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Curious How You Can Increase Conversion Rates? Start With This

Learn how to increase conversion rates

Wouldn’t it be great if, instead of only 1 person becoming a lead for every 100 that land on your site, two people did? That would equate to a 200% increase in leads generated from that page.

The process of creating more efficient, effective web pages is known as the art of conversion rate optimization (CRO) and this post will get you started on making this hypothetical example a reality.

Before jumping in, however, I must be clear.

Conversion rate optimization is a complex, tedious topic. With this sea of information, it’s easy to end up confused and stunted from taking action.

I absolutely do not want this for you.

So instead of giving you dozens of conversion “hacks” to add to your never-ending “to do” list, I’m going to give you just ONE concept to digest.

This one concept, however, is the most critical element to improving your website conversion rates. And it’s the one thing I continually force myself to remember when working to optimize conversion rates for websites both large and small.

The Fundamental Concept to Conversion Rate Optimization:

Give your ideal customer what they want. 

Pretty simple, right? Not so fast…

This cardinal concept is the reason why so many conversion rate optimization tips and techniques (like use benefits in headline, avoid funny copy, keep it short, etc) are disproven time and time again.

The fact is that there is no rule to optimizing your website for conversions other than giving your audience exactly what they want. This fundamental fact, however, opens a whole other can of worms…

Each Audience Is Unique

The strategies and techniques that worked to optimize one website’s conversions may not work the same when used for your audience.

For example, being educated from copywriters and marketers that live by the creed “the more you tell, the more you sell”, my approach to conversion optimization followed a similar path.

While everyone was saying “keep it short and to the point”, I was injecting as many benefits and features as possible into each communication piece.

And for a few websites I worked on, it made a dramatic difference.

Just look at this difference in revenue generated when adding a few paragraphs of sales copy versus without:


With that said, that does not mean that more copy will work for your audience. It might work, but it might also not work.

There are truly so many things that make your audience and your business entirely different from any other out there.

Your Web Performance Is a Two Way Act

When a visitor lands on your web page, you are actively ‘performing’ for them.

This performance includes:

  • The headline of your page
  • The design and flow of your page
  • The copy on your page
  • Your brand and recognition to your audience

While we all have prior knowledge and thoughts on what we should use for headlines or how our landing pages should look, improving conversions is not about our preference – it’s about our audience’s.

“…What a person sees in a picture, or, even more, gleans from an utterance or a text, is a function of their previous experience, their mindset, their culture, etc.”

Alfred Gell, Art and Agency

Imagine you are building an outdoor pond for your three red eared sliders to call home. You, being a good pet owner, want your little turtles to be happy. And while you’ve seen dozens of mesmerizing examples of beautiful outdoor ponds, these examples may not align with what your red eared sliders have been wired to call “home”.

Your first step, then, would be to find out where these red eared sliders came from. What was the habitat like there? How was the water pH level? What plants do they naturally eat? How much sunlight is there?

Quite a bit of research to make your turtle feel at home, right?

Now let’s be honest.

These are water turtles. Your target audience is infinitely more complex. Nevertheless, if they don’t feel at “home” when they land on your website, your conversion rate is going to suffer.

Optimizing your website, then, is akin to creating a welcoming pond for a water turtle. You should work to align your web page’s elements to match with your audiences expectations, judgements, fears, and desires.

I recommend starting with these four basic (but revealing) questions:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • Where are they coming from?
  • Where have they been?
  • How are they responding to you now?

Rather than just go through each of these questions – one by one – I’ll dive into each of these simultaneously to help clarify the purpose of these questions.

We’ll start with the obvious…

Your Current Website Conversion Rate

This is a baseline measure for how your site is performing. And if you haven’t worked to optimize this number, most likely it’s on the low end of performance.

Take a look at this quick table from WordStream for median conversion rates for various industries:


As you can see, the average rate is anywhere from 1.84% to 5.01%. If your conversion rate is within this range, you can say that your website IS converting at an average rate.

It can, however, be better.

One of the most common ways to improve your conversion rate is to, as mentioned earlier, get a list of “conversion rate hacks”, create A/B tests, and start taking action.

When I first launched my own ecommerce websites, I did the same thing. I took a huge list of headline copy templates and split tested all of them.

What happened?

Very little. You see, while it felt like I was taking proactive measures to improve my conversion rates, I was focused solely on techniques and formulas.

Not once did I think to analyze my performance in terms of the audience’s perspective. Consequently, instead of communicating what they needed to hear, I copied what I saw others use for their specific audience.

And my performance changed very little in the eyes of my audience.

Going back to that turtle pond illustration, this is like hearing that turtles like swampy water so you make your water swampy too.

While most turtles do like swampy water, what if your species of turtle didn’t?

This is the potential risk we face when we jump straight into conversion “hacks” instead of first understanding our audience and what they want.

What Does Your Target Web Visitor Want?

Web visitors are selfish. They don’t care about you. They could care less about your product. Everything they are doing on the internet – every click, scroll, and action – is done for their own self interest.

If we want these visitors to take action on our site, then we better make sure we’re giving them exactly what they want.

In his sales class, “The Closers”, Jim Pickens lays out four reasons why customers won’t buy.

  1. They don’t like your product
  2. They don’t believe you
  3. They have a personal reason or problem
  4. They can’t afford it

There’s very little you can do for web visitors that fall into the last two reasons. The first two reasons, however, are directly correlated with your performance.

If they don’t like your product or believe you, most likely it’s because you’re not speaking on terms they find agreeable.

This, then, leads us back to the first question I posed.

Who are you optimizing your website for?

Optimization begins and ends with your visitor.

So who are your web visitors?

Why are they on your website? Are they looking for a particular service or solution? How long has this search been on their minds?

The more you dig into who your audience is and what brought them to your site, the more you’ll start to understand what they’re thinking.

This eventually guides you to one of the most important facets to conversion rate optimization – what your audience worships and deems as high authority.

“…consumers rarely have all the information necessary to make a rational and objective judgement on quality – and even if they do have the information, they lack the time and motivation to process it.

As a result, they rely on one or two cues that they associate with quality; the key to influencing perceived quality is understanding and managing these cues properly.

Thus, it is important to understand the little things that consumers use as the basis for making a judgement of quality. If consumers kick a car’s tires to judge its sturdiness, then the tires better be sturdy.”

David Aaker, Building Strong Brands

What cues is your audience using to judge you?

The answer to this question varies for each audience and industry. Whatever the answer, if you aren’t optimizing your website to highlight that your company has this, your audience will likely not believe anything you say.

As Herbert Watson said in his “Applied Correspondence Course”, if your prospect does not believe then all is lost.

Fortunately, getting insight as to what your audience values is easy.

Simply looking at how customers communicate with your support team via email, what words they mention in surveys, and how they communicate online will give you a quick, immediate feel for their vocabulary.

“By looking at the vocabulary you can get a rough idea of the content of a culture and the things that are valued.

The fact that we have only one word for snow while the Eskimos have several is a case in point. A highly developed technical vocabulary reflects a technical culture.

Americans think nothing of having their advertising filled with words once known only to scientists and engineers, .such as chlorophyll, thermonuclear, chloromycetin, cardiovascular, and the like.”

ET Hall, The Silent Language

All The Evidence Is Right in Front of You

The best insights regarding what your audience likes, doesn’t like, and naturally responds to is right at your fingertips.

Co-workers, sales, support, email complaints, survey results – all of these resources have a massive collection of information on your audience.

“…study every point at which your company makes contact with a prospect.”

Harry Beckwith, Selling the Invisible

What are people saying in surveys and responding to from sales? Does it match with what you’re seeing in landing pages of competitors?

If so, notate these similar findings.

This discovery will allow you to begin searching for more of the same finding in different sources. The more you find this in other sources, the more likely that it is significant.

When you encounter significant findings, ask yourself how you can use these ideas on your web page, including the:

  • headline on page
  • design of page
  • flow of page
  • copy on page
  • brand and recognition to audience

For example, if customers repeatedly bring up an issue about shipping, including this point on your web page will likely remedy this issue and boost conversion rates.

Expand Your View With Various Media

Although you may be focused on optimizing a web page, there is likely a multitude of insight in your email campaigns, direct mail promotions, and banner ads as well.

When I helped launch a direct mail sales letter for one company, for example, I used a combination of competitive direct mail research, email marketing metrics, and survey feedback.

This research helped that campaign deliver over 400% ROI on the first send.

Once you’ve gathered enough research for your target audience and industry, you’ll likely have naturally begun formulating theories on what you think will improve conversions.

The next step is to then to set up an A/B split test to compare your prior version to the new version. This will allow you to see how big of a difference (if any) your new web page makes.

Why Not Just Start Fresh?

If you’re 100% confident that your web page changes will boost conversions, why go through the hassle of A/B testing?

John Caples said there are two types of advertisers:

  1. testers
  2. non-testers

While you are most likely right that implementing new, conversion-oriented changes on a page that has never been optimized will most likely improve your site, how can you show this statistically?

By running a test, you get real data to back your theory.

What’s more, running a test creates historic data that you can share with future teams to quickly educate them on what you’ve discovered. That way they don’t reinvent the wheel you already created.

Make Big Changes, See Big Results

When you get started looking for elements on your site to optimize for conversions, you’re going to come up with a lot of ideas.

  • Headlines
  • Intro sentence
  • Images
  • Layout
  • Bullet points
  • Colors

While it can feel exciting to test the difference of button colors or bullets, unless you have a team of conversion rate experts focused solely on optimization, the time and effort of such minor tests is likely not worth the return.

Instead, focus on big changes that make a dramatic difference in your performance.

Think of your landing page as a play with actors, sets, lights and all. Changing just a few sentences or costumes will likely still get the same feedback from your audience.

The real difference is in changing your star actors.

Focus on the big players to your web performance – your headline, how you communicate, and how everything is laid out on the page.

Big tests yield big differences.

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Alphonso, founder of Web Enlighten, shows small business owners how to maximize sales, leads, and engagement online. Try a few of his simple strategies revealed in the free guide, The Practical Performance Marketer's Playbook.

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  1. Hi Alphonso

    Excellent post. Learning to understand our audience’s needs and more importantly how the express their needs is vital in improving your conversions.

    It’s worthwhile to study the phrases they use in expressing what they want, what their values are, what their problems are.

    This can be a goldmine for your copy.


    • Thanks for the comment Clement, couldn’t agree more. As Eugene Schwartz said, copy is not written it is assembled through in-depth research of your product, industry, and audience.

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