May 13, 2016
3 Counterintuitive Conversion Hacks (Without Running a Single A/B Test)
Most A/B tests fail. They’re loaded with bias. They take too long to complete. And there’s a huge opportunity cost associated with running them (especially when so few pan out successfully). They’re also one of the online echo chamber’s favorite fetishes. And yet, most marketers probably shouldn’t bother. Starting with everyone currently getting less than 1000 monthly conversions; a good rule of thumb, according to Peep from ConversionXL. The good news is that there are a still variety of ways to increase conversions. Counterintuitively, you should turn your attention towards increasing _volume _instead of rates (because it’s often easier and more predictable). Here are three areas to start fixing this week.
1. Optimize organic and paid search
Search (both organic and paid) has been the number one driver of new customers for years. Mostly because it’s the last touch where people explicitly express intent to purchase something. The downside, is that both can get technically difficult. So you can nerd-out for hours without getting much accomplished if you’re not careful. The upside, is that both contain a ton of leverage if you know where to look. The 80⁄20 solution to power your 4-hour workweek. The metaphors are getting a bit mixed, but the point is to (a) identify and (b) quickly fix a few basics that could be dragging your performance in each area down. For example, a simple technical SEO audit might take you all of 5 minutes. And it can identify any bottlenecks that are limiting how successful your content is (or should be). Download Screaming Frog, and drop in your URL to get something that looks like the following: Here’s what you want to look for:
Response code 404: Typically broken links, that pop up from time to time because your web pages evolve, change, or move around over several years.
**Bad redirects: **Temporary (302) aren’t ideal (outside of the random social widgets on your site). Instead, if pages have been moved, make sure permanent (301) redirects are in place.
Duplicate or missing titles: Exactly what it sounds like. The Title Tag is one of the most important on-page elements telling search engines what they’re looking at. Problems here also usually indicate deeper issues (like if you have more sitewide duplicate content problems to worry about).
Duplicate or missing meta descriptions: Same as above, except meta descriptions matter less for ranking, and more for clickthrough rate (CTR) from organic search. Again, widespread missing or duplicate issues typically indicate you’ll need to dig a bit deeper.
Assuming you’re already performing basic content optimization (e.g. steering clear of duplicate content, basic keyphrase research and on-page optimization) making some of these technical fixes can unlock better rankings, higher visibility in search engines and more traffic in general. Now let’s turn our attention to paid search, specifically AdWords because it owns, well, the entire market. Every meaningful KPI you can think of derives from your quality score. (FYI, the costs you pay for Facebook Ads are also dictated by a similar “relevance score”). That means if you want more conversions, a better cost per conversion, better clickthrough rates, and lower cost per click…you need to raise your quality score! For example, start with your most popular keyphrases (i.e. impressions) that are suffering (i.e. low traffic or quality score number). You might need to add a new column to see quality score inline like this. Grab the most popular phrases and set them up in new, dedicated ad groups. Create new ads and landing pages focused specifically on those single keyphrases. Sounds easy and straightforward enough, right? Check out the results we saw after running through this simple exercise with one client:
Lead conversions went up 900%
Conversion rate increased from less than 1% to 26%
Cost per conversion reduced by 99%
Not too bad for a week’s worth of work!
2. Test many offers
A/B tests are useless when you have no idea what “right” is in the first place. For example: Software companies offer free trials. E-commerce offers discounts. And service companies offer free consultations. Universal truths like death & taxes. A/B testing elements on a page, when the value proposition sucks to begin with, is a fool’s errand. That realization led Larry Kim and WordStream to drop the basic free trial in favor of an AdWords Grader that gives people a breakdown (with visuals) of how they’re doing, how they compare, and what they need to do to do better. The impact? “This was a HUGE turning point for us. Prospects loved it and conversions went through the roof,” Larry said. Assuming your product or service isn’t a simple, cheap commodity, chances are you’ll need to interact a bit with customers prior to opt-in or purchase. These multi-event, multi-channel journeys are becoming the norm, as 50% of customer interactions follow this pattern already according to one study. I once had a client with a very commercial website. It was perfect for AdWords traffic who show intent to purchase immediately, and other people who arrive at the ‘bottom of the funnel’. To go along with it, they had retargeting ads set up that still focused on the sales lead opt-in. But what about…everyone else? Like the 90-98% of your website traffic who’s not going to purchase on their first visit? To solve this, we created a simple calculator for those who want basic info, but aren’t ready for the purchase (or to be sold to just yet). Then we changed the remarketing ads to focus on this different offer and value proposition. These changes resulted in a cost per click reduction of 62%. Sure, it’s not a sales-ready lead. But it’s a start. And it opens the funnel to give you a chance to start nurturing more people over time. Which brings us to number three.
3. Send emails at strategic times, automatically
Way back in 2011, Gartner research said using event-triggered techniques delivered a 600% lift over standard outbound ones. Fast forward a few years, and most (79% according to one study) of top-performing companies use marketing automation. The Annuitas Group also reported that nurtured leads go on to make 47% larger purchases (vs. un-nurtured ones). And Autopilot found that companies using marketing automation generate 2x as many leads as those with just basic email software. So… What are you waiting for? If it’s a few ideas, you’re in luck. Here are a couple simple email workflows you can (and should) set up over the next few days. 1. Onboarding (or welcome series): Most prospects require at least 7 touches before they even know who you are (or pay attention to what you say). If you’ve done the first two tips listed here, you should start seeing more top of the funnel leads. Use a simple onboarding or welcome series to nurture leads until they’re ready to buy. **2. Abandonment: **You know when your wife adds a bunch of stuff to your Amazon cart, but doesn’t buy anything, and then they blow you up over the next few days? No?! Just me? Abandonment emails can help catch those people that fall through the cracks. 3. Post sale: Continue building trust, lower buyer’s remorse, and even upsell or cross-sell new stuff with a few automated messages once someone converts or opts-in. For example, this simple sequence of four emails was sent to hotel visitors who just checked out, with the goal of encouraging more referrals and reviews on sites like TripAdvisor (which help boost future new reservations). It doesn’t need to be anything overly complex. This took maybe a day or two to set-up. You just need a simple tool that can help you grab data from one app (like your Point of Sale system) and send it to another app (like your email marketing one) to optimize the entire customer journey, thus increasing conversions & sales.
A/B testing is sexy. It’s also super time consuming. Often error-prone. And should only be practiced by people who have over 1,000 monthly conversions already. You know what’s not sexy? Digging through old URLs and fixing outdated pages. Creating new ad groups focused on single-keyphrases. Iterating on different value propositions. And setting up email campaigns. But they’re effective. And more predictably successful than most A/B tests ever are.