Website Conversion Optimization

by Sara Steever
September 9, 2013

There aren’t many books I bother reading twice – mainly because there are too many new ones stacked up for me to rehash anything that is older than six months. However, I recently re-read Conversion Optimization–The Art and Science of Converting Prospects to Customers by Khalid Saleh & Ayat Shukairy, copyright 2011.

If you are new to conversion optimization, or you are struggling to convert prospects on your website, take the time to read this book – it has a helpful text-book approach to the subject. If you’re already a seasoned pro, it’s still a good refresher. Here are some highlights.

Personas

Early in the process, plant yourself squarely in the shoes of your audience. You’ll have to decide how much detail you feel you need to understand and empathize with them. In Conversion Optimization, the authors go into more detail than we typically do at Paulsen, but our goal is the same. Know your users intimately and experience the site with their goals and behaviors in mind. Odds are their goals are different from your (or your company’s) goals and it is the number one mistake we see in website design.

The First Ten Seconds

You’ve probably got less than ten seconds to make that first impression. Fail that and you’ve got nothing. For any conversions to occur on your website, users need to successfully travel through four steps on those first seconds: Awareness (how and why they arrived), knowledge, liking and trust.

The book takes you step by step through value proposition, continuity, congruency, social proof, establishing credibility, external reputation (social media and reviews) and how all of that affects design. The diagrams of ecommerce homepages included in the book make these principals very clear.

The Buying Cycle

If you are familiar with the purchase cycle, you will recognize most of what the authors discuss here. However, not everyone includes “need recognition” in the cycle, and it is critical because it’s where marketing comes into play.

Need recognition shines a spotlight on a lifetime of marketing consumption. Marketing works, and works best when a website supports it with content and landing pages that reinforce the brand experience. I’m going to add a plug here for using an integrated agency. They can ensure your marketing, media, PR, brand experience and website are seamless. And match up with the user’s behavior during that buying cycle.

If your website can’t support need recognition, information search, evaluation of alternatives, purchase process and post-purchase evaluation, then you’ve got serious work to do!

Fears, Uncertainties and Doubts, Oh My!

Conversion Optimization has a great road map for addressing many of the reasons for FUDs. Some are obvious – is my credit card information safe – and some are subtle – am I getting ripped off because I don’t have a coupon code, but all of them can trigger the user to drop the transaction. This chapter covers an important checklist for overcoming FUDs with your users.

Be Ready for Change

Testing is an important part of conversion optimization, and I agree with the authors on a number of points. Websites are never “done.” Resources need to be allocated for the marathon of optimization. Also, don’t make too many changes at once, or you won’t be able to tell what actually gave you an uptick.

Conversion Optimization has a checklist of forty-nine things you can test on your website – just don’t change them all at once!

No Substitutes for the Process

Even with a great primer to guide you, there are really too many variables in any design for shortcuts to work. Your company’s brand deserves a unique presence, and deserves to be supported over time with optimization that us just as unique. I highly recommend Conversion Optimization as a guide through that process.