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How to Boost Your Conversion Rate without Paying a Dime

Posted on 8.27.2014

:: By Scott Polk, ObsidianEdge Marketing ::


What is a conversion?

A conversion is simply any action that you desire for a visitor on your website to take. The most desirable type of conversion is usually a sale, but there are many other types of conversion goals which can be nearly as rewarding including: registration, opt-in, live chat initiation, friend referral, app download and/or product page views. While most organizations are keyed in to the ultimate conversion—leads, sales and purchases—it is important to recognize that any of these conversion goals mentioned above can be beneficial. They may strengthen and nurture the relationship with the visitor, facilitate brand propagation, or prepare the visitor for a future sale.

What is Conversion Rate Optimization?

Most e-retailers think that generating enough traffic to a website will naturally boost the conversion rate (which is the number of conversions divided by the number of visitors). This is actually faulty logic. While you will of course obtain more conversions with more traffic, that doesn’t necessarily mean your conversion rate is increasing. To improve your conversion rate, you will need to employ conversion rate optimization (CRO) techniques and strategies. 

Unlike search engine optimization (SEO), which attempts to make your site more visible to Google and Bing users thereby driving more traffic, CRO strategies facilitate conversion actions once a visitor is on your website. CRO is therefore the second half of the user experience; it encourages users to complete the journey from target landing page to conversion. While SEO is the rock star of online marketing, CRO is the unsung workhorse that actually clinches the sale.

Conversion rate optimization is essentially any technique which better enables your website to produce actions like product sales, registrations, or referrals. Commonly used CRO tools include live chat software, website analytics and heatmaps. Within the CRO field, these range from the highly technical which evaluate and improve site structure and performance, to content which enhances the user experience. 

Why is CRO Important?

As your conversion rate grows, you will reap enormous benefits including:

More sales: As more visitors remain on your site and progress through the sales funnel, you will experience more sales conversions.

More consumer relationships: The longer a visitor stays and engages on your website, the stronger your relationship will be with that visitor. This will enhance your brand in the mind of that user as well as lead to referrals.

Greater profitability: While other online marketing techniques are quite costly, CRO is usually inexpensive—even free if you do it internally—which boosts sales with negligible investment.

Improved brand visibility: One of the most important benefits of CRO, is that more people will become aware of your organization, because more visitors will stay on your site longer and interact with greater intent. These stronger relationships will drive referrals and social media conversations.

CRO is a Top Priority for Companies in 2014

According to the 2014 State of Marketing report, almost 67 percent of companies named conversion rate as the number one metric of success. The report also found that 47 percent of respondents named CRO as their most important priority for 2014.

Similarly, a study by Econsultancy found that almost 6 in 10 enterprise marketing departments labeled CRO as “crucial” to their comprehensive digital marketing strategy. The same study also reported that almost 90 percent of companies have placed more emphasis on conversion rate optimization in the past five years.

The number of companies with improved conversion rates was 73 percent in 2013, as opposed to 65 percent in 2012. The most commonly measured conversions were sales, page views and registrations.

Why Companies Fail to Leverage CRO

Despite a growing awareness of the critical importance of CRO in the e-commerce sector, there is still a large portion of the market that ignores this marketing discipline. There are two primary reasons for this failure. The first is a lack of expertise on the part of marketing departments. Only 28 percent of respondents to an Econsultancy survey were Very or Quite Satisfied with their conversion rates, leaving almost three quarters of the industry with less acceptable conversion rates. While there is a huge desire for stronger conversion rates, only 26 percent of enterprises had a solid conversion rate strategy in place. This failure to enhance conversion rates is largely due to inexperienced marketers, who could not implement successful CRO plans.

The second reason is that many businesses lacked the resources to execute a proper conversion rate optimization strategy. Almost 52 percent of companies did not have enough resources and 36 percent cited a lack of budget for CRO techniques. A large portion of companies (28 percent) also appeared to lack a willingness to shift present resource allocations to CRO strategies because of interdepartmental conflicts.  

Free Conversion Rate Optimization Tools

Live Chat 

One of the most under-appreciated tools for optimizing conversion rates is live chat. Live chat is much more than a mere customer service tool; it is a relationship creator and strengthener. By engaging site visitors through chat with a human operator, your organization is able to embed itself in the mind of the visitor. The interactions allow you to answer questions and complaints, guide them through products and services, and pique their interest in your organization.  Live chat encourages users to explore your site and take a chance on many conversion options.

Live Chat Improves Conversion Rates

It is important to understand why having a live person to communicate with visitors is so important to conversion rate optimization. The first benefit is assisting visitors who are stuck at a stage in the sales funnel. There are many situations where a visitor has questions or concerns about a product, a sales or registration option, or referral service which is not addressed on your site. According to MarketingCharts, almost 72 percent of consumers said it was a priority to have immediate live support. Not only do the responses from your chat operator help guide the customer to conversion completion, but any difficult issues or friction points help you identify any speed bumps in the sales funnel.  

The second benefit is the ability to solidify a relationship with visitors. Businesses want more sales, but more than that, repeat customers. An important way to distinguish your site from your competitors is to establish a genuine relationship. A live chat operator can do that in a number of ways. Live chat is immediate; your visitors can instantly ask about a product without getting frustrated searching for it on your website, or, even worse leave your site to visit another site. Every favorable customer interaction helps make you a more reliable, desirable e-commerce partner. According to a study by LivePerson, 78 percent of consumers agreed that live, one-on-one support improved loyalty to a company. 

Finally, live chat increases profitability by enhancing conversion rates. Live chat lubricates the conversion machinery of your website. A recent study by Econsultancy found that almost 31 percent of consumers were more likely to make a purchase after a live chat session. Not only are customers more knowledgeable about products and the conversion process, but they are more trusting of your website because they can attach a human to it. This relationship with a chat operator also prevents site abandonment. There is also the added benefit that your operators can upsell a more applicable product or expand purchase.

Free Live Chat Services

There are a number of available live chat services which can be used free of charge.

ClickDesk —This multi-function service offers a variety of tools including Help Desk, Social Toolbar, Live Chat or VoIP & Video.

Pure Chat—Pure Chat provides an easy to use interface for your operators to use while interacting with users in a variety of contexts including Live Chat, eBay or Etsy stores. 

Zopim—This free chat service integrates with WordPress and Zendesk. It provides easy widget customization and also has customizable greetings.

Heatmap Software

Heatmaps are a powerful analytical tool which provides a visual representation of user activity on your website. As you might guess, heatmaps are extremely helpful in identifying any issues with your website including pain points, bottlenecks and poorly engineered calls to action. Heatmaps also provide valuable insights into what your visitors are looking for as well as how they interact with your site. This information provides a strong foundation for how to optimize your site for conversions.

While every website is different, it is important to recognize that your particular website is likely to have similar usage patterns to other designs. A heatmap will pinpoint the areas which are most appealing to users, allowing you to insert CTAs and conversion points there. You can alter your design to put more important information there and shift less relevant information elsewhere. 

One of the most important benefits of heatmaps is placing certain information “Above the Fold.” This term refers to the portion of the Web page that is visible without scrolling. Almost 80 percent of user activity is dedicated to this area, so you want to carefully design this area for maximum impact. You should use a number of display tools to make sure what this looks like on various browsers and, especially, mobile devices. 

Free Heatmap Services

Heatmap services can easily be employed without charge or for a minor fee. 

Inspectlet —This amazing service has been used by more than 20,000 companies including Cisco and eBay. 

Mouseflow —This service is easy to use and offers up to 250 maps free of charge.

Seevolution—This powerful tool provides detailed reports of all user activity including real time analytics, mouse activities and scroll activities.

Long Live CRO

Conversion rate optimization is enjoying greater attention and popularity in the business community because of its minimal costs when executing internally along with enormous rewards. While SEO has long been a popular tool for attracting visitors to websites, the ability to convert those visits into sales and opt-ins has only been gaining momentum in recent years. Companies now are beginning to recognize that a minor investment in CRO techniques can provide a competitive advantage that translates into higher revenue, stronger customer relationships, and broader brand visibility.

Live chat is one of these powerful CRO methodologies that is attracting widespread attention from the e-commerce sector. Having live operators interacting with site visitors can deepen relationships, encourage conversions and enlarge purchase decisions. A minor investment in this customer relations service is wholly worthwhile as it often leads to revenue augmentation.

On the more technical side, heatmaps afford users immense CRO benefits. The ability to identify your website’s most important pages helps you produce an e-commerce site that facilitates conversions. This important visualization and analytical tool is the springboard for more sales, registrations and referrals. Heatmaps provide a powerful analytical service which can help you refine your site through A/B testing. Luckily, many of the tools for live chat and heatmaps can be found online and free of charge. 


Scott Polk is the President of ObsidianEdge Marketing. Scott has built his expertise as a knowledgeable and experienced search engine optimization strategist, consultant and in-house SEO in combination with his skills as a Web Developer for more than 16 years. Learn more about Scott Polk by visiting: http://obsidianedge.com/

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