Intro to Analytics in CRO Part 2 | Digital Marketing Skills in Review

If used effectively, Google Analytics can give us actionable insights into our web traffic for free.

If you want to refine, rework, and better your digital marketing program then you need to have the ability to measure it. Other costly analytics software solutions exist in the market place today, Google even charges for an upgraded version of its Analytics software for larger companies, called Google Analytics 360. But if we use Google Analytics with other tools like Google Tag Manager and Google Data Studio we have a powerful set of tools that can help us measure and analyze just about anything related to our traffic and because it’s free, it’s widely used among organizations and companies on the web.

In conversion optimization, we use Google Analytics for our quantitative research. To understand why Google Analytics is excellent for this type of research we first must understand what quantitative research is and how it differs from the other primary type of research we do in conversion rate optimization, qualitative research.

Qualitative and Quantitative research.

Qualitative and Quantitative research helps us answer the where, what, and why of potential problems in our digital marketing projects: whether they be in our ad copy, our landing page, or other pages in the funnel process.

Following explains the differences between the two different research types and why Google Analytics is ideal for the quantitative variety:

  • Qualitative research mainly uncovers why problems occur. In qualitative research we might first look at website briefly, trying to empathize with the user’s experience, trying to figure out what we might do if we were in their shoes and see what might go wrong through this process. Qualitative research also involves looking at customer reviews, performing customer interviews, and analyzing things like heatmaps, eyetracking studies, etc. that can help us better ascertain why an issue is occurring.
  • On the other hand, quantitative research is more focused on trying to uncover what the problem is and where it’s occurring onsite. The reason conversion optimizers use Google Analytics for their quantitative research (the where and the what) is that analytics gives useful information such as landing page and exit page metrics, bounce rate, device and browser information etc. that can help us pinpoint where the problems occur and what those problems could be.

Five Different Reports in Google Analytics

In Google Analytics there are five reports that we can look at to utilize and organize the sorting of our data. Each report gives insight into different aspects of user data. These reports are as follows:

  • Realtime Reports
  • Audience Reports
  • Acquisition Reports
  • Behavior Reports
  • Conversion Reports

Breaking down these reports in Analytics, each of these reports are made up of different subsections. Each subsection has a related page that details the information that corresponds with that section.

Realtime Reports

Realtime reports give dimensions and metrics in realtime. Because of this, this report is excellent for testing to make sure event and conversion tracking tags are functioning correctly.


The overview section of the realtime report gives a bird’s-eye view into what is going on a website in any given moment. This page lists how many users are on the site, the top sources that referred traffic to the site, what pages users are currently on, what percentage of users are active on each page, what device these users are using to access the site, as well as a map that shows the different location of each user.


In locations, the realtime reports breaks down further information on the location of each realtime user. This information includes a list of the countries from where the users come and another map that shows these locations graphically.

Traffic Sources

Traffic Sources details a bit more where each user is coming from and by what medium. This is where for example, we could track Facebook Ads and Facebook referrals. The traffic source lists six different mediums:

  • organic traffic — coming directly from search
  • CPC/PPC — coming from paid ads
  • referrals — coming from other sites
  • email — coming from email campaigns
  • social — coming from social media
  • none — coming directly to the site

Traffic source also details the source where the user is coming from. For example, given the Facebook example above, from the medium social we might find two sources, one from Facebook ads and the other from just normal Facebook referrals. Using UTM tracking codes, website owners can dial down so that sources can be as detailed or as generalized as we want to make them.


Content breaks down the pages that users are on, as well as the title of each page, and also gives the amount of users on the page in real-time. As with traffic sources, there is also the option to see how many pageviews occurred in the last 30 minutes.


Events track behavior on the site. With google tag manager, you can set up numerous events on your site that will populate here when a user takes an action. Here you can see the event category and the event action. For example, viewing a video might render the category as video and the action as played. Other options are labels (the name of the video played) and values (an integer assigned to the action).


While events have to do with any action taken on the site, the conversions subsection shows dimensions and metrics based on sales goals. A goal might track a sales funnel progression or a purchase, while an event tracks a specific action not directly related to incoming revenue.

As the other subsections, the conversions subsection show the number of people currently but it also shows things like how many purchases have been made, how many have entered the checkout process, depending on how you create these goals. Goals are set in the admin section under views.

The Historical Data Reports

While realtime reports show the here and now, all the rest of the reports show historical data so that conclusions can be made as to how a website is performing over months.

As there is so much information in these other reports, and because they just go deeper in what is included in the Realtime Reports it will help to just give a brief summary of each. As will be seen, and as should be expected, there is some overlap between what the Realtime Reports present in realtime and what these historical reports present over a longer period of time.

One thing to note is the calendar at the top right hand corner of all the historical reports that allows the analytics user to scrounge for information in different periods of time and the ability to look at data coming in hourly, daily, weekly, or monthly.

Audience Reports

Audience reports answers the question, who are my users. It gives the amount of users, the amount of new users, the amount of times they engaged on the site (called sessions) and the bounce rate all within any period of time. It also gives information on demographics, browsers, operating systems, and devices used by the users.

The audience section has the ability to give very detailed information on the users of the site using google ad tracking and google user information including age, hobbies, gender, age, language, location, among other things. Also included in this report is the very useful subsection Users Flow which shows how users are flowing from one page to another on the site.

Acquisition Reports

Acquisitions reports show where the users are coming from. It gives detailed reports on the history of referring mediums and sources as well as detailed information on google ads, search console, social and aligned campaigns.

Campaigns are created with UTMs or with Google Tag Manager. Campaigns can be set up with google ads as well as any other advertising source you want to attach them to.

Behavior Reports

Behavior reports reveal what actions users are taking on the site. Behavior reports detail entrance and exit pages, site speed, events, and how users are interacting with the site. It can also give detailed information on what pages were the most viewed and what users searched for on the site, which can help assess where users place their importance and give us new strategies on where to focus our conversion optimization efforts.

Conversion Reports

Conversion reports answers what are the results of users actions. Conversion reports are focused on goals related to revenue. In the conversion reports we can find information on sales funnels completion and ecommerce behaviors. We can view information on shopping and checkout behaviors and product performance metrics.

Here we’re just touching on the basics …

There is so much more to Google Analytics and functionality that hasn’t been covered in these two posts. Interpreting and filtering the information is a science in and of itself. But what is clear, is that Google Analytics is a relative goldmine for those who want to understand their customers better and that want to design a site for them that draws them in with the features and benefits of a product and service, clearly, with empathy, and leaves them to make a decision without friction and the problems with a site that lack optimization.


Intro to Analytics in CRO Part 1 | Digital Marketing Skills in Review

Measuring our marketing efforts in as many ways as we can is important in conversion optimization. When we measure and analyze what is going on at the minutiae level of our website and marketing campaigns, then we are more empowered to act in a beneficial way to transform our content into content that converts, increasing our sign-ups and our sales, because we know what our audience wants, and we are then able to give it to them.

One of the most powerful tools that we can use to measure these marketing efforts is Google Analytics.

Following is an overview as to what you might find when you first open up analytics, what kind of features are included in the setup, and what kind of reports you can already find built-in. With this initial setup, numerous ways exist to explore, refine, manage, and discover insights into your data.

This post will only give a basic understanding of what Google Analytics is and what features are contained within. For further understanding, I recommend the free google courses on analytics, both the basic and advanced, and the much more in-depth course that CXL puts out taught by Chris Mercer, the head of

What is Google Analytics?

Google Analytics is a tool that is part of the Google Marketing Platform that helps us more effectively analyze our customers interactions with our brand online.

According to Chris Mercer, although analytics has the ability to natively collect, store, and report details where it really shines in the storage.

Google Tag Manager is better at seeing behaviors and getting access to more behaviors and Google Data studio is better at making reports. Both of these can be used with Google Analytics to create a very powerful trifecta to find out what actions are being taken on a site and who is taking those actions, collect that data into meaningful chunks of information, and present that data in a way that we can learn from it and act on it.

Google Analytics Admin

The Google Analytics admin section is where we can to set up all accounts, properties, and views. Through these settings we can manage permissions of various users and set the master controls as to how our data is to be rendered in analytics and what other tools in the Google Marketing Platform that we will integrate with. We can also set permissions as to what types of information we want Google to collect on our sites.


Account is at the top-level hierarchy of the admin section. This is where we create account-wide settings, such as who we want to share our data with, what kind of information we want our users to have access to, what type of filters we have applied to our various views of the data, and also what we have changed recently in our account, including what we have decided to delete.

One of the most important features of this section are the basic settings found under the Account Settings option. This not only gives the account name, but also the account Id.


Second in the hierarchy, is the property view. Whereas different accounts are more appropriate for sites that are not at all interlinked, the various properties we manage within the account are related properties. For example, we might have two properties, one that has an informational dynamic and one that has transactional dynamic both related to the same business.

Because these properties are related, we keep them in the same account and manage them as different properties in that account. If we had two separate business and had no reason for these businesses data to be measured together, than we would track each business in a separate account.

In the property section, we can create properties, enable certain reports that we might want to show up in these property accounts, we can also set up tracking codes, and determine how data is to kept and what is to be excluded from our data.


In each of these properties, we can create various views so that we can really dial down and attempt to visualize what’s important and take out what’s not.

In the view section we can enable various goals, thus helping us plan how to make our interactions with this data more actionable. We can also create filters using regular expressions to teach analytics to organize our data better. For example, depending on search queries someone might search for something on our site with capital or lowercase letters. Even though the search term might be the same, when the data is reported in the reports the terms might show up as two terms. To get proper metrics on our data we can filter all the terms so they show up as lowercase and get counted as the same information.

Dimensions and Metrics

Going out of the admin section and into the reports section, there are two main attributes that we can divide our reports into:

  • Dimensions — these are the terms that we can sort our data by. For example, the names of pages, products, and campaigns are all dimensions that we can look at in analytics.
  • Metrics–these are the numbers that represent the stats that are applied to various dimensions. Anything that is numerical and can be acted upon by arithmetic is considered a metric in analytics.

Types of Reports

Next week we go into the specific types of reporting that we can find by default in analytics. But associated with this reporting are the reports that are set up in analytics to represent the data coming in. There are four types of reports that we’ll find in each of these reporting categories.

Overview Reports

Overview reports do what they say. Their role is to give an overview of the data coming in, depending on the category. For example, if you are looking at an Audience report than an overview report gives you an glimpse into who is interacting with your traffic. This gives various pie charts, bar graphs, etc. to communicate the data that we can visualize in the category.

Table Reports

This is a report where data is arranged in rows and columns. For each corresponding dimension, different metrics will be included to elucidate information about that dimension.

Flow Reports

Flow reports act as a guide that shows the flow of traffic from one dimension to another. They act as a breadcrumb trail that helps users visualize how traffic moves within and between sites.

Outlier Reports

Other types of reports are also included at times. For example auxilary reports that show where users in the world are located, funnel visualization that allows us to see our goals in metrics as aligned to our sales funnel and many more.

Organizing and Discovering with Analytics

With Google Analytics, we can organize and uncover data that can help us implement and refine our conversion optimization goals. Tracking all this data, managing it, and analyzing it, can bring to the fore insights that we otherwise would be unaware of. These insights, then, can create actionable goals and refinements that can in turn help improve conversions, build new relationships with our customers, and help us reiterate our business to focus on our strengths and most importantly, validate and improve the reasons our customers buy from us in the first place.


Emotion and Neurochemical Design|Digital Marketing Skills Review

“I do believe that an improved understanding of the multiple irrational forces that influence us could be a useful first step toward making better decisions.”
― Dan Ariely, The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home

For most of us, our decisions are not based on the extrinsic properties of a product or service alone, but on emotional factors and neurochemical responses that align with our needs. Marketers can optimize for emotion and hit various neurochemical triggers to make their product or service more appealing and help make the decision-making and buying process easier and more persuasive for potential customers.

By using certain design and textual elements, we can boost the emotive value of our website, increase conversions, and allow for a friction-free environment, which very well could increase the probability of customers returning to the site to continue to engage with our business and buy more of our products and services.

Hierarchy of Needs

There are many different models that try to relate how humans might make decisions, what motivates them and causes them to act. This is still a very open question, but according to Dr. Brian Cugelman, in his module at the CXL Insitute’s CRO program maintain that one of the best models in-line with modern scientific research involves a hierarchy of needs based on neurochemical responses. From bottom to top here is how that neurological hierarchy of needs model would look applied:

  1. At the base of the model, would be avoiding risks, this is associated with the neurochemical cortisol. We can associate certain categories of industries with this more readily such as insurance and health. but we can also use this in marketing in general. For example, a risk free trial of a product or service is a type of this risk aversion in action.
  2. Next is self-protection. While avoiding risks is about staying out of harms way, self-protection is an aligned goal, but is more involved in protecting against harm when harm comes. Cortisol is also related to this need. Some industries that might be aligned with this, IT security, insurance, etc. An example of a marketing tactic to use to address this hierarchy would be using social proof to ensure the potential customer that your company, product, or service is trustworthy and will do what it says it will do.
  3. Now that these two basic needs are met, we can lead into the need of affiliation. This is the need for humans to feel connected and it is associated with oxytocin. This is tapping into that tribe mentality that marketers like Seth Godin promote. One industry example of this that might be affiliated with this might be Crossfit or diet communities where there is the sense that members are part of something bigger than themselves. Groups like this even create terms of their own that those who a part of the community use to bond closer together and increase that feeling of affiliation.
  4. Status and Esteem is next, with the related neurochemical serotonin. Status can be used in our messaging by relating to how the product or service might elevate the users position in the human pecking order. One of the most obvious examples of this type of marketing to status is the way some car manufactures set their brand apart by imbuing their product with a certain status that have become an anchoring in most peoples minds. Car manufacturers like Porsche, Mercedes, have used their elevated status to appeal to luxury car afficianados but also to signal to the general public that the driver of this sort of car isn’t just anybody but somebody that has the means, the intelligence, and the positioning to choose only the best of luxury vehicles.
  5. Mate Acquistion, retention, and parenting : lastly the biochemical/biological need to find someone to settle down with for the long term and reproduce. We’ve all heard the old marketing maxim that “sex sells.” This need is what it takes advantage of, but I would think that just also making a product, service, and the design of website and marketing material emotionally appealing to the potential customer and then using social proof to back up trustworthiness and dedication of the company would also tap into some of these needs.

Designing for emotion

As stated, much of our decision making is a result of emotions and not reasoning/ rational thought. There are some things in design that we can do to relay the proper emotion that we want our customers to feel when they come to our site.

By targeting our customers emotions, we can more readily ensure that they will connect with our site. By targeting specific emotions and relating them with our brand, we can even make a distinction in the consumer’s mind as to what sets our company/product/ service apart from our competitors and add a little more leverage to bring them into our fold.

According to Talia Wolf from CXL, we need to make sure that we are crafting for mobile first and make sure that we understand that people on mobile act differently than people that are using a desktop. With mobile, we typically only two seconds to convince someone to keep reading and engaging with our brand. This makes using emotional triggers a necessity if we are going to reach people in these fast moments, because people can process emotion much faster than they can engage in rational thought.

Here is the process of how Talia typically designs for emotion. Similar to writing copy in CRO or design, what is first and foremost here is lots of detailed, planned out research:

  • First do an analysis of 10 to 15 different competitors and grade them according to four different parameters: messaging (what are they trying to relay through their messages?), colors (what kind of emotive value does their colors reflect?), Images (What kind of information do their images convey?) and emotional triggers (what kind of these psychological triggers are these competitors using to sell their product? Should we use similar emotional triggers or different triggers to differentiate and niche our brand?)
  • Second do an emotional SWOT. SWOT stands for strengths weaknesses opportunities and threats. The first two are concerning the product or service our company is offering. The second two involve industry and competitor positioning and how that relates to our business.
  • Third, from this SWOT analysis we derive how we want our customers to feel, using the proper elements, words, visuals, and colors.
  • Lastly we continue to test these elements in order to gain knowledge of what is working and what is not, constantly tweaking as needed to relay the proper emotion

Designing for Desired Outcome

Another way to enact proper design, and it would be best if we coupled these two methodologies together, is designing for desired outcome. According to Dr. Cugelman there are seven desired outcomes that are typical of the decision making journey in any marketing effort. These outcomes are as follows:

  • Concentrating — When a potential customer lands on a website, we need to grab their attention. We need to get them to focus.
  • Learning –We want our customers to understand our product at least at a basic level, understand what it can do for them and how it can benefit them.
  • Desiring — We need to motivate these potential customers, to inspire them.
  • Deciding — Calling them to action, we need that motivation to lead them to make a decision
  • Trusting — We need our potential customers to trust our company and our product/service to do for them what our company says it will do.
  • Acting–we need them to take the necessary action to make that motivated action an actual conversion by clicking that CTA button or checking out their cart.
  • Maintaining -We want our potential customers to continue to come back to our organization to purchase more products and services or continue to interact with our brand.

In this journey, there is one specific decision that we want to avoid and that is, our potential customers quitting while going through one of these steps and abandoning their actions. But it is important ahead of time to know that no one has ever minimized this abandonment of action to zero. As long as we continue to market to buyers through these typical buyers journey, there is always going to be a potential for and actual situations in which our potential customers leave this journey and decide to take other actions or no action at all. Important in this process then is not only that we facilitate potential customers with a clear path of action but also to have a process for re-engaging those customers that drop-out of our process for whatever reason.

Source Messages for our Audience’s Journey

To get our audience to go through this process, we also need to delineate what action we must take and what psychological tools we might use to help create these actions as much as we possibly can. For each of these audience’s action, we can list an action that we must take to help guide them through this journey

1. Concentrating (Aware)

For this first desired outcome, we can say that our message or role in this journey as an audience guide has to be to help the audience concentrate by directing their attention.

One way to do this is through preattentive processing. There are numerous ways that we can present information to help the audience concentrate better.

By creating patterns of a design for example and then breaking up that pattern, we can create attention to detail on the page that will help guide the audience to pay attention better.

The reason a broken pattern works in helping direct attention is the same reason that a larger object makes us feel that it is more important than a small element on the page. We are hardwired to notice changes in our environment and respond to them.

2. Learning (informed)

For the next desired outcome, we need to educate. As mentioned before, features tell but benefits sell. We need to use both of these to have proper information for the Audience to make a decision. The most important of these though is the benefits.

3. Desiring (motivated)

Evoke emotions is the related action that we must take to help guide the buyer into motivation. This has already been discussed in detail, but it is important to focus on non-explicit motivations as opposed to explicit motivations, as they’re much more powerful. For example, it’s more powerful that a car like a Lamborghini is a status symbol for an Audience than it is that it can drive a person from point a to point b.

4. Deciding (Intent)

Our action to guide our audience in this journey is to support decision making. Having a clear direct path to action and familiarizing customers with the process can help reduce friction and encourage the audience to take action. Remember that irrational motivation makes up about 20-30% of the decision-making process. For example, seeing the dollar discount and a percentage discount of a sale or savings converts better than just the dollar discount shown alone.

5. Trusting (confident)

To help the audience in trusting our company or product or service, we need to make sure that we integrate in our design assured outcomes. Sometimes this is done with a money-back guarantee. First impressions are also very important and using social proof to allay any concerns that an audience might have.

6. Acting (Short Term), and

7. Maintaining (Long Term)

The actions we must take to tackle these last two outcomes in the buyers journey involve providing a path/opportunity, creating trigger responses, and supporting progress. We need to be aware of the path that people checkout and make sure that we are eliminating as much as possible any friction that they might find along the way. Forms that they have to fill out should be short and meaningful to the purchase at hand, for example.

There are two reasons why a person in your audience might abandon his/her audience journey. The first is motivation, because this involves so many factors, this is nearly impossible to alter, but the second is ability, the person just couldn’t figure out how to get through the journey. This is something that has tremendous potential to design for, to help get the person through the journey easily, pleasantly, and without friction.

Cultivating the Customer’s Journey Through Emotion

By using emotional appeal and designing-in psychological/neurochemical triggers to bring our customers through their journey, we can connect with them on so many levels. By doing this we are not only able to increase conversions, but also help maintain these customers for the long term.


Optimizing for influence | Digital Marketing Skills Review

For four days this week, we were out of power. Winds and foul weather whipped up from tropical storm Cristobal to the south of us took down trees, which damaged a lot of power lines around our state, blacking out several communities.

The power company told us on the first day that we would have power by that afternoon. It didn’t come on. Then they told us it would happen the next day. Nothing. On the third day, they had again readjusted several times, first telling us that we would have power in the morning and then in the afternoon.

By the time the afternoon came, I was convinced that they weren’t coming that day as well and so I was motivated to buy a generator, because we were running out of clean dishes and despite our best efforts to keep the food in the fridge and freezer cool with ice, meats and frozen veggies were starting to thaw.

So I went to our local hardware store and bought the biggest generator I could find, intending to make it so that not only my current problem was solved but any problem in the future as well.

How Does One Motivate Motivation?

When thinking about conversion, motivation is everything. As a consumer of goods, I’d much rather have the easier option of having somebody hook me up to the grid and passively suck down power without having to buy some other product to fix that pain. But when the power company failed me for four days and I didn’t have any other option, I spent my money on the easiest thing I could find to fix that pain — a generator.

My motivation was high and that was what committed me to the sale.

When someone lands on our landing page or website, one of the most important thing we can do on the site is design for their motivation. Sometimes, we’re designing for split intent here, because you need to address the needs of any individual that lands on the site.

For example, as Momoko Price explains on a website, we might design in features that help people that are just exploring a product, by giving tons of social proof, a unique value proposition, and long form copy intended to break down benefits and quell any objections the user might have. Their motivation is low, because they’re just learning about the features of the product and what kind of problems the product solves.

But we’ll also want to design the site for those who know that this is the product they need and just want to find what they’re looking for and checkout. Like my purchase of the generator, these people have found their solution and their motivation to buy the product immediately.

In another example, we might know the motivation of the user ahead of time as we’ve worked them through the funnel up to this point and so when they land on a landing page, we expect their motivation to be high and so what we must do is eliminate any friction that might stop them from moving to the steps to conversion.

Both of these point to one underlying principle: That we’re not really optimizing for conversion. We’re optimizing for motivation. When we’re able to do that well, then a motivated buyer will more readily convert.

Optimize for Motivation, not conversion rate

Yes, we want to increase conversion, but we can’t optimize for that directly, because we don’t know exactly what is going to convert. We can design with best practices, and besides that, makes some guesses as to what might convert gawkers into new customers. But this very well might not work. We need a better plan than that.

The highest factor in whether or not a person converts is motivation. One of the greatest psychological works on the science of persuasion comes from Robert Cialdini’s 1984 book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. To research the book, Cialdini spent years undercover trying to figure out what influenced people to buy.

He came up with six principles of persuasion that we can bring into to affect the buyer and thenlater added a seventh: Reciprocity, Scarcity, Authority, Consistency, Liking, Consensus and Unity.

  • Reciprocity means when we do something beneficial for the buyer then the buyer is more willing to convert
  • Scarcity meaning that the buyer will more readily convert when there are only so many left of the product, for example, or there is a limited time discount
  • Authority means there is a perceived trust in competence and experience in the seller/site owner
  • Consistency meaning values, message, and even design is similar from one point to the next
  • Liking meaning the customer values the relationship with the one selling the product and feels a connection with the site/site owner/ product
  • Consensus meaning the more people that buy the product, the more evidence the buyer will have to persuade them to buy
  • lastly, the principle of unity, meaning the buyer relates to the site/ site owner in perspective and identity

Conversion Heuristic Formula

To understand in what context a buyer converts, Cialdini gives this conversion heuristic formula:

C=4M +3V+2(I-F)-2A

Let’s break this down. First, note that the numbers before the letters are the amount of importance given to each factor in the heuristic formula. The letters represent the following:

  • “C” is the probability of conversion. So “C” equals …
  • “M” stands for motivation. As you can see, given the number “4” before it. The M in the equation is the most important factor affecting the probability of conversion.
  • “V” stands for the clarity of the value proposition. The buyer need to have a clear idea of what the offer is and what the payoff is for them.
  • The next two elements are “I”, incentive, and “F” friction. The goal needs to be to reduce the amount of friction, or difficulty for the user to get to the intended goal of conversion and to increase incentive, the desirability of the product.
  • Finally the “A” in the conversion heuristic formula is for anxiety. This has to do with reducing the buyer’s objections or concerns in buying the product.

To influence motivation, we use skills and techniques of persuasion science to help move a somewhat motivated buyer into someone that is highly motivated.

The art and Science of Persuasion

So not every buyer has the will to buy something immediately. The pain is not relevant enough. The problem can be put off and we can deliberate to death over working solutions. As I said before, my purchase of the generator came about because I was pressed against the wall. I needed a generator right away to solve this problem of not having electricity right now and the anxiety of not having in the future. When a buyer comes to a site they are not always going to be that motivated.

So how do we help move motivation that is not so high to a point where there is a need to buy?

First get the fundamentals out of the way. According to Peep Laja at CXL, There is a hierarchy to optimization, a pyramid. Working from the base upward, we find that there are five different elements to any conversion optimization strategy. They are as follows:

  • First, functional. Make sure that the website functions correctly and is able to be navigated without throwing coding issues or bugs.
  • Second, accessible. Can people of all skills and handicaps use the site? Is the language clear and readable to most?
  • Third, usable. This involves making sure that the site is user friendly.
  • Fourth, intuitive. Does the site match the thought process of the user. Again the idea here is to reduce friction and limit distraction giving the user the streamlined ability to convert without the interpretation of mixed or inappropriately placed messages.
  • Finally to cap off the pyramid, we persuade.

The best way to persuade is to not just imagine what you would say if this were an actual face to face sales call or mirror the post-purchase customer’s language. All of that should happen, but there is also the necessary work of using psychological principles to sculpt the language in such a way that it helps the buyer to convert.

Persuasion Psychology

Fogg’s Behavioral Model

Besides the seven principles already given Robert Cialdini gives, many more exciting techniques exist to persuade and help motivate buyers to convert. Peep Laja mentioned several.

One is the Fogg behavioral model. BJ Fogg is a behavioral psychologist at Stanford University that has studied what drives behavioral changes. According to Dr. Fogg, three factors need to exist simultaneously to bring about these changes.

  • Motivation. The higher the motivation, the better
  • Ability. The easier to do the better
  • And trigger, something to set the buyer off to convert

Intrestingly enough, what I find is the higher the motivation there is, the more a person is willing to do the things needed to get done to achieve that motivation. Take my trip to the store that afternoon to pick up a generator. I had been in power outages before, but it always just a took a day before they restored power. But now, due to the long wait, my motivation became high and as it did, despite not wanting to go to the store to buy a generator, I drove anyway and purchased one.

But on a site, the easier (the more frictionless) you can make it for a motivated person to convert the better.

According to Fogg, there are three main motivators:

  • Pleasure and pain
  • Hope and Fear
  • Social acceptance and rejection


Our brains decide by emotion and then justify those decision with logic and reason. It’s important to note that reason usually only comes after there is a decision made via the emotional regions of our brains.

We can connect with this emotional center in the following ways:

  • Voicing to customers what’s in it for them. As this section of the brain is concerned with survival and concerned with self-preservation, it is important to relay to the customer the whole heroes journey, taking them through the sequences of the pain that is now occurring and how by taking action, they can become the hero of their story in choosing to take this new action.
  • Contrast — similar to above, we want users on the site to have a clear distinction of before and after. Because it is concerned with survival, this part of the brain makes it decisions when some threat or inspiration (pain or pleasure) confronts it.
  • The more we can make the risks and benefits the better. This means using concrete language that allows the user to immediately grasp what is at stake in the decision.
  • Playing on the above mentioned idea of contrast, users are usually going to remember the start and ending of the story, the before and after. Novelty can also help to engage the user, as the brain is hardwired to react to any kind of change.
  • Another important factor to consider is to make pages more visual, as visual cues can impact the brain much faster and relay a lot of information on the clarity of value proposition before its even mentioned in text.
  • Using all of these in a way that impacts the emotions should be a goal to persuading potential customers. As said above, emotion drives decisions much more than logic.

Cognitive Biases

Everyone is biased in one way or another. They tend to think in ways that are culturally, socially, politically, and morally relevant to them and we can use these biases that people have to help shape and persuade their motivations. Some of them even go deeper than that. They’re almost like pre-conditions for how we view the world and so they are embedded so deep in our consciousness that it is very hard to let them go.

You can find a full list of these biases here on Wikipedia. Understanding and using these can be very effective in sales. In this video, Andre Morys from konversionskraft mentions a case studies between two travel companies in Germany. One of them has been around for a long time and the other is a startup. The startup is growing past the seasoned company by using cognitive biases like the bandwagon effect very effectively.

Effective Persuasion Increases Motivation

By using cognitive biases, neuromarketing, and Fogg’s behavioral model among other psychological persuasion techniques, and coupling these tools with beneficial design, copy that is clear, engaging, meaningful, and storied, etc. we can pull from a variety of techniques and tools that will help to increase the “M” factor in Cialdini’s formula, which could help motivate our potential customer to take the action that we want them to take.


Why Optimization Is Important (7 reasons)| Digital Marketing Skills Review

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
  • Analytics
  • 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.

You can only get a better site because of it and increase customer contentment and loyalty to your brand.


What are the Steps of Conversion Optimization? | Digital Marketing Skills Review

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.

Conversion Rate Optimization is a Perfect Skill to Step Up During a Pandemic

So what are the steps of conversion optimization?

Well, there are some fundamentals, and right now is a great time to learn them. The world is in flux. What your customers might have preferred pre-COVID is most likely different then what they prefer today.

Conversion optimization uses research, user-focused design, scientific tests, and persuasive copy to design and create content that customers love and helps drive them down the funnel toward action.

Converting the Creatives

Content creators sometimes hate on data. I see this a lot on LinkedIn, for example, where ad writers bemoan data destroying all their fine ideas.

For me, data is just empathy.

The more I know about my customers, the more I want to take on the challenge to create something just for them. And if it doesn’t connect with them as much as I thought, then I love re-creating and reiterating until I get it right.

This is the creative process at its best.

What is Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)?

Currently, I’m taking a minidegree program from CXL Academy on Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). CRO is the pursuit of optimal conversion on a digital platform through testing, observation, and application.

To get the conversion rate, find the number of people interacting with your content over a certain period of time. Then divide that number by the number of actions taken during that same period.

That percentage is the conversion rate. How to increase that rate is what conversion rate optimization is all about.

CRO is Data Science

Conversion rate optimization is recurring, iterative science. In CRO we come up with ideas that we turn into hypotheses.

My first instructor in this course, Brian Massey, the conversion scientist, made the point that conversion optimization is a great way to test out crazy, creative ideas (and have data to back them up).

In other words, data shouldn’t suppress our creative ideas but be the driving force behind them.

There’s a great line from writer Jacques Barzun, writing to other writers, that goes like this: “Convince yourself that you are working in clay, not marble, on paper, not eternal bronze: Let that first sentence be as stupid as it wishes …”

In other words, treating our copy, websites, or ads as malleable is good. CRO helps us bring in creative ideas that work. Over time, it uses data to refine all our stupid ideas and turn them into smart ones that resonate with our customers.

Conversion Rate Optimization Unleashes Stupid Creativity and Turns It Smart

It’s the science, the hypotheses and testing in CRO that should inspire content creators. We can test out all these crazy ideas that might work, try something new, rich, and exciting, and see how people act, and then re-create our content according to those actions.

One great thing about CRO is even stuff that seems settled like UX design principles are also subject to its testing. Every market is different. Every customer base is going to resonate with different touches and tweaks that you can iterate to increase your customer’s action on a site.

Peep Laja writes at the beginning of his Best Practices unit, “Blindly copying and implementing ‘best practices’ is stupid-nothing scientific about it.”

Conversion Optimization helps us measure the effects of our campaigns and then iterate according to data.

It’s the data that guides our choices not the interpretation of that data. We should challenge our interpretation until our CRO is at 100%. Best practices are there for a guide until you have data to support a better conclusion.

Conversion Optimization Basics (Some of those steps)

Now that we know what conversion optimization is, here are some of the steps we need to take to start optimizing:

  • First, make a list of all the ideas that might affect the conversion rate of your online content (emails, ads, websites, landing pages)
  • Write hypotheses for those ideas and research that hypothesis
  • Then rank your ideas on a scale of 1-5 according to three criteria: impact, confidence, and effort.

The first step in this process is to generate ideas. Our ideas will become more calculated as we gain experience in CRO. But at this point we just want to throw crazy, creative ideas out there and see what we can come up with to research and test.

As Massey points out, our brains are full of bias. Nine times out of ten what we think might work just doesn’t. That’s why we test and observe and then test again.

After we gather our ideas, we plan and write out our hypothesis, by creating a statement like this:

“If I change X, I expect Y, as measured by Z.”

You want the X value in this hypothesis to be specific, and exclude anything that might skew the results of your test.

You don’t want to change everything on whatever content you want to test all at once, but just one thing at a time.

So in an example, “If I change a buy now button (X) to make it more noticeable to customers, I expect more people to click that button, (Y) which will reflect in increased purchases (Z).

After we’ve laid out our hypothesis, we then research our idea and rate them according to these three criteria:

Impact defines how much we think this will impact conversions. Will changing a font bring in tons more subscribers or just one? Will making a button more noticeable create a zillion more purchases or not?

Confidence defines how confident we are that this change will make a difference according to our research.

Finally, Effort describes how much work you think you’ll have to put in to make the change.

Of course, what we’re looking for in this are the ideas that have a high impact, high confidence, and low effort.

The A/B Test

Split testing or A/B testing according to Massey is for those ideas that research just isn’t giving you enough information about.

It’s also best for sites with larger amounts of traffic. To get a good sample, we’re going to need to test for many visits over a period of time. Then we can determine if the change allowed for an increase in actions or not.

The more we increase our sample size, the more we decrease our margin of error. So, the more visitors we can get the better.

A/B tests involve putting up different iterations of pages in front of users to see which one they take action on. As Massey says, these tests are great because they follow all rules of behavioral data. They’re big enough for prediction, collected over time, quantitative, and double blind.

For small sites, A/B test can happen offsite. Using Facebook and Google ads, for example, you can run A/B tests to figure out more information from your target audience. Massey even concedes in the comments of this post on A/B testing and small sites that you can test a small site as long as you have big wins.

Research, User Experience, and Persuasion

What’s going to help a small site out most, though, is researching ideas, following good user experience design principles, and mastering the art of persuasion through good conversion copy.

Many tools exist outside of A/B testing that we can use to effectively research and understand what our customers are doing on our sites. There also many design principles considered fundamental for conversion. And there are copy techniques that will help you hone in on the pain points of your buyers.

Next week I’ll lay out some of these tools and techniques as I continue to survey and review digital marketing skills. And, in particular, I’ll focus in on this important skillset of conversion optimization. While proper SEO gets people to our sites, these steps of conversion optimization are the crown jewel of digital marketing. They help us keep people on our site and motivate them to act, which is what we wanted all along.