Small, Site-Wide Conversion Changes To The Rescue

Ever feel like a marketing castaway? You know what I mean: you want to improve conversion rates, but your site is trapped on a desert-island CMS and surrounded by hostile IT and C-level natives. The budget supply is running low and the only site elements within your reach are a few global images and CSS styles. Should you go for it? Are such small changes worth doing? Yes. Here’s why, and where to start.

The shipwreck

In my experience, many successful conversion optimization projects come down to fixing what can be fixed, rather than everything that should be fixed. You should overhaul your site design so it doesn’t look like a refugee from the 90’s. You should change out the CMS, content hosting and server settings so your site responds more quickly than peanut butter in a snowstorm. But due to monetary or political restraints, none of those things is going to happen this year, or possibly even next.

Or, you should take the rogue approach: gather a team and work nights and weekends to create stand-alone landing pages or a micro-site to prove the concept of conversion rate optimization. But where do you get enough traffic—the right kind of traffic—for a timely, statistically significant test? With what budget? And the list of things that can’t be done goes on and on.

At this point, marketing despair would be understandable. But all it means is that it’s time to get creative, and make do with what you have.

The waterproof match

Site-wide CRO takes a particular kind of mindset. Instead of limiting ourselves to a single test page, we have to think systemically. We look for individual elements that are both common enough and influential enough to have a strong aggregate effect when updated. Items that aren’t too difficult or politically “hot” to change. We establish broad success metrics—site-wide registrations, cart additions and sales—while still tracking other, more granular stats when it’s valuable and makes sense.

Once you look at your site this way, opportunities begin present themselves. The places we often start are the following:

  • Button styles
  • Call to action styles
  • Headline styles
  • Grouping and separation styles (lines, backgrounds, buffer space)
  • Link indication styles
  • Form styles
  • Removal of distracting items
  • Insertion of key promotions & messaging

The signal fire

The elements listed above are pretty basic, but the results we’ve seen from changing them site-wide can be very exciting. For example, in the following client project we had this outcome:

We made: ~15 small site-wide changes

Result: a 20% increase in conversion rate (site-wide sales). Millions in incremental revenue.

If that doesn’t make you want to run off and start a conversion fire on your own site, well, it should.

The rescue helicopter

Of course, once you’re ready to move forward with a site-wide CRO test, the practicalities must be addressed. How, exactly, do you enable changes across all pages of a site, while maintaining a consistent experience for each visitor? Agile companies with strong data analysis skills and relatively low reporting requirements can get away with running a serial A/B test—simply making changes live, then comparing results with past performance. But this approach just isn’t feasible or recommended for most organizations.

We’ve used several different solutions, but for this particular project we employed the SiteSpect platform. SiteSpect allowed us to target specific items site-wide via an admin interface, without having to go into the code and surround each element with identifier tags. We were also able to segment traffic easily.

The flight

Here, then, are examples of the 15 or so specific changes we made for this client’s site, resulting in the 20% increase in conversion rate:

Change example #1: Bigger, clearer buttons

One thing I love about buttons is that while they’re a powerful conversion lever, they’re usually super-easy to change and don’t invite the drama or controversy of, say, a home page image or header design. Tell a VP you want to change the site navigation bar, and chaos erupts. Tell them you want to change how a few buttons look, and the likely response is, “Meh, buttons? Sure, whatever.”

For this project, we made all of the main call to action buttons larger and more prominent. These simple changes impacted every sub-category page, every single product page, every cart view, every process step on the site, and the effect added up:

Better buttons

Change example #2: Smaller, less obtrusive buttons

Not all buttons are equally important, of course. For example, this client’s cart page included buttons to remove products from the cart. We wanted this functionality to be available but visually de-emphasized so it didn’t distract visitors from the primary task flow. Here’s the update we made:

Smaller buttons

Change example #3: Clearer content hierarchy and grouping

On a number of pages, the content clarity suffered from poor visual hierarchy. We targeted headings—adding them where needed and increasing their visibility. The visual change was accomplished with a simple CSS style update. In one case—the cart page, we also changed the copy itself:

Headings style change

In this next example, we inserted a subheading on every product detail page. The new subheading visually grouped together the product options and made the page content easier to scan and understand.

OLD product options display—no sub-heading:

Product options - old

NEW product options display—with sub-heading:

Options grouping - new

Change example #4: Add motivating promotions

Many companies don’t do a very good job of promoting valuable offers. In this case, the client offered free shipping and a wonderful return guarantee policy—but neither were visible enough on the site to be useful. We inserted a promotional icon that persisted across the cart and checkout section of the site:

Site promo addition

Change example #5: Remove extraneous stuff around the cart and checkout

In this case I don’t have a visual for you, but imagine a typical 3-column e-commerce CMS layout. In the left rail—a long, long list of product navigation and specials. In the right rail—a mini-cart, news mentions, social media links, and a photo of the CEO. On the cart and checkout pages, we simply removed as much as possible from both rails, visually cleaning up the conversion pathway.

The sweet, sweet airport tarmac

The upshot? If you’re stuck with few optimization options, consider giving small, site-wide changes a try. Conversion rescue might be closer than you think.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Analytics | Search & Conversion


About The Author: is co-author of the popular book Web Design for ROI and VP UX of Closed Loop Marketing, an online marketing agency that's been making websites more profitable since 2001.

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