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Q&A With Conversion Guru Stephen Pavlovich
Today, some insights from Stephen Pavlovich at Conversion Factory. He’s a very experienced conversion rate optimizer. I specifically focused on questions around how to persuade clients to actually start testing and to make radical tests. Let’s dive in!
Tom: Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get into conversion rate optimization (CRO)?
Stephen: I actually started out as an SEO. I was working as a one-man SEO department for a photo printing company. We’d reached the point where we were ranking as well as we possibly could for all of our main keywords.
I had a choice: either go after broader less-relevant keywords, or focus on converting more visitors to customers.
I chose conversion—and within three months, the company’s revenue had increased six times over. Now I focus exclusively on maximizing my clients’ conversion rates.
There are a gazillion tools out there for different aspects of CRO, from gathering feedback to running tests and tracking data. What’s your perfect setup of tools?
It’s easy to get overloaded with tools. You need to build your tool arsenal to help you:
- Understand what’s happening on the site
- Find out why visitors aren’t converting
- Test the impact of page and site changes
To find out what’s happening on the site, use tools like Google Analytics, Crazy Egg and ClickTale. Crazy Egg is brilliant for discovering clicks on inactive elements—this indicates that your visitors want more information on that element.
Next you need to know why visitors aren’t converting. Here, the best tools are ones that help you understand your customers better: tools like Kampyle, 4Q and KISSinsights. With these tools, you can fall into the trap of relying on numbers and pie charts. The best insight you’ll get comes from your visitors’ own words, not from multiple choice questions.
And finally, you’ll need a platform like Google Website Optimizer to carry out split-tests. Most companies will be fine with GWO—but if you need more advanced functionality like segmented tests, try tools like Vertster or Omniture Test & Target. (The site whichmvt.com will help you find the platform that’s right for you.)
Clients often approach me thinking that CRO is simply a case of changing the color or size of buttons. How do you go about persuading them otherwise?
Conversion rate optimization is a two stage process: find out why your customers aren’t converting, then fix it. That’s it. It’s unlikely that visitors aren’t converting because the “Buy” button is green instead of blue. The trouble is that people are always looking for shortcuts, and misinformation like “Blue buttons convert 14% better than green buttons” can turn into “best practice”. It can have an impact… but you probably won’t double a site’s conversion rate by tweaking the buttons. Instead, you need to speak to your visitors to find out what’s stopping them converting (it’s rarely the buttons.)
Your website says you love to work in competitive verticals like gambling, weight loss, insurance etc. How do you find CRO in competitive verticals like these? Are there any unique challenges which come with these industries?
There’s a huge amount of opportunity in industries like gaming, weight loss and finance. At the moment, the traffic is fiercely competitive, but there aren’t many companies in these industries that are doing conversion rate optimization well. The first ones to nail both traffic and conversion stand to make a lot of money.
But you’re right—there are challenges too. These are normally centered on the limitations of the technology that these sites are using. If you can’t split-test a change in the registration or purchase process, it can make it hard to increase the conversion rate… But that just means there’s more opportunity for the ones that do.
I’ve worked on CRO for various different clients and the biggest challenge I face is persuading clients to make drastic changes to their site. How do you go about persuading clients to implement or test drastic changes?
You’ll normally get the biggest improvements by testing big changes. So if you’re limited to little tests—changing the color of buttons and moving images around—you’re going to be limiting your conversion rate. But it’s understandable that some companies are nervous about making big changes. To get around this, start with a small but meaningful test. Find out what’s stopping visitors converting, then look at ways to overcome those objections without changing the site too much. Try making a guarantee more prominent, adding captions for images or demonstrating the benefit in using this site rather than a competitor.
The worst case scenario is that you lowered the conversion rate for a few days while the test was running. The best case scenario is you increase the conversion rate—and get buy-in for more advanced tests.
Following on from the previous point, large companies often take a long time to get anything done. What are the best things to test or change without massive development work?
Stephen: Here are three tips for working with large companies:
- Start small—Like we were saying, choose meaningful tests that can be implemented quickly. Then use this to:
- Get management buy-in—If management can see how much you’re increasing sales, they’ll make sure you’re not held back by limited resources.
- Use the right testing platform—Some platforms like Google Website Optimizer can increase the workload for a large company, as it requires you to tag each test individually. Instead, try out platforms like Vertster that you just tag once with a sitewide piece of code—just like adding Google Analytics.
You don’t blog too much, but when you do it’s very well received (see The Definitive How-To Guide For Conversion Rate optimization). When’s your next post planned?
Thanks. We’re focusing on client-work at the moment, but I’ll be posting more advice soon. Subscribers to the ConversionFactory.com mailing list will be the first to know about new content.
Thanks again to Stephen for agreeing to answer my questions for this interview and providing these great responses! I strongly recommend everyone to sign up to his newsletter at conversionfactory.com.
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