Due to the lockdown, and the economic fallout because of it, a lot of people are pivoting. This is part of a series of posts detailing my own pivot as a freelance writer.
Right now, I write creative top-of-the-funnel content for publishers. But I’m also upping my game in CRO, SEO, analytics, and a bunch of other digital marketing skills.
Content is still king, I think, but many of these marketing skills are proving to be its crown.
As I mentioned in the previous post on the steps of conversion rate optimization we can optimize our sites using A/B testing if there is enough traffic, but if we’re operating a smaller site there is still plenty of important optimization work that we can do. The importance of optimization cannot be overstated. To optimize, we use research, good user experience design principles, and conversion copy to increase our conversion rate and get more action on the site.
Here’s why optimization is so important, particularly, the data-driven content optimization you get with conversion rate optimization (CRO).
1. Why Optimization is Important: To root content in research.
When you optimize your content with CRO your content is swimming in research. Research infuses your content with your customer’s mindset, their preference, emotions, and desires. Research keeps your content tracking with the customer. It roots everything.
Copy and design without roots are scattered across the web.
The internet is filled with bodies of copywriting and content, details and design, not fitting quite right because they’re not rooted well in anything of substance. A compelling story to sell your product can take you far, but if it’s not rooted in research then it’s a crapshoot whether or not it will impact your customer.
Some copywriters and designers rely too much on intuition and not enough on solid data to back up their creations. Take this quote, for example, from copywriter Matt Fury addressing email copywriters:
“The good news is that YOU … will NOT have to do boatloads of research for your client in order to write stunning, money-drenching emails. You simply have to relax and write a good story.”
Beliefs like this unfortunately are all too common. Intuition and story might sell sometimes, but to truly convert you need the expertise that comes with knowing an audience.
To emphasize this fact, Peep Laja from CXL gives a great quote from advertising great David Ogilvy,
“Suppose your gallbladder has to be removed this evening. Will you choose a surgeon who has read some books on anatomy and knows where the gallbladder is, or someone who relies on his own intuition?”
In conversion copy and design, research roots our choices, and our choices are made better because of it.
Research tools, tips, tricks
According to Conversion Sciences, Brian Massey, Here are some ways that we can find out about our customers when we can’t split test:
- Google, find if someone else has run a split test on a similar thing, also gaining insights from what competitors are doing that might be effective and listen on forums and social to find out what potential viewers of content might engage with more
- Marketing studies, personas, surveys
- Online focus groups–usability tests
- User intelligence tools such as heat mapping, eye-tracking studies, and screen recordings.
- User feedback
2. Why Optimization is Important: To create a Well-crafted, User Experience Design
Implementing some of the established user design principles on a site should be of utmost importance on a small site. Some of these principles include:
- Clarity — We need to make sure our message is clear. When a user enters a site, do they know where they’ve landed and what we’re about?
- Visual Appeal — Studies show that familiar and simple designs convert better, for instance. If a customer instantly dislikes your site, then it’s going be harder to make a sale.
- Visual Hierarchy–Whatever is biggest on your site is treated as the most important. Appropriate color and whitespace is also important and can give people an idea of what is important and what they need to take action on.
- Maintaining Attention at all costs– Keeping the most important items above the fold items to the left, using large background images, and using human photographs that look at the important things.
- One action per screen when they’re ready–A persuasive copy and design can motivate people to take action. As Momoko Price of Kantan Design points out, in order to know how much persuasive copy you must put into a site to increase conversion, you have to know who is coming to the site and how aware they are in the buying process.
Make sure you test
As I mentioned in the previous post, these design principles just give us a baseline. As a site grows, then we want to have a way of measuring if the principles we are enacting are effective for our particular audience and we do that with testing.
Another quote from David Ogilvy:
“Never stop testing and your advertising will never stop improving.”
3. Why Optimization Is Important: To Clarify Your Message
As mentioned above, one benefit of optimization using CRO methods is that research can allow you to not only clarify your message, but custom fit it to match why customers are interested in your product in the first place.
One thing we need to get down right away after our research is our value proposition. The value proposition is a clear statement that tells the customer what they get when they act. We need to communicate what value we give, who the offer is for, and what specific benefits they’ll get from acting.
Ways to Make It Clear
Jargon-free, simple language is also important. Programs like Hemingway can grade your copy to ensure that you’re writing content is at a comfortable readability for your readers. Many say to aim for grade 9 when you write.
Short paragraphs and bullet points keep readers engaged. Momoko Price suggests that usually the more copy you give the more clarity you get. But she also adds that customers that are a product aware might not need a lot of copy, because they already know what they want. You just need to get out of their way and let them buy.
Other important elements that need to be clear and used as a guide to drive your potential customer forward in the buying procees, as outline by Momoko:
- Make things memorable
- Detail the services you offer
- Don’t miss the fundamental components of your product. Tell the full story. Make clear the pain that this product solves and what results these potential customers can expect.
- Also, be a salesperson. Think about what would help you sell this product in an actual sales meeting and say those things.
Momoko also suggests as you write copy for each section, to think of them as different parts of the sales funnel. Think of where the customer would be on their journey when looking at this content.
For example, you might want to put your attention-capturing copy in places where you need to capture attention, like your SERP snippet, in PPC ads, and Facebook ads. Your persuasive copy would go on the homepage. More transactional copy for cart and checkout pages. And confirmation copy when during post-purchase.
Keeping things in mind like this, also helps fit the copy with the buyer’s attitudes and desires. You don’t want to be selling the product when the buyer is trying to checkout for instance. Anything we can do to reduce friction is good for the funnel process.
4. Why Optimization is Important: To Drive Traffic
While search engine optimization (SEO) is important to bring traffic to a site, CRO is also important for SEO. CRO protects site owners from bounce, when customers click into your site and then immmediately leave. The bounce rate is a determining factor in the way Google ranks sites for positioning on the SERPS (search engine results pages).
When we create content that is more appealing to the customer,as a product of thorough research, then we can diminish bounce on the site. An appealing site also allows us opportunities to call customers to action and participate on the site more, because of the obvious fact that they’re continuing to engage.
Having more engaging content on the site brings you higher up in the SERPS and as a result, because more people are seeing and interacting with the content, allows more reason for owner’s of other sites to backlink to your content. Backlinks from similar sites with high authority is another way that your website can move higher up in organic search results.
All of this SEO work, backed by the muscle of a good, conversion rate optimized site, will in theory bring more views to your site. The more views you have, the more chance of increased conversions.
The more conversions, you have, the more social proof you will have from people that have used your offer and the more people you have that have taken advantage of this offer, the more you can test, refine, and further optimize your site for the types of customers that are buying from you. As you do, some of these buyers will share your content on social directing more traffic to your landing page, which will continue to bump the site up in the SERPS.
5. Why Optimization Is Important: To Find the Voice of Your Customer
Voice of customer (VOC) research is an important aspect in all of this. Through the use of surveys, one on one user interviews, and user tests we can extract messages from site visitors and customers.
We want to find out their motivations, like desired outcomes, pain points, and purchase prompts. We can also figure out what customer’s value and if they have any perceived risks purchasing from us.
We can use different surveys to target people in different stages of our funnel: surveys for visitors and surveys for customers, for example.
Once we feel, we’ve received enough answers from our surveys and interviews then we can extract the dominant messages from people that use similar language to express their pain and the satisfaction with our solution and we can turn that into copy that includes all of this data infused language.
6. Why Optimization is important: To Streamline and Reduce Bloat
Optimization also helps us take out those things we should shed as they don’t pertain to the customer’s wants or interests and don’t really add anything to the site.
When you get on message through mining customer’s responses and come up with your unique value position, then you want to filter that message through all your content, and as mentioned before, in a way that is cognizant of the sales funnel.
Then it’s time to start delivering this content by way of story. Putting our on-message content through a classic story framework will help shed the bloat and keep the customer following the hero’s journey all the way to the checkout cart.
Make It a Story
Classic story frameworks follow a certain pattern. We could use this in a sales page, for example:
- First, we set the scene. This is usually done with a value proposition at the top of the page (above the fold). Who are you selling to? What are you selling and why?
- Second, there is rising intensity and action. We mention all the cool features and benefits and how they work.
- Then there is a climax. This is where we would add our call to action (CTA).
- Followed by falling action, where the customer completes their transaction.
- And finally, the resolution, which is post-conversion surveys where we find out about the customer experience.
7. Why Optimization is Important: For an Easier Sell
When we refine our ideas in the fire of optimization, it makes the sell so much easier because we have eliminated any friction, any points in the sales journey where the buyer might get stuck and replaced it with a smooth drive down persuasive copy and content to the CTA and beyond.
Even at this point though, there are things that we can do to increase the amount of juice we get from an already juicy site by following a few conversion copy principles (that also over time we’ll want to test):
- Clarity–Again this idea of clarity comes into play. Momoko Price is direct at this point when she says, “Clarity trumps precision.” If people can’t understand your message, no matter how many of these other conversion tips and tricks you use, they’ll just walk away. Be explicit.
- Match the reader’s mindset. Again, follow the language and the preferences of your customer and you can’t go wrong. Also if you’re using PPC or Facebook ads make sure that the message that was advertised in the ad matches the message on your page.
- Blow customers away with value. Make an exhaustive list of positive outcomes as given by your customers and then use social proof and other proof to show this is the case.
- Make sure any proof you use is quantifiable and specific.
- Give customer’s word pictures to latch onto. Many of these word pictures can be extracted directly from customer’s messages.
- Show and tell generously. Describe as much as you can, using all senses to give the customer and evocative feel of what it is like when their pain is addressed by the product.
- Lastly, Cut anything that is not doing real work. Reduce the bloat and focus on the message.
Optimization: Why Now Is the Time
Optimization, specifically, conversion rate optimization is the ongoing art of creating messaging and content that is relevant to your brand and customers by continuing to watch, listen, and figure out what is working and what is not.
It’s an ongoing conversation that results in better conversions. It’s not just a one-time thing. It’s a forever thing.
As long as you’re searching for customers and you have a product to give to the world, then you’re going to want to keep optimizing.