Beyond A/B Testing: Strategic Conversion Optimization For B2B Websites

When it comes to conversion rate optimization (CRO) for B2B sites, A/B testing is a great place to start — but it’s only one tactic in what should be a site-wide strategy.

B2C and e-commerce sites are largely focus on improving their product pages to boost transactions. However, as I mentioned in my previous article about the relationship between organic search and conversion, B2B sales don’t have the same immediacy. Because it’s a much longer sales cycle, the focus tends toward a deeper level of engagement.

conversions_shutterstockB2B engagement strategies should take a holistic approach to continuous site improvement. After all, CRO not only affects the way users interact with your site, but also how they perceive your brand itself.

Done right, conversion optimization takes into account all your brand’s marketing channels, both interactive and traditional. Doing so creates a seamless experience that offers opportunities for more meaningful interactions and greater embedment in your customers’ lives.

What Does Conversion Optimization Mean For B2B?

The goal of CRO is to improve the user experience and increase the chances of conversion by implementing changes driven by data, not opinion. When testing potential improvements, the goal may be to improve user engagement with content or navigation, increase clicks or interactions with a specific element (such as a form or downloadable asset), reduce bounce rates, or direct the user’s attention to a desired element.

But before diving into conversion optimization methodologies, we should first address the ways in which to use our primary CRO tools: analysis and testing.

cro process

Conversion optimization process

Analyze Accurately

User behavior continues to change as technology evolves, which is why ongoing testing and analysis are essential to keeping your site serviceable and effective. As I mentioned earlier, A/B testing can be a powerful tool for gauging your audience’s preferences. Before you implement any tests, though, you should analyze your current site.

Heatmaps are one of the most effective ways to monitor user interactions and behavior on your site. Eye-tracking studies used to be the gold standard for web usability testing; but, once it was discovered that clicks have an 84-88% correlation to eye movement, heatmaps became the tool of choice. Plus, heatmapping is far more affordable than eye-tracking, which means it can be applied to a larger sample audience. Of course, you should also employ analytics data to support the insight your heatmaps yield.

Simple user surveys are another way to validate your findings. By reaching out directly to capture your users’ subjective experiences, you can get their unfiltered thoughts on what works and what doesn’t. When combined with your heatmaps, you’ll have a thorough, detailed picture of your site’s overall usability.

Test Before You Leap

When you’re redesigning your entire site, or a large section of it, testing won’t apply until it’s up and running. Use the analytics gathered from your old site to inform the design of the new one. Then, when you’re ready to fine-tune, you can A/B test specific elements.

A/B testing is useful for answering design questions such as, should this button be red or green? Big or small? At the top or bottom of the page? Or, in the case of engagement elements such as embedded forms, A/B tests can help determine whether or not certain checkboxes should be pre-selected or certain fields should be pre-filled. Try adding or removing specific site elements to see if they have any effect on user behavior or conversion.

Really, you can test anything. Just be careful to focus on a single variable at a time or your results may become muddy. And then, always follow up with further analysis and heatmapping to confirm your resulting course of action.

Applying CRO To Site Strategy

In addition to influencing your site’s design and content, your CRO efforts should also be tailored to the specific persona types that compose your audience. The B2C audience can often be characterized as a single persona: the end-user.

For B2B sites, this is rarely the case. Interactions by users across different marketing channels may be similar, but their motivational drivers are not. Make sure your testing and analyses take these varying factors into account.

Optimize Across All Channels

CRO can be applied to a wide variety of interactive and traditional marketing channels. This includes:

  • Website strategy
  • SEO metadata and keywords
  • PPC and social media landing pages
  • Email content and landing pages
  • Traditional marketing collateral

Any channel that directs users toward online content can be optimized for conversion by applying analysis and testing to the related landing pages. Data gathered from other marketing channels offer additional insight into how you can expect users to behave on your website. B2B sites tend to have a high rate of returning visitors, so users captured through email or social media are likely to become frequent site users, as well.

Optimizing landing pages for other marketing channels will provide a general direction for the website, and optimizing the landing pages on the site will help direct the approach you take to other marketing channels. The result is a consistently rewarding user experience and improved engagement.

How CRO Can Shape Your Brand

Sometimes, discoveries made through CRO testing and analysis can affect a brand’s trajectory. Take, for example, a company that swaps out its online distributor directory for a contact form. When testing reveals that more distributors are contacted through the contact form than through the directory, there’s a sales culture shift because now users are directed to a distributor rather than selecting their own.

In many cases, B2B companies center their sites on heavy branding rather than conversion. Analysis and testing may show that a greater focus on conversion is better for generating business in the long-run. Or it may even offer insight into alternative brand marketing and messaging options.

The best thing about conversion optimization is that it’s ongoing. By continually monitoring, testing and analyzing your site, you always have data to guide the changes you choose to implement. And by continuously improving your site to better engage and serve your users, your customer base will only continue to grow.

 (Stock image via Shutterstock.com. Used under license.)

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

Related Topics: B2B Search Marketing Column | Channel: SEO

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About The Author: is the SEO and Web Analyst at The Mx Group — a Chicago-based full service B2B integrated marketing and sales upport agency. He specializes in SEO, paid search, analytics, usability analysis, information architecture, conversion optimization, and content marketing.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



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