mobile optimization

Running a business website is no different from a Monopoly game. You have scarce resources to spend building the site and attracting traffic. Find out how to optimize for scarcity and win the game!

Monopoly is the quintessential game of American capitalism. For better or worse, it focuses the player on one goal: maximizing the number of dollars in your pile. Everyone has their own strategy and their preferred properties to own and build. Your little sister may only buy properties if she likes the color.

Excellent monopoly players learn their opponents’ strategy and then adapt to respond to the environment they are in.

If you look beyond the “greed is good” focus on money, you will realize that playing the game teaches the principles of scarcity and optimization.

The number dollars you start with is scarce. You must make the most of your limited resources.

You want to be ready when lady luck glances your way. When a dog, a car, or a hat finally lands your property, you better be ready.

Running a business website is no different. You inevitably have scarce resources to spend building the site and attracting traffic.

And when those visitors finally land on your site, you better be ready. This is the job of optimization.

If you viewed your web page as a Monopoly board, would it change your priorities and behavior?

Like houses and hotels, would the right elements be on your page be there?

Too often, we don’t think about our web pages as scarce resources that have to be optimized. Too often, we use our little sister’s “pretty property” strategy. Trust me. She still hates to lose.

Monopoly game board. Discover how to optimize for scarcity and grow your business.

Discover how to optimize for scarcity and grow your business.

What is Scarcity

Scarcity means having less resources than needed to achieve a goal. In Monopoly, we can’t own all the properties and have hotels on all properties. We have to deal with scarcity. Our money supply is limited, as is our opportunity to buy properties. The desire to compete brings out our analytical nature and we scheme to make the most of the resources we have as opposed to the resources we want. We do this because we know we have an opponent that is actively working to undo us. Again, do we think about our web page the same way?

Examples of Scarcity on our Web Pages

In reality, we do have opponents in our web strategy. Not just one, but many. In fact, we usually have more opponents than competitors. Some of these opponents include:

  • Limited attention span
  • Lack of common reference and knowledge base
  • Low-resolution computer monitors
  • Negative emotional association with specific words or images
  • Slow connection speeds

As you think about the opponents listed above, you will recognize scarcity working against your ultimate goal. Vigorously compete against these opponents on your site with the same vigor you compete in Monopoly, and you’ll be more likely to “pass GO and collect $200.”

How to Optimize for Scarcity

Something amazing happens on the Monopoly board that doesn’t naturally happen on our web page.

In Monopoly, we quit caring about how glamorous a property is and instead focus on how much money it will make for us.

In contrast, it is the very rare individual who walks into a web planning meeting without being focused on making the most beautiful page possible. If we played Monopoly the same way, we would focus on acquiring and building hotels on Boardwalk and Park Place and be done. If you try this approach, either in Monopoly or on your website, you lose.

If you don’t pull your weight, you’re gone!

Without emotion, we require properties to pay their way. They have a job to do and we expect them to do it well. The properties’ job is generating revenue.

Is there an element on your web page that isn’t pulling its weight? As optimizers, our job is to identify the converting elements on a page and remove the non-converting elements.

How to Optimize for Scarcity: Testing to see which properties are performing

Such was the case for one client’s site, when we set out to improve the home page. We followed this process to find out which elements led to conversions:

  1. We set up Google to score on bounce rate while watching conversions.
  2. We used click-tracking software heat mapping to identify content that was not getting clicked. This website has 4 clickable icons that take the user to additional content. We found that the 2 outer icons had low activity and decided to test them against alternate icons.
  3. The experiment executed quickly with the following results:
    • 10% improvement in bounce rate
    • 56% improvement in conversions
Small changes have a big impact on conversions.

Fig 1. Small changes have a big impact on conversions.

That felt good – let’s do it again

After experiencing success, it seemed like a good idea to try again. This time we identified one icon that was under-performing, so we replaced it with another one that led to a converting page. The result here is interesting. Looking at the heat map alone indicates the replaced icon is more desirable. But looking at the numbers reveals it was not the right choice.

More clicks do not necessarily mean more conversions.

Fig 2. More clicks do not necessarily mean more conversions.

As shown on the heat map above, replacing the 3rd icon attracted many more clicks on the “B” version of the page. However, both the bounce rate and the conversion rate took a hit.

  • Bounce rate degraded 4%
  • Conversion rate decreased 56%

This experiment shows why it is essential to test and scrutinize the results. Two nearly identical hypotheses with two nearly identical changes led to opposite results. My initial inclination was to ignore the results and push the change through. But I put on my Monopoly head and determined the measurable results of the change should trump how I felt about the change.

No Experiment is a Failure

It would be easy to walk away from the second experiment and view it as a total loss. In the same way that losses are our teachers in Monopoly, losses should be our teachers in web optimization experiments. Just as every Monopoly opponent is unique, our clients and website visitors are unique.

To better understand the behavior we observed, we sought to learn more by asking some basic questions:

  • Why did higher clicks on the replaced icon also correspond to a higher bounce rate? (Hint:  something else didn’t get clicked as much!)
  • What was appealing about the new icon?
  • Why did the site conversion rate drop?
  • What was the net gain/loss of each individual conversion metric?
  • Did the new copy corresponding to the new icon have a negative impact?
  • Would alternate copy change the site performance?
  • Did the new icon and copy add clarity and relevance?
  • Did the new icon and copy add anxiety or distraction?

It is important to learn from each experiment regardless of the results. Applying this discipline is critical in understanding the unique functionality of your website and what increases or decreases conversions.

Failing to learn from a “failed” experiment is like failing to learn the tactics of your Monopoly opponent. You will face them again, and you want to be prepared when you do.

So What Should You Do?

Like many 12-step programs, the first step is to acknowledge you have a problem. Say out loud, “I care more about how pretty my web page is than how much money it makes.” Let that sink in and prepare to change. Make a personal commitment to website profitability based on hard data. Then approach your web pages with the kind of profit-focused attention to scarcity and optimization that wins Monopoly games.

  • Make a list of the individual components on your web page – especially above the fold.
  • Write the purpose of each component next to it.
  • Ask yourself if each component contributes to profit – and eliminate those that don’t.
  • Ask yourself if there is anything that could replace the existing components that would drive more profit.
  • Test, test, test.

Nobody is immune to personal biases and individual favorites. If you want to maximize the functionality of your website, you need to put a structure in place that always tests and always trusts data over opinion. When you earn how to optimize for scarcity, you win. When you make a habit of doing that, you will be the same formidable opponent that you are in Monopoly.


21 Quick and Easy CRO Copywriting Hacks to Skyrocket Conversions

21 Quick and Easy CRO Copywriting Hacks

Keep these proven copywriting hacks in mind to make your copy convert.

  • 43 Pages with Examples
  • Assumptive Phrasing
  • "We" vs. "You"
  • Pattern Interrupts
  • The Power of Three
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Joel Harvey, Conversion Scientist™

Joel Harvey, Conversion Scientist™


This post is excerpted from Designing from the Mobile Web 2.0 by Joel Harvey. Joel discusses what he’s been learning through the tests that Conversion Sciences has done for the mobile web. You can begin to take these as new hypotheses in your business so that your mobile devices and your mobile traffic is converting at higher and higher levels.
I’m sure mobile’s on the top of your mind.
We have tested hundreds of mobile hypotheses over the last couple of years and we’ve learned a lot. There’s still a lot that we don’t know.
We’re going to share some of the key things that we’ve learned along the way with you and show you what you need to be focusing on to start driving wins in your mobile traffic.
[mobile-web-20]

What Mobile AB Tests Can You Try Right Now?

What are some of the things you can AB test right now to start driving higher mobile conversions?
Here are the hypotheses we’ve tested and things that we’ve seen give us increases across dozens of mobile websites. Some of them are very site specific like the offer link and the copy. This is one thing that yields big results in any business and there’s no one rule of thumb that we can share.
However, there are some things you can do with layout and with execution that, with the right words and the right elements, work across almost many mobile sites.

  1. Sticky Headers and Footers
  2. Persistent Calls to Action
  3. Footer Content
  4. Optimizing for the Right Goals

1. Sticky Headers and Footers

For anybody that doesn’t know, what we mean by a “sticky” header or footer, we mean a “bar” of content that persists at the top of the screen. It sticks even when the visitor scrolls.
By locking this on the screen as people scroll we always keep in their view. Just making the existing header sticky, we saw a 9% increase in phone calls for this site. We’ve seen this on ecommerce sites, increasing form fill completion and purchases.
For a follow-up test, we simply added a call to action. The text delivered a relatively large increase in phone calls on top of the increase from adding the sticky header.
There are a number of things you can put into a header.

  • Calls to action
  • Search boxes
  • Add-to-cart button
  • A menu icon
  • The company logo
  • Shipping policy

Over time this has continued to evolve and conversions have increased.
In our experience, sticky footers, or bars that persist across the bottom of the screen, may work better for your audience. We recommend that you try them both.

2. Persistent Calls to Action

Persistent calls to action or parachutes are offers that remain on the screen as the visitor scrolls. These are usually found as the footer.
It’s very similar to a sticky header.

The site at left enjoyed a 20% increase in registrations from a sticky header. The site at right saw a 45% from top and bottom stickies.

The site at left enjoyed a 20% increase in registrations from a sticky header. The site at right saw a 45% from top and bottom stickies.


Since we found that these parachutes work well as top “stickies” and bottom “stickies, we wondered if we could do both. Our original thought was that it took up too much screen real estate, that it was too much to keep in front of the visitor. However, we found that in most cases you can have both and they’re very complimentary to one another.
We recommend testing to find the right call to action first, and then testing a persistent, or “sticky” call to action.
So why do we call it a parachute?
We call it a parachute because we know that mobile visitors will scroll much farther down a page and much faster than desktop visitors. This is an interesting fact: Mobile visitors are more likely to see all of the content on your page than a desktop user, especially if you have a lot of content and it’s a long page. You can see this in your own scroll maps and in session recordings.
The problem is that they do it fast and they sometimes get lost. Having a parachute someplace for the them to parachute out of this purgatory they’ve gotten themselves into is proving to be very helpful.

Check Your Tel-Links

The Safari mobile browser doesn’t necessarily do a fantastic job of identifying phone numbers and turning them into click-to-call, or tel-links.
Anywhere where you have a phone number on your site, make sure you’ve explicitly written the tel-link around that phone number.
In the example above, we found this site didn’t have click-to-call. We tested adding the tel-link functionality explicitly, and we saw a 20% increase just in clicks to call. It makes sense. You’re on your mobile device. You don’t have to put it down, write the number down, and then type it in.
There are phones built into these mobile devices, aren’t there?

3. Footer Content

This issue dovetails in with what we were just saying about how far a mobile visitor will scroll.
Mobile visitors are much more likely to see the footer of your site. They bounce on the bottom after fast scrolling. On the desktop the footer of the site is this graveyard of crap that we throw into the bottom. It’s the detritus of the site. It usually includes the privacy policy and some legalese, things that are not really going to compel anybody to take action.
Yet, the visitors that scroll to the bottom of your page may be very interested. What are you telling them? “Copyright 2015?” This is not really a deal closer.
We saw on our scroll map reports that about 50% of mobile visitors reach the bottom of these pages. Page footer are rarely inspiring.

“You’re here. Desktop version. Back to top. Copyright.”

Why not do something a little bit more compelling? We changed this to reiterate the value proposition. Why should someone call, and how we can this company help?
We saw about an 8% increase in calls with this very simple change.

The Footer on Mobile is not a Graveyard

We’ll take 8% lifts all day and night.
Mobile will make up between 40% and 60% of almost anybody’s traffic at this point in time. We see some outliers, but more or less that’s the range. So let’s just say it’s 50%.
An 8% increase on mobile is a 4% increase on your entire business. There’s not many things that you can do to magically get a 4% increase for your entire business. This is an example of one of those things you can do.
It’s the beauty of conversion optimization. It’s a huge lever to grow your business. Something as simple as making an offer in the footer to reiterate your value proposition can have a meaningful impact on your business.
Get people to take action once they get to the bottom of that page.
[mobile-web-20]

4. Optimize for the Right Goals

What mobile goals are you optimizing for? Are they the right ones?
Conversion for your mobile visitors should look different than conversion for your desktop visitors. One of the ways to really leverage the growth in mobile is to understand and accept that.
One of our clients, eSigns.com, allows visitors to design vinyl banners and other signs for their event, yard, etc. It’s a phenomenal tool and a great site. Unfortunately, it is Flash-based tool, and it doesn’t work on iOS or Android devices. Even if it did work, visitors are less likely to design a banner or a sign on their small-screen mobile device.
Essentially we had this mobile dead end. Mobile traffic simply could not convert. eSigns had become resigned to ignoring their mobile traffic.
But we said, “What could we do with this traffic?” We chose to focus on getting email addresses instead.
We shifted our objective.

We used an entrance overlay to entice visitors to give us their email address.

This mobile entrance overlay enticed mobile visitors to give us their email address.


Instead of saying, “We need to get more conversions and more immediate revenue out of mobile visitors,” we said, “Let’s just focus on getting your email address”. We could tell from upstream indicators that these people are really just kicking tires.
Remember, we’re addressing a consideration set. We decided to do something to remain in their consideration set. Ask them to give us their name and email address. In return, we offered to email them a link to this page so they can come back to it later, on their desktop, when they are ready to do the design.
The results are that 5.3% of the visitors gave us their name and email address. Not bad, especially for an unoptimized experience. Each person who completed this form received an email with a link to that page, and the link was specially coded so we could track it and track those visitors.
Of those who got our email, we found that 26% of the recipients of this email clicked back to the site. Now this didn’t really result in an immediate boost in revenue from those clicks, but it lit a fire under their email list growth rate. They gathered almost 1,400 new email addresses in the first month of this test.
This is a business like many of your businesses that ultimately live and die by their email list. Building your email list gives you control over your own destiny. The marginal cost of delivery is almost zero. Not just for every single recipient of your email, but for every email. It’s so cheap to create new customers and satisfy repeat customers.
To get an idea of just how valuable these new email addresses were, we calculated the value of every recipient of eSign’s emails. We’re fond of a metric whenever we’re evaluating an email called revenue per recipient (RPR).
Collecting emails from the mobile deadend delivered an estimated $200,000 in additional annual revenue.

Collecting emails from the mobile deadend delivered an estimated $200,000 in additional annual revenue.


For eSigns, we calculated that the average annual revenue per recipient to be $11. With an average of 1,400 new email addresses per month, we’re generating almost $200,000 in additional annual income. Instead of ignoring mobile traffic, we took a longer-term approach by getting their email address, and using email to convert them.
Take a hard look at what your mobile visitors will be willing to do to begin a conversation with you.

Do This Now

These are our main premises. We hope you agree.

  • That mobile is a one of the fastest growing channels for your online business.
  • That mobile doesn’t have to convert at levels lower than desktop.
  • That mobile visitors want and need a unique mobile experience.
  • That there are no best practices and that you should test.

If you buy into our beliefs, these are the things you should try right now on your mobile traffic.

  • Optimize your header and determine if a sticky or non-sticky header works better.
  • Start testing those persistent calls to action – those parachutes. Test placement, test color, test language, and test the page you’re sending them to.
  • Take a hard look at the footer content on your mobile device right now and ask yourself, “If this is the last thing that someone sees on this page, am I compelling them to take action?” If the answer is no, the next question is, “What could we do here to compel them to take action?”
  • Ask yourself, “Are we optimizing for the right goals on mobile? Do we really believe that doing X and Y is what we want people to do on our desktop site. Is the best use of our optimization efforts on mobile?” Then test some alternative goals.

Once you’ve nailed your mobile experience, you can start having fun with your mobile site, like this add-to-cart animation.

You can have fun when you've delivered the mobile experience your visitors want.

You can have fun when you’ve delivered the mobile experience your visitors want.