These Tests Can Help You to Optimize Your Website

It’s not enough just to have a website, you need to make sure your website is optimized to achieve the goals you would like.

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is the term for the testing and tweaking of elements on your website in order to get more of the results that you want. CRO is a great way to find gains, even for things you may not have thought of.

Importantly, it should be a methodical process. Sometimes businesses throw things at a website to see what sticks, but often miss elements that might give even better results. If you’re embarking on a testing program, we always suggest that you start out by identifying the goals and micro-goals that contribute to success first. 

With that said, here are a few testing ideas that can optimize your website:

Heat mapping

Heat mapping is a visualization tool that shows in graphical form what visitors do on your website. The most popular elements on the page will show as “hot” (for example, areas that visitors typically read or buttons they click on), while the least-used elements will show up as being “cold.”

Heat mapping allows you to understand at a glance how people interact with your website. You can see where they click, where they scroll, and any areas that they ignore. You can find several tools that help with website heat mapping reviewed on sites like Capterra and G2. (Note: These are great sites for giving you an overview and comparison of all sorts of software and tools.)

How exactly does heat mapping help you with conversion rate optimization? You’d be surprised at what people pay attention to and what they don’t. You might find that the thing you most want highlighted is largely being ignored. Maybe it’s in a position that people don’t really look at. Heat mapping gives you clues as to what your ideal layout should be in order to get people taking the action you would like.

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Visitor recording

Visitor recording means that you can record and play back the interactions that website visitors have with your site. It records exactly how they scroll, where they click, what they type, and how they navigate.

A huge benefit to conversion rate optimization is that you can see how real users interact with your website (rather than making assumptions based on user testing or on how you would use it yourself). This means you can look for patterns. For example, are there common areas where people get stuck? Can you discover any bugs you may not have been aware of?

Visitor recording is great for discovering potential issues, but also for testing out any time you believe you’ve made an improvement. You can look at the visitor recordings and check – did changing a layout or making a bug fix work?

Again, there are a number of tools that you can install on your website that will do visitor recording and you can find those reviewed on Capterra or G2.

A/B testing

A/B testing is a methodology that is used to test out one version of something (A) against another (B). This means that A/B testing can be applied to any number of elements on your website, from perfecting headline copy to finding the optimum layout that gets conversions.

A/B testing should always start with an end goal. For example, it might be something like “which headline gets more people signing up to our email list?” It’s also important to only change one element at a time, this way you can be more certain that it was that one change that made a difference. You should start out by already knowing your baseline result (e.g. “we usually get 50 sign ups per week”) so that you can understand if any real difference was made.

Another condition of A/B testing is that you need to determine a fair amount of time to run the testing. A good A/B test does take time because you want to make sure that you aren’t relying on outlier results. This can happen if you test around a busy season for your business – you might naturally get more traffic around Black Friday and this could skew your test results. It’s also important that you run both variables at the same time so that you run the test fairly. So in simple terms, 50% of visitors would be shown version A while the other 50% would be shown version B.

A/B testing is another type of test you can run by installing software that helps you set it up. (Alternatively, you can hire services that set it up for you.)

Site speed and accessibility

Site speed (or page speed) refers to the load time of a sample of pages on your website. In terms of conversion rate optimization, this is a factor to stay on top of as slow site speed is a known cause for visitors to abandon your website. You should test your site regularly to look out for any increases in site speed. Testing tools like Pingdom will analyze your speed and give you a report highlighting any bottlenecks found.

Website accessibility refers to designing your website so that people of varying abilities can use them. To give just a few examples, consider if someone is deaf, color blind, has other visual impairments, or has disabilities that affect their hands. You wouldn’t want your website to be difficult to operate.

W3 describes web accessibility as addressing all disabilities that affect access, including:

  • auditory
  • cognitive
  • neurological
  • physical
  • speech
  • visual

How can you check the accessibility of your website? For one thing, the Web Accessibility Initiative provides guidelines that you can check and follow. And there are tools that can scan your website and provide a report. Ace is one that is free.

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Interpreting results

It can be tempting to take results at face value and dive right into making changes to your website. We always suggest analyzing a bit deeper to ensure that results are accurate and not skewed by other factors.

Direct interpretation of results depends upon the type of testing you have done, but here are general points to break down and then interpret results:

  • If you can, segment results in ways that make sense. For example, by customer type or by the type of device used to access your website.
  • Remember that a “win” by a small margin might not be a real win. This could be an example of a test that is worth re-doing to see if you still get similar results.
  • Compare your results to any qualitative research (such as surveying) you have done, as well as your own hypothesis. 
  • Always check that you’ve collected enough data to make an analysis before stopping a test. If your website doesn’t have a large amount of traffic, you might need to test over a longer period.
  • Note any external factors that might impact your test results. For example, if you ran a new ad campaign targeting a particular group at the same time.
  • Check against core and secondary goals. A secondary goal might be something like “to get people to click through to page X.”

Testing best practices for lead generation

While we wouldn’t say there are any “shortcuts” when it comes to testing and conversion rate optimization, your end goal can definitely make a difference. It means that you might take an educated “guess” and go straight to the type of testing that is more likely to give you results related to that goal.

If your goal is lead generation, A/B testing is one of the most common methods (after ensuring you don’t have any website performance issues, such as with site speed, that is!). Some top things to test for lead generation include:

  • Your value proposition. Why should people sign up to your email list? Does changing how it is worded make a difference?
  • The position and method of your “ask.” Do pop-ups across the screen work better than a scrolling form? 
  • Your title or headline. You can A/B test one against another.
  • The number/type of fields in your forms. (As a general rule, less is more when you want to convince people to sign up.)

Testing best practices for online sales

If you want to improve your online sales, it’s important to understand where any roadblocks might be happening that prevent people from going through with a purchase. This can start right from your home page. If you have confusing navigation or a search function that doesn’t give relevant results, then people can be tripped up before they’ve even started. These are the kinds of things you can learn from visitor recording or heat mapping.

Getting into the actual process of the sale, identify at which point you’re losing the most people. Checkout optimization is crucial for getting sales, but there are also some well-known roadblocks that cause cart abandonment. If your process is otherwise smooth, some top factors to look at include:

  • Being surprised by costs (like shipping and taxes). You might want to test how you present shipping – does it make a difference to increase prices slightly and give “free shipping?”
  • Having to create an account to checkout. If you have this in place, try out offering guest checkout, then a quick way to sign up for an account after checking out.
  • The complexity of the checkout process. Where people can’t see their progress and seem to be filling out too many form fields, they often abandon the cart.

Final thoughts

Your website is the front door to your business online, but you need it to do more than look pretty. A business website should be effective and help to facilitate business goals – to do this, it needs to be optimized for those aims.

Conversion rate optimization is an ongoing process and testing your site regularly can help you to keep on top of optimization best practices. It’s fair to say that things change – new features become available or customer expectations change according to the technology available. Your business needs to keep up in order to have a website that delivers.
Could you use help with CRO for your website? Talk to us about what we can do today.

Zach Luse

Hi! I'm Zach the founder of Paragon Digital Marketing. I'm an adventure seeking entrepreneur with a passion for digital marketing and analytics. I've been knee deep in search marketing and web development for well over a decade, working with large corporations, small business and nonprofits. I'm certifiable... a certified sailing instructor, nitrox certified scuba diver, Google Adwords Certified, Google Analytics Certified, Inbound Marketing Certified and I aim to be a certified kite surfer soon.

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