Key Concepts in Designing & Optimizing for Conversion

Web professionals have very different definitions of the term "optimization" based on their daily responsibilities.

For managers of digital advertising campaigns, for example, optimization may mean finding opportunities to increase click-through rates or reduce total spend, while those responsible for the organic search marketing channel may concentrate their optimization efforts on developing content around around a theme relevant/related to the enterprise or engaging in outreach to acquire links/citations in order to improve search results page placement and position.

Neither of theses definitions is wrong, of course, but it's obvious that based on your own responsibilities, optimization is going to mean something different for each and every one of us. It becomes even more complicated for those whose responsibility is optimizing for something as broad and far-reaching as conversion.

In order to provide some much needed support to the subset of "optimization" professionals, Website Magazine has put together an informal guide highlighting some of the most important terms, but more importantly concepts, for one of the most vital practices in the realm of digital.

While far from comprehensive, it does address many of the most fundamental ideas and practices and should set you and your brand on a course toward generating more conversions in no time.

First, however, it is important to define what a conversion is. Think of it this way - it is the end all, be all of every digital initiative. A conversion is the ultimate goal of a campaign - be it submitting a form, downloading content, signing up or making a purchase. A conversion can even be clicking a link! 

If you're familiar with the following concepts, know that you're well on your way to becoming a true master of digital optimization. Is there a concept or terminology that we're missing? Share your insights with a comment and we'll add it to the list! 

A/B Testing: A marketing, business or design experience where two variations of an offer, a content asset or design element compete against each other to determine which yields the highest conversion rate.

Above the Fold: The section of a Web page that is immediately visible to a user without scrolling. Above-the-fold content is the content that prospects see and experience upon arriving on a website and so can impact bounce rate if not relevant.

Attention-Driven Design: A method for using design elements to draw the user's attention to key areas in order to drive conversions through techniques including contrast, emphasis and encapsulation.

Bounce Rate: The percentage of people who arrive on a website and leave without viewing additional pages. In most instances, bounce rate is inversely proportional to conversion rate (the higher the bounce rate, the lower the conversion rate).

Call-to-Action (CTA): The primary action that a business/enterprise desires the user to take; that could be completing a form, clicking a button, etc. The CTA is also known as the "ask" in marketing parlance.

Continuance: A technique that leverages the user's momentum from one conversion to drive another, secondary conversion request; an example is a social share from a purchase confirmation page.

Conversion Coupling: Maintaining consistent messaging throughout a digital initiative - from the pre-click experience on sponsored search listing to the post-click landing page experience.

Context of Use: The ability to demonstrate how a product or service will be used by actual people in their daily life. Successful landing pages are those that demonstrate and showcase products or services in action. A good example of this is the "hero shot."

Decision Fatigue: The negative psychological effect and associated anxiety that results from having too many choices, resulting in an increased likelihood of a user bouncing.

Directional Cues: Design elements that guide visitors toward calls-to-action or other key areas of a website or landing page. These elements can be explicit (like an arrow) or suggestive (an image with a person looking in the direction of the CTA).

Leak: Any path (typically a link) that sends the users away from the call-to -action and the conversion goal. Removing leaks is the simplest way to increase the rate of conversion.

Multivariate Testing: The practice of testing several different combinations of elements on a page at the same time in order to identify which set of possible combinations results in the highest conversion rate.

Proximity: The distance between key design elements on a landing page and the effect that increase or decreasing proximity has on the conversion rate of the CTA and further specific landing pages.

Social Proof: The positive influence conveyed by testimonials, reviews and trust seals that results when users find out they are part of a larger group that has yielded to the call to action and makes any other decision seem as if it is outside of normal behavior.