Website Optimizations to Boost Conversion Rates | CRO Best Practices (Part 5/5)
Your website is both your storefront and your store online. It is your presence and how customers perceive your website is critical in whether they decide to come in and buy something. Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) makes sure they do both!
This is the fifth part in our training guide on Conversion Rate Optimization Best Practices, a multi-part module on conversion rate optimization best practices as part of the Fundamentals course. If you are new to the series, you might ask, “what is conversion rate optimization?” In short, CRO is a way to use customer behavior data to better understand customers and thereby provide them with the most appropriate product offering while increasing profits.
CRO best practices are strategies that have been used successfully by other businesses to facilitate increases in number and quality of conversions. These are examples that should be used to kick-start the development of conversion optimization solutions, and because each business is unique, it should not be seen as solutions themselves.
This multi-part module on CRO best practices is designed to help guide you through this process.
In Part 4 we looked at the importance of optimizing product and service pricing on your website, tracking phone leads, and why home pages and landing pages are similar, yet different, and how they should be optimized.
For the fifth, and final, part of the Best Practices module in the Fundamentals course, we are going to look at how to give visitors to your website a better experience by making the site faster, how to optimize frequently asked questions, as well as how optimizing your website’s internal search can help increase conversions.
PART 5: Website Optimizations to Boost Conversion Rates
Website Speed Optimization
How fast your website loads onto visitors’ browsers can have a big effect on their probability of conversion. A slow or laggy site can negatively impact the user's experience and can result in them leaving your site for that of a competitor. Making sure your site runs at optimal speed is part of the conversion rate optimization process.
A site that loads quickly has several advantages:
- Better user experience
- Increased customer engagement
- Higher search ranking
- Higher conversion rates
Please note: This part of the best practices might get a little more technical than usual, but it is important to understand some of these basic concepts so you can make informed decisions.
Here’s what might slow down your site:
- Server performance
- Server location
- Lots of traffic
- Very large images (and complex file format)
- Code density
- Text graphics
- Too many file requests (RTTs)
- Too many plugins
- Unnecessary redirects
- An outdated CMS
The most popular ways to speed up a website are via front-end coding, caching, using CDNs, hosting on physical servers, or a combination of these.
- Front-end coding: Developers can write better, more concise, code that makes it easier for the browser to execute.
- Caching: This is when a copy of a website's files is stored by the browser on the user’s computer/device. The result is that the browser already has all the site elements upfront, and only has to download new or updated pages. This is particularly helpful on slow internet connections.
- Using a CDN (content delivery network or content distribution network): Virtual servers distributed all over a geographical area (usually closest to the visitor. These servers ensure that bandwidth is spread over the internet and that files are important site files are available no matter where you are in the world.
- Hosting on physical servers/VPS (Virtual Private Server): VPS’s are quickly gaining popularity among small- to medium enterprises due to the relatively low cost, but physical servers are still used to host websites.
All of these can be set up by front-end developers or IT systems administrators.
One of the best ways to check site speed is to draw a speed report on Google Analytics (under the ‘behavior/speed suggestions' tab). This will show you metrics related to the speed of your site, like average load speed, average page load time, server response time, and more.
The important metrics to consider include:
- Average Page Load Time: How many seconds to load the page fully? Pay special attention to high-traffic pages and those directly linked to your sales funnel.
- Document Interactive Time: The time it takes until the site is useable (above the fold). This is one of the most important metrics to consider.
- Pageviews: If your landing pages show poor speeds, you can focus on improving the ones that have the most page views.
- Number of page views: Exactly what it says. The higher the number, the better.
- Server response time: How long it takes for the server to send the site’s information to the browser. This should be under 200ms.
If the speed issue lies with the server, you can take the following steps:
- If you’re on a shared hosting service, consider upgrading to either a VPS or dedicated physical server.
- If you’re already using a dedicated server, upgrade hardware like RAM or CPUs.
- Talk to your hosting service for a solution.
Speed evaluation tools:
Many tools can help you to identify speed-related problems. These tools list issues or potential areas that can be improved — the more issues, the better the chance of increasing page speed.
Code improvement suggestion tools:
Load speed measurement tools:
Website speed test tools like Pingdom or GTmetrix identifies slow-loading script & pages so you can either have the code optimized or remove the page completely from your site.
These tools show you things like number of requests, load time, and the size (data) of your page, and can generate reports so you can identify which elements take too long to load and whether there are server-related issues, like taking too long to connect to the server, etc.
What speed is the best speed?
The ideal load speed for most sites is 2 seconds. This is the holy grail when it comes to optimization, however, load times of up to 7 seconds (10 max) still perform well. I
Ideally, your site should be so well designed that it doesn’t need an FAQ (frequently asked questions) page because it should be obvious how to use the site, how to get information, look for products or services, and how to buy them. Questions about pricing, features, or check-out should be answered by the respective pages, if not, then you need to find out why not, then fix it.
However, no matter how well designed your site is, there will always be visitors with questions. Customer service elements like live chat, whether it be operated by bots or actual people, are great for this role. Not only do they answer questions, they also allow engaging with the customer on a level that a static FAQ page can’t.
Internal search isn’t just for large websites like Amazon. If you sell more than 20 products or services, adding a search function might boost your conversion rate.
According to research people who use the search function on e-commerce sites tend to convert better. This is due to reasons like the following:
- People know exactly what they’re looking for and want to find it quickly.
- Some people use search out of habit.
It has to be noted that some product categories and sites lend themselves more to search than others, for instance, if you’re selling fashion, the chances are you’ll have a greater percentage search traffic than a car dealership. On a site like Amazon, the first thing most people do is search, while on Tesla’s site, they browse.
While those who use search on your site convert more, how many visitors actually use search, and what effect would an increase in this number have on the bottom line? For some, the result can be considerable.
Here’s a look at how to optimize search so more people will use it:
Placement is important, but bigger (search) bar is better:
To be most effective, the search bar should either be in the middle at the top or the top right corner of the page. The search bar or box should be big enough to draw the attention of visitors, and obvious enough that they know what it’s for.
It’s important that the search function isn’t a link to a search page, but a space where the user can type the search query directly.
Product images can increase conversions:
In some cases, adding images of products within the search window (usually suggestions while you type) can have a positive effect on the conversion rate for some sites. Look at whether this tactic will fit with your site’s design, and be very careful that these are not distracting or make searching difficult.
The best search applications include functions like auto-complete and suggestions, results despite typos, user-selected number of search results, and ways to avoid a “no results found” scenario. Netflix does this particularly well — if the exact movie or TV show you’re searching for isn’t available, it makes suggestions related to the particular movie or show.
Great search algorithm:
How your search handles queries is very important. Are the results accurate and relevant? Does it take into account phrases, not just individual words? These can have an impact on how the user experiences the site, and thus influence conversions.
While built-in search on CMS and e-commerce platforms like WordPress and Shopify are notoriously bad, there are several dedicated search service specialists that can greatly improve visitors’ search experience (and save you time and money to developing your own).
This concludes the Best Practices module of the Fundamentals course. In the next module we look at the intricacies of conversion copywriting, the critical role it plays in conversion rate optimization strategies, and the massive difference well-written copy can have on your bottom line.
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