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It's Not Enough! The New Conversion Optimization Imperatives

Posted on 1.03.2016

By Tim Ash, CEO of SiteTuners

What a year; 2015 has finished with massive changes yet again in the Internet arena and the future of conversion rate optimization (CRO) is coming into sharper focus.

This year, pay particular attention to transcending assumptions and limitations, regardless of whether they are in your head, your conception of your job function or in the hidden shared belief systems of your whole business. The old way of doing things simply will not get you very far.

Landing Page Optimization Is Not Enough

When I wrote the first edition of my book in 2008, I used a term popular at the time for the title: Landing Page Optimization. This unfortunate name has stuck, and has often created confusion in the minds of people regarding the scope of the optimization activity.

Even "CRO" is too narrow of a term in many circumstances - implying a focus exclusively on online campaign performance. Many mistakenly believe that the main focus should be on direct-response landing pages. This is wrong - any part of the online experience where significant traffic lands on the way to valuable business goals is ripe for optimization. Such customer experiences may involve redoing the whole customer-facing Web experience.

If a company timidly tweaks only campaign-specific landing pages, it is missing the larger opportunity to create compelling end-to-end online experiences with user-centered whole-site redesigns.

+Reach out beyond the landing page to consider your whole Web experience.

Surface Knowledge Is Not Enough

Web professionals fill their days with tactical activities and are always busy fighting the inbox. When time for education or self-improvement is found, they often follow a link posted by a friend to a blog post, or a top-10 list of must-do tactics.

Everyone wants the silver-bullet - something for nothing. Of course it also needs to be foolproof and work under all circumstances.

When one is in the day-to-day operational realities of his or her work, they can't fundamentally learn anything new. A different place and headspace are required for real learning.

CROs don't do it to solve immediate problems, they do it to fundamentally shift their perspective. In order to improve at the deep discipline of CRO, team members need to have larger chunks of learning time without the distraction of operational responsibilities. Everyone should allow themselves one afternoon per week outside of the office to read a book (ideally a physical book - not a laptop, which is still connected to the Internet and buzzes with seemingly important notifications). Or better yet, get out of the city to a workshop or conference.

Professionals will not only benefit from the change of location (proven to enhance learning and creativity), but will also get great value from the social relationships they will strengthen with like-minded peers.

+Get out of the office; read some books and attend a conference.

Employee Happiness & CRO

Disengaged employees are not conversion focused. Check out these stats about the high costs of unhappy employees at

Landing Page Testing Is Not Enough

Let's start with a disclaimer - landing page testing is a critical part of CRO. Unfortunately, too often it is equated with CRO. Yes, it is important to validate ideas and make sure that they have actually led to better results for the business. However, testing cannot become an end onto itself. There are companies consumed with testing velocity, and how to crank out more tests with fewer resources. This assumes that CRO is just a well-defined process, and that they only need to improve the efficiency of it. In reality, this kind of thinking will lead to a production-line mentality that will eventually lead to stagnation. After a while, there will be a consistent lack of positive test results, as a limited number of important landing pages get over-tested.

The over-reliance on testing stems from the need to work only with quantitative CRO. This is often at the expense of softer qualitative research and insights. The best agencies, for example, spend the vast majority of their time on tasks like understanding the business environment, defining the psychology and beliefs of the audience, user research (both in their native environment and with online session recording), website exit surveys, and actually interviewing customers and front line support staff. These findings are then incorporated into the site experience (and only validated by testing when appropriate).

+Stop thinking that only split-testing is CRO, and go get some qualitative insights.

Static Content Is Not Enough

Most of the Web experiences that we are designing are meant for one monolithic "audience" somewhere out there on the inter-Webs. So marketers create mediocre and unfocused stuff - mainly designed not to offend anyone. Yes, through testing they can come up with better on-average experiences, but that does not mean that they are squeezing the most value possible out of each person visiting their site. The reality is that customers (or prospects) are individuals. The closer a business can get to addressing their needs, the higher conversion rates will be.

In order to capture as much value as possible from an audience, marketers need to remember and take advantage of all information about the people coming to their site. This might include the history of their past visits (including very granular detail of their behavior on the site), additional third-party demographic data used to flesh out our picture of them or their peer group, a record of all communications that the company has had with them and how they have reacted to it (opening email, downloading content or consuming videos).

If a company can fuse together this kind of information, it will get laser-focused one-to-one experiences for every visitor coming to the site, and conversion rates will skyrocket. In order to capture the full value of this, marketers will need top-level support at their company to create the proper marketing technology stack. This might include elements such as personalization, third-party data append, behavioral targeting and lead scoring.

+Use marketing technology to create compelling personalized experiences.

If all of the above sounds like a lot of work, it is. Regardless, you have to do it anyway. I assure you, doing the same old thing in 2016 is simply not enough.

Tim Ash is the CEO of SiteTuners, Chair of Conversion Conference and bestselling author of "Landing Page Optimization."

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