understand. This is a high-voltage laser containment system.”
The Ghostbusters went on quite a hunting spree in the first movie capturing all manner of ghost, ghoul and specter. What did they do with these? They placed them in a high-voltage laser containment system.
When you complete a test on your website, you need to save the results in a place that ensures you won’t forget what you’ve learned.

Ghostbusters store a ghost.

Store your tests where they can have the most impact.


We’ve never had a one-size-fits-all approach to documenting test results. We’ve used physical books that we call “Books of Swagger” so that our clients have the answers to questions at their fingertips.
We’ve kept detailed spreadsheets of tests.
Today, we rely most frequently on PowerPoint decks to save our “swagger” along with the details of the tests in our split testing tools.
 

3. Realize You’re Saving the World

“Fire and brimstone coming down from the sky! Rivers and seas boiling! Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes! Volcanoes! The dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together — mass hysteria!”
Don’t underestimate the magnitude of the shift you’re bringing to your online business. Adding some science to your marketing is going to bring profound changes to your organization.
Decisions will be made differently. Old beliefs, superstitions and sacred cows will disintegrate.
It will be painful at times and will take some passionate convincing of doubters. In the end, you could be saving the business.

4. Get Some Strange Hobbies

“I collect molds, spores and fungus.”
You’ve got to be interested in some strange topics. Revenue per visit, statistical significance, correlation vs. causation… it’s quite different from product, positioning and pricing.
Yes, the geeks are going to rule the marketing world, so get your geek on.
CRO geeks are interested in the psychology of influence, the structure of the mind and in rudimentary statistics. We study images, copywriting, pricing theory and user experience theory.
The bottom line is that you are going to have to nurture an interest in some unusual topics to be a well-rounded online marketing scientist.

5. Clear Your Mind

“It’s the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.”
Expectations and attachments will dull your ability to apply science to your marketing. Often, our most cherished creative just won’t win in a split test.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have goals for your tests. However, expectations and attachments to outcomes can lead to poor decision-making.
If you’re sure a certain treatment is going to win in a split test, you’re more likely to call it a winner before the confidence level is high enough.
If you expect your results to “make sense”, you are more likely to throw out valid results as “unexplainable.”
We find that it is harder to come up with new hypotheses for a site we’ve been working on for a year or more. It’s harder to clear our minds of the knowledge we already have.
The more you know a thing, the less meaning it has for you. Clear your mind.

6. Don’t Cross the Streams

“Try to imagine all life as you know it ending instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.”

Ghostbusters capture a ghost.

Don’t cross your traffic streams when doing multiple tests on a site.


The more tests we can run on a site, the faster we learn. Sites with a large number of visitors and conversions can run several tests, provided the audience can be segmented.
The idea of testing is to understand what is working and what is not. To do this, we need to isolate variables. This is science talk for “only change one thing at a time.” Ideally, only one thing will change for any visitor to your site.
However, if you allow a group of visitors to enter multiple tests, then more than one thing is changing. Imagine that a visitor comes to the home page and is entered into a test in which you remove the sidebar menu. Then they come to a test in your shopping cart in which you remove the discount code field.
When the tests are done, you won’t know which combination of home page sidebar and discount code field resulted in the most sales. The data for both tests have been polluted and cannot be relied on.
So, don’t cross your streams of traffic. If you are running multiple tests on a site, be sure that you segment traffic to only see one or the other.

7. Be Proud to be a Scientist

“Back off man. I’m a scientist.”

You should feel proud to have a data-driven marketing program up and running. Science isn’t perfect, and the fact that we are always trying to prove ourselves wrong means that our self-esteem may suffer.
Most importantly, you should be bringing others in your organization along the science learning curve.
Don’t be afraid to take a moment to explain statistical significance to a coworker. Go ahead and write up a memo on isolating variables or calculating the length of a test.
And when you have a success, be sure to do the money-dance in a very public way.

8. Tell Them About the Twinkie

“That’s a big Twinkie.”
At one point in our heroes’ adventures, Dr. Spengler uses a Twinkie to illustrate the growth of “psychokinetic energy” in the New York area.
“According to this morning’s sample, it would be a Twinkie 35 feet long weighing 600 pounds.”

Ghostbuster holding a Twinkie

Spengler uses a Twinkie to illustrate the ghostly trouble brewing in New York.


We really can’t take our graphs, charts and tables out to our organizations and expect others the understand what we’re seeing.
I think this is why we prefer to save our test results in slide decks. It is a system designed to tell an emerging story. These decks includes hypotheses, screen shots, data tables and conclusions. Everyone can open them and they can be as big as they need to be.
Sometimes, a map is better than step-by-step directions. Become a student of explaining and presenting findings. The better you get at this, the more cred you will build within your company.
Companies like Narrative Sciences are focused on turning data into stories.
Use your own Twinkies – analogies and metaphors – to help others understand the context for your discoveries and their relevance to themselves.
Charles Bukowski said, “Genius could be the ability to say a profound thing in a simple way.”

9. Don’t get Slimed

“I feel so funky.”

Ghostbuster got slimed.

Don’t let the slime get you down.


 
It is one of the inevitabilities of the scientist to have her most amazing theories regularly proven wrong. Inconclusive tests, polluted data and external interference make testing disheartening.
Don’t let a series of disappointments bring your momentum and scientific excitement to a standstill. Don’t let yourself get slimed.
If you find yourself in a slump, it’s time to get input from outside of your echo-chamber. Pull in some fresh eyes from elsewhere in the company. Watch a few recorded sessions or collect some user feedback using any of a number of tools.
When you feel your energy ebbing, it’s because you got attached to your outcomes. Be humble. Stay curious. Stay out of the slime.
Thanks to Dan Akroyd, Rick Moranis, Bill Murray and the late Harold Ramis for providing the inspiration we needed to take ourselves a little less seriously than we would have.
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Are you troubled by high bounce rates in the middle of the night?
Do you experience feelings of dread in your CFO’s office?
Have you or your family ever seen you twitch, shake or cry?
If the answer is “yes,” then don’t wait another minute. Pick up the phone and call the professionals.
Images taken from Ghostbusters. All copyrights belong to their owners.

INFOGRAPHIC Crafting the Subject Line that Gets Your Email Read – Litmus

Jan 28, 2013 03:37 pm

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  • We’ve seen in email tests that subject lines can have implications far beyond the open rate. We’ve seen two identical emails with identical landing pages have the same open rates and the same click-through rates (CTR), but one generated more sales than the other.What’s the difference? The subject line.In short, subject lines are important.
    And they are difficult to write.
    This infographic does a great job of boiling things down to help remove the indecision when you are writing subject lines.

by: Brian Massey
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Build a Conversion Rate Heatmap by Hour & Day of Week in Google Docs

Jan 26, 2013 04:02 pm

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  • When we dig into a site’s analytics, we try a number of different approaches to the data. Sometimes interesting things pop out, and sometimes the data looks “as expected.”This is an analysis we are going to start adding to our analysis: Heatmap of Conversions by Hour of Day. We will modify it for our ecommerce clients (as we track Revenue per Visit, or RPV).You might try this and see if there is an interesting pattern in your data.

by: Brian Massey

It’s Not My Job: Why Marketing is Broken

Jan 26, 2013 09:58 am

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  • @TheGrok (Bryan Eisenberg) is one of the founders of the performance marketing movement — we’ve called it conversion marketing. He has the cred to ask the hard questions. In this very impactful article, he asks “Really, is this so hard to do?” of the email marketers whom he sees as “broken.”These examples should leave you with a feeling of, “Oh yes. I get it now.”That can be a very valuable feeling.

by: Brian Massey
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Jan 05, 2013 01:04 pm

Comments:

  •  @Peeplaja has just saved you a whole lot of time. He’s done the research and found the studies that you can use to refute the often poor advice your designers are giving your Web team.Spend some time with this post and the links he references if you want to consistently create effective, high-converting websites. – Brian Massey

by: Brian Massey

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There’s nothing like an arch nemesis to get the “good guys” motivated and engaged in a quest. If you are trying to get your conversion project approved, consider finding a competitor who seems to be making all the right moves.
This is the topic of my new column on Search Engine Land How To Get Management Excited About Conversion Optimization. In it I talk about the power of an enemy.
I discuss the components of your competitor story, including appearing to have greater resources than you, appearing to be smart, and appearing to have an evil plan.
I introduce you to some Spy Equipment that tells you just how smart they are.
I show you how to tell if they are they optimizing their site, using analytics, page analyzers or testing packages.
You can also tell if they are using ratings and reviews, recommendation engine or video players.
I tell you how you can catch them monologuing, revealing their secrets.
Finally, I show you how to cast them in their best light, making them more threatening.

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With a little research, you can clearly draw a picture of your competition as an evil genius, working to take food from the mouths of your family. You can develop the story of the powerful competitor using some spy equipment, their public “bragging,” and some page analysis tools. This will make your conversion project seem more critical to the survival of your business.

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Read the full article.