9 Conversion Rate Experts Give Tips to Improve Your CRO

by Hunter Liptrap   Last Updated Last Updated on Jun 11, 2015
Hunter Liptrap

Conversion Rate Experts Give You Tips to Increase Your Conversion Rates

Knowing that conversion rate optimization exists is good.

Knowing that you should be testing your website is great.

Knowing a few of the best tips from conversion rate experts is invaluable.

Today, we are going to take a look at 9 tips from 9 different conversion rate experts to help you...

  • Steer your efforts in the right direction
  • Correct your plan if you're going off-course and
  • Provide you insight into why your previous efforts are not generating the results that you want (or they are inconsistent at best).

Without further ado, let's get into it...

Bonus: Download our 52-point Landing Page Design Guide as a PDF. Easily save it to your computer or print for reference anytime.

Tip #1: Conversion optimization is a process

Tweet: "If you’re focusing on tactics, you’re doing it wrong." - @peeplaja

Peep Laja, the man who runs ConversionXL, says you have to be able to describe what you’re doing as a process (when it comes to CRO at least).

So, what is Peep's process you ask? Here's the scoop:

  1. First, Peep looks through the site and marks down areas of ‘friction’ (ie. places where he thinks the user may get confused and, therefore, not convert).
  2. Then, compare these notes with actual data.  Which data you ask?  Well, one great set of data is from the user behavior report on Google Analytics.  Look on each page that you’re interested in improving conversion on and see what links people click.  Compare this behavior to the friction that you noted in step one above.
  3. Create a treatment to address the problem you found.
  4. Test it. Make sure you throw enough data to be statistically valid (i.e. 95%+ confidence).
  5. Often, when you test it, the ‘Treatment’ will perform worse than the previous version.
  6. Continue to iterate.  Often, the big result only comes on the 3rd or 4th try.
  7. Look at your results by specific user segments (e.g. new users vs. returning users; users that came via PPC ads vs. Organic) and you will often find that your Treatment is better at specific segments.

This is an important lesson taken from Peep's process… "Averages Lie!  The average of an 18 year old girl and a 50-year old guy does not mean that your users are a 34-year old hermaphrodite!”

Tip #2: Don’t Overvalue Design

This golden nugget is courtesy of Neil Patel and Joseph Putnam from their collaboration on the definitive guide to conversion optimization.

Tweet: "Contrary to popular belief, there are lots of ugly sites that are doing quite well" - @neilpatel

In fact they are making billions of dollars. Craigslist ring any bells?

Of course it does, but what is the lesson to be learned from this?

Don't fall in love with design. Just don't do it. An ugly design that converts is better than a fabulous design that doesn't.

Quite often, design is the first thing that marketers will want to change to be more "modern" or convey a different "feel." Design is rarely the leading factor in conversions.

However, that isn't to say design doesn't matter at all. Here are a few things to keep in mind...

  • The positioning of key pieces of information, such as your value proposition, social proof and form can make a difference.
  • Big changes lead to big wins. If you only tweak your design, then your conversion rate will be limited to the current version of your site.

If you test a completely different design of your website, then you will be able to find the best performing design and make smaller, gradual changes from there.

Tip #3: figuring out where to test first with pie

Chris Goward, the man who once said, "You Should Test That," shared his methodology for choosing which landing pages to test.

Tweet - "Consider 3 criteria to prioritize which pages to test: Potential, Importance and Ease" - @chrisgoward

PIE for short.

First, start with Potential.

How much improvement can be made on the pages? Although I’ve yet to find a page without some potential for improvement, you can’t test everywhere at once and you should prioritize your worst performers. This should take into account your web analytics data, customer data and expert heuristic analysis of user scenarios.

Second, evaluate Importance.

How valuable is the traffic to the pages? Your most important pages are the ones with the highest volume and the costliest traffic. You may have identified pages that perform terribly, but if they don’t have significant volume of costly traffic, they aren’t testing priorities.

Third and finally, test Ease.

How complicated will the test be to implement on the page or template? The final consideration is the degree of difficulty a test will take to get running on a page, which includes technical implementation and organizational or political barriers. The less time and resources you need to invest for the same return, the better. This includes both technical and “political” ease. A page that would be technically easy may have many stakeholders or vested interests that can cause barriers. I’m looking at you, home page.

You can quantify each of your potential opportunities based on these criteria to create your test priority list.

Here's an example of what a list rated on the PIE criteria may look like from Chris Goward:

PIE CRO experts

The final column (PIE) is an average of the first 3 three columns that will help you sort the priority of your tests.

Tip #4: Start working with hypotheses, instead of guesses

Tweet - "The quality of your copywriting will ultimately be measured by the effect it has on conversions" - @ContentVerve

Michael Aagaard

If you are working as a copywriter on a conversion optimization project, it is important that the changes you propose are informed solutions to real problems – and not just arbitrary guesses.

In my experience, ideas for copy treatments that come about on a whim usually lead to poor results. You can, of course, get lucky and stumble into something that works, but in the long term, it’s really not a winning strategy.

Formulating a hypothesis will help you scrutinize your ideas and evaluate how likely they are to have an actual impact on the decisions and actions of your prospects. In the long run, this can save you a lot of time and money and help you achieve better results.

To form a solid hypothesis, you need to go through four basic steps:

1. Determine the relevant conversion goal(s)

2. Identify a problem and formulate a problem statement

3. Develop a specific solution

4. Articulate the results you expect to see from implementing the proposed solution.

Tip #5: The Short Pitch

Remember the print ads from the 60s? If not, watch a season of Mad Men.

These ads utilized what you might call 'the short pitch.' Ads were dominated with a visual, a headline and a paragraph of microscopic text.

Lucky Strike - CRO Experts

While these ads still exist today, they have found a new home in landing page design for conversions.

Tweet - "The page is the product... sell it." - @portentint

Ian Lurie, CEO and founder of Portent Inc., wants you to sell the page.

Think about it. When a visitor is on your landing page, they aren't buying your product or service yet. Instead, they are buying your page. Visitors must see the return on time invested (ROTI) in your page before they begin to care about your product or service.

So, how do you address a visitor's need for ROTI?

They better know what is happening on the page immediately and follow up it up with information to support it. You have two seconds to assure a visitor they aren't wasting their time before they bounce.

What does this mean to you?

You have to sell your page at the top. For this reason, the real estate above the fold when it comes to website design is invaluable.

Let's take a look at an example headline:

"Buy our stuff! It's Awesome!"

What is your response to that? It should be, "Who cares, I'm out of here.". A headline like the one above doesn't provide any ROTI, it sends the message this page is a waste of time.

In order to sell your page at the top, your headline has to provide ROTI by either 1) providing an insight into the end result the customer wants, 2) creating a sense or urgency with a specific time period, or 3) addressing a main objection. The best headlines will find a way to use more than one of these to create a headline that entices the visitor to stick around long enough to care about your product or service.

A simple headline formula you can follow is from Brian Dean. He proposed the formula for blog posts, but it can be used anywhere...

[End Result Customer Wants] + [Specific Time Period] + [Address Main Objection]

Following this formula a great title for this blog post would be something like this...

"11 Conversion Rate Optimization Tips That Will Help You Boost Your Leads Next Month From CRO Experts"

I was able to address the end result the reader is looking for [Conversion Rate Optimization Tips], provide a timeframe [Next Month], and main objection [From CRO Experts], cause nobody wants to be told what to do from someone they feel is beneath them.

Here's a real life example that follows the short pitch tip:

Short Pitch Example - CRO ExpertThe headline doesn't exactly follow the formula from above, but it does follow a huge part of it...

The major objection.

The headline is one big statement to social proof.

In the business app world, social proof is what can make the difference between a buy or a  bounce.

Tip #6: Messaging Hierarchy

Joanna Wiebe doesn't pull any punches. She hasn't been afraid to drop an f-bomb in her copy and tells it like it is. I like her.

[Tweet "“instead of writing your message, steal it.” - @copyhackers"]

Position your message in a way that creates an intuitive understanding of message importance for the reader.

Myth 1...

Place message in order.

The truth...

Recall - CRO expert

The most important points should go at the top and bottom of a list.

The middle of a list is often over looked.

Myth 2...

Just make it bold.

The truth...

Place important messages near an image and less important messages everywhere else.

Work with where the eye naturally goes.

If you need help figuring out where the eye goes naturally, use the squint test.

The squint test is performed exactly how you would think it is. Pull up the page in question on your monitor and squint. Mind blowing, I know.

What ever sticks out to you while the page is blurry from your squinting is where your eye will naturally be drawn.

Myth 3...

That looks cluttered!

The truth...

Switching fonts, colors and sizes offends our design principlss, but not the customer's.

Meaning? It's OK to do this kind of variation (within reason). Even highlighting text is acceptable.

Tip #7: Turn an Image into a Landing Page Power Up

Tweet - "Images are a powerful way to convey your value proposition" - @bmassey

This is one of the lastest tips to be featured from Brian Massey, the conversion scientist.

Images are a powerful way to convey your value proposition – the unique reason that a visitor should consider your offer.

Images draw the eye. When your visitors first arrive, these are the elements that get seen first as they scan the page. Images can immediately answer the first question your prospects have: “Am I in the right place to get what I’m looking for?”

Here's how to test if your landing page is telling the right story...

  1. Take the images on your landing page and separate them from the copy. You can put them in a Google Doc, Photoshop, Canva or just pull them down as JPEGs.
  2. Ask a stranger, or someone in the office not involved in the project, to write a caption for each image.
  3. See if the strangers caption matches the message you were trying to convey on the page.
  4. If the caption doesn't match the message, then you need a new a image.

Here's what you can do to find a better image for conversions...

  1. Use real people when possible — employees, clients and spokespeople are great choices. Even "fake" real people are better than "stock" people.
  2. Use text on the image and as a caption to advance your value proposition.
  3. Design images that support the copy on the page.
  4. Direct the gaze of people in images to offers, forms or other important parts of the page. This creates a strong directional force for your eye to follow.
  5. If you're really into landing pages, do this: Spend as much time on your images as you do on your copy.

Tip #8: Landing page specific — Don't Make Me Think

Tweet - "The Attention Ratio of your landing pages should be 1 to 1" - @oligardner

This is a tip Oli Gardner has given on more than one occasion, including on CRO day. It is the single most valuable piece of advice to keep in mind when trying to improve your conversion rates. (That was on April 9th, if you missed it. check it out. I'm sure there are some recordings of all the webinars hosted by conversion rate experts around the web somewhere.)

The ratio of links on a landing page to the number of campaign conversion goals is the Attention Ratio of your page. In an optimized campaign, your attention ratio should be 1:1. Because every campaign has one goal, every corresponding landing page should have only one call-to-action – one place to click.

Take a listen to Oli explain this tip in person. (It's a short 30 second video.)

While I said this was landing page specific, and it kind of is, that doesn't mean you can't apply the concept of attention ratio through out your entire website to increase conversions.

For example, put yourself in your buyer shoes...

You just landed on your website's home page.

There are probably twenty to sixty links that the visitor can click on (if you include the footer links)

Among these links is the one link you really want them to click on that would take a visitor to your highest converting web page that they would really find valuable.

"Click here to download your free guide today!" (or something like that)

But, what are the odds they click on that one? About one to however many links are on that page.

Now, you can skew that by making that particular link stand out more, like a good CTA should, but it's good to keep this in mind...

The fewer distractions there are, the higher conversion rates will be.


Tip #9: LANDING PAGE SPECIFIC: Expand KPIs Beyond “Traditional” Conversions

Tweet - "It might be paradoxical, but the easiest way to fail in CRO is to obsess over your conversions" - @tim_ash

Tim Ash is a wise man. You'd know that if you read his book, "Landing Page Optimization."

Naturally, when you are working on CRO, one of your KPIs is going to be your conversion rate. However, that is not the only KPI worth tracking.

Your conversion rate is only one metric. It's a metric that doesn't tell you visitor intent, bounce rates and why users drop off without converting.

Now, maybe you question that logic, but think about this: you can easily increase conversion rates by eliminating all non-converting traffic or cutting prices. While both ideas will increase your conversion rate, neither of these will bring you more money or lead you to be considered smart.

In order for your CRO efforts to work, you have to see the big picture. Know what pages you want people to land on and the conversion path they should take. Then, look at what they are actually doing.


Here's the overview of these 9 tips if you can't remember all of that:

  1. Conversion optimization isn't about tactics, it's about process.
  2. Design isn't the end all be all in conversion rate optimization. Often, it's best to start with the copy.
  3. Start testing the page with the highest potential to convert first.
  4. Test using informed solutions to real problems, not guesses.
  5. Sell your page first, then your product, and start at the top.
  6. Use the squint test to determine where important information should go and how to make it stand out.
  7. Make sure the images you are using match your message.
  8. Don't make the visitor think. Make it clear where they need to click.
  9. Test unconventional KPIs to learn visitor intent.
Hunter Liptrap

Hunter Liptrap

Creative Director at Modgility
Hunter is Certified Inbound Marketing, Growth Driven Design, and HubSpot Design. He has a passion for the conversion rate optimization process. With 3 years of experience he has designed and built multiple websites across various industries.

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